Updated: Nov 27, 2020
I am part of a problem of forgetting, and hiding, our problematic experiences of anxiety. As if remembering, and communicating, our problematic anxiety rendered us socially toxic. This absence is a significant problem because what cannot be remembered tends to be repeated. So in this blog I will remember, and communicate, some of my struggles with anxiety. My feelings while writing this blog included embarrassment, nausea, guilt and shame. Before relief at sharing my experience and creating a new memory. I will begin with remembering my childhood anxiety.
My childhood, and early adulthood, were often dominated by fear. A fear that I, or that those I loved, would come to harm. An overbearing sense of responsibility for my own, and other people's, well being. Dreaming of being crushed by huge uncontrollable objects. So at times I would feel paralysed by anxiety. Paradoxically fearing both joining in, by attaching to other people, and of missing out, by being left alone. Nowhere felt safe enough.
I found myself avoiding difficult conversations, standing up for myself, learning sign language, saying what I needed and protecting others from harm. Not doing the things I knew to be right. Feeling too sacred to do them. This, unsurprisingly, led to feelings of guilt and shame. The beginnings of a depression I have described in another blog.
It took me a long time to learn that my avoidance was actually making my anxiety worse. Feeding a sense of helplessness that only reduced when I did what I was actually scared of. In this way I began to place my fears back into my subconscious in a different form. Internalising good enough experiences of dealing with my anxiety. So turning dealing with anxiety into a different set of habits.
Habits that now include preparing myself for the reality that there will always be part of myself I will not be totally proud of. For example identifying and acknowledging my unconscious biases without the need to blame myself for them. Anxiety is now also a prompt for me to manage situations differently. When I am in fear for my physical safety. Saying to the other person ‘I am scared of you.’ Letting the other person have the power to influence me but also the responsibility that comes with that power. Remembering not to run away or act out. Instead modulating my anxious emotions and communicating them. A parallel to writing this blog.
Another good habit, for me, has become using my anxiety about financial, and professional, security as a daily motivator for me. To work both hard and consistently. Acting constructively on the prompt from my feelings. Finally both anxiety, and an awareness of its absence, has also become a useful brake on some of my behaviours. Paradoxically, reminding me, that things do not automatically change because I feel anxious but that they always could, even if I don't feel anxious. For example this means me stopping what I am doing if I get too excited, and not anxious about the consequences, when teasing. Recognising the limitations of our emotions to predict the future.
Both scared and excited
This blog has reminded me of how disabling anxiety has been in my life. It has also reminded me of the ways anxiety has helped me and the number of ways I can manage problematic anxiety in the future. I hope you have found, my brief account, of my experience of problematic anxiety, helpful and I wonder about yours.