So, I have this comic strip image in my head where a woman is inside her house on a beautiful day. The sun is shining through the open windows. As she gazes out, she sees anxiety (personified as a little chimpanzee) lurking outside by the back fence, playing and swinging in the trees. At the sight of him, she’s gripped by fear and begins locking the windows, beads of sweat forming on her brow. Compulsively, she peers out from behind the closed curtains. For a moment, he disappears and all is good again until the chimp (anxiety) opens the front door and playfully taps her on the shoulder. “I’m back!” he seems to say with a smile.
The woman, already hyper vigilant and on guard for any sight of the beast, tackles the chimp to the ground, puts it in a head lock and kicks it back outside. She throws all the locks, as she trembles and shakes, and puts a chair beneath the doorknob to keep it from coming back in.
The more she tries to protect herself, the more frightened she gets. The more she scares herself, the bigger the chimp becomes until it’s as big as King Kong sitting on her house – its eye filling up an entire window as it peers inside.
Finally, after trying everything she can think of to force him to leave (distraction – “Hey, is that a banana tree over there”?, pleading, calling a safe person to rescue her, turning the music up loud, googling expert advice, getting down on her knees to pray), she gives up and opens up the door.
“Come on in”, she gestures with exhaustion.
As soon as the door opens, King Kong shrinks back down to the size of a baby chimp, and jumps onto her lap. The woman strokes his soft fur and smiles. “I’m not afraid of you. In fact, you can stay as long as you like.”
Disappointed and bored now that the game is over, the chimp slips out the back door, swings over the fence and moves to play in the trees next door.
*How are you greeting the chimps playing just outside your window? What are you fighting and resisting that’s growing bigger and stronger as a result? Where can you give up the fight?
*Anyone who is an illustrator and wants to draw this, I’d love to see it!
*Edited and reposted from 6/22/08
A few good reads as you head into the weekend!
*Dr. Martin Seligman, often referred to as the father of positive psychology, shows us four “well being workouts” to increase both daily & overall happiness in our lives.
*Having three kids who just finished up SOL’s and final exams, we’ve talked a lot about self care and how to handle the pressures of school. Often these conversations are initiated by adults, but check out how a small group of teens is setting out to decrease stress, depression and anxiety among their peers at Lexington High School in Massachusetts.
(And if painting rocks is becoming big in your neighborhood, check out this article with tips and info!)
*Finally, here are few articles on coping with anxiety that I’ve been drawn to lately. The author is Dr. Eric Goodman who is an anxiety and exposure therapist in sunny California.
“A Day in the Life of an Exposure Therapist” is a great read! Driving up and down the coast with a phobic driver, having someone with OCD hold a knife to your throat (to prove that the thoughts are pure anxiety) and taking a field trip downtown with a germaphobe to touch trashcans – it’s all in a days work!
“Caring for your Anxiety Baby” – “Anxiety is such a baby!”
“When Your Anxiety ACTs up: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” – This post looks at how we say yes and move forward in the direction of our values – even if anxiety comes along for the ride.
Take care friends & have a beautiful weekend!
Check out the inspirational & incredible story of Katie Crafts who not only bought herself a ticket to Antarctica for her 30th birthday, but then took on the hard work of learning essential skills to make her dreams a reality. (30 minute listen)
Not many of us set out to face our fears buy riding a horse over 350 miles through snow covered mountains & grizzly bear country. But that’s exactly what Kat Cannell did. Here’s the story of her grand adventure and how she was able to find self acceptance along the journey. (30 minute listen)
Most of the time we don’t think of anxious people being big adventurers. Media images tell us that agoraphobics stay close to home. People with panic disorder tend to have day jobs with a high degree of control and predictability, right?
Well, these three anxiety superheroes shake up stereotypes and have found a way to be both anxious and adventurous in the world.
*Tim Cahill – founding editor of “Outside Magazine” – has traveled all around the world, set a world record for driving from Southern Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in just 23 days, has climbed up El Cap on a single rope, almost died while white water rafting through the Grand Canyon and has also dealt with panic disorder. Check out his story here or in his book, “Hold the Enlightenment“.
