Each therapy session, I secretly hope my therapist will share some new insight that will totally change my mindset and cure my anxiety, because after struggling with it for years, I’m exhausted. In reality, I know therapy is a process, and there’s no magical cure for anxiety — but there is one thing my therapist said that almost seemed to vanquish it entirely: “Feelings aren’t facts.”
Now, when I’m approaching the black hole that is my anxiety, I try to remind myself that my worries are often not based in truth.
I come to our bimonthly sessions with a slew of concerns. I’m worried one of my loved ones is annoyed with me. I’m worried I’m not doing enough. I’m worried I’m not qualified enough for a job I want. Anxiety is like a black hole that pulls us in deep as it tears us apart — and climbing out of it can feel impossible. Every thought seems real, serious, and grave.
So, while my therapist’s reminder that feelings aren’t facts doesn’t seem all that monumental or shocking now, it served as a beacon for me. It helped me realize that just because I worry something is true doesn’t mean it is; my worries could very well just be the voice of my mental illness trying to cast doubt. Now, when I’m approaching the black hole that is my anxiety, I try to remind myself that my worries are often not based in truth.
As tempting as it can be to try to ignore these anxieties completely, I’ve learned that we have to embrace what we’re feeling. Emotions serve a purpose, and that’s to tell us something. When we experience intrusive thoughts, we may be tempted to judge them or run from them, but this can cause us to ruminate on them even longer. Instead, my therapist has taught me to be curious about where the thought is coming from, to accept it, and to let it pass without judgement. This response is actually a part of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
If you’re also struggling with difficult emotions or anxieties, I encourage you to remind yourself that feelings aren’t facts, that you’re not alone, and that you shouldn’t judge yourself for feeling what you do. (I also encourage you to see a therapist if possible — there are tips for finding one here.) Yes, anxiety can feel like a powerful black hole sucking you deep inside of it. I still struggle with it daily. But changing our mindset can make it feel more manageable.