In my old blog, I talked about pajamas a lot. The thing is, I live in pajamas. It has nothing to do with depression, I just love pajamas. I started wearing pajamas out and about because I realized anxiety doesn’t get as bad if I feel comfortable in my clothes. I mean, anxiety makes you uncomfortable in your own skin, so why not surround that uncomfortable skin with softness and loose clothings?
It started with wearing pajamas to Wawa when I’d get my daily coke and smokes. Admittedly, it was laziness that started the trend, but a wisdom emerged. No one noticed me. No one gave me funny looks or started discussing me covertly. I would just get my coke and smokes. I began seeing how far away I’d be willing to go in my pajamas, because I used to not really like leaving my house. I used to work from home, so I never actually needed to get dressed.
Anxiety always tells me how everyone is looking at me. I project my own self criticism and judgement on random strangers. I think the biggest lie of anxiety is if you worry about it, you’ll be better prepared when the worst happens. The truth is: when you inevitably prove yourself right, you still feel like crap. Pajamas helped me realize no one looks at me. Everyone else is busy buying hoagies, cigarettes, or sodas. I’m literally another random face in a crowd of faces.
Recently, I went kayaking in my pajamas. I was weirdly anxious about kayaking because I guess anything new is imminent danger as visions of me falling in the lake danced through my head. Legitimately, I just forgot to get out of my pajamas and put on suitable clothes for kayaking. But kayaking in my pajamas showed me again it doesn’t matter. Everything that buzzes around my noisy brain is just noise. I didn’t fall in the lake, and lightweight PJs are delightful on a hot day on the lake.
I don’t know that Jesus was necessarily directing people to wear pajamas when he said to give no thought to your raiments, but it’s great advice. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, nobody cares. Anxiety cares, but I am more than my raiments and I am more than anxiety too. Every time I challenge the thoughts in my head with reality, I see how meaningless thoughts are.
Anxiety is hyper self focus projected on to others. It feels like all eyes are on you even when no one sees you. One of my biggest fears used to be driving, and part of it was I thought everyone was criticizing my driving and watching me. It wasn’t until I forced myself to drive 5 hours north to Long Island and sit in New York traffic that I realized I am driving like everyone else. I’m just another person contributing to traffic.
The cool thing about anxiety is, if you can shift your focus, you can be one of the most compassionate people in the world. Anxiety boils down to stories we tell ourselves about ourself and others. I tell myself someone thinks I’m an idiot or whatever. What I can also do is step outside of myself and tell stories about other people. Maybe the person honked at me not because I suck but because they’re late for work and could get in trouble. Maybe the person passing me in Wawa is having a bad day and I can say hello and smile instead of looking at the ground and shuffling.
Anyone can apply all the creative thinking anxiety creates to actual creativity. I wouldn’t have done this pajama experiment otherwise and it helped me. I wouldn’t have had the idea to road trip to my best friend if I wasn’t terrified of driving. When anxiety is all self directed, it feels like a weight on your mind and chest. It’s like wearing a cement dress in a sprint. But, if that intense self focus can be redirected, it’s kind of a super power in understanding other people. You’re more sensitive because you know how hard it is to feel comfortable in your own skin.
The creativity we use to lie to ourselves can be applied to challenging our thoughts and perceptions. It can also be used to be a better person. Our minds don’t know the difference between expressive creativity and oppressive creativity. We can always change the track in our brains, and we can find the good in every challenge and situation. I’m not trying to say just think positive, that’s another oppressive creativity. I am saying: find the ways to be yourself and express yourself. So much of our anxiety is actually repressed emotion and expression. All the things we could have or should have pile up in our minds and manifest with sweaty palms, racing thoughts, and crazy heart pounding.
It takes a bit of effort and practice to start questioning your thoughts. Some struggle to even recognize the thoughts are present. I’ve found, though, the more I hold my head up, look into peoples’ eyes, smile, and say hello: I’ve seen a lot of people smiling back and not laughing at me. Our brains lie to us. Our brains do not connect us with reality, because reality isn’t words. It’s experience. Reality is walking around in pajamas because I’m teaching myself to always be comfortable in my own skin and sometimes I need Santa Claus jammies to do it. One milestone at a time.
(And of course, if pajamas are inappropriate for the occasion, there’s always yoga pants…)