“People aren’t always going to be there for you. That’s why you need to learn to handle things on your own.” ~Unknown
Anxiety is a box around your mind. It’s the cage in which your deepest worries start to pace, then walk, and gain momentum until they’re out of control.
Once these worries and scenarios take off and hit the walls of this box, they’re trapped, and tension starts building.
It can be an exhausting cycle of stress that you might think you have to face alone if you want to avoid opening yourself up to pity or rejection.
You may think others will judge or stereotype you if they know about your struggle. Or, you might worry that if they do know, they’ll assume you’re either looking for attention or not doing enough to function like everyone else.
Here’s the kicker: You don’t have to function like everyone else. When you struggle with anxiety, just functioning is something to be proud of.
The absence of another’s approval or input when progressing can make you feel like you’re not making improvement at all. It’s hard to pull yourself out of an anxiety attack or downturn of emotions, and it can feel lonely when you think you can’t call on anyone, but there are times when self-reliance is your only option.
Yes, this may happen. It happened to me, and it was my worst-case scenario realized.
I lost people who I called on too many times for help, and I know I frustrated people by making unhealthy choices solely because I was anxious about the alternative options.
I felt like a burden on the very people I would help in any way I could, if the situation were reversed.
Relating to friends became a game of how normal I could act. It’s an extremely difficult way to live.
Although it can be helpful to open up to someone who can support you, sometimes you need to admit to yourself that, in this moment, you must do it alone.
Here are a few things that have helped me cope with my anxiety and the disappointments in my relationships.
1. Recognize that some people won’t be able to be there for you.
I started out the summer in a close group of my four best friends and ended it with a completely new social group and a long drive to a different country.
It’s not easy to let go of friends you thought were going to be in your life forever, but it’s often necessary.
Knowing when to separate is something I struggle with. I constantly think of what I could still have in my life if I had made different choices. But I know I made the right decision for myself. The best friends I look to now understand my struggles and uplift me instead of bringing me down.
When you grow, the people you surround yourself with may change, but this is the best part of the process. As you meet new people and gain new interests, you’ll find individuals that you’ll connect with on a deeper level than you would simply based on who was in close proximity.
Allow people to have a temporary presence in your life, and stop weighing yourself down with worry about whether that’s the right choice.
Trying to maintain relationships that are exhausting or stressful, just because you don’t want to be lonely, will prevent you from finding relationships that provide the support you need.
2. Forgive yourself.
Often. Until you’re sure you’ve forgiven every mistake you’ve made and will make in this learning process.
I often ruminate on possible mistakes I made until they become these catastrophically negative ideas about how others may see me.
Learning to let go of the past and forgive all of these small slips has had a huge impact on how I am able to deal with daily anxiety. There’s enormous power in realizing that all of these small worries really are just that—small—and very few have an impact on the big picture of your life.
There are many things I exaggerated in my mind through the past year that I realize, as I regretfully look back, weren’t worth the time I lost being happy.
Yes, I made mistakes.
I did things to follow the crowd and swallowed my opinions because I felt too anxious to speak my mind. I held my feelings inside because I worried about upsetting people, and as a result, jeopardized relationships with my family. I jeopardized my health for a few party nights. I called in sick to work because I couldn’t imagine working in such an anxious state.
I forgave myself for it all.
Forgiving myself isn’t a way to shirk responsibility for the apologies I should give, but when you’re on your own journey, you can’t depend on others to give you the absolution you’re seeking.
If you give yourself love, compassion, forgiveness, and support, it will be easier to cope when others don’t offer you these things.
3. Practice gratitude.
“Interrupt anxiety with gratitude.”
This quote has helped me more than any counselor or antidepressant has in the past.
Anxiety causes the scenarios in my mind to become disaster scenes within moments. I might be thinking about an interview or an event I have to attend, or even simply a friend I have to meet, and instantaneously become worried sick about what could go wrong.
Once again, starting small helped me work through my daily anxiety without another’s support.
It really is about the little things in life.
At first, I was grateful for the fact that the tap water I used to wash my hands wasn’t freezing cold on a winter day. I was grateful for my tea still being hot when I got to school. I was grateful that my hair wasn’t frizzy.
But soon, it grew into more than that. It became “I’m grateful I have an interview to go to because it’s the possibility of a job.” It was “I’m grateful that I have an event to go to because it means people want me to be there,” and, “I’m glad I have to meet this person because I enjoy their mindset.”
It healed “I’m worried you don’t love me” into “I’m so grateful that you are in my life.”
Gratitude for the present moment allows anxiety to fall to the wayside. You choose to honor the positive possibilities rather than obsess over the chance of a negative outcome.
Through all of the trials anxiety will put you through, remember that your journey is your own. Yes, it’s helpful to have support, and we all deserve it. But you can choose to help yourself whether others do or not. So do it. Function. Happily. Independently. And confidently on your own terms.