Anxiety causes tunnel vision

But the love is still there to enjoy when we’re ready.

Often when I listen to music in the car — even my very favorite album — my mind starts to wander. A few songs later, I’ll notice I haven’t heard a single note. My consciousness is somewhere else.

When I wake up to my absence and tune back in, I can hear again. There’s a richness to the sound that lifts the hair on my skin. I’m hearing the song for the first time.

All I have to do is listen.

I used to be similarly absent from life: preoccupied by anxiety, afraid of not being okay. This took me away from the music of life, especially love. Anxiety tunneled my vision so tightly I couldn’t see how loved I was — how much love is everywhere in everyone. I felt uncomfortable with people I didn’t know very well, and sought approval from those I did. I drank to feel more at ease in social situations. I let insecurity run my relationships.

Now that I know I’m always okay no matter what (a broken record on that point, I know), things are so different it confuses me. I see so many smiling faces on the street I wonder if I’ve gotten skinnier (I haven’t). I have so much fun at parties I wonder if I’ve grown more interesting (I definitely haven’t). I‘m so at ease at airports and on subways I wonder if the world is a better place (it’s not).

No matter how much anticipatory anxiety I may feel before an event (old neural pathways take time to re-wire after all), when the present arrives I find that I’m yanked into it without even trying. I am filled with love for and from the humans who surround me. I am amazed at my ability to be touched by pleasure and by pain, to communicate honestly, to express gratitude, to remember to ask people about themselves, to notice new things about old friends, and to find perfection in beauty and in ugliness.

And the only thing that’s changed is that I’ve remembered that there’s always music.

All I have to do is listen.

Brooke shares stories, reflections, and insights here on Medium and