Posted by Keen Observer on March 13, 2012
Fear controls too much of my life; this I know. There are often times when I fear, and fear irrationally. Sometimes, it’s a fear of doing, and sometimes it’s a fear of not-doing. Sometimes it’s the fear of perception–that others will perceive me in a negative way, the fear of looking foolish/stupid, the fear of screwing up. Sometimes, it’s an inchoate, unidentifiable fear that leaves me mentally gibbering. Some fears I can identify the source for, others, not so much. What do you do, though, when the fear of doing is equal to the fear of not-doing? Or if the fear of perception is overwhelmed by a different sort of fear? What do you do, if your reason is overcome, even to the point of physical immobility? Most of the time, this tends to manifest itself (in me, at least) as either avoidance or lack of action.
For me, this is all clinically labelled as Generalised Anxiety Disorder with Social Phobia. There may be specific anxieties within this, or other phobias, but this is generally how I think of my mental “infirmity”. I was not “officially” diagnosed with this by a clinician, but I’m reasonably certain in my self-diagnosis. While undergoing cognitive therapy for partly-related depression, I raised this with my therapist, and he did not see fit to disagree with me or try to convince me that I was mistaken; rather, he suggested various readings for me, and they helped. Despite my therapy, though–and it did do me a lot of good–I haven’t yet become free of my anxieties. Fortunately, they weren’t strong enough to require medication, and they still aren’t, but I do wonder what it would be like not to have them, or the grinding discomfort in my chest and/or gut.
One of my ways to deal with anxiety is to trick myself. Sometimes, my fears start to rise and with them my anxiety level, but if I remain sort-of calm, I can distract myself. If I can give myself a slight mental nudge, I can forget for just an instant that something is scaring me. And that instant is just long enough that I can muddle on through, or just move steadily or briskly past my distracted fear. A wholesale switch in society to text-based communication has been a boon to someone like me, though, in that I can take the time to form coherent, cogent thoughts into words, rather than trip over my tongue and embarrass my self horribly, or speak something before I can think through its ramifications. Good at extemporaneous conversation, I am not. Text-based communication can even make “talking” to women I’m interested in–generally gibber inducing–less of a cluster-fuck for me. The downside, however, is that I run the risk of blathering on and on, to the point where I say something stupid, and oops! there she goes.
The technique of self-distraction doesn’t always work, though, and sometimes I stumble due to that fear. It’s like trying to sneak in somewhere and managing to do it fairly regularly–until the one time the security guard catches you red-handed. Not much you can do but beg for mercy, but anxieties are merciless bitches from Hell, not a human guard with weaknesses or sympathies for youthful hi-jinks. In a case where there seems to be no good choice is when distraction can work best. You just take a breath, close your eyes, and let yourself be guided. If you do it right, your gut–your true gut, not the false one your anxieties try to be–will make the choice for you, to the point of overpowering the unreasonable fear(s) by dint of working around them. The fears are still there, but they’ve been bypassed. You look back and see them for what they are, and it turns out they’re actually quite small. If you’re really lucky, you can learn from that for the next time it happens; otherwise, you just repeat the same problems again, until you do get it right, assuming you ever do.
And even if you make the wrong choice, it’s still something you can learn from, provided your brain doesn’t start gibbering at you. Your fears may have been justified, but unless we’re talking about something that threatens life and limb, you can survive. I’ve experienced some deeply-painful emotional hits, many associated with or made worse by anxieties, and I’ve managed to survive them. The jury’s still out on whether I’m stronger for it. I’m still learning and trying to learn how to manage them. Something that bothers me a lot one time might not bother me the next time it occurs. Keep in mind that these are not rational things that can be easily explained. I know that many of them relate to feelings of insufficiency or inferiority, and they sometimes pop up on occasions where I need something from someone…and that can be as simple as calling out for pizza, if you can believe that.
But sometimes, even with anxieties tugging your mind every which way, sometimes, you just have to surmount them. This happened to me recently in making my decision to seek a different job. I can’t possibly underscore how much I hatehatehatehate looking for work. I hate it. Hate. Hatehatehatehate. And yet, I’ve made that choice, and willingly, and I would do it again in the same circumstances. Despite these anxieties, I’ve shared parts of myself I never expected to with someone I’d known mere weeks; to me, there was no doubt that it was a good thing to do so, because I felt that strong, nearly-instant connection with her. Despite these anxieties, I’m blogging fairly regularly about very personal things, and apparently have been read from Australia to Norway (yoiks! gibber!) Despite these anxieties, I’m trying to figure out how to get some romance back in my life. A fairly recent overture has yet gone unanswered, but I don’t know how to let her know she can say “no” and that’s OK. I’m not so invested in it that it will crush me into a soulless ball of bitterness from which nothing–not even love–can escape….or anything like that. But there are options, and my last heartbreak hasn’t been as destructive to me as I thought it would be at the time; that said, I was pretty close in thinking it would be a good two years before I was over it, and I would seem to have been correct. Go me?
So, I guess the point of all this rambling is that I still fight daily (as should anyone else who has them) with anxieties that are less now than they were, but which are still intimidating. And I find that this fighting sometimes makes things that would have seemed impossible in times past become easier to manage. But, as with true freedom, the price of freedom from anxieties is eternal vigilance. And they are not the ultimate defeat that they sometimes seem to be. They can be defeated, even humbled, if you but keep fighting the good fight. Never give up; never surrender. Eventually, you can emerge victorious from the battle against yourself and your irrational fears. “Know the enemy and know yourself, and you will be victorious in a hundred battles.”
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
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