The New Year is creeping up on us all, and in our search for something to change in 2017, something to improve on, or something to quit, I would like to talk about something that may cover all three categories. I recently had a long talk with someone about anxiety and how much it can affect a person, and it really got me thinking. This person was having a pretty tough time with their social anxieties and I listened to everything they had to say and it was amazing how much of it resonated with difficulties I have had in the past and present with my stutter.
The theme for this post is one that I have touched upon in the past but I would like to go into further detail: not getting in the way of yourself. What do I mean by this? Well it means that there are so many times when we are the ones holding ourselves back from doing what we want to do. Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when others hold us back, or there are things holding us back that are out of our control. There are definitely people out there who are actively trying to hurt us, people who try to make things difficult for us, and people who are putting walls and barriers in your own way, knowingly or not. There are also many people out there who suffer from anxieties, who suffer from depression, or other chemical imbalances which are genuinely out of their control. I am guilty of thinking, in the past, that people with anxiety or people with depression just need to toughen up, or cheer up, or just go do the things that “should” help them, without knowing how these people are really affected by their own anxieties or depression. Instead, I would like to offer up my experiences with my anxieties, how I got through them, and ways in which I have grown out of *most* of them.
Let’s turn the clock back about 8 1/2 years. Grade 12 had just started and I had recently started talking to Kelsey, my girlfriend, at school and on MSN Messenger (yes I am old). I am perfectly comfortable talking to people on I.M. or via text, or basically anything where I can write out what I am trying to say. I am also more comfortable talking to people face to face. I am least comfortable talking to people on the phone (past blogs will explain more about this). So as our relationship was in its early stages I was feeling okay, talking in person and talking on MSN I felt that I was able to say everything I wanted to say the way I wanted to say it. Then came the time where we made plans for our first date: Saunder’s Farm (an Ottawa area “theme” farm) for a Halloween themed evening. We were talking about it at school and I told Kelsey that I would call her after I was done football practice to setup everything. *”You idiot” I said to myself. “Why would you say you would call her? You hate the phone!”* So football practice ends….
I get home after football practice, I shower and get myself half-decent. I mosey on over to the phone and I feel my heart pounding. I pick up the phone and dial her phone number. I get to the last number and can’t bring myself to dial it. There is something controlling my hands that won’t let me finish the dial. I hang up. I try again, I dial all the number but the last one and hang up. Occasionally I will dial all the numbers, hear the dial tone end, get scared, and hang up (at least that was somewhat of an improvement, got the whole number in). I remember sitting by the corded phone (again, yes I feel old) for 20 minutes continuing this battle with myself over making this call to let Kelsey know what time I would be picking her up. That was it, just letting her know what time I would be picking her up (and that I would have to bring my sister and her boyfriend with us, thanks a lot mom, way to make things more awkward than they already felt….anyways, I digress). This was a simple phone call but it turned into something that led to an inner struggle that almost led me to not making the phone call at all. So let’s dissect this a little.
“Oh look at that molehill, what a neat little pile of dirt that is, should be easy enough to just walk right ove…..HOLY CRAP IT’S ACTUALLY A MASSIVE MOUNTAIN!!”.
Making something out of nothing can be a good thing if you are taking a crappy car and turning it into a NASCAR caliber machine. But when we look at how often we look at one thing, but treat it as something it isn’t, we can see how often we get in our own way. I have spent, and currently spend, lots of my time worrying about what others think about my stutter. I let something that is an issue for me be the deciding factor in some things that I do. I worry more about how I sound rather than what I am saying. I let things that have been tough to do in the past dictate if I am going to try them in the future. I wish I didn’t do this but I have become much more aware of it. My becoming more aware of it has led me to improving how I deal with it all. And that is what I would like to emphasize here: talking about it.
This blog has been an amazing platform for me. I, of course, want you all to read what I have to say, I want you to know what I have experienced, the difficulties I have with certain things, but it is also an outlet for me. Somewhere where I can be heard. Similarly, there has been such a positive change in the attitude towards mental health and the stigma surrounding it. Movements such as the BELL Let’s Talk campaign and the conversations they have started is a great example of talking about our issues. We all have different anxieties, different things we deal with, but sometimes hiding these feelings, these insecurities, the challenges we face, leads to yourself being the only person capable of dealing with it. When you only have yourself to fend for yourself you have a tendency to be your own worst enemy. You get in your own way of doing the things you want to do or cause yourself to make that molehill a seemingly endless mountain that defeats you before you even start the trek up it.
I would like to encourage everybody to talk about their feelings. I have seen amazing growth in myself in how I deal with my stutter just by talking about it with people. I understand that it may not be the best solution for everybody out there but I grew tired of having to battle my own mind and always coming out on the losing end. People didn’t even have a chance to misunderstand what I was going through because they didn’t know what I was going through. So for your New Year look at a changing of the guard, don’t let you hold you back, invite people into your life. Improve on communicating, let someone know what you are feeling. Quit being cautious, do what you want to do, even if your inner-voice is telling you not to. But above all, find something that works for you and work at it.