Thursday, March 3, 2016

Anxieties Anonymous

When I told my mom that I had recently realized that I was an anxious person, she chuckled and said, "Of course you are.  I've known that since you were little."

How did I not know?

Sure, I would get stressful before tests and oral reports.  Most people do--you know the joke about people less nervous to be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.   I declined joining the Academic Decathlon team because competition made me too anxious; it still does.  But it didn't occur to me that I might be more anxious than other people.

I also got stressful--and would have digestive issues--before movies or theater performances or  meetings or on public transportation.   Or driving/being in the car.  Really, anywhere I felt "stuck."

New places also caused stress.  Traveling to new places caused stress.  As did something as simple as walking around--on campus, to the store, around the store, sightseeing, hiking--anything without a bathroom nearby, even if I didn't need it at the time.  Anxiety and its effects don't creep up every time--and I can't always predict when--I thought it was just the family stomach, IBS, really--my dad, my aunt, later I learned about my grandad probably too; now possibly one of the kiddos, which is another reason I've been exploring the topic.  I thought the physical was the dominant problem, with the anxiety swirling around it.  I wasn't like the stereotype of anxious that I had seen.  But I'm guessing the anxiety came first.  And no one ever really said anything about it to me, until very recently, even if/when they noticed.

Once I had kids, the stress was somewhat in abeyance.  New people did not make me nervous, nor did social activities; I was fine at playdates, music classes, Girl Scouts.

Though, carpooling and waiting in the car at pick-ups--more "stuck" places--were hard.

Are hard.

None of those are really in the past tense.

Once I hurt my back and later had abdominal surgery, I was nervous about re-injuring, over-extending, indications of pain.   The anxiety has definitely gotten worse since my emergency surgery and recovery.  I've had a few very overwhelming panic attacks and am more sensitive than I was . . . .

About all of the above, confrontations, phone calls, conflicts, things I've said, things I didn't say . . . . . unexpected or surprise events, things out of my control (and conversely, sometimes, being in charge),  being late, being embarrassed (feeling stupid), unpredictability, negative outcomes, possible emergencies, illness, death.

I think the list could go on.

My general response to many stimuli is anxiety, which for me goes straight to my stomach (and sometimes to my back.)  I've been discussing it with my therapist and GP, and practicing mindfulness techniques; we don't think meds are necessary at this time.  I attended a workshop on anxiety in children recently, which put my issues in perspective.  On the spectrum of anxiety issues, I think I'm just outside the realm of typical, in the middle of the line somewhere.  I'm not OCD, I'm not socially paralyzed, it doesn't alter my daily life in extreme, but I know in 45 years that I've altered what I do to avoid anxious triggers.  Otherwise, I've come up with ways (some successful, some not so much) to deal with them and Mama has always been very helpful and understanding.  I try to surround myself with similarly understanding, compassionate, supportive people and now I have quite the little crew that gets my quirks.

Sure, the argument could be made that they enable me.  But I'm progressing at the speed I can . . . . awareness is the key, right?

I'm telling you this because, well, you already know, just like my mom knew.   Now that I'm more aware, I can see the patterns and patterned responses.  I can work on changing them.  But also on accepting them.  And helping others to understand and accept me and all the anxious people like me.

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