Disclaimer – I have been up all night so I apologise in advance.
I’ve noticed that sometimes I have two reactions to something. The first is painfully familiar – it’s the anxiety disorder screaming at me. It goes something like this, only even less coherent (if you can imagine that):
I CAN’T OH MY GOD, I CAN’T TELL YOU WHY NOT BUT OH MY LIFE THIS WILL LITERALLY END MY EXISTENCE, I JUST CANNOT OKAY, DON’T MAKE ME DO THIS, I AM SO GOD DAMN SCARED AND EVERYTHING WILL GO WRONG AND EVERYONE WILL HATE ME AND THINK I’M PATHETIC GOD I’M A MESS I HATE MYSELF AND I-
I unfortunately listen to this quite a lot, it kills my confidence and esteem, makes me shrink, causes me to speak quietly and only when spoken to, makes me feel useless and like a nuisance. It inhibits me a lot in my everyday life and stops me from doing things I probably could do, just by convincing me that I probably couldn’t.
And sometimes, not always, but sometimes, this second reaction kicks in. It sort of bitch slaps the panicking Becca into silence and just says:
“Screw it – YOLO.”
It doesn’t justify itself, doesn’t try to rationalise itself any more than the hysterical anxiety reaction does. I suppose it doesn’t have to. The fear is still there, the panic, the dread, the anxiety. But this voice stubbornly insists that I persist anyway, even if for no other reason than that my existence on this planet is already too short and I have frittered away enough time on being scared and avoiding things.
As I cast my sleep-deprived mind back, this second reaction got me to start singing, to start posting songs online, to audition for things, to get up on stage for the first time (and the second, and the third, and so on), got me from being terrified of public speaking to teaching classes, eventually got me working in a field I never imagined I’d end up in – and staying there even when I struggled so much initially that I became unwell. Basically every major, life-changing thing that has happened to me, happened because of this second reaction (and my decision to go with that over the old faithful anxiety reaction).
I often question this second reaction and think it’s crazy, or misguided, or foolish. But I never question that first reaction in the same way because I am so used to my mental health issues that I believe them and trust them, and take them to be truth. Those “YOLO” moments feel alien and unfamiliar because for a brief moment I’m not anxiety-ridden Becca. I still may not exactly believe that I can do whatever it is, but for a brief moment I don’t NOT believe that I can. I decide to find out, and – importantly – I decide it doesn’t really matter what the result is.
For a moment I’m the Becca that I dream of being.
And then I realize that I am that Becca. She is me, I am her. I just stifle her. Perhaps if I listen to the YOLO reaction more, I can be her more of the time. Perhaps then I’ll also find a healthy middle ground between crippling fear and reckless abandon.
But first, I think, I must find sleep.