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Day 25 – Living With Anxiety

Day 25 – Living With Anxiety
Day 25 – Living With Anxiety

Today at work the subject of anxiety was brought up while I was talking to my co-workers. We were talking about a training orientation I will be attending soon, and it will be held in a different city/ suburb about an hour away from me. I had originally offered to drive because I thought this suburb was far enough outside the city that I wouldn’t be subjected to heavy traffic, and that it would be easy to find. Turns out, I was wrong.

My co-worker started spouting off the directions on how she got there, and my brain went into panic mode just listening to her talk about it. For someone who is used to driving, it probably sounded easy. But for me, it sounded like she was speaking Greek. I’m the type of person who goes by landmarks, rather than street names and numbers, when I’m going somewhere. Add in the burden of anxiety when I drive anywhere outside the comfort of my city, and I’m a wreck.

I had one previous experience leaving the city where the training will be held, during rush hour traffic, and it was terrifying. I told my co-workers that after that experience, I vowed never to do it again. I told them I have such bad anxiety when it comes to driving that I don’t go anywhere. When I took a trip to see my brother recently, who lives two hours away, I almost didn’t go because I was hit with an anxiety attack. It’s that bad sometimes.

That’s when my co-worker piped up and said “It’s not that bad”. I asked him if he had anxiety, and he said “sometimes, I guess”.

In that moment, it took all the strength I had to not jump down his throat. It’s like saying to a diabetic “oh, go ahead and eat that whole chocolate cake. It’s not that bad for you”. Living with an invisible disease/ disorder is difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced it before. It is also difficult to have patience with someone who doesn’t understand what you’re going through.

I could have tried to explain it to him, but where would I even begin? How do you explain the feelings of a racing heart? A mind racing with 1,000 worst case scenarios? The overwhelming fear? And, the feeling of wanting to bawl your eyes out while simultaneously feeling the need to curl up into a ball and hide?

And forget about trying to explain social anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder, or PTSD. All of which I suffer from in varying degrees.

So, instead of trying to explain, I simply said we can discuss the driving situation another day. I took myself out of the discussion before I had the chance to get defensive, which is another part of my anxiety. Taking myself out of the discussion today wasn’t a form of avoidance, it was a form of self-care. I recognized the feelings of anxiety bubbling up to the surface, and I chose not to engage those feelings.

Overcoming my anxiety hasn’t been easy. Instead of burying my feelings of anxiety in alcohol, I’ve chosen to take a different path. Taking a hard look at my past hasn’t been easy either. But, it is a vital step in the healing process. By facing my past, and remembering tough memories, I am better able to work through that pain. If I want to grow, I must face and work through the pain, instead of burying it deeper inside of me.

Originally published January 31, 2017 – medium.com

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