My life was once terrorised by this thing called anxiety, a tyrannical monster that forced me to doubt myself and my capabilities whenever I tried to take a tiny step forward. It was a monster in the sense that I genuinely feared it, to the point of paralysis. In my personal experiences of anxiety, I could not fight my monster, even though therapy provided me with the tools and weapons. I could not run from my monster for it was always faster than me. It was there around every corner and it knew exactly how to stop me in my tracks.
There was only one option left: I would freeze.
Being constricted by fear made progress feel impossible.
My monster was born from my fear of failure. I was always intensely worried that I would let people down if I tried and failed to reach my goals. I felt a lot of societal pressure to return to the workforce, or be in a healthy relationship or continue further study. I felt like I needed to run a marathon whereas my monster would only allow me to walk backwards.
Anxiety for me did not manifest as vocal and active thoughts, it was a very visceral and physical feeling within me. It was as if the monster had taken up a lease in my stomach and began stirring my insides with turmoil and uncertainty. I felt physically sick.
And so, I stopped trying.
The monster had bested me. It rested in my stomach, threatening to leap out of my mouth if I did anything to disobey its rules: don’t do this, don’t do that, try and you’ll fail.
I hated that I couldn’t do the things that I used to do.
Where was my confidence? The monster had all but eaten it.
But monsters, like all wild beasts, can be tamed.
And my solution was letting go of expectations.
I came to realise that failure is a form of progress.
I acknowledged that I had this monster within me, but I let go of the rules.
I decided to try even if it meant that I would fail. I had thought that failure was the worst of all possible outcomes, but I was surprised that it wasn’t as uncomfortable as I had imagined. The idea of failure was worse than the actual thing. I slowly learnt to accept failure gracefully and the monster would grumble at itself when I did the little things that it told me that I could not do. I never defeated my monster completely and it may always live with me, but the monster has become my pet. It will sit down if I ask it to. Or I can put a leash on it and have it walk alongside me. Sometimes it pounces on me and weighs me down, but I have the strength to stand again.
The monster in my stomach may never go away entirely, but it is not as scary as I thought.
Written by Cameron Maynard
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