4 years ago, my girlfriend (which is my wife now :) ) and I got into a mini argument late one night. It was nothing really, but when I was alone getting my mind off it, I started feeling weird.
First, my throat felt like it was swelling shut. Next, I had the overwhelming feeling of having a pallet of bricks on my chest.
My heart felt like it was about to explode and the room began to go black all around me.
Safe to say I was freaking out and Emily had to run me to the emergency room.
Turns out I was having a massive panic attack.
Looking back on it now it seems a bit silly but I thought I was dying. The stress and pressure I had put myself under for years finally caught up with me.
For months I kept this to myself as I thought I was going crazy. I felt I would be considered weak and any reputation I had built for myself would crumble.
Sadly, many of us bottle up these demons as we pursue a creative career.
At the end of the day, you’re a human being. It’s okay to feel not okay. It’s perfectly normal to feel inadequate at times as everyone deals with demons whether they are visible or not.
This episode is a friendly reminder that you’re not alone with your struggles and it’s important to not suppress them.
Recently I’ve been reading Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” Honestly, its really clarified this topic of vulnerability that I dealt with in the past and in the present.
The early years of life getting bullied led to me thinking I needed to be a badass in order to be cool.
When I started getting prescribed medication to treat my anxiety, I felt like I would get torn to pieces if this side of me was exposed.
The months I spent trying to hide it were the worst as it tore me down from the inside out. The more I held it in and felt I needed to struggle in silence, the more I was losing the game of controlling my mind.
How I felt at the time reminds of this quote from Mark in his book:
[perfectpullquote align="full" cite="" link="" color="1c1c1c" class="" size="32"]“The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a form of struggle.”[/perfectpullquote]
This is what I believe many of us creatives do, we bottle up our emotions and avoid the elephant in the room.
In my unhappiness, I realized I had to ditch the armor, swallow my pride and accept that I was not a badass.
I took action and responded by starting one of the hardest conversations of my life.
I’m paraphrasing a bit from the book but Mark states something along the lines of:
[perfectpullquote align="full" cite="" link="" color="1c1c1c" class="" size="32"]“When you feel shitty, it’s your brain telling you there is a problem that’s unresolved. Negative emotions are a call to action. When you feel them, you’re supposed to do something.”[/perfectpullquote]
The more I held in these emotions, the worse my issues got. However, I finally consulted a few close individuals around me who dealt with anxiety. What they had to say drastically changed my perspective on the matter.
Having the hard talk and getting if off my chest let me know I wasn’t alone and that I wasn’t crazy.
The more I talked about it the better I began to feel.
About a month or so of talking it out to people I brought it publicly to Facebook and asked how other people, especially creatives, dealt with their anxiety.
The empathic and helpful responses I received blew my mind. I had around 100 comments of people stating how they fought it. This ended up becoming a community of encouragement on that little status.
This manifested into a blog post which I hope others find when they need a boost.
I feel by sparking that hard conversation, it let more people than just myself find a little more peace in battling their demons.
As a creative, I still deal with anxiety every day. My biggest fear isn’t to put a podcast into the world to be judged or to be on stage in front of hundreds of people. My biggest fear is getting caught up in my own head and losing control.
Keeping this to myself used to put me in some dark places. The new me is working on accepting these funks as part of being a human. This is my body signaling something needs to be attended to.
Maybe this approach will help you too?
You’re human and you’re not a badass and this is okay.
Give yourself permission to feel shitty for a bit but don’t avoid the situation—you just may be making things worse.
I encourage you to ditch the armor and get it off your chest with someone you feel comfortable with.
The low moments in our life make us appreciate when things are going right...and believe me, things will go wrong.
Use it all to your advantage and channel it into your work and your story. You never know who you’ll make an impact on when you embrace that you’re human.