Getting Out From Under The Weight Of Anxiety 

I find that, while I am not necessarily anti-social, I have become quite withdrawn from society. More often than not, I go out for necessities like work, food shopping, taking the kids to appointments, etc. but it’s often hard to drag myself from the house for leisure activities. It’s not from lack of having a desire to get out, enjoy life, and experience new and exciting things, it’s just that home is….comfortable. Safe. Easy. With that said, when I do finally get out I, more often than not, enjoy myself quite a bit. Even though I use my solitude as a shield, it can sometimes be the very thing from which I need saving. While all of this seems to be a bundle of contradictions, it’s everyday life for me so I have had to find ways to navigate through it all.

Starting With Baby Steps

I’m learning that the norms that govern average social interactions for the typical person don’t always apply to me, and that’s ok. I had to first identify those things that are very “Matter of fact” for the average person, yet leave me feeling uncomfortable and anxious. Some of these interactions/instances that are triggers for me include, but are not limited to:

#1) Being out with or visiting couples who tend to have spats often. 

Why this triggers me

It causes me to have to make an overwhelming amount of decisions in my head which can literally leave me light headed, dizzy, and nauseous. I don’t want to take sides. Is she in the right? Is he in the right?  Can I see where she’s coming from?  Can I see where he’s coming from?  Why can’t they see where each other is coming from? Are they going to ask for my input?  I hope they don’t ask for my input. If I absolutely have to give input, should I say what I really feel, or what I feel will diffuse the situation? Why do they have to hash this out in front of company? And those are just the questions that run through my mind in the first minute or so.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

It’s a lot easier to avoid a trigger altogether when possible. For that reason, as much as I love my family and friends, any couples who bicker and argue often see me very sparingly.  When I do visit with these couples, once their bickering or arguing sets in, I will kindly excuse myself, and remove myself from the situation. It sends a clear sign that I don’t like it, and don’t want to be involved. If they continue on, I’ll leave. It tends to train people to know that if we want her company, the bickering has to wait until she’s gone.

#2) Being in large crowds. 

Why this triggers me

When it’s hard to move without constantly brushing, bumping, being face to face and shoulder to shoulder with a ton of random people it tends to make me feel…..trapped/helpless. It can feel like I’m lost at sea and am drowning. At times I will begin to feel short of breath, weepy, and experience heart palpitations.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

When I attend a festival or some other sort of public gathering, I find myself a space to make mine. There’s always some little pocket of space in which I can situate myself, and not feel so confined. Before I decide to move within the crowd, I’ll mind map the route of least resistance through the crowd, and move through with purpose focused on finding my next pocket of comfortable space. However, if I can’t find these little pockets of space within the crowd…..I more than likely won’t be able to stay long. If I’m going to attend a crowded concert or movie, I’ll arrive a little later after most everyone else has taken their seats, and leave before most others are leaving.

#3) Being in small spaces

Why this triggers me

I’m claustrophobic…pretty plain and simple. For more detail, please refer back to #2.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

If I ride a bus, train, or plane I HAVE to have an aisle seat. As much as I love looking out of the windows, I feel far too trapped. I purposely nap during long rides so they don’t feel as long, and if begin to feel symptomatic (dizzy or light headed, increased nervousness, lump in my throat, weepy, etc.) I get up and move about the cabin. Having an aisle seat means I don’t have to inconvenience others when I do this.

#4) Having to explain things to people. 

Why this triggers me

Seems like a weird trigger to have doesn’t it? Often times when I have to go into detail explaining pretty much anything, it can trigger symptoms for me. I honestly can’t tell you why, as it also baffles me. However, I can be explaining something I am emotionally attached to (Such as a bad past experience) or something I have absolutely no emotional attachment to whatsoever (Such as how to properly use a random product) and both can suddenly bring on the exact same symptoms with the exact same intensity. The thing that bothers me most about this particular trigger, is there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it whatsoever. Sometimes it happens when I am explaining something to someone, sometimes it doesn’t. Go figure.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

Once I’m explaining something and I feel the lump in my throat starting and the tears welling up in my eyes, I take a long pause and a few deep breaths. Taking a few sips of a drink has also managed to help. These are the only two things I’ve found to help with this particular trigger so far

#5) Receiving too much attention. 

