Tag Archives: anxiety

The suddenness of religiosity

There’s something to be said about the theory that we become more religious as we near death, or as a friend nears death, or death becomes a greater statistical probability (even if that probability is still very small).
Suddenly, you’re grappling with the metaphysical and philosophical questions you try to avoid in your daily life because you know very well that you don’t have the answers to any of them and hope that you’ll some how absorb them over the course of trying to live.

It starts when you start focusing on them– on those questions– that religion slips in. “Is he okay?” is one of those questions. Inevitably, especially if you’re imaginative (and aren’t all of us really when we are anxious), you come up with scenario. What so many portrayals of this process don’t get is it’s never linear. It’s never bad to worse. It’s bad, better, worse, worst, okay. At some points you focus on just keeping it level at “okay”, even while your heart clenches and burns.

Periodically, as your heart oscillates between hammering and painful twisting, you start making deals.  You don’t even have to name a deity or a creator. You just hope for some temporary influence over the world. You give up things; you sacrifice the hypothetical.

I don’t need my dream job, you say to the universe. I don’t need him to be with me.
I can give up this plan I had for myself, or this treat. I promise I’ll do something to return the price to you.

This is when you are less than okay. When you’re okay, you can tell yourself he must be too.
He must be okay because he’d make the safe choice, because he’d get lucky, because it couldn’t possibly be as bad as you imagine. Then a small voice in the back of your head says “What if he’s not?”

And you say, he is. He probably just doesn’t want to talk to you.

“That’s highly irregular,” the voice retorts.

Then you begin to wonder: What could he do that would lead to radio silence?

Drink too much and fall asleep? Decide that, actually, he wanted to break up with you? Cheat on you?

That’s when you realize, you’d rather he just cheated. That’s when you deals start taking on another form. You say to yourself, I can take that. I can take him cheating as long as he’s alive. I can take him breaking up with me. I can take never seeing him again, as long as he’s alive.

You keep checking your phone. It’s obsessive. Your heart leaps and sinks like a sine graph every time you do, and every time you do you pray that this otherworldly force has taken your deal, no matter which one.

 

Getting personal

I’ve always been an anxious person; I think it might stem from my sensitivity. I take failure really hard. So hard that sometimes the thought of it stops me from even trying.
So, when I spend hours convincing myself to complete a task and the response is negative?  I often surrender too much of my time to obsessive thoughts on how my failure reflects qualities of my character, my intelligence, my likeability, continue ad nauseum.

The more I think about these things, the less I do. They less I do, the more I feel like I am all of these things and they just fester and form a big, self-hating pile of sludge.

As you may have gathered, this is not a pleasant process. My heart clenches and burns and the nervous ticks I sustained throughout my childhood resurface. In elementary, after years of social exclusion and bullying, I started to make small sounds or rub my hands together when I became nervous or stressed. I was embarrassed by this, but I couldn’t stop myself. My throat felt constricted and ticklish at the same time and I felt compelled to make the sounds to stop it. It gave me a small illusion of control.

My family would always tell me to “stop that!” whenever they noticed it. They didn’t know what else to do, or how to help. It didn’t have the intended effect. Instead, the thought of making the noises made me so stressed out that I began picking at my eyelashes. I’d pull at them, twist them and tug them and, for a little while, that’d help. Even so, I knew it wasn’t healthy and soon my new habit began causing stress.

I won’t go into all the reasons I felt stress and anxiety throughout my childhood, that would take too long and I’ve become sick of rehashing all the things that are wrong with me. I really want to make it through this anxiety, and I think I’m at a point where  I can admit I need help.

To this day I feel like a fraud. If something goes successfully it’s because I got lucky or because no one scrutinized my work enough. Any moment, they’ll discover what I really am. I’m not afraid of social situations, at least not initially, because it’s easy to pretend you’re confident when the other person has no way to verify the veracity of your claims, having never seen you react to stress or hardship. It’s later that makes me concerned, because I fear they’ll discover I’m an impostor. I’m not as creative or kind or  interesting as I pretend to be during that first few days, and when they compliment me for being any of those three I feel my heart sink because I’ve mislead them.

Sometimes I manage my anxiety really well and all those self-hating thoughts sink deeper and I forget about them for a time, but they inevitably come back. Today they’ve been really hard to manage and I can’t seem to bite back the vicious idea that I’m a failure.
For now, the simplest thing I can do is take a walk and remind myself that I have a right to happiness and a right to mistakes as a human being.
And like so many out there like me, I’ll work on managing my worries step by step.