I get it. Anxiety sucks. I hate the irrational fear, the debilitating panic attacks, the constant butterflies, the demoralization that comes with being too afraid to take chances. Did I miss anything? Of course I did. Your experience may vary. Everyone has their own experiences with anxiety, each very personal, and they’re all horrible. In fact, I’ve never heard a person enthusiastically shout out in a crowd of people “Hooray! Here comes a anxiety attack! Get ready everybody! We’re going to have some good ol’ fashioned fear and panic! Whoopee!”
Nope. Never happens. But what if I was to tell you that there can be something great to come from an anxiety disorder? Would you stop reading and throw your laptop or smartphone out the window in a fit of rage? That wouldn’t do well for your anxiety, I promise you that. So why not keep reading so that you can avoid the rage-throwing of electronics and perhaps shift your perspective on anxiety?
First, a confession: I am an anxiety superhero.
It took me a long time to admit that. In fact, I had to struggle with anxiety for a long time. I wrestled with it, fought it, tried to run from it, and attempted to suppress it with alcohol, all to no avail. Finally, when I could suffer no more, I surrendered to the fact that I was not well, and I got help.
Saving you from the long and painful superhero origin story, I will simply say this. Counter intuitively, when I let go of the idea that I needed to “cure” or suppress my anxiety by constantly fighting it, feeling resentful, and catastrophizing, I began to find my serenity. I was given the mental capacity to begin to understand my anxiety, simply because I accepted it as part of me, in all of its irrationality. My entire perspective changed, and I began to see my anxiety disorder as something new entirely. It didn’t have this powerful negative force over me. My thoughts were just that. Thoughts. And irrational ones at that.
With loads of therapy and constant work, I reframed my anxiety into something very positive. It became my superpower
I know what you’re thinking. Dafuq?
Dafuq, indeed. But don’t be so quick to dismiss this. The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. Constantly fighting against the anxiety, or trying to suppress it with alcohol, drugs or other means only made matters worse. Reframing anxiety and shifting my perspective helped me to transcend fear. Anxiety went from being the most debilitating condition I had to the most empowering.
I believe that everyone who experiences debilitating anxiety has superpowers.
This makes sense when you consider that many people who experience anxiety are high achievers. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Consider the many psychological manifestations of anxiety; irrational fear, the monkey mind, social phobias, obsessiveness, hypersensitivity, and so on. What if instead of being a victim to these conditions we asked a more empowering question of ourselves?
How can this condition be empowering?
What if through proper breathing techniques and affirmation we could work through the fear and persevere enhancing our ability to be brave (after all, you can’t be courageous unless you’re first afraid)? What if through meditation the jumbled thoughts running through our mind could be molded into amazing ideas? What if our obsessive nature translated into obsessive focus on an activity that can change the world? What if hypersensitivity translated into compassion?
I believe all of these shifts in perspective and subsequent transformation of mindset is absolutely possible. I believe it because I practice it. I believe it because it is my experience.
In this series of posts on Becoming an Anxiety Superhero, I want to explore some of these superpowers, and how those of us who are simultaneously cursed and blessed with the malady of anxiety can shift our perspectives and experience tremendous joy in the process. I want to discuss some of the methods I use to sharpen my anxiety superpowers, and how to rise above fear.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, remember these important things:
a) You’re not alone.
b) There is help.
c) You can choose to be a victim, or you can choose to be empowered.
Don’t be a victim of anxiety. Find your superpower.