Anxiety Armor

I honestly don’t ever remember living without anxiety. I had night terrors as a child. My mom called me an “awfulizer” growing up because even then my catastrophic thinking was ingrained in me.

Two years ago I started with a new therapist because I needed more help in handling the trauma of losing Jake violently. I went to see her because I wanted to face grief head on and not stuff it. Because I knew the magnitude of what I was feeling simply couldn’t be stuffed. It would stunt my future indefinitely if I did that.

What I didn’t know was how deep we would dive into my internal struggles beyond the loss of a husband.

Unlovable.

Unworthy.

Never good enough.

Abandonment.

My fear of trusting another.

Catastrophic thinking.

What I had come to accept as a brokenness, was an ever present anxiety. Always with me. Sometimes it fueled my passion and sometimes it fueled my hatred. Regardless it was an armor. A defense. To not let myself feel. To push out pain, rejection, loss, sadness and with that it shoved out joy and peace. Because I have learned now you can’t push one without the others. And this armor worked for a long time, 33 years, until I felt something I struggled to stuff and not feel. And it cracked my whole defense system.

My anxiety is my body fighting back. Fighting to feel the emotions. When I move away from them, I am left with a physical feeling of my body rejecting this choice. Tension, heart palpations, an upset stomach. The emotions I so often dismissed. The ones that we dismiss. The ones society tells us to “get over,” “dry your tears,” and “it’s not about you.” But isn’t it about you? Don’t your feelings matter? Can’t you sit with them a bit and not rush to get over them? Why do I have to dry my face unless I want to? Feel them. Weather the storm because the calm will come after.

My mom always had a vitamin to recommend for my anxiety. And while she meant well, a deficiency of a mineral here or there has not caused my life long struggle with anxiety. I wish it did. That would be so much simpler. Taking a vitamin rather than hours of therapy, journaling, breathing with mindfulness, and meditating. She also told me to meditate for years. What does that mean? Sit in a room by myself and breathe? Stare at a candle flame? Listen to what Alexa deems to be meditation music? I didn’t understand it until recently. Or maybe I just simply refused to because heaven forbid I feel something.

I admit I wasn’t open to any helpful tools until the last 2 years. And my therapist may just tell you I kick and scream about using them, much like a child. Because the work is hard. So freaking hard. I operated a certain way for 33 years and then all of a sudden we are dragging out skeletons from the closet like it’s garage sale weekend in your neighborhood and you’re not going to let one more damn year go by without cleaning out the junk.

So. Much. Junk.

Yet here I am, 36 years old, seeing glimmers of peace and joy. Feeling the calm. Most days I begrudgingly use the tools to dismantle the armor I have built from muscle memory through the day. And the days I do use these tools, the anxiety subsides. I feel calm. My mind quiets. I can handle a 7 year old tantrum like it’s just a minor blip in my day.

It is still such a struggle and I yo yo back and forth from old patterns to using my new found tool box. But in the end, I’m going to see the journey was worth it.

Face the storm, let the tide pull you in, and come up for air just in time to see the sun.

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