Life is a mess.
We experience and take in so much every day. We see and process thousands and thousands of stimuli every day. These stimuli can have the power to affect us emotionally along a spectrum of happiness, sadness and anger.
Also, we may not realise this, but everything we saw years and even decades ago can still be present in our minds.
Anxiety, to me, is a temporary state of mind which brings back old memories and perspectives about humanity we witnessed since childhood to the front of our mind.
How did I come to this understanding of anxiety? By both talking about it and reading non-fiction books about the mind.
I first became aware of anxiety after my mental health crisis in 2019. It was terrifying to me. I was terrified because I believed that the judgemental thoughts I had for everyone around me including myself was a reflection of me, my true self. I thought I was broken.
And yet, when anxiety would pass, I had self esteem again and felt love and care for the people around me.
This cycle for the next five years of at one moment having a calm mind and then an anxious mind the next felt unsettling. I accepted that my mental illness made my anxiety more accute in that I was aware of every single thought in my mind. During the beginning of my recovery, anxiety made working in Theatre very difficult in that I experienced difficulties in concentration and made a lot of mistakes.
How did talking about my anxiety with my loved ones and my therapist help me? It helped me realise that there is always a cause behind my anxiety. For me, it would come down to meeting new people, working in a new theatre and learning new skills. I also became aware that the anxious thoughts were not nessarily true.
The solutions we found that helped me the most was to do both conscious breaths and taking anxiety medication. This helps me be aware that the thoughts in my head are not a reflection of me and that they are fleeting.
Another solution I found myself when experiencing anxiety in a social situation was to do the opposite of what my anxious mind was telling me to do. I simply smile and be curious about others. This helps me take control of my anxiety to the point where It doesn't have control over me. I don't take it seriously anymore.
Reading non-fiction books about the mind has provided context behind the judgemental thoughts in my mind whenever I experince anxiety.
'Sway' by Pragya Agarwal is a fascinating book about unconscious bias and how everything we have witnessed both in real life and on our screens from childhood onwards shape our biases. As I've written previously, our minds take in so much stimuli that even conflicting points of view on a topic can stay in our minds for years, even decades. We know that judging people on any aspect of what makes them a person is wrong, yet the voices inside our heads can say horrible things about anyone we see without a moment's hesistation.
I won't get into specifics but when I experience anxiety, I have memories of characters from the AIDS TV Drama 'It's a Sin', 'Doctor Who' and the video game 'The Last of Us' saying judgemental things about people. These characters become my inner voice during these moments of anxiety.
Reading 'Sway' helped me realise that anxiety isn't a reflection of me and can be reframed. Anxiety is simply a state of mind where my unconscious biases come to the very front of my mind and I briefly lose the bigger picture.
Let me reassure you that your anxiety is not you. You don't have to take it seriously as it is simply old memories and perspectives you've witnessed over years and even decades.
Anxiety too will pass. Remember that smiling and being kind to the people around you and yourself while in an anxious state of mind is always worth it.
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