I have this really fun condition called anxiety. My anxiety is the kind that picks a fear…the most irrational fear…and obsesses about it. The funny thing about anxiety is that it picks the things you value most in your life to prey on. It can be anything, family, relationships, work, health, whatever. I think I have had anxiety my whole life, I have always been kind of a worrier, but it became way more pronounced in 2015 when the need to change things became overpowering.
At the time, I saw my anxiety as a pest. A sort of nuisance that would not go away, kept me up at night and sent me into debt because of the cost of therapy. In fact, some days I still kind of do. However, now, on most days, I realized that my anxiety is here with a purpose. Its purpose is to serve a kind of warning.
Many psychologists say that anxiety is our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. It exists to warn us of danger. For example, when our ancestors had to fight off some sort of saber tooth tiger, the anxiety kicked in for them to get the hell out of there. So let’s say that my anxiety had appeared so that I can fight off a ‘saber tooth tiger’ of sorts. This saber tooth tiger came in the form of a job that I couldn’t stand.
Now, I recognize that my anxiety was my limbic system’s way of saying STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING! IT IS GOING TO KILL YOU! Okay…maybe I am exaggerating a little bit. But the anxiety was definitely telling me that if I kept things up the way I was going, I would be heading to burnout and fast. In true Melissa nature, when the early signs of anxiety began I brushed it off as stress and kept on going. Early signs like chest pain, headaches and lack of sleep just became a normal way of being for me. I did not take them too seriously until the symptoms got worse. Symptoms like dizziness, racing thoughts, and depersonalization (google it…not fun). It was not long before these symptoms got the best of me and I needed to start listening. I proceeded to take a few weeks off of work, sleep a ton and find a great therapist.
During those few weeks off, I managed to start thinking about what I wanted. Not letting the voice of fear and comfort get in the way. It was time to make a plan, set a date and get out of the situation I was in. I started brushing up on my CV and applying for literally any job I found that was remotely interesting. I networked with friends, which is something I HATE DOING. However, this time it was successful. I found my out. I found something else. Two weeks later I was gone, and it was the hardest decision I had ever had to make.
To this day, I do not know what I would have done had my anxiety not stopped me in the tracks of denial and made me realize that things needed to change. Leaving this job was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do, but I learned that no job or situation is worth sacrificing your mental health. So the next time your body is telling you something that you are not ready to deal with, stop, listen, and understand that maybe it is protecting you from a 2017 edition of a saber tooth tiger.