Why Trying To Overcome Your Anxiety Only Makes It Worse

To live is to struggle. Not to sound like an old Russian author or anything, but it's true.

Why The Best Trick For Overcoming Anxiety Is To Simply Stop Trying weheartit

So I've got an anxiety disorder. This is a thing about me. It's a thing I lead with in conversations. It's something I'm open about. It's something I've written about and made a career out of for nearly ten years now.

Becca Stokes has an anxiety disorder. This is an established fact, as true as the fact that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Also true, is the fact that my anxiety manifests in a lot of sucky ways, but with lots of help, over the span of decades I've learned how to live with my anxiety successfully... for the most part.


Which is what makes the moments when I stumble and struggle so damn frustrating.

So I want to share with you something that happened to me last night, because I think it's just as important to share the awful stuff about life as it is to share the wonderful triumphs, especially when your life involves dealing with a chronic mental health condition.



RELATED: 5 Ways Anxiety Affects Your Life (That No One Ever Talks About)


The scariest part of my anxiety is what I affectionately call my "death thing."

That's right. Your girl Stokes has a heck of a thing about death. It happens right as I'm about to be asleep or often when I'm in the early stages of sleep. Suddenly, I am confronted with the thought that one day I will die and there's nothing I can do to stop it.

I can think about it right now and be fine, but not in those moments.

In those moments, when I run up against the inevitability of my own death, I bolt upright in my bed screaming as though someone just burst into the room, but instead of an intruder, it's my own brain doing the bursting.


It happened last night in a way it hasn't happened for a couple of years.

I jolted myself out of a dead sleep, screaming and screaming. I hit myself in the face to make myself calm down, something I used to do a lot when this "death thing" happened more frequently. Back in the days when I didn't know what was wrong, my mother would sit with me and say prayers. Those prayers didn't work then, and hitting myself in the face last night didn't work now either.

I screamed again. I slapped myself again. I called out for my mother. I broke into a cold sweat. It probably lasted no more than ten minutes.


It felt like lifetimes.


RELATED: 12 Struggles Only People With Anxiety Will Understand


When it was over, I was standing in my bathroom and everything was quiet again. I turned on both my bedroom light and the TV and fell asleep again almost immediately. When I woke up this morning it cast a pall over the day.

I hate not knowing for sure what triggered it. Could it be the prednisone I'm on for my stupid asthma, the same medication I'm pretty sure is responsible for me catching yet another cold? Could it be the fact that my period is due today? Could it be nothing? Could I experience an anxiety attack like that with no trigger? Was it just a thing my brain did?


That's the scariest part of all to me.

Being told that it's "all in your head" is something I've never understood as comforting. Yeah, it's all in my head — and that's exactly the problem, because there's no escaping from a problem when the problem is you.

Over the years I've spent writing about mental health, I've interacted with many people who have thanked me for sharing my story. These people say things like, "You give me hope. You've come so far," and it's those people I think about on days like today when I'm white-knuckling it just to get through a few minutes without anyone noticing the cracks in my veneer.

I never feel like a failure when these things happen, because that's life with mental illness, but I do often find myself wishing that people facing similar issues in the way I do were more open about the fact that this particular struggle is one that never ends.


To live is to struggle. Not to sound like an old, ornery Russian author or anything, but it's true.

To live with a mental illness is to struggle that much harder than the person next to you. When you live with mental illness, you learn that your greatest achievements are ones the world outside you will never recognize.

Going to a restaurant alone. Calling customer service for your bank on the phone.

Many of us are part of a community of people we feel comfortable sharing only your successes with, but as you do, you feel like there's no room to talk about the bad moments or the darkness or the bleakness of it all.

So I'm telling you this now.

It is okay to have bad days and to sit in the dark sometimes and be as bleak as bleak can be.


That is not failure. That is being a human being who exists in the world. Especially in a world colored by anxiety. You are never going to "cure" yourself and you are never going to be "all better."

And that's a good thing, because being "all better" is not the goal.

In my opinion, the only goal you should have is to live your life as fully and completely as you can, and to do that in the way that seems to work the best for YOU. That will absolutely involve falling over sometimes.


And then you are going to get back up and succeed one day. And then you'll fall over again.

That's real beauty of it all.


RELATED: This Is Your Brain On Anxiety


Rebecca Jane Stokes is a sex, humor and lifestyle writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the sex, love, and dating advice show, Becca After Dark on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.