My cure for anxiety Pt. 1

Accident scene photo of my son's shoe lying in the road after he was hit by a pickup truck

My anxiety had gotten worse.

Thing had happened around me and to me that had caused me fear. And I always thought I was not like that.

I’ve been desperate for a solution when the anxiety turns on from out of nowhere and I can’t seem to shut it off even when I know with my brain that everything is OK even just writing about the feeling makes the feeling try to come again but I was so desperate for a solution that I found something that helps.

I found something that helps. It’s a realization and a remembrance. It is one of the good things that has come out of my son’s injury in the spring. When I saw him in the emergency room on that stretcher

and they couldn’t tell me he was going to live –

the actual experience of that moment couldn’t hold a candle to what I had felt in my imagination all the times I had worried about it happening.

This was what my desperation finally led me to discover: my imagination was conjuring up all kinds of calamity for me and that if any of the events were to actually happen, it would not be as bad as what my imagination had created and had caused me to feel.

I knew this because I had lived it. I had lived the worst – my son, broken and battered and hanging in the balance of a vortex of horrible possibilities – and in the reality of that I had been strong.

I had this realization right in the middle of an anxiety attack, and immediately all the power of the anxiety was drained out just like someone had opened a tap. I actually felt the anxiety leaving my body. It can never be as bad as what I have imagined.

I had to stop believing the lies that my imagination was feeding me.

When I realized how much better I could feel immediately if I would just stop believing my imagination, I started applying that mantra every day, any time anxious thoughts would come up

It can never be as bad as what I have imagined.

And when I started noticing those emotions created by my imagination I realized how often they were there. say the mantra How often my mind was creating an imaginary reality for me say the mantra and how I just stepped into it as though it were real.

So much of my life experience had been an imaginary construction of emotions. Powerful emotions from a vivid and creative imagination.

I had been living a life that was almost completely imaginary.

What could I do after this realization?

*the image shows my son’s shoe lying in the middle of the road after he’d been hit by a Toyota Tundra on May 24, 2019

I’m sharing my weakness

Coat opening time. Please pray for me that I don’t delete this later.

I can do a lot of things. I am strong, smart, creative, talented, and compassionate. So this is not a woe is me post. It’s just me sharing my weakness, a weakness that exists in and amongst my strengths.

One of the things I struggle with most is emotional weakness. My definition of emotional weakness: the inability to recover in a normal time period after exposure to an emotional stressor, and/or an abnormal or inadequate reaction to the stressor, i.e, a heightened sensitivity to emotional stress.

added later: I think this also could be *shame*

I decided that maybe I could use some techniques to work on strengthening my ability to deal with emotional events and trauma that are similar to the ones I have used in learning how to handle physical pain, because my emotional weakness is painful to me.

This is slow going. Trying to see my emotional vulnerability in the same way I see physical pain is really hard. I seem to have an extreme aversion to the feelings that go along with things that cause me emotional stress and therefore I resist. The idea that I need to just relax and let the feelings wash over me like a wave – well, that’s easier said than done.

There’s another layer to this: my fear of the fear of the pain. So not only am I taken down when something unexpected comes along, I also have a negative response to the *idea* that a certain situation or person or event could possibly cause me emotional stress or pain. I think this is even worse, because I am creating a false reality and trying to hide from that.

It’s this kind of anxiety that, when it flares up, can keep me at home, hiding, not making calls and not answering the phone or the door. I can get really snuggled down in my own little cocoon and disappear from life.

Or if I have a commitment, I will start to stress about it sometimes days in advance. This could be anything, even a visit from or to family. I’m anticipating the feelings I could have in that situation and getting anxious about that possibility. It’s a miserable feeling that gives me stomach aches, unease, and depression.

All in anticipation of something that may not even occur.

Just thinking about all of this gets me holding my breath.

It’s a hot mess.

And it happens a lot. Just ask my poor husband.

Here I am at 56, struggling with something like this that really holds me back.

I have quit so many things.

Friendships. Communities. Clubs. Educational endeavors. Anything that puts me face to face with people, or even makes me encounter the idea of being face to face with people. Because people have gotten in my face and hurt me. I know this is just what happens as part of being human but it seems so much larger to my heart.

I have deleted so many vulnerable, honest blog posts because I felt so exposed and I was sure that people were judging me. And I cared about that; I didn’t want to be judged in a way that I felt was inaccurate. Or even in a way that felt accurate to me. All of this has been speculative, mind you.

And when I have experienced the pain of actual rejection, which feels, I think, so much more painful to me than to “normal” people, those events have reinforced my expectation of future rejection and I don’t ever want to feel that again, ever, and so I go into hiding all over again. I am not resilient. I do not bounce back quickly or become stronger after hurts like these.

If I were to relate this to physical pain, it would be like stubbing my toe and having to spend days with my foot up to recover, then being afraid to walk for fear that I might stub it again.

breathe

So my task is to breathe, to go on what I know, to put myself “out there” because I refuse to create a speculative reality. And when I get hurt, when I stub my emotional toe, to breathe through it, relax my entire body, and just move through the pain.

Because my dis-ease is not only hurting me, it is hurting other people that I care about.

Dealing with stressful thoughts and emotions

We are all much too familiar with things in life that disturb our inner peace. News reports, family pressures, personal failures Рany  number of challenges like these can cause a steady stream of stressful thoughts that make it more difficult to be productive.

I’ve sometimes resorted to putting negative or stressful thoughts out of my mind as a way to continue functioning when life is busy and there are multiple demands on my time. But where does a bothersome thought go once I put it out of my mind? I’ve had to be careful that the offending idea doesn’t then go into my body and cause problems there.

I’ve proven to myself that I can’t always ignore a problem to death. I’ve noticed that my head might be able to deny the problem but my body does keep track. It manifests that record by showing up with tension, digestive issues, aches and pains, and in a weird sort of echo back to the mind, anxiety and depression.

So for me, putting stressful thoughts out of my mind does not solve the issue. It only drives it deeper inside where it can sometimes be more difficult to identify and deal with. I’ve found it healthier, both emotionally and physically, to take the time and effort necessary to sort through my challenges, understand them, and give them their proper due, instead of pretending they don’t exist.

Being “in my body”

So I’m not ¬†Buddhist, but I wholeheartedly agree with the Buddhist concept of being in one’s body. I must have heard it before, but I recently came to the conclusion that being in my body was a good way to alleviate distress and stress.

I think I must have learned at an early age to “flee” my body because of a desire to avoid the trauma that was happening, whether that trauma was physical or emotional. I learned, in my shame, to exit to another place.

But eventually this no longer served me. Eventually I came to a safe place in my world and I needed to learn how to be with myself. The danger of staying in my body was no longer greater than the the danger of fleeing.

Now, it serves me much better to sit with myself, to go inside, to be in touch with what is going on with my body from a very intimate level. I’m not sure how to explain the way that helps me with dissolving anxiety and physical pain. But it really makes a difference. It calms me and it relaxes my body.

I think what I am doing is integrating the whole me. I’ve been split for a long time and that’s not the healthiest way to be. So integrating, bringing my whole self together by being in my body and by reuniting with past versions of me, is lifting me to new levels of physical and emotional health.

Even in the midst of a crazy season of menopause!