Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All together now..."And Annn-xiety was its Name-O"

Photo taken by Craig Borchers

Last year, I was going to a counselor who was convinced that I had agoraphobia.  Agoraphobia is the paralyzing fear of leaving your house.  The counselor’s argument was sound, so I listened.  On paper, it seemed like a plausible diagnosis. However, I knew I didn’t completely fit the type.  I knew that there were places I could go with little or no problem.  And usually, once I did get somewhere, I was completely fine. You see, I love to travel.  I love to run outside on a nice day. I love to garden.  I just love to be outside.  Agoraphobics DO NOT love to be outside.

The basis for my diagnosis was that I sometimes have panic attacks when I have to go somewhere.  The key word is “sometimes”.  Regardless, the counselor planted (more like drilled) it in my head that I had agoraphobia.

I was the one with the problem, so I didn’t have the confidence to stick up for myself.

Over time, I started to believe that I was agoraphobic.  Things I didn’t normally have a problem doing became problematic for me.

While I was searching for some answers, I compared myself to other people.  Not in the sense that I wanted to measure up, but only so I could have a gage for normalcy.

In my experiment, I figured out the situations in which I felt higher levels of anxiety than others around me. For example, I had anxiety at the grocery store, yet everyone else seemed to handle it just fine.  Another example is I had anxiety before my marathon.  But at the start line, everyone was nervous too.

Eventually, my husband and I made up our own names for the situational anxieties I experienced. I’ve discovered that by calling my anxiety by a name, I can recognize it quicker and cope with the situation better. When we name the anxiety, both my husband and I know what is going on and can be on the same page.

Disclaimer Alert! I am NOT a professional.  The names below are not real medical names.

Transitional Anxiety: Transitional anxiety is the anxiety experienced when changing from one task to another.

It takes me longer than other people to switch focus, and I need to take some deep breaths and moments of intentional thinking in order to do so.  I cannot just get up and go in the morning.  I need to drink a cup of coffee and do some hard core staring.  It is really difficult for me to be on the run from morning to night.  I need moments throughout the day to decompress in order to transition from one thing to another.  My husband knows that when we go into a store, I need to stop and take a few deep breaths before we start attacking our shopping list. When we arrive somewhere, if I am not already prepared, I have to gather my things and my mind before getting out of the car.  It is not because I don’t want to leave the house.  It is not because I don’t want to go.  I am just nervous because of the major transition.

(Transitional Anxiety is my umbrella term for most of my anxiety.  The next several examples are really just forms of transitional anxiety if you analyze it.  However, it helps to break it down further.)

Pre-Trip Anxiety: or PTA, as we call it here.  This is the anxiety experienced before going somewhere.

If we are going to hang out with friends, if we are going to visit family, or if we are going on a trip or vacation, I have to create a plan of attack.  I can’t just leave spur of the moment.  I believe the term, PTA, was coined by a college friend of mine when we were studying abroad.  We would talk about PTA and our friends would know what we meant and how to help.  A check list goes a long way in those situations. Sometimes, when it is really bad, I need step by step instructions: put on shoes, put on coat, get car keys, etc.  Talking about the purpose of the trip also helps to ease my mind.  If I am freaking out before a vacation, I name the PTA, recognizing the source.  I realize that I am not doing anything wrong.  The flashing warning signals going off in my head are just the result of PTA and not something more serious.

Long-Goodbye Syndrome: This anxiety is what it says.  It takes me a long time to say goodbye and to part with friends, family, and loved ones face to face or on the phone.  My mom and I could stand at the door and talk for hours, even if I already have my coat on.  My sister and I say goodbye about 37 times before we hang up the phone.  We just keep remembering things we want to say. I guess we just have to make sure our goodbye is thorough.  Just knowing that I have long-goodbye syndrome helps me to reduce the goodbyes to a reasonable length.  If I am feeling crappy, it is because of the "syndrome" and not because I am being rude, short, or insensitive.  When I recognize the Long-Goodbye Syndrome, I can call it by name.  In a society that names every problem, it is fun to make up your own names.

Sunday Night Blues: or SNB, for short.  I often have a very hard time letting go on a Sunday night.  It is such a daunting task for me to start a new week.  I often keep Craig up late talking.  I feel terrible about it because I know that my feelings don’t make sense.  My emotions run away with me.  I have to go over all the events of the weekend and discuss the upcoming responsibilities of the week.  It is not a good time to talk and,usually, I am worried about insignificant things.  But by recognizing that my feelings are just from the SNB, I can let it go easier.  I tell myself that it is only SNB and I will feel better in the morning.  I have to trust that knowledge and trust my past experiences.

So, in conclusion, by naming my anxieties, I can deal better when it comes up.

If you are struggling with any level of anxiety, it is good to figure out patterns, causes, and effects. If you can name the anxiety, you will become more aware of it in the future.  Knowing is half the battle, right?  Being aware of what causes you anxiety will help you to overcome it with healthier coping skills.  And you will be able to discuss it more effectively with your loved ones who just want to help you overcome it as well.

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