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My experience of anxiety

Updated: Dec 3, 2023


Our mother by Grayson Perry. Souvenirs of pilgrimage, which we all take with us to remind ourselves and show others.  So made he two cast iron figures titled “our father” and the other one “our mother” whom are a couple of pilgrims on the road of history.
'Our mother' by Grayson Perry. Souvenirs of pilgrimage, which we all take with us to remind ourselves and show others.

I am part of the problem of forgetting experiences of anxiety. As if remembering anxiety made it more likely to be repeated. In fact, what cannot be remembered is actually more likely to be repeated (Freud, 2006.) So in this blog I will remember some of my struggles with anxiety. In order to create additional helpful memories of my anxious experiences. My feelings while writing this blog included anxiety, embarrassment, guilt and shame. Clear signs I need a more helpful memory of my anxiety. I will begin this process by 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. I would feel paralysed by anxiety. Fearing both joining in (by attaching to other people) and missing out (by being left alone.) In short, nowhere felt safe enough.


I also found myself avoiding difficult conversations, not standing up for myself, not learning sign language, not saying what I needed too and failing to protect others from harm. Not doing the things I knew to be right because I felt too scared to do them. Unsurprisingly, this avoidance led to feelings of guilt and shame. With hindsight the beginnings of a depression I have described in another blog.


The anxiety, of my early years, also helped me distract from other certainties in life. For example mortality, frustration, loss and incompleteness. Anxiety was a short term solution that when overused actually made these certainties more difficult to accept. In sum, over time, my anxiety became a bit like a rocking horse. It gave me something to do but didn't actually get me very far.


It took me a long time to learn that my avoidance was actually making my anxiety worse (Jeffers, 2012.) 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, acknowledging and compensating for my unconscious biases (Ratliff & Smith, 2021.) Anxiety is now also a prompt for me to manage situations differently.


For example when I am in fear for my physical safety. I say 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 tempering 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. 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. To conclude I reflect on how anxiety has led me to be both scared and excited at different times in my life.


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, excited me and how I can manage problematic anxiety in the future. I hope you have found my account of anxiety helpful and I wonder about yours?


References


Freud, S. (2006). The Penguin Freud Reader. Penguin UK.


Jeffers, S. (2012). Feel the fear and do it anyway. Random House.


Ratliff, K. A., & Smith, C. T. (2021). Lessons from two decades of Project Implicit. A Handbook of Research on Implicit Bias and Racism. APA Books.


n.b. I have also collated a list of other free resources on anxiety I have found helpful. You can find them here : CLICK HERE


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