If there is one thing my partner (the hubster; husbandman; that guy with the beard) can confirm, it’s that when I’m pushed to do something that I a) was already planning on doing or b) had very little motivation to do, I become a stubborn ass (like a donkey, not a butt) and cannot be budged. There is no way forward, no way back, and no amount of sticks or carrots will change my view on the matter.
This has led to several (read: A LOT) squabbles in our household. From unloading the dishwasher to writing this here blog (haha, yeah…), if I get pushed too hard to do something I may or may not have wanted to do, my brain goes into lockdown and there is very little I can do about it.
And it doesn’t apply just to household things; whether it’s starting a new craft project or getting together with people that I barely know, I am unable to shake the feeling that, from the get-go, I am a failure and it’s best to not even start.
I have struggled with these feelings of inadequacy for most of my “adult” life. I remember going out for the track team several times in high school, but always quitting a month in because I had no idea what I was supposed to do, and I was afraid to ask anyone else in case they thought I was a complete idiot. I did the same thing with an art class I really wanted to take in college, a concert I wanted to go to, a trip I’d been planning since forever… All of these things fell through due to my fear of looking like a moron.
But the truth is that I was being an idiot by letting my fear control me in the first place.
All of the times that I’ve been too scared to do anything, to say anything, meant that I missed out on some great opportunities. And being pushed into those things by my peers only made matters worse (for me; I doubt anyone else really noticed my silent panic mode) in that I got a taste of something I really, really wanted to do, but in quitting out of fear I only caused myself intense feelings of regret at missing out on all the fun.
These fears tie into the feeling I get when I am asked to do almost anything nowadays. A small part of my brain is still operating in panic mode, and if my partner asks me to take out the trash before bed, that panic turns into full-out terrified donkey mode. I dig in my heels, plant my figurative hindquarters and become an obstinate butthead. On the outside, it may look like I am just being contradictory in order to start a fight or get out of doing the chore (or both), but in reality Fear has dug its fingers into my brainmeats and I am at once panicked and irritated. I can’t begin to voice the reasoning behind my terror to him (as all higher functions have been rerouted to fuel the anxiety dumpster fire), and to him it looks like I’m just being a lazy crab.
In my mind I know that I am being unreasonable. Heck, I’ll even talk to myself about how ridiculous my reaction is compared to the task at hand. I have lived with undiagnosed anxiety for decades, and sometimes it’s hard to pull myself from the merry-go-round of Panic. My reactions aren’t impossible to unlearn, but it takes a certain amount of time and effort to fully become comfortable in any sort of situation. There are a few things that help, like slowing my breathing or touching my thumbs to each finger in turn, but the best thing that I have found for when I am experience one of my scaredy-Kat phases is to do the following countdown:
5) What are five things you can see?
4) What are four things you can touch?
3) What are three things you can hear?
2) What are two things you can smell?
1) What is one thing you can taste?
Concentrating on something outside of yourself can help center your mind and calm the flurry of thoughts that are running roughshod throughout. It’s not a cure-all by any means; this is just one of a great many tools people like me use to lessen the effects of anxiety on our bodies and social lives. With help from a qualified professional, I am learning to become an actual person again and not something my anxiety has shaped. It may seem dark out there, but just know that there are others outside of yourself who have had the same feelings and fears. Always keep fighting those monsters inside your head; you are worth it.