Anxiety’s message

“The greatest truth about anxiety is that it is a message. Anxiety is not the real issue. It’s the voice of something else lying beneath that’s calling out to you. […] The anxiety message is simple; it’s just three words: STOP! YOU’RE HURTING!” ~Ariella Baston

Ariella Baston contributed a post called The Gift of Anxiety: 7 Ways to Get the Message and Find Peace on the Tiny Buddha blog recently. It’s a well-written article that contains much good sense about anxiety and the best ways to deal with it, and I highly recommend it.

I love her suggestion that anxiety is just a message that  our bodies send us to let us know that we need to deal with the fact that we are hurting, if it can’t get our attention any other way. In fact, she points out that this message most often occurs when we have some personally traumatic or painful event in our lives that we have refused to address. We tend to want to push these things under a rug, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and keep on moving. But just because we shove this stuff under the surface, it doesn’t disappear. It stays inside us and continues to fester and bleed until we do the work we need to do to heal.

I am well acquainted with anxiety. It’s been trying to get my attention for many years, but like most people, I’ve tried to treat the symptom without ever addressing the source of the problem. I didn’t even realize that there was something else lying underneath it trying to get my attention! I just kept running as fast as I could trying to hide from it.

Ironically, in all that’s come apart in the last year, it seems like this should be a time of some of the greatest anxiety I’ve ever known. My financial situation is far from secure, I’m facing all of the potentially hurtful consequences of coming out, my career trajectory is in shambles, any sense I had of community or close relationships has melted away. I am more alone than I’ve ever been in my life and things are more uncertain and insecure than I’ve ever experienced (as an adult anyway). And yet, I am much less anxious than I’ve been in a long time.

Sure, I still worry about things, like unexpected expenses and problems I don’t know how to solve. Yes, I still have my moments of panic over the uncertainty of it all. I still get tense and fret about how my family might react to my coming out. But that ongoing, long-term anxiety that churns in the belly and eats at my bones is curiously absent. I feel the slightest trickle of it at times, but not the raging, corrosive river it once was.

Why is that? Why in a time when I’m facing such great uncertainty would it finally abate?

I think it’s because I finally stopped. I stopped doing all the things that were causing me such pain. I am realizing more and more all the time that authenticity is my deepest value, and so living my life in inauthentic ways was causing me more pain than I realized. I’ve done so much to bring myself into closer alignment with my true self that the pain that the anxiety was trying to alert me to is being addressed. It no longer needs to keep shouting that message at me.

I suspect as I continue to move into even greater authenticity by being able to speak the full truth about who I am, I will find my life continuing to expand and become even more anxiety-free. As long as I can continue moving toward creating the authentic life I was meant to live, I may be done with that kind of crippling anxiety, but if it rears its head again, at least I will know this time that there is a message to be watching for. I’ll know to stop and find the pain that needs to be addressed.

I am grateful for its message, grateful that it has gotten me where I am, but I look forward to a life without it!

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.