My point with this post isn’t to garner sympathy or paint myself as a victim, but to let others who are struggling they are not alone. Hopefully this will offer light to the darkness for those who are having difficulty with anxiety.
I am a shy, introverted person who has social anxiety. I obsessively go over conversations in my head over and over and become embarrassed by things I said, whether it be rational or irrational to feel that way. In certain contexts, are worse than others, and factors like how much sleep I had the previous night play a role.
It was 2013 when I was officially diagnosed with anxiety. I started seeing a therapist after having an anxiety attack that led me to be hospitalized. It’s a long story, but the abridged version is there was a manipulative (former) friend in my life who was toxic. He had me wrapped around his finger and when I finally confronted him about an issue both respectfully and politely it blew up. At last his true colors were revealed.
I do not shy away from confrontation, but when I do confront a person afterward, I’m a wreck internally for several days. I constantly go over the conversation/situation over and over in my head ad nauseum. My chest is tight, my heart rate is off, and my stomach feels like it shrinks. The idea of food or water makes me feel ill. Thankfully, such situations do not arise often in my life, and when it comes to my general anxiety, I’ve learned to manage it.
However, when a year or two go by and I think the anxiety is largely behind me, it rears its ugly head. Unfortunately, confrontation is sometimes necessary. There was a situation that arose recently where the grandfather of one of my son’s friends was saying to my kid that I’m mean (which is odd because I never met the man). This made my son very upset, he stood up for me and the grandfather of his friend said, “You can’t tell me what to do!”
I felt this situation needed to be addressed if indeed my son’s perception was accurate. I went to these peoples’ home which is within walking distance of where I lived and asked them about it. More or less it went okay. I requested if they have a problem with me to come talk to me and not go through my son. After some initial excuses they agreed that it is better to talk to me. The man was stand-offish but soon softened and things took a turn to complaining about my son’s behavior and the bus driver. This led me to conclude this man probably was inebriated or had a screw loose.
Afterward I felt like I handled myself well, I didn’t yell or curse out the grandparents. I know I did what I was supposed to, yet the scene keeps replaying in my mind over and over. I know I cannot change anyone but myself, but still this situation had a hold on me longer than it should have. Anyone with anxiety can relate. There is a monster that can grab your mind and make you a prisoner within it. It sometimes feels like brighter days wouldn’t come when anxiety strikes, and you relive “what if?” scenarios to the point of exhaustion. Eventually, the anxiety no longer revolves around the initial problem.
If this is something you experience or have experienced, know you aren’t alone. It doesn’t always seem like it, but better days DO come. You don’t have to suffer in silence or alone. Talk to your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, close friend, pastor, anyone you trust. We with anxiety need to not just know intellectually but internalize the fact that we cannot change or control what other people think/do. What are some of your experiences with anxiety? What do you find helps the most?