Tuesday, 1 December 2015

What is anxiety?

It was just over a year ago I was diagnosed with anxiety.

So what is it?

You know that feeling when you turn the steering wheel of your car and nothing happens, and you are on a direct line for a signpost?

That happened to me about 5 years ago driving in the snow. Fortunately I got steering back just before I hit the lamppost and it was fine. And we were not moving fast so nobody would have been hurt (but the lamppost and car would have been a bit crotchety).

Oddly I don't remember how I felt during those couple of seconds. So why do I mention it?

Because it's reasonable to imagine that I was pretty anxious, quickly running through my head what I should do, what might happen, what is the worst that could happen. Maybe I felt my heart start to beat faster. And I also felt that I would be criticised for my driving badly in the conditions.  I mean I had children in the car. And maybe reassuring myself that we would all survive and even be unhurt, but at that precise moment that's not a great reassurance because of all the things that can go wrong.

I think those kind of feelings could be described as being anxious.  And they are quite easy to imagine, I think for somebody with or without anxiety.

Now fast forward to today.

I have a dentist appointment. I am a few minutes early (so as not to get anxious about being late). I get to the door. The door doesn't open. I can see the receptionist through the glass. I push again, try the handle. Push again. Usually the door is just open, but I think this happened to me before, how did I solve the situation - I think somebody came past and let me in? I ring the doorbell - at my previous dentist there was a doorbell where you had to be buzzed in, have they changed to that system there? The receptionist doesn't respond. She doesn't look like she's on the phone but ok, maybe she's in the middle of something. I mean did I get the time wrong?  I did double check the piece of paper I have the appointment written down on before I came out (so as not to get anxious about coming at the wrong time). But maybe I got the hour wrong? The office is closed between 1 and 2 and this appointment was at 12.30. Am I completely convinced that the door is locked? If it's not locked I am going to look like a complete idiot if somebody has to come to open the door for me - did the person who let me in last time think I was an idiot? Did I just fail to turn the doorknob or something? I definitely feel my heart beating harder. Ok