This Is How I Try To Fight My Anxiety When It Messes With Me

by Emily Stelter
Originally Published: 

I’m not a huge fan of traveling. Okay, that’s not true. I’m a huge fan of traveling but my anxiety is not. My anxiety already does pretty much anything to keep me from traveling anywhere with my family, but when it comes to traveling alone? Anxiety pulls out all the stops.

Anxiety plays dirty.

This weekend I traveled all by my lonesome to Muncie, Indiana (please at least try to mask your jealousy of my travels to such an exotic locale) to attend the Midwest Writers Conference. When I first signed up, anxiety tried to play nice. It used its gentler scare tactics…this is expensive and writing’s just a little hobby. This isn’t a smart financial choice. You don’t make any money! You haven’t gotten far enough along in your novel for this to be worth it. Plus it’s total shit writing so you’ll definitely get laughed at. You should wait until next year. Or two years from now. Or maybe you could find an online conference. Where no one can see your face because also you’re ugly and fat.

I told you anxiety plays dirty.

When I didn’t listen (more to the point, when my husband kindly told me to stop being an idiot and booked a hotel for me), anxiety threw down. And it. Meant. Business.

Here is (in no particular order) a list of just 10 of the literally hundreds of reasons anxiety told me I should abandon my trip.

1. There’s going to be a fire in your house.

2. Your family is going to be in a car crash and they’re all going to die and you’ll be left all alone with 3 cats who would cheerfully eat you if you died in your sleep.

3. You’re going to be in a car crash and you’re going to leave your husband alone and he’s definitely going to have to get remarried eventually and she’ll probably be significantly hotter than you (and P.S., now I’m pissed at him for imaginary marrying a hotter woman than me).

4. One or the other or both of your spawn will choke on a grape. You specifically didn’t buy grapes before the trip for this very reason but they still might choke on a grape.

5. One of your children will fall out a window.

6. One of your children will run into traffic.

7. One of your children will lock themselves in the washing machine.

8. One of your children will put their or their sibling’s head in a plastic bag.

9. Your husband is going to have a heart attack in the shower and you forgot to teach your kid about dialing 911 so he’ll definitely die and you’ll have to get remarried and you just don’t have it in you to date.

10. You’re going to wind up cut in pieces and left in a cornfield like in Criminal Minds because according to that show that’s what happens to women who travel alone in the Midwest.

Anxiety is real, people. These were my thoughts THE ENTIRE 11 HOUR CAR RIDE, not to mention the weeks between when I committed to going and when I actually pulled out of the driveway. And these thoughts? These aren’t even the really bad ones! These are tame. Anxiety likes nothing more than to mess with my head.

My brain on anxiety would be more comfortable if I sat at home in my pajamas, preferably with a book and a box of crackers, and locked my kids in nice padded rooms where they could carefully be given a nutritious diet of IV fluids (because my brain once wondered if it were possible to dry drown when water goes down the wrong tube so that’s now concerning) and some kind of g-tube (because FOOD ASPIRATION PEOPLE! PNEUMONIA!).

Anxiety is real and it’s why I want to keep going to things like this writing conference. Scratch that. Why I need to keep going to things like that. If I listen to my anxiety, it wins, and you know who loses? Not me! Well, yes, me but more so, my kids.

Here’s the deal. We need to be the adult we want our kids to be when they are grown. If we want to even have a chance at raising fear-smart (not fearless…if we didn’t have a little fear we probably wouldn’t make it past the age of 2) kids we need to show them fear-smartness (yes, that’s made up; I bet you couldn’t tell). If we hope our kids will take chances they need to see us taking chances. If we pray they’ll follow their dreams and passions, we need to follow our own dreams and passions.

Anxiety tells me a lot of crap stories that boil down to fear. Fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of taking risks, fear of failure, and did I mention fear of failure? Fighting anxiety looks like me taking risks, being uncomfortable, and doing things I am passionate about no matter what. Fighting anxiety looks like failing and trying again over and over. Is it hard? Yes. Are there days I really don’t leave the house because of it? Sure are. But for my kid’s sake, I have to keep fighting.

The truth is I still might raise scared kids. I know I can’t possibly keep all that panic from reaching them and they may inherit some of my anxiety. My job is to listen to what anxiety’s really telling me and do the opposite. Anxiety says don’t go on the trip? Go on the trip. Anxiety says stay in bed all day? Go to the beach. Anxiety says someone’s going to drown at the beach? Grab some life jackets and swim 5 feet from the lifeguard while counting the number of kids in your care over and over.

If anxiety’s going to play dirty, then so can I.

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