A year ago I was featured on Marks Daily Apple as a Primal Blueprint Success Story and I listed my no.1 benefit as, “I no longer suffer with anxiety, or it’s tricky cousin, social anxiety.” At the time I wholeheartedly believed that. But I have come to know myself better in the last year, and thus have come to understand better what anxiety actually means for me.
At the time of writing I was struck by how I was finally able to live without constant in-your-face anxiety. I once read a fantastic description of living with anxiety as dealing with the fear you experience in the seconds between tripping over a loose paving stone and actually crashing to the ground but All The Time. And that’s how it felt.
Here’s a by no means exhaustive list of what could instantly trigger a pounding heartbeat, buckled knees, nausea, sudden tears, finding myself unable to speak or move, or the desire to run away or drop to my knees with my eyes and ears covered:
A passing motorbike, a child crying, someone shouting, crossing the road, answering the phone, leaving the house, the possibility of an argument, being told off, the noise of a vacuum cleaner, speaking when there were more than about four people in the room, saying/messaging/posting the wrong thing or being misunderstood, getting lost, being late, changed plans, someone else being late, house alarms, other people being drunk and unpredictable, cars going too fast, sirens…
And the worst thing is, while any one of these incidents could trigger flight or fight instincts which might last upwards of a minute, a combination or succession would leave me wired for much longer, meaning I might not recover from something as simple as a minor argument for days. That means living in constant fear even while you go about your daily life desperately pretending everything is fine, because to admit the level of stress you are under would frighten your family, confuse your friends and be just plain irrelevant to co-workers and passers by.
When I say that I no longer suffer from anxiety I mean that I am no longer troubled by an inappropriate adrenaline response that constantly exhausts and overwhelms. I put this down to a diet devoid of sugar and gluten and rich in good clean fats alongside organic meat and vegetables; and a few carefully chosen supplements. It’s not cheap, but it’s essential for my mental health.
But anxiety is sneaky. It has a character all of its own. Whispering, confiding, hiding and then waving at you across a crowded room, poking you as you settle down to sleep. It pretends to give you sage advice , “here, wear this dress, it suits you really well!” and then, as you leave the house, “oh gosh, I didn’t realise you were actually wearing it out tonight! How brave!” It cajoles, “yes, you are a good and worthy person, isn’t it strange how nobody likes you!” And it play acts, like a cat, “Yikes! What the hell is that! Oh no, probably nothing, I’m sure it’ll be ok. Don’t close both eyes though, just in case.”
Anxiety tells you that the friends who tell you they love you are probably lying. Anxiety reminds you daily that if you are in a car accident today your children might not have their door key to get in or that they won’t know to let the dog out or what to feed themselves. Anxiety questions if today is the day you think it is, and might you have accidentally left an hour late this morning because there’s different people on the streets than normal and less traffic at the lights. Anxiety wonders if the child crying next door just didn’t get what they want or is being horribly mistreated. Anxiety whispers in your ear that it’s all very well and good that you are feeling more confident these days but that maybe there was a good reason for feeling so unworthy before and that everyone still secretly wishes you’d just piss off.
I’d really like to tell anxiety to do one. But maybe anxiety is necessary. Maybe it’s the backbone that holds me up, keeps me from over confidence, stops me behaving like an exuberant puppy, licking strangers and leaving puddles on expensive rugs. I really don’t know. I do know that chronic anxiety is common for those of us on the spectrum and I also know that it’s not an exclusive club. So… Talk to me people. What are your thoughts?