This post comes on a heels of a similar post I wrote recently called “I Am Not My Depression” (you can check it out here!). A big part of my mental health journey is the way I’ve noticed that language has built up the stigma surrounding mental health, which means I’m constantly trying to find ways to break down that stigma. And just like in my recent post, I want to share why instead of saying that I’m more than my anxiety, I explicitly try to reinforce the notion that I am not my anxiety – and here’s why.
Since the pandemic hit in the United States in March 2020, my anxiety has skyrocketed. I’d always had challenges because of my anxiety disorder, but almost four years into my post-college life, I was starting to get the hang of things. I could hold my own at events, I could make plans with my friends. But that all was disrupted in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever been able to really understand.
The ways I’d previously managed my anxiety were gone. In that space came more fear, more anxiousness and more stress than I’d ever dealt with before, and it became unmanageable. Now, almost two-and-a-half years into this thing, I’ve found ways to manage my anxiety (the vaccines did an enormous job of helping with that), but it’s still difficult.
I’m currently digging myself out of the anxiety pit I’ve created and I’ll be honest, it’s not easy. Toss in everything else going on in the United States, especially this summer, and it’s no wonder I’m a ball of anxiety. That’s why it’s so important for me to separate myself from my anxiety, to give myself as much positive reinforcement as I can to combat the anxious thoughts.
I am not my anxiety. Yes, it is a part of me – some days much more a part of me than others. But that is not who I am; there are so many other facets to who I am as a person, so much personality and emotion and feeling, that to distill it all down to one aspect would be disingenuous.
Now, I’m not saying this argument works all the time. In fact, it’s failed quite a bit when I’ve used it on myself, or even when others try to help me get there. But this is reinforcement I know I need, and it helps shrink the self-stigma I’ve attached to anxiety and anxiety disorders over the years. However you find it, if you can shrink that self-stigma for your own mental health challenges, you can find a healthier, better way to live with it. I am not my anxiety, and I hope over time I have more confidence to say it.