May 27, 2016

A Rallying Call to the Anxious Ones.

Meg Wills via Flickr

Feeling grounded is one of the best feelings, isn’t it? To feel the solidness beneath our feet in place of a foundation that once felt wobbly and unstable.

Having anxiety, we know what unstable feels like. We have spent our lives trying to make steady the shaky parts.

We know what the screams of anxiety sound like—shrieking at us, on a daily basis, causing us to question everyone, everything, and every situation in our lives.

It takes a magnifying glass to everything and turns what is insignificant into things that must be dealt with.

It seems, quite often, that it is hard to quiet the incessant stream of nonsense that goes on in our heads, on our own. Often, it requires intervention; it requires the steady hand of someone who is not currently falling apart. It forces us to reach out, to tell someone what is going on in there.

We all have our “people,” the ones we feel safe going to, the ones who help quiet the non-stop meaningless confusion that goes round and round in our heads. These people will listen patiently, and then out will flow their soothing words: “It’s going to be okay. No, that is not a big deal… No, you are not going to get fired… No, everyone does not in fact hate you…”

Sometimes when we reach out, it feels like we are saying, “Could you please oblige me by carrying this terribly heavy load that I cannot lift?” This causes us to sometimes feel quite horrible—placing our burdens in the laps of others—wondering if they are any stronger than we are to lift them, and if they are, how do we become like that? Why aren’t we equipped to lift our own sh*t?

We outstretch our arms in offering to anxiety, hold out what we are able to give—the anxiety looks it over, inspects, and spits back in our face: “Nope, not good enough”—shoving our arms away and spilling the offering at our feet. This does nothing except cause us to unravel further. “See.” we tell ourselves, “you can’t even get it to stop on your own.”

Sometimes it seems, that in order to cross over the threshold of suffering, someone must carry us. Reaching out for help can be hard—sitting down in the middle of the road in exasperation and saying to someone, “I cannot move another inch; I need help”—is brave. We must be brave enough to ask for help, for deep in our chests, if we allow it to, the anxiety will fester. It will become increasingly irritated if we don’t address it. If we ignore it, it will start to rot. Soon, everyone will be able to smell it, no matter how much we try to cover it up. It leaves its trace on everything it touches. No area of our lives is immune to its presence. Anxiety can turn even the sunlight of day to something that feels like a tomb of heavy darkness. It is paralyzing. It leaves us feeling we are ill-equipped for every journey we try to undertake.

Soon, we will convince ourselves that we do not have what it takes to make it. We can convince ourselves, very quickly, that if we attempt to do whatever it is that we are trying to do, we will fail. The anxiety will tell us that we will fall miserably short. When we are in this spiral, there is help. Let us remember to take hold of someone’s hand and let them yank us back into the stream of life.

Why is it that when we tell our troubles to someone else, and they say, “It’s going to be okay,” we are left feeling secured again. Fastened down. Fixed to something solid. They take hold of our hands that are desperately trying to pry up the nails that are securing us to our anchor and say, “There, there now, leave those nails where they are—if you keep pulling, you’re not going to like what happens.” Suddenly the anxiety drifts from being the center of our attention and we are able to fix our eyes on something else—something that is firm, constant, and unwavering. We need each other. Community is powerful. We must find our natives, our people, the ones who say to us, “Ah yes, I have felt that too. I know just how it feels, let me help”.

Our anxiety wants us to feel alone, it wants us to be cut off from other people, from life. It is a suffocating presence. It is eased through friendship. Our anxiety will often tell us, this person is going to get tired of this, of hearing about this, but we have to remember when we have these thoughts that this is the anxiety talking—other people want to support us, just as we want to support them. Other people want to help. Anxiety can create a dichotomy inside of us that at once wants to spill every thought we have, or ever have had, into the laps of our friends, and at the same time it will be yelling at us to say nothing at all. For if we reveal it all they will realize how crazy we are, and will leave. This can be a terrifying struggle. However the dark energy often will not leave, if faced alone. When our world is breaking, we must allow others to nurture us.

When it feels as if we are standing in the shadow of a mountain, becoming numb from the dizziness of it standing in our way, let us remember that this is an opportunity. It is easier to climb with someone else, than alone. Let us climb the mountain together. There is strength in numbers. Let us build each other up. Let us help restore each other.
Like any illness that enters the body, anxiety needs healing. It needs cures. It needs medicine. This healing can look like a lot of different things; it can look like pouring your heart out to the listening ear of a kind friend, it can be a cup of coffee on a dark day. It will be two steps forward and one step back—we will find oxygen, moments where we are able to come up for air, and it will feel amazing. We will want to hold on to these moments with all of our might, but will be afraid to look these moments in the eye for fear of scaring them off. Let us inhale the majesty of these anxiety free moments, and exhale our burdens into a world that is big enough to handle them—to handle us.

Anxiety comprises only some of the branches on our trees of life. These branches are solid and fluid, they are budding and dying, they can feel like gallows and crucification. They are great and mighty and feeble and growing. They are beautiful and brave. There are other branches on our trees. Branches that stand tall against the winds that come to sweep us away. Let us hold on to those for dear life. May we be gentle with those branches of anxiety that come from the roots of someplace deep.

When the anxiety comes in like a storm, let us remember to swim. When it comes to wash us away, let us remember that our souls are made of something worth fighting for. At times it will seem that our arms can’t bear it, we will feel exhausted from paddling through waters that are too deep to wade. It is a long distance from here to there, and we will not forget all of the work we put in to get where we are.

Centuries have passed, and the earth has been trodden in an ancient journey to bring us to exactly where we are right now. We will proceed. We will proceed with force, or tiptoe, or dance…but we will keep going. We will rise…and when we get knocked down, we will rise again. We will rise in the night, we will use use our voices—we will scream, yell, or whisper—but we will not let our anxiety silence the song that hums beneath the surface.

Hear this call, my anxious ones: We are in this together.

Alone, we may be an easy target, but together, we are a formidable foe. Surmounting us will be much more difficult when we show our anxiety the strength in our numbers. We are a village—we are awake—and we are ready.





Author: Cora Ison-Kiphart

Photo: Flickr/Meg Wills

Editor: Travis May

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