In the past, I’ve often prattled on about my inability to get my anxiety, stress or ruminating over things under control. Having an anxiety disorder has an insidious way of doing that. Even if you take away all the extrinsic things going on around you and just deal with yourself, it’s difficult to explain to yourself, let alone others, what it’s like to be in your skin.
You see, part of anxiety, at least for me, is the inability to stop thinking about what happened before, in the past, for whatever reason. Just like the C.S. Lewis quote above, there is a deafening truth to the fact that you can’t change the past. For every emotion, feeling and desire, there is a carefully constructed meme or quote out there to soothe or validate how you are feeling at this very moment. If it brings you comfort, like it does me sometimes, go for it. I think the quotes exist because of how they affected people and some of them are timeless, like the one I just used. Perhaps their obviousness contributes to that, but I like it.
In my ridiculous amount of time I’ve used up reliving things that have happened to me, what I fail to realize almost each and every time, is that the incidents, moments and events that are behind me exist because I allow them to produce a reaction in me. It is not my responsibility to carry that burden; it belongs to the individual, situation or moment in which it occurred. This is one of THE most difficult parts of separating the past from your anxiety. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve been moments away from falling asleep and something POOF! shows up in my mind and begins to play like a damn movie. It’s not healthy for me, and I know this when it happens, but sometimes my mind won’t let me have that peace I so deserve.
Some of my thoughts that stretch back in time land on the mistakes I’ve made, the choices in life and the devastating events that shaped me. Some of it I couldn’t control (those types of incidents are the hardest, I assure you) and when it’s done TO you or happens around you, there is a helplessness, an inability to understand the why that never seems to get answered. Perhaps therein lies the root of the anxiety? Why did you do this to me? “I don’t know.” Anxiety says, “Well, I’m sorry, that’s just not good enough!” and insists we analyze it to death. The lack of concrete reasoning for why this has been “done to you” allows the stress to overtake you.
The loss of my parents and husband, well, there was nothing I could do about it. For some reason, I was able to cope with these events in a much more structured and progressive way than the unpredictable types of things that popped in, unfair and unjust in my perspective. So, moving at a snail’s pace, I try every day to take the tiniest piece of what revolves in my mind and process it. It is such a long and arduous process, but I do believe that in the end I will be better for it.
While my hair is most certainly not this gray and well, this woman has a few decades on me, one way I have coped with my anxiety this year (double-edged sword!) is to go back to college full time as an older, returning adult student. Joy! Rapture! Filling time with something positive and productive is one way to not allow the mind the time to wander aimlessly and take up countless hours of fruitless pondering. It is also another thing to take four, three credit classes that last 5 weeks in the summer. While I did wind up with all A’s, I shall remind myself to NEVER, EVER do that again! When they say you will be working 9-11 hours a day, you’re initial, “Ha, I’ll never commit that much time!” transforms exactly into what you do each and every day. It was worth it though.
So, as long as I have support, my kids don’t drive me insane and I put aside the time and effort, this is one of the small, yet big at the same time, steps I’m taking to move ahead with my life. Stress and anxiety isn’t always about us. It’s about what we allow to get to us. The actions of others are on THEM to process and make the changes THEY need to make. My job is to stop wasting my time and work on me. By improving myself and showing myself that I can be a strong and independent person, I am very, very slowly allowing tiny pieces of what I’m holding onto to become that whole “in the past, stays in the past” ideal that seems to be so elusive to me, but I am starting to believe might be possible with enough time and effort.
I think it is. At least, I think it is, but there’s just that one more thing…