Worriers Anonymous

Worry is a chain of thoughts and images, negatively affect-laden and relatively uncontrollable.

I’ve cracked it. I have solved the problem. The previous worry that led me down the rabbit hole of despair has been dismissed. The pressure has been released. A moment of calm descends upon me. It feels nice. It feels natural. I bet it won’t last. I bet something goes wrong. I bet the antidepressants affect my creativity. They’ll kill off my outlet and force me to become a zombie. OH FUCK. I am a worrier. I’m addicted to worrying.

“My names Charlie and I’m a worryAholic!”

“HI CHARLIE!”

It’s ceaseless. It’s like having a little kid living in my head. Constantly needling me for information. I find peace… “It won’t last forever,” If things are going well, I prepare for the bad. The invasive, pervasive voice that I so proudly claimed to have conquered is centre stage. Singing and dancing his songs of woe. I’ve tried everything; meditation, yoga, exercise, vitamins, diet changes and city changes. Christ, I’ve even tried country changes. But there it is. Every fucking time. Waiting to make me feel inferior.

I only noticed its effect because when I look in the mirror I see a man I admire. A man who has done well by his own standards. Who one day decided to make a change and did. I am proud of that. But it counts for nothing to my inner critic. It is almost like being in unrequited love with myself. Nothing is ever good enough. If it is it will eventually go wrong. 

“Worrying is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but never gets you anywhere.”

“What next?” was the message from within as the wheels touched down on the aeroplane having fulfilled a dream. I should have been riding high at achieving what I once thought unachievable. Even a life beyond my wildest dreams wasn’t enough. The judgemental disembodied tormentor demanded more. It is a toxic relationship with myself that saps all my energy. The future looms large and demands answers to questions that may never be asked. Anxiety is inevitable.

No angel and devil are sitting on my shoulder fighting for dominance. There is no negative voice in my head. I recently saw a Russell Brand video on negative thinking. (It appears that the Youtube algorithm gives me what I need when I need it.) In the video, Russell talks about even after all the work he’s done he still has moments of negative thinking. This came as a relief to me. But what struck a chord most was when he said: “I have personified the voices of the past!” It was like a jarring slap of realisation. I have created my tormentor for no other reason than believing it is what I deserve. Well, I don’t! Nor do you! So put the stick away and stop beating yourself up. Your imagination is a tool for liberation, not oppression. Yet the drill sergeant in my head is demanding more. Yes, it can be useful. Like when I am exercising and pushing myself. But I am not a record-breaking athlete. I am a thirty-nine-year-old teacher. I should motivate myself accordingly; getting my marking done. Not racing Usain Bolt.

I’ve heard people say “It’s like there are two of me; a positive and a negative. Each says its own thing!” What these people are failing to notice is that there is only one of them; the observer. They are watching the scenario play out. They are a spectator to there own decisions. The winning thought will be the one that aligns most with the observers’ personal experiences and expectations. Believe you should be spoken to like shit and you will. Many accept from themselves that they wouldn’t accept from others. It is just conditioning. We are just trying to get through life. Unfortunately, we pick up bad habits along the way. Some of the habits are an attempt to cancel out others. Coping mechanisms. But the pressure slowly builds underneath. It’s not possible to hide from myself forever. It’s tiring. Life is too short. 

I believe the inner chatter that recently turned my world a dark shade was the same negativity that made me drink. I wanted to escape myself. I wanted to silence the worrier and transcend the inner trainer that demanded more. Where it came from? Who knows. But now I can see it. Now I can identify as the observer and not the thoughts themselves. The worry has lifted somewhat… until next time.

I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to find meaning. After returning from travelling I felt a sense of accomplishment tinged with loss. I saw no real point anymore. I had done everything I had wanted to do. Now what? I got lost in the search for meaning. Trying to find something. Anything. Just to focus on. Eventually, I got overwhelmed.

The one positive to the inner trainer is that it got me out of bed when I only wanted to avoid the world. I took a walk along the seafront and sat on a bench. As I sat looking out to sea, it dawned on me. This is all there is. Just this moment. Just this snapshot in time. I don’t have to walk the Inca trail or fly to Cancun. It’s here all the time. I just have to choose to see it. To accept it. To stop looking and it will come. It can be difficult to catch a breath when it feels like I’m drowning in life but all it takes sometimes is a step back. Just a moment to realise that the pressure is internal. That the weight on the shoulders is imaginary. That the whip that threatens punishment is in my hand. And that I don’t deserve that treatment from anyone. Especially myself.

Sometimes I need to remember that I’m a worryAholic. That my thoughts are not reality. And that everything could be a lot worse. I also need to remember that when my minds go off on a tangent, I can bring it back to the moment. Hopefully, over time, I can retrain my brain. I can kill off the drill sergeant and maintain serenity. The only way is through. Escapism and avoidance just cause more problems.

I need to remember that I still had anxiety when I drank alcohol. It’s just that it was focused on alcohol. I normalised my thinking to justify my behaviour. The only way to “relax” was through alcohol. That is not solving the problem. It is compounding it.

There is no other way than through. Avoidance and escape won’t help. Even after several years without a drink, I am still learning and growing. It wasn’t until I realised I was lost that I knew I had to ask for directions. I learned the methods that can mitigate the worry. Things like exercise, meditation, eating well and reaching out when needed. I also learned that there isn’t a cure to my mental gymnastics but keeping it on a level gets easier. There are days where my mind can go on a tangent. I can get trapped in stories that cause me a distress. I forget that my emotions are effected by my perception and ruin my own day. I have to put the action in place to stop that getting too severe.

A lot of life is out of my control. All I have is the moment. Whatever will be, will be. There is no point in worrying about it. Worrying solves nothing. I’ll just do my best for today. I’ll not worry about tomorrow… easier said than done.

Que Sera, Sera

Charlie

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