You Don't Always Knock Down The Mountain.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

“You have social anxiety?” people ask.  “After all these years?  You need to get to therapy, man.  If you’d done the proper therapy, you’d have no anxiety at all!”
No.  I’ve been in and out of therapy and thirty years, and all the talking cures and medications and hands-on exercises have yet to remove the pre-convention jitters I get whenever I have to go out in public.
I merely have found ways to work around that anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong; I get no thrill from having the full-body, heebie-jeebie quivers.  I don’t enjoy spending the next two days after every social gathering endlessly rehashing every conversation I had, noting all the ways I’ve humiliated myself.  None of this is fun, and I have worked as hard as I humanly can to flense myself of these joyless traits.
Yet it’s been thirty years, twenty therapists, probably close to $100,000 in costs at this point.  I’m pretty sure if there was a way to remove my anxiety, this anxiety would be removed.
Given that it’s not going away, it’s far better to work around it.
I think of my anxiety as a looming mountain, tall enough that men have died on its slopes, billions of tons of rock.  I am at the base with a shovel and an axe, with armchair therapists everywhere telling me to just shovel that mountain away!
Men have died on the mountain’s steep slope.
They have also died trying to cart away a mountain, bucketful by bucketful.
Yet I don’t have to destroy the mountain in order to get to the other side.  I can be smarter and map the mountain’s every craggy peak, note the deathfalls that are all but impassable, scout the mountain until I find the least treacherous paths.  I can find the paths that work best for getting over this damned thing and invest some time and effort into building nice bridges over the ravines, driving pitons into some of the steeper cliff-faces to make them easier to climb up.
As as the years pass, I can gain skill and expertise in learning how to get past this goddamned inconvenient heap of rock with the greatest possible speed.  It’s not that the mountain will disappear, but that eventually it’ll be just another everyday thing to be handled – put on my shoes, brush my teeth, climb the mountain, get drinks with my friends.
And some days the storms will swirl, and the mountain will be impassable, and that’ll be a miserable day but I’ll refuse to blame myself overmuch.  I didn’t ask for this fucking mountain in my path.  I have spent my life battling the mountain.  Almost every day I clamber over an obstacle so vast that most folks couldn’t even imagine facing it, and if these mountain-free fuckers had to face these sharp peaks before venturing out the door they’d probably not even know where to start, so I take a fierce pride in my skills.
I didn’t ask for the mountain, but by God most days I manage it.  Some days I don’t.  No shame in that.
And I look around, and some people have much smaller hills standing before their doorstep.  With therapy, they can dismantle this landscape and make for a smooth path, which is why it’s not a bad thing to at least try to dig the mountain down.  Sometimes, when you’re standing at the foot of the mountain, it looks much bigger than it is.  Sometimes a little shovelwork’ll get you through.
But for me?  It’s been thirty years, like I said.  The mountain’s no smaller.
Yet in those thirty years, I’ve gotten to be much bigger.  And stronger.  And I won’t let a fucking mountain get in my way most days.

1 Comment

  1. Alexis
    May 1, 2015

    I really like this analogy. I get something similar–people constantly tell me I’m too sensitive, etc. “Just be less sensitive!” they say. “Try not to care!” Yeah…except I do care. I could pretend I don’t care, but then I’m just lying. I can develop strategies so that I can deal with my sensitivity in healthy ways, and sometimes part of that strategy is knowing when I can’t deal with something.
    It’s frustrating that people have such a hard time imagining life from a different perspective. I’m left-handed, and I’ve actually had righties act like it’s weird, impossible, or wrong to us my left hand for things instead of my right. It’s not a crime to be different. Why not play to your strengths, and accept you have some personal limitations that mean you do things differently than most people?

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