A few weeks back I relayed a comment a therapist made to me about anxiety making a person’s world grow smaller and smaller. I had not thought about anxiety in this context before, but it is the perfect description. For some this may not be a fresh revelation, but I have been living with anxiety for years and while I was aware that this was happening to me I had not found a way to clearly voice it. Somehow being able to articulate what is happening offers some respite from the feelings of loss that accompany the anxiety.
I had another experience with daytime anxiety today that brought another aspect of living with anxiety into focus. Forcing yourself to function in society day after day while suffering from anxiety is exhausting and painful. No kidding right? Of course I was aware of this, but somehow I felt empowered by admitting this to myself. Being able to say clearly “this shit is hard and it is wearing me out” brought relief. Despite all the medications and therapy sessions has there been a part of me that has wanted to deny I have a problem? Was today’s revelation the equivalent of an addict saying I have a substance problem and it is running my life? Was this the first step towards recovery? Somehow I doubt it, but it may be the first step in coming to terms with adding medications to help me get through it.
Three separate events today have really highlighted the impact this uptick in anxiety is having on my life. This morning I was waiting in a fairly long drive through line and I caught myself positioning my vehicle so that I could get out of the line if I had too. I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious about being in the line, but feeling trapped in social settings has been a growing problem and building in this ridiculous exit strategy is a symptom of that. It is troubling that I would build in an escape plan even though I didn’t feel the need for one. I wonder how often I do this. My suspicion is that it happens a lot, like multiple times a day. When I was talking to my therapist about using exposure therapies I asked him why these therapies would work when forcing myself to go about my daily existence has not. I couldn’t see the difference. He suggested that I had established strategies that allowed me to function, and I acknowledged this was in fact true. What is troubling about this morning is that I didn’t realize that these strategies were happening unconsciously. I have mindfully allowed myself the space to get out of drive through lines in the past so has it just become habit or is it something deeper?
This afternoon I saw a podiatrist about a stubborn ingrown toenail on my big toe. I have undergone partial and full nail removals from my primary care guy and it just grows back the same way. I get a little squeamish about these things, and while I was waiting for the doc it occurred to me that the fancy little chair I was in was going to make it difficult to avoid seeing them tear the nail off my foot. I didn’t worry all that much because I figured any actual procedure would be scheduled for a second appointment. The doc comes in moments after these thoughts raced through my head and after looking things over he told me we should remove the ingrown part of the nail and apply a chemical that would kill the cells that cause it to grow so the part he takes off won’t grow back. He launches into this description of soaking the foot multiple times a day, and how it will look and feel, and then the room started spinning. He wanted to do all this today, and I wasn’t going to be able to handle it. Having had the removal part of this procedure before I know that for a couple days it’s going to hurt like hell, and my job will make it hurt worse so I asked him if we could do it at the end of a week instead. He said sure and I rescheduled for next week and bolted. If it hadn’t been for the anxiety I would have let him do it just to get it over with. Tomorrow would have sucked at work, but it already hurts the way it is. It was just a convenient excuse to bail. Anxiety drove the decision.
The third event involved the potential for new employment. There is one real opportunity around here to work on the water and make a decent living, but the jobs are pretty hard to come by. There is an opening for a job that suits my skill set perfectly. I knew the job was opening up and have been watching for the posting for several weeks. When I got home this afternoon I discovered the job has finally been advertised. There are some extraneous issues that make the job less perfect than the job description indicates, but the work itself is ideal for me. My first reaction upon seeing the listing was to wonder if my various anxieties would really let me do the job.
My reaction to this professional opportunity really highlights what I was talking about at the beginning of this post. Applying for the job is harmless, but should I get it and take it I will be in a position that will require me to force myself forward with all the pain and exhaustion that entails. With time certain things will get easier, but unless I get a handle on this anxiety the job will always present me with situations I will have to drag myself through. On the other hand I could not apply and watch as my world gets ever smaller.