I have an irrational fear of rats. Once when I was almost asleep, a rat crawled over my body. Cut to me springing up from bed, waking everyone up at 3 am to shoo it away and my parents cursing me for the midnight madness. The night when this happened was hilarious but what haunted me the most was every night after that. Constantly living and trying to sleep with the fear that there's a rat in my room waiting to unleash itself on me. And me not wanting to burden folks at home by waking them up in the middle of the night.
Often, that's what living with anxiety feels like, being so alert every moment of an irrational fear that you don't have the energy to even relax. And feeling the burden to not bother anyone when it strikes.
Continuing with weird anecdotes, the first time I remember feeling crippling anxiety was when I was around 10 years old. By virtue of seeing bad television, I had come to believe that if dogs continuously howl at night, someone's going to die the next day. One night, a poor dog cried the entire time and I was wide awake wondering who in my building was going to die next. By morning, I had narrowed it down that this time it's me. I was so convinced that I also wrote a goodbye message in my school rough book thanking my parents and teacher. I crossed every road extra carefully, sat in a bench with no ceiling fan above (fearing it might fall), didn't eat anything and treated everyone super nicely on my supposed last day. I was literally scared to death. But I was also a stupid 10 year old, and I obviously didn't die.
By now, you probably know how brilliantly I deal with irrational fears.
Club this with investing profusely in one-sided or emotionally-wrecked relationships. Where you're so engrossed that anything less than what you desire feels like defeat. Always feeling the need to be better than your current self so somehow they accept you. Living in a constant state of fear that whatever you say or do will end up harming you so it paralyzes you into believing that you're good for nothing.
Since then, better sense has prevailed and fortunately, I've been surrounded by people who genuinely care for my well-being. When I wasn't active for bursts of time in multiple instances, friends reached out asking if I'm alright. When I couldn't meet one of my closest friends for very long and was trying to share why, she shun me saying I don't need to explain and she knows my intent. When I confessed my love to someone I loved with all my heart, she was kind & caring enough to explain why this is not the right time for her, and how that would be unfair for me. It's when the people around you show this level of emotional maturity and care that you grow out of years of poor emotional conditioning.
I'm trying to become more aware of why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling. And mostly, the answers help me realize something very fundamental about myself. Am I a being a sucker for attention? Am I trying to feel more powerful in my head? Am I trying to project myself as something I'm not? Am I expecting the other person to be something they're not? Am I being my delusional 10 year-old self making things up in my mind?
Over time, this has helped me be less reactive to what's happening, and just letting things be if they're not in my control. I often ask myself what's the worst that could happen if this doesn't work out? And honestly, the answer is usually not as catastrophic as our mind makes us believe.
The modern world is safe enough to barely require a fight or flight response but our mind perceives every trivial challenge as a dangerous threat. And our body reacts by redirecting significant energy towards running critical functions to deal with perceived intense situations. This is necessary once in a while but when the body is throttling hard all the time, it eventually wears out and compromises on several everyday functions.
And mentally, the first recovery response to feeling bad is usually the guilt of feeling bad. Almost as if it's unacceptable to feel anything less than happy all the time. We usually operate on 2 extreme levers, if we're not happy, we default to believing we're sad. But a better way to look at it is usually from the point of normalcy, where some days are euphoric and some horrible, but most days are simply normal. And normal days are blissful, on our worst days we crave to be normal more than we want to be happy.
In moments of happiness, I try extending my effort into things I care about like nurturing relationships, spending time in thoughtful work, doing things I've been delaying and eating good food without any guilt.
And in moments of weakness, I allow myself to feeling sad over everything wrong in my life, going for walks, crying if I feel like, writing what I'm feeling and eating good food without any guilt.