Anxiety versus Freedom – or do we need them both?

anxiety-versus-freedomHave you ever experienced freedom whilst feeling anxious? Is that even possible???

I ask you this question because freedom is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, and especially so these past two days since joining Natalie Sisson’s 10 day Freedom Blog Challenge. In yesterday’s post I made some important realisations. I was able to see that throughout my life, in all I have been working toward, my primary desire has been to experience the feeling of freedom.

Today my mission is to explore why freedom is important to me. I’d like to invite you to do the same as you read this – because I completely believe that freedom is a right that we all have, and if we do not feel free then there must be something in the way.

Two sides of the same coin

Just like Yin and Yang, black and white, up and down, and all the other opposites in this world, since thinking about this topic I have realised that anxiety and freedom appear to be two aspects of life that (can) work harmoniously together.

Without freedom, anxiety becomes a dark and overwhelming place to be. Designed to keep us safe, anxiety is an important aspect of our lives, and I go into more detail about the importance of anxiety here, but when experienced in excess it can wear us down on every level.

Without anxiety, freedom can become a dangerous place to be. I am not talking about anxiety disorders here, but the healthy kind of anxiety that keeps us safe by activating our fight, flight, or freeze response when we are being chased by angry bears (and such like).

When anxiety takes over

As I sit writing this I am aware of a knot in my stomach and a tightness in my jaw. Every now and then I notice that I am holding my breath.

I tell myself that my anxious days are gone, but if truth be told they never really left. The fact that I can easily speak to anyone where I used to struggle does not make me free of the underlying anxiety that once caused my selective mutism. I am highly sensitive, and sometimes my busy life overwhelms me. Anxiety almost feels like my comfortable, happy place because I know it so well.

But comfort is not freedom. Comfort is what is known and familiar. Anxiety feels comfortable to me because it has been quite the constant in my life – but it is not how I want my life to feel.

Introducing freedom

From time to time, my life takes on an unexpected quality. The familiar constriction is gone, and I feel like I can achieve anything.

If it is night time, my mind floods with ideas, and I lie in bed excitedly exploring possibilities.

During the day I feel playful and confident. Everything I see and do feels incredible, and there is a lightness to my personality that I adore.

Within this space I feel invincible, and I long for it to last forever … and then the doubts creep in, followed by guilt and remorse for allowing myself to enjoy life so much.

Truly!

Dancing with freedom (and anxiety!)

Writing this down seems ridiculous, but that’s what happens. I absolutely believe that everyone deserves to feel free enough to be exactly who they are – no matter what. Unfortunately, there is a part of me who disagrees. I will call her Martha (for no other reason than that is the first name that came to me. If your name is Martha, I apologise)

Martha is the overactive anxious part of me, and she is scared that if I truly live the freedom lifestyle, there will not be a part for her to play in my life anymore.

Martha keeps me safe from laughing faces, whispered words and rejection. She’s the one who tells me not to call someone in case it’s a bad time. She’s the one who looks away when I see a familiar face because she thinks they might not remember me. She’s the one who holds back my words until she’s figured out if they make any sense. She’s the one who wants to run home and practice a new skill in private so that no-one will see me fail. She’s the one who meticulously researches so that I won’t look silly when I don’t know something. She’s also the one who tells me that this blog post is ridiculous.

Thing is, even if I ignored Martha’s logical reasoning and well thought out excuses, there would still be a place for Martha in my life.

Martha is my anxiety, and we all need anxiety to keep us safe. We also need freedom to keep us, well, free.

Martha doesn’t trust freedom, even though she knows it’s something I want. A lot.

I’ve tried pushing Martha away, fighting her, ignoring her, listening to her and dutifully taking her advice, but none of them has helped me to feel free of her. I guess that’s because it isn’t possible. Next time Martha tells me not to do something, I’m going to dance with her.

Freedom and anxiety were never meant to compete for our attention, but rather move in and out of our awareness depending on our circumstances.

The importance of freedom for me

Aside from the ‘from time to time’ moments in my life, freedom has taken a back seat. I have two beautiful children, an amazing home, a gorgeous partner and a job that I love. I live in an incredible place with mountains, lakes, rivers and a lot of open space. We’re not exactly financially free, but we’re better off than we’ve ever been, and we even travelled as a family to Europe this year. I look at where I’ve been and see how far I’ve come, and I’m blown away by the growth I’ve experienced in my life.

But.

I don’t feel free.

I feel anxious and eager to prove myself, and I don’t like it. I want to feel free. I want to experience true freedom. I think freedom will change my life, and I want to know what I’m truly capable of. Without freedom, I’ll never know what Martha has held me back from achieving, and I really want to know what that is. I want to wake up excited about my day, and I want to fall asleep full of amazement about the day’s events. I want to see what I can achieve with lightness and laughter in my heart. I want to see what the potential of me has to offer the world. I want to have a lot of fun along the way. I want to tell Martha that she can come too.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 2 and once again, it feels like a biggie to me! If you can relate to anything I’ve shared here, I’d love for you to tell me about it – and hopefully you can move toward a freer life too!