Why attending an anxiety meeting didn’t comfort me

My own anxiety diminished to the size of only a freckle on an invisible part of my body, where it used to feel as visible as the color of my hair. Yet, the meeting on anxiety I attended last week was an intense one. I felt comforted and deeply connected, but it also tore me apart.

‘What an idiot’

The idea of the event was to break the shame of talking about mental illnesses. Hence the name Lets Break The Shame x Anxiety. The speakers were showing their most vulnerable side. Their stories resonated with me, all evening I was nodding and sometimes laughing at the recognition.

It took me back to the times I biked through an unknown neighborhood, taking a wrong turn somewhere, but being too scared to turn around. I was afraid someone would see me and think ‘what an idiot, she can’t even find her way’. Or the times I took a different route home, so I wouldn’t have to engage in a conversation with my classmates while cycling to the same village.

I battled my anxiety for years and I am happy with the person I am now. I am still fighting anxious feelings on some days, but the tools I got and the people around me are helping me through those days too.

Comforting and confronting

I know that anything I experience is not something unique. I know there are others with the same negative spiral of thoughts, but I have never heard anyone expressing my exact thoughts. That evening, the stories were true for everyone, not just for the one telling the story.

The recognition that you’re not alone can be very comforting, but that evening it wasn’t. The stories made me feel helpless. Being there with like-minded people was comforting, but it was just as confronting. I wished no one in that room would have had to go through the same devastating feelings I had, or worse.

Anxious feelings are a constant sign that someone does not love their selves enough. And the fact that I was sharing the room with people who didn’t love themselves tore me apart.

Anxiety is a lifelong burnout

We’re all taught to take care of others, always be nice to people. But no one teaches us how to be nice to ourselves.

Anxiety is basically a lifelong burnout. We never learned how to set boundaries, which keeps us on our toes every day. At some point, we can’t keep doing that any longer. But we don’t know any other option, we keep pressuring ourselves, stressing ourselves out. Until we realize it’s our mind telling us we’re doing something wrong.

We don’t have to think of ourselves as our own heroes, gurus or masters, we don’t have to become ‘our best selves’ or take the most out of our lives every single day. We do need to like ourselves a bit more, to eventually love ourselves, with all of our flaws.

Now, when I see someone turning around on her bike in the middle of a street, I think ‘what a smart person, she must be trying to reach her destination as fast as possible’. 

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