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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Changing your view

Anxiety can be a real bitch.  Or bastard, depending on how fluid you wish to make it.  Driving down Highway 5 late at night last weekend, that familiar tingle begain in the middle of my back - a feeling that usually means I'm about to spend the next 20 min. talking myself out of driving straight to the nearest hospital.  Which, ok sure, I'm so used to dealing with this that I can usually cope, and even though I will always think something could possibly be wrong with me, odds are everything is fine.  The bitch of it is, I wasn't even stressing out.   Usually, one thinks of anxiety as coming from stress, or some sort of stressful situation.  Granted, driving 300 miles down what is possibly the most boring piece of road in California isn't what I call fun, it's by no means a stressfull event.  The only thing I can think of as being a trigger in this situation is when I started thinking, "Hey, I feel pretty good right now" ...

What I don't understand about myself is why I sit and think about the absence of bad feelings.  Perhaps that in itself is my anxiety coming out - if nothing is wrong that means something is about to be wrong.  Right?  After all, axniety is pretty much your brain rebelling against itself. 

"Something bad is going to happen!"
 "Because it hasn't happened yet!"
"Oh shit!"

And you go around and around, work yourself up, and eventually it can manifest into actual physical sensations, most of which can also be taken as real medical emergencies - pain/numbness in your left arm, sweats, inability to think straight, long-lasting headaches, etc. 

As I'm catapulting myself down the road, I sat in the car and just thought about what I was doing at that time specifically, and how incredible it was.  "I'm driving a car down to see family, to go to Disneyland, and to have a great time with friends - what cool things am I going to do?" was pretty much the conversation I was having with myself.  I tried to focus on the fun I was going to have, and how privileged I was to be able to take this trip in the first place. I didn't try to ignore the feeling in my back or my arm (or head at this point), but simply acknowledge those feelings, and then shift my thinking to something that I knew would take up more brain power than driving in a straight line needed.  In otherwords, I out-thought myself. 

That tactic isn't anything new, and it sure isn't something that I pulled down from the sky - it was my way of grounding myself and telling my brain to take a break.  Being several days removed from this experience, I have the benefit of being calm about the whole thing, but in that situation, it's sort of impossible to be rational.  Like that part of you just shuts down and heads to the bar.  Maybe practice makes perfect for this stuff.  Simply trying once or twice doesn't cut it, but maybe twenty times does.  Or thirty?  I can't say. 

I wanted to share this with you all because it's one of those times that anxiety can surprise you, derail you, or knock you out and steal one of your kidneys.  That is the most vexing part of this thing for me, because it doesn't seem like you can avoid it.  Like some much in life you just have to walk through it. 

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