4 03 2010

A person who feels no insecurities, no nervousness, no anxiety, no fear is a dangerous person to be around. These emotions are what cause us to back away as children when a friend starts playing with fire, the feeling that alerts us when something is “off” about a stranger we just met, the knot that develops in our stomach when hearing a tornado siren or emergency broadcast signal. They are our minds’ self preserving response to danger.

Some of us, though, have minds that play tricks on us. Minds that scream at us that we’re in danger when in reality, we aren’t. Instead of self preserving, our anxious thoughts become self-destructive. Our insecurities create self-fulfilling prophecies.

In all but rare cases of true chemical imbalance, I believe that insecurity and anxiety are firmly rooted in low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority. In the 10+ years since I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I have had plenty of time to (over)analyze my own patterns and triggers and they certainly reinforce this theory. One very simple thing that has always been a panic attack trigger for me: calling people on the phone. It doesn’t matter if I’m calling a stranger about a job opening, one of my best friends or even my own mother. Over the years I have come to realize how this is tied into my issues with self-esteem. I don’t feel like I’m worthy of peoples’ time. I always suspect that the recipient of my call is on the other end rolling their eyes at the intrusion, wondering how to get rid of me. At times I have sat with the phone in my hand for 45 minutes, waiting for a panic attack to subside enough to dial a number and make a completely unimportant call.

If you have never experienced a panic attack, well, you haven’t lived. For me they include severe nausea, dizziness as if I’m about to pass out, blurred/fuzzy vision, seeing spots, chest tightness and shortness of breath, a gross amount of perspiration, feeling “flushed”, shaking and just a general feel of being about to become very ill and possibly die. Try carrying on and acting normal around people  in the midst of something like that and you’ll have an idea of what it’s like to have an anxiety disorder.

Comparing myself as a preteen to myself currently I am able to see a difference that I didn’t think possible in those pre/early teen years. At that point in my life I was embarrassed by everything. I felt as if everyone was always watching me and I cared a painful amount about what “they” thought about every move I made. Speaking to a group was excruciating. Meeting new people or just talking to someone outside of my small comfortable group of friends was a nauseating ordeal. I was constantly in a state of red-faced humiliation because nothing I did or said was ever good enough to not feel worthy of severe embarrassment.

Suddenly, in about my sophomore year of high school, something changed for me. It was like a huge neon sign popped up in my head that said Hey, Jackass! Everything is not about you! Nobody cares! These people are so wrapped up in their self-absorption, the last thing they’re doing is watching you. Besides, most of these people are frighteningly stupid….why the hell would you waste time letting their opinions matter to you?”

That was the end of my caring what the masses thought about me and anything that I was doing. To this day I don’t know what brought on those simple realizations, but even now I can’t argue with their validity. They were some of the most important conclusions I’ve ever come to. In the following years I would overcompensate by becoming incredibly cynical, bitter and quite aggressive. I like to think that each year of my adult life I get closer to finding balance.

As much as I’ve changed as a person since those days of constant shame and embarrassment, I am still a person with depression and anxiety disorders and I always will be. I still struggle with underlying insecurities and an unhealthy self-image. My insecurities may no longer include the mundane or the daily, but the larger, more ingrained ones still reside, and still elicit that danger response in me, though how I react to that inner response may range from panic to depression to defeat to aggression. I still can’t use the phone like a normal person. I still panic in crowds.

An addict is  always an addict, whether they are using or not. A person who is prone to anxiety and/or depression will always have those tendencies. All you can do is manage the way you were set up by your particular genetics and circumstances, and never stop actively working to find ways to face your unique fears and make yourself better, even if the process is incredibly uncomfortable, because in the end it is always worth it.



One response

10 03 2010

I can totally relate to this. My freshman year in college I started having panic attacks and general anxiety. The worst one happened when I was driving back to school after having been home for the weekend (my first time back home since leaving for college.) I think it was the fear of returning to school (first year nerves, new people, etc) that spurred it on but all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe, my vision went blurry, my fingers locked up and I could not for the live of me move them, and my insides felt like someone was trying to tie my intestines in knots while also squeezing me to death like an Anaconda would. Make sense? Anyway, long story short – I saw a doctor, went on medication, and have been on it ever since. I tried to ween myself off of them last year but those anxious feelings started coming back. I quickly resumed taking the pills. I don’t know if I’ll be on them for the rest of my life, but I just know that something is “off” when I’m NOT taking them. I’m more myself with them, you know? Something happened when I went off to college – a chemical imbalance, hormones, whatever…but I was not my normal self, and the medication has helped get me back there. Of course, this is the long story made short, but I just wanted to say…I totally understand! And I will stop word vomiting all over your blog now.

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