Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Anxiety: the other white meat

I write about ADHD a lot and anxiety a little...even though anxiety has really inserted itself into my life in unforgiving and nearly crippling ways since I was a small child.

And that really says a lot right there...that it's such an unremarkable part of my person. Such a constant companion that I would forget to introduce it thoroughly if at all.

So I'd like to write more about it. Starting here:

I spent my childhood under threat of terminal illness. My mind ruminated constantly over thoughts of the impact of death. Every lump was cancer, every surface touched was contaminated with something unstoppable and deadly. Why was I never diagnosed with OCD? I have some theories.

Much of the angst and anguish that I endured, I endured silently and privately inside my own head. I was smart, and I knew that my thoughts were unreasonable...well...I sort of knew...in that way that children who are smart "know" things because they are capable of logical thinking, but can't stop their irrational thoughts because they are children, and still emotionally immature. Consequences always feel bigger when you are small.

I had very particular habits. My shoes had to be tied just so, and my pigtails had to be cinched to my head very snugly or I would think about it all day long. I always buttoned all buttons on clothing. And I was quiet; and I spent a lot of time watching...and thinking...and worrying...and fidgeting in small quiet ways. And for the most part, I kept my worries to myself. As a teenager, my relationship with control only became more calculated. I knew that if I ate just enough, I could starve myself quietly without anyone knowing. My mind could not stop moving from one worry, to the next, and the next...but only I was aware of the actual depth I was drowning in.

I have aged backwards. And if anything, addressing my anxiety has made my ADHD more, not less obvious. I anchored myself to the ground with these thoughts, routines, worries. As I have grown older, for various reasons I have been able to slowly let them fall away...Remeron has only furthered a process I'd begun without chemicals.

And I am thankful for this...because even at the age of 9 I had begun to make myself actually ill from all of the worry. I was tested for autoimmune diseases because my immune system genuinely began to fail under the weight of my fears. They were unable to diagnose me with any particular rheumatological disease...because I don't have one...but my mind was literally causing my body to turn in and fight to destroy itself.

You can't outrun anxiety. The only way past fear is through it. More on that later.

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