In the spirit of candor, I will say that I suffer from pretty severe anxiety. So much so, that simple tasks which may seem mundane to the average individual become extremely difficult for me. Case and point:
For the July 4th holiday, I was off from work and school beginning Thursday all through the weekend. My sweet J decided that it may be a great opportunity to go out and get some well-deserved sun while still avoiding the crowds, so he planned a little day trip to Venice Beach. This was an amazing idea…in theory. Our problems began early on. It is important to note that J HATES Los Angeles traffic. Being originally from the South, he has had the luxury of open roads and continuously fluid driving, and any Angeleno knows that is impossible to find in SoCal. So when we had to sit in 2 hour traffic just to get to the beach (a drive that should have only taken us half the time), he was already less than pleased.
When we finally made it to Venice, we were both starving, so we quickly found a great Greek spot and chowed down. All was well so far – I was enjoying the quality time, the interesting scenery, the scrumptious mushroom gyro I was devouring like my life depended on it, and J’s spirits greatly improved with a full stomach. Then, however, his master plan led us to the bike rental shop. This is where the anxiety started to creep into my head. I haven’t ridden a bicycle in at least 10 years! Would I still remember how? They say you never forget how to pedal and keep yourself upright, but I am not the most coordinated person. This would never work. I could already feel my palms begin to sweat.
But I bit the bullet because J looked so excited and pleased with himself for coming up with an out-of-routine date, and there was no way I was going to be the reason his smile disappeared. Thus, before I knew it, I was straddling my bike on the Venice path, hands gripping the bars for dear life, just about to hyperventilate. J took off, and I had no choice but to follow or waste the money he spent. So I went. Initially, I got the hang of the pedaling and the movement; however, any time I tried to steer in a particular direction, I felt as though I ended up going the opposite way! J tried my bike and found nothing wrong, so he then switched to coaching me through the process. But it wasn’t working. He wasn’t understanding me or why I was in distress. Every time I wanted to turn, I felt like I was going to tip over, and my anxiety was growing heavier and heavier like an unseen weight upon my chest.
I crashed into a wall, hurt myself, but still continued to try because I didn’t want to disappoint J. He had taken the time to plan an amazing day, sat in unbearable traffic, and paid money for this experience. I couldn’t let him down, and I couldn’t let him see that I wasn’t up to handle something as simple as biking. So I kept going. I kept pedaling. I kept attempting to control my anxiety, to tell it to shut up. But it just wouldn’t leave me alone. It finally came to a point where I was on the verge of tears. My hands and arms were shaking from the strain and my jaw hurt from grinding my teeth. It was then that I realized that I had, HAD to stand up for myself. I had to trust that J loved me enough to understand even if he was disappointed. So I pulled over, jumped off my bike, and stood on solid ground. Once he noticed I was no longer behind him, he circled back and came to rest right beside me. With my eyes cast down I explained, “Babe, I’m so sorry, but I can’t do this. My anxiety is through the roof, and I am not enjoying myself. I need to stop.” Thankfully, J completely understood and was more than kind about the whole situation.
As a Codependent, that statement right there was a result of a year or so of intentional recovery and conscious striving for growth. Prior to my CoDA days, I would have never thought to speak up for what I wanted, or needed in a situation, especially if it indicated a “weakness” in my perfect armor. As long as my partner was happy, I was too (even though what I was really feeling was hurt, fatigue, anxiety, etc.). But I know now how unhealthy that is, and especially since i started this blog, I have been motivated to take even bigger strides towards managing my Codependency.
I am extremely proud of myself for not only recognizing my feelings and needs, but also for speaking up for them. It may seem like a small step, but I feel as though I took a great leap towards a new lifestyle, one that is not dominated by my fears of being rejected and seeming imperfect.
There may be a day when I will conquer the world of bicycle riding, but until then, I know that I am not powerless and will not be forced into it until I am ready.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is my Freedom for the week.