Aug 8 • 4M

148. “But Anxiety IS The Bad Thing, And It Does Happen!”

When “Did you die?” is the WRONG question to ask.

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Not everyone is afraid that they will have a heart attack, die, pass out, or have a psychotic break when anxious or experiencing panic. These are common imagined outcomes that drive the fear of fear, but they are certainly not the only sources of this fear.

Some of our friends believe that the state of anxiety itself - without any secondary outcomes - is the bad thing. For these folks, feeling anxious or experiencing panic confirms their belief that they are broken, defective, damaged, unworthy, less than, weak, or incapable in some way. These beliefs can have emotional, moral, social, and even faith based components.

I know that there are people reading this right now that believe that they are anxious because they are not close enough to God, or that they are being punished for something they do not know they did. Others believe that being anxious makes them weak or damaged and that they will be punished or rejected simply for feeling the way they feel. These are real fears created by real life experiences and interactions with others.

Photo by Umberto on Unsplash

In the end, the path to recovery still runs directly through fear and out the other side, but we are doing a disservice to some of our friends by boiling everything down to “Did you die?”.

I know I have been guilty of this in the past. As I continue to learn, get exposed to so many personal stories, and have varied experiences as a mental health helper and therapist-in-training, my views broaden and my understanding gets a bit deeper. We change over time, right?

So I write this today because I know that we must recognize this fear when we see it. We have to talk about it. We have to validate it. We must understand that repeating the same recovery messages again and again to someone that is clearly experiencing this problem in a different way is not only un-helpful, but can be harmful, even accidentally.

Maybe this is a bit of an apology for missing this point in the past. Maybe I’m angry about seeing one-dimensional mental health “influencers” continue to pound away at the same round peg, trying to force it into a square hole by sheer will of a large following or lots of “likes”. I’m not totally sure what prompted today’s edition of The Anxious Morning, but I do want to say loudly and clearly that if you are frozen in fear because you believe that you are simply not allowed to ever be anxious or be afraid, I see you.

No, you do not die when afraid, but that’s not the point for you. I can tell you all day long that you did not have a heart attack or go insane, but for you, the bad thing DID happen. You showed your weakness. Your brokenness. Your failure. I know these can be powerful fear drivers so do not let me or anyone else minimize that.

In the end, you’ll arrive in the same place that others do having learned the same lessons, but you may take a varied path to get there. That’s OK. Remember that recovery is not just about proving that bad things don’t happen. I know it is happening to you. Recovery is about learning that you are capable of handling them now, even if you were told otherwise in the past.

Hey it’s Monday and that means that today at 2 PM Eastern I’ll do my “Recovery Monday” livestream on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Come join in!