Anxiety is more about yourself than the future

I had an interesting conversation with my girlfriend this morning. She’s dealing with anxiety and finding ways to manage her mood. My husband has the same issue with anxiety.

I’m not really an anxious person. Not that I don’t think of some terrible thing happening and worry what I’ll do. It happens, but not often and not for long. It’s just that I’m older than either of my partners. My much-younger partners often make me feel old (unintentionally). This is one of the good ways of feeling older. Experience, usually accompanied by age, helps alleviate anxiety.

rowdy-vulcan-twilightThis reminds me of the Twilight series movies. Our family has been watching them in order. We’ll be watching Eclipse next. When I mentioned this at group training, my clients had various input. Mostly, they complained about the poor acting and writing. I mean, Bella would rather die than lose Edward when she barely knows him? The whole story is about gazes and smells, how is that enough substance for a lifetime commitment? How can they be SO in love when they know nothing and do nothing with each other. It’s all so unreal, right?

Well, I think Stephenie Meyer was right on the money in this. The characters are adolescents — even Edward (yeah, yeah, a century-old vampire but frozen at 17). I recall my teens. I recall the drama of first love. I recall my twin sister screaming and crying hysterically after her boyfriend broke up with her. She was scream-crying to the top of her lungs in the house and out of the house. She had been dating him for a few months but she was hysterical at the thought of losing him. Why, when a few months before she had a full life, full days that kept her happy? But all of that is now worthless without him, I see. I know another 17-year old who recently tried to commit suicide because her boyfriend broke up with her. She’s 17. She won’t even remember his name when she’s 40.

The younger you are, the less you’ve done, the less of the long view you take. And the less you trust yourself to manage, because you never had to.

Don’t get me wrong. I have shown up drunk at 3am at a girlfriend’s door because she left me for someone else. I know the shock and uncertainty that seizes the mind. That was decades ago. From my eyes now, this is lunatic behavior. This is literal insanity. 

It’s not that I don’t get hurt. It’s that I don’t worry about what I’ll do when I do get hurt. Maybe it’s because I’m 52. I’ve been through a lot of shit in my life. Many relationships, many jobs, health scares, financial trouble — all those things we think we need for security and comfort. I lived through them and didn’t die. Life changed and I changed, and it took time. In fact, I always came out stronger, with new direction and optimism. I trust myself now. Apocalyptic catastrophes aside, I know I’ll be all right with whatever happens.

This is why many of us are anxious: we don’t trust ourselves. We worry “If this thing happens, what will I do, how will I react, will I be okay?” If you have experienced shit and come out okay, you learn to trust that you’ll be fine no matter what happens. You trust yourself. Anxiety is less about the fear of that thing and more about the fear of how you will manage with that thing.

So my advice, should you care, is to do lots of shit. Live big. Fail often. Live through it and you’ll get strong. Anxiety eeks away when you learn to trust yourself.