You are not your anxiety.
There are a lot of things we don’t understand: the universe outside our galaxy, the concept of infinity, why people like pineapple on their pizza, and the inevitability of death. We cope with these uncertainties by creating rules, labels, and expectations.
Creating Our Reality
Instead of saying “this land goes on for infinity” we say this land is now a road, and it’s in the town called Mount Pleasant, in a country named Canada, and it goes for 50 miles, and I just walked 3 miles to my house, which is inside this white picket fence. We don’t just categorize the earth into countries and states and cities and property, we do the same to each other.
Creating Our Selves
I’m a woman. I’m a writer. I’m Canadian. I’m single. I’m tall. I have two siblings. My favourite food is sushi. I don’t like pie. I do like jazz music. I’m bad at math. I’m social. I have anxiety.
Creating personas around what we like, what we own, where we live, or who we interact with give us a sense of stability. We want to know a person’s interests so we can figure out who they are. If something feels off, we want to know what exactly it is and how we can fix it.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is something you may be familiar with if you dabbled in a psychology course at any time in your life. You may be extra familiar if you received a diagnosis out of it.
The DSM-5 is the recent copy that contains a variety of personality disorders, mental disorders, categories, symptoms, traits, and identifiers. This includes depression, general anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, etc, etc. According to professionals I have anxiety. My dad has anxiety, my siblings have anxiety, and I have anxiety. It’s who I am, right?
It’s who I am, right?
Danger in the Diagnosis
After being officially labeled with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I slotted this new identifier into my persona and acted accordingly. I was anxious going to busy public spaces, I was too anxious to go on dates, I wouldn’t bother trying out for a school team because I was anxious, the same went for jobs. What would someone with anxiety do?
I slotted this new identifier into my persona and acted accordingly.
The False Solidity of Labels
Things change. I may stop being a writer. I might try a pie I love. I could get really good at math. I could lose a sibling. I change, people change, labels change. My anxiety changed when I started looking at it differently. I separated myself from my anxiety. When anxiety came, I observed how I felt and I also observed how it passed. It wasn’t really a part of me at all, it was just there.
Recognizing I was not my anxiety was the most freeing realization.
Labeling This Article
Of course your anxiety is not bullshit. Mental health diagnosis’s have increased awareness, research, and support around mental health disorders. Serious health issues that were once dismissed are being treated. Clinging to that diagnosis, using it as an excuse, defining who you are around that diagnosis is bullshit. You are much more than your diagnosis and you can live outside of its confinements.
You are much more than your diagnosis and you can live outside of its confinements.
If you suffer from anxiety do this practice next time you feel yourself becoming anxious or entering a panic attack. Be aware of the anxiety as it manifests. Ground yourself. Realize where you are in the present moment and take five deep breaths. Be aware of the thoughts provoking your anxiety. When the anxiety passes, realize that it was temporary. You are still you without your anxiety. Write down your experience.