J.R. Reed offers a peek inside his process of healing from a severe anxiety disorder.
Last week I got you hip to the fact that I’ve recently been diagnosed with severe social anxiety and that I’m fighting not only that but my self-esteem. Fun stuff, huh?
There have been good moments along with some bad. I’ve gone from pushing to be 100% anxiety free right now to being happy if my day is half panic and half chill.
What I’ve learned about myself this week is interesting. For example, when I sit at my desk I almost immediately cross my legs at the ankles and tuck them under the seat. I have no idea why I do it and to be honest I had never really paid any attention.
At this point in my post I got stuck and decided to take a break so I could try to let go of the random anxiety-laden thoughts playing NASCAR in my brain.
Sitting outside was good for my head or at least it was until I stopped petting my dog, Lucy. Once my hand left her fur she was all up in my business and I quickly decided to go sit in the bathtub and kick it old school.
Headphones in hand I filled the tub and turned up the music. I’m not sure how long I was in there but I know that I heard The Black Keys, Silversun Pickups, Sublime (with Rome), Social Distortion and Veruca Salt before Train started running through my brain.
Whose eyes am I behind?
I don’t recognize anything that I see
Whose skin is this design?
I don’t want this to be the way that you see me
Three lines in the lyrics slapped me in the face and said, “Yo, dumbass. You’re wearing that stupid anxiety mask just like Peter Parker wears his mask and hides his true self from the world.”
So I took those two mediocre paragraphs of a blog post, metaphorically wadded it up into a ball and put it in the round file, A.K.A. the “Stuff I might want to use someday” folder on my computer, heated up some of last night’s sausage and peppers and proceeded to write this.
I’m not sure if J.R. is wearing the mask or if anxiety and self-esteem are wearing J.R. like Vincent D’Onofrio in the original Men in Black. Think about that for a second. [By “that” I mean the metaphor, not the movie.]
Am I using the mask to hide or is the mask hiding the real J.R. from the world? That’s some deep stuff. At least it is for me.
I could be having these self-esteem issues and anxiety attacks because I don’t think I’m good enough. Or is it because I’m afraid of putting the real J.R. out there? And which J.R. is the real J.R? Whichever it is, the other way blows.
All my life I’ve been told that I’m not living up to my potential and I wonder if maybe a fear of success has been holding me back. I want to believe in myself yet I’m afraid (in a good way) of what I’ll find.
I taught myself some things this week and the biggest is that what my brain thinks matters most actually doesn’t matter that much. I’m also finding that the way to beat this severe social anxiety is by winning small battles.
If you win enough small battles and repeatedly kick anxiety in the junk, eventually it will go down and tap out without much resistance. I guess that’s my message to you. If you kick anxiety (or whatever is holding you back) in the junk on a regular basis eventually it gets weak and you can kick its butt.
If this sounds like gibberish, I apologize. It makes sense to me and I know from the comments on last week’s piece that it makes sense to a lot of people. I’m glad I can help and please know that your comments help me remember that I’m not doing this alone.
*Fist bump* Good luck.
P.S. I’m still not sure where I stand on the whole mask wearing thing but I’m confident it will dominate my thoughts as I attempt to get some sleep.
Photo of man removing his face as a mask courtesy of Shutterstock