A strange title and an even stranger analogy you might be thinking, but let me explain before you go. I suffer from severe anxiety and it affects me daily. It’s always a struggle to explain why I can’t just see the reason and logic like everybody else and believe things are going to be okay. So I compared it to an ant in a herd of elephants. It’s not a comparison you’re just going to understand unexplained but once you do understand it, I think it’s a pretty good way to imagine it, or it is for me at least.
So lets begin with the ant. He represents the logic in a situation, the thing most likely to happen and things being alright once this worrying event has passed.
Then come the elephants, they represent the anxiety, all the worries and ‘what if’s’ that float about and cloud our minds.
This bit is where the analogy makes a little bit of sense, hopefully!
I (an anxiety sufferer) and someone without anxiety are each looking at a wide open plain. They can see the ant clearly on their plain and they know exactly where he is because there are no elephants in the way, nothing to block the view. Maybe sometimes he hides under a leaf so they can’t see him for a while but more or less he’s always there.
Then there’s my plain, never without an elephant and often with so many crowding it, it becomes hard to see the ground at all. Where’s the ant? There are hoards of elephants and there’s no hope of seeing the ant in there. It seems like he doesn’t exist at all, and I may give up finding him in favour of being swept up by the herd of elephants. The other person can’t see these elephants, can’t understand why I can’t pick out the ant in the plain.
When people say ‘it’s going to be okay’ to me it’s the equivalent of that other person pointing vaguely into my melee of elephants and saying ‘the ant is right there, look’. It doesn’t make any difference. I can’t see the ant just because you say he’s there. I can’t believe he’s there if I’ve never seen him.
If the elephants left, I’d see the ant, and I would believe it would be okay. But they never leave and so the ant is always out of sight and I am always worried. And that is how trying to stay calm and logical with anxiety is like trying to see an ant in a herd of elephants. You just can’t. But maybe one day those elephants will wander off and I’ll see my ant again. I can only hope.