I wrote this after several days of not being able to write at all. I had a financial issue I needed to sort out along with trying to deal with the news the rising covid-19 infection rates and I just had to keep myself from going into a overload-meltdown. Understanding something isn’t a cure for a problem but for me it brought my anxiety under control enough for me to focus and get through it.
Describing My Anxiety
I have lived with anxiety all my life and I would describe it like my mind is constantly running at a hundred to two-hundred miles an hour. It’s a constant run of thoughts, feelings, simulations, potential scenarios, and a jumble of facts, figures, movie quotes, song lyrics, and my imagination. For me, this heightened brain activity gives me a sensitivity to the world around me. I’m constantly taking in information and thinking my way through it all. It’s why I love routine and order amid the mostly-chaotic nature of my mind because routines can bring about a bit of calm to the never-ending race.
Now anxiety is seen as a burden these days, and a disability, too. But I am going to adopt the philosophy of the young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg who has called her diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) a superpower. She says her diagnosis gives her a clarity and an ability to see beyond the surface of things in this world. I love the fact that it gives her zero tolerance for bullshit.
I like routines and when my routines get knocked out of whack my mind hits the ‘panic’ button and begins to race like mad. I have tremendous difficulty concentrating on anything and worst of all, a lot of old voices come alive inside my head telling me all sorts of all awful crap.
I’ve been wondering why those old voices have echoed in my head for so long and yesterday morning I had a thought: what if my anxiety was taken advantage of both consciously and unconsciously?
Let me start my answer by saying my anxiety has made me severely adverse to conflict and at the same time it’s also made me a real people-pleaser. This is because any heavy emotion or stimulus can overwhelm me and early on in life I learned if people didn’t come at me hard and were happy with me then I wouldn’t have to deal with that stimulus overload. The problem with this is that people who aren’t sensitive to stimulus can sense others who are and take advantage of it.
Unconsciously people may take advantage of anxiety when they feel a person who is different from them needs to be put into a certain place and stay there in silence. This is done with the best of intentions because they feel it would be best if a ‘sensitive’ person was protected from the harshness of the world. This of course is total fucking bullshit because putting someone into a cage just to keep them from experiencing life itself is wrong. Sensitive people are not weak in any way, shape, or form. I know I’m sure as hell not that weak.
Consciously is when people take advantage of an anxious conflict-adverse people-pleaser to get them to do what they want and to hell with that other person’s feelings. These people will shame, guilt-trip, and gaslight a sensitive-anxious person into doing what they want them to do and to serve them above all others. And if the sensitive-anxious person says no then the threat of the shit hitting the fan is rolled out hard.
So what do you do about this kind of shit?
Establish boundaries and don’t take shit from people. People can mouth off and say and do whatever they want but I’ve learned I don’t have to listen to it, or worse, believe their lies and bullshit. I don’t have to let anyone put me down as overly-sensitive or be told I’m weak and need to be protected.
I believe you don’t really need to announce your boundaries but just put them up and keep them there. Now the only problem with these boundaries is they can create a wall that hides anxiety and sensitivity. And when that wall comes down then it can be seen as pride coming down. That’s not true in any way, shape, or form. Sensitive-anxious people don’t let pride keep them silent. It’s fear of getting shit on that keeps them silent. If you don’t want to help someone, just come out and say that then walk away. Don’t place terms and conditions on help, especially to a sensitive-anxious person because they can take that really hard. That’s where a lot of echoes as I call them come from now.
There’s nothing wrong with having a mind that runs faster than normal or to be more sensitive to the world around you than most people. And most of all, there’s no need to hide your thoughts and feelings from the world just because someone has been an asshole in response to that.
In all likelihood, my mind won’t shut down until the very end of my life. Until then, I just get to ride the racetrack inside my head at high speed. But I’m the driver of the car there, not anyone else.