One of my biggest struggles in life and the most profound reason for my anxiety is my immense need for freedom. A need for freedom isn’t actually negative but it inevitably comes with a fear of the opposite. A fear of not feeling free. I can’t cope with feeling caged or cornered, both literally and by other peoples opinions and expectations of me. To start with, I am extremely claustrophobic and never ever take an elevator alone. Even taking an elevator with someone I feel safe with is hard and I rarely do so without hyperventilating all the way. I believe the concrete fear of being caged, such as being in a small space and the more abstract fear of being caged, such as feeling pressured and stressed by responsibility and others expectations, are extremely intricately connected.
If I was an animal I would without a doubt want to be a bird so that I could fly anywhere I wanted. I’ve always felt most at home next to the sea or in the countryside with open fields around me. If I spend too much time in a crowded city without even a coastline, I start feeling slightly panicky after a few days. There is just something within me that needs to feel ensured that I’m free and nothing or nobody will deprive me of my freedom or my open spaces. Where this slightly compulsive need for freedom comes from, I don’t really know. I probably need several hours of therapy to find out and that’s something I would actually want to do at one point. But for now I just wanted to share my experience and what this behavior and these feelings have taught me.
I’ve had so many moments in my life where I’ve just escaped. I’ve gotten this feeling of being stuck, like there is so much on my shoulders and there are people depending on me. When I say people depending on me I don’t mean emotionally because that has never been an issue for me, I mean they’re depending on me in the way that they want or need something from me. During these moments I’ve become so stressed out and so unhappy and it’s created an urge to just quit and run away, cut the chains that I feel are holding me captive and just escape. This is obviously not a sustainable way of living and it’s created a lot of problems for me. I’ve come to realize that running away is sometimes more damaging than staying. Because it initially means that you are looking elsewhere for something that you already have within you. Because although peace and freedom are easier to feel when you’re on a white sand beach on a tropical island, overlooking the turquoise ocean, its actually found within (I’m a little hippie, just bear with me plz).
A quote that has really stuck with me is “you have freedom when you’re easy in your harness”. Being alive, being put on this earth kind of comes with a harness whether we like it or not. It’s simply not possible to live a happy life without any commitments or without having people depending on you. I’ve had moments in my life where I’ve been unemployed with literally no commitments and that sure as hell didn’t make me happier. The opposite actually. Humans are wired to feel needed and important in order to be happy and if you completely take that away, you’re left feeling really empty and alone. What’s important is to find a balance. It’s also cultural that you get to escape for a bit sometimes and just breathe, without anyone pulling your strings. But the goal should be to have a balance of freedom and commitment and most importantly not allow commitment to take away your freedom. I believe it’s a state of mind to feel free even if you have people depending on you and appreciate how important you are instead of letting your mind get stuck in a downward spiral of self-pity. When you find this state of mind, you are flowing through life with ease and you barely notice your harness, but when you constantly resist it and fight to get loose, that’s when you feel the tension. That’s when anxiety creeps up and you feel your harness tighten around your chest.
I’m no guru speaking here, I obviously struggle more than anyone with this but I will really work on finding a balance in my life. I will do my best to teach my brain to not victimize myself but instead see the beauty of having responsibility. I like to imagine my harness made of very thin silk threads. I can still go wherever I want, I can still do whatever I want. The harness is not actually holding me back. It’s just a reminder of how important I am and that I do have a responsibility in this world whatever it may be. The harness is, in fact, pushing me forward.