Being aware of your struggles is one thing but once you are in control of your own struggles, being aware that other people struggle offers a whole separate level of empathy and compassion.
Today I took a few minutes to respond to a post in a support group on Facebook from someone who went out of her house for the first time in a while but couldn’t actually get herself to step out of her car. She painted a picture of how she was finally able to drive, but sat in a parking lot for 30 minutes with paralyzing fears of contamination and social anxiety.
When I responded I made sure to congratulate her for the steps she made and the fact that she was able to drive after too much time of not driving. I also advised her to take progress in small steps. Each step would require facing feelings of anxiety and panic, letting them sit and be felt, but that eventually the feelings would subside. Maybe next time she gets out of the car but doesn’t go into the coffee shop, and then she goes in and doesn’t buy anything, and then she completes the full task.
This made me think of anxiety in a completely new light; as an all-encompassing, way-too-powerful chokehold. It is an invisible force that puts up a wall, restricts movement and breathing, and takes such a strong grip that movement in any direction feels impossible.
How does our mind literally paralyze us in such a way that daily functions are sacrificed and affected that much? It pained me to read that people are living lives where they cannot even do something we all take for granted, such as driving down the road for a coffee. I wallow in my own mind games when people are not getting the help they need to perform actions such as this. Physiology, psychology, chemistry, biology-however these things work together to cause such struggles is something that needs to be researched more. People need access to the right help, and no one should be in tears because they tried to drive and get a coffee.