I am a master of anxiety, or, at least of my own anxiety. I have worked with it for much of my life. It is one of my more developed muscles. We’re talking Mr. Universe here. When I was young, whenever attention was on me I would get pretty red and extremely uncomfortable. Crawl-out-of-my-skin uncomfortable. It was as if any attention on me triggered a big “SHAME” and/or “uncomfortable” response. I’d go blank as far as words were concerned. Having to do a book report, or any talking in class was extremely difficult and anxiety inducing. As far as talking to girls was concerned, I couldn’t/didn’t. My only coping mechanisms were trying to be invisible in class, and playing sports. When I played sports, I could go all out and not be in my head worrying. Also, I was good at sports. Playing sports got me breathing and put me in my body. In high school it was the same, except simultaneously I was trying to be cool/tough. High anxiety and coolness do not go together very well. And I could talk to girls a little, as long as I was drunk. Young adulthood was pretty much the same. Eventually, my main coping mechanism was isolation, which did help with the anxiety but made for a fairly empty life. I tried drugs, one of which made the anxiety worse, and one didn’t do much for anxiety but it made me feel very good. Unfortunately, it also began to kill my soul, so that was out too.
During this time, a few things did help with my anxiety. I would still play sports and that still helped—it put me in my body and helped me breathe. Being in nature helped, as did listening to music. Another good coping mechanism was having a dog. Being with my dog, in nature, often helped a lot. What finally helped the most was finding a safe place/environment/people where I could go in to my feelings and feel them. I could begin to let them out and experience what was beneath the anxiety. In doing that, I began to (in time) become a little easier on myself, a little bit loving of that hurt, scared, angry part of myself. I learned that I didn’t have to hide all the time, that I could risk being vulnerable, at least to some extent. I could have my feelings, feel them, and express them. That is when I slowly began to change, and it’s an ongoing process. But finally feeling a little safe was the key for me. I felt safe enough to begin to feel the fear and let it go rather than have it always controlling me.
I want to say something about medication for anxiety. For much of my life I wanted to heal myself and live without medication. I have done that for most of my life. But I’ve also come to realize that there can be times or situations in which medication can help. Sometimes, a person can be too afraid to feel his or her fear. Medication can lower the fear which allows the psyche to gain access to the feeling zone. Also, for some, meds can give them their lives back. PPN trauma can mess with our physiology and brain development and sometimes, even if we can’t get to the root of our pain, we can change our physiology to some extent, and have a life. Medication can help at times, especially in conjunction with good therapy. And too, I like the song/saying “whatever gets you through the night…”
Oh yeah, I can talk to women now, and I actually like talking in front of groups sometimes.
Here is a list of what I’ve covered above, and a few others.
1. Finding a safe place/environment/person
3. Being physical—getting into your body and out of your head—through walking, hiking, sports, dance, working out, swimming, etc.
7. Doing things you like to do and/or doing things you are good at.
10. Letting yourself get angry and expressing it. Same with fear and sadness.
11. Good experiential therapy in which you can feel your feelings
12. Whatever works for you, as long as you don’t hurt yourself or others.
I’m sure there are many other things that work for you or others. This is my list. Other things work also, but they may not be healthy, like addictions, self harm, hurting others, intellectualizing (at the expense of feeling), cutting off from your feelings (heart), trying to control everything, fighting, etc. Coping with anxiety is often not easy. But some things can help. Lastly, as I said above, try to find a place or person or environment where you feel safe, or that feeling safe is at least a possibility.