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An Escape from Anxiety

Anxiety is your body's natural response to stress. It's a feeling of fear or apprehension about what's to come.

I have officially cut ties with one of my long-time, closest friends.

Yes, it’s sad. But it was the best decision I’ve ever made (and the best decision I choose to make every day, whenever she comes a-knocking)

My former friend’s name is Anxiety. Anxiety is your body's natural response to stress. It's a feeling of fear or apprehension about what's to come. She came into my life early on, as someone who saw all the pain in my world, all the pain I’d experienced as a child and became the “self-appointed” guardian of my Ego. I didn’t really ask for her to be my friend, but before I knew it, she was standing guard in front of my door - ready to warn me and sound her alarm whenever anyone came close who resembled the deepest hurts of my past.

For me, it was Rejection and Criticism that were the biggest threats. Anxiety knew that I hardly had any friends as a kid, and would often feel rejected and very lonely. She knew that I was a sensitive soul & the criticism I received when I didn’t do things right were like daggers in my heart, and that I constantly felt like a failure or that someone was always out to tell me what I did wrong.

 

So, she faithfully defended me, warning me, urging me to hide from the enemy, preventing me from making decisions that could ever put me in the way of the evil monsters, Rejection and Criticism. I appreciated her. After all, she only wanted my good. And she was great at giving me all the warning signs. Tight chest. Shallow breathing. Racing heart. Imminent danger. I knew her signs & signals, and I heeded her warnings. I made “safe” decisions. I didn’t open myself up to anything or anyone that could possibly be disguised as my worst enemies.

But one day, I noticed her signs were blaring & she was ready to defend, but I looked out the window & saw no one there. I was confused. I had never thought to look outside, but trusted her fully, because she had been with me for so long. Finally, I saw Rejection coming from a distance, but he was so far away I had to use binoculars! He was moving so slowly. And there were so many obstacles in his way to get to me. I took a closer look & saw he wasn’t a monster at all. He had a kind face, like a worn traveler... Anxiety’s signs & signals were going off, as if Rejection were a scary monster trying to break down the door. But the more I looked out the window and saw Rejection, the more familiar he looked, like a long-lost friend.

I finally quieted Anxiety, and timidly invited Rejection to stop for some water & rest before he went on his way. Rejection told me he had been traveling for many years and that yes, we knew each other in my past. But for several years now, Anxiety would ward him off before he had a chance to get anywhere close.

Rejection began by telling me that, like Anxiety, he had known me almost my whole life. “Do you remember the very first time we met?” he asked. “No”, I replied. “It was the first time you felt the pain of being unwanted. Do you remember that time?” “Ah, yes”, I remembered. “I was in second grade, seven years old. Everyone went to play outside during recess, but for some reason, no one wanted to play with me. I ran to the swing set, but the other girls got there first and I stood by watching. They never invited me to play. I felt sadness. And confusion. And I felt so unwanted. I looked around and saw kids surrounding my older sister, wanting to be in her company. She had something I didn’t have. But I didn’t know what it was. All I knew, was that I was unwanted.”

When I looked up, Rejection had tears in his eyes. “I remember that day very well”, he said. “And the same scene played many more times for you in the next 7 years. You came to terms with my many visits. You learned how to be by yourself. You learned how to look out your window and daydream, entering into a world of light & happiness, where you never felt alone. But as you got older, Anxiety began to hang around more and appointed herself as the guardian of your home. She meant well all these years. But she began to ward me off whenever I came close. She began to rule your life. Her signals became extreme, making you feel afraid of things that didn’t even exist. She made me out to be a monster! But she doesn’t realize that I am a necessary part of your life. And my only wish is to sit and talk with you, rest, and then be on my way when the time is right."

“So, you’re not out to cause me harm?” I asked. “No,” he said. “I’m here to sit with you from time to time, to remind you of the experiences we’ve had together, so you understand WHY life hurts you in this way so much and to remind you that I mean no harm. I come to remind you that Anxiety’s signals are not always true. But she has kept me away for so long. And the longer I am away, the stronger she gets.”

At the end of our conversation, I gave Rejection a long hug. He really was a friend. A sad friend, on the journey of life. A necessary friend. As he walked away, he turned around said “I’m so glad you looked out your window for yourself. Until next time.”

Finally, Anxiety came around the corner, and I mustered up the courage to look her in the eyes and tell her that it was time to redefine our relationship. I thanked her for wanting to help me all these years, for faithfully defending me. But I told her that now, it was time for me to guard my own home. It took a while to convince her, but our relationship has become healthier. We agreed she’d stay nearby, because she still helps keep me from real danger. Once in a while she’ll rush back when she sees Rejection or Criticism coming in the distance. And some days I still shut myself inside my home, because her warnings can be so persuasive but my curtains are wide open now. I look out my window often. Every day I make room in my schedule to invite Joy, Freedom, Wholeness and Peace into my home. But now I also invite my weary travelers, Rejection & Criticism for a chat whenever they need to stop by. The more we talk, the more at peace I am. I make better decisions about how I respond to life and other people. They remind me that I am my own person, and that I am not them. They remind me that I can’t control everything in life, but I can control how I view myself.

Even as I write this, I can hear Anxiety rustling outside, and I see Criticism coming in the distance. But I know she means well and I look forward to a short chat with my new friend of old.

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