To expose what anxiety is, and how getting help and giving help is difficult, I will introduce you to a family I’ve been working with. Maybe this will sound familiar to some who want to get friendly with themselves but haven’t yet identified anxiety getting in the way.
Bob and Andy tell me their son Frank is better. However, even better, he is still anxious. He is partially treated. Partially and not fully in remission to disease. Frank is disabled by mental retardation, pervasive developmental disorder, and anxiety. His parents are squirming in their chairs when we talk about his conditions. They are nervous. Mom looks at Dad and Dad looks at Mom. Frank’s case-manager who is assigned to him from the regional center to help coördinate care, responsively starts to squirm. Frank’s case-manager says to his parents, almost without being able to stop herself, “What do you think?”
It’s hard being around anxiety without responding in body and mind. Anxiety spreads quickly, an emotion-gas from an open valve. Anxiety enters us without asking. It pulls on our nerves so our muscles and mouth and thoughts can’t relax. Anxiety was in the room with all of us. Frank was not the only one needing help.
David Foster Wallace, the great philosopher and educator who lived and died with depression said,
there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.
This is our normal baseline, described by Wallace.
Frank is this multiplied by a thousand. That’s what anxiety does to us. It throws out sticky tendrils to snag and real in any part of our various efforts to get out of ourselves and connect with others, to empathize, to hear, touch, see, smell, taste anything outside of “Me.” It is distracting and worse, suspicious. Bob and Andy are suspicious of me. They are suspicious of my intention. They are suspicious of the medications I speak of. Bob and Andy are having trouble hearing past the white noise, anxiety.
Self-Care Tip #99 – Identify the anxiety in your way. Be a friend to yourself.
Question: How are you taking care of yourself despite the barriers? How has this been good v. bad for you? Please tell me your story.