A few days ago I was feeling incredibly anxious about a commitment I had made to volunteer at a charity walk. All there was to it was helping people sign in and register. Easy. It was for a cause and an organization I really believe strongly in. I would know quite a few people who would be there. It was a beautiful day. What did I have to be worried about?
About an hour before I needed to be there my anxiety hit me like a wave. It starts as questions. What if an acquaintance asks about your living situation? What if your old boss is there and it’s awkward? What if you screw up someone’s registration? It went on and on. I tried to talk myself out of going, I floated the idea of begging off to my folks. What if someone finds out I’m depressed? What if someone finds out I’m an alcoholic? What will they think? The charity is loosely affiliated with the church I attended growing up but have since stopped going to. What if the pastor is there? What if he remarks about my not being there in a long time?
These questions may all seem silly. This past winter I had a similar panic/anxiety attack about attending a Christmas party at a friends house. I was terrified to go see people who I like and care about, and who like and care about me. It was seemingly ridiculous, but there’s not always a rational reason why these things happen. That’s the worst part of it- that I tend to spin out worst-case scenarios a lot, even when there’s little basis for them. On top of that, when I have a panic/anxiety attack I also get physical reactions- I can feel my heart rate increase and I start to sweat.
Back to the day of the walk. I was pacing. I had to literally stop and sit down, and address each question one at a time and rationally address them and prepare mentally how I would react. The thing is, there may not be two nicer people in the world than my old boss and the pastor at the church. A few people did ask about my living situation, and were satisfied that I was back in town and they didn’t press the matter. The registration process was, as I somehow knew all along, easy. Everyone seemed glad to see me. I had a nice conversation with some old acquaintances and the parents of some of my friends who were there. But I needed to tell myself all of that ahead of time. I also took a Clonidine, which is a great help for the physical reactions and to bring me down a bit. Treating the anxiety works best when I can take the medication and also use some of the thought skills I’m picking up in my weekly therapy sessions. Everything went OK.
The worst part of the anxiety is feeling like I was flipping out over nothing because then I feel embarrassed about the whole anxiety attack in the first place. I don’t know if time and experience will ever cause my anxiety to completely disappear or to become a non-factor in my life. But I am getting better at dealing with it when it comes up.