Some of my dearest friends would probably die laughing if I told them that I am only now becoming aware of the degree to which I struggle with anxiety. Of course, they see it from the outside. They are the ones who hear my words get faster and faster, and they see and feel my intensity when I am triggered.
Nevertheless, labeling myself as an “anxious” person has never crossed my mind. I think this is because the women I have seen labeled as “anxious” are those who are also viewed as “emotionally fragile,” and I do not see myself as “emotionally fragile” in the least. Yes, I get triggered, but I also know I am tough as h@#$ and will fight my way back. In my head, I am a warrior, not a “worrier.”
I guess it doesn’t help that my mother-in-law was such an anxious person (she passed away a few years ago), and everyone in the family had to tiptoe around her anxiety. Everyone viewed her as a fragile flower who must be protected at all costs. I have hardly been “protected” throughout my life, so my perception of anxiety discounted the possibility of applying that label to myself.
My medical doctor had no problems whatsoever with labeling me as having anxiety issues. She made the mistake of stating my weight at a physical a couple of years ago, and I had a complete panic attack in her office right there in front of her. She immediately prescribed me Xanax, and she has been wonderfully supportive of empowering me to manage my anxiety with Xanax as needed while, at the same time, taking note that I don’t abuse it and frequently go months between refills. I am actually taken aback when she uses her “bedside” voice toward me (her “anxious patient”) because nobody ever treated me with kid gloves … not even when I was a kid!
I am coming to realize that my normal state of being since childhood has always been “anxious,” but I had to learn how to mask it. When I am alone, I do all sorts of “crazy” things to manage my anxiety, from tapping my fingers in a particular way to breathing in a funky way. As a child, I did everything from blowing on my hands to clearing my throat repeatedly to manage the anxiety. My son started doing something weird with his wrist that was in imitation of one of my anxiety-reducing rituals, and that was a real wake up call. (He was just trying to figure out why I do it and how.) It has only been in the past few weeks that I am awakening to the fact that my body is feeling X, Y, Z, which means that I am having anxiety issues.
It is weird for me to think of myself as being an “anxious” person because I have always equated “anxious” with “weak,” and I am definitely not weak. Nevertheless, I have struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, phobias, and frequent triggering, which all fall under the umbrella of anxiety. I think it is weird that I couldn’t see this in myself before now.
Photo credit: Hekatekris