|Origins of Anxiety
||[May. 24th, 2011|04:24 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
I've been thinking a bit about the origins of my anxiety (and, by extension, my depression).
When I was a kid, there were a lot of things that didn't make sense to me. Some things, like determining the time by being drilled on reading the hands of an analog clock, I was successfully taught.
Other things, like why people behaved certain ways, continued to baffle me.
New things and change both make me nervous even now because I don't have scenarios for how to handle them. I can't remember if I've talked about "scenario thinking" here before, but it's the name I give to the way I often think. If XYZ happens, I will do ABC. If LMN happens, I will do OPR. If BAR happens, I should react with FOO and BAZ.
I did it much more as child than I do now, mostly because after being on the earth for 41 years, I've run through a LOT of scenarios. I used to imagine how to respond to actual fires, versus being bored during a fire drill; plan out how to cross the street; pretend the aliens would land soon and put us all into survival mode; know if I farted & it was audible, I would be doomed, mocked forever by the entire school; think about where secret hiding places might be placed; etc. I was also really REALLY empathic, always imagining what it must feel like to be this person or that one, that animal on TV, or that victim of a car crash.
This, along with the gnawing on the hardened skin around my fingernails, picking at my scabs & scar tissue, chewing the insides of my cheeks, and the jackhammer leg action are all indications of anxiety. But back then, we didn't have anxiety. We had kids who were "delicate" or "easily upset" - and my personal favorite, "who thought too much" - terms expressed with the derision we reserve for the weak. I developed something ceciliatan calls the "Jersey deadpan" and persevered.
And now I know that there are short-circuits in my executive function, and that was why I couldn't figure certain things out. Battering myself against these blocks got me bloodied, metaphorically speaking, and also taught my brain how to route around the issues or compensate. I haven't quite nailed down where exactly I get stuck. In a fantastic expression of irony, it is an element of the ADHD that that is one of the things I have difficulty identifying and working through. But I want to chart it all out; find the neurological roadblocks and review their implications, reexamine my history, and see what influences caught me where.
But there's a certain amount of relief to be had in knowing that I wasn't "delicate" nor did I "think too much." I had (and have) a disability that manifested itself in such a way that I developed a pile of both healthy & unhealthy coping behaviors to handle it. They helped and even protected me for a long time, but now it's time to dissect, dismantle, and rethink, reimagine better ways for me to not only survive, but thrive.
Sorry if this sounds really RAH-RAH or sound-bite-y. I am not exultant or even excited by this self-knowledge. Even the relief is tempered by the anticipation of how fuckin' hard this will be. I just need to get it out of my head and into another format, so I can refer back to it and think about it more.