All Right, Anxiety, Let’s Talk

Since sharing the Stephen story with E. on Monday, I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety, and it’s been getting worse. All the bodily symptoms are back: the tingling arms (that almost ask to be burned), the twitchy vagina, the hyperawareness of my tongue (which I always experience as a message that I’ve revealed too much). Naturally when I feel like that, my first instinct is to try to repress that feeling. But E. tells me to make time to listen to what the feelings are telling me. So I set aside some time and did that today. It started with this letter. Later I’ll write about what the letter opened up for me.

Dear Anxiety,

I see you are in full form today. You are running about the house shaking up all the others, interrupting their conversations, frightening the girl and sending her back to her room. You’ve pushed all the body alarms and even crawled into my dreams. I can see you are very, deeply, urgently upset.

I’m willing to come to you and listen to everything you have to say. Everything. I won’t cut you off and tell you that it’s all overblown, that you are hysterical. I won’t beat you back or try to muzzle you. But we need to establish some ground rules. You need to play fair. I will come to see you at least twice a day to check in and listen. We’ll sit upstairs together, in the quiet room. We can light a candle to mark it as a special, protected time. No computer, just paper and pen, and a deep focus on what you need to say. Today you can have up to two entire hours if you need them.

However, you can’t have all my time and attention. You can’t have two hours every day. Some days I’ll need you to accept less and trust that I’ll come back for you. I promise I will. And in return, you can back out of my dreams. You can hold off on pushing all the physical buttons to get my attention. I know you do that to force me to listen to you. If I promise to talk to you every day this week, can you promise to reduce the internal chaos? To allow the other parts to think and talk? It seems like a fair deal, right? Awesome. I think we’ll both feel better.

Love, Q.

14 thoughts on “All Right, Anxiety, Let’s Talk

  1. I love that you are addressing your anxiety this way. Maybe you are giving me a clue as to how to address the hopelessness that keeps trying to take me over. It’s not my hopelessness, it belongs to a younger age. But, lately, often, I think it’s mine until I really stop to look at my life, which is decidedly not hopeless. Perhaps a letter to that hopelessness.

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    • E. says if a feeling is taking you over, it is because it need attention. If you are not giving it that attention, it will become more urgent. But if you agree to show up, and really do show up, and use that time to write or draw or whatever you need to really “hear” that feeling and find out what it needs. I have to say, making time to listen to Anxiety today has quieted her down. In particular the body stuff has stopped (phew).

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  2. This is wonderfully compassionate and reasonable; allowing time, but not giving all the time to anxiety. Acknowledging, while keeping the larger perspective in mind. Beautiful work.

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    • The part about making a bargain about how much time Anxiety can have, that all comes straight from E. She has actually told me more than once, but I tend to forget. Then when I get all worked up, she tells me again. I’m glad to have used it this time though. It definitely helped.

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    • One of the most useful things I have learned in therapy is not to chase away the bad feelings, but to treat them as a friend trying to tell me something. Maybe not in the gentlest, kindest way, but useful nevertheless. So Anxiety and Anger, they are have their place in my emotional household (except Denial–I kicked her out because she was just poisonous).

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  3. I think it is all too common in this day and age to work on suppressing anxiety and depression rather than treating them as symptoms that need to be examined and listened to. Your approach sounds much more positive tome, and I hope it will bring both the desired result and unexpected positives.

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