This post offers some insight into my mental state “pre-therapy” and “pre-recovery,” and what I’ve learned since. An anxiety origin story of sorts.
I hope you find something valuable or relatable in here 🙂
Just get over it
All my (teenage/adult) life, I thought that if I could just “get over my issues,” I would be happy.
I would be “there,” in that place where I feel okay in my own body and mind.
If only I could get past my shyness, past my body image issues, past my imperfections… that’s what I thought the answer was.
Fake it til you make it
So I learned to “fake it til I made it” by adopting the mannerisms of people
I considered more socially graceful. I turned my people-pleasing powers on full strength and tried to become the Perfect Friend/Guest/Partner/Employee/Whatever.
But I couldn’t connect deeply with people. There was this barrier for me, this emotional distance. I held my true self back.
Socially acceptable mask
I didn’t want my discomfort to make anyone uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be the high-maintenance friend who needs reassurance and encouragement just to be herself.
I didn’t want my anxiety to inconvenience anyone or make them question my affection for them. So I put on my Socially Acceptable Mask and stuffed my fretting down deep inside.
And I became miserable. (Anxiety can often lead to depression. I think this is why.)
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show
I felt like I was standing on the outside of most of my relationships, looking in through a window clouded by my own fear of being truly authentic and vulnerable.
Yes, I could speak candidly about myself, but only in an abstract way devoid of any true vulnerability.
I worked so far to stifle my blushing, hold back my nervous tears, and steady my shaky hands. And if there were situations where I knew I wouldn’t have that control, I would just avoid them.
At all costs, I tried to hide how shy and awkward and lost I truly felt.
I was desperate not to let anyone see how nervous I was.
How much I hated myself.
When you think you’re “bad”
I was starting from the assumption that there was something bad and unlovable about me, and then I was working backwards from there, looking for the evidence that made the assumption true.
It’s easy to find that kind of evidence if this is your mindset.
The biggest thing therapy has given me
And that’s why the biggest breakthrough in my recovery has come not from “controlling” my anxiety or “getting over my issues,” but from accepting the anxiety.
I had to change the assumptions I had about myself and become open to the possibility that I am not, in fact, garbage.
Once I started to think of myself with more compassion and empathy, I stopped looking for the “evidence” of my unlovability and badness.
And everything else has flowed from this mindshift.
You can’t “hate” yourself better
We need to get over the idea that we need to “get over our issues.”
I think a better approach would be to introduce some softness and kindness in how we think about these “issues” in the first place. And above all, how we think about ourselves.
You can’t “hate” yourself into recovery.
You can’t “hate-heal” yourself.
Go easy on yourself
And you are not, in fact, garbage.
Let’s just be clear about that.