Sometimes what seems silly in life is actually significant. I rode an elevator fifteen floors by myself a month back. It wasn’t one of those newer high tech ones that flash up the floors. It was an old elevator in an older building and it made some weird noises at times.
For most people this is not a big deal. For me it was huge because a few years ago I would not stay in a hotel room that was above the sixth or seventh floor. I would only take the stairs and if I had to go into the elevator I would hold my breath until I got off it while squashing down the sheer panic rising up in my chest.
What made it even more significant was that I already was anxious on this particular evening. I had left a conference dinner because I was tired, and overwhelmed with people. Normally this would have led to a freak out. I didn’t. I left calmly. I didn’t have a melt down about the elevator. I calmed myself and rode it to the top floor where our room was located. There wan not a single person around. Victory.
If you struggle with anxiety and panic attacks you know how this can go down. It can get pretty ugly, very fast. If you know someone who struggles with anxiety you’ve watched it play out first hand. My MO is to lash out (usually with my husband, sometimes my kids) like a frightened animal. I become snarly and prickly. Once I feel safe, I withdraw. Lick my wounds. It’s no fun for anyone.
That’s why the small victories mean so much. It’s baby steps but they eventually lead to big steps, which turns into running and finally leaping. Small victories start to build a foundation in our minds that we can do this. We have done it and we can do it again. It’s a positive in a world of negatives and lies.
It’s not just about anxiety. Whatever you’re struggling with, small battles won are hard battles won. It’s worth getting excited about. Take a minute and savour the accomplishment. You know how hard you fought for it.
Each little victory also marks off how far we’ve come. Looking over even the last four months, there are a handful of small successes that show me the distance I’ve travelled. Things, a year ago, I would never been able to do without a fit or gnashing of teeth, have been navigated quite well. Not perfectly, mind you. Is there still fear? Yes, but it’s not the vicious dictator it once was.
Why am I writing about this? Because I want you to know that becoming healthy is a journey. It’s a long hard road that requires a lot of work. Trial and error. And patience for everyone who is involved. But it’s worth it in the end. The small victories need to be celebrated. You should be proud of yourself. If it’s a loved one who is battling, you should be proud of them and yourself. It takes courage for both parties to stay on the front lines.
Small victories produce hope. Bit by bit, they also bring about change. That’s what I’m excited about. Life has changed drastically over the last three years. Instead of being a prisoner locked behind four walls of fear, anger, disappointment and depression, I have started to breathe again, take baby steps and a few running leaps. It’s a scary awesome feeling!
Yet some days I go back to that prison. But the thing that’s changed is I know the way out. And that makes all the difference. For me. For my loved ones.
One day I hope to lock that prison door and throw away the key. Until then I will celebrate the small victories.
What baby steps or running leaps are you celebrating today?