Comfortable being uncomfortable

So here's the thing about living with anxiety: the condition is chronic. It's not going anywhere anytime soon; in fact, it's not going anywhere ever. There will be times that I would consider my anxiety is in remission, where the nervousness I live with has pulled back like low tide on a beach. But like the ocean, it will never disappear. It floods, it recedes, it comes in waves.

When I first started seeking help for my anxiety, I entered into treatment with this mindset of, "If I will do this, I will be better." And by better, I meant fixed or cured or healed or whatever word you'd want to use to imply I would no longer have to deal with this ugly thing that kept rearing its head in my life.

Presto, change-o, psychologist-o, cured-o.

"Better," though, while I was using it to supplement all those other meanings, was actually the perfect word for what I was going to experience. Over time, with a lot of work, I would be better. Better at handling the anxiety, better at calming myself down at the onset of panic, better with dealing with the aftermath of an attack. Better, as in I would experience it with less frequency, or less severity. The graph of recovery would trend upward, but it wouldn't be a straight line from A to B, Anxious to Cured. No, not cured... Healthy is a more accurate way to look at it.

I have been dealing with my anxiety in much healthier ways. I'm making huge improvements in my internal dialogue, and how I express myself in times of stress or nerves. In the past, if something were to occur to provoke my depression or my anxiety, I used to just swallow it. I would let it eat away at me until it became this big unbearable thing. And now, I say something. I speak up when I need help, I know how and when to ask for it. That's a big improvement for me.

A lot of this change has come from working with my therapist on TalkSpace (which I plan on doing an entirely separate, detailed post about to answer any questions and share my thoughts about the process and how it all works). And of course it helps that I am surrounding myself with people who make me feel safe and who are aware of the things I am working on. But I think a major contribution to my recovery to a more healthy place is that I have stopped setting unrealistic expectations for myself. I have stopped being afraid of my anxiety when it bubbles up.

I have learned to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It's a weird thing to think about, but when I notice the prickling sensation of oncoming panic, instead of getting afraid of what's about to happen (my mind pre-spiraling for the panic attack, thus making it more severe), I prepare myself to sit with it. I let it happen to me, breathe, and accept that what I am thinking and feeling is neither good nor bad, it is temporary. It's a passing storm.

I'm reading this book by Timber Hawkeye called The Buddhist Boot Camp. Now, I'm not particularly religious but I've always been drawn to the lessons of Buddhism, especially when it comes to things like dealing with difficult or intense emotions. There's this one quote from the book that I keep referring back to:
You can't calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.
The storm will pass--it may be a long one, but eventually, everything will end. In the mean time, get comfortable being uncomfortable. It's only going to make the storm that much easier to weather. And once it's passed, it's amazing how bright and easy life is, and makes it that much more lovely to appreciate.

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