For those of you who read the post I published yesterday, I just wanted to say that I’m feeling better now. Obviously it’s not all gone, but today I was able to follow my schedule and at the moment, despite this post I’m writing, I am about to do my readings for this afternoon’s lecture and I’ll be meeting up with a friend for lunch and we’ll be talking about the BME campaign I’m doing. (For those of you who do not know about the BME campaign, well, follow me on FB [The African-Italian Project] to see what’s going on; there is a video on the page about it, so yeah!).
Anyways, after I posted that piece, a friend from my old University, with whom I went to Fieldschool this summer reached out to me to give some life experience advice about how he encountered the anxiety I’m going through and how he overcame it. He explained to me how I need to let my emotions go without being a control freak over them. I need to be the observer of what I feel and what I am. My mind is the sky, whereas my thoughts and emotions are the clouds: sometimes the clouds may be dark; they may cover the bright sky, but see… they can never touch it, because the sky is greater! What a wonderful comparison!
Hi Benja, I read your African-Italian Project post and I deal with a lot of anxiety myself, albeit probably in quite a different form, so I’ve had to learn some methods for dealing with it myself. I’d have felt rotten if I didn’t offer up some advice.
First of all it’s always useful to know where the anxiety is emerging from. From what you’ve described it sounds like it mainly comes from harsh self-judgements. Bear in mind we live in a culture that treats judging yourself harshly as unnatural, often making the situation worse, when it really is the most natural thing in the world. It also seems like being preoccupied with your anxiety is intensifying it, 2 other common causes are excessive expectations or perfectionism, or lack of experience and skills in a new situation.
There are then 4 steps you can take to reduce the anxiety. Firstly, having identified the root of your anxiety, try to defuse from it. It may feel like you have no control over the thoughts in your head, but that does not make you there victim. Try to be the observer of your thoughts rather than a participant, acknowledge them and let them pass rather than focusing on them or fighting them. It helps to imagine your mind as the sky and thoughts as clouds, clouds may make the sky grow dark but they can never really touch it.
Secondly it is helpful to accept the discomfort of change and growth. So often change is necessary to come through a period of stagnation, but change is uncomfortable. Simply compare the pain of change and growth with the pain that results from stagnation, and ask yourself which is preferable.
The third step is an easy one, clarify your values. Write a list of what you want in life and what matters to you most. If you don’t know, then decide. At this point it is impossible to choose wrongly because by pursuing a wrong value you will simply realise what doesn’t matter to you, and therefore what matters more.
Finally take the smallest step you can right now towards achieving these values. Maybe there’s an email you can send, or something you can go out and buy, or something like reading a chapter or timetabling your week. Even something small will make things feel more manageable and set you up for another step.
As I wrote to him, while I was on my bed trying to figure out my issues and feeling guilty for not being able to show up for lecture/not doing my work, I felt like I needed to get someone to hear me out, but obviously people don’t expect me to be the one in need so I feel awkward to ask to be heard out. The post was an attempt to have someone reach out to me. I think my issues come from excessive expectations and the need/will to control everything, even when things are out of my control.
One thing which is really hard for me is accepting my flaws and letting myself being able to correct them. It might sound stupid; as I was saying in the post, I’m stuck somewhere and I have a lock that does not allow me to free myself.
Yesterday was a difficult moment, BUT it came as a reminder of the things I don’t want to see: myself and my flaws.
There’s this (mis)conception that some people have to be strong, some people are “strength-talented”, how I don’t even know; strong in a way that becomes obsessive and overwhelming. The pressure of people and social media gives that idea, and ultimately one ends up being in a box that does not fit them.
Yesterday I was broken and so vulnerable in a way I don’t even understand, but what I’ve learnt (and perhaps still learning) is that we are all flawed by the same issues. There is no one who is “strength-talented”! Don’t even believe the hype, it is not true and trust me: I’m the one who believed to have the magical, superpowerful strength, but see me now! We all have the same problems, just different way to approach them. I’ll tell you what. My approach comes with hiding behind what I do, I throw myself in infinite things and I talk about them, I feel overly and obsessively proud of them, but then? What happens next? I get lost and I retreat in frustration.
I’m not going to do this business anymore. I’m educating myself on how to overcome these moments of anxiety, and it’s not easy, BUT the good thing is that now I realise and I know where I stand.
To find courage and make a step towards redeeming myself, after the conversation with my friend, I started listening to music, reading blogs and then I went for a cider with my flatmate.
I was listening to Corinne Bailey Rae, reading Irie Chic Style and Girl on Fire. Girl on Fire gave me the ultimate empowerment. It is a blog managed by a lady I like to call my friend and mentor (although she probably doesn’t know she’s being a mentor for me), and reading some old pieces of hers, I suddenly realise that I’m not the exception to the rule! She has gone through all this stuff, and the experience she was sharing made me realise, as she puts it, that I am not alone in my loneliness.
I hope this helps somebody else, like somebody’s experience helped me!
A friend, music, blogs… and a cider saved me from my issues.