For me, at this stage, sometimes a “bad anxiety day” isn’t even the worst part. It’s the morning after, waking up with that unnamed sinking feeling, and suddenly remembering: Yesterday I failed. Again. With this thought comes a bleak kind of depression that can hang around for days if I let it.
This is not a useful or optimal mindset in any way. As a very good friend of mine likes to remind me, progress isn’t linear. We tend to think of rehabilitation, improvement, and recovery as these perfectly even, upward diagonals. Y=X, right? You put in the effort and out comes a perfectly matched result:
Unfortunately, but much more interestingly, life is much more complicated than that. Progress is a learning process, an adventure whose ups and downs can change drastically depending on the weather, a petty argument, an hour less sleep, or what you ate last night for dinner. Encountering new situations demands a new kind of resilience; like a virus that mutates, anxiety too will try to grow and change for its own survival. New symptoms may appear, or old ones that you were sure you’d conquered until they resurface and catch you off guard. All of this is ok. The sensations of panic and anxiety are not inherently bad. They don’t mean that you aren’t working hard enough, or that you are too weak not to succumb to your fears. Anxiety is a part of life, especially if you’re used to experiencing high levels of it. The important thing is what you do about it in the hours afterward, and the next day, and the next. An isolated episode does not need to send you hurtling back toward rock bottom. Let the moment, or day, or hour of panic be what it is, nothing more, and then get right back on the horse and start functioning again. Allow yourself to recognize what occurred without judgment and remember that each time you come back, you come back stronger, armed with more self-awareness, experience, and insight. Take comfort; progress at its best looks far more like this:
Who wants to be reduced to a simple equation, anyway? I’ll take messy and complex every time.
Sometimes I am afraid of my own memories. I feel traumatized by the imprints of bad experiences from long ago, and feel that I must avoid similar situations in the future if I am not to repeat these unpleasant scenarios. Recently I had a realization: Every one of those scary situations that feel freaky even to remember– I survived those. In fact, I have survived every memory within me. I wouldn’t still be here if I hadn’t. Is there a thought more empowering than that?