Wanna know what my anxiety looks like?
I had an unpleasant moment at work today, then later realised I’d spent the entire day on edge as a result of that one moment. For the whole day I was slightly teary, heart pounding, wanting to punish or numb myself, and counting the minutes until I could get out of there. I felt frozen to the spot and terrified of opening my mouth – just hoping the earth would swallow me whole. This is a scenario I am all too familiar with.
If my anxiety levels are peaked – for whatever reason – little blips hit me hard. Today wasn’t a big deal – it really wasn’t. Most people would just call it a perfectly normal day – and on many occasions I would too – but when anxiety has come to roost in my hen house, things are different.
I don’t blow the issue out of proportion – I just feel like I’ve been felled by an emotional hammer, but instead of just getting up, looking around and realising everything is perfectly fine, I get up, look around, and wait in readiness for the next blow. Constantly waiting for another blow – like a cowering dog.
That’s how I felt all day – like a cowering dog.
That’s what anxiety does. It sucks.
Next week I could have the exact same day and I’ll come home and realise what a great day I had. But right now it isn’t next week so I’m ruminating on why I was so upset over nothing. And me being upset over nothing is upsetting in and of itself – because nobody likes a wuss (so I’ve been told). And I certainly don’t want to live in a world where people need to walk on eggshells around me for fearing of upsetting my delicate nature. I would hate that.
I want to be “normal” – whatever that means… I want to be able to challenge panic, distress, fear, obsession, and a cowering dog demeanour, with common sense and perspective. My enormous bag of tricks and tools and really great ways of dealing with stuff, is of no fricking use to me if I just keep collecting things and throwing them in the bag. Every now and then I need to fish a tool out and actually use it.
So I’m mentally going through my list of tools and wondering what I could have done differently today.
Although before I catalogue everything I’ve ever learned – just for your reading pleasure – let me say I did actually make a conscious decision not to let things blow even more out of proportion today. My immediate reaction was to self-harm – I didn’t. I didn’t even contemplate it for very long. My next reaction was to binge and purge. I purchased food for lunch I had not planned on eating, and I didn’t keep it down (if we’re being brutally honest here). However I didn’t binge – at all. So that’s a bonus – right?! Then I wanted to run away and hide and never speak to anybody for the rest of my life (I am the first to admit I am prone to moments of over-dramatisation). I didn’t do that either.
Anyway – given the set of circumstances for today, in lieu of a desire for self-flagellation, I could have tried the awfully simple, “I’m having the thought that…”, followed by, “I notice I’m having the thought that…” which sounds so incredibly simple – because it is. But it does actually distance some of the fear and emotion from the thought processes.
I could also have done some of the grounding exercises I learned through ACT and DBT – using the five senses (what can I feel, hear, see, touch, taste). Another simple technique that again puts distance between the overwhelming emotion.
I’ve forked out a ton of money, time and energy learning all these things – wouldn’t it be lovely to apply the tools I’ve learned? The trouble with these tools though, is it’s very difficult to think of them when you’re in the midst of emotional turmoil – regardless of whether the turmoil is warranted. I’m also not entirely sure, how to practice the skills without emotional turmoil. Another problem to be solved – I’m sure I’ll think of something.
In the meantime, see that puppy? I want to be that puppy. Not a cowering, whimpering dog, afraid of it’s own shadow. I just want to feel relaxed and comfortable in life. And more importantly – loved and cared for and supported. I want somebody to stroke my fluffy ears and take me for a walk. And I want to know that no matter what, everything will be okay, and I can handle all the little bits of shit that life throws out. Because you know what? I can.