Driving with the emergency break on

If I had to define life with anxiety

A number of people have asked me over the years to express or provide a visual description of what my own personal life experience with anxiety and panic has been. I normally shy away from answering or engaging in this type of question as generally it’s being asked by someone who has no personal experience with mental health and needs a real world comparison in order to understand what it feels like for others — this isn’t a bad thing on that persons part, our brains are wired to seek definitive answers.

It wasn’t until this week, when I was trying to find some form of peace in a coffee shop reading a book, that I came across an analogy that connected with me. I was reading about not taking risks in life and the term ‘driving with the emergency break on’ flashed before my eyes in the text and then immediately I said to myself, that’s what my life on anxiety feels like.

It was the first time that I’ve found a string of words that quickly and simply captured how life feels for me with elevated levels of anxiety. Now rarely does my anxiety or panic stop me from doing stuff that I want to do, this isn’t always the case and like us all, I have my good days and bad days. If I was to paint a picture of how life feels with anxiety, I’m pretty sure it would look something like a nervous driver keeping the emergency break on as it makes them feel like they are safe and ready to divert from any danger that might jump into their environment.

This is exactly how my my life feels sometimes, I can experience such levels of anxiety and panic that if feels like my brain slams the emergency break on. It can feel like my daily routines are performed in a very slow and heavily risk aware manner, its not what society would call a healthy way to live and neither do I.

You see in having the emergency break on, yes you may protect yourself from potential dangers and that is a big ‘may’, but what you also do, is limit the opportunities to have more positive experiences and learn from difficult times. What you may feel is keeping you safe could actually be harming you more than you could imagine as it’s limiting your potential to face struggle and learn from it.

So yes at times, life can feel like I’m jugging along with the emergency brake on to try and avoid all potential (and I really stress potential here!) dangers or struggles — but that’s not living. We might find comfort in having experiences with all the safety features switched to max, but really this is a form of control and only allows us to experience what we always have. In choosing to do what we’ve always done in service of fear, we deny the opportunity to experience anything new to contradict our current thought process.

 

What can you take from this?

There’s no escaping that struggles with mental health suck, we all have them and at times, driving the emergency break on is necessary to get yourself back on track. But never keep that brake on for more than is necessary, it’s very easy to make your world smaller by putting in safety protocols that you feel are protecting you from any bad that might affect you.

If you keep your emergency brake on for too long or use too often, you might just miss the amazing opportunities to learn from struggle and re-frame your thought process.

 

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