Making friends with anxiety

Making friends with anxiety

I sit in a coffee shop having a coffee to let the stress ease away. I managed to turn up late for a bank appointment by a whole 24 hours. Stood waiting in the line, waiting, feeling the knot in my stomach forming, the fluorescent light annoying me with the slight flicker and the hot stale air. I felt almost claustrophobic, a part of me was almost happy that I had missed the appointment, I just wanted to get out of there. I sit here now, the headache has gone, the stomach has eased, just the tension in my shoulders remains.

I am learning to cope with anxiety, my medication has helped me a lot. No longer do I suffer the total paralysis like before, now I look beyond at what is causing me to feel the way I do. What is my mind trying to warn me about? I have started to analyse every change, trying to sort out fact from fiction. I know that it was probably warm and stuffy in the bank, it was only small so that would have made it feel claustrophobic. My appointment was for 12 and I was watching the seconds tick by; 12:01, 12:02, 12:05, and the knot tightened.

Maybe the lighting was bothering other people too, was I just creating it all in my mind? The effect of the lighting bothered me the most, it is one of my triggers. I was once diagnosed as having photo sensitive epilepsy, one event, nothing at all since. That diagnosis ruined my life for a long time. I have repressed it, run and hid from it. Just thinking about it now is causing anxiety, as I said it is a trigger, anxiety is letting me know that my mind is going into the restricted section. Yet another section of my past that I have to come to terms with. I will have to mention this to my GP and CPN, it may be nothing but it will help close that chapter.

I sit here, wanting to get this out but it is not easy. Admitting to how scared and angry that diagnosis made me is hard. I feel awful right now but slowly I progress. I have an uncle who suffered from epilepsy his whole life, I guess I thought that would be me. I spent years drinking and taking drugs, standing in nightclubs watching the strobe lighting daring it to happen again. One episode and on went the label after an EEG to confirm it. Lived with but never accepted, pushed down and never talked about. I took medication for a while but that soon stopped. I know I was already damaged by that point, so just having this diagnosis added to the melting pot of repressed emotions.

So much self hate inside me that I need to address, so much anger that has now turned itself into depression. I no longer am angry, anger is pointless, anger is just a self-defence mechanism learned to keep people away. I understand that all those things I have repressed over the years are the source of my depression, every one I face and accept is one off a long list. Each one off the list takes me one step closer to being free.

It is not often that I take a break when writing a post, nearly all my posts are written start to finish. The piece above however was written a few days ago, I never got around to finishing it. I made excuses but the reality is it hurt a little bit too much to go back to. This is the case for many life events I have lived through, most of them are nothing more than normal everyday set backs in life. However I have hoarded so many of these setbacks, turned and twisted them into failures, buried them deep and allowed them to mix with others and a good helping of self loathing.

I now see anxiety as the gatekeeper to these repressed and twisted viewpoints I now hold as memories. Anxiety is there to warn me that I am entering a part of my mind that will cause me pain if I go further. The anxiety is no longer an enemy but a friend, looking after me, protecting me from myself. Every day as I get stronger I can spend more time with these memories, anxiety lets me delve deeper but is there to pull me back should I start to fall. I do not say this as a fact for all, only my personal relationship with anxiety. What I do know is that it seems to work.

When my anxiety starts I now give it my attention, I let it guide me to what it is that I am thinking that might hurt me. Just like having a gut instinct about something I now see anxiety for what it is, a self-protection mechanism. Yesterday I experienced mindfulness for the first time. I took time to look, hear, smell and taste the world around me. I realised that the pace we move through life should not be governed by life itself but by how fast we need to move. I know I need to slow down, find my pace and listen to what my body is telling me. I need to put trust that a system so complex has its ways of dealing with things, that I need to learn to trust it.

So for now I will leave the period of epilepsy as a work in progress, I have looked at it and I know it requires further investigation. Now, however is not the time for this, that time will come. Today I will just listen, and hear what my body is telling me. I do not know if this will work for others, I really hope it does. Maybe try a day out with your anxiety, see if you can make friends with it. I have even personified it, from now on my anxiety is Virgil, my guide, leading me as a friend not as an enemy.


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