Monday, 28 May 2012

Living anxiously

''The bow too tensely strung is easily broken''  ( Publius Syrus )

I remember my morning walks to school from Harfield station - repetitively muttering very specific prayers and supplications in a very specific order (selected by me based on the last time I'd said those prayers in that order - and had a really really good day at school). A really really good school day was a day no teacher drew attention to me by making me answer a question. Or worse, if that horrifying situation did present itself, that I might not know the correct answer / might answer the question incorrectly.

I was the loon who kept her eyes focused on her lucky colour (green) and did everything with her right hand - just two of my silly superstitious practices, which I'd hoped would ensure my protection from unpleasantness at school. I had no clue that my religion forbids superstitious practises - in any event, at the time, I did not see it as superstition. To me it was a tried and tested method to ensure that I'd get through the day - painlessly. They were concrete steps providing the illusion of control over the terrifying paralysing anxiety from which I've suffered since I can remember.

Now this is probably the point at which you might be expecting me to launch into an inspirational story of how I overcame my anxiety, or perhaps a more practical ''how to'' guide, providing useful tips as to how I successfully dealt with this problem.

Sadly, I am not able to do so - I still have knots in my stomach each time I have to go out in groups of people. In fact, this even extends to family gatherings now - in the past these gatherings had been a safe place - a comfort zone.

I panic when the phone rings, as I have no idea what uncomfortable situation might be waiting for me on the other side.

I get knots in my stomach before I drive - I still resort to the old 'say selected prayers in a specific order' routine. I'm still afraid that failure to do so will result in something bad happening on the road - and then very often it does. Most likely as a result of the Law of Attraction - obsessively focusing on the occurence of such unpleasant event, often causes something negative to materialise. [ A negative event could be someone hooting at me, or even a dirty look from another driver/ pedestrian].

I admire / envy calm people. I admire people who couldn't give a damn about what others think of them. To me, someone's negative opinion of me is sufficient to ensure a series of sleepless, restless nights.

Someone told me that there is medication to deal with anxiety. But I'm a bit mule-headed about that - I don't want to rely on medication to feel normal. I just want to be like other people - able to function and interact without almost falling apart.

Strangely, I was always able to cope well with work pressure. I even thrived on it. It's 'people pressure' that I cannot handle.

Although anxious by nature, I tend to have bouts of increased anxiety now and then. These are usually triggered by an extremely stressful / negative event, the trauma and effects of which permeate throughout my being for a while thereafter. Two weeks ago a huge truck swerved into my lane without indicating. I narrowly escaped being hit. Aisha (2) was in the car with me. I have been re-living the moment since then, tormenting myself with the various horrifying scenarios that could have played out. I've been losing sleep and suffering from nightmares when I do manage to sleep. Getting into the car now has me anxious - driving a few blocks to drop the kids at madrassah has me shaking like a leaf. I feel so out of control.

This event has resulted in heightened anxiety in every aspect of my life. I am just not coping well with even the most basic demands in my life. The girls' formal assessments and Shakeel (13)'s examination, which are at present the main focus areas of our household, have become overwhelming for me. Meeting people (even unthreatening family members) has me feeling anxious - a rude remark made by a family member last week - which normally would have upset me slightly, now has me feeling overly hurt.

I find that going to gym helps tremendously. It calms me and takes me to my happy place. But, unfortunately, it's effects are short-lived. I need my regular fix in order to maintain my feel-good state of mind. But, getting to gym regularly would require me to get into my car and navigate a very tricky interchange - bounding with potentially unpleasant experiences (and huge trucks) and, hence, more anxiety. Notice my catch 22?

I focus on everything for which I am grateful. I try to stay in the moment - attempting not to worry about unpleasant past events nor to anticipate future problems. I remind myself to trust in the Almighty, as the solution to all my woes rests with Him. And that my constant worrying is of no use, neither as a solution to existing problems, nor as a means to avert future obstacles.

And perhaps I'll get some Rescue Remedy, which I'm told, works wonders for anxiety and hypersensivity.

''Every faculty and virtue I possess can be used as an instrument with which to worry myself ''. (Mark Rutherford quotes )

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