When Becky, the producer of AnxietyConnection.com, proposed that I write a blog for this site, I thought, great. That’s a topic I sure know a lot about. I’ve had social anxiety, performance anxiety, and general all-around anxiety for most of my life. I currently write a blog for BipolarConnect.com, and Becky noticed that a lot of those blogs were about anxiety. I think the two often go hand in hand, though I’d say anxiety does not discriminate in its choice of victims. I know people who are fine in every other way, but the anxiety monster still gets them.
I think my anxiety started when my family moved from Newark to Irvington, New Jersey when I was in the third grade. I never quite made the adjustment. In fact, one day during my first week of school, I was getting anxious standing on the street corner waiting for my bus. So when another bus pulled up on the other side of the street, I ran across and took that one. I just couldn’t wait any longer.
These were regular city buses, not school buses, so the driver had no idea I wasn’t supposed to be on that bus. When we got to the end of the line, he asked me where I lived. Then he called my mother and put me on the right bus to get home.
No one ever talked about anxiety back then, though. You were just called “shy” or a “scaredy-cat.” As a teenager, that shyness sure did me in. I could never think of a thing to say to a boy if I liked him. I would just freeze up, and he’d think I was an idiot.
Anxiety is basically fear, and is very useful in warning us of impending danger. But today, when we no longer worry about attacks from wild animals, the anxiety itself is the thing we fear. Like many others, I’ve used alcohol and drugs to self-medicate in the past. Becoming drunk at a party gave me the courage to do things I could not do when sober. Of course, the fall-out from that self-destructive behavior was not worth it. Now that I’m older, drinking mostly makes me sleepy, but I still reach for that glass of wine at social events.
At this point in my life, I can mostly tell what’s going to make me anxious. Then I have a choice. I can give in and not do the thing that makes me anxious. Or I can fight through it. That choice at least gives me the sense that I am in control of my life. Some things are worth doing in spite of the anxiety. I would hate to just curl up into a ball and hide in my house, even though I sometimes feel that way.
There are useful medications for anxiety, and I know several people who use them. But I have not had much luck going down that route, especially since I am bipolar. Certain anxiety medications, such as Paxil, will make me feel better, but then lead straight to hypomania and worse. Managing my life better and getting my head straight have helped me a lot, though. We are all different, and need to find our own path in dealing with anxiety. I look forward to sharing my experience with you in future blogs, and hope you will share yours as well.