February 6, 2011

Life on the Couch: Anxiety? *twitch* Who, me?

I've had problems all my life. Welcome to the club, right?

Hold on. I'm going to stop myself for a minute. Because that thing I just did, where I tried to play off like my problems are somehow less important than other people's? Is so unfair. I have issues, they're painful and difficult, and that's valid. Dammit.

Ok, I'm done talking myself out of downplaying my issues. For the moment.

To give you a very truncated history, I was born to an unmarried mother who was about as good with money as I am. When I was three years old I was molested by a neighbor. I don't know how long it went on (I don't actually remember it at all, which is probably a blessing). As I grew up I was ostracized by my peers, first for being the only kid without a dad, then for being the new kid at school when we moved, then for not having designer clothes, and for being overweight, and for being awkward, and for having bad hair... you get the idea. By junior high I had started entertaining thoughts of suicide, and had I known what goth was (or had emo even existed), I would have been one. I went to prom during both my junior and senior years, although my date was platonic in both cases. I switched schools between my sophomore and junior years, and succeeded in leaving my old self behind just enough to make some friends and finish high school.

It's been almost fifteen years since I graduated high school, and I've continued to struggle with my various issues all along. I've seen therapists off and on throughout, with diagnoses from depression to ADD to bi-polar disorder. It wasn't until I started seeing my current therapist that the anxiety diagnosis came up. And finally it all started to make sense.

My particular brand of anxiety works mostly through denial. When a problem becomes too overwhelming, I set it aside and forget about it. When something becomes too painful or scary, I push it down and refuse to deal with it. If something disrupts my calm, I bury my head in the sand and ignore it and hope it goes away. I hide, or I pretend it's not so bad, and when it all catches up to me I get depressed and start wondering why I bother at all.

Another aspect of my anxiety (or perhaps it's connected more to my absolute lack of self-confidence) is the belief that I don't know how to do things and someone needs to teach me how. Simple things like cooking, and exercising, and finances. I'm positive that I can't do these things right, and that to even try is pointless. So I eat microwavable food and live on my couch and quail helplessly when I can't pay my bills. Or I research how to do these things, but can only find instructions that seem far too complicated to me.

Learning to trust myself is one of my greatest challenges. It's getting better, now that I know what the problem really is. But it's a daily battle, one that I still lose more often than win. But it's not all loss now, and that's heartening.

So why am I sharing this on my public blog? Because I've seen other people share their stories, and been inspired to work harder to get better. Maybe telling my story will help me too, and even help someone else. Or maybe I can find a support system somewhere in this wide world. Or maybe it will just exist as a record for me, to look back on years from now, when I'm better. To remember how far I've come. Because I do believe I'll get better. Somehow. Someday.

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