Trigger Warning: this post may contain content that can trigger a shift in mood, comfort, or mental status. Proceed at your own risk.
Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I think that I’ve always been more anxious than the average person, and I’ve felt that it’s my responsibility to keep everything (and everyone) around me safe and happy. Back when I was five years old, my family went on a trip to the coast. The plane ride was quite long, and they shut off the lights for people to get some sleep. Everyone around me was sleeping, but I couldn’t. What if something happened to the plane? It was a fundamental thing – I must keep watch.
But what could a five year old kid possibly do to help if there was a problem on a DC-10 plowing through the night skies?
The same thing happened with high school trips – the bus would be cruising along in the dark and the last of the students had either nodded off or picked up a book, but not me. I would be sitting straight in my seat, watching the front of the bus, the back of the bus, the terrain sliding by outside the window, and any approaching vehicles in case they were in the wrong lane. I just couldn’t close my eyes and relax.
Between the anxiety and the OCD, I was an excellent Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity (DR/BC) planner. At work, I’d embrace the anxiety and OCD to find the worst case scenario and then find something worse… and worse. Then I’d plan for it. It was quite similar to the freezer scenario from my earlier post about my OCD. My bosses encouraged me to imagine the worst thing that could possibly happen, regardless of whether it was rational or irrational. I was so good at it that people from different places would send me their DR/BC plans and ask me to see if there was something worse that they needed to plan for.
I could always find something.
Fast-forward to today and it takes an effort for me to not think of the worst case scenario everywhere I look. I have to think about what’s going on and try to only listen to the rational side of my mind. Unfortunately, I’m still not great at that.
My anxiety is pervasive and has its ugly tendrils everywhere. My father used to be a fire fighter so I was well acquainted with the colours and sounds of the trucks. Since before my first breakdown last year, something happened and I’m no longer able to cope well with any kind of siren, klaxon, or warning alarm. I freeze and my mind goes wild, thinking of the worst possible thing those sirens could mean. Is the building I’m in on fire? Has J been in an accident? Is there a real fire or a false alarm? What do I need to do to help?
Even typing this out makes my pulse rate climb.
When things were getting bad at work, I would leave my office and hide if I heard footsteps coming down the hall. If my phone rang, I’d leave my office so I wouldn’t have to answer it.
I still have difficulties answering the phone, even when I’m safe and secure in my own house. I can call people with no problem, but when the phone rings… I just can’t answer it because it could be something awful.
For years, I was able to corral my anxiety and use it to my advantage, but eventually it got too big for me to handle. Now I find it difficult to go outside or do things I used to be good at and enjoyed or even something simple like answering the telephone. With therapy and medication I have come a long way but still have a long way to go.
If you feel anxious or nervous or worried all the time or find yourself thinking about the worst possible outcome for everything around you, don’t try to fix it yourself. Don’t make my mistake – get help sooner rather than when you’re at (or have exceeded) your breaking point.