I want to talk about what is at the root of (at least my) anxiety. I think that pain and shame are the main causes. And really, you could say it’s just pain, but for sake of explanation lets say they are two separate things.
I have been working with my counselor in regards to my anxiety. Recently we have dived deeper into the “what are you really afraid of” line of thinking to try and attack the problem at its source. I came up with answers, mostly ones that had to do with dying alone, but that didn’t feel quite right.
And then I had a couple of hard weeks that were filled with places I had never been before, interacting with many people, and generally doing all the stuff that makes me anxious.
The effects were immediate and obvious. I had four anxiety attacks in six days. When I have an anxiety attack it hurts. My bones feel like I am chewing on tin foil. My chest feels like the empty socket left with a tooth is pulled, sore and bleeding. My skin feels like I just had a good scrubbing with sandpaper. My ears tickle with the sound of nails drawn along a chalkboard.
And then of course there is the sense of impending doom. Like I am in a scary movie and the killer’s theme song just started to play. I can hear the music, but I can’t see the knife.
So, what did I learn through my observations these last two weeks? My anxiety attacks happen, not during an activity, but after the fact and I experience them as physical pain. Looking at it like that, well of course I don’t want to go anywhere. Not because I am scared of what will happen while I am out, but because I am scared of the pain I will experience afterwards.
If I happen to embarrass myself while I am out, that simply means the pain will last longer. The memory will preserve itself in shame so it can pop up later and I can relive it over and over.
But even if everything goes fine, I am going to pay a price for social interaction, and I will pay it with pain.
So, what do I do? Well, I think I have been working that out the last few years. I have a strict schedule that I have created for myself. I make sure not to plan too many things in one day. I spread out appointments so I don’t get overwhelmed. I take time to do self-care, I get extra sleep, I meditate, and I take time to be alone. I also try to eat right and get exercise. I go to therapy. I have a support system of people who care about me.
But sometimes, there are things that have to get done that don’t fit into my schedule. Sometimes the unexpected happens and I have to handle it. Sometimes I don’t get the time I need to recharge. Sometimes I forget to do the things that are good for me. Sometimes the things that are good for me seem too hard and I fall back into unhealthy patterns and start to spiral out.
Someone told me once that the measure of success is not what you can continue to accomplish everyday, but what you are able to accomplish after a failure.
Sure, running everyday is good. And the more you do it the easier it is to do. But things happen, life happens, and you will be forced to stop running at some point. It is in that moment, when you have to start all over, that your real strength is revealed.
I think about this a lot. It helps me get back up when I have fallen down. These last two weeks have been a slow fall. But I am up again, and I am moving forward.
Until next time…