When the Natural Toolbox is No Longer Enough, You Do What You Have to Do
Anxiety and I, well, we go back. I do recall a sepia-toned time when I didn’t have anxiety as my copilot but it’s been a while, as they say.
After a pretty idyllic early childhood, anxiety started to seep its way into my body over time, like dark ink from a well slowly being drawn up into a fountain pen, until it was just a part of my blood. Whether it was from my alcoholic household, the legacy of intergenerational trauma, years of severe bullying in middle school, simply how I am wired or a combination of all these factors and more (ding-ding-ding!), the net effect is that I am someone who has become more and more anxious over time, especially the past five years or so.
There have been valid reasons for amplified anxiety — my mother’s long illness and subsequent death, my husband’s cancer, my beloved dog’s sudden, shocking death — but the causes began to matter less and less as it blew out like a mushroom cloud into a worsening and chronic state, shadowing everything. Working with a therapist on specific traumatic events seems to have made the generalized anxiety, which had been at a constant but manageable buzz for years, become much more turbulent and interruptive. My anxiety, which I came to think of like Mya N. Ziety, a name fit for the terrible roommate I never asked to have and couldn’t kick out, became so cacophonous and pervasive, it drowned out virtually everything. I couldn’t enjoy good news and opportunities because of how insistent the anxiety was; when positive things would happen, it was like I was on the outside, watching it unfold for someone else from a smudged, dirty window.
I don’t want to make it sound like the suffering has been severe day-in and day-out, because it has not been. I have had a fulfilling life with enriching relationships and experiences despite the anxiety. The anxiety in the pit of my stomach has been with me like a burning coal I swallowed since at least sixth grade, though; it burns like a red hot poker at times and at other times, it is just warm to the touch but the coal is always there, always lit. In more recent years, it has burned brighter and more consistently, with or without new kindling.
What you should know about anxiety, or at least my anxiety, is that there is most often a…