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6 Ways Anxiety Has Made Me the 'Queen of Avoidance'

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My whole life I’ve always hated the idea of “confrontation” and avoided it at all costs, if possible. I’ve been told that even as a 6 or 7-year-old, my mother even attempted to have a simple chat with me regarding my grandma passing away and without much thought, I immediately yelled out, “I don’t want to talk about it!” It’s about 25 years later and sometimes I feel like not much has changed.

Of course it wasn’t until a decade or so later that I was officially diagnosed with a couple different anxiety disorders and depression. Both generalized anxiety and panic disorder, as well as major depressive disorder were now these “labels” assigned to what I never realized gave way to my extreme avoidance of various situations.

Even though I’ve gone through my ups and downs of dealing with this behavior (I’ve cycled through various therapists, groups and psychiatrists as a young adult), somehow it creeps back in from time to time. Here are six of my more noticeable “avoiding” tendencies:

1. I avoid using my phone.

I know for many people, in one way or another, this is a huge trigger. Whether it be making the call, answering the phone or even texting. I know for me, this has always been the basis of various anxieties. I despise making phone calls (we all know those “dreaded” ones), but I don’t even like to call and order food! I love the idea of ordering food online. It’s a godsend for me, although perhaps an antisocial one. I’ve even downloaded apps that go straight to voicemail to avoid speaking to people!

2. I’m the queen of “blocking.”

Trust me when I say, I am definitely not intentionally rude or a mean-spirited person. I know I am diagnosed with mental illness, but that doesn’t make me a “bad” person. However, I notice the second I feel any sort of discomfort or even dread a response back from a person, I immediately will block the person or cut them off without the thought of consequences. I’d rather not hear even a “potentially” negative response. It’s a terrible habit and one I’m not proud about, but I’m sure I can’t be the only one. This has definitely affected several friendships and job opportunities.

3. I’ve perfected the “Irish Goodbye.”

Ever heard of the “Irish Goodbye?” Well, despite the small percentage of Irish heritage I actually have in my bloodline, I have always been a big fan of the “Irish Goodbye.” I could be at a gathering of sorts and I would much rather take off without saying goodbye. I feel like I could be the rudest person sometimes, but the thought of going around person-to-person when you particularly don’t want to is challenging for me. The “awkward” hug or kiss is not something I particularly look forward to. Yet, sometimes I can surprise myself by not thinking twice and having the courage to do what I typically wouldn’t want to! I wish my family and friends knew it wasn’t personal. (Believe me, I wish it wasn’t a task!)

4. I hide in the bathroom.

Yes, I’ve hidden in the bathroom. Really anywhere I can escape for some “me time” or some “room to breathe.” I feel lucky enough to have that space, but similar to other ways I avoid, I know this is definitely not the healthiest method. Yes, self-care is absolutely important to me and sometimes you need those few minutes to breathe. However, I can beat myself up very easily for appearing antisocial or rude by disappearing for periods of time.

5. My anxiety can come out as irritation.

Also, I notice in relationships (whether it be with my parents, my significant other or friends), I have a tendency to exhibit my anxiety and depression as being extremely irritable. Usually, this occurs with the people I feel closest with and it continues to be an aspect I struggle with. I will avoid and push people away, yet I really just want to be told it’s all going to be OK. This definitely ties into number four with “hiding.”

6. I avoid my mail.

One last piece I’ve noticed I’ve been avoiding lately is my mail. Nothing appears “alarming,” but I don’t even want to open a simple letter from my insurance company. Sometimes I have to prepare myself to even do a task like that, which may come naturally to others.

The one positive attribute I can take away from being a self-proclaimed “avoider” is that I’ve realized the first step which is the awareness of what behaviors I exhibit and what I need to work on as an individual and hopefully with a professional.

I never thought at 32, after experiencing many symptom-free years as a successful student, that I would fall back into certain old behaviors. I know life can be beautiful and enjoyable, because I’ve felt that before. So despite being an “avoider,” I’m also more than that (and if you relate, so are you!).

Mental illness is not a definition of who I am or who anybody is. Are some days hard and miserable? Absolutely. Is it like that every day? Not always.

It’s something so many of us deal with on a day-to-day basis and my one wish is to keep de-stigmatizing these illnesses that can affect so many around us that we don’t even know.

So to my fellow “avoiders,” you are not alone! I love being able to laugh at myself, but alternatively I know this is a coping/defense mechanism I’ve recently noticed I’ve been clinging to more often than usual.

Luckily, where there is life, there is hope. There may be a long journey ahead, but let’s see where will it take us.

Unsplash photo via Allef Vinicius

Originally published: February 22, 2018
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