11 August 2014

A worrying void

'You'd worry if you had nothing to worry about!' It's a charge often levelled at those of us who suffer from anxiety and implies that we actually enjoy being anxious all of the time, about everything. That accusation is often followed by the simplistic suggestion that we shouldn't fret so much.

This is about as helpful as telling an overweight person that they shouldn't eat so much. The most common cause of weight gain may well be overeating, but the underlying mental and emotional issues need to be untangled first, for any diet to work. 

Likewise with anxiety - you can't just stop it at will. There are, of course, measures available to tackle it; however, it takes as big an effort to overcome a lifetime of bad mental habits, as it does to overcome a lifetime of bad eating habits.

If and when you do achieve a greater peace of mind, the experience can be quite unnerving. It's that experience, and our response to it, that might create the impression we're lost without something to worry about.

I've recently reached an unusual mental equilibrium; an existence that is by no means anxiety free, but, at least, not entirely governed by worry. This is, in part, a result of my efforts to think more positively, but also due to life throwing me fewer curve balls of late. And I've found that the absence of worry leaves a strange mental vacuum; my mind somehow feels under occupied. While I don't want the worry back, the void is quite disconcerting. 
Image courtesy of twobee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There has been a physical change, too. The side effects of persistent anxiety - the racing heart, churning stomach, loss of appetite and insomnia - have gone and, with them, the resulting exhaustion. Feeling more energised is welcome, if slightly unsettling; I keep waiting for the crash.

It's hard to believe that the usual intense anxiety has really abated. Now and again, I deliberately think about recent causes of concern to test my reaction; these are situations that haven't changed, so are, potentially, just as anxiety-inducing as before. 

This might seem a pointless, or even risky, undertaking, but it's no different from testing out a previously injured limb. If you damaged your knee, you'd want to be sure, upon recovery, that it would really hold up, before resuming your normal activities. Even then, you might continue to be insecure about your new, healed status, and fearful of the old injury recurring.

In the same way, I'm testing my mind - not because I'm 'worried about having nothing to worry about', but to see whether it will remain strong in the face of thoughts that previously provoked severe anxiety. For now, it is; and I'm even getting used to it.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Helen, and from what I understand, those who recover from OCD often feel the same void from not having to do so many compulsions. Now there's so much extra time for "real life." It can be unnerving as you say, but once you get used to it.......wow :)!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, ocdtalk. I just need to get used to this feeling as a new 'habit'.

Anonymous said...

I nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award! xo http://fightagainstocd.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/liebster-blog-award/

Sebastian Aiden Daniels said...

One day at a time is all that you can do. I can relate to your story. I still feel intense depressin and suicidal urges every once in a while, but for the most part I am happy, content, and stable. This is new to me and quite scary at times. Change is always worrisome at first.

Helen Barbour said...

Sebastian, thank you for sharing your experiences - I'm glad to hear that things are going well for you on the whole.