I’ve got to admit a failure to you. Except it isn’t one.
Every month this year, I have been doing a ‘scary thing’. Something that poses a genuine challenge to my anxiety. It started small, and it’s definitely escalated from there – July’s ‘scary thing’, which you’ll hear about soon, is the toughest yet. I’m incredibly proud of it – of what it’s done for me, and what I’ve managed as part of it.
But I need to tell you about June’s scary thing, where I went to yoga class, and why challenging yourself is not the same as forcing yourself through something you shouldn’t be doing.
So. Immediately after managing that first trial class, I bought £100 of lesson credit.
I was so excited! I had found a thing I could do, and it was going to be so good for my physical health, and I’d be getting out of the house more. I was going to be one of those brilliant, put-together people who went to yoga once a week and always completed their to-do lists.
I went to three more classes, and they were great too…only it was starting to get harder.
Those classes I went to weren’t consecutive. I would book a class every week, and then I would book off them, sometimes right up at the cut off (1 hour before). I was as scared about every single one of them as I was the first. I also enjoyed them all as much as the first.
In the days leading up to a yoga class, it was on my mind almost constantly. I worried about it and stressed about it and got, in some cases, severe physical symptoms from it. I worried about going to yoga more than I worried about doing this month’s scary thing. This month’s scary thing is terrifying.
After cancelling for the sixth time in a row, I realised I couldn’t do it anymore.
In fact this time I didn’t even manage to cancel. I got half an hour from the lesson – at the time I was meant to be leaving – and I was sat paralysed on my chair, knowing I had to do something to fix things. I didn’t want to be a failure. I didn’t want to waste all the money I’d spent.
But I knew, in my gut, that I couldn’t keep putting myself through this huge stress and anxiety just for an hour and fifteen minutes of enjoyment and exercise. I knew it was too much. I knew I couldn’t do it. And part of me, even in that moment of paralysis, was at peace with that failure.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes things don’t work for you even though you enjoy them. In the same way that you can have your dream job and still have days where you just hate it – you can like something but not be able to cope with it.
“It’s okay,” I told myself, as I changed out of my yoga clothes. “It’s not failing if you tried your hardest.”
And it isn’t. Really.
There are no refunds from credits, but I emailed asking for one anyway. I told them, honestly, that I wasn’t expecting anything. I needed to send that email so that I could truly feel I had tried my best. That I had attempted to resolve every facet of the situation. That I wasn’t a failure.
Something magical happened: they gave me a full refund. Not only this, but the head of the studio emailed me back with the kindest, most thoughtful email. She called me brave. She said to come back when I could, and that they would “teach [me] to fly again”.
I cried the moment that I read it, and I’m crying again now writing this post. Anxiety is isolating. Anxiety makes you feel like you are the only person in the world who can appreciate what you’re going through – and in a way, you are.
But the people around you can do something much easier than you. They can care for you, love you, be generous to you regardless. They can listen and accept and help.
They can only do that if you’re brave enough to be vulnerable.
So yes, this is an end for now, an acceptance for now, but it’s not a failure.
Because I’ve not only done something that scared me, and tried really hard to do it again. I’ve let people see my vulnerability in that moment. I’ve taken a risk. In this instance, it paid off, so very much. But honestly? I would still be content even if it hadn’t.
I hope that one day, I will be able to go and do this thing that I like without fear. It might seem like a small thing, but freedom is in the small things.
Fight for your small things. Sometimes, they matter most of all.