As part of my work experience for the counselling course I have almost completed (yay!) I have started to co-facilitate a therapy self-help group once a week for people who are struggling with anxiety issues.
However, let me stop myself there. I used the word “struggling” didn’t I. Well, there-in lies part of the problem. This sense of struggling against, fighting with something that seems bigger, scarier and tougher than you are seems to just give it more power. If there is one thing that has become apparent already is that it seems the more they struggled with their issues the more powerful they seemed to become.
One of the group members however shared an insight which I just thought was so beautiful it had to be noted. For many sufferers of anxiety, depression often accompanies their anxiety, especially when one becomes weary of battle. Fighting an old familiar enemy day in and day out becomes exhausting, and yes sometimes it seems the wall is too high, the enemy too strong, your will and strength are sapped and you slump in defeat and allow depression to settle. What’s the point, they say to themselves.
This is the point when a lot of anxiety sufferers retreat and isolate themselves. In their shame and self loathing, they do not want to ‘show face’, fearing that others will judge them as harshly as they have judged themselves.
One group member talked about the mask she wore and how heavy it became, so she decided to drop it and let her friends see her without it. That was a turning point for her, she was blown away by just how loving and accepting her friends were. How kinder they were to her than she had been to herself.
And I thought, how true this is. We all wear masks to a certain point. Only showing the world and those we know a side of ourselves that we think they will find acceptable. Because, god forbid what would happen should we allow our mask to slip and our imperfections were made visible to all. Oh the horror! But as this group member discovered, the people we know, those we have gathered around us and who are our friends and even those we may only call aquaintances, are a lot more forgiving, accepting and loving than we give them credit for. And our imperfections, our true selves, are a lot more loveable than we think.
The burden of our self imposed perfect selves. The masks we wear, the shoulds, oughts and musts. What would happen if we just let all of that go? What would we find behind the masks…