Since before I was diagnosed with anxiety I could never put my finger on the cause. There seemed to be no underlying uniting factor that applied to almost all situations. My anxiety didn’t seem to have a running them for when or why it happened. Sometimes it happened at home. Sometimes when I was away. Sometimes with strangers. Sometimes with friends and family. Sometimes it was about a specific future event. Sometimes it happened in the moment. The more I thought about it, the more confused I became.
It has been, I wouldn’t call it a labour of love, more an uphill journey to understanding my anxiety. I knew that all of the self-care and sometimes medication was only fire-fighting symptoms. I needed to get to the root of the anxiety. I needed to understand it. I felt that only when I knew the cause would I have a starting point for recovery. I didn’t want to manage symptoms anymore. I wanted to see if I could eliminate them as far as possible.
What I discovered on the journey was this. Control is very important to me. That’s probably an understatement. I like to be able to assert control on the situation around me. And I really struggle without it. I find it difficult to accept when I can’t manage a situation fully. This appears to be the unifying factor at the root of my anxiety. It explains why I feel the need to be super organised. Why I find planning ahead a necessity. It also explains why when panicky I’ll often say ‘I don’t want to be here’. I mean that literally. My panic stems from the feeling that I can’t get out of the situation I’m in.
Whilst this discovery has been crucial I’ve been on a steep learning curve to understand how to use this knowledge to my advantage. I already organised and planned ahead to help me manage better. What else did I need to do? I’ve learned, and am still learning, the beauty of saying no. Sometimes saying that two letter word feels like an insurmountable obstacle. On other days it’s strangely liberating. It helps me manage better. I say no to things when I see the warning signs. When I start to feel overwhelmed because there’s too much being asked of me. Or because I’m committed to too much. I’ve learnt it’s better to say no when asked rather than panic the day before and have to face cancelling last minute; another panic inducing situation.
There’s another important lesson that I’ve learnt. I’ve slowly begun to realise that you are rarely truly trapped. There is always an escape route if you think clearly. I always imagined that if I cancelled or was too ill to attend that people would be terribly disappointed or angry. Perhaps I overestimated my own importance! Nowadays I recognise that no-one is infallible and I was holding myself up to an impossible standard. I also realised that other people know this too. When I’m ill and can’t attend or say no to something I’m almost always met with empathy. When I explain something is difficult for me people offer to help instead of turning away. My anxiety has taught me the kindness of others as well as kindness towards myself.