I’m an anxious girl in an anxious world

Anxiety has been my constant lifelong companion.

Anxious kitty

When I was young, I didn’t have the language. I didn’t understand how these awful feelings were connected to my awful life experiences. I just internalized the anguish, transforming it to shame. I remember thinking our dog would be so lonely if we left her alone so I refused to go out of the house for dinner or things like that. My parents response was to just leave me. So then I was so lonely while trying to do the right thing by my poor dog. I was a young kid.

When I began to connect the dots, things got much worse for awhile, as if I had unleashed literal demons into my soul. I was anguished by the original experiences and the dominance anxiety had over my life. But I was 36 when I was diagnonsed.

Eventually, with therapy and medication, I found an even keel. It is not a steady even keel, I’m still gutted with anxiety. But I understand it now.

Those are my real, but unlikely anxieties.

My biggest anxiety is leaving the house. Some of it is not wanting to go into spaces where my needs won’t be met – like having a seat or access to water. It’s just easier to stay home. This is one where more efforts to offer accommodations would make a huge difference.

Some of this is rooted in deeper fears. I am terrified of being yelled at. So I am lesser terrified of forgetting names, being clutzy, talking too much/too little, or having a bona fide anxiety attack in front of anyone. Those things might lead to someone yelling at me. I’ve rarely been yelled in my adult life. But still … it is a very entrenched fear.

Another anxiety is this core belief that I create tough situations that are hard to solve on my own. I should be the Executive Director of my own life, I often am. I just forget about it.

I got myself to the age of 53 without addictions, unplanned pregnancy, causing a car accident, self-harm behaviors, or losing my faith in good people. I’ve done a fair share of good work for the community. I’ve kept myself housed, fed, and usually hydrated.

But I’m also overwhelmed by situations where I am unfamiliar with asking for help. Help always surprises me. It humbles me. And I rarely trust help will be there next time.

I take on projects I can’t complete on my own. I am a great idea person, but not skilled at administration. But I can’t stop looking at the world for gaps to fill.. Of course an anxious person sees the gaps.

The next source of anxiety is that I am tired. What takes the typical person a few hours, takes me all day. Getting through any day without downtime, often a nap, is impossible. I’m anxious that I appear lazy. I’m anxious that these horrible historical experiences derail everything now. Apologizing for taking a nap is mortifying. I sometimes have to take a day off.

I’m fearful that no one believes me. I was raised by a groomer (not my father) from my very birth. He stripped me of my capacity to trust my instincts. He needed me to be a broken-down little girl, so I would be compliant. I saw him do horrific things to my mother. I never told anyone. I saw him scapegoat my little brother. I never spoke up. I knew others knew what was happening. They never spoke up.

Now I speak up. But it is such a horrifying tale of child neglect and abuse that I am fairly certain people don’t believe me. It is hard to regrow your instincts, your faith in yourself. I know the truth, but can I convey it?

No one has ever yelled at me in public in my adult life. When I’ve had anxiety attacks in public, I usually handle them fine. I force myself out of the door enough to benefit from socialization. My groomer is long dead and I’ve cut his apologists from my life. My mother and father are finally safe.

But I’m always worried someone will do that to me again.

Real and Actually Happened Anxieties

I have new anxieties from more recent events. I’m uneasy around police cars after being detained, cuffed, and forced into one for the wrong reasons. I am anxious about riding in cars with strangers or sitting in the back seat because of that police thing. Took me months to sit in the backseat with people I love.

I’m anxious someone will come into my home while I am asleep and take something precious from me. Because that happened. I’m anxious about people conspiring to use my mental illness disability against me. Because that happened. I am anxious my doctor will mismanage my medication. Because that happened.

I am anxious about being homeless (happened) poor (happened) and discarded (happened.)

A grown adult who doesn’t live here creeping into my home to steal my pets while I’m sick and asleep. Another grown adult taking those pets while I’m in no shape to consent. Those are violations are on par with my childhood.  And when I said something, I ended up handcuffed in a police cruiser taken to a psychiatric hospital.

But I will continue to say something. It’s not okay that any of these people had such little regard for my welfare. The police will haul you away for no reason. Family Court will not protect your rights, even with a lawyer. Medication management that derails your life doesn’t really bother the clinic.

If it could happen to me …

If it happened to this middle-aged, middle-class white cisgender woman? Don’t kid yourself that you are protected.

I am not the first to endure these violent acts. I won’t be the last. It isn’t that I thought was immune from bad behavior, more so that I overestimated my innate capacity to deflect. One constructive thing that came out of it was realizing I could endure these things – I endured being handcuffed without an anxiety attack, I knew what information I needed to make phone calls when I was dumped at the ER, I had video proof. I had well documented medical providers. Moving forward, I brought witnesses with me everywhere. I filmed things, took photos, kept notes, and told my key supporters everything. And they always assured me they believed me.

I’m semi-sure the perpetrators didn’t consider increasing my anxiety as an end goal. It was a weapon that they dropped carelessly after hurting me.

What they DID consider was how my anxiety and my mental health could be weaponized to manipulate or coerce me into achieving their own goals. The fact that I am disabled with anxiety makes it more likely they can get away with bad behavior against me. I will always be at a disadvantage because of my diagnosis.

These are not trauma-informed or mental health advocates. They are cruel and rotten human beings. And probably unaware or unconcerned about the impact of their choices. I am very fixated on their actions because they probably felt benign, but when you take it apart – what kind of person creeps into the home of a sick (physically) person to steal her pets? It is almost the antithesis of being yelled at in public. A pretty disturbing choice.

Anxiety is real

I had an anxiety attack this morning. It derailed all of today’s plans. I’m beating myself up about it at a level from years ago. Will I bounce back?

The odds that I’ll be okay are much better since I am saying something about it.

It is a sad truth that other people’s actions ratchet up our anxiety. How you handle it is up to you. You don’t have to pretend to not be anxious to appease other people. Sometimes, you can even tell people.

And sometimes your anxieties are based on very real things that happen. I am perfectly aware of the difference between being afraid someone will yell at me and being afraid I will be 302d again. I get what’s generalized from what’s specific to my life experiences. I believe myself. Most of the time.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I wrote this post after I woke up with an anxiety attack. Because awareness is essential to healing.


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