Anxiety is the symptom, not the disease

Anxiety is just a symptom

Is anxiety a form of fear?

What is anxiety anyway? It seems like a lot of us deal with it on a constant basis without fully understanding it.

When I finally started to examine my own anxiety, trying to discover its roots, I was often surprised by what I found. In a way, I had started to like my anxiety. Like isn’t the right word, though. Maybe I’d just started to tolerate it, to prefer it to the alternatives.

Anxiety is such a meddlesome, sneaky thing. In my own life, anxiety has caused me to miss countless opportunities for growth. From social relations to  career and education opportunities, anxiety has made me back away from value once too often.

I’ve decided to finally tackle it head on. I won’t allow myself to be dominated by an irrational fear of life any longer.

What I want to write about today is how we can think clearly when we’re feeling anxious.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling more anxious than usual.

Part of it is because my skin has been getting worse. For those who don’t know, for the last few years I’ve been dealing with horrific skin problems, but I honestly thought it was over. Not so, apparently.

Apart from that, I’ve had a lot to think about at school, I bruised a rib at judo practice, and my girlfriend and I have been having weird conversations about our sex lives before we met (that’s an anxiety challenge for you!).

So suddenly I’ve found myself at the center of a series of coincidental, anxiety-provoking events.

Ah well. It is what it is.

Seeing clearly

What’s been bothering me about this the most, is the way I stop seeing clearly when I’m feeling anxious. Like, I start to imagine people judging me without an inkling of evidence. Or I start to project negatively into the future, ruminating on what could go wrong with whatever I’m doing.

Worst of all though, I feel like I’ve been alienating my girlfriend somewhat.

We talked about this at length last night, and I figured out that I’ve been projecting all kinds of thoughts onto her, without having anything to back them up. Thoughts like she must be cheating on me, or she doesn’t like me anymore, or she doesn’t want to spend time with me.

After talking to her about this, I realized that I was being incredibly narrow-minded by allowing myself to blame her for my insecurities. As with so many problems in life, this one stems from avoiding responsibility for my own life.

Instead of seeing things as they are, I look to some weird fantasy to comfort me.

What’s actually going on, is that I’ve been having a hard time due to my bad health coinciding with a lot of school work, and that’s made me more sullen and somber than I usually am. This change in my mood all of a sudden is bound to affect my girlfriend. And that’s exactly what happened.

Understanding

It’s okay now, though. I feel like we worked through this issue and I realize the fault lies with me. Not that I blame myself, exactly. It’s more that circumstances are such that life is a bit harder than I want it to be. But now that I understand what’s going on, I can take full responsibility for how I feel and actually change it.

This means, first off, taking my health into my own hands. The last few months I’ve been doing the keto diet, but I feel it’s time for a change. I’ve decided to start following an eczema diet protocol, drinking green juices and smoothies every day and just keeping a super clean diet, in order to finally get over these skin issues.

I’ve also decided to be more present. This is really what needs to happen.

Whatever’s going on in life, presence is paramount. I’ve caught myself a lot recently pining for the future, a future where everything will be magically better and easier. Well there is no such future. Life is f***ing hard, man!

And that’s not to diminish the exquisite beauty of life, either. But the true essence and beauty of life can’t be experienced when we aren’t present to it.

Key habits

I’ve figured out that there are many things that contribute to anxiety. It’s not just a “chemical imbalance in the brain” as I’ve been told ad nauseum. Well, technicalli it is, but it’s not necessarily something you were born with. Rather, our habits and circumstances contribute way more to how we feel mentally and emotionally than we normally admit.

Things like lack of nutrition, lack of exercise, being cut off from nature, or a hectic work routine. But wait, there’s more! Addictions to superstimuli like porn, video games and netflix have incredibly detrimental effects on our ability to feel calm and at peace. Additionally, an irregular sleep schedule and a lacking social life will also throw us out of whack.

It’s not a matter of finding a magic pill that will “solve” your anxiety. You need to solve your life! When you find true health again, your anxiety will melt away.

This is what I’ve felt in my own life, especially in the last few weeks. Although I definitely haven’t been perfect, I have been drinking green juices and smoothies every day, with no processed foods at all, cut out sugar, coffee, alcohol. I also finally managed to cut out porn, this time I’ll make sure it’s out of my life for good. I feel so much better.

The magic of taking responsibility for your anxiety

Here’s what’s lacking in our society today : the call for personal responsibility.

There’s such a nauseating emphasis on victimhood and blaming the one percent and finding out in what myriad ways you’ve been oppressed throughout your life (multiply this effect by 1000 if you happen to be part of a ethnic minority, gay, or female), that calling for people to take responsibility for themselves has started to seem unfair and even kind of nasty.

The truth is, though, so many of the world’s problems could be solved if people in general would stop waiting for somebody to save them. If we all were to take responsibility for our feelings, relationships, and our lives, just think what could be accomplished.

So although I’ve listed a few things that need to be addressed in order to overcome anxiety for good, here is the most important factor of all:

Decide to take full responsibility for the fact that you feel anxiety at all.

If you make this idea a part of your pattern of thinking, I guarantee you’ll feel better. It may even happen faster than you think.

