Observing my anxiety
Earlier today I had a really fascinating experience with my anxiety. It also made me feel extremely vulnerable. I was going to write about it today, I have a draft post started already. But I'm feeling a bit fragile at the current moment, so it's going to sit for a day or two until I can touch it with a little less defensiveness.
What made the experience fascinating, and eye-opening to me was my ability to experience the anxiety and yet still find enough detachment to observe it. There were a few things that contributed to the perfect storm today. I've had an anxious week, I'm stressed about a few things, and my feelings of wanting to escape have been building all week. That desire to escape sort of blew up today, and because of circumstances, I wasn't able to act on it in the way I wanted to. So, instead of giving in to the desire, I had to find a way to get through it.
When I had a break, I climbed into bed for a while and journaled about what I was experiencing, mentally and physically. For the first time ever I was actually able to observe the anxiety while it happened. To identify where in my body it was affecting me physically, and notice how much it was making me want to escape. I was able to write through what I wanted to do for escape, and gain some insight into why I wanted to do that thing.
Like I mentioned it was fascinating, but also simultaneously awful. After I journaled for a while I listened to a guided meditation to calm anxiety with breath. After that I was able to go about the rest of my day and act mostly normal, I think. Though I was pretty impatient with the dogs barking this afternoon and so they ended up in timeouts.
I feel like being able to observe this experience while it happened is a direct result of my meditation and mindfulness practice, and therapy, over the last 3-4 years. It is only because of regular meditation and guided practices, and help learning how to identify my emotions, that I've been able to start identifying my emotions in the moment and observe them while they are happening. It is only in the last year or two that I've been able to start doing this. Previously when a strong emotion hit I simply reacted with whatever long-ingrained response I'd been using. For the most part my default responses to anxiety are to escape, and if I can't escape I tend to lash out, not unlike a cat that feels cornered.
I feel like I learned something new about myself today. I'm glad I had the opportunity to learn, and I'm glad that my meditation practice has gotten me to a place where I'm able to learn from these moments. I'm also grateful for the support my friend Kathleen who gets what I'm going through in these moments and often helps me get through them and offers a rational but compassionate perspective.
But, I still wish I didn't have so much anxiety.