I spend a lot of time contemplating the origin of things these days. Feelings, emotions, thoughts, reactions… all that stuff. I want to know where it comes from, what’s causing it, etc., because at some point, I realized that figuring out where things come from helps me determine whether or not it’s an appropriate feeling/though/emotion/reaction to the current situation at hand. And ultimately, it helps me to return to the source and nip that shit in the bud.
So, like, last week I was having horrible anxiety. The kind that prevented me from sleeping, but rendered me unable to do (or want to do) much else. Brain running a mile a minute, constant butterflies, inability to focus, underlying sadness… and it was a visceral reaction to a situation that honestly didn’t warrant it. Adding insult to injury, I wound up acting on it (in a relatively minor way, thank goodness) and then having to own the behavior. It wasn’t comfortable, for a lot of reasons.
But I know all the right things to do, right? I reminded myself to sit with it. I forced myself to reach out to friends, who all helped in their own ways. I made dinner plans with family. In other words, I got back to the business of being me, instead of allowing the anxiety (and resulting shitty thoughts and feelings) to rule things, and it helped. Immensely. So much so that, 24 hours later, I’d made the transition from worrying and stressing and having my catastrophizing imagination on overdrive, to seeing the reality of the situation and no longer giving a shit. I referred to it in my ThxFriday post as achieving WTF enlightenment and “whatever” nirvana.
There’s a lot of freedom to be found in not caring. (I’ve been applying this lesson everywhere, and boy howdy, does it work!)
And yet, that still doesn’t solve the original issue. There’s a lot to be said for reconditioning, and it’s entirely possible I could heal it all up and reprogram my brain and anxiety response simply by engaging with people who live life with integrity and who treat me with respect and loving kindness. Learning to trust people and situations, as well as the truth that I will be okay, no matter what. I have every intention of doing all of that, regardless. But I also think I need to identify triggers, trace them back, and sort through THAT. Tending to the structural integrity of my psyche, you know? Little dings in the armor here and there are fine, but at some point after 40 years, things begin to warp and crack and break.
Right now, I think my reaction to certain things/situations is broken, and while it’s feeling a lot better, I don’t want to have to contend with this for the rest of my life if I don’t have to. Anxiety makes me imagine the worst – and then believe my thoughts. I get rattled, confused, distracted, short-tempered, fearful, stuck in fight or flight, and basically experience a complete loss of self. It’s pretty terrible. It’s a toss-up between recognizing it’s not “truth,” and feeling completely powerless to do anything about it, as to which part sucks the hardest.
Anyway. It seems to me that this particular anxiety started in my late 20’s. Prior to that, I’d spent years coming at relationships from a place of insecurity, but it was different. I have a feeling that the two years spent in a dysfunctional, drug-fueled, traumatic relationship with a junkie who would disappear for days at a time to be with the woman he really loved, only to come back when he needed something or when she’d push him away, left me with a touch of the PTSD. All of that in conjunction with extended crystal meth use probably did a number on my brain, because the things I imagine now – the thoughts that pass through my mind when I’m feeling insecure or afraid – are a lot more intense (and ridiculous, and awful) than they ever used to be before. It’s possible, too, that some of it comes from age and allowing it to fester, as well as being in several less than stellar relationships afterward which only served to exacerbate (and reaffirm) the fears and insecurities.
So there’s a lot of work to be done. I know where it comes from, I know it’s not based in reality and that there’s a difference between the anxious gut and my REAL gut. They say very different things, a lot of the time. This past week or two has been a prime example. Thankfully, I’m learning to speak and understand/interpret both languages, and operate accordingly.