It is Mental Health Week in Canada.
I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. Basically, that means that I worry a more than most people about nearly everything. Day to day, I’m able to mostly keep it under control, and sometimes even use it as a drive to push me forward.
An example would be that I don’t like being late, so I often try to control a situation so that I’m not late. The flip side of this is that I’m sometimes an hour early for something depending on how anxious the situation makes me. Could you imagine giving up an hour of your day just to be early for an appointment?
Of course, sometimes life gets in the way, and I’m late. It can’t be helped. If I don’t put effort into forgiving myself and immediately take control of the anxiety, it can overwhelm me and being two minutes late for work can throw off my whole day.
Another trigger is large crowds. I’ve been trying to work on this, but as an introvert, I find it draining to be around people. Add to that the worry that I might say something wrong, offend people, or the irrational anxiety I get that makes me feel like Simba during the scene with the stampede.
When with Annie’s family, I have to find my own space where there aren’t more than half a dozen people so that I can feel comfortable and get my brain to not want to flee the area.
I remember when I first met them all, I was overwhelmed with the number of people in her family that came together at Thanksgiving, but I did my best and apparently, at least according to those that I’ve talked to about it, they thought I did well.
That brings me to my next major trigger for anxiety: new experiences. Really almost any new experience causes me to feel anxious. I’ve worked really hard at trying to reduce this feeling through exposure therapy, through positive self-reinforcement, and constant reminders that it is going to be okay. Sometimes even just remembering to take deep breaths through my nose quiets my brain enough for me to move forward.
A good example of this is interviewing for a job. Thanks to my depression, I often feel unworthy and it can be hard to shake that off. Then add in that I’m an introvert that is completely drained by selling myself, and you have a situation where I feel like a nervous wreck. I slather on the antiperspirant, try to remember to have tissues in my pockets to soak up the sweat my palms and forehead will generate, and plow through the best I can.
You can ask my wife and friends, but I interview for a more than average number of jobs and I’m one step away from saying “nope” to each and every one of those situations. But I do it, in part, to help reduce the anxiety I experience while in the interview. I know that I need to have the skills to ace an interview so I can get the jobs that I really want.
The most frustrating thing is anxiety during what I consider normal things. I feel anxiety in driving a car. I know that I can be the best driver in the world and some idiot can still hit me and kill myself or my wife. I know that I can be careful and still end up in an accident.
When cooking food, if I make it wrong or burn it, then I feel anxiety over that. I’ve had mild panic attacks over small mistakes in cooking before. Thankfully, it is partially countered by the fact that I enjoy doing it.
The idea of going to the doctor, admitting my issues, and being judged by a professional gives me huge anxiety. I once hyperventilated at the thought of meeting a new mental health professional. I had it stuck in my mind that they were going to lock me away and I didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad one… On one hand, I wanted the validation that I had a serious issue, but on the other, I didn’t want to be locked up!
Anxiety is a strange burden to live with. The logical side of my brain can, unfortunately usually only in retrospect, review these thoughts and see them for the strange and silly things that they are, but it is a shame that I have to expend so much effort fighting against my instincts. Sometimes I just want to tell my brain to smarten up.