I've talked before about my journey on the Anxiety Train and how it's been a long, horrible road, often strewn with disappointment (mine and other peoples), self recrimination and a general sense of hopelessness. I've also talked about overcoming it and taking charge of my life and my fear. Since last February things have been amazing. I have gone to a baseball game in my most feared and dreaded city - Boston - as well as attended concerts, parties, and just plain old lunches with friends and family members out in public that weren't cut short because I was spending the majority of the time in the bathroom hoping for the Angel of Death to swoop in and make the panic stop while providing me with an acceptable excuse for why I wasn't socializing.
After all of these victories I think I may have gotten a bit lax in my practice of taking note of life as it's happening. My plan to stay present and keep in touch with people who make me better, who make me remember I am in charge, has gotten a little lost in the shuffle. I have noticed twice now in the past couple of weeks the sensation of anxiety creeping in. This past Saturday is an excellent example. There was a memorial picnic planned to celebrate our friend who passed away very suddenly a few weeks ago. Initially I had thought I wouldn't be able to attend but as the week passed by it became apparent that my work commitment would be over in plenty of time. For the first time in a long time I felt myself having mixed feelings about an event. I was happy to go and see friends, enjoy a day outside, and show love and respect for someone who has left us. But then there was this, rather unexpected visitor in my head. The voice of Anxiety started to talk to me again. Shocking, because I haven't heard from it since February.
Anxiety started to tell me that it was going to be hot out, that I would get sunburn, I wouldn't know anyone, nobody would like me, I have nothing in common with anyone there and it would be awkward. I wasn't part of his inner circle, I didn't belong there, I didn't deserve to grieve with the people who were closest to him and my presence would be an insult to their pain. Anxiety started telling me about how much I needed to stay home and get some rest, I'd had a headache for three days, clearly I was too weak to survive a picnic in July. It told me about how I would probably do or say something wrong then Jacob would be mad at me. It most likely contributed to my running late thus completing my self-fulfilling prophecy of Jacob getting mad at me.
Well played, Fear. Well played.
I tried to talk to it, remind myself that I deserve to be there and to have and see friends and meet new people and oh, by the way, Matt was an awesome human and today is really not about me. At all. So shut up and stop making it about that. And I must say, it worked. Well, that along with remembering to breathe - I tend to forget to breathe when anxiety starts to kick up. Yeah, that is not recommended. By anyone. Ever.
But even having succeeded in my struggle to keep it together, I still felt the need to take an as-needed anxiety tranquilizer. This made me a little more sleepy and quiet than I normally am. And seeing as how I'm quiet in general, that's saying something. After taking it, I did feel the last vestiges of anxiety drain away. And I think it helped in the area going to the bathroom because, for me, this has always been the biggest, baddest trigger. Pooping has literally paralyzed me with terror over the past 14 years. Well, pooping when I didn't feel it was timely or appropriate. Having my insides clench up into a stomach fist of fury, historically was the deal breaker. That would be the grand finale. As in, "Hmm...I feel anxious..." would end in "That's it! I can't take this anymore! I have now pooped in public AGAIN. I'm going home. I need to lie down."
Happily, even though it was 90 degrees in the lady's room, everything came up roses and I delivered my doody package safely and without meltdown of the physical or emotional self. But even today I am still wondering, was taking that medication a cop out? Was it a wussy pants move and just proves I am still broken or wrong somehow? Either way, I have to live with that decision. And beating myself up about it gets me nowhere. I simply need to focus on the fact that I went. Fear lost this battle. It will continue to lose time after time after time because I refuse to live any other way.