Today I had the highest level of anxiety about stopping at a filling station I’ve experienced in a long time. It’s a scenario that I deal with on a regular basis in the course of my work, and one that has been the source of vastly disproportionate amounts of anxiety in the past. But then ‘disproportionate’ is part and parcel with an anxiety disorder.

I’m not sure why today my anxiety levels were so high. It happens like that though, and I can neither predict nor explain it. It was at a far lower degree than I used to experience but still noticeably up.

Anxiety is complex and unpicking all the reasons why a given scenario is anxiety inducing would take me all day. To try and explain it briefly, it’s about being observed, often from multiple directions, it requires a level of performance, it requires recalling information which can prove surprisingly elusive when your brain is taken up with processing anxiety, it’s looking for the exit, the need to escape, and it’s about the negative voice in your head telling you what a loser you are because you can’t even do the simplest of things without this whole thing going off in your head.

A couple of times recently I have heard the phrase ‘feel the fear and still do the thing’ or words to that effect. An idea that I wholeheartedly go along with. In theory.

In practice, it’s something which I can sort of go along with, but feels so counter-intuitive. For me, that fear is often the worst aspect of anxiety. Which sounds obvious given that is what anxiety is, essentially. I dread the physical symptoms of anxiety. And the internal process of fear. Because at the end of the day anxiety is just that – internal. All those external factors I described above are not really the problem, given they are just a product of my imagination fueled by my amygdala going into overdrive. It’s what goes on inside, and when it’s at it’s worst it is truly awful. And you have to carry that around with you – the knowledge that you can’t rely on yourself to function ‘normally’.

Thankfully, my anxiety is dialled down a long way compared to how it used to be. By and large. I think the meds improve my mood which frees up my mind to see the world more positively, and subsequently reduces my overall level of anxiety.

I’m not sure that what I’ve written makes much sense, but I wanted to capture the multi-threaded mess that anxiety is. I think today reminded me of how many layers there are to it. And how much of it is about the stories we tell ourselves.


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