Accepting Your Journey March 21, 2018
I teach an anxiety group at Good Samaritan Ministries. One of the main reasons I am passionate to help those struggling with the disorder is that I myself faced the deep confining darkness of an anxiety disorder. Five years ago I spent two months inside, unable to walk into the garage without feeling dizzy and faint. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 Million adults in the US or about 18.1% of the adult population. What amazes me is that while anxiety disorder is the most common mental affliction, very few people seek counseling or attend therapy, skills or education groups.
Why is this?
There are probably several reasons, but one common one is that it is just too hard and shaming to talk about anxiety. We still have a fear of mental illness in our culture and we definitely know how to heap on the shame when people do open up about their anxiety.
“Just toughen up, it will go away.”
“It’s not that bad, you just need to face your fears.”
“When I get worried I simply do this or do that…”
While we intend to help people with these messages, what they often communicate is mental and emotional superiority and can further the receiver’s sense of shame about they way they perceive the dangers of the world. In my anxiety class I spend a lot of time teaching about shame and its connection to anxiety. There are many skills available to help people overcome anxiety, in fact, it is the most treatable disorder around. Treatable often without any medication. But the focus of my article is not on the skills, but one way that you can begin to shed shame out of your experience.
One way to shed shame is to accept that anxiety is just part of your heroic journey. That’s right, you’re on a heroes journey. It may not seem like walking into a crowded shopping center is heroic, but step into the shoes of someone with a social anxiety disorder and you may find that he or she is facing a ferocious dragon by doing so. Walmart was that place for me. It was my dragon. And I had many of them – stores, lines at airports, outdoor arenas, or anywhere with crowds. I was deeply embarrassed that these places were so scary to me while everyone else seems happy and normal. Instead of wallowing in my shame of being anxious, the freeing part of my journey was when I could accept that anxiety was in me and that it was absolutely heroic to face it everyday.
Here are a few things I’ve learned in my journey that break the power of shame:
- Facing your self with your anxiety, your anxious thoughts, everyday takes pure strength and courage.
- Accepting this journey is the beginning of winning your battle.
- You are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings.
- Thoughts and feelings come and go, but the “real you” is the agent who sorts through, directs, and overcomes them.
According to Brene Brown, a shame researcher and overall brilliant woman, shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgment. Your anxiety wants you to belief that you cannot get help. The voice of anxiety wants you to hide and suffer alone.
Don’t do it.
Find help. Come to an anxiety group. Find a counselor.
Engage your journey.
And in the end, you’re going to make it. I promise.
Bethany Stroup is a Lay Counselor and the Media and Communications Specialist for Good Samaritan Ministries. She is passionate about working with children and youth to overcome anxiety and become their best selves. Bethany has served as a youth pastor, children’s leader and “jack of all trades” in many church offices.