Your Anxiety Wants You To Only Talk To It — Don't
"I hope the years that we come up short
Are swallowed by the years that we make it work"
Have you ever had a conversation with yourself? I have and for a really long time I would also have conversations with my people in my mind. I would play out scenarios in my head of how conversations would go and find such resolution in them that I would never have the actual conversations with my people. The breakdown of this may sound ideal — it seems less time consuming and less stressful. Except, for me at least, it would be the exact opposite. In my mind, I would be looking at my people and for a long time I thought I could anticipate their responses, but eventually I realized that it was just my anxiety masked in faces I knew, loved, and had the power to hurt me because I loved them so deeply.
The versions of my friends or partners who lived in my mind, they honestly weren’t as kind or as understanding as the living, breathing individuals who stand before me in all their humanity and free will. With every conversation I had with them in my mind, I forced us to freeze in time and never grow. On some days I would punish the real people for the things my anxiety would tell me using their voices. I would consistently cheat myself from the possibility of having an understanding, loving friend on the other side of a conversation. I would replace them in my mind with individuals who leaned into my fears of rejection, challenging my worthiness, making me feel like I didn’t have a right to my feelings or acceptance of where I was on any given moment.
I did this so often that I found myself having more conversations with my people in my mind than I ever actually had with them in person. No one knew how afraid I was of loss or rejection because all I let them see were the words I committed to paper and the put together version of me that didn’t let them in to the more vulnerable parts of me. It was lonely and tiring to have to be myself and them every time I wanted to have a conversation.
I wish I could write that I just stopped having those conversations on a given Thursday and never had them ever again, but I’d be lying if I did.
What changed for me wasn’t going from 100 to 0, it was that I’ve been training myself to have a lightbulb moment every time I go to 100. Every internal conversation is an opportunity to challenge myself to figure out what I actually want to talk about and prep myself to have it with the right person. To get to that point it took really accepting that I rarely feel good about myself when I have conversations with my people in my own mind. If anything I feel worse, more anxious, and more alone.
Some days I don’t know how to get to the point of starting the conversation on my own, so it’s why I try to teach my people about how my mind works. My sad, mad, and afraid, manifest in the same way. My anxiety is triggered when I don’t have regular meals. I fidget with my hair, hands, and legs a lot when I’m anxious or uncomfortable in a space. If I take more than one shower in a day or need a bath at the end of the day, I’ve had a hard anxiety day. If I’m suddenly quiet in their presence, there’s a good chance that I’ve had an entire conversation with them in my mind.
I’m really fortunate to have a solid group of loved ones who don’t shy away from challenging me to be human. They don’t punish me for being self-aware or attach expectations to the trait that others would - to them me being self-aware isn’t a reason to leave me to figure it all out on my own, it’s their biggest reason to reach out and talk to me because they know that being self-aware can be my most present enemy.
I know what I feel pretty instantly. I’ll think about why I feel what I feel in pretty deep ways. If it wasn’t for my people, I would never leave the depths of my own mind.