“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
You must do the thing you cannot do.
I’ve long loved this Eleanor Roosevelt quote. There’s so much truth to it. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. So hard. So incredibly scary.
But maybe it’s the way to freedom?
I hate feeling anxious. I’ve heard people refer to the sensations and symptoms of anxiety as “uncomfortable”. For me, that term misses the mark. Those of you who have experienced elevated anxiety know how truly “uncomfortable” it can be. It can feel unbearable. But, our anxiety is lying to us. It’s not unbearable. It just feels that way. I believe one of the ways to freedom from anxiety is learning to accept the sensations and symptoms we experience when our brains kick into overdrive, however frightening they may be.
In order to do this, we can’t avoid the situations that bring out these feelings in us.
This isn’t a concept I have perfected. Far from it. It’s actually the thing I struggle with the most in my own recovery.
But it’s a necessary struggle.
I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else here. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I take anxiety medication on an as needed basis. My goal is to one day be free from needing it at all, or at least needing it very rarely. I struggle with this because the medication calms me and if I don’t take it, I can become incredibly anxious in certain situations. Like, full-on-panic-attack anxiety. I have to face it. I have to learn to be uncomfortable and to be ok with that. My work is not done.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the term they use is “exposure therapy”. It involves gradually exposing the person to the place, situation, person or thing they’re afraid of and training the brain to slowly stop associating fear with that particular trigger anymore. It’s not a new concept, the idea that in order to overcome a fear, you have to face it.
I don’t say this to make you feel like a coward. I’m certainly not here to place judgement on anyone. It is incredibly hard to do things we are afraid to do. If you’re battling anxiety of any kind, I want you to know, you’re incredibly brave, even during those times that fear gets the better of you. The point is, keep fighting. Keep pressing forward, but, and hear this, do not beat yourself up when you are unable to fight, when you need a break, or when things become too much.
During our sessions, one thing my therapist has focused on lately, is the idea of self-compassion. I was never aware of this until my therapist pointed it out, but I am incredibly hard on myself. My inner critic is loud and obnoxious and hard to ignore. I’m getting better at silencing her, but it’s still in my “work in progress” category, as are many things.
Bravery doesn’t exist without fear. And if the fear feels too great sometimes, let’s be kind to ourselves, and try again another day.
You must do the thing you think you cannot do. It’s the way to freedom from fear. But never forget you’re a warrior, even if you don’t win every battle.