My anxiety is coming with me

Do you ever have anxiety? I mean stomach churning, headache causing anxiety? I remember having it as a child, but I didn’t get it as much as an adult. Not because I was immune to getting it, but because there was always a part of me playing it safe. And there was also a part of me numbing myself out.

When I used to spend my Friday evenings having top shelf Margaritas and eating too much Mexican food, if I did have anxiety I blamed it on the alcohol and being hungover. It was easy to blame a lot of the way I felt on overdoing it with alcohol. Shame, guilt and an overall negative feeling was easily chalked up to too much Tequila. Also, I could convince myself that if I stopped drinking that I would feel good. That my life was good, and everything was fine, and it was just the alcohol that was making me feel bad.

This worked for me for a long time, and I walked through my life half numb, knowing that something was missing but not being able to identify it. I would buy myself things, take trips, or go to happy hours. This would give me temporary relief from the feeling of emptiness, but the feeling would always return. I felt disconnected, adrift in my own life. I planned, I worked, and I was social but there was always a separate part of me standing outside of myself, observing and questioning. ‘Is this really what you want to do with your time?’ She would ask. I found her annoying, and I would get angry and frustrated with her. I wanted her to leave me alone so I could stay numb and stay ‘safe’. And it always felt really good to shut her up with too much tequila. That was my way of showing her who was in control. She didn’t give up though.

When I first stopped drinking I felt absolutely nothing. And I mean nothing. It was like a dial tone in my head of one sound. I was so used to the highs and lows of alcohol that I didn’t know how to handle my body’s quiet state. It was frightening. Sitting with this silence was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I grew up in chaos, where my very life depended on my listening skills and my resourcefulness. I didn’t like silence as a kid, because if no one was talking I couldn’t pick up on the tone of their voice to find out the mood. I couldn’t listen in to the conversation to see what my action should be. The bottom line is, silence scared the heck out of me because I couldn’t gather the information to protect myself. It gave me anxiety. So, when I stopped drinking the anxiety that I experienced as a child came back. I feel like my anxiety and the story around it, had just been sitting there like a half finished movie waiting for me to turn it back on and finish watching it.

I didn’t want to watch the rest of the movie, the first half had been horrible why would I want to see the rest of it? But I had to, so that I could see how it ended. It ended with me realizing that the people that I thought cared about me, really didn’t. It wasn’t something that I enjoyed learning or wanted to know, but it was necessary for me to learn it so that I could move on with my life. l was taught as a child that love equals pain, and so as I grew into an adult, I expected to have pain when I loved. I thought pain was the price I had to pay for someone to love me. I didn’t know any different.

I was taught to give all my energy away to serve others, but giving all my love away just left me feeling depleted and sad. I used to blame myself, and think there was something wrong with me. I used to think that I didn’t ‘know how’ to love, because it always seemed to end up hurting me. I know now, that love starts with me. I have to find the love in myself first, before I can give anything away.

In revisiting my past and accepting the hard truth that I wasn’t given love as a child, I was able to realize that love shouldn’t be hurtful. It should make me feel good and happy. It should add to my life, and not take away from it and bring me down. I have learned this. I know this now. I am starting to learn how to love myself, to set boundaries, and to be kind to myself.

In focussing on me, setting boundaries and using my resources for what I truly value, I have received so much love in return. My LA Queens Art Show last Saturday was described by one attendee as a ‘Love Fest’. Tears came to my eyes when I read that. I felt the love and energy of all the women in the room that day, and I want to feel like that all the time! It is such an unconditional acceptance and connection that I have craved my whole life.

The love I felt that day was preceded by anxiety and a lot of work on my part to put it together. I had panic moments before the show where I wondered why I was putting this pressure on myself. But my heart just made me do the very next step to get it done. And in doing this, I have expanded my heart and my mind and I have realized what I can accomplish. I have pushed through another boundary in my head of what I used to think was possible. I feel the anxiety, the confusion, the panic that I used to feel as a child when I push myself but I just bring it all with me on the journey. I don’t let it stop me, and I teach my mind that I can handle it.

5 years ago I spent my Friday evenings numbing out my anxiety with tequila. Now I spend my Friday evenings soothing my anxiety with painting and creating. I will have setbacks, I will doubt myself, I will have stomach churning, headache causing anxiety but I won’t let it stop me. I survived as a child what few people survive without becoming drug addicts or committing suicide. I had to go back to watch the rest of the movie to realize my strength. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but so worth it. The journey back taught me that love shouldn’t hurt. And it taught me that the most important love, is the love I have for myself. If I don’t have that, I don’t have anything.

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  1. Peta,
    I am happy you are learning to cope with your anxiety through painting.
    I have never suffered from anxiety or depression but I know others that do and they feel so much better when they don’t drink. They exercise and it seems to help them a lot.


    1. Hi Robin, I always had anxiety, but didn’t even know I had it. I struggled alone until I went to counseling and they explained why I felt confused and had hard times making decisions. Once I saw the cycle of it, I have been able to manage it and be calmer. Exercise and not drinking really help for sure!!