*Lauren Juliff – author of the travel blog, “Never Ending Footsteps” bought a one way ticket to Croatia in spite of an anxiety disorder so debilitating that at times she didn’t leave the house for months. Lauren has continued to travel all around the world, journaling her missteps and crazy adventures, while also dealing with panic and anxiety that pop up from time to time. You can read more about her travel and anxiety here.
*Tara Lepore – paleontologist, writer, world traveler, self proclaimed geek and anxiety superhero. Check out her anxiety story and how she faced her fears by climbing to the tippy top of St. Peter’s Basilica!
Are you an anxiety superhero that packs anxiety along for the ride instead of staying home? I’d love to hear about your adventures! And here’s a trio of posts I did a few years back about my travels to St. John – part one, two and three.
Ok, so the screen grab is kinda crazy, but this video is so powerful! Watch as Steven Hayes, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy psychologist and researcher, tells the story of his journey into and through panic disorder.
Video from The Atlantic
What do you think? How powerful can a change in attitude be? Will saying those three little words help you in moments of anxiety?
Repost from July 3rd, 2008
I spent a lot of years feeling ashamed of my anxiety. Feeling like it meant something was wrong with me deep down. Wondering if people would still like me if they knew. Even though I told my family and some close friends, I held these competing feelings of wanting to talk about what I was experiencing and also not making it a big deal.
The problem with not telling people, of course, is that it makes the anxiety monster that much bigger and higher maintenance. If it’s something you have to hide, then it must be pretty bad. And, eventually, you start feeling very alone.
It’s not the right time to talk about it, I would think. Or, I don’t want to get into it — because how do you explain that fears, which sound utterly ridiculous, feel very real in a moment of panic. And, how do you also explain that anxiety is only a small part of you, even if it tries to act big and has a flair for the dramatic?
One time I disclosed to a friend and she joked, “Well, at least you don’t hear voices in your head. . . do you?”
After having anxiety under control for a long stretch of time, I experienced a really hard postpartum after my 3rd child. Part of what brought me out and helped me heal was sharing with others what I was going through. I can’t tell you how many people stepped up and either said, “Me too” or “I get it and I’m here.” One friend said, “I hope you take this the right way, but it just makes me feel so much better knowing that you’re dealing with the same stuff that I am. It makes me feel more normal and less alone.”
Maybe there’s a gift in this anxiety after all? If we can stand psychologically naked among each other, we realize that none of us are immune to life’s challenges – And, just knowing that we’re all in this crazy life together brings us strength and makes the road all the more manageable.
A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law & I went to a talk on happiness by Catherine Sanderson. She was an informative, engaging and fun speaker. And one of the things she talked about that can detract from our happiness is comparing ourselves with others on social media like Facebook – or what she called “Fakebook”.
Rachel, my SIL, had recently taken a break by deactivating her account and I’d been meaning to try for a long time. It’s not that Facebook is all bad. I love keeping up with friends and family who I don’t see regularly. Sometimes it’s a great source for news and articles I may not have seen. And, I think it can be a powerful way to spread ideas and advocacy.
However, after that talk I intentionally checked in with my feelings when I was scrolling through FB. What I found was that it regularly made me unhappy and that I used it when I was bored, procrastinating or numbing out.
And, for the most part, my connections online didn’t feel like they translated to seeing people in real time. So why not just connect with people I love in person, through a letter or on the phone?
In real time, I want to know what is good and joyful in your life. But I also want to know what you are carrying inside that feels heavy. And I want to share those things with you about my life, too.
We don’t do that with everyone, but when we choose to share well rounded, real stories from our lives, it helps us connect and have intimacy. And, as Catherine Sanderson reminded us during her talk, it’s in the hard work of building and maintaining relationships with real people that we find the greatest happiness.
If or when I go back to Facebook, I’m going to do it with more intention and less frequency. I can ask myself – Why am I going online right now? Is this making me feel connected and engaged? Or am I feeling unhappy and numb?
What do you think about Facebook and how do you use it in your life? Have you taken a break before and how did that go?
Here’s Catherine Sanderson’s talk on “The Science of Happiness” and be sure to see her speak if she comes to your town!