The virtue of anxiety
Yesterday I told my therapist to be grateful for having experienced severe anxieties. Maybe a bit less grateful for it to have lasted so long, I will admit that. The many years with extreme forms of Anxiety, OCD, Social Phobia, Depression and PTSD totally sucked. They all were linked to the same source, amplifying each other and often losing track what caused what exactly. I used to call it my comorbid cocktail, with BDD as umbrella. This period of losing all control lasted more than 30 years. The years of having a bit more control still were hard but sort of acceptable and digestible. The now one year with having back my life totally rocks and made me say to be grateful yesterday. With losing control I mean a strange phenomena actually. I lost control over my life yes. At the same time I was obsessed with maintaining that control in an OCD way, with rituals that were supposed to keep me calm but only did for short whiles. So I was in control and out of control at the same time you could say. All in a very bad way. I always told myself that it was just this ability to keep control of my life with rituals that caused making me lose control eventually. I was too good in persevering it. I would do all to avoid to need others to help me. They would not understand me anyway . . . I was convinced of that. And I still think the best help is helping yourself, but it is very good to have someone to guide you is what I learned as well. With all being so bad, why call anxieties and such a virtue as well then? I will explain.
I like to call anxiety a potential catalyst to call upon virtues. In doing so anxiety has its own virtue inside, not only being destructive, but also offering you a chance to communicate with it to make more sense of it. Anxiety is part of the same mind where all the actual virtues (high moral behaviours) are as well to sculpture that anxiety into something more helpful. You can use courage and patience for instance, or wisdom and humour to change the impact of anxiety. Anxiety can be seen as the book on yourself to read and then make up your mind how to work on it. Sounds better than defining anxiety as your demon. Seeing it as your companion to call upon your virtues is less scary and more positive and attractive. It can be a great way to discover what you need and miss most in your life. Again, your mind with its personality traits are the actual virtues you posses. But to use them you need cases, something that activates them. Anxiety is a perfect case for a good challenge. And who does not like a good challenge?!
Uhm, excuse me?
I know how it sounds. As if you need or should wish for 30 or more years of anxiety to be able to feel gratitude for life and call upon your virtues. But no, that would be cruel and stupid. Still, I cannot deny the fact that the anxiety experiences in my own life have given me something I never would have had in a less anxious life. It would be the same with a reversed situation btw. A simple example in my case: I do not only KNOW the difference between wanting to die / escape a horrible life or wanting to stay alive and enjoy it, I also have FELT that difference. Knowing it and feeling it are not the same. I can know you are sad, but I can not feel how you feel it. I only can imagine it and come close to feeling it as good as possible (empathy). Everyone creates unique mind scapes like this with feelings other persons can not copycat into their own mind.
This means for me that to now be on the positive side of the spectrum and able to recall the feeling of being at the dark side cannot result in anything else for me than being grateful. That is how I feel it. Someone else in a similar situation may just say: “Fuck it, I dislike it anyway and feel no gratitude at all.” My gratitude concerns not all of course either. It is there however for the many virtues being activated and challenged to make me survive. They became tools to dig my way up. Not back . . . but UP to a better place. It is a kind of rewarding gratitude with an intensity you cannot feel so easily I think when not having felt both dark and light in a very intense way as well. And since I walked from dark to light like a turtle, from my childhood (where all is rooted) till now, approximately 43 years later, I dare to call it pretty intense indeed.
But needing such a walk to be able to feel gratitude is nonsense. Everyone can feel gratitude. But no one can feel my intensity of gratitude, like I can not feel your intensity of gratitude. Yours can be as intense as mine for other reasons or similar reasons, but never the same. That makes me say my walk in how I deal with my anxiety has given me something no one else has. That also means it has given me a lot of shit yes, even more than it deserves gratitude actually, but what counts is where I am now and that makes it possible to look at the bright side more nowadays. It is pretty useless to chain yourself into a past that no longer exists and I prefer to use my energy in a positive way, here and now.
