After several years of therapy I finally came to the realization that anxiety is sometimes a lying bitch. You will not understand this message until you are ready to hear it.
Our brains are associated with who we are; it is the place where our personalities are said to be held – without it we are unknown to ourselves and others, and we are unpredictable. The fear our thought sensations produce is so deeply held that we will do almost anything to make it go away –drug use – alcohol – inflict self-harm – distraction – work – compulsive acts – obsessing – sex – lining/squaring up – hoarding – what do you do?
When anxiety first strikes it can be terrifying and you may think you are going insane. The fear of insanity is deeply set in our core because it takes us to an unknown place. Fear likes the uncertainty of the unknown; this is why fear dwells in dark places where it cannot be seen and examined openly in the light.
The first time fear seems to come out of nowhere. As if one day you are living your life and then suddenly WHAM! You look around for things to blame. You ask yourself where you were when it happened. Maybe you will avoid that place so that it doesn’t happen again. Or perhaps, what was I doing? Hmm… I better not do that again. Or for OCD, you may try to do something to counteract like knocking or lining up. You reason that you do not consciously do this to yourself; you feel as though it is done to you and you have no control. In this way avoidance creeps into your life and you go fewer places, so that your world becomes a tiny bit smaller each time you try to placate fear. This is how fear lives and grows. You have let fear lie to you and smack you around. Fear is a bully which isolates you from your life and friends in order to gain more control without interference.
Sometimes I attribute a fear to a place or an object, for example, last year we bought a king sized bed to replace our old queen size. I researched many brands and went to stores trying them out and finally after some weeks we settled on the one we wanted. We purchased it and brought it home and it sent me whining like a little girl into the therapist’s office; I needed reassurance. I cried for a few days which is unusual for me (I sometimes wish I could cry more as a form of relief.) I had a similar reaction to our new television set. However, I also had a similar reaction to a major life trauma; one with a very serious illness.
So far my therapy has brought me to the realization that I am very uncomfortable about spending large sums of money. I am not a miser or a cheapskate but I tend toward thrifty. Much of this anxiety seems to have started in my childhood when we sometimes went hungry or cold and I never learned better coping mechanisms, so I still rely on primitive coping methods.
I also feel anxious in my adulthood and I carry a lot of guilt about not holding a steady job (health problems) in my later years. I feel guilt that I cannot contribute more financially and ease the burden my husband carries to work each day; even though he is reassuring. Much of my frustration comes because I know I am capable and I have been out in the world and done well. I have earned college degrees. I made it into a Ph.D. program at a major university. I was on the upside of a pinnacle of success.
Then my youngest child was hit by a car and seriously injured while crossing the street. I left school to attend to her needs and many medical appointments.
In therapy I also had to learn that my anxiety is not logical, it is emotional. Anxiety is the throbbing pain of the psyche which needs help to heal, in the same way a deep laceration will feel pain and need cleaning and stitches. We feel pain for a reason, it draws attention to our wounds and in this way we can facilitate healing.
Throughout all of these problems real or imagined, my brain has produced the same catastrophic reactions. Why do all of these events feel equally menacing?
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