I live with pretty severe anxiety, and on top of that while I'm not super pro self-diagnosis, I'm almost positive I have Avoidant Personality Disorder. Some of the specific things I'm afraid of include (but are definitely not limited to): queer girls who are cooler than me, speaking in front of people, talking out loud about shit I've been through, asking for things, asking for money, dealing with conflict, receiving even the most well-intentioned critical feedback, and telling people out loud that I'm setting boundaries. So it might seem weird that I've chosen not one, but three career tracks (Renaissance Soul for life!) that rely heavily on engaging audiences or clients, asking for tangible support from theoretical supporters, and speaking my truth. I've managed to carve out comfort zones within that though: asking via internet, delegation when that can't be done, and setting firm boundaries and post-scary-thing self-care modules.
March and early April were rough for me for a lot of reasons, but truth be told I've been through much harder times in my life. After taking some time for self-reflection I think what wore me out SO much was how much I pushed my own boundaries, which is a good thing, but without taking extra time and effort for self-care, which is not. After realizing this, I'm really proud of some of the things I did: I directly engaged with queer girls who are WAY cooler than me. I maintained some substantial professional relationships that in the immediate rely on me asking for prolonged favors. A project failed and I had to look my collaborators in the eye and ask why. And ultimately I ended up on stage doing a story-telling feature about getting my period all over a nice restaurant in a nearby affluent suburb.
Some of the lessons I took away from this seem so basic. "Just do the scary thing" is obviously the biggest one, and I used to be a lot better about that. At some point I had enough professional colleagues or close friends to delegate scary things too and enough successes I could achieve without digging TOO deep that I really had ended up in a very comfortable place. This is such an achievement in and of itself for someone who doesn't trust people and is afraid of both fear and success in and of themselves, and it was important for me to get to that safe place to know that I COULD get to safe places in my life. But I know more than anybody that if we sit complacent for too long, we stop succeeding. So it was also important for me to get OUT of that safe place and into scary-land again. I didn't take the impetus myself, and the universe forced my hand, but it did remind me of how much more confidently I used to approach such things. Doing the things that terrify me never crushed me quite like it did this time, even when they failed, and sometimes the lesson we're meant to be learning are not new to us.
I also learned something kind of horrible: there's no easy answer to overcoming anxiety enough to succeed. There isn't. At some point my fear of continued failure became worse than my fear of talking to people, and that's what pushed me towards the scary stuff. I think getting to that point IS the point. There is no quick fix or easy answer for something that requires prolonged therapy and possibly medication. I'm not going to wake up tomorrow and feel like I fit in with hip lesbians or more successful WTFs. I'm not going to overcome my fear of criticism in a day, or by receiving positive feedback. I'm not going to conquer my all-consuming fear of failure simply by having it come true once and being okay. There aren't easy answers. Sometimes you just have to do the thing anyway. You have to reach as far inside of you as you can to summon enough strength to get through that hour, or evening, or even day.
And know this: everyone is afraid, all the time. Nobody feels like they know what they're doing a majority of the time. Maybe that's depressing because that means dealing with fear doesn't get easier, but I choose to look at as comforting, because it means I'm not alone in my fears, ever. Yes, there are confident people, and yes, that sometimes includes me--but for me, my confidence is now coming from knowing that I am going to be okay no matter what, and knowing that the things I'm feeling are necessary for growth. It comes from knowing I am perfectly competent at the things I do, even if in the movement I'd rather disappear than do the scary thing. It comes from knowing I am loved, on the right life path, and usually have karma on my side--in other words, I do tons of spiritual work and am a good person well BEFORE I need to be confident in a moment. And, yes, as a part-Slytherin sometimes my confidence comes from knowing everyone around me is just as scared and there is no way all of our fears are justified.
And the thing I re-learned this time, with a vengeance, is that when you summon up the courage, or the energy to override ANY neuroatypical or trauma-based coding, you have to, have to, have to take care of yourself afterwards. After my story-telling feature two of my best friends took me out for a nice meal and a beer and listened to me just whine about how scary things were. It felt great. It also reminded me that after all of the other scary things I'd done in the previous three three weeks, I should've had a glass of wine, a hot tub, a good book, or even just a fucking pizza waiting for myself when I was done. Because taking care of yourself in the moment may be beyond your control, but if you nurture yourself before and after, you WILL keep doing the scary stuff, and it's not gonna drain you nearly as much.
I don't have all the answers. I'm just a queer, disabled solopreneur and artist trying to survive capitalism and help others do the same--but I think I'm starting to get a handle on keeping myself together, even when all I want to do is fall apart. I can say with certainty after this month that the scary things are worth doing--but you should definitely have a safe place to land in between.