To those who suffer from anxiety, do you sometimes feel porous? I do. I have had a particularly bad spell lately.
I like this definition of anxiety: "exaggerations of our normal and adaptive reaction to fearful or stressful events."
Definition: Anxiety disorders are exaggerations of our normal and adaptive reaction to fearful or stressful events. There are many types of anxiety disorders including panic disorder,agoraphobia, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) ,posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). When you experience the familiar physical and psychological signs of fear and anxiety such as sweating, racing heart, shortness of breath, trembling, worry, or stress, these are cues that something is happening that could be a threat and that you need to deal with it. This “flight or fight” reaction activates the physical and psychological resources necessary to deal with the potential danger. Although this system works well most of the time, sometimes it can go into overdrive and do more harm than good. When this happens, it might indicate you have an anxiety disorder.
The difference between good anxiety and bad anxiety is all in the exaggeration: Either an exaggerated response to a normal situation, or an exaggerated perception of the dangers of a normal situation. Exaggerated worry.
Anxiety affects me in various ways. Emotionally, mentally, physically. Most of the time it is manageable (because I am on medication for the anxiety!) but sometimes it seems to get the better of me. Thankfully never in a debilitating way, but in a way that affects my life. Most of the time (all of the time), I manage to overcome these moments fairly quickly. As I said, I am able to control my anxiety through medication and therapy. And diet and exercise etc. I am really fortunate that I am 99.9% fine :)
But as I said above, part of my problem is that I sometimes feel porous. Whether this is a cause or effect of the anxiety, I am not sure, but it sucks.
We all live in a cacophony of chaotic, conflicting, cascading emotions, feelings and worries. In the simplest sense, there are our own feelings. And some of us ride bigger or smaller waves of these feelings. Some of us feel great highs and lows, others not. And then added on to the circle of our own feelings, there is the circle that includes people very near and dear to us - our partners, our children, our parents, our friends, our families. And in the next circle are the feelings, emotions and worries of our schools, social circles, communities - people can we can identify with. And the circles get bigger and bigger, eventually including people from counties, countries and the world. In order to survive the noise (of all the emotion and worry), you need to be able to firstly manage your own (do I need to go into fight or flight mode to deal with this) and then manage your reaction to the next few circles. Do I need to care about this? Do I need to worry about that person?
Some people only care about what happens to them. They are able to shut off the noise about anyone else beyond their immediate circle. They don't even notice the noise. Others have bigger circles of care and concern. But they wisely develop a defense for the noise from all the other circles. A type of waterproof / soundproof skin that blocks out the noise of all the emotions beyond their circles of care.
And then you have people like me. Whose circles are already big, but who at times become totally porous to the noise of all circles. Who seems to have lost the waterproof / soundproof skin needed to block out some of the noise that threatens to deafen them. Who seems to live in permanent flight/fight mode as the waves of everyone's emotions comes rushing at them.
Sounds dramatic I know. I am trying to illustrate how I feel through words.
Since about 2-3 weeks ago, I have felt the anxiety, the porousness creep in. It started off with a worry about a family member. And then a worry about a relationship. And then it was a worry about one child. And then another child of mine. Real worries (which unfortunately I can't share with you), but nothing life-threatening. Worrying nonetheless. By themselves, each would probably make me feel only a bit anxious, but the combined onslaught of the worries seemed to have tipped me over a line and I have gone into total porous overdrive. And then a friend of mine died from cancer. And then another friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Worry, worry, worry. (Oh, and in the middle of this all I also got my period - just to add to the mix - you know, why dont we chuck a bit of hormones and PMS into the mix, just for fun.)
And then, the Oscar Pistorious case happened and it all went to hell. For the last week I have been totally obsessed, absorbed, overwhelmed with the case. I became that grieving mother who lost her child, I felt her pain. I became that sobbing sister whose brother was in court, I felt her anguish. I became that young man whose life was shattered because of a terrible, tragic event, I felt his torment. By the time the bail hearing happened I was finished.
For the past three weeks I have been so distracted. My mind is constantly full of noise. I hate that, I can't afford to be so distracted, I have so much to do. I clench my jaw at night and I wake up with my neck in spasms. This whole of last week, it has felt like I have been crying the whole day, even though I haven't. I have had a headache, tired eyes and an exhausted body by the end of the day.
Thankfully, something seems to have shifted and I am now much better. Yesterday was the first time in about three weeks that I felt calmer. Today is even better. I think I am finally over this spell. OMG, it was exhausting!! Literally and figuratively; mentally and physically.
It's funny (well not actually funny) how you can be going through of this on the inside and yet be functioning apparently totally normally and rationally on the outside. I wonder if anyone noticed. I suppose the people close to me would have noticed.
I am very relieved to be feeling better. Although, the one CRAPPY thing is that all the woryring and anxiety has taken its toll and I was diagnosed with shingles yesterday, can you bloody believe that! What a pain in the arse. I am on strong antivirals to treat it. I seem to have caught it really early so hopefully it will go away soon. I hope so.
So, if I have seemed off'ish to you or distracted or generally not very fun to be around for the past three weeks, this is why. I was having a porous moment. I am back to normal now. Onwards and forwards!
PS The one thing that has helped me these last three weeks is focusing on my new mantra 'perspective'. Perspective perspective perspective. I feel like having it tattooed on my arm where I can see it all the time. (Don't tempt me). I look around at people / situations around me, and I force myself to put my own worries in perspective (which is really difficult to do in the midst of an anxiety spell) - things might feel really huge to me right now, but putting into perspective, I am really lucky that my worries are small in comparison to some. One small example that I can share without giving too much away - Max has started OT for some issues he has, little things that have been worrying me. In my anxious state, I had blown these little things up into Big Worries. And then we got to the OT and the little girl who was there before us was severely disabled, she had to be carried around and I thought to myself: perspective. I am worried about one or two small things with Max and here is a child who can't walk, can't hold her body upright. Perspective.
When you are in the midst of a bad anxiety spell, it is hard to get perspective - it is exactly that perspective that you are missing - anxiety is the exaggerated response to real or perceived problems. It is the lack of perspective. But perspective is exactly what we need. And so I am going to keep repeating to myself: perspective, perspective, perspective.
PS please excuse any spelling / grammar mistakes, this has taken me over an hour to write and if I don't start doing some work now, I am going to be extremely anxious ;)