Your brain is not always your friend. I don’t know if it is just me, but I have a tendency to keep the bad memories in store, clear and loud, in my head, rather than the good things. I’m gonna remember the stupid biker who tried to run me over but not the nice walk I had. I’m gonna keep the feelings of anxiety I felt after a three-hour amazing out-of-comfort-zone time. The bad days are always lurking in the back of my mind, like monsters with claws ready to get me back to the bad places I go when I’m not feeling good.
My only defense against this strong (and I mean REALLY strong) mechanism is to be truly present when something good happens. I try to gather as many details as possible, without focusing on anything in particular (focusing means I’m gonna start worrying soon!), I just am in the present, enjoying the rare moments with little to no anxiety, relishing in the uncommon times when I feel happy until one day they feel normal again and anxiety feels like the old uncle you don’t want to see but meet once in a while.
Those happy moments are still sparse and this is why they are the most important. Once I have made progress, felt I could be myself again, achieved something big (big for me, usual for the rest of the world, but who cares, this is about me!), I need to find a way to use those times as weapons. Because they are fragile and my mind will let go of them very fast if I don’t care for them. For that, I need to be able to remind myself of how I felt, what I did, with extreme precision. I haven’t found a better way than to talk about it, over and over. To myself first. I talk alone and use positive words. To my mother, because she never tells me to shut up and supports me. More recently, I have been sharing on social media. I have been very open about all the little steps I have taken on Facebook (and probably annoyed most of my friends, haha!) because I need to tattoo those happy things hard on my soul so I can use them against bad days. Here’s how I do that on a daily basis!
I congratulate myself. It may sound weird to some of you. “What the hell? Should I congratulate myself for eating my breakfast?” Well, if you’ve been having issues eating, yes, you should, darling. There’s no shame in congratulating yourself for something that took effort, motivation and energy out of you. I feel a lot better since I started allowing myself to say “Bravo, you’ve done it. You are awesome.” Because at the end of the day, if I say it enough, it leaves an imprint on my mind, and I hope it helps reminding me of all the victories I have achieved and the feeling of accomplishment it brings. Most anxiety sufferers are so hard on themselves they forget to be kind to themselves. When was the last time you told yourself “Good job!”?
I used to be so shy that I never talked about my issues. Mental illness was a taboo I wasn’t ready to share. Until the day I stripped off and revealed the naked truth on my blog. I have talked about the bad things, like my rejection to the degree I wanted earlier this month, but it’s just as important to share the good things. They are fewer, so say them, shout them. I am lucky to have found friends among the blogosphere who know what life with anxiety is, and friends who are open-minded enough to understand and support me whatever happens. So I stopped being shy. I learned I was not alone. I share silly recordings of myself (another victory: daring to show my face and speak English in videos!), I share my workout sessions, I share my bad days, I am open about my feelings even when I am ashamed of them. It helps me letting go when it’s something bad, and holding on when it’s something good.
You don’t have to share, and too many times, people don’t find the right people to listen to them. But share for yourself if it can help you. I don’t mind if a status doesn’t get reactions, it’s a written proof for myself that I have been there, I have done that, and I am proud of it. It is evidence that I am making peace with what I am, that I accept what I can and cannot do, and that I push my limits. I am not looking for approbation or compliments, I just want my experience to be recorded, selfishly so that I can go back and fight bad days with happy words and photos, and also so that maybe one day someone reads something I have written and finds comfort in it, knows that they are not alone and that it takes a lifetime of good and bad days to make a life, but we can make it.
If you’re not comfortable sharing on social media or with family and friends, you can have a diary and write all the fantastic steps you take, all the wrong things that happen, it has the same effect as sharing for me. I have a jar for bad things, and a diary for good things. I put the bad in the jar, close the lid and put it behind me (or try to!) I open the diary, write in a terrible way (I blame typing for my inability to write properly), and put words that I hope stay in my heart and mind so I can reread them and be transported back to times where things were okay.
It’s like learning a lesson. Some will reread, others will repeat the lesson until it’s anchored deep inside. I do both. I reread my diary, but before that, as soon as I’ve achieved something and I’m in my comfort zone again, I’m going to be that annoying girl who keeps saying “I went alone there” / “I can’t believe I did it!” / “I was okay!” / “I went there on my own” / The same event used until my throat begs me to shut up. Because I need to remind my brain those situations are normal, because I need to feel them again and again until I get used to the words enough to dare thinking about doing it again, because I need to process and it takes time for me to realize what I achieve. I tend not to see my progress, so like mantras, I use those sentences to allow myself to get used to what I felt again, what I did, what I saw, and tell my body that it shouldn’t be scared anymore.
So I’ll keep posting, shouting, smiling in the street when I achieve a goal, when I reach a new level in my life, when I take a surprise step. I’ll keep admitting bad feelings, venting about bad days, talking about difficult times. I never want to stop blabbering. I’ll stop when I’m dead. Blabbering means I’m fighting. Blabbering means I’m living. Bear with me! I want to bore myself with the same sentences repeated over and over until they are like a song in my head I can sing to the face of anxiety, like an hymn to get rid of all that is burdening me, like a cure to what’s wrong. I don’t want to forget what it feels like to be happy and be left with misery and sad days.
So, if you don’t follow me on Facebook, you don’t know that, this week, for the first time in years (I truly mean years) I spent three hours alone, away from my comfort zone or any kind of reassuring presence. I drove for an hour, I was hot because of course I chose a day where the temperature rose to 30 degrees (Celsius!), I had my eyes checked, I waited for thirty minutes for another surprise appointment. I even when to the bank and no one likes to go there! I did it all. I’m proud of myself. I have said it before, but if you’ve read the above rambling, you know it’s important for me to say it again. So here it is. This was a major step. There was tension, a little, anxiety, no. I’m the first surprised about this. Congrats to me, I’m awesome! 🙂
This was my happy blog therapy post, as a reminder not every day is bad, not every hour is a nightmare, and not everything is a problem when you live with anxiety. You can get better, you better enjoy every stolen moment of happiness and every step until they become natural again one day. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of my anxiety, but I’m intending on befriending it, embracing it, learning to live with it, and it means accepting the bad, and celebrate the good.