It’s the middle of the night and you’re awaken to a noise downstairs.
It’s a loud thud that shoots you upright and then falls with the silence. You sit there, immediately swept with anx and anticipation. Heart racing now, a feel of paralysis, confusion, and a deep sense of what the fuck was that?!
You can’t see anything, but ooooooo you can feel it. Feel it breathing down your neck.
Bang! The sound thumps again, sending your heart rate through the roof as the fear is now fully spread through every inch of your body.
It’s fight or flight and you decide to take action. Like every hot girl in a 90s horror film, you decide to explore the noise…unarmed and without a plan. You know those scenes where you’re like “bitch what are you doing?!?!? Get the fuck out of there, you’re going to die!!!” yeah just like that.
You stumble around the dark and make your way downstairs to find a flashlight. You find it and…
Another thud, closer and louder then before.
With trembling fear, heart racing, hands shaking you turn the corner armed with the weapon of light.
Your turn the corner to see what’s causing the noise and…
Holy living fuck it’s a big ugly horrifying monster! A snarling beast that has giant fangs, claws and errrr uhh idk all those other scary features, and it’s absolutely fucking terrifying!
You’re now a deer in the headlights (ironically you’re the one thing shining the light) as your heart bursts out of your chest, body shaking and sweating and adrenaline putting you into a state of full paralysis as you are face to face with the beast in the night.
Every fiber in your body is screaming one thing…RUN! Get the fuck out! NOW!
Without another seconds thought, you run, and run, and run, and never ever look back.
Ok, get it…? No? O right, we need some context here. Ok let me explain.
I’ve been talking to people about anxiety for a couple of years now. Most of the time people have some level of awareness about what anxiety is, their anxiety, and sometimes even have a bit of an idea of how to handle it.
However, people didn’t really have a full grasp of it, didn’t fully understand it, and didn’t know how to handle it.
So I’d teach people. I’d walk them through what anxiety is, the basics, the concepts, the whys, and the various “what the fucks.” I’d then teach how to manage it, how to handle it, learn to cope and slowly get better. I’d then give them a list of methods to try, some articles, and some words of wisdom and send them on their way to get better.
And usually a week or two later they’d follow up with me…
And… “what? what do you mean you’re worse then you were before? Wait how? Did you try what I said? Did it make sense? You sure you’re doing it right?….errr ummmmm fuck…that sucks”
That’s right, not everyone, but some people were worse…
Needless to say I was confused as hell. I contemplated what I had done wrong. Did I not explain it well enough? Maybe I don’t really get this and shouldn’t be teaching this. I thought back to when I first started getting anxiety and my process…
As I thought and reflected, it hit me. Like the cold fear that creeps up upon hearing a noise in the dark, I jumped up. I realized something.
I’m teaching people how to shine a light on their demons. And that’s really fucking scary when you shine a light in the dark, not expecting to see a scary monster.
And that’s what learning about your anxiety and managing it is. It’s shining a light on your monsters. It’s shining a light in your mind, rooting around in the dark, unsure of what you’ll find, and often when you look around hard and long enough you’ll eventually find….ahhhhhhhh wtf is that?! O god, kill it! Run!
We find something really scary. Anxiety can be a monster in the dark. And it can be scary as all fuck.
And so what do most people do in a situation like this? What our mind, body, and soul are screaming to do. We run! We run away from our thoughts (unfortunately, sometimes in the form of drinking or doing drugs to get away from these thoughts).
But like the old saying goes “you need to face your fears” (fuck).
Getting worse before you get better
This is why anxiety is such a difficult issue. This is why people try things like meditating, therapy, learn and study anxiety, and face their issues, but can sometimes actually feel worse.
It’s because you’re not running. You’re facing the demon. And it’s scary. Now you feel worse then when you didn’t know what the fear and anxiety was. Ignorance can sometimes be bliss and you’re now wishing you’d never even poked around your mind.
But just like learning or doing almost anything new in life, the first initial stages usually suck.
Going to the gym for the first time often makes you feel weak, insecure, and overwhelmed. Learning a new language in the initial stages often leaves you feel stupider then when you started. Stopping drinking or doing drugs (if you did it often) leads to withdrawals and feeling far worse.
And learning to manage anxiety is the very similar. It’s going to get a bit worse before it gets better.
When I first learned about anxiety, my anxiety was through the fucking roof for the following weeks. I fully saw what anxiety was, saw what it was doing to me, and was now face to face with the beast in the night, and god damn it was scary.
But take a deep breath because I have several pieces of good news, followed by how to do it, followed by more good news.
1) Just by understanding this, understanding that these initial stages are not fun, actually makes it easier to push through this process and get better.
2) These monsters, these demons, these thoughts, fears, and anxieties hidden in the dark of your mind, can’t touch you, they can’t hurt you. In fact, they have zero actual power on you outside of the powerful you choose to give them.
3) These fears, anxieties, and thoughts, are more like Dracula then a monster, in that, they cannot survive long in the light. And this, is how you to start to get over your anxiety. By shining a light on it and not running.
The longer you can face down your fears, anxieties and thoughts, the less effect they have on you. The more you shine your light in the dark of your mind, the more the light grows and fills the room. Until slowly, but eventually there’s more light then dark.
4) More often than not, when we choose to explore these thoughts, anxieties, and fears, we find that nothing is actually there! We were afraid of nothing and can now calm down.
How to face your anxiety:
So how do you do this? How do you actually go about facing your anxiety, your thoughts, fears, demons, and monsters?
First, let’s make a distinction. I’m not telling you to just go around looking for anxiety and looking for problems.
It’s not like when you’re kids and your friend double dog dares you to go routing through the woods in the middle of the night or you’re a big chicken.
No, don’t go looking for trouble.
What I am saying is when you feel anxiety, when you feel that fear, when you notice those dark thoughts, don’t run. Explore it. What is going on in that moment? What are you thinking about? How does it feel? Why? What are your thoughts? What are you experiencing?
Shine a light on it. Watch it. Notice it.
Be like a detective trying to explore a mystery, find clues, and get to the bottom of things.
Remember now. This won’t be fun at first. This process is going to feel uncomfortable and scary. I’m already imagining some of you reading this and have already thought “Fuck off Chris, you don’t want to know the demons I have.” And look I get it. I really do.
But what if I told you those “demons” couldn’t hurt you? What if they have zero actual effect on you? What if they were like the hosts in West World that look, sound, and act scary, but can’t actually harm you?
Or, what if you thought you heard a monster downstairs, but found a two month old puppy instead!! (best surprise in the dark ever?!)
Wait, it was just you making all that noise?! awww come here lil guy
Because that’s the other thing I mentioned. Sometimes there’s nothing scary there! Often times your anxiety and fears are not what you make them seem! Sometimes you think they are scary, but they are really puppies!! (well not exactly, but you get it).
You hear a bump in the night and immediately think, “murderer in my house!” and play out a horror film scenario impending upon you. But more often then not, it’s just a creek in the house, the wind, harmless.
And it’s the same with your thoughts, fears, and anxieties. When you explore them, shine a light on them, you usually realize that there’s nothing scary there. They are nothing more than things that go bump in the night and we’re too scared to explore it so we only assume the absolute worse and let it run wild in our mind.
Be the light that shines in the dark. Know it won’t be comfortable during it, but I promise you as you continue to shine a light you will see that your mind isn’t as scary as you thought. You’ll see there’s not much to be afraid of it.
And as you let that light shine, the darkness of your mind will slowly begin to fade, until there is only light.
No more demons hiding, just puppies! And sorry, but if you don’t like puppies then there’s a larger issue at hand and my God have mercy.