I have a fairly normal outlook on the world:
-someone’s late coming home …so he must be dead or kidnapped.
-that person didn’t smile at me …she hates me.
-the warning light came on in the car …it will blow up before the next stoplight.
-I feel somewhat sick …yes, Google, it must be cancer.
What? That’s normal, right?
This way of thinking has hounded me for most of my life. Not until it exhibited as severe depression from how other people treated me did I know …these thoughts may not be that normal. I also didn’t realize my worries had a name: anxiety. That realization didn’t come to me overnight. It didn’t come from a counselor, although uncovering and treating it did come because of counseling sessions. My learning about anxiety –my anxiety- came after talking with a neighbor.
“I felt like I should save up money for a trip,” I told the neighbor, back in June, “But then it got cancelled because of Coronavirus. So… I guess this means I’m going to get sick and will be hospitalized.” *Sigh*
Without skipping a beat, she responded, “No, that’s called anxiety.”
Initially, I felt shocked and surprised. I then felt denial, since anxiety was not a condition I’d ever considered. Anxiety was for other relatives of mine who had experienced panic attacks or hadn’t been able to sleep with the lights off. Anxiety couldn’t affect me…
Then, the puzzle pieces fit together -answers to my racing and irrational thoughts. I brought these concerns to my video counseling session; my counselor was not as surprised as I had been. I’m just glad she’s as smart and observant as she is.
With her help, I learned that many of my panicky thinking is anxiety. I started making a list whenever I worried about a situation. I shared the list with my more-rational husband or a good friend. I learned which voice spoke: me or anxiety. Over time, I could see the differences.
After that, I learned to answer the worries:
-someone’s late coming home …so I’m anxious.
-that person didn’t smile at me …she’s having a bad day.
-the warning light came on in the car …and that light could be anything from needing an oil change to needing more coolant.
-I feel somewhat sick …it’s probably a cold.
Once I could recognize anxieties and stop the rising panic, I was able to formulate solutions. At the very least, I got better at delaying irrational actions and stress. Which, of course, does not mean the anxiety evaporated.
Sometimes, at times of high stress, my tips and tricks do not work. In times like that, I contact my counselor. Sometimes, she suggests anti-anxiety medications. Why? Because anxiety is like other mental illnesses in that I can’t always fight it on my own.
Armed with tricks, encouragement, professional advice, and help when I need it, I’ve found anxiety to be less formidable than before. I’ve found a freedom I didn’t know before. And it’s wonderful.
©2020 Chel Owens
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