I first recognized my anxiety when I was in undergrad although there were certainly instances in high school when I could pinpoint what was happening. But in college, I started to encounter more things that didn't come easily to me. Because school was easy for me until college, I didn't develop many good coping skills (and I can include study skills there). But I figured things out. I joined the track and cross-country teams, trusting my physical health to help with my emotional health. I began to write and draw more. And for the most part, things sort of evened out.
When I started grad school, things erupted again. Leaving grad school before finishing my doctorate was even worse. Now I'm an entrepreneur and single parent. Both roles require that I achieve the balance that I found when I was younger. Neither comes easy to me and I am constantly troubled with a need to do both very well.
For me, my anxiety is similar to that scene in "Malcolm X" where Barnes is introducing Malcolm to the Nation of Islam and Barnes says, "Elijah Mohammed teaches us that all White people are evil." Malcolm then plays this montage in his mind of all the White people he has ever encountered, with a winking Sophia at the end. My anxiety is me telling myself: "This thing isn't going to work out for you because you aren't good enough and these are all the times you weren't good enough." Then a montage plays in my mind. Failed tests and relationships, bad meetings and interactions, all replay in my mind. They all seem to be my fault. And then I get stuck.
Most everything seems impossible in those moments. And it is a struggle to keep progressing with my businesses and the other things that I need to do.
I have found two remedies (with the understanding that this is an on-going process). The first I call My Three Rs: reading, writing, and running. I feel confident in those instances and I am able to process and think.
The second has to do with what I am processing and thinking: when things have not gone well, I do look at what I did wrong and how I can make amends. I take responsibility and apologize. I make adjustments so that I don't keep making the same mistakes. I recognize what went wrong on the other person's end, and while this is a huge battle, I learn to not expect an apology from him/her so that I can move on.
I admit that the more things go well, the more I doubt and have to lean on my remedies. I also feel like these are things that are good lifestyle choices, make for good leaders and business people, and help me to become a better parent. It's about being self-reflective and learning to have empathy for others and myself.
To that end, I always carry a journal with me and if I can't go for a run, you'll probably catch me walking around the block or on the track at a nearby high school.
My advisor recently passed away. He was open about his mental health issues, so I thought it would be important to be open about mine and pay it forward. I hope that helps you as well.
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