I have often come across many people (mostly friends and even myself) who after seeing a Counselor or therapist a couple of times label their identity as mentally ill without any/many societal labels in the first place. They live in this guilt trip for a long time.
I did the same thing, because I didn’t know any other way for some reason. I was anyway in an identity crisis, calling myself an anxious wreck was the easy way to go, as I was scared of overdoing things, and because of it, I further ruined many beautiful moments, goals and dreams. I was punishing myself.
It’s like conditioning. You are who you desire to be and what you tell yourself to be. As I called myself weak and anxious, I started to behave like that on purpose, exaggerating the intensity of my actual anxiety.
If you’ve been getting panic attacks, don’t make it your identity. I knew I had this overthinking problem, but by labelling myself with it, I started behaving like it even more, sometimes on purpose and hence got panic attacks more frequently. If you anticipate these things too often, they’ll happen too often. It’s like the white elephant. If you tell yourself to not think about the white elephant all the time, you will end up thinking about it.
I was afraid to eat because I thought I’ll throw up because of anxiety. My whole life started revolving around this fact about me. And the best part is that I knew I was lying to myself about it, and that it is actually not my identity.
As I did so, I stopped myself from doing things I wanted to, challenges I wanted to embrace, lying to myself often that I will get an anxious breakdown if I did them. These included academic, career related choices and goals.
You may very legitimately have this problem, perhaps even a genetic predisposition to it, but that’s still not reason enough to punish yourself for it and assume an identity that’s not actually yours. Finding out that you have anxiety might be a wake up call to change things, or do them the right way now, but it is certainly not to make yourself feel like a victim of it and take it on to yourself as a disease. In fact, chances are that by doing so, the problem will only aggravate, and not heal. You will be burdening yourself more. This label will become a box, a trap, which will take a long time to get out of. I honestly can’t emphasize more on this.
Its like denial and not dealing with your triggers directly. It is an easy route and like an escape from your actual problems. The truth can not be hidden for long anyway.
A positive coping, on the other hand, is to shower yourself with acceptance, love and support on finding out that you have a problem. Fearing it is like not accepting yourself with it, which will only make this behavior more frequent. It is also to deal with your issues using positive coping mechanisms like acceptance, increasing your own skills/abilities etc.
Making one of your negative qualities your whole identity is extremely counter productive in the long run, and makes you miss out on a ton of enjoyable things in life. Be in the real world, and see yourself as who you are- a whole of your negative and positive qualities, rather than just the negatives which can include anxiety.
You are not your anxiety, so don’t make it your identity 🙂