I have been watching Born This Way, an excellent show on A&E that follows young adults with Down Syndrome. The episode I watched tonight was Dream Come True. A young lady was competing in her first ballroom dance competition, an endeavor which made her parents nervous when she insisted on pursuing it. They were afraid it was too hard for her, afraid she would fail and be crushed. I realized that I have these same dynamics at play in my head all the time.

I have always been mortified by the possibility of being embarrassed. This posing the most debilitating stumbling blocks when I want to try new things. In my heart is the voice of that girl telling me I can do it and in my head are the overprotective parents saying “No, no, no. This may not work out, you’re not ready, you’ll be humiliated.” Everything from moving to a new city to trying a new piece of equipment at the gym gets put through that ringer. Everything I have ever accomplished was despite being terrified and I’m proud of that but it’s also sad how much I have missed out on because anxiety had me trapped in a hall of mirrors.

I find it interesting that drinking at first calmed my anxiety and put a nice hazy filter on social interaction. It allowed me freedom from the most unkind form of self-consciousness but then it just straight up swiped my power. I became incredibly self-conscious about drinking…do the neighbors look close enough in my recycling bin to see the glass on the bottom, is anyone counting the drinks I have at a party (hence I would have one or none), can anyone smell last night’s alcohol in my skin the morning after? Talk about bait and switch.

I am jealous of people like my brother who seem to have not an ounce of self-consciousness. He will dance anytime, anyplace. He can make friends within days (hours?) of arriving to a new locale. His life seems so rich because he is not hindered by anxiety. Or maybe he just overcomes it better, I don’t really know. I do know that comparing myself to others has never led anywhere good but it is a habit apparently even deeper than drinking.

The young adults on Born This Way have a very defined disability, “limitations” that they put blood, sweat and tears into overcoming. One of the ladies has a real fear of crowds, loud noises and new experiences. One has difficulty controlling her temper. One of the men has a rarer form of Down Syndrome which leaves him sort of between the typicals and the D.S. and he seems to struggle with not being exactly typical or exactly D.S. I can relate to all of these things.

My “limitation” is anxiety and mentally brutalizing myself. I have given my disadvantages too much power. I have been wasting a lot of my gifts being fixated on my flaws. The show reminds me that we all have our struggles to overcome and that the battle is won or lost on attitude. Showing society that all people share common struggles is probably part of why they allow cameras in their lives. I want to be like Christina and learn ballroom dancing! Ok, not ballroom dancing but SOMETHING. Anything I want to do, I need to stay sober because drinking exacerbates my anxiety and anxiety steals my life experiences. I am not going to feed my disadvantages anymore, I am going to nourish my gifts. That’s the plan. Even though I’m not entirely sure how to develop it. Step one is leave the bottle alone. 

 

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