An incomplete list of ‘things’/persons/ tools, traits and the afore mentioned virtues I feel grateful for in my case of anxiety is below. In random order except the first 2 : -)
- My husband
- My therapist
- Sharing experiences
- Second Life
- Writing/ Journaling
- Question everything
- Reading, watching, observing and listening
Here you can read why I am grateful for all I mentioned (and much more):
- My husband because he never let me down while suffering himself as well.
- My therapist for investing in me as complex case but believing in me and for providing tools like CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) and ERP (Exposure Response Prevention).
- The sharing with buddies for feeling less silly and understanding all precisely with just a few words.
- Nature for being my calming hideaway.
- Music for feeling my emotions and being a gateway to deeper parts of me.
- Second Life for getting lessons in how to process bad experiences like rejection and insecurities and for meeting some wonderful friends who influence me in a good way.
- Writing/Journaling for giving me the opportunity to express all in words as ways of analysing and getting my head straight.
- Creativity for giving me the opportunity to visualise and/or describe old and new feelings.
- Curiosity for wanting to know and understand why and how things work.
- Courage for never giving up and keep confronting and challenging myself.
- Humour for always keeping space for smiles, jokes and laughter to let the light in.
- Independency for feeling responsible for my own life and act on that.
- Questioning all for making me figure out what makes most sense to me, not necessarily THE or YOUR truth.
- Determination for trying over and over again.
- Resilience for being able to overcome disappointments with hard work.
- Prioritising for focussing on what was really needed and who was really needed.
- Boundaries for creating a safe space where I can be me and am accepted by the ones allowed inside that space.
- Acceptance for knowing and being ok with nothing ever to be perfect or permanent.
- Journals, books, magazines, documentaries, support groups etc for teaching me new insights.
- Imagination for being able to create worlds and dreams where adventures and ideas grow and float freely. They made me hungry for improving myself. Without that a lot would have been not achieved.
- Thinking and analysing for being a blessing more than a curse eventually. It keeps me present, critical and active. I need it to keep a balanced mind. But it sometimes also causes chaos yes. I try to look at that as necessary. Chaos makes me dig deeper and then helps me to find a way out in the best case scenario. It is a form of control over myself that does NOT make me unhappy, like so many other forms of control do when we get stuck in them. Thinking is not something I get stuck in so easily anymore in the wrong way, like ruminating endlessly. It happens of course, ruminating, and quite regular, I am human too . . . but I am able to stop it again within a reasonable range of time. And I try to learn from it, so it never is bad only. It hands me the opportunity to zoom in and out, to look at things from all sides and then hopefully know what is best for me. If that is not the result I always can think it is not the right time for a result yet and then park it somewhere for a later moment in time.
Thinking is maybe our most flexible feature . . . we can bend it, stretch it, weaponise it in a positive or negative way, conquer our mind, influence feelings, create ideas and challenges, rationalise events happening to us, shape ourselves with it and above all get to know ourselves. The times I had thoughts to kill myself were scary, but thoughts sometimes just are thoughts and do not always mean you also want to really act on it. Just to face them and acknowledge them as being there as well can be enough to let it pass again.
- Temperance for having learned how to restrain myself in acting on impulses that can be very persistent. Restraining is not easy however. Often it first will flood like a strong uncontrolled river anyway and only then I will see it has to be restrained more to not get my head crushed in the violent waters with merciless rocks. When I know that I will do so. A total control on all impulses is a bit too much asked I think from any human. It also can be a delight to sometimes just let it all happen. Not every impulse is bad or has negative consequences. The ones I consider really dangerous are the ones inflicted by fear, insecurity and anger. So those are the ones I mean to deal with much better nowadays. Perfect? Nope. But manageable and ok enough to not go down when they are present.
- I guess I have to be grateful for myself as well, because all I mentioned was part of what I chose to do or let happen to me. But being grateful for myself never will feel comfortable. I can be happy with the results yes, but being grateful for or even proud at myself sounds too much like complimenting myself. That’s something I feel like vanity or like feeling better than others and that simply is not the case. I often feel the opposite actually. Like being pathetic in needing so much time, so much words and blogs as well, even when things feel ok. As if I am in love with myself and want to get attention al the time.
