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3/29/11

Writing: Fact and Fiction

My anxiety...

An exercise in writing on a topic I rarely publicly discuss.

Like a low vague sound of some humming electrical device the feeling is omnipresent and hangs in my soul somewhere, haunting me without explanation. I'm not exactly sure when I really became aware there was a name for it except it was sometime in the late eighties. It's an unexplained disquiet which for me usually leads to a low level melancholy or depression if I don't resolve it. It occurs to a lot more people than is recognized since those of us who live with it don't like to talk about it. Men suffer from it as much as women but we're generally not very good at identifying intrinsic emotions and expressing them well. Many of us act out inexplicably due to it.

There are two themes underlying my faint angst. The first theme is some unfinished business or I did something I wish I hadn't that is bothering me and it has not been addressed. Very often I really don't know what it is or conversely, I do, but would rather push it down with some cement of the mind to keep it from surfacing. If I do nothing and don't dig within to figure out what is bugging me it turns to melancholy. The other theme is my anxiety is right out there, live wire on the surface, edging to be dealt with immediately. That can be the most dangerous since if I'm around people I'm likely to do and say things that result in something worse. Remorse. That is the tipping point depression sets in.

When I refer to melancholy or depression it is not of the clinical variety but rather a natural emotion that most people feel sometimes, some experience it more often than others. It is a flat or dead feeling and I am sluggish. The best solution is to sleep it off. I have experienced deep, dark, black depression a few times in my life but it was due to a specific tragic event, a normal and typical reaction. Death of a loved one, job loss and broken relationship come to mind. Thankfully I had a support system during those times who listened to me, although in each case the only real answer was time.

Over the years I have tried a lot of routes and taken advice on how to deal with my anxiety. Some of the roads and answers were good and others were very bad for me. With no humility I think I can truthfully say I've learned that I'm smarter than any psychologist or therapist I've ever seen professionally or known personally with the exception of one friend. She is atypical for her field and believes most therapists dish out pablum and balderdash. Her advice, like so many of my head-on-shoulders friends, has helped me make sense of how to deal with anxiety more than any psychologist ever has. The same can be said for doctors who want to feed you pills, there is a price for taking them and it's high and not worth the expense of the aftermath.

What does work is knowing yourself well enough to recognize what is happening when it happens. The discovery of how to cope with it and solve the puzzle before it escalates can be a painful process but well worth it. I know that for fact because I have done it and can follow my own advice of what works for me, however, actually implementing the solution is sometimes another matter. The same strong character traits that usually work for me can also work against me. Persistence becomes stubborn. I know in my intellect that what I should do is think, search and find what is nagging my soul and deal with it. Herein lies the rub, sometimes I am just stubborn and don't want to take the time to deal with it, even knowing full well what will be next.

Fortunately most of the time, especially these past few years, I deal with my anxiety effectively. Writing is integral to my methods of both clarifying and purging my vital essence. Once I mull over and reason out the core of the matter, I am then able to implement very old fashioned solutions to the problem.

Think positively.
Take action to fix what is broken.
Accept it as a learning experience and personal growth.
Things usually work themselves out the way they're supposed to.

You're granddad's or father's advice maybe? Probably. Modern psychology and psychiatry is great for other people if it works for them. All I know is if I take the bull by the horns and wrestle the beast to ground, I won't get gored.

[inspired by Maryann, who is braver and more courageous than she thinks]