Anxiety is often irrational but the fact that it does not always readily make sense does not stop it from rearing its ugly head.
Sometimes all it takes is something going badly once. Every single time I’m in a similar situation afterwards, my anxiety is heightened and part of me fears that something bad will inevitably occur again. Other times, I can have something bad occur repeatedly and nothing is ever triggered. Each new time something bad happens again, I find myself honestly surprised at the outcome.
There’s no rhyme or reason to which will occur. It is not based on the severity of the bad result. It is not based on how pivotal the event was to my life. Though I have struggled for years to understand my anxiety and pinpoint what causes it, I have not been able to discern any common factors to make it easier to predict my anxiety in the future.
A recent example of how my anxiety presents itself occurred a couple weeks ago. While preparing to shave my legs in the shower, I found a tick on my leg just below my kneecap. Thankfully, he didn’t appear to have been there for long. I was able to get him out fairly quickly and easily. There have been no rashes or bullseye rings around the site since then to warn of conditions such as Lyme disease. All in all, I was pretty lucky. The whole situation was resolved quickly and without further or lasting complications.
This was my first experience finding a tick on myself in my lifetime. It obviously was an isolated occurrence, unlikely to be repeated again any time soon. I don’t spend a lot of time in wooded areas or anything where I’d be likely to pick up another tick. Yet every time I have stepped in the shower since then, my anxiety easily goes up two points.
Whenever I step into the shower now my heart starts to race. Though I begin an inner monologue telling myself that I am just being silly and paranoid, I can feel my chest start to tighten. I stand under the stream of water, close my eyes and practice my conscious breathing techniques trying to calm myself back down. I struggle to fight the urge to scour every inch of my skin again and again looking for other ticks.
I know it is irrational. I know my anxiety in this situation makes no sense. I know that, logically, I am highly unlikely to find another tick even upon a thorough inspection. I know it was an isolated incident. But logic plays no part in how my mind and my body begin to react in these situations.
I don’t even know if my anxiety in this particular situation will fade somewhat over time or if it will continue to grow. Sometimes my situational anxiety will dull somewhat over the course of time. Other times, however, it remains consistent or even grows and expands upon itself, merging with other anxieties over time. Again, I have never been able to find any rhyme, reason or pattern to how my anxiety presents itself. There’s no way to predict what lies ahead.
All I know is that, thanks to one random, errant tick, I have become increasingly apprehensive about taking my showers over the last couple weeks. And I know that as much as I try to be rational and reason with myself, I cannot rationalize with my anxiety. It comes and goes as it pleases, always leaving a mess in its wake.
That has always been one of my biggest issues with explaining my anxiety to other people. Everyone always attempts to apply logic to the situation to “help me see how ridiculous my anxiety is”. You cannot rationalize the irrational.
Though sometimes portions of my anxiety will eventually fade over time, I have carried others with me for decades. A good portion of my anxiety revolves around never truly feeling safe. In this aspect, it has merged with my PTSD because in my head security equates to safety. Due in a large part to the abuses of my past, I have noticed that I subconsciously react to my anxiety over not feeling safe in many ways. For example, I always leave my shower curtain somewhat ajar so I can see the pathway directly to the door. I often find myself jumpy and apprehensive when seated with my back to doorways because I carry within myself an ever-present fear of someone approaching me unaware. I check locks repeatedly, especially before going to bed, because I cannot relax, get comfortable or fall asleep if I am even the slightest bit anxious about my safety.
I have not experienced anything in the scope of sexual abuse or physical abuse since I was a child that would warrant such anxiety. There is no rational explanation for why I need to have a clear view of the door from my shower or why I must watch the pathways to my location like a hawk. It has been decades since I have had anything happen and I am no longer that little child who cannot fend for herself. But my body and mind will not accept that reality as fact. To this day, whenever I am presented with certain situations, my anxiety is automatically heightened. It doesn’t matter that it is irrational. It doesn’t matter that I can even clearly see that the situation is irrational and call myself on it. My mind and body still react as if there is something to fear.
I understand that others mean well when they try to reassure me that there really is nothing to worry about or make comments about my overreacting. I’m aware of that fact myself. But they might as well be telling me the sky is blue because I can see that, as well, yet I have as little control over that as I do over my anxiety. There is nothing anyone else could say to me that I have not said to myself a hundred times over. I know somewhere within myself that it is irrational. But that does not stop my mind and my body from reacting as if it was the most rational thing in the world.
I don’t need anyone else to tell me that my anxiety is often irrational. Trust me, I have those bases well covered. What I need more than anything is compassion and understanding, along with acknowledgement that I am doing my best to use everything I possess in my mental wellness toolbox to soothe myself and bring myself back down out of a panic. I know my anxiety is often irrational. Please believe my when I say I am not doing it intentionally to make my own life or anyone else’s harder. It is a mental illness. I have virtually no control over how my mind and body react in certain situations. The last thing I need is judgment or lectures about how I just need to be more rational and calm down. Because let’s face it – You cannot reason with something that is unreasonable. You cannot rationalize the irrational. All the common sense in the world will not negate anxiety. It is a medical condition.