The Good and Bad of Anxiety

From the most objective perspective I can muster, anxiety has profoundly affected my life, both for the worse and for the better.

On the worse side, I have felt awful much of the time. I’ve never heard imaginary berating voices, but I can relate — I seem special, like people know something about me and are talking about me, although I recognize it’s not true. The only time it seems I feel better is when I run away or use alcohol or drugs. When it’s really bad, my mind is going 100 m.p.h., yet stuck in neutral, paralysed. It is uncontrollably shallow, self-defeating thinking. And, since my emotions are compacted, it hurts like any physical injury does, sometimes unbearably. When it’s full-blast, I am in agonizing self-conflict, in combat against an invisible enemy, that being my own false perception. Anxiety is, I think, essentially the mistaken belief that I can control my thoughts and feelings.

On the better side, anxiety has spurred me to overcome it, somehow, because of its very nature. It is relentless — sometimes being hyper-vigilant has its advantages. I tell you, I’ve made it through many tight spots (whether self-created or not) by watching closely. Through trying to please people, I’ve learned a lot about them. Amid the cynicism, moments of clarity shine through, surprising self-effacing moments. Those only come through getting out of the shell, however.

So, if it’s personal and interior to me, why write about it? Because it is a spiritual problem too — on some level, above genetics and personal history, it becomes an excuse to separate from the divine. I am weak as myself but strong as the Divine Self — see the Upanishads. I perceive that anxiety is everywhere, threatening to drive people off the rails. Anxiety over war led great men to appease implacable enemies, culminating in disaster. Anxiety over being wrong leads great organizations to stagnate. Anxiety over finding the right one leads people to live a life of miserable solitude, checking the smart phone all day, unable to take root. With these problems I can relate, on my own small personal level.

Without extra anxiety, I would not be who I am today. I should now probably say it doesn’t define me or something like that, but it does define me. Yet, these days, I understand it better, based on my many adventures. The only way to live with it is to plunge into life — there is plenty of time to lie in the grave, étaler mes vieux os, as Mr. Baudelaire would say.

Have a good day!

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