Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Addressing Anxiety

My head has improved to the point that I am having about 80% fewer emotional outbursts.*

*This is a total guesstimate bull-pucky percentage.

Of the remaining pissy-fits I throw, at least half of those are totally warranted. Tripping over the shoes I asked to have picked up five times that day, or finding out the captions I was expecting from my school weeks ago are going to be delayed (again!); these are valid reasons to get tense. It's the random and unexpected freak-outs that I'm not appreciating, the ones that seem come out of nowhere. It'll be about something small, like asking a stranger a question, or starting a project I'm unsure about, and I may be left crying and panicky for no real reason. I could take control in these situations, plunge forward through the fear and face it, and I often do, but sometimes I just can't.

I'm paralyzed and terrified and sick with anxiety and I don't even know why. Well, no, it's usually rather traceable if I can take a moment to think about the bigger picture, but regardless, the little things shouldn't be adding up to this dire, fearful situation. It should be mildly awkward, or maybe uncomfortable, or just a little inconvenient or unfamiliar, but once my DANGERDANGERDANGER hackles are up, I'm in fight or flight mode and the rest is some form of panic attack.

It's been more frequent lately, though maybe only twice a month. Still, that's way too often to feel out of control of my emotions and afraid of the world. So, I did what I always do when faced with a problem that not only baffles me, but frightens me, I turned to my lifelong source of advice and comfort: books. In my first venture into self-help anxiety research, at our local, rather rural library, I found one book that told me absolutely nothing more than I already know. It did remind me that phobias are tied to anxiety, which OBVIOUSLY, but I do let my fear of spiders and other creepy-crawlies get the better of me, and I need to start addressing that. I've already run across some cognitive therapy techniques that I've found useful, recognizing negative thoughts and redirecting them has been helpful, for example, so that may be something to try next time a massive mosquito-eater obsessively flies in my face. (Hi, there are no mosquitoes in my nose, I promise.) I'm going to keep researching how to implement these techniques, in the library and online, because the more I know about a problem, the better I feel.

I've resisted getting real therapy. It's too far, it'll make my head hurt, we can't afford it, I'm not that bad off; I've got at least a dozen more if you want to hear them. They're all true, but some of them are less valid than others, and I'm kidding myself if I don't acknowledge that I'm a little too quick with the thousand-million reasons why not.

I got therapy when I was a kid, my parents went through a nasty custody battle in which I suppose I was a little scarred, but mostly it was a bizarre adventure for me. I have some vivid memories of my time with the psychologist, she was kind, I played with toys and we talked. She promised me that everything we said in our sessions was private, she wouldn't tell my parents. I remember so clearly the feeling of shock and betrayal when, in a joint session, the counselor revealed something to my mom that I didn't want her to know. I don't remember what it was, just that I felt deceived and stupid for having trusted her. It was like a punch in the chest, and I can feel it again writing this down. I know not all shrinks are like that, I know that revealing that small detail, whatever it was, probably didn't change anything significant in my life, but I also know that was a defining moment for me.

I realized then that I couldn't trust people by default, that I'd have to be more careful. I realized then that honesty and privacy were not to be taken for granted, and that once I let a thought out into the world, it was no longer only mine. Anyone could repeat it, use it against me, or deface it. I hold my beliefs and my emotions close, as a consequence, and while I try to be outspoken and brave, I've always got a rock of fear in my belly, reminding me that I'm never really safe.

Yeah, trust issues, I guess. But as long as I see myself making progress under my own volition, which I am, I can justify my reluctance.


Migrainista said...

I'm that way with spiders and other creepy crawlers too. And sometimes for no reason I can think of my chest will tighten and my breath will become quick and shallow. Scary stuff. Glad you are making progress :)