Paranoia for a phone call
(Pls. enjoy yourself counting how many time the word “control” appears in these phew lines).
I don’t know if it’s right to say that we are anxious-born instead of we get anxious with the passing of years, but apparently it is true to me that anxiety lies with us from the beginning. Maybe it can increase or decrease, we can learn how to control it, but I think it is mostly part of our personality. I am a perfectionist daughter of an “over-perfectionist” mother. Everything I can somehow control is smooth and peaceful, the rest, is an anxiety source. As long as I have to cope with people, place, tasks or situation I know (or I know I can control), I’m feeling good. But as soon as I go out from my “safe circle” something’s knocking at my door: my stomach seems to be locked in clamp, my appetite goes and my muscles tense. It hasn’t always been like this: sometimes worse and sometimes better. To be honest I have to say that now I’ve learnt to deal with this kind of feeling and to recognize causes, symptoms and consequences, so I’m pretty good at controlling it.
I’ve experienced two kinds of anxiety: one is “explicit” and it gushes from situations that lead me to cope with people, things or tasks I’m not acquainted with and I have to experience for the first time. Sometimes even making a phone call gets me anxious (yes, you’ve read right!) and before doing it, I try to find an email address to write to or I hope till the last minute to talk to the voice mail. It’s not that I’m shy, it’s just that I’ve grown up with the idea not to disturb people. So that’s why, if I can’t find neither an email nor a voice mail, first thing I say on the phone after my name is: “Sorry to bother you”. it’s like saying: “pls. believe me: I’ve tried everything I could in order to avoid this phone call but I’ve got a gun to my head and cannot do otherwise”. Weirdo enough as a situation but quite easy to control, or at least with not relevant consequences. Needless to say, the case mentioned above is an extreme one, but true.
The second kind of anxiety I’ve unluckily experienced, is worse and sneakier. It hasn’t revealed at a sudden the usual symptoms but it found me sleepless for months. Apparently without an explicit reason. I felt incredibly tired, but as soon as I tried to close my eyes to get a bit of rest, my mind started running, thoughts overflew with me being unable to stop them. I found myself with a never-resting mind, sleeping 3–4 hours the luckiest nights and unable to control this. As this kind of anxiety wasn’t stirred up by an explicit cause or event, it was much more difficult to be identified and then won.
Both “anxieties” are hard to cope with, but the path I went through to face the second one, gave me the strength to cope with the easier situations such as the one I’ve described first. One of the keys to control anxiety that raise from unknown situations is, to me, to dismantle them by asking myself: what is the worst thing it could happen in case I fail? This usually brings to my attention the fact that, what I see at first as enormous, tragic and insurmountable is — in truth — something that doesn’t bring along with irreparable consequences. Once I’ve debunked my obstacle, it’s easier to me to find the strength to overcome it. Another “tactics” I often find useful, is to “pause” the situation for a while and go back to it later, with fresher mind and maybe when I am less affected by emotions.
Going back to the sneakier kinds of anxiety, I think psychotherapy could be definitely more effective than pills, though even more demanding, as it works on causes and not on the effects (trivial!). Moreover, because it gives the instruments to recognize possible delicate situations and to control the emotional reactions which derive.
Writing down thoughts represents to me a good way to debunk and go through these strong emotional status, where everything seems bigger and harder than it actually is. Then reading it later is a good way to debunk it and realize where or when we’ve been exaggerating, where we’ve been balanced or simply to see from a different point of view, what’s going on inside us. One of the biggest burden anxiety brings along with it, is the lack of objectivity. It’s hard to cope with situations when we cannot see them clearly; that’s why I found very useful to write or to let some time pass by.
Another hard side of anxiety, is the difficulty people who suffer from it have to admit the problem, first to themselves and then to other. I have only clues about how it is so hard to talk about it, first of all I think that in our society “being anxious = being weak”. Strong people are those who, in front of a new situation simply dive into it and face it. Anxious people are not self-confident enough and thus not reliable. Then media sometimes contribute negatively in depicting anxiety: sometimes with caricatures that show boring, pedantic, irritating characters. Some to laugh about. Those who don’t know anxiety, can hardly understand it and even stand people affected by it. “Why do you worry for such stupid things?” I think this is one of the most frequent questions anxious people are asked. One of the difficult parts is to understand that what is “stupid” for one can’t be the same for another.
Though conscious about how hard it could be, I think maybe one step forward in facing anxiety could be talk about it and its status: find people we trust or we think can understand (not judge us) and talk. Let them help us in debunking the situations that raise. Try not to pay attention to those who laugh about us, try not to control everything and start thinking something could escape from our supervision and from our forecast taking unpredictable way, but thus not meaning an incoming certain disaster. I’m sure we’ll discover there’s more people than expected suffering from anxiety, though maybe (and luckily) only occasionally. And I’m pretty sure we’ll find among them even those self-confident people laughing at our “paranoias” for a phone call.
P.S. As far as “control counting” I let you draw conclusions on your own …