When we’re struggling with mental health issues, they can come become a filter that defines how we see the world. We can’t imagine seeing it any other way. Everything revolves around the mental health challenges and we begin to rely on them. We can start to believe that not feeling anxiety means we don’t care about our loved ones, or not feeling jealous rage means we’re not actually in the “right” relationship, or not feeling the discomfort of craving means we’ll never truly be satisfied, or not feeling stress means we’ll never get any work done. There are so many different ways that we begin to see our challenges as a necessary step to getting what we want in life.
This is one of the reasons why it’s so helpful to not focus on getting rid of a mental illness and instead focus on building great mental health and doing the things you value in life. If you only measure success by getting rid of a particular barrier, you need to keep that barrier in your life so you can try to be successful.
Anxiety is like pain–it’s a symptom, a consequence of other actions that we choose to do or are forced into by our environment. Waiting for anxiety as a motivator puts illness first. It puts pain first. If anxiety is something you don’t enjoy, then it’s not helpful to make it the fuel for your actions in life, because then you need anxiety to get anything done.
What helped me with this issue was identifying what I valued in life and acting in line with those values. It’s the complete opposite of waiting for anxiety and then reacting to try to prevent fears from coming true. Instead, acting according to my values is all about creating and building the things I want. I can feel whatever I’m feeling as I do that. I don’t have to get rid of those feelings.
Einstein (a very smart guy) once said: “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” That’s a useful quote to keep in mind when dealing with anxiety issues. You don’t need fear and anxiety to create what you value. Create amazing, healthy things because they’re what you want to see in the world.