High Anxiety

I have started to examine my anxiety more and more. In the past, my anxiety was something that I accepted as gospel and I tried not to think too much about it so I did not trigger anything. Thinking about being in crowds, public speaking, or meeting new people made me almost as scared as actually doing those things. Now that I am on my new medication, I have started to have random thoughts about how I dealt before. More specifically, I have thought about how I did not deal with it. I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety and also specific social anxiety which was something I kind of knew about growing up but never really got around to dealing with. Like most undiagnosed or unmedicated individuals, I developed coping mechanisms to get me through my life. I got really good at coping mechanisms. The key coping mechanism became my philosophy of “Just Do It” in where I sucked it up and just went into those situations that made me uncomfortable.

I was reminded of this philosophy when I recently discovered a song by Icon for Hire called Theatre. The lyric that has caught in my head over and over is. “I’m gonna burn this theater down and pray to God for the strength to face the crowd.” Sometimes that was what it felt like to walk into a party or step into a mall. I felt like I had left all of my defenses behind and I was out there on my own. Every bad social situation like this was like a ride on a rollercoaster and I hate rollercoasters. Obviously, the more intense rides were things like speaking in public or being at a party. This was the philosophy behind my ill-fated flirtation with being an actor. I auditioned the one time and I shook so hard that the director thankfully did not pick me. However, at the time I also joined the drama club. In it, I joined several other people in reading plays. This was fine. However, then we started to rehearse them in order to perform them in front of little kids. They were really good plays, kind of fascinating. However, I vividly remember stepping out on stage, blacking out, and then stepping off stage and wondering what happened. While I have talked to other actors who have had the same experience, it was not fun to me. It was not something I remotely enjoyed doing.

However, I realized that one of the big triggers of my anger problem was this social anxiety. When I was out in public, it drained me. It made me more prone to being irritable. About two years ago, my mother agreed to have her house used for a big fundraiser for cancer awareness in West Virginia called Identity Crisis. Every year they have a themed party where people show up in costume. At the time, I was staying there while I was taking summer classes at community college. The thought of the upcoming party rattled me. When I stepped into the party, my fear turned to anger. I snapped at people for being overly familiar and using the house as their own. It was wrong. After a confrontation or two, I retreated to my room and hid for the remainder of the party. I just could not handle it. I have had a similar experience in airports and in malls. As I get tired, I am more susceptible to my more primal emotions. Combine that with getting hungry and my hangriness can get downright terrible. It is an issue that I am working on. The medication has helped immensely with that and so has exercise and my more positive outlook.

There was also a situation that I just remembered in the past week that kind of scared me. On another occasion while I was visiting my mother, she and my stepfather were having guests over. The thought of having to deal with these unknown quantities got me nervous. In addition,we were eating dinner outside which is something I absolutely hate doing in the summer because I hate the heat. I generally do not drink because I am always either working the next day or driving later that night. That night, neither were true so I said yes to wine. I almost never say yes to wine. I am a total lightweight and two glasses later and I was totally drunk which scared me. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been drunk. I slipped away to do dishes so I could get away from the table while people talked. Except, there I was trying to do dishes while dizzy and lightheaded. It turned out fine but looking back I was absolutely self-medicating. I never attempted that method again, thankfully.

So the point of this is what? Basically, I want to tell everybody who is reading this that help is out there. You can only help yourself for so long. Coping mechanisms only get you so far and these coping mechanisms are also really tiring to deal with. You do not have to do this alone. Tell your friends and family what is going on. Talk to a professional and get to the root of what might be wrong. It is very possible that your brain chemistry may be irregular and there may be a medication that can help you feel more normal. I am only on one part of the road to being normal as I start to unlearn the habits of a semi-hermit. I will keep trying to help myself but also I will continue getting help. Hang in there. You can do this.

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