Mental Health

Distorted Vision: Viewing Life Through Anxious Eyes

 

My earliest memories are all attached to perceived disaster.   A pile of clothes on a chair became a menacing monster.  A furnace turning on was the roar of a large man coming to take me away.  Running out of my house, wailing and refusing to reenter as it was going to collapse around us.  Convinced that the small section of plaster that fell from the ceiling was a product of a leak and old house I finally returned.  By Nature, my young mind already wired to fear the worst. My ability to creatively contort simple happenings into perceived catastrophe reasoned away as the result of high intelligence.

As a teen and young adult, I was often referred to as shy.  Interacting socially always felt awkward and forced.  A loner and introvert I didn’t mind and almost preferred to spend time alone.   I rationalized my quiet demeanor was a lack of desire to just hear myself talk. Not entirely different than others experiences but aloneness often exacerbates faulty thinking. I got comfortable making books my protective barrier to awkward exchanges.  Appearing fine, in reality, my thoughts created scenarios built on faulty assumptions. These assumptions always came back to one poisonous theme: I am not enough.

Some years later I was working on my master’s degree in counseling.  Late one night  I sat up typing a paper while I  cradled my weeks’ old daughter in my arms.  It was nearly midnight feeding my hungry infant while completing my assignment I started having strange and scary sensations in my body.    I  thought I was having a stroke,  my body went numb, I couldn’t breathe, and my head felt weird, I was dying, or so I thought.

Panic_button

Waking my husband, confused as to what was happening, he called my physician. Returning my call she listened to my fearful, breathless rambling about the symptoms of my feared stroke.  She stopped me mid-sentence and said, “honey, listen to me, you are having a panic attack”.  I still didn’t believe her.  She explained the changes in my body after giving birth, not getting enough sleep,  working on a masters degree while raising a family,  she reassured me I was alright and that I needed to rest. Turns out she had got a similar call from her sister also a new mom.   She checked me out the next day I was fine life went on.

That was a light bulb moment for me.  How could a student in a counseling program, not see the signs?  I began to study all things anxiety.  As I explored my past, genetic connections and chronic physical elements I came to the realization that I had some form of anxiety.  Realizing that my home environment helped shape my anxious ways, I began to question myself.  Are my anxious ways impacting my marriage, my children?  Well, of course, they were, anxiety is part of my genetic and environmental makeup. It shaped the way I parented and how I viewed the world. As my children’s  first teacher,  I was raising children to view the world through the same anxious lens in which I did. I set out to fix myself.

A couple of years later  I was working as a child therapist. After self-diagnoses, I worked diligently to modify my faulty thinking,  I made baby steps with my social anxiety stretching myself and moving out of my comfort zone.  I forced myself to speak to people in social settings even if it was awkward.  At church, I got involved in the youth ministry and choir.  I could feel myself getting better but was that enough?

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