Coping With Low-Level Generalized Anxiety
Last night I woke up four or five times feeling vaguely anxious, which is pretty much the story of this past week, even though I have nothing in particular to feel anxious about. At times like this, the superstitious part of my brain starts thinking, “This is a premonition that something terrible is going to happen.”
At our ages of 65 and 80, I told Adrian that from now on we were either going to hear bad news or be bad news. It’s a natural part of the life-cycle. So on that basis alone, I’d have reason to be anxious 24 hours a day, since something bad probably will happen to someone I know, if not to me, in the near future.
But I don’t think this generalized anxiety I feel is connected to any real danger. I think it has more to do with the simple acts of living: getting out of bed in the morning, going to a meeting, taking a walk with a friend. It’s life itself that I’m afraid of when I have these vague feelings of unease that I can’t connect to a particular cause. It is almost as if I am holding my breath. And actually, my breath is affected, so it’s altogether not a healthy thing to feel.
For me, anxiety and depression usually go together, and I think I’m feeling a generalized anxiety this week because I’ve been mildly depressed. That robs me of the energy and enthusiasm I usually feel, so that I become hesitant about everything I do. I worry more, too, and get upset and irritated by minor inconveniences. The electricity went off in the neighborhood one day and our automatic garage door opener wouldn’t work. My car was stuck inside and I needed it. We couldn’t figure out how to get the door open manually, and I started to panic.
The problem was minor, since Adrian’s car was parked outside of the garage and available to me. Yet I got upset and irritable all out of proportion. Luckily I realized this and apologized to Adrian a few minutes later for taking it out on him.
Life and the state of the world do offer many reasons to worry, if we are inclined to, but those of us with generalized anxiety don’t need any excuse to feel this way. We can manufacture danger out of thin air. That’s what I’ve done to myself this week, and I hope it passes soon. I could use a good night’s sleep.
Lynne is an abstract painter and writer from Ithaca, New York. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder.