the world’s not on your shoulders: exorcising demons of anxiety.

The human brain is a wonderful thing, but it’s also a terrible, terrible thing. It’s amazing how we get into habits and our brain begins to respond in an automatic fashion to things, and it usually does so because it’s the response that seems safest, most optimal, most effective or efficient, etc. But that’s what I’ve found to be horrible about my brain, too.

I guess I’m finding a thinly veiled way to say that I have noticed some deep-seated patterns in the way my brain works, and it’s become a little bit worrying, to be frank.

I always wanted to think I was a normally functioning human being, that I was perfectly fine, and for a long time, I believed that. But a couple of people have said things that I’ve noticed have come to pass, and I’m not sure if they’re self-fulfilling prophecies (as in, because they said them, I start behaving that way) or if it’s just true and I never saw it before. Both things hurt a lot to hear, because both feel like indictments that I’m not normal, that there’s something wrong with me.

One friend said that I’m mercurial – that I’m volatile and I’m prone to intense mood
swings. That one day I’m up – energetic, friendly, outgoing, productive, etc – and then the next day I’m down – I’m sad, I’ve got no energy, I’m shy and reserved, and can’t focus or get anything done. Sounds like bipolar disorder to me – and that word “disorder” sticks out like a sore thumb and it stings to write.

Another friend said that she thinks I thrive off of drama – that I make a big deal out of little things and I seem to get a thrill out of it. I hated hearing that, too – because in high school, I always thought I could be the person who wasn’t dramatic, the person who shot straight, the person who functioned normally. In a drama-filled season of life, I was hoping to be the normal one.

Both of those hang over me like some sort of diagnosis, some sort of conclusion that someone’s arrived at, some sort of fate that I’m subjected to.

And I hate both of them, and I don’t want them to be true.

But as I alluded to earlier, I see them in action now.

I’m afraid of good days because I’m afraid that the next day will be bad. I’m afraid that I’m incapable of being in a good mood two days in a row. I’m afraid that if everything goes right one day, it is bound to fail the next. I’m a cynic operating under Murphy’s law to the max.

I’m afraid of conflict because I’m afraid it’ll end in the worst-case scenario. I fear a conflict with loved ones because I assume it’ll end in some damning indictment about my personality or my character.

I panic at the worst possible times – if I fail to text someone back, I think I’ve dropped the ball and ruined their day. Probably because if someone fails to text me back, I assume they’re intentionally trying to ruin mine – that they don’t care about me, that I’m easily forgettable, that I’m not important.

Long story short – I take everything far too seriously, and I think in extremes. I assume I’m either loved or hated. I assume that I’m either excelling at my job or failing miserably. I assume I’m either the best Christian alive or the worst sinner on the planet. I assume that I’m either a responsible adult or a dysfunctional child. Capable or helpless. The best boyfriend that ever existed or a dirtbag. Etc, etc. Do you get the point?

But – and this is something that will take a while to get used to (and I don’t write this blog fully confident of my own capability to comprehend this truth) – I’m learning that the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders. Learning that not everything works in extremes. That if I have a good day, it doesn’t define me any more than a bad day, and vice versa. That it’s okay to fail, that it’s okay to feel good, that it’s okay to have a little mercy on myself because God has mercy on me.

All of this hurts to write, to be honest. It hurts because I hate the thought that something may be wrong with me – whether that’s a chemical imbalance of some sort, or just some really messed up schema (framework for how you see the world.) I hate admitting that I could be wrong, or that something could be wrong with me. I also hate the thought that I’ve regressed – that I used to be more mentally stable than I am now. It makes me feel weak, makes me feel incompetent, makes me feel like a freak.

There’s all sorts of stigma around people with any sort of mental illness, and I don’t want to over-diagnose, but I’d be willing to say that you could call it that.
I conclude with no definite conclusion, except that I’m doing my best to remember that the world’s not resting on my shoulders.

If I have a bad day at work, get yourself up, brush yourself off, and try again tomorrow.

If I let my girlfriend, or my family, or my church, or my friends down, get up, brush off, try again tomorrow.

Don’t let failure define who you are, because you are the only one who gives it that kind of power.

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