Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anxiety and Relativity

I have been drowning in anxiety lately. I have this horrible lurking feeling and I just want October to pass. I don't know why, but I just feel like October is going to be a month where I am robbed of all my goodness. Where I lose everything I took for granted anyway. If I can get through October, if I can survive until November, life will go on.

I have been working on an exercise my Father in Law gave me. To this day, it is probably the most productive, most helpful piece of wisdom anyone has ever given me (in particular). He is a perceptive person, who knows I lose a lot of battles to anxiety, because I grew up always expecting the worst of every situation.

So when I am in a fit of anxiety, and my chest is tight and I am pushing back irrational tears, stifling sobs, and just trying to breathe like a normal, balanced, healthy person, I do my darndest to practice that exercise.

Whatever it is that I am focusing on in the moment is anxiety-causing because I cannot get my mind off of the worst possible outcome.

And since I have already mastered picturing the Worst Possible Outcome, I also force myself to picture the Best Possible Outcome. Which is really hard sometimes, when you are stuck in a place where you can scarcely believe there is potential for positivity to find a place in your head.

But it has helped me get a lot of perspective. Sometimes it doesn't work to rid the anxiety, not right away, but sometimes it does. At least for a moment. And then 20 minutes later I have to take a minute to clear my head so I can do it all over again.

I know that this is a first world problem. I know that there are hungry children in Africa, and mothers in third world countries that live every day knowing exactly how many children they brought into the world, and knowing that fewer than that are with them today. I know that there is a large number of people with no roof over their heads, no medicine within reach, no clean water to drink. I know that to them, electricity is a luxury and not even their first concern because there are far more basic needs than that which need to be met.

I know that there are entire nations where women have no rights, where love is not a principle of marriage, but abuse is. I know that there are places, both far north and far south, where this is not enough wool to make blankets to keep people warm. And if there were, who could afford it anyway?

I know there are men and children working 20 hour stretches in mines just to make ends meet, knowing they will not live long, and dying uncomfortable deaths from their working conditions.

I know that there are places where having a dog to love is not a luxury available to them. That loving a dog is absurd, because they need to eat and we practically make fun of those people by being offended that they feed their families with the food we feed for the fun of it.

So I know, trust me, that my problems are small ones, relative to all the weary souls on the planet I share.  But despite the meagerness of my problems, I ask as humbly as possible (knowing that it isn't humble enough) that anyone reading put up a prayer for me too. My struggles aren't worthy, but right now they feel pretty grim, and I am not sure how they are going to come to an end.

1 comment:

Helen said...

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the vastness of human suffering, but don't ever feel that your "struggles aren't worthy." Your health and happiness can shape the world around you. I pray that you can find calm.

My part-time analyst recommended a book to me that has helped me a lot -- The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques, by Margaret Wehrenberg. It hasn't swept all the panic away, but it has helped me to focus in those crucial moments.