If I had to describe my anxiety I would say it’s like my brain is in a near-constant fight-or-flight mode and working at a hundred miles an hour to deal with that threat response. The problem is, most things don’t warrant that high-level threat response in the first place.
How do you deal with that?
That is a question I’ve been asking myself over the last four years and for me I began to find answers to that question by identifying what flips that switch in my mind and how to find ways to keep that switch from flipping on when it shouldn’t.
I will be completely honest here and tell you this is not an easy task for yourself. It’s hard to work through layers of crap and memories to figure out how you developed your messed-up responses that can result in anxiety. And I think the worst obstacle is people who don’t have this switch flipped on so easily in their minds and think people with anxiety can just not flip the switch in the first place or just flipped it off at-will.
As the lady in the Geico commercial says, that’s not how it works. That’s not how anything related to anxiety works. It’s not a simple flick of the switch or just tossing shit aside. For me, it’s finding out what triggers it and then figuring out ways to control it. And it’s just control, not eradication or a miracle cure.
For the longest time, a lot of my anxiety was driven by a fear of being hurt by other people, by people actively trying to ruin my life and destroy any relationship I tried to build with someone. The story behind this is a long and complicated one, and one for another time. But yesterday I realized this fear is gone from within me because when I think about someone trying to do that, I would have to fight like hell not to rage at them and want to bury their asses. I just have this image in my mind of confronting someone who tries to do that with one seriously-loaded question: “Really?”
This is a good thing as you can see because it frees up my energy to focus on managing the other driver of my anxiety, which is losing what little I have in life and being out on the streets with nothing but the clothes on my back. This one is harder to manage because I’ve lived on next-to-nothing for so long and have recently realized I fear that I have a self-sabotaging streak in me. I have begun to realize that self-sabotaging idea is related to the above paragraph in regards to the fear that if I say or do something that pisses someone off for no damn good reason that they’ll try and bury my ass. I’ve known for a long time that I don’t need to beat the shit out of myself in order to keep someone else from doing it. I don’t have to beat myself up at all if I did nothing wrong, and I sure as hell don’t have to let someone beat me up for doing nothing wrong either. I have to tell myself now and every single day going forward if I have to that I can do what I need to do to survive, and someday thrive. And if I make mistakes or if shit happens, that’s for me to deal with and no one else’s fucking problem.
But another thing with the fight-or-flight response is that it can give you a heightened sense of awareness and energy. But you can’t maintain that forever and it will drain you pretty badly. This is something else I have to tell myself a lot still. That’s okay because if you can see this and feel it, then you can do something about it.
I was talking with a passenger yesterday and he was telling me his girlfriend has had a lot of anxiety over the last year about the pandemic and everything. He was telling me he had a hard time understanding her anxiety. I didn’t really say anything to that because what I really wanted to say wouldn’t have gone very well. I would have liked to have said to him, ‘It must be real nice to have a mind that runs on anxiety and nerves all the damn time. It must be nice to be able to shut things down easily and not have to worry about shit happening all the time. And most of all, it must be nice to think that other people should just be able to shut down so damn easily.’
My problem is shutting down, at least on the outside, is that I got shit for it. I got told I was a cold and unemotional bitch when inside myself I was a raging basket-case racing around the inferno of Hell. I still fight like hell to contain my anxiety in terms of outward appearances because I don’t want to deal with people’s bullshit about this. But trust me, anxious people are anything but cold and unemotional. That used to make me even more anxious but now it just pisses me off, and that’s a good thing because being pissed off about shit is better than being scared of it.
So for me, my anxiety has changed over time. It’s changed from being afraid of others to being afraid of myself. But I can deal with myself because I know I’m willing and able to dig deep and hard and to figure out how I think and feel. And I can tell with absolute certainty when you do that, you’ll come out on the other side for the better.