The past months I’ve been feeling really bad and my anxiety has completely taken over my life at times. I hit absolute rock bottom about a month ago when I had so much anxiety for days on end that it felt like I couldn’t cope with existing because I was being held hostage in a body that wouldn’t let me relax. I ended up having such a bad panic attack that my boyfriend took me to the hospital because I thought I was dying. The doctors did some tests and gave me a small dose of a relaxant drug. I have full understanding for people who become addicted to those, holy fucking moly what a nice feeling it was to suddenly become calmness herself after days of being constantly on edge. Lightning could have struck right beside me and I’d just sit there and smile like an idiot. The doctors told me that everything was physically fine but that I needed to get professional help with my anxiety. That was a true wake up call and I realised I needed to take action and see a therapist again. I was feeling stressed out living in a big city like Copenhagen so I moved back to my family in Sweden, indefinitely while figuring my shit out.
It’s been a couple of weeks of calling and waiting and calling some more and waiting and waiting and waiting until I finally got an appointment to see a therapist for an evaluation. To be honest I didn’t have the highest of expectations because I’m used to not being taken seriously. Everyone should know by now that mental illness is often invisible to the public eye. Someone can look, act and speak as though she has everything together but that doesn’t fucking mean she does. She can be battling an absolute war inside and just because you can’t see her pain doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Sadly there are a lot of ”professionals” who don’t seem to understand this either and it is absolutely absurd that you have to exaggerate your condition to even get an appointment. So naturally, there was a defiant little teenager inside me thinking ”here we go again” and ”what could this woman possibly tell me that I don’t already know”. I can be a bit quick to make assumptions and I was kind of expecting not to resonate with the therapist I was going to meet. Little did I know she was about to absolutely BLOW MY MIND.
I was telling her how frustrated I am because I’m not always able to handle my anxiety. I have all the facts, I know all the CBT techniques for calming anxiety but I’m still not able to control my mind when it happens. I try to think differently and be more positive, yet I’m still here asking for help because nothing seems to work. She looked at me as though she was possessing knowledge and answers that could potentially save my life. Then she said: ” You think think too much. You need to stop trying to control your thoughts, stop trying to think differently. What you need to learn is to not think at all”. I wasn’t prepared for that statement. Not think at all? Letting go of control? Surrender? Hello new perspective. Reading those words as I’m writing them down, it makes so much sense but for some reason, I needed someone to tell me this in order to even consider the option of just letting go.
She told me I need to practice mindfulness so that I can rewire my brain and teach it to zen out. Apparently, it takes about 8 weeks of daily practice to rewire the brain, meaning for the brain to make new neural pathways. My issue is not that I need to get tools and techniques to handle anxiety because I already have the tools, they’re just not always working for me because my brain has been in a stressed-out state for such a long period of time that those anxiety patterns are too deeply rooted. So in order to get rid of those patterns, I need to practice mindfulness and meditation every single day, at least 10 minutes a day for 8 weeks. Then I need to keep it up regularly in order to stay zen but the first 8 weeks of meditation are crucial in order for the brain to create new neural pathways.
This makes so much sense. I always get so frustrated because I have such a hard time to zen out, breathing deeply and calming my thoughts when anxiety strikes. But it’s so naive to expect I can be a meditation master in the midst of internal chaos when I hardly ever practice. That’s like getting frustrated because you’re not able to ride a one-wheeled bike on a rope over a river of lava while someone is trying to shoot you, when you don’t even know how to ride a bike. How can we expect to be able to meditate under challenging circumstances when we never practice it in a calm state? It’s absolutely absurd and I can’t believe I didn’t even think of it this way before. Because just like riding a bike, meditation takes practice and nobody is going to master it on the first try, or even the 5th probably but if you keep practicing day after day after day, eventually you will learn. And once you’ve learned it you’ll have much greater chance of using it when it feels like you’re balancing a one-wheeled bike on a rope above lava, while someone is shooting at you (because that’s basically what a panic attack feels like, for those lucky fuckers out there who don’t know).
She asked a lot of questions and from my answers she could see that I am a very creative person or highly creative, as she called it. She told me she had done research about the link between creativity and anxiety and that there are 3 types of people; Low creative, mid-creative and highly creative. She said that your level of creativity is something you are born with and you can’t change that. It’s just the way you are wired and that’s something you have to accept. Basically the higher level of creativity you have, the more anxiety you have because there can’t be creativity without anxiety. It’s the anxiety that drives the creativity. Since I am a highly creative person that also means I have higher levels of anxiety and that’s something I need to accept. I’m never gonna completely get rid of my anxiety but I need to learn how to keep it in check and let it fuel me instead of taking over me. If you are highly creative you need to create. Period. Just like you need to eat and sleep you NEED to create. The creativity is an outlet for the anxiety.
I imagine my brain like a box and inside it is anxiety like a little ball and right above it is this sparkly dust of amazing thoughts and ideas that is creativity. The anxiety is pushing on the creativity because it needs to get out and when you let it out by drawing or painting or designing, the box burst open and the sparkly dust is flowing. This also let the ball of anxiety out so that it’s no longer within you, making your life a living hell. Once your creative session is over the box closes again and new sparkly dust is being formed in there, but also a little ball of anxiety. Both the dust and the ball keeps getting bigger and bigger the longer you let it stay in there. As they both grow, the anxiety ball is weighing you down creating tension in your body and making you feel fragile and worried. So letting your creativity out is crucial in order to release the body from anxiety. It’s always gonna be there to push your creativity forward but you can make sure it never gets bigger by regularly expressing your creativity in any way you prefer.
I left the therapist feeling like a fresh newborn baby with a clear mind and all possibilities ahead of me. As though I had just come out of the womb and pushed out through a vagina. I guess you could also say I felt reborn but I prefer being graphic. So what happens now? I have a second appointment scheduled with my therapist in a few weeks and until then I will do my meditation homework and not neglect my need to be creative. I hope this post inspired any of you. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think.
Lots of love,