Something About Anxiety
A thing i’ve come to notice over time: anxiety tends to complicate things.
Yes, i know, that’s a pretty obvious thing. But allow me a moment of your time to elaborate.
The first time i can remember being really anxious about something, beyond normal, healthy anxiety was in the 7th grade. Rather, right after the school year ended, when my grades came back. I got to open my report card before my parents, and i found the scorching F on that paper. I’d failed Biology. Now, reason says that nothing would come of it. My parents might be annoyed with me, perhaps not let me visit my friends for a week or take away my (at the time, limited) computer rights. And i’ve come to understand that most reasonable young people would have understood this. Me? I hid the report card under a bunch of school papers in my desk and cried for almost an hour at the thought that my parents might be so angry with me, the punishment would know no bounds.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, nowadays i know that my parents are reasonable people. I’ve failed classes since that one, and found that their punishments tend to be small, and reasonable. I’ve found the harsher punishments come from school, where i had to retake several classes in high school in order to graduate on time, simply because i’d failed them. So why the fear and concern? I was distraught because i was so anxious about the unknown possibility of their discovery of this failure.
In more recent times, i’ve found more complications that others may not think about though. For example, in the middle of my junior year of high school, i had so much anxiety about having to do a presentation in class that i was actually physically ill the night before, vomiting and showing symptoms reminiscent of a flu, which got me out of doing the presentation, that day. What it didn’t do though was excuse me from the thing that made me ill. Which led to me having to present in front of my peers on a day when presentations weren’t supposed to happen, which led to me having a panic attack in the school bathroom following that class.
I tend to have very physical reactions to my anxiety, such as shaking, sickness, flushing, even tearing up. But these cause more anxiety, due to the fear that they will be noticed. Anxiety is often something of a self-fulfilling prophecy for me, wherein it doesn’t matter the actual outcome. That is, if i’m worried that people will notice my red face and shaking hands, and they do, anxiety ensues. But if i’m worried about it, and they don’t mention noticing it, they still might have noticed it. Or they could still notice it and say something about it later. which leads to the worry that they will.
I also find that this leads to me making up the most ridiculous explanations. I can’t leave my college classes without having a thorough explanation handy and rehearsed for why i left. If i’ve missed something or come in late, my reason is handy, whether or not i’m actually asked why i missed any classes or came in 5 minutes late. I can’t even stand up in a place where others are seated in the most casual of spaces (a family reunion) without being prepared to justify my reasoning. And it’s not because i’ve constantly been asked for my motives in doing these sorts of things. In fact, it has rarely happened. But because the possibility exists that i might be asked, and my anxiety is that i will be unprepared for that eventuality. I can’t even interact with people over the internet without calculating every possibility for the conversation, every possible way my words might be interpreted.
Another complication in recent months has been any attempts to re-train my brain out of its anxious patterns. You see, there are many online CBT courses and worksheets and whatnot available to me which i’ve worked to use to train myself out of these neural habits. The problem being, they’re so deeply ingrained that my anxiety gets tripped up on the possibility that not worrying about all of these eventualities will lead to more problems in my life instead of less. That is, without anxiously considering every possible outcome of every action i take, i might in fact stumble into a terrible decision that leads to terrible consequences as a result of my not over-analyzing possible outcomes.
But the biggest complication by far in living with anxiety like this is the part of me that is rational. Because it’s not like my entire brain is committed to this constant worry. No, the reality is that there’s one part of me that is this terribly anxious person, and then there’s the other part that is reasonable enough to understand that the anxious part is usually wrong. The problem being that, well…when you’re sitting in a room with one person who’s screaming, crying and laughing manically, while another person is telling you the opposite in a completely reasonable tone of voice, you’re still more likely to hear the person who’s panicking.