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Things I've learned to accept in myself because of my anxiety.

I'm in an episode of anxiety right now, and sometimes I beat my head thinking there must be something I haven't come to accept. That if I could just accept that last thing, anxiety would be gone.

But the reality is I have already gone through so many milestones in acceptance with anxiety as a teacher. And those things lesson the duration and extent of anxiety.

1. I've learned to love myself WITH my anxiety. 
I've always liked myself as a person. But I had this warring tension in my body when I tried to love the part of myself that felt broken, and felt unlovable. That part of me when I am in an anxiety episode. I wanted to shuck it away and not tell anyone and just wait until it passed so I could be myself again. But the reality is, part of me is that anxiety. It's not a fun part, but it's a part. I practiced drawing a heart on my leg and saying "I love you anxious pants" and I would cry so hard because I wanted to hate that part of myself. It felt threatening and overwhelming, and I didn't even want to love that part of myself. Slowly though I began to have less tension about it. Now, I can make that same heart on my leg and say "I love you anxious pants" and mean it. And that is huge for me. Because that part of me feels more lovable. I don't feel like someone should break up with me because I'm in anxiety. And I realize that so many people want to help, and it's amazing to let them.

2. I've learned to accept those stinging words 'mental illness'
I had a terrible several year episode of anxiety in high school, and when I got over it for a few years I thought I was out of the woods. I didn't identify with it anymore. But then I got several more bouts of it years later. I hated the term mental illness because I didn't want it to be me. Over the last year or so I've learned to embrace it, to talk about it, to help others embrace it. Because the reality is that my brain goes through a weird ass cold that feels like hell and it isn't normal. It's something I have to deal with. My brain is freaking amazing most of the time and lovely, but it also struggles with mental illness. And that is okay. I can now say I have mental illness, and I don't see it as something I need to be bashful of.

3. I'm learning that it's not my fault/accepting that sometimes I don't have control
Learning here, because I'm not there yet. Whenever I'm in anxiety I like to beat myself up about what I did to make it happen, what I'm doing wrong that it's still staying, and then constantly switch what I am doing about it. I've started to take on the notion that my episodes are like a shitty cold. They aren't my fault. It's my brain malfunctioning, and I just have to ride it out and not be hard on myself. The reality is, no one coping mechanism is the silver bullet. Sometimes one thing makes me feel better, and sometimes that same thing will make me feel worse. It's a matter of hanging on while your brain is galloping around spooked until it decides to calm down a little.

4. I've learned to not pretend to be normal
This goes along with the top two. I used to just pretend to be normal. Try to do everything I normally did. I wouldn't let anyone know because I thought they'd think I was weak or a bad worker. Now, I don't do that. I tell my co-workers that I am struggling and may be a little slower than normal. I tell them because it feels better to tell them. Having anxiety feels like a close family member died and your partner just broke up with you at the same time. You can't think straight, you can't eat, you can't sleep, and you're a wreck. Trying to pretend you're just like you were before is exhausting. The reality is that living with anxiety is fucking tough. So I've learned it's okay to let people know and be there for you. It's okay to eat out for the week. I'm working on this one a little bit because sometimes I'm still tempted to be hard on myself. But I'm trying to remember that my body needs a break, and I need time to go at a slower pace for a little while.

5. I've come to accept very painful body sensations
I've learned to observe things that are very painful in my body and just ride them out with minimal suffering. Most of our suffering is the intense trying to distract, or trying to make it go away. With anxiety I've learned to focus in on the discomfort and sit with it. When my cramps are awful, I be with them and focus on them versus trying to distract myself. When my anxiety creeps up and the unease and warmth flood through my body I watch it roll in and roll out. I still have work to do with this with anxiety, but by investigating the feeling (oh, this feels warm, this feels heavy, etc) I've come to detach some of the emotional pain from the physical pain. (a work in progress).

6. I've accepted that medication doesn't make me weak or inept
I used to deny medication for my anxiety all the time because I felt if I didn't handle it on my own, that I was weak and was using a drug to cope with something I needed to deal with all by myself. I feared that it would make me a different person (this is bullshit by the way, you're just you with less shit to deal with). Finally after several months of intense anxiety a couple years ago I caved and I tried it. It took me a while to be okay with taking it. I felt judged, and I judged myself. But taking medication doesn't make me feel like any different of a person. And it makes my good times feel like I have no anxiety at all, which is amazing. Medication is not evil and you're not addicted for taking it. It helps allievate unnecesary suffering.


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