Alright, ya’ll, throwing it out there: a post about anxiety!
I’ve been dealing with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) since I was in college in 2005. At that time, I felt anxious for about two months, couldn’t eat, cried a lot, and felt like I was going crazy, and had no idea what I was anxious about. For a young student who generally felt positive, on top of things, and in control, I was terrified. I went to the doctor, got a prescription, and finally started to feel like my old self again (it wasn’t as simple as it sounds, but the rest is a post for another time).
Since then, I’ve still had anxious times, but nothing like those two months at school. I’ve also learned more about anxiety, and am trying a different approach, going off my medicine and researching cognitive behavioral therapy (in hopes of trying it soon). In my research, I’ve read lots of practical tips for dealing with anxiety. One I’ve found helpful is to notice my feelings without judging them, naming the physical sensations and accepting them for what they are (instead of giving into my most common response: Oh no I am going into anxious mode let me get more anxious about being anxious! OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!).
Another thing I’ve been trying is looking at the times when my anxiety gets intense, goes beyond general nervousness or apprehension that’s normal and short-lived. So I have been following my anxiety, paying attention to my body and my environment (what am I actually doing) when I feel it coming on. Below are a few of the recent times when I’ve had severe anxiety that has uninterrupted sleep/eating habits and lasted more than a day or so:
- D broke his jaw and had to have surgery.
- My brother’s best friend died unexpectedly.
- I directed a summer camp for a week.
- I got into conflict with someone at church.
- I changed jobs and had to send an email in which I felt that I was letting someone down.
In the first two instances, it seems like when my idea of reality, the status quo, gets upset by something or changes dramatically, I get uncontrollably anxious. “The world is NOT what I’ve always known it to be! Terrible things happen and I can’t control or prepare for them!”
In the last two instances it seems that when I don’t know how another person is perceiving me, or fear that I’ve upset another person, I get uncontrollably anxious. “What are they thinking? I bet they think I am an irresponsible, incompetent jerk. Oh no!!!“
The middle instance seems to be a combo of both those things: A drastic change to my status quo, and being completely vulnerable to how people (and kids) might perceive me, sends me into intense anxious mode during which I can’t eat and I demand that my poor hubby to actually come to church camp and stay with me….
I don’t want to make too much of this pattern, as indeed sometimes I can find no reason whatsoever for feeling anxious, but there does seem to be a common theme centering around my need for CONTROL…..When something happens that reminds me that I am not in control of the world I live in, nor of the people in that world, it really throws me off! Of course I can rationalize to myself: “Dora, come on. You KNOW you are not in control of anything. God is. You are not. You know that. Don’t even try.” But how do I make my body believe that? HOW???