Mental Illness Letters, Vol. 2: Anxiety
For most of my life I called you "perfectionism" or "being high strung" or "worrying." I have never considered myself to be afflicted with your traits; I've traditionally identified with the other end of the mood chart.
But it's you. You are the appropriate label for fear for the unknown, for things that have not yet happened, for things that are uncontrollable. It's been you all along.
I'm learning to meditate, to be mindful, to clear my brain once in a while. Naming you lessens your power. I feel better already.
But that book about you that's been rolling around my brain for three years? I might just start writing it.
Your host - but not for long
Thank you for receiving all of the emotions that burst out while discussing the above with my therapist.
Can you ever sense the emotions a person exudes while writing an email? I dumped so much anxious energy into an email the other day that I thought my chest would explode.
My typed words were calm and gracious, friendly and forthright, but I thought I might throw up when, through said email, I withdrew my participation from an annual event.
You sent out my message anyway, just as soon as I hit "send." The recipient responded kindly, and now I can breathe. Advocating for myself is hard work.
Dear Dan Harris,
I listen to your podcast about being happier through meditation. I resonate deeply with some of your guests, most of whom have established internal calm in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Motivated by recent anxious experiences, I am once again dipping my toe into the meditation pool. While I have not yet discovered anything zentastic, I did have a moving mindfulness experience while mowing the lawn that I'll put in the success column for now.
I'd love to talk with you about it.
Lately, I've noticed how busy you are, even when I try to rest. It is not your job to solve all of the problems. It is not reasonable to anticipate every contingency or plan for adaptations to those contingencies. You are not responsible for every person, all the time.
Please slow down. Ask yourself: "Is [insert imagined catastrophe] happening now?" If not, gently redirect. Throw in an affirmation for good measure: "I am equipped for success in any situation."
And for the love....just go to sleep.
If you are new to mental illness letters, the story of their origin is here.
Please consider adding one of your own in the comments, or at least composing one or two in your head. It is such fun.
Photo credit: National Citizen Service Trust
Are you looking for a great tool that will help you talk about mental illness? When Mommy Feels Sad is an illustrated children's book that teaches about depression and the difficult feelings and experiences that go along with it. Start a conversation about depression with your loved one today.