And see, writing what I just said also can be seen as a sign of false modesty and disguise being vain like hell. I always battle with myself where it comes to achievements. I know I achieved something but find it hard to reward it. I also can tell myself that needing 43 years to achieve it shows how lazy and passive I was . . . it all is relative. And so often when things changed in a good way I never really expected that to happen. They ‘just’ happened? Or not? You tell me..
Maybe someone having had no anxiety none whatsoever deserves more rewards on achievements by using his or her talents more effectively than I did. I always could hide behind anxiety excuses when I felt like shit. Someone free of anxiety cannot hide behind that kind of perfect excuse and has to deliver, where I could say . . . not today please . . .
So yes, I prefer to keep it modest on achievements for myself. Being grateful on what happened is ok, being proud on how it happened I am not so sure about yet. The times of lacking any form of motivation are countless. But yeah, the overall result is good. Finally.
It is all about this closeness of veins and vain. I like to show my emotional veins, how deeply wired all is. It makes me write stories on myself. Call me an emotions exhibitionist if you like. Someone who likes to show herself totally stripped down to the raw version. Doing ego documents and then try to not look and feel self-centred is not easy. The thin lines between self-chosen exposure of veins becoming vain. And vanity is ewww. It is telling yourself how great you are and make others believe that too when you do it well. This means you need to cut out the darker parts and that is what happens all the time at social media a lot. The Instagram personalities with only perfection. We all know it is not true (I hope) . . . but yet many like to believe it so it seems and try to clone it . . .
I hope also showing my darker parts in certain blogs keeps it fair. I know I am not perfect, I know I can be hard sometimes (but also for myself), I know I can be defensive and I know I sometimes push people away from me when I think they expect too much from me. I also know I can hurt people when in my too defensive moods. I know my words can sound sharp and aggressive when I feel attacked or misjudged or when injustice is done. My blog is called 99 faces for a reason. I have many faces and they all can show when something happens. They all represent a certain part of me. It often is a matter of how someone or something feels . . . ok, or not ok. When I meet someone or something ok my best parts and faces will meet them back. That fuels my positive emotions and reinforces the network of their veins to stay there and not get fractured or collapse. So, am I more vain or veins depends on how you look at it I guess. The eye of the beholder can differ from mine. I try to keep it sane, but maybe that is vain as well :)) Look at how sane I am!!! The perfectly imperfect Yoon, the hyper attractive role model. Grrrrrrrrr . . . . . GO AWAY?? Does that help to make it look less sweet and perfect? Oh what the hell. I will keep blogging anyway FFS . . :P
John Miles – Music
No better way of showing how music connects with your mind. As love, powerful and healing. It dates from 1975, the year my world collapsed. I cried a lot at all kinds of music, but never in the presence of others. Now I can again, especially on music that touches me and has gained a VIP seat in my mind for . . . . yes, pulling me through :)
More . . .
I quote Veronica Huerta Foster from the article below in which she describes why (in this case ) OCD is a pleasure apart from also being a pest. There is a quote within the quote as extra treat : )
I have never been more aware, nor more happy with my mental health as a person. I realise I am flawed, and a bit off, but I realise above all that I am a human, with firing neurons that could never match those of a person without anxiety. They could never match my imagination, my inner peace, my newfound sanity. For those suffering from any form of anxiety or even depression, I would just like to say that recovery is extremely possible, and extremely gratifying. CBT has taught me to laugh at, examine and change my thoughts, while ERP has taught me to embrace my inner strength, and even the negatives in life, which there will always be.
There are times when I think of the quote by Charles Bukowski:
Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.
I have to put this text as well to prevent someone might think I am kind of romanticising anxiety and other mental health issues for being a great thing to suffer from. Let me me be very clear on that. It is a horrible place to be. It destroys more than it benefits. It ruins your life for a great deal. I lost my job, I almost killed myself, my marriage went through hell and my life was an exhausting and very hard battle between hope and despair. Despair taking more and more place and hope becoming that one ray of sunshine a year is not a place where you want to be. So do not ever think I am happy and grateful for THAT.
