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Do Something that Scares You

Decisions

Sometimes anxiety is a good thing.

The other night I gave a presentation on anxiety to Active Minds, the student organization whose mission is to raise awareness and reduce stigma about mental illness. I began the presentation by reminding everyone that anxiety is not always something we want to get rid of. It motivates us to act. It socializes us. And it warns us when we are about to do something scary.

But sometimes it’s good to do something scary.

When I started my blog, it never occurred to me to use an avatar, because the point was to get people to know me so that they would buy my book someday. Plus, anonymously blogging about vulnerability seemed hypocritical. But I have to admit, sometimes I wonder what the hell I’m doing, telling people all my deep, dark secrets, and I wish there were a way I could take it all back.

Some posts are scarier than others. The post that I wrote a few weeks ago, Undeserving, was one of the scarier ones, because what therapist admits to having the exact same fears that her clients have? Publishing it felt a bit like standing in front of people naked and saying, go ahead; judge my body.

Which nobody did, thank goodness. Not to my face, at least. Although the most vulnerable posts are always the most popular, knowing this won’t make it less scary to bare my soul the next time. Because anxiety has no memory. It does not distinguish between past, present, and future. It does not know the difference between reality and fantasy. In the moment, there is only fear.

Actually, I am growing accustomed to baring my soul before friends, family, and strangers. But the thought of standing naked before students and clients still terrifies me. Therapists are supposed to be blank screens. At minimum, they use self-disclosure with caution. They certainly don’t let clients know that they struggle with anxiety and depression and that they don’t think they deserve to be loved.

Last night a student from the school newspaper emailed me some questions about Seasonal Affective Disorder because she’s writing an article about depression. I realized this was an opportunity to publicize my blog, since my last post was on this very topic. But the thought of doing so gave me an anxiety attack, so I decided to sleep on it.

Plus it was midnight, and I promised myself I wouldn’t start working on stuff after midnight so that I don’t screw up my sleep cycle. Even though I ended up staying up until 1:30 a.m., anyway, doing pointless stuff like playing Sudoku and Minesweeper. What is wrong with me?!

But I digress.

This morning I answered the student’s questions and told her about my blog. Part of me hopes that it will lead to a thousand new followers, and a part of me hopes that she ignores the reference to my blog altogether. In any case, I did it; I pushed myself to do the thing I fear the most, as far as blogging is concerned.

And I have to say, it feels pretty good.

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

14 responses »

  1. I have found myself holding onto some facts about my past like they were terrible secrets. It was the scariest thing in the world to finally admit the things about myself that I was ashamed of to someone (much less to an internet audience, wow!). It was such a relief to finally do so, and find the person to whom I confided had a very similar story to tell. I find I really love your blog because you are effectively normalizing feelings you have that are not terribly uncommon feelings. It is uncommon to share, but so many people experience those same self-critical, perfectionist thoughts. I feel like you’re subtly shifting the psychology paradigm by humanizing and normalizing self-criticism and acceptance, instead of continuing that Freudian “perfect therapist behind the screen” approach. I think it’s a powerful and brave thing to do, you should be very proud!

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  2. Great blog and perspective. 🙂

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  3. The self-disclosure thing is certainly scary, nd it also draws a powerful response. I’ve had concerns professionally, as stigma and discrimination within the mental health field are neither trivial nor rare. I’ve decided that the only way to push stigma back is open discussion: no more hiding in shadows. The more common the topic becomes, the more ordinary and unremarkable, so I take the risk. The only cost so far has been anxiety. We’ll see.

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  4. In the two years we have been publishing (and on another publications as well as the blog), we have learnt to walk the fine line between the honesty of sharing and holding something back. We strive to still come through as we actually are, as opposed to varnished versions of ourselves, but there are nuances that we always felt were not appropriate to put out there. It’s an interesting exercise and, when I talk to people, and they seem to know things about me, I am always surprised. I read it in your blog – they say. I completely forget people read it. Of course, I know people do but I write as if that wasn’t a possibility!

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  5. Reblogged this on Big Red Carpet Nursing and commented:
    Change is scary, all change is scary, even that leading to progress, to improvement, to growth. to achievement. Sometimes we have to embrace the fear, the risk, the unknown. Otherwise, stagnation, decay. There can be no standing still in life. Life exists in time, and time moves forward, always. We can move forward with it, or fall behind. Nothing else is possible. We each must choose, and choose often. Our choices create who we become in time.

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  6. I always believed even therapists need a listening ear. I also believe expressing yourself is therapeutic for you and it makes you seem more human…

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  7. I struggle the same way but in reverse, I am a retired therapist (MSW) with a history of deep depression. I have taken the scary steps of letting people know parts of my story on line, but what has been scary is starting to let my real-life family and close friends in on what I have said..

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