Anxiety has been both friend and foe all my life. Lately, it has also become my super power. As far back as I can remember I have had anxiety attacks. I didn’t know what they were or that other people felt the same way, I only knew that there were times when I felt unbelievably afraid. Most of the time I struggle to find the best way to bring the anxiety down to a level that is tolerable. When I can reach a level that will allow me to function, I try to find the trigger. I don’t usually find anything specific.
I have found that the base of my anxiety is usually fear. However, there are times when it is just my body or mind telling me that the path I am about to step out onto is not safe, these times the anxiety has been a guide post rather than a barrier. On a few occasions the panic would begin when I started to do something that made me feel unsure. Those times when it seems like a good idea, but, it is a really, really bad idea. When that has happened I have felt the anxiety rise and stay at a level that I could function with, but was very uncomfortable. On those occasions all I need to do is reevaluate what I am doing and change direction. The anxiety lessens and I can breathe easy again.
I have what my daughter calls “stealth anxiety attacks.” Being able to appear calm when inside I am falling apart is one of my safety mechanisms. It is easier to stay safe from a predator when you appear calm. Vulnerability, for me, during a panic or anxiety attack has been known to be dangerous. Due to my stealth anxiety I usually need to announce that I am having an attack.
There have only been a couple of times when I couldn’t ride it out or calm myself. The one recent time that I couldn’t ride it out alone and find my way to the other side, I was fortunate that two of my older children were there to help me. They stayed with me, rubbed my back, and talked to me quietly. When I had calmed enough to move and start to function again I climbed into my bed. My son sat on the end of the bed and massaged my feet while giving me the PG-rated version of Game of Thrones. Since it was the PG version it didn’t take him long to go through the first four seasons. I was asleep before the end of the story. This was an aberration. Usually the attacks are not this intense.
I have begun to view my anxiety attacks as neither a good or bad thing. They are a real pain at three in the morning. But they are very helpful in understanding when I have reached the edge of my comfort zone. If I can bear the feelings and move forward I can move my comfort zone out a little farther, widening my world, giving me options and choices.
I have begun to look at anxiety as my super power. It tells when I am doing too much, moving into uncharted space, and when things are not going in the right direction. Through meditation, and on occasion medication, I can figure out where the anxiety is based. It is not really as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of practice and it doesn’t always work. Fighting it all the time doesn’t work either. Somewhere in the middle is an answer. I know that when I am awake at three in the morning that there is nothing I am going to be able to do to fix whatever problem has me by the throat.
By seeing anxiety as a super power, I am trying to take away the scare factor and see if I can’t turn it into a guide instead. When I have anxiety because I am going into unknown territory, like the doctor’s appointments for my heart, I ask questions and get knowledge. For me knowledge and planning take away some of the anxiety. There are times when getting information is not possible. For those times I just try to make things as safe as possible, find out as much as I can, and hope for the best. Which also means having a lot of anxiety.
Whether I view anxiety as a friend, foe, or Super Power, it is a part of who I am. And learning to accept that has helped me navigate my anxiety a little easier. So, what is your anxiety; Friend, Foe, or Super Power?