Anxieties Can Grow into Fears and Trusting Again is Like Going for a Swim in a Lake

One of the worst parts of my anxiety is how it can make something entirely reasonable feel like something I don’t dare ask for. A five-minute midday phone call to help settle all the nagging thoughts that are threatening to take up my entire day? Definitely not something I can request without at least an hour of writing the message and then half an hour of psyching myself up to hit send. Sure it SEEMS reasonable, but what if it isn’t? What if they’re busy? What if they’re actually pissed at me because of what we talked about yesterday and I couldn’t tell then because I’m horrible at reading people over the phone, meaning sending them a message now is only going to make them angrier at me.

It sucks. It was a reasonable request because we needed to talk about what happened and verbally recognize that we needed to continue the conversation. I felt much better and I can only hope they feel better as well, now that they know I want to continue working this out. It should have been easy. A two-sentence message and then a wait until the appropriate time for a five-minute phone call. I spent more time worrying about what might have happened, trying to figure out how to properly say what I wanted to say, and whether or not it was appropriate to say anything at all than I spent on the conversation that spawn all the anxiety this morning.

My anxiety can run away with me, more than my depression or my OCD can. If either of those ever feels like it is running away with me, it is usually because it is fueled by my anxiety. The thought spirals that consume me are driven by anxieties I can’t squelch. The internal storms that threaten to sink me are whipped up by anxieties that I can’t deny. A lack of information is the greatest challenge to controlling my anxiety and a strong enough anxiety can make it a monumental effort to ask for any information, let alone figure out what to do with it.

As I reflected on this, my worst anxiety attack in a while, I realized that I’m not really prepared to deal with something like this. Almost all of my coping mechanisms involve heading things off or reasoning them away. That can work with my depression because a lot of that is based on not dwelling on any one thing in particular, waiting it out, and reminding myself that it will end eventually. It works alright with my OCD because most of my OCD is based around obsessions and I can usually reason with them so long as they don’t have an anxiety behind them. It even works with most of my anxiety since I usually know I’m worked up over nothing or have evidence to directly contradict my anxiety.

The fears though, the big anxieties that don’t have answers and prey on uncertainties, don’t have evidence I can trot out and are usually about things that I should be able to assume but really can’t. They’re what feeds into things like my resistance toward being emotionally open and vulnerable with people or the nagging fear that everything and everyone I love is going to disappear without warning. I know most people aren’t going to try to manipulate me using my emotions or use any time I’m open about my feelings as a way to hurt me. I know that it takes time for people to leave and there are almost always warning signs.

The problem with knowing those things is all the evidence to the contrary. I’ve got a lot of experience with people using my feelings and what I’ve shared with them to hurt me in new and horrible ways. I’ve seen how people can suddenly vanish, either because they decided you weren’t worth their time, because it was easier than working things out, or because something horrible happened to them. A lot of these were fairly isolated events, but there were still a lot of them.

I try to recognize that there’s also a ton of evidence supporting the idea that people aren’t out to get me or that what I love won’t suddenly vanish, but it’s hard to remember it all the time. Also, it is hard to say being emotional vulnerable with people won’t be used against me when I don’t really do it anymore. I also can’t use evidence to prove people won’t just vanish because it is almost always sudden and almost always happens in ways you wouldn’t expect. How can you disprove something you don’t expect? Someone randomly getting run over by a bus or going to a movie theater or club that gets shot up isn’t exactly something you can work to prevent or say won’t happen to someone around you. It isn’t likely, sure, but it happens to people and every person is a part of that group.

The worst ones, the ones that can bring in my depression and OCD, creating the hurricanes I mentioned in my other post, are the ones aren’t wrong. If I get going on something like “my anxieties make me annoyed and frustrated and I’m more willing to put up with myself than anyone else is, so how much everyone around me feel when I’m acting particularly anxious/depressed/obsessed/neurotic/what-have-you?” then I run the risk of heading straight toward meltdown city.

That isn’t a fun place to go. I definitely do NOT recommend the vacation package, the over-night bargain, or even passing through it. Once you’re there, it is incredibly hard to leave and a pass-through always turns into a full-stop. You don’t just visit. You take up semi-permanent residence and usually need outside help leaving since the stationmaster is hard to find and the population generally isn’t interested in actually trying to help you leave.

When it comes to fears or anxieties I can’t deny and the ones I have no evidence to disprove, all I can do is trust. Trust that I won’t be abused if I’m emotionally vulnerable with someone. Trust that people and things in my life won’t just disappear if they have a choice in the matter. Trust that people aren’t just putting up with me. Trust is hard. Trust is easily broken and hard to replace. I’ve got a lot of pretty convincing reasons not to trust, but trust is an essential part of being a human and living in a community. You trust that someone isn’t going to break down your door and take all your stuff. You trust that someone isn’t going to hurt your loved ones or, at the very least, that there are people whose job it is to protect them. You trust that people aren’t going to use you to their advantage whenever they can. Without that trust, you become isolated and have trouble connecting with people.

That’s where I’m struggling. I don’t trust much. Hell, I don’t even really trust myself. Misplaced trust has hurt me more than anything else in life and I’m not eager to get hurt again. I used to be able to dive back in by affirming that it is better to love and lose, to take a chance and fail, than to risk never again feeling the warm glow of trust rewarded with trust and love. Then I spent most of my time in Madison, nearly four years, getting every hand extended in trust smacked away, being around people who made it clear they only barely tolerated me, and getting my feet yanked out from underneath me at work constantly. There were people who made me feel bad about some of the most basic parts of myself.

Thankfully, I’m away from those influences now. I’ve got a girlfriend who wants to hear about all the things I love as much as I’m willing to talk about them. I’ve got supportive, helpful roommates who I really appreciate. I’ve got a work environment that is positive and appreciates me. I’ve even had one of the first and biggest metaphorical hand-slaps contact me and apologize for how they acted. I really want to dive back in again, but my fear and anxieties keep me back.

Like going for a swim in a lake, it is almost always better to just dive right in. The rush of water will feel cold at first, but you’ll stop noticing it quickly afterward. Then you’re free to swim to your heart’s content. Sometimes, though, you need to check for rocks first and take your time getting wet. Eventually, I’ll be ready to take the plunge, but for now maybe I’ll just start with my feet.

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