Peeling back the layers

On the way into work today, I had to make a left turn. And there was a guy standing on the corner talking to his buddy. He looked like he was getting ready to walk, but he was facing his buddy and the other intersection and I couldn’t tell which way he was going to go, if he was going to go at all. I got a break in traffic and decided to take the opening, and just then the guy turned from facing his friend and stepped out into the intersection without even looking. So, I stopped quick, a sitting duck in on-coming traffic. I felt really bad for scaring him and I felt mad for him scaring me. I looked worriedly at the traffic barrelling down on me and threw up my hands in a gesture of “I don’t know what to do.” And, in response, he yelled at me indignantly through my open window, “I HAVE A WALK SIGNAL HERE!” I veered around behind him and escaped danger, but I was really hurt inside. I just hated that I was trying so hard to be conscientious and he got angry at me. And I just started crying. It was like I was back in 2nd grade and had just gotten publically humiliated for committing the mortal sin of daydreaming. I just felt so small and wrong and stupid and angry for feeling all those things about myself when I know better.

Over all, I have to say though that this week has been decent. Not much crying. Not much drama. Thank the gods. I’ve realized that the reason I get depressed it is because I’m anxious about something I think I should be cool with. So, I instinctively sit on it and make myself miserable. Don’t ask me why, it’s so engrained in me that I’m barely aware of it when the squashing happens.

The deal with the anxiety is that, plain and simple, it is a psychological and physiological predisposition of mine; I’ve had it ever since I can remember. Something, maybe even something small, will happen and I’ll have a wave of “uh oh” (which, I’ll have you know, is fantastic progress from panicking to the point of having to be taken from my elementary school classrooms and walked around until I calmed down), and then my adrenaline is running and even stupid stuff will seem serious and huge. Usually, the problem is that I worry that I’ve done something wrong, indiscrete, inappropriate, or otherwise subpar and am going to disappoint some mythical someone and make them reject me. Therapy is great for figuring out the triggers and how to deal with them in the moment. (I’m learning to speak up for myself more and more and not take on the responsibility for other people’s feelings about my feelings, and I’m finding that when I do that the anxiety all but completely disappears into a sea of calmness. Fucking amazing.). But once the adrenaline has kicked in and that freight train is bearing down on me, there’s not a lot of self-talk that really gets me back to a place of reasonable balance and a sense of compassion for myself.

So, on Monday, I called my doctor and said, “This is ridiculous. I need help.” I confessed to taking a wee bit of the Valium she had given me for dealing with muscle tension in my back and hips and using it to control my anxiety the day before, and found it really helped. It didn’t get rid of the “uh oh” moments but it kept them from building momentum and leaving me walking around like a raw nerve. I’d have the “uh oh”, I’d feel it, it would pass, and then I’d be fine until the next “uh oh”. Now that I’m so aware of it, I’m starting to get just how often my adrenaline spikes in this way and I’m just so used to it that I tune it out. If anything good comes of this latest episode, it’ll be that I blame myself a little less and have compassion for myself a little more, realizing how vulnerable I have been all along.

I told the doc that if I’m going to get chemical help, it’d be nice to have something that isn’t so toxic and addictive. She agreed and she added that the problem is essentially that I get out of balance. She’s working up a homeopathic remedy for me to deal with that. (Don’t laugh. That shit works if you go to a real homeopath and don’t just screw around with off-the-shelf solutions. It fixed another troublesome life-long problem of mine about 10 years ago and that problem never came back.) In the meantime, because my worrying and self-flagellation can snowball quickly, she said that it’s really OK to take the smallest bit I need in order to nip it in the bud. She suggested that I experiment with how little I can take that will help me. Last night, I decided to go ahead and take 2.5 mg just before bed, rather than wait until I woke up yet again at 3:30 in the morning with my mind furiously working on some project or another. And I slept the whole night through for the first time in a while.

This anxiety is a surprising thing. I know it has been a problem for a long time. But I also remember being so much more functional, like when I was high school. As recently reminded me, “You kicked ass in high school. You were fair but you didn’t take shit from anyone.” But in the intervening years, I’ve done a lot of peeling of layers and don’t seem to have as thick a skin. Which I enjoy when it comes to being surprised and deeply touched by the beauty everywhere in the world. But when I’m tipped to the anxiety side of the scale, that sensitivity can be a real burden.

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6 thoughts on “Peeling back the layers

  1. I can identify with a lot of what you are saying. Now, for me, I had so much exposure to people who did not share my sensitivity who took advantage of it, that I finally thickened my skin enough to truly be able to say, “That asshole. He stepped into oncoming traffic. I hope the asshole is ok and learns something.”

  2. No sage advice here

    I’d have responded just as you did — all upset about the asshole who seemed to think “walk” and “look” are mutually exclusive and turning that in on myself.

    I’m not sure that’s any help. But I guess if you think I’m pretty cool sometimes, you have to accept that it doesn’t make you totally useless to have the same spazzy neuroses. 🙂

  3. mobile hazards

    One of the ways I’ve calmed my anxiety is to see pedestrians, bad drivers, etc. as mobile hazards. They are no longer people, they are obstacles that may move and cause an accident. This way, I eliminate the anger/rage response (would you get angry at a tree for being in the way?) and I eliminate the trying to please/anxiety thing (does a tree really have the power to judge you?).

    So I just call out “mobile hazard” and let it GO at that.

    Best of luck with the meds–sometimes they are needed 😉

    • Re: mobile hazards

      Hi, I just realized that I never got back to you, and you were kind enough to chime in with support and we don’t even know each other that well.

      Letting GO is an important lesson for me. And I need to hear from good folks like you that I have the right to do it and to not beat myself up.

      So, a belated thank you!

  4. Usually, the problem is that I worry that I’ve done something wrong, indiscrete, inappropriate, or otherwise subpar and am going to disappoint some mythical someone and make them reject me.

    This is me too, although instead of “and make them reject me,” I might say ” and look ridiculous or incompetent.” I’ve mentioned to you before that I have anxiety issues too. I’d love to know your secret homeopathic remedy. I try a lot of self-talk, and on the right day, it will work pretty well. On the wrong day, well, I could very well see myself reacting like you did to the guy in traffic.

    • Hi, finally getting back to you. Thanks for you sympathy. It really helps to know that I’m not the only one.

      The homeopathic that my doc gave me was a single loading dose of Nia snake. I’m not sure if it was the magic bullet. I did still have anxiety and worry and confusion for some weeks afterwards. But, in the end, I found it easier to stick up for myself this time. Thanks to Nia or thanks to therapy or thanks to good friends and kindred spirits like you.

      If you come up with any other aids for alleving unnecessary anxiety, I’d sure love to hear them.

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