There’s a saying that goes:
“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
I think it comes from the Bible or something, but I’m not exactly sure. To be honest, I didn’t know about the saying or its meaning until my therapist explained to me what high functioning anxiety and depression were.
Growing up I found it difficult to keep my hands still. My body constantly felt restless because my mind was always moving. I picked up instruments, eagerly accepted challenges, and was stimulated by new opportunities. I figured that if I just kept myself occupied with something, anything, my thoughts would stop rattling in my head. Back then I didn’t see that as anxiety, I just saw it as boredom and curiosity.
As I got older, I became extremely passionate about my craft. I was always working multiple jobs, had multiple projects happening at the same time, and was always on the hunt for a new opportunity. I pushed myself many times past the point of exhaustion. I didn’t see my workload as a distraction from crippling thoughts. I just saw it as tenacity to further my career in the industry I loved so much.
My therapist explained to me that people who show signs of high functioning anxiety and depression often busy themselves so they don’t have to think. After that, I realized that the shadows I was keeping at bay all this time had names.
You see, when there are deadlines to meet because a band is going on tour soon, there’s no time to think about how every outstretched hand looks ready to curl itself around your neck. When you have to wake up the next morning for an 18-hour workday, there’s no time to spend the night before wondering why there’s this hollow feeling in your chest. When there are client meetings lined up, there’s no time to think how terrified you are some mornings to leave your bed.
I didn’t see these as internal struggles because everyone else around me perceived them as achievements. So, I kept at that deteriorating lifestyle and moved on to bigger and better projects. My friends and family praised me. They didn’t see it as distracting myself; they saw it as career development. It’s not like I could blame them either because I started using their assumptions as an excuse to isolate myself. Working all the time meant that friends would leave you alone because they assumed you were too busy to hang out anyway. I was relieved.
That was, until my shadows crept so close that they loomed over me and when I looked around I couldn’t find a comforting hand to hold. I had come to a point in my life where I had successfully isolated myself from friends and family because I was so busy being busy. I felt uncomfortable reaching out because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone with how I was really doing. I was too afraid of letting anyone in through the walls I had built up.
But I know now, that’s not healthy. Everyone deserves a support system and that support system deserves to know how you honestly feel.
My therapist said that there’s apparently a second half to that saying. The full phrase is:
“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.”
I’m not exactly sure what the actual second half means, but my own takeaway is that if you don’t confide in anyone with what you’re really going through, you’ll only end up telling them lies. Half-truths. Excuses. It’s so important not only to reach out, but to let people in.
Lately, I’ve gotten better at letting people know when I’m not doing okay, when I need to be by myself, and when I need a shoulder to lean on. Every day is still me grappling to keep my composure, but now I feel more at ease knowing I have people I can turn to.
These people remind me that yes, the shadows have names, but those names are not my own.
Monique Doron is a giggly graphic designer for the music industry and is currently a designer for Riot Fest Music Festival. She’s a lover of grilled cheese, mozzarella sticks, and most definitely your dog.
Twitter: @__inday (two underscores)
Instagram: @_inday (one underscore)