“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.“
— Dan Millman
Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go to my son’s lacrosse game, very familiar feelings started to stir, the nervousness, feeling uncomfortable in my skin, and worry about what others will think of me. The self talk, often negative in nature, about whether or not anyone will talk to me, will the other moms ignore me, will they think I am fat, or not pretty enough, the list goes on and on. Then my mind shifted and I began to change the conversation in my mind. My thoughts were more positive in nature. “I am sure at least a few of the moms will talk to me”, and “I will introduce myself to a few of them so they know who I am”, and “why would they not like you, you are smart, pretty, have a great career and once they know who you are they will enjoy talking with you.” I have to say that is was one of the first times the dialogue in my brain has shifted and it stopped me in my tracks. I finally knew what I have been experiencing for so much of my life, extreme anxiety!
Anxiety, that is what I have been feeling my whole life. I know what you’re thinking duh! Of course it was and is anxiety, have you been living under a rock? But I was just finally putting the two and two together, and it finally clicked for me yesterday.
So many events, moments throughout my life immediately flashed before my eyes. I have always been a strange mix of shy and out going. Of course over the years, I have used alcohol to move me from one end of the spectrum to the other. I think if you asked most everyone who has known me throughout my life, they would tell you I am an out going, silly, crazy, always talking woman. But that side of me has come from a bottle 98% of the time. The truth of the matter is I do believe I am shy, but more importantly very, very insecure and anxious. I know I am not alone in these feelings, many woman feel this way, but I have definitely used alcohol to cope.
I always pre-partied before the parties in college, I always drank before I went to a party after college, I always drank while getting ready for an event, in when it was at my house! I needed to drown out the voices in my head telling me I was not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough etc. For me the best way to do that was drink, so I would be loose enough to have conversations and not be slipping into panic mode.
Naming anxiety yesterday was important, it was the shift I needed to recognize why I was always on edge before every event, every interaction with other women, other moms. It is important to name things, in particular feelings and emotions we don’t understand, as it helps us to process and make these emotions tangible. Making sense of what the messy, swirly, craziness in our heads is all about it is magical, because when you name that shit, you can start recognizing when it starts, how it starts, and begin to change the narrative in your brain, changing your self talk and behaviors. Yesterday, I named dark feelings and emotions I have endured my of my life, anxiety, and I was able to change my thoughts and actions to push through the major discomfort, to show up in a new way around new people I did not really know. For me yesterday was a major breakthrough!
I have listened to others talk about anxiety for a very long time and even been able to identify it when I see certain behaviors with other including my own two boys. The nervousness, fidgeting, the hypersensitive responses, avoidance, I have watched them move through all of it. Knowing I have had very much the same feelings most of my life. It is confusing at times, because even though I might get nervous about a big presentation or event at work, I also look forward to them. Practicing my presentations, moving so easily through a room full of people I don’t know, greeting them and engaging very easily. Why is it so different in professional settings but so scary and hard when it is just a mom’s night out or neighborhood gathering? Why is so hard and awkward when it is just meeting new moms on a lacrosse field or at back to school night? I am not sure I understand why that is so hard for me but I am going to push through it and work on identifying the emotions and feelings, so I can sit with them and change my patterns. I know drinking is not going to help me anymore. I need to stand on my own two feet.
Wish me luck…because it only took me 48 years to get to this point of understanding and self awareness…sit with for a minute and think about all the wasted years of crazy ass, overwhelming anxiety.
~K from the Hill Country