‘What’ and ‘if’ are generally very non-threatening words when on their own. But, when put side by side they suddenly become a very loaded question.
Suffering from anxiety, I fall victim to the constant “what if?” battle. It has gotten so much more controllable for me to handle since I started therapy and medication which has made a world of difference for my quality of life. But let’s rewind to just over a year ago when I was at my worst. Back then, the struggle of the “well what if this happens, and then this happens because of that?”, would send me snowballing into panic oblivion.
Now, if I find myself slipping back into the “what if” cycle I can talk my way out of it thanks to the things I have learned from my therapist. But, that’s not to say that I still don’t give in to it now and again. We all do, because we are human.
A Bumpy Journey
In general, the what ifs of our lives tend to hold us back from opportunities and adventures. I know that I have on many occasions been held back by them.
My entire life I felt held back by my fears of what other people thought of me, or the fear of failure. My anxiety and OCD which i have talked about before did not help this. I truly cared what people’s opinions were of me, and after being the subject of some pretty cruel bullying in my delicate middle school years, it was, “What if they make fun of me?” that I feared most. All I wanted was to fit in; standing out to me was bad.
By the time I graduated high school I had more confidence in myself, but it would be short lived as during my freshman semester at Utah State University I would be a victim of sexual assault mere weeks after starting school. The trauma of that incident, coupled with the persecution and threats I received afterwards by people who I thought were my friends made me feel like I was to blame. This spiraled me down a very dark path for a while. I once again had no self confidence and zero drive to take any risks. I wanted no chance of standing out. What ifs once again ruled my life.
Marriage, Motherhood, and Medication
One of the reasons I loved Jess so much from the start is that I never once felt judged by him for anything I had done in my life. When he and I met, I was still quite a mess from my freshman year at Utah State. He made it easy to be myself, and not be fearful of what he thought of me. Pretty early on in our relationship I felt my walls come down, and for the first time in a long time, I felt safe with someone.
He was just what I needed to “get my groove back” that summer, but I never dreamed we would end up getting married a year and a half later. It was a decision though, I have never questioned or regretted. There were zero of those pesky “what ifs” with him.
Three years later, our first child was born and I was plunged into motherhood. I love being a mom, despite how hard it has been for my mental health. My anxiety came back with a vengeance when I was pregnant, and I suffered postpartum anxiety like nobody’s business. It got increasingly worse with each pregnancy, and by the time my youngest was born, and he was rushed to the NICU because he was turning blue I suffered a nervous- breakdown in the maternity wing. It’s not my best moment, I’ll admit. I had come unhinged to a spectacular degree. My body physically shook for 8 hours afterwards.
That night taught me a lot about how connected moms are to their children- even just hours after birth. My doctor came and checked me over and heavily sedated me so I could calm down. He then advised that I be discharged and would recover easier at home. I joke with Jess to this day that they didn’t want to handle my crazy anymore so they sent me home!
I love my children and have been very blessed that I have not had to work and can stay home with them. Being a mom though, is not easy and it’s natural to compare yourself to other moms. I found myself doing this, and those little “what ifs” crept their way in. “What if I’m not doing a good job?”, “What if my kids aren’t learning enough?”, and “What if they grow up to resent me?” were all questions I would ask myself. These what ifs did nothing but make me feel inadequate which of course was not the case.
It’s easy to compare ourselves to others. I have come to realize though is that we as moms do what we can for our kids. Our best, even though it may not feel like it, is enough and our kids love us no matter what.
What If It Was a Good Thing?
The what ifs of life are inevitable. A valuable change of perspective that I have learned is that what ifs can be positive! Here’s an example:
“What if I try and fail?” (Negative)
“What if you try and learn something new about yourself?” (Positive)
Like in the example, it’s easy to fear failure. Putting yourself out there is so scary. If you choose to switch the focus from on how it didn’t work out this time, to what went right or what you learned, it will be a much different experience.
I have always loved this quote:
“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”
It’s such a great reminder that the failures will be inevitable, but we should focus on what could go right instead of what could go wrong. Changing your paradigm to a positive one no matter what will be a life changer. I know it has been for me.
Being a blogger and an influencer has been scary for me. Like I’ve said, putting yourself out there for the world to judge is scary. There are plenty of what ifs that have tried to hold me back. “What if no one reads my blogs?”, “What if I’m just not as popular as other influencers?”, and “What if people think I’m a joke?” are just a few. There also have been, and will be trolls who live to tear others down. I’ve experienced my share of them already, and it’s extremely hurtful if you allow it to hurt you.
I chose to be brave and put myself out there despite all these doubts and fears. It’s still scary for me, but I have learned so much about myself from pushing through and doing what I really want to do. My what ifs have started to turn positive. “What if my blog helps someone who’s struggling?”, “What if I inspire others?”, and “What if I actually succeed?”.
Honestly, you’ll never know the answer to any of those what ifs unless you take that leap of faith and try. Go ahead, you may just surprise yourself.
The Raw Brunette