I can’t know for sure how anxiety manifests in other people – and to be honest, it’s only in recent months I acknowledged I have my own manifestations of anxiety. As I’m currently feeling extremely anxious, I thought now would be a good time to put my thoughts and observations “down on paper” — so to speak.
The biggest and most obvious way anxiety appears in my everyday life is in my need to be liked. I cannot bear the thought I might do or say something to cause someone to think ill of me. I’m left with a pounding heart, shaking hands, I’m unable to speak and on the verge of tears.
Socially, this is difficult. I’m happy and comfortable around friends I have known for decades. I can say and share anything and we have a level of trust, support, friendship and love that balances any fear I may have. I am still nervous about saying the wrong thing, but I trust the consequences won’t be devastating – we listen, we learn, we forgive, we move on.
Outside that support network, it’s trickier. In work situations, it’s much trickier. In casual social outings or being introduced to strangers it’s hideously tricky. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I haven’t read their vibe and personality correctly? What if they judge me before they know me?
I don’t know where my fear of being disliked came from. Perhaps it was my mother always worrying, “What would the neighbors think?” Perhaps it was learning as a youngster that other people’s feelings are more important than my own. Perhaps it is my nature, not my nurture that makes me afraid of this. Who knows? It doesn’t really matter in the end – I am nice to everyone and I hope they might be nice to me.
My anxiety also brings a major fear of conflict.
I don’t fight. Ever. I will stand up for my beliefs. I can have a discussion with an alternate point of view. But I won’t fight with you. I can’t do it. You can yell and scream at me until you’re blue in the face, and I will stand frozen to the spot chanting, This too shall pass, silently in my head.
If major conflict arises in the workplace, I will probably resign. I’ve done it before. I would do it again. It shames me to say that. I feel like I have no emotional fortitude, but I can’t do conflict.
Unfortunately, there are also times when my pathological fear of conflict wars with my pathological need to be responsible – to care for others and defend those who can’t defend themselves. In a group setting, I steer clear of conflict – at any cost. But in a group setting, I also need to ensure everyone feels heard and understood and represented. Sometimes I will speak up – usually at a high personal cost. I will choose personal humiliation and grief over abandoning my moral compass which can sometimes leave me in a lose-lose situation. I become extremely anxious and distressed regardless of which path I choose.
Everyday life normally trots on by OK for me. I don’t have major panic attacks. When things are going well, I manage fears the same way I manage all my other emotions – I ignore them. Every single day is scattered with a thousand little moments of fear I try to ignore. There’s no relaxation or down time until I’m curled up in my pajamas. And to calm the chaos in my head, I’ve become extremely adept at organizing the chaos around me.
When everyday life throws curve balls, that’s when my anxiety quickly skyrockets. And when the rockets are skyward bound, that’s when thoughts of self-harm and disordered eating behaviors flare out of control. The unknown is a bad place for me to be and it is easy to yearn for old coping behaviors that numb difficult emotions and still those runaway thoughts.
I read somewhere that 2017 is the year of the Rooster, and that after the pesky Monkey messed around with everything last year, the Rooster will bring good luck and prosperity. I am depending on that little Rooster to calm my nerves and create a positive mindset so my anxious thoughts can settle and not escalate.
This too shall pass…
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Thinkstock photo via Sylverarts.