Tuesday, December 2, 2014

From Anxious to Better!

"Better! Every time someone asks, I get better and better!" Text over photo of Sunflower taken by Danny Booth in Amsterdam August 2009.My study of evolutionary process has taught me that every action of an organism--from breathing to the disposal of coffee cup lids--has an accumulated effect on that organism’s environment. With enough repetition these actions can feed-back to change the selection pressures acting on the organism (and other members of its species or ecosystem). Similarly, the daily actions of an individual like myself have accumulated effects that change the pressures of daily life.

This became particularly salient to me when I realized that my usual answer to “how are you doing?” was “anxious.” I was just being honest with myself and others…which freed me from the internal dialogue about the judgement they might make about me if they remained ignorant of my struggles. BUT...my friends, family, and colleagues became increasingly less comfortable around me. Many of them started to worry that some of their own actions might contribute to my anxiety and since none of them are psychiatrists, they didn't know what to do. I noticed this discomfort and took action to save them from it...I stayed home or took special care to avoid people I knew on any rare outing. This only increased my anxiety, of course. The feedback loop I created with my “anxious” answer to a frequently used conversation starter made me more and more anxious.  Honesty aside...I needed to break this loop! So I composed a new one...

How am I today? “Better!” I am still being honest and still cope daily with generalized anxiety disorder, but now I’m better and better every time someone asks!

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