Honesty is a miracle cure

Honesty is a miracle cure

In this post I want to examine the value of honesty in relationships, and the benefits of opening up to yourself and others.

The last few weeks have been very difficult for me emotionally. I had some very real and intense discussions with my girlfriend about our sexual pasts, and about the future of our relationship.

To be honest, what’s been the main issue for me recently has been insecurity. Somehow, just accepting and admitting that my girlfriend had slept with others in the past has been difficult for me.

But that’s why I wanted to have these discussions, because I wanted to examine these feelings and ultimately overcome them. Jealousy is rooted in insecurity, which is in itself a manifestation of fear.

Developing honest communication

Recently, I’ve tried my best to develop honesty and sincerity as a character trait.

Especially when it comes to my relationships. Especially especially when it comes to the people I love the most.

This approach is incredibly scary when you just start out. It certainly was for me. But developing the capacity for honesty has changed my life for the better in so many ways. There are and always will be things that are important to you, that will be difficult to discuss. This is just a part of life.

Learning to overcome the fear and being vulnerable in a relationship has multiple hidden benefits. Things start to become clearer. Your view of the other person will almost certainly change. And who knows, you may learn something about yourself that was hidden.

Expression of emotions is key

What I’ve found is that until you express your feelings, whatever they may be, you can’t fully understand them. You can try to intellectualize them, conceptualize them, but feelings seem to require expression to be fully resolved.

Our society is in many ways fiercely individualistic. So much so that we tend to forget that we are social creatures at heart. In fact, we are the most connected, most gregarious animals that have ever existed. When we look past this subtle fact, we’re in danger of isolation.

We try to resolve our issues by ourselves, we try to work through difficult feelings by thinking about them.

That’s probably the least effective way of dealing with difficult feelings.

The most effective way of resolving emotions

As anyone who’s experienced catharsis during heartfelt conversation with a loved one can tell you, it’s intense. The feelings you’ve been ruminating on for so long will gush out of you like a geyser. Subtle feelings that you may not even have noticed will rear their sometimes ugly faces.

In order to truly deal with an unpleasant feeling you must find a counterpart. You need to create a emotional loop with someone you trust.

Let me expound on the feelings of jealousy I spoke of earlier.

I wouldn’t ordinarily consider myself especially prone to jealousy. This has changed in recent months. I’ve recently realized that my compulsive use of pornography of many years, was a crutch that I used to escape the need to deal with emotional pain. Some do this with alcohol, others with heroin. Yet others with video games. The root of all addiction is unresolved emotional pain. More specifically, the inability to experience emotional pain.

I’ve now been clean for two months, and man! It’s been a roller coaster ride.

Unshakeable feelings

I’ve had really good days, and then I’ve had really difficult days. Days where I’ve had insane scenarios playing in my mind for hours at a time. For example, there was a three day period where I just couldn’t shake the feeling that my girlfriend was cheating on me. Even though I had no evidence to back it up, and even though she was as sweet as she’s ever been.

After three days of this constant ruminating on my girlfriends supposed infidelity, as you can imagine, I was absolutely mentally exhausted.

The feeling just couldn’t be shook! Or could it?

You guessed it. It wasn’t until I actually sat my girlfriend down and had a heart to heart conversation with her about what I was feeling that I started to feel better.

I didn’t accuse her of anything, and I didn’t ask her to explain herself or anything like that. I simply told her what was going on in my head. This was incredibly scary for me, because I kind of assumed that she would be very hurt, think I didn’t trust her, etcetera. But as I said earlier, when you start to practice true honesty, people start to surprise you.

My girlfriend is a wonderful person. She accepted my feelings and did her best to make me feel better. She had noticed that something had been up with me recently. In fact, she had even been worried that I was angry at her for something. That’s the danger of not owning up to your emotions. The people who know you and love you will always notice when something’s up.

Let me end this post by examining the effects of honesty on self.

The effects of lying on the soul

There was a time in my life where I constantly lied to myself. I told myself things were okay when they weren’t. I would fool myself into thinking that doing things badly, or lying, or cheating, was okay.

This has major psychological consequences. I like the way the movie Matchstick Men portrays this. The main character, played by the awesome Nicolas Cage, is a con man by trade. Every day, he lies and deceives. He doesn’t care who he hurts. Not coincidentally, he also has OCD, all kinds of ticks, and generally just feels terrible. At the end of the movie, he’s forced to stop his games of deception, and voilá, his OCD goes away and he feels way better.

Although this may be a simplified depiction of the effects of lying on the soul, to me it feels spot on.

The wonders of self-honesty

In my own experience, the more I manage to come clean to myself and (important) others, the more psychologically healthy I feel.

I would say that the major example in my own life has been stopping my porn addiction. For most people, hardcore pornography is anathema to their values. In my own case this was so. I would think I was a good person at one moment, and then indiscriminately search for brutal, degrading pornography the next.

When I finally managed to rid myself of my addiction, I started to notice all kinds of kinks and peculiarities of my psyche start to dissolve. My shyness has been steadily going away, and especially the constant sense of shame I used to carry with me.

Making an effort to be fully honest and sincere to yourself is the first step to emotional freedom. It’s also the only way to find true connection to another human being.

I wish you luck in your endeavors of honesty.