Especially the creative element is something you often hear about as benefitting and pleasant ‘side effect’ in people who have big mental battles to fight. I would not want to go that far myself. I think an effect on being creative in an original way is present yes. But many others who are free from anxieties are original in their creations as well. I think the difference is in how it works for someone as stress reliever or not. For instance this idea many great artists are to be considered ‘gifted persons’ because their mental issues are a fame providing feature, is romanticising misery. Turning mental illness into something to envy is like telling them you are happy they feel like shit. You just want their creation to feel good for you . . .
So no I am sorry, but desires for or romantic ideas on annihilating events being the ultimate source for creating are just incredibly stupid. What if Van Gogh or Munch would have been totally sane? Would that mean their creative talent would not have existed? I cannot believe that. It would have shown in another way yes. Less painful . .
Authenticity is what matters more. And authenticity is not linked to a specific state of mind you only can acquire by going mental. Authenticity just tells us someone has a very specific, original and unique way of creating no one else has. You really do not need anxiety for that. Your sense of humour can do it as well in many cases. Or being cynical. Try some anarchism maybe to spice up your work . . . whatever. Anxiety is just one of the many sources. But like I said, I do think people who suffer a lot from a very destructive mental illness are helped more by what they create, because it releases stress for a while. They will have their own special ways for sure, but so do you when having a creative mind. Anyway, whatever it is precisely, mental health and creativity, I guess it probably also just is having to deal with yourself and make the best of it. If creativity happens to be of help, why not use it :)
Gossip: My husband calls me mental anyway, no matter what I do. Because I like to do silly stuff and laugh like a maniac. You really do not want to know all my nick names because of that.
One thing I know for sure. I myself am not even close to being an artist, so my anxiety must be low quality shit. I should have asked for HQ anxiety with lifelong updates and maintenance service. Imagine the fame I would gain. Or imagine a world in which you can actually order an ounce of anxiety to implant into your brains. I fear it will become possible technically spoken, or maybe already is possible.
Less anxiety = more socialising?
You would expect I maybe like socialising more now. I genuinely enjoy it now, if and when I socialise, yes, but a wish for a higher frequency is not present. Not needing many people or not daring to see them really are different things. I dare it but do not feel like it. I never had troubles to miss people deeply or fast. Only very close ones are an exception on that, but also with them I am fine when not seeing or speaking them for a longer time as long as I know all is ok. I am the one standing in the corner trying to escape when it becomes busy. Not because the people scare me, but because it does not make me happy to be with many people. I like people to meet me in my mind, as individual, away from noise and distractions.
I quote again, Kris Gage this time, who writes on how she likes her life as avoiding personality. Many of her preferences in a social way are close to mine in general, a few exceptions there.
I don’t suffer from loneliness
I don’t understand the concept of being “lonely,” really.
I concede that there’s a possibility that I’m lying to myself, but I doubt that that’s true. I just don’t “get it.”
The desire for physical touch, yes. From a standpoint of arousal, of course. Companionship, sure. But it’s always from a position of warmth and ease, in the way I might want a cookie or something, never a grabbiness or sorrow akin to loss or desperation or emptiness.
Loneliness seems like entitlement to me.
Like, a hole we expect others to fill. I never expect or crave someone else to fill me, my time, my life. That’s my job, and “loneliness” just seems like it’s one small logistic and “what are we?” label away from bad boundaries.
So how does your life look like now Yoon?
Something like this little video is quite accurate. It was sent to me by a friend while I was writing this blog. Cats have this good sense of mixing solitude and quirkiness as strategy for happiness. The scene made me laugh very hard and it is precisely why I like cats. They stay independent in their own box with a touch of madness and a talent for being absent-minded, yet are totally adorable and fluffy to feel and be with. Even the cat on the right you just want to hug for being so ignorant it makes you want to do something sweet or funny. The absent-minded one is my husband obviously (trying to ignore another crazy act of me) and I am the one on the left (trying to fit in but having some troubles with that).
Thank you Dividni Shostakovich! :)
P.S. He is the one with the best relationship advice in SL ever: Only date your alt!
Muhahahahahahaha! What I write in 20 blogs he says in one sentence.
That kind of sucks and shows my waterfall writing ‘skills’, but it is hilarious as well^^
When my single friends ask me what marriage is like I show them this video and say: “It’s a lot of this.”