“I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps in me” (Sylvia Plath)
Here’s what I know about anxiety:
- I’m pretty sure it has ties to the devil.
- It’s exhausting.
- It prepares you for tragedy in a sick sort of way.
- People pleasers are more susceptible to its charms.
- It can be controlled with medication and therapy and faith in God
Anxiety first took a hold of me around the age of 7 or 8. It seemed to coincide with the sickness and death of my grandfather. I felt and saw my mother’s fear when he was ill and confused. It pervaded our whole family as well as its extended members. It upset established routines. I remember sitting on mom’s lap at his funeral, my body shaking to her sobs. Anxiety and I are constant companions and while it may lie dormant within me, like Plath, I know it’s always there so I give it the healthy respect it deserves.
I have faith in God. I like to believe it’s a deep faith and I think most times it is. I have no trouble believing that there is a heaven and that one of its most recent members is my Pat. I am comforted in knowing that he is not alone and that he is at peace. I haven’t doubted God’s love for me or Bea since last April either and His presence is always with us, mainly through family, friends, my students, and our furry companions. I should have no doubts or worries, but I do. And quite frankly I believe that to be the devil at work. Over-thinking, self-doubting, questioning your actions- these are all examples of how the darkness can overtake your good time and you really have to work hard to push these shadows out of your mind.
That is why anxiety is so exhausting. You lose sleep because you think you’ve hurt someone or perhaps you have been the victim and lie awake chastising yourself because you’re too damn sensitive. You worry about today’s lesson plan or if the students will behave. When did I check the mail last? Is Bea really OK? Why didn’t they respond to my text? Your mind is full and so is your heart. And every muscle is taut. You have gone into flight mode while driving to work and you’ve put in a full day before you hit the parking lot.
An active imagination is really quite nice for the creative person in me. I come up with some really great art projects and novel ideas in the middle of the night and on the road to Parrsboro. And in a weird sort of way that black devil can prepare you for the tragedies of life too. What possible scenario haven’t I conjured up on my worst days? So when it happens it’s almost like being half prepared. Except that it’s the worst possible thing to have happen, and you might even feel guilty for ever thinking it in the first place so the cycle begins again. Tired yet? I sure am.
Anxiety loves the people pleaser so he and I have a special bond due to the fact that keeping the peace and not making a fuss are two of my natural defaults. Not saying what you actually feel, or worse saying something that you really do not believe just to keep the even flow, feeds your anxious behavior. I do happen to have a few suggestions to help with this issue. Limit your interaction with people who make your insides churn and breathing become rapid. When that is impossible to do might I suggest knitting a dishcloth? I am serious. It just might provide you with that inner peace you need to get through the interaction without compromising yourself. And obviously writing is a great outlet for me. If I have to say something I will use messenger or e-mail, and yes even write a letter, as I can express my feelings so much better through the written word. And at this point of communication, I do not expect a response from the person I am writing to-I have let it go though, and there is deep empowerment with that simple act.
I have already stated that I respect the anxiety that dwells within me. So when my life fell apart 11 months ago, I knew the blackness could eat me up if I wasn’t careful, and prayer might just not be enough at this point. So I asked for help from this wonderful NP, who gave me an antidepressant to help me maintain some sort of balance while the world around me rocked. A month ago I also began counselling with yet another incredible woman proving that God will provide you with the people you need. Through talk therapy I now know that the medication has clearly helped me to regroup without the anxiety cloud. I can see and use the coping strategies I have always had but I can now put them to use more effectively.
Talking with someone who remains outside of my intense situation has been very powerful. She has provided me with concrete lists of strategies, new ones that I find really helpful. And of most importance she has given me hope and reassurance that I am indeed headed in the right direction with this grieving thing.
I will always have anxiety. But I am managing it because I recognize its power over me. Without its presence I wouldn’t know when I need to ask for help and I wouldn’t be writing these blogs. I also know that God’s love surrounds me always. His voice is strong and comes to me through my mom, and two of my favorite men, my dad and Patrick. They tell me when it’s time to seek help from someone or to just get it out from in there and there can be no better power or strength than that when combating the dark forces. ❤❤❤.
Until next time,