Growing up, I thought there was only a handful of careers for me to choose from. I didn’t know there were jobs outside of those which were presented to me in my kindergarten curriculum and the cartoons that filled the rest of my waking hours.
My options, seemingly, were that I could grow up to teach, bake, sing or become a police officer, firefighter, doctor or Ghostbuster. So, naturally, I further narrowed down those options to singer or Ghostbuster. The rest of the selection was just too realistic for me to take seriously.
I lacked the voice and confidence of a singer, and Ghostbusting seemed a hard business to get into. Plus I am a renowned scaredy-cat. But as my taste in TV and films became more sophisticated, another option began to present itself.
“You could solves crimes! Go undercover; be a detective!” suggested Spy Kids and Inspector Gadget. And for the next little while, my aspirations were as such.
As an aspiring detective, I began to carry a magnifying glass, notebook and pen with me everywhere I went, assuming those to be all the basic ingredients that went into the creation of a puzzle-solving sleuth. The trench coat would come along once I had solved my first case, I suspected.
(I was wrong. I solved my first case –“Who left the toilet seat up?”– at Sandy Pond, Lake Ontario in the 90s. My trench coat never came.)
But beyond the gear and the trench coat, my time as a detective instilled in me a thorough appreciation of the concept of evidence; the most important element of any case. To this day, that value has never left me; evidence is key.
Since then, though, I have grown up and not become a detective. I have become a writer. Specifically, a writer with a horrendous fear of people reading my material.
I know; highly impractical, right?
For weeks now I have been attempting to compose my third blog post. Not this blog post; a different one. One which would further examine the specifics of how I got through my anxiety attacks during my year of college at Inchicore FCE. My intention was to dish out tips which may be useful for anyone who, like me, can’t get through the day without a persistent stream of ‘what if?’ thoughts.
But instead, I found myself blocked and anxious; terrified that I have been wasting my time and the time of my readers. It seems only fitting that anxiety would challenge me in my attempts to help others thwart it, and it stormed in right on cue.
Panic, I have found, comes in many different forms; a shape-shifting fighter, adapting with each round of the battle.
Panic can possess your entire body, a cruel puppeteer who will inflict meaningless action –nervous pacing, hair-pulling, teeth-grinding– on your helpless form. Or it can invade mentally, a thorough take-over of your every thought.
But either way, once it is through, the feeble host has been utterly robbed of control, body and mind, piece by piece. And panic can hold you hostage. Sometimes for hours, sometimes for minutes that drag on and on and on. Panic is quite the warrior, always ready for combat.
But sometimes panic doesn’t strike an attack.
Sometimes it just sits there with you, keeping you company. It swells to fill the room, leaving you enough breathing space to survive, to hold yourself together, but not enough that you can do much else. It does not physically restrain you but it blocks your emergency exit, keeping you in place, right where it wants you. That’s where panic has had me for the last four weeks. Specifically, in relation to my writing.
This has been just one of many rounds in the ongoing battle with my anxiety demons and lately I’ve been losing.
I am not writing the blog that I had set out to write those many weeks ago, nor have I published any content that I’ve written since. I’m still afraid of who may read this and what they might think, and that maybe what I have to say is not worth saying at all.
Lately my anxiety has been winning, so today I’m gearing up for the next round.
Panic tells me that I’m not good enough and will fail at whatever I set out to do, and I listen. Panic is loud, after all; hard to drown out. So now I am preparing to use my own voice, in attempts to match panic’s volume.
I could sit down right now and write a list of things that I don’t like about myself and then I could add to that list every day for the rest of my life. But, instead, today I choose to write a list of five things that I do like about myself, to be used as reminder later on when panic starts whispering bitter nothings in my ear.
More importantly, though, is the evidence which I will attach to this list. (Thought my crime-solving past wasn’t relevant, did you?!)
Experience has taught me that when panic calls any of my achievements or positive qualities into question, it’s easy for me to forget all the good that I’ve done.
It’s easy to say, “You’re right, I’m no good at anything. I’ve been kidding myself whenever I think otherwise. I’ll just give up now. Thanks.”
Panic is also a master persuader.
Next time, though, I will have my list and my evidence to back me up as I try to convince myself that I am not what my anxiety reduces me to.
Self-affirmation in itself is incredibly important and, to everyone, I highly encourage it. Reminding yourself of your strengths, accomplishments, qualities and potential is a wise practice for anyone, whatever your shape, size, colour or flavour. We could all use reminders of our greatness once in a while. But to those of you who are plagued by anxiety, like yours truly, I recommend taking it a step further.
As well as making a memo of the qualities in yourself that you value, also provide some evidence. Provide proof, so that when panic tries to diminish you or devalue your accomplishments, it will fail. It will fail because it cannot compete with fact. In a court of law, panic would lose because the evidence is on your side.
So the next time panic tries to criticise my character or tell me that I have accomplished nothing or that I am a failure whose life is going nowhere, I will respond with the above. My list; my evidence; my proof.
I am more than my panic says I am. And I am proud.