Anxiety in Black & White
Muddling through the DSM freshly released iteration, 5, I looked at the definition of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. From my humble, un-allopathic (sic) educated perspective but from that of someone who struggles with the persistence of anxiety reading it made me feel very anxious.
For me, I would say if anxiety arises and is present it is an uncomfortable, debilitating and, a generally agreed upon, unhealthy state of “perceiving” the world. It causes dis-order in my life. Whether it fits the definition in the DSM or not, it is useful to recognize the dis-ease that anxiety brings and then develop the skills to ameliorate. And not just cope but to create and experience joy. Listen to the wisdom of your own body. Seek support from trusted professionals, allies and friends.
Believe me, I know, I’ve been there. My great and useful practice has been to recognize it and then to use acquired skills to settle, be with it and feel it, accept and “know” that this too will pass.
Yes, many do experience anxiety and regularly to varying degrees. Anxiety, for me, presents as my need to personally be on guard, just in case. Anxiety comes cloaked in hypervilglliance, it wears a crown of perfection and holds a sceptre of meticulous control (everything has a place and everything in its place).
My overcompensation for the possibility of being late is one form of hyper-vigilance. However, the “just in case” itself is unsafe, taking risks to be someplace on time. (More on where this “fear” of being late arose in another writing.)
On the upside, I have found the meticulous nature, like a homeopathic remedy (like cures like) is what on occasion calms me. I have organized a huge amount of small hardware, screws, hanging hooks, different sizes and types of nails for a couple of hours and at the end, I feel calmer. I clean my living space with the metaphoric toothbrush.
Anxiety feels like unbearable discomfort, the possible likelihood of instant harm, without an option. Something might happen at any time and I need to be scrupulously prepared for the eventuality. Yikes, what a way to live waiting for the siren to go off, waiting for the emergency, that I am positive is going to happen will happen.
Let me illustrate from my younger days before I started to learn to tame the beast (and friend, more on that in a later post as well.) If I was going out in a social situation, I would prepare in my mind what was going to happen and a variety of scenarios that could possibly happen and the responses or reactions I would make when those situations would arise.
Guess what?!! For the most part they didn’t, but when they didn’t that feeling would trigger the sense of impending doom, not now but soon and “will I be prepared?” A relationship is doomed, a meeting will go awry, I better leave very early to be on time so I don’t have to feel anxious in the inevitability that traffic will be bad…. it’s never ending. Being late is akin to the fear of being mortally wounded (as I sad, more on this in a later blog post.)
When I am anxious, I can turn this wild energy into productive exuberance. I can get my home sparkling clean, meticulously complete the little tasks, like organizing paper files and decluttering my computer files. I can use this energy to go for a long walk or bike ride or practice yoga. And, I can just sit with it. Patiently reminding myself “wherever I go there I am”, there is nothing to do, nowhere else to be then present in this moment. This moment contains all that is sustainable and nurturing. I can post reminders in ‘friendly font’ such as Breathe or Don’t Panic or Don’t Forget Your Towel.
Read beneath that paragraph for the “big but”. But during a panic attack or acute or chronic anxiety it is difficult to remember the tools, to take off the glasses that perceive the world as an unsafe place.
For me hypnotherapy has not just helped me alter my perception of this world from the “unsafe” perspective to that of a “friendly universe”. It has allowed me to engage tools that help me recognize the gold in the challenges. Through deprograming this deeply entrenched anxiety call and response I see the world and experience what I’m experiencing in a different way.
Let’s talk about anxiety.