Spirals and the Self

I took some time to myself this afternoon to pen some recent thoughts.

I absolutely love alone time and feel I need it to relax, recharge, regain perspective and focus!

It’s time I can spend reflecting and gathering my thoughts, which I often write down as a means of exploring them deeper.

Often these musings remain scattered, rough, raw brain dumps for my own (sporadic) perusing. However I’m slowly becoming more comfortable sharing them, hoping maybe they resonate and/or help continue to spark conversations about our various quirks and qualms.

I’m an extroverted introvert. I can find it uncomfortable and feel quite awkward in groups, especially with people I don’t know well.

My safety net / way of coping with this is often to be loud, talk lots and be as upbeat and outgoing as possible.

It’s funny, I actually really like getting to know people, hearing their stories and sharing a giggle. But I get in my own head and feel like I’m struggling and end up just being “on” which gets draining.

What’s worse is my anxious brain watches on, aware and annoyed that I’m carrying on just to fill the silence, or because I’m uncomfortable and then turns that back on me. Taunting me, telling me I just made myself look like an idiot, which makes me feel more awkward and uncomfortable 🙃😂.

Now, I’m sure some of you may think “get over it, why stress so much about something so trivial, there’s worse things going on in the world.”

And that’s ok, you’re not wrong, there is. Much worse.. I know that but such is the devilish dance of an anxious brain. It’s power to override perspective in the heat of the moment.

It’s been interesting more talking openly about my experiences with anxiety. A stranger messaged me the other day telling me I should be more grateful for what I have and remind myself of that when I feel anxious. (They weren’t trying to be rude and were genuinely trying to offer some friendly advice and we actually ended up having a great chat about mental health).

Logically, rationally, I understand how privileged I am and am extremely grateful for everything I have. The people in my life, the experiences I get to live out, the food on my table and in my belly, especially potato chips. A body that can do what it does, the fact that the only movie I have downloaded on my lap top to watch in our lodge with no reception is The Greatest Showman, which is a fucking wonderful movie… and so much more.

Frustratingly, all that understanding often elicits feelings of deep shame, embarrassment and, you guessed it, more anxiety.

Anxiety about my anxiety.

Clinical anxiety doesn’t care much for logic or rationale when it rears it’s ugly head.

Knowing all the wonderful things I have but feeling how I feel often sends me into these depressive shame spirals, as if my anxious thoughts are character flaws, indicative of me being a shit, ungrateful, broken human.

It’s these spirals of shame and frustration are often what lead to destructive behaviours.

I’ve been doing a lot of work the past few weeks with a new psychologist (who is fantastic). Working on recognising when I’m doing something purely to try and distract or cope with anxious thoughts (especially in social situations) and trying to become more aware of the nature of the thoughts that I’m trying to run away from, (are they real or imagined? Where is the evidence either way? Can that evidence challenge those thoughts?).

This awareness creates distance between me and some of the darker, ickier thoughts, feelings and behaviours, allowing me to accept that they are not “me” and they are only real if I allow them to affect my view of myself or the world.

This in turn has started to help me separate my sense of self from the person I perceive myself as when my anxious brain takes over.

A person I don’t like and who I’ve tried to run away from for many years and in many way.

It’s far from perfect, but it “is” and that’s enough.

I’m working on choosing who I want to be, starting inside my own head. I am grateful, I love my life, I am lucky and loving and loved and so many wonderful things and my anxious thoughts are nothing but stories. Stories I’ve told myself for 20+ years and which won’t just magically stop being told.

But stories that slowly, with patience and commitment I can begin to start retelling and controlling how they effects my sense of self and perspective.

I am so happy with the self work I’ve been able to do the past few weeks. So thankful for the support of my beautiful partner Jem (through what’s also been a chaotic period for her with her own personal stuff) and my family and friends. It is equally for my own state of mind and in hopes that, by taming the wilder thoughts in my head, I can be a better partner, son, friend and human being.

This is the essence of personal development.

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