“Sir, here is your coffee.” As I pass him his coffee with a smile, I see a darkness shroud his weathered face. Before I am far enough away he grabs my wrist. He whispers “I said”, then his words loud and piercing yelled “NO CREAM CREAM IN MY COFFEE”! His hand tight around my tiny wrist.
I got it wrong, ashamed and now feeling assaulted. I mean, someone’s hands were on me. Over a coffee, or cream in it (or something). Adrenaline hit me, and then anxiety flooded over me.
I found myself in the corner on the floor in the break room. Unable to effectively quit this job immediately (like I wanted to). Right? I mean I could walk away and go home. I could enjoy the rest of my day. I was in fact frozen by emotions, trying to catch my breath. Trying to survive.
Never had it been this bad, never had my anxiety elevated so quickly into a complete shut down. I felt guilt and shame for this for a long time following. If I couldn’t handle this old dude and his unreasonable response to cream being present in his coffee… how could I handle any aspect of life.
I quit that job that day. I was a teenager triggered into an anxiety attack and triggered into a response of flight. It would be years before I realized I can manage this.
That’s what it does. For me anxiety results in a fight or flight mentality. When you’ve fought too long you end up in a frenzy of flight (which looks different for everyone). For me at that time it meant shut down, close the doors and hide. Life is full of the weathered old faces of anxiety, and I wasn’t ready for it.
My youth was leading up to that pressure point. I didn’t know that being a wobbly kneed anxious teenager, with so many thoughts of “not enough-ness” didn’t make me less of anything. In reality, I was a strong leader, I was a creative, and I was an empath. Feeling deeply, and the parallel of that was deep response. Everything the intensity of youth offers.
Experiences with anxiety offered a lesson. For me, I was determined and committed to working and achieving my goals. I never wanted to be on the floor in the corner again. I knew there were things that supported being strong in myself, and also being ok with anxiety and recognizing it as another tool. In a way giving a tip of the hat when I could see it coming, nothing more. I don’t have to stop, but I need to acknowledge that it’s there.
Now, I talk about anxiety as overwhelm, and I have my ways of supporting myself. The bravery of calling it what it is and talking about it is huge. Our youth, and our communities shouldn’t suffer in stigma.
We all have different ways of experiencing anxiety at different levels. We are not alone in this. Anxiety and Depression of America Association (ADAA) show that over 40 Million Americans (18% of the population), and in Canada The Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada (ADAC) reports 12% of Canadians) experience it in any given year. The most common mental health concern in Canada is highly treatable.
Disclosure: I’m not a health care professional or expert. Always seek proper medical care. I share my experience as entertainment purposes only.
In my experience bouts with anxiety result from lack of self care and awareness. Unfortunately when it goes that far I’ve ended up not being my best self, making rash decisions and sometimes damaging relationships.
When I’m depleted my mental immunity is too.
What I do now. I focus on my health, nutrition, sleep, meditation and breath. These things have supported me greatly. I take time out when I need. That can look like committing to a couple days unplugged so that it doesn’t turn into thirty.
I look back at my younger years and can see how unsupported my physical self was. I’m certain the morning of the “old man and his coffee” that I didn’t eat, I probably didn’t sleep well the night before, and I set myself up for a crash.
I suppose the next article should be on guilt. Having anxiety is not your fault. However, finding help and support to live the life you want, is in your power.
What works for me, may not work for you. If I could tell my younger self one thing it’s that walking with anxiety is not your defining trait, and how you honour yourself and recognize the need for self care should start now.
Blog at laurieashley.com