Why this triggers me

When I receive too much attention, I become worried that all of my flaws will be magnified, I won’t measure up to expectations, that I’m going to make some kind of mistake that affects others, that I’m going to somehow embarrass myself, or something of the sort. In short…it makes me nervous.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

I accept that I have no control over precisely how much attention I get. I am aware that if it’s too little….my anxiety kicks in and if its too much….my anxiety kicks in. I recognize the specific things I do in public and on social media that will draw more attention than I am comfortable with, and do them sparingly. I also identify the things I do in public and on social media that draw too little attention, and either find ways to punch up the interest, or also do them sparingly, depending on how important the topic is to me.

#6) Having to make decisions that in some way affects others.

Why this triggers me

It occupies my mind with too many questions, and induces insecurity. Was I considerate, would it have been better for THEM to have made the decision themselves, are they REALLY ok with my decision or are they just pretending to be, is my decision going to bring them any kind of unpleasantness, etc.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

I’m training myself to have ready-made answers available to the most common situations such as deciding here we eat, what we do on a given day, and what to gift people. In other situations, I make sure the choices are things I love and believe they will also love. This way, no matter what, I’m so confident that I did my best that I feel there’s no way they won’t be happy or, at the very least, content with my decision.

#7) Keeping in touch with loved ones.

Why this triggers me

I often feel I don’t have much to talk about, because my life is rather routine and boring to many others. Therefore, I worry about being on the phone, and experience multiple instances of dead uncomfortable silence. I am also an empath, so I also worry that if they are going through a hard time, it will affect me mentally and emotionally. I also wonder how much contact is too much, if I will be able to articulate my thoughts nd feelings well without having an anxiety attack, will I spill too much of my personal business, or will they feel offended by my being too reserved.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

I make my calls to reach out just once a month. A month in between calls allows more than enough time for me to accumulate some interesting talking points. Not many people would make the claim that receiving a call once a month is too much. I have yet to find an effective way to insulate myself from absorbing the emotions that accompany hearing of the hardships my friends and loved ones may be experiencing. I’m definitely open to suggestions on how to do that.

#8) Meeting new people.

Why this triggers me

This one is probably normal for many people, even those without anxiety issues. You worry about whether or not your personalities will mesh well, people’s true intentions, determining exactly how to interact with this person, etc.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

I have learned to stay reserved, and to be more observant during my interactions. I pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and verbiage which helps me to better gauge how I should interact with someone. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn from a person by simply listening and watching MORE than you speak. You also shouldn’t ignore gut instincts about people whether good or bad. They are not the end all be all, but paired with your observations they can help take most of the worry and anxiety out of meeting new people.

#9) Making purchases.

Why this triggers me

When faced with too many options, I can become easily overwhelmed which can lead to stagnation and indecisiveness. When faced with a large price tag, I have concerns about spending large sums of money, if the item/service is worth the price tag, if I will have buyers remorse, etc.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

When faced with many options, I narrow down my choices with very specific criteria. Specific style, color, and details. If something doesn’t have ALL of the specifications, no matter how enticing it is, its off the table…period. When faced with a large price tag, I shop around to get a feel for the average price paid for the item/service, and leverage that against any reviews I can find of the item/service. Also, if available, reviews of the seller/service provider. This can often ease my anxiety about large price tags considerably.

#10) Looking at myself in a mirror or picture.

Why this triggers me

Believe it or not, I can look into a mirror one minute, and look exactly how I expect to look, then look into it the next minute and not be able to recognize myself. I don’t mean this figuratively, I mean I literally don’t recognize the person in the picture. It does not look like me. I can look at a picture of myself and see someone beautiful, then look at that same picture the next day and see someone hideous. I can’t explain why, its just what happens at times.

How I’ve learned to cope with this trigger

To those on the outside looking in, it may look like vanity, or it may look like attention seeking, but at times I take a ton of photos. It’s not due to neither vanity OR attention seeking, but it’s because I see myself as hideous in a third of them, I don’t recognize myself in a third of them, and a third of them are acceptable to me. Of that third which is acceptable to me, maybe 2 out of 5 may be worthy to keep. Of those two, one will wind up being what I deem is the best representative of me. I may be happy with that pic forever, a month, a week, a day, or an hour. I never really know. If I become no longer happy with it, I simply start the process again.

Although these normal every day things are performed without much thought by others, for someone like me, they can create a world of inner turmoil virtually invisible to the outside world. Identifying and managing my triggers helps to make things a little more “normal” for me. It makes living with anxiety less socially awkward, and allows me to carry on more natural relationships with the world and people around me. I do all I can to avoid those metal clouds.

Solange Cranes in the sky

 

 

 

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