Everyone knows that you can’t expect other people to sort your shit out for you, that is not new advice but really taking responsibility for your feelings and managing them is something I have found much harder and more complex than I ever expected.
The moral of this story is to put on the big boy suit, do up my tie and get comfy in the boss chair of my own existence because no one knows how to manage my anxiety better than I do, as the person who has had to live with it 24 hours a day for the past 30 odd years.
I had a boyfriend when I was much much younger who reacted to my anxiety and panic as though it was his fault, he seemed to think that he caused my issues and that I blamed him for my struggle. Ten plus years later I look back on that time and realize how long it has taken me to understand the lessons I really should have taken from that situation. His negative, often selfish behaviour would unsettle me and put me on edge, then instead of making it better he would see my distress, become stressed himself, get angry and walk out leaving me to cry to myself. All this is pretty standard fare in young person relationships I know but the lesson I have learned from it was not what I expected.
For years since I have believed that I was just with the wrong man and needed one who treated me more kindly and with more care and though that is obviously true I have now realized that it was never his responsibility to fix me. I needed to take control and take full responsibility for my own reactions both positive and negative. Being around someone who expects you to walk on egg shells, avoiding anything which may or may not cause them to panic is the same as avoiding situations which make you panic, breaking the first rule of cognitive behavior therapy; thou shalt not avoid.
Having people around you who are confident enough to do what is right for them and understand that you might need a little time to process it is the key. Other people can’t be expected to stop living their lives so you don’t panic. Even if that was a fair or even a realistic expectation it would never let you learn how to manage those things which freak you out. Going through something and realising at the other end that you can do it, that the world didn’t end and you weren’t cast off into a black hole for all eternity is vital in managing anxiety and panic, or at least it has been for me.
In a panicy situation my friends will often tell me it is ok to turn back or that we can just go home if that’s better for me, my friends are kind and very patient. I get very stubborn with my anxiety, I refuse to let it win and let it get in the way of the things I want to do with my life, even if the thing I want is to just go out for a coffee. I want to be the head of the company that is my life; I am in charge, not the anxiety and not my panic attack. I am the CEO of my life not you panic, you dick.
Alas with power comes responsibility and the knowledge that if you are in control of your issues then you also have to take responsibility for how they effect other people. It’s true, the boyfriend I had should have been more kind and showed me more empathy but his love and support alone would never have been enough to make it better; true love will not solve anxiety any more than eating endless pieces of dry cold toast. I now endeavor to seek out people not because they are going to rescue me, to whisk me off my feet and take away all my pain and stress. Instead I look for people who will be patient, who will be kind and who will try their best to understand that I might struggle with some things. In return I hope my friends and family will see that I will try my best to accept whatever they have problems with too, be it a fear of spiders; I will kill those 8 legged bastards for you, or a hatred of Thai food due to an unfortunate incident during a disastrous work Christmas party (We don’t have to get Thai, I like Japanese better anyway)
I will love you for your bruised and broken bits if you will love me in spite of mine.