I stand at the island in my kitchen. Something is happening. My heart is beating very fast. My breathing comes in sharp, quick gasps. Some of my children are in the same room. I hold a piece of paper in my hand. I set it down. I just stand there in complete disbelief. What is happening? Why do I feel like I am about to hyperventilate or something worse? It feels like I am about to loose it. My brain swirls with what this could possibly be. It dawns on me that I am probably feeling anxiety. I know that if I go to a doctor, he will put me on anti-anxiety medication. I do not want this. Not at all. There has to be another answer.
The thought comes to me to start a list–actually writing down–the things that I want to and need to do the rest of the day..and then create a list every day. That sounded somewhat strange. How in the world could that help? I wonder. I breathe deeply. My pounding heart slows down, my breathing becomes more regular.
I ponder on this experience for several days and continue to get the thought to make a physical list instead of trying to keep everything in my head. And so, after several days, I stop making excuses and do it! And the pressure that was building up inside of me begins to subside.
Anxiety is nothing more than practicing failure in advance. For me, the failure sounded like this: “I have so many things to do…and I just don’t know how I am going to get them all done. I’m sure I’m going to forget something that is really important. I have so many irons in the fire…no one can really appreciate everything I am doing and the commitment and energy required to raise children. No one understands how much I am taking care of all the time.”
The anxiety I was experiencing in my kitchen that day over three years ago is still extremely vivid in my mind. I was practicing not having enough time, energy, or resources to accomplish all I needed to and wanted to. Truly a failure, projected for my future. (I had two more attacks before the final puzzle piece came into place…but that is getting ahead of the story.)
The question today is: “What are you practicing failure in advance for?” It’s an easy trap to fall into. There isn’t one person with whom, when we are discussing their experience of depression, has not also dealt with anxiety. It is very real. It can be scary and debilitating. It can feel like a loss of control.
So, now that you have asked this question of yourself, I invite you to acknowledge the answer by rewriting the story (Old and New Stories). If the advance failure you are planning could turn into success, what would it specifically look like, feel like, be like?