Anxiety – The Ties that Bind and Break
Yesterday I was listening to an episode of the Reply All podcast. It’s a podcast about different aspects of the internet, actually pretty cool because you can sorta keep tabs on interesting digital world things going on. So…. anyway, this episode was titled “Anxiety Box.” The show description goes like this, “Sometimes, on his way to work, a feeling of pressure begins thumping in Paul Ford’s chest. His breaths shorten. They speed up. And, sometimes in those moments of extreme anxiety Paul’s phone talks to him. It tells him everything that’s wrong with him.” I had clicked on this episode arbitrarily, I hadn’t read the description, but it turns out that Paul created a program called Anxiety Box … stay with us to find out what this is and a sure fire way to break that tie that binds.
Stories are our lives in language. Welcome to the Love Your Story podcast. I’m Lori Lee and I’m excited about for our future together of telling stories, evaluating our own stories, and lifting ourselves and others to greater places because of our control over our stories. This podcast is about empowerment and giving you, the listener, ideas to work with in making your stories work for you. The power of story serves you best when you know how to use it.
So as it turns out, the Anxiety Box is a computer program where you can type in all the things you’re anxious about and your email address, and all day your “anxiety” will send you messages, in the general language of that anxiety voice, to remind you how you’re probably not going to succeed, or live, or get pregnant or whatever you’re feeling anxious about. It sounds like a horrible program, but what it did for him was to dehumanize the voice in his head, the voice of his deep anxieties, and he could see them for the spam that they were.
Now, I bring this up because until I heard his description of what he was going through – about sitting on the couch and feeling like he really had to get on that project, and then the voice saying, “Ya, but you’ll never be able to do it.” And then that sense of overwhelm hits, and then there’s that want to crawl under a blanket and not think about it, or maybe I should subscribe to Netflix…I hadn’t known what that was. My inner voice was calling it “pathetic ineffectiveness,” I explained it to my friends as “hitting a wall,” but once he explained it as anxiety, it suddenly felt more normal, less like a flaw and more like something to be managed. I don’t think of myself as an anxious person, so I could work that through – couldn’t I? The Atlantic magazine calls Anxiety “America’s most common mental illness.” That sounds pretty normal.
For the last three months, I’ve had a list of things that need to be done on this podcast that I am completely inexperienced in. I’m having to learn, every step of the way, how to do each and every little thing, like setting up email campaigns for my listeners, collecting email addresses to start the community, effective social media marketing – not just regular social media marketing – no, effective social media marketing, integration with programs like lead pages, Aweber, lead magnet construction, and what feels like a hundred other detours along each route. While you guys out there that know how to do all of this are thinking, “What’s the big deal?” for those of us who don’t know how to do all of this there is deep anxiety around figuring it out. In my case, it’s three months of staring at this list – there are actually about five lists now. I just keep making new lists of things that should be done. Now really, I’ve been watching how-to videos and listening to the more experienced folks who have done this, and then… freezing up. My partner and I have been pushing the items on this list back and forth to each other…. Neither of us knows how to do them.
A few days ago I was talking to my son. I told him that I wished he knew how to do all of this so I could just hire him to take over this segment of the project. He asked how long I thought it would take him to learn it. As I explained that I had all the learning resources available, I realized that because he is incredibly smart and focused when he wants to be, that he could potentially get this all done within a couple weeks. It’s been three months of sitting here and looking at the list in frustration and anxiety and I’m still just looking at the list. It dawned on me that it probably wasn’t as sinister as it seemed, but that didn’t really change the fact that I could only stare at the list and imagine a fairy godmother swooping in with a wand.
I’m sharing this because it’s a real-life story of anxiety. It’s an example of what many of you also deal with on a daily basis, especially if you are leaning into possibility, creating big things in the world, getting in the arena and making things happen. We’ve talked about the one-liners in our heads that complain and remind us why we couldn’t, shouldn’t or wouldn’t go do this or that. And, here it is in a bold, blaring, anxiety ridden example.
From the outside, other people’s anxieties often seem minuscule. I mean…I look at the person, I see how capable they are, and it’s hard to believe that they are letting some arbitrary voice in their head scare the crap out them and immobilize them into a space of self-doubt. That’s often how I feel when I’m coaching or watching others – I see all their beauty, all their skill, all their heart and all their desire, and I don’t feel the doubt they feel in themselves. On the contrary, I see their power. I see their possibility. I see crazy success and awesome lives ahead of them, but before they can get there, they have to see that in themselves. And even when we do see it in ourselves, every day we’re still dealing with that voice that Paul Ford refers to as the robot spam voice that creates all the fear and doubt inside us. In the podcast episode, he admits to hitting “reply” to those emails his anxiety sends him and tells them to “shut the fu&% up.” Sometimes he sends that email response over and over.
Here’s the obvious irony for me – I’m so afraid of wasting time that I don’t embark on the project because it may not work and I will have wasted the time I spent trying to figure it out. So, I sit and stare at the list of projects that need to be done, completely wasting time, in this case, three months now, because I haven’t jumped into the projects. It reminds me of my second husband, he was so afraid of losing me that he didn’t want me to talk to other people, he didn’t want me to have friends for fear I’d like them more than I liked him, he tapped my email accounts and sent scathing emails to anyone he felt I’d been too friendly to. He put a strangle hold on me in an attempt to make sure I never left him, which of course had the opposite effect. Which brings me to the point -Too often our fears and anxieties create the exact situations we are afraid of.
What are you afraid of right now in your life? What are you anxious about? How are you responding to that anxiety? How is your response to the anxiety contributing to the outcome you want, or don’t want? Think about that for just a second. Go ahead, pause the podcast.
If I answer these questions regarding where I’m at with the podcast right now I have to say that my anxiety about these next steps is causing me to freeze up, freezing up is causing me to waste time and slow down the growth of the podcast and the Love Your Story movement. Solution – thaw the freeze and start moving forward, even if it’s one baby step at a time. Action creates motivation, just a little bit of movement starts to open the doors to possibility and the momentum builds. So today, I promise you, I’m committing to doing the first thing on the list. No matter what. Just because I don’t know how to get there, doesn’t mean I can’t get there. Remember that line – “Just because I don’t know how to get there, doesn’t mean I can’t get there.”
I think of the words from my coach and think – this is a good time to find support.
For some of us, asking for support is harder than it is for others. But I’m going to start asking around.
A few days later I’ve got a lunch set up with Mel the Marvelous. She’s a people connector, and she has sooo many contacts and she is going to give me a little guidance in hooking me up with someone who can help me do all these things I don’t know how to do, and maybe even sponsors for the podcast.
This support thing was a good idea. After I had lunch with Mel I set up a meeting with a social media expert, and Mel started “educating” some of her contacts about the chance for sponsorships and working with Love Your Story. I’ll let you know how all that goes. But for sure, there was a bite out of the anxiety. Action had been taken.
Chris Ducker, the mastermind of YouPreneur, a community of entrepreneurs, said, “As much as we enjoy hearing about the self-made man or woman, the reality of things is that collaboration and connection will always play a role in our success. Bottom line, without others, dreams remain dreams. And the same goes for you. That means whatever you are pursuing, whatever you’re wanting, whatever’s keeping you awake at night because you can’t stop dreaming about it…you’re going to need to enlist the help of others to get it.”
Do you know who Diana Nyad is? In 2013 she was finally, on her 5th try, did what no one else had ever done – swam from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. It was 53 hours of straight swimming – 110 miles. She had been training and trying for years to make this swim, and by the time she did it, she was in her 60’s. She gave a Ted Talk after this and she talked repeatedly about the work her entire team did to make this happen, (Insert Ted Talk blurb about the team). A 35 person support team who had worked with her over the years. “I didn’t do it,” she said, “we did it. It looks like the most solitary endeavor in the world, and in many ways it is, but in other ways, the most important ways, it’s a team, and if you think I’m a badass, you should meet Bonnie.” From what I can ascertain, Bonnie is her team manager. She had scientists, sports scientists endurance experts, neurologists. She had support, a cheering squad, an entire team working with her. Did she have moments of anxiety – Oh, you bet she did. Swimming in shark infested waters with the most poisonous jellyfish in the world surrounding you, not to mention the pure exhaustion of the swim. I can’t even imagine.
We don’t accomplish big things, or important things without a struggle, without moments of anxiety, fear, and not knowing how to get there – that’s just part of the journey. But the story has more than one character. The cast of the story is not just the hero – the self-made man or woman Chris Ducker was speaking of, we want our stories to have fairy godmothers who bring us just what we need when we need it, and woodsmen who save us from the wolves, and Jiminy Crickets who remind us of the best decisions, and Merlins to work their magic. Anxiety is a real life part of life and making shit happen – and often the answer to breaking that tie that binds us, is to ask for support. Reach out. Pray. Let people know what you need. You might be surprised what you find when you head out looking for support. I’m still always surprised, but it’s also those moments when other people show up big that my bonds with hope, God, and my fellow story characters grow two-sizes. That I don’t feel so alone. That I can keep moving forward. Life is best played as a team sport.
This week’s challenge is for those of you feeling anxious about something, anything. Determine the story around your anxious feelings and then take a step forward in finding the support you need toward the solution. Try it. What have you got to lose, but a little anxiety? Nothing changes until we do something different. Have a good week out there making your stories better. Remember you’re just where you need to be right now. Now head to www.loveyourstorypodcast.com and leave your thoughts and comments on this episode. We want to hear from you.
Melissa Miller; Miller Consulting – Guest Interview 801.529.2905
About the author, Lori
Author of five books and over 100 magazine and newspaper articles, Lori found a fascination with the personal narrative during her master's degree research in Folklore at Utah State University. Coming to understand the nuance and power of story, the automatic but unrecognized uses, the cultural curtains that story pulls back for us to peak behind, she let her excitement spill over into her own journey of personal empowerment and the excitement of sharing it all with others.