Anxiety Is A Liar
I am a walking contradiction. Big deal, right? Me and everyone else on the planet. But the thing is, I somehow find it easy to give grace to everyone but myself, and parenting is not exempt. For example, I firmly believe that traveling with kids is something that’s absolutely possible, if you want to and it’s accessible for you. I cheer on the parents who pack up the kids and drive to the coast or the national park or the bustling metropolis. But for all my high-minded ideals, I don’t often make those plans myself, fearful of the stress I believe will ensue. I ache to show my kids what it feels like to watch Old Faithful erupt or to stand on a peak in the Rockies, but I settle for looking longingly at my Instagram feed and other people’s adventures. Everyone else is capable, but not me.
Recently, though, we decided to get a little out of my comfort zone and take a little trip to Michigan’s upper peninsula. Something about having a confident, encouraging spouse made it seem possible, but I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t a little apprehensive. We’d taken short trips with our two small children before, mostly to see family, but this one would come with some firsts. A night in the same hotel room. Biking for a significant distance. Camping. As we packed, I pictured scenes of crying and tantrums, abandoned plans and sleeplessness, perhaps even a midnight drive home in defeat.
We stuffed the car like a Thanksgiving turkey and drove four hours north. We crossed the Mackinac Bridge and took a ferry. We strapped the kids onto the backs of rented bikes and pedaled around Mackinac Island. We hiked, kayaked, swam in Lake Huron, and sipped our coffee on the beach at sunrise. Lurking just out of view, however, was my fear: a moment when we’d regret the trip altogether.
It never came.
You see, the worst thing that happened was a drive along the coast of Lake Michigan at sundown to put the kids to sleep on our second night. And even then, it was because they’d been having too much fun at the campsite and didn’t want to go to bed. I won’t pretend that our trip didn’t take more effort and planning than it would have, if it had just been Zach and me. There were definitely things that we had to do differently. But the adventure far outweighed the extra complications.
All along, the only problem was me. I was the one who almost vetoed the idea of camping, even though I badly wanted to try it. I was the one who held back from making these plans earlier. I was the one consumed by my own anxiety. And what did it get me? A lot of unneeded stress and wasted time.
It’s so easy to fall into the same trap I did. Maybe you’re worried about applying for that job. Maybe you’re nervous about going back to school to get your GED. Maybe you’re considering finally stepping out of that abusive relationship, but you don’t know if you’re strong enough. Whatever the situation is, we all know the sound of anxiety ringing in our ears. For some of us, it rises to an entirely different level and seems to swallow us whole. In those cases, speaking up and seeking help is the bravest thing I can think of to do.
Ultimately, though, anxiety is a liar. It can tell us nothing true about ourselves. When it whispers that we can’t, that our situation is too difficult and too overwhelming, it’s spouting only falsehood. Unfortunately, it’s also a tricky little beast. Just trying to shut it off doesn’t always work; often, it just roars louder. If a fast, easy solution exists, I sure haven’t found it yet.
I think that the only real fix is repetition. It’s choosing, day in and day out, to not allow the specter of anxiety to cow you into submission. You might be dealing with something of average size, or you might be facing something clinically huge that seems unconquerable. One way or the other, we must keep fighting it. Every time we shout down the voice telling us to worry, every visit to a therapist, every pill that we swallow, every time we talk to someone else about how we are really feeling is one more blow we strike.
And you know what? It’s not easy but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s been said that the only way out of some problems is through them, and I think this is especially true of anxiety. I certainly learned this lesson on our family vacation. Choosing not to be ruled over by my worries taught me that they never had any real power over me in the first place, and it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
I sincerely hope that, if you are reading this, you will too.