My meditation today was a strange continuum of thoughts about anxiety in my life. I don’t doubt that if someone knew what went on in my mind in younger days that I would have been clinically diagnosed with GAD. So glad that I don’t have that label attached to me. My thoughts traveled through all the things that caused me anxiety.
For as long as I can remember, worry was my middle name. I would worry to excess and saw danger and fear everywhere. My constant battle was to want to be in control at all times. As I reviewed life experiences I could see why I felt the way I did.
My childhood was sure not a safe place. While I felt much safer at school, I still had great anxiety there also. I feared if I did something that made my teachers angry then they would disappear. My anxiety was boundless. I could take a simple thing like an invitation to visit a friend and get so anxious that I would have a mouth full of sores. I didn’t sleep and my nerves were a wreck.
I remember one rare time I once went to a doctor in my youth for this. The doctor told my mother that instead of ulcers in my stomach my stress and worry were causing mouth ulcers. I was given some ointment and sent on my way. There was no looking for a solution to the root problem.
As a young married woman and mom, my anxiety escalated. I worried over everything as a parent. I worried about doctor appointments for my babies from the minute I made the phone call until after the visit. A vivid memory came up about an outing my spouse and I were supposed to go on with another couple and all our kids. I called every day for two weeks with questions and concerns. Finally the day before we were to go they cancelled. I knew it was because of my excessive fears.
As my children got older and I returned to college my fears and anxieties escalated to new heights. I remember once going to the medical clinic on campus with over 20 canker sores. I couldn’t eat or speak without pain. I had many courses of steroids to help with the outbreaks previously. The doctor asked how many units I was taking (21) and what grades I was getting (All A). When I told her my answers she said she would not treat me because if I just got lower grades my canker sores would go away. Not a great response from the medical profession.
While I always connected my worries and anxiety to my physical mouth symptoms I did not understand all the other ways I was being affected. I had all the typical symptoms of anxiety.
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
- Being irritable
- Having muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
As I have aged I have become more and more aware of unnecessary anxiety. My last few years teaching I finally realized I did not need to panic or stress about situations when I knew I was in the right. I learned to laugh at all the years and years I would panic about situations that never happened. As a master of catastrophic expectations I would worry things that never could happen.
My brain ruminated on many different personal examples of excessive anxiety. My revelation was that my anxiety was caused by fear, anger, lack of control, lack of confidence, and stress. So next I pondered why did I take it to the nth degree as opposed to other “normal” people.
My final thoughts were that it doesn’t matter. That was my past. Now I try to decide how to look at my anxiety in a different manner. First I try to assess if there is really something to be anxious about. Then I work on a plan to reduce my anxiety. Some anxieties are unique to me. Some are irrational. Some can be dissipated with intent. I am truly grateful for my ability to reduce anxiety in my life.