Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Slight Redaction.

So after crabbing about pledge drives, last night's offering from the local PBS? Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration from Madison Square Garden last May. It made up, just some of the other baloney that goes on during pledge drives. I distinctly remember being FASCINATED by "Riverdance" the first time I saw it. Possibly even the second and third. After the 7536th time? Not so much. Talk about beating a dead horse. (And we won't discuss "Lord of the Dance," OK?)

Linnea made a very good comment a couple posts back. She mentioned that perhaps the reason that my usual coping mechanisms don't work is because they also bring you to a place that invites introspection, which is in direct conflict with the anxiety screaming for full steam ahead. And she also described what I do in those situations as well: power-surf. In my case, it may not even be surfing, because I pretty much hit the same five or six sites over and over and over again.

I spend a lot of time in my head. A very dear friend used to say (wryly) about both me and herself, "If only other people were as self-aware as we are." I generally agree with whathisname who said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I work pretty hard at staying present. Unfortunately, when anxiety figures into this, it becomes a ferociously spinning hamster wheel of thought instead of rational introspection. If I allow myself into that introspective place when I'm in anxiety's grip, I won't find any solutions; rather, I'll just torture myself with all the what-ifs and how-could-I's and not-agains.

I didn't remember always being like this. I tied a lot of it to that awful man-boy experience I described earlier. That experience didn't cause my anxiety, but it was so extreme that it totally tipped the boat in that direction. Even then, I never grokked that this is a chronic condition in me, until the day (quite some time after that awfulness, enough time for an un-anxious person to be over it) I was on my feet in my counselor's office, screaming at her. I felt as if my head was going to blow off if I couldn't just get someone to LISTEN TO ME, for mercy's sake. This was so completely out of character for me that I knew there was more to it. I agreed to see a psychiatrist for more help than she could give me. THAT first visit was more than enough to convince me that yes, I am a pretty intense person, but intense in the extreme, and that the extreme was damaging me.

So now that I have something like a grip on the situation, I can look farther back in my life and say, "There...and there...ohYEAH, there..." and find many, many situations where my actions were anxiety-driven. I always thought it was "just me" (not that it isn't) and that was all there was to it. There wasn't anything to do about it, I just had to fight like hell against it. As a musician, and having to do solo recitals to graduate, can you imagine how hard I had to battle stage fright? Now that it's clear that there is help for this, I can't help but wonder (briefly...this is something I manage not to dwell on) how things would have been different if I had been able to put the effort of fighting the anxiety into my performance instead.

Thus...returning to Linnea's point, part of dealing with this is understanding that sometimes I just need to let my brain shut off, because under anxiety's influence, I am not making progress. I do need to keep an eye on how long the shut-down period becomes; you can tell by my abnormally regular posting that the recent shut-down period has ended. It is an effort to get going again, but once I do, then I have productive thinking that I can trust again. I always believed that just because I was thinking it, it must be so. (Where I thought I learned to be omniscient, I don't know.) I didn't understand that something else really could be influencing my thought process, and that I would need to become even more self-aware to be able to know the difference. Honestly, I think this weekend is one of the first times I've been at anxiety's mercy AND been able to pull back from it just enough to see what was happening, and have just the smallest bit of control over it.

I'm still uneasy over the situation with my friend. Communication has been spotty, and it is still taking a fair amount of effort to not immediately believe everything I think. It is possible that I'm mistaken about the whole thing; it's possible that I'm right. Tt is possible that something else entirely is taking place; it's possible that I'm not mistaken but the outcome will be different than I fear. It's possible that he's as anxious about it as I am. (At my calmest moments, that is the one that makes the most sense.) I do wonder, and would love to hear more of your thoughts about this:

I know now that when I'm anxious, I'm not thinking clearly and instead invent all kinds of drama that leads to the End. When I come down from that, the situation has many more possible endings, and I feel a lot calmer, even though I don't know what the ending will be. Is that telling myself a story to soothe myself (aka denial, I think)? Or is it more trustworthy than that?

I'm hoping to return to musing on bathroom construction again soon. And maybe, just MAYBE, talking about knitting, spinning, and fiber frivolity in general. Thanks for sticking with me.


Aitara said...

here's a distraction for you.....
T-MINUS 30 DAYS TO RHINEBECK!! And a revisit of my 30th birthday! <3 <3

(but really, much love to you Barb...anxiety sucks!)

Anonymous said...

In the case of anxiousness about your friend, I'm inclined to believe that your thinking of the worst. possible. scenario is the way your mind is trying to protect you if there is indeed a Bad End. It sounds like you're setting yourself up to expect the worst. And, we humans don't like to not know - which is how and why I think all sorts of explanations are made to answer otherwise uncertain questions. I think it's natural to feel like you're feeling, but that other people might have more practice/are more comfortable with ignoring or turning off those feelings of doubt.

And hey, muse away, it helps - especially if you feel like you're getting control over things. When I find the key to opening the perfect balance between introspection, self-improvement, and acceptance, I'll let you know. :)

Anonymous said...

If I didn't absolutely adore the doc I see for anxiety+, I think I'd start going to Linnea...

Sounds like you've got a nice handle on things. I'm another great one at imagining all the worst case scenarios. Stepping back is always the hardest when its very personal. Sigh.

And yes- Rhinebeck is sooooooon!

Anonymous said...

P.S. Whenever I'm anxious and babbling on and on about how I messed up the pronunciation of a word and thus looked like a moron in front of a doctor or how I couldn't parallel park with two turns of the wheel or how I'm really mad at the jerk who almost cut me off when I was trying to merge onto the highway (and replaying these and other more dramatic scenes over and over in my head) my husband will tell me to forget about it and relax. I inevitably stomp my feet at this, and mutter about how he doesn't understand and how terrible everything is, etc. And he'll tell me to relax again, and encourage me to take my mind of whatever I'm nervous about. It usually works better than I think it does. I'll also recite mantras to myself, to distract my mind from the negative and give myself something positive or comforting to focus on. And, finally, maybe it will help for you to know that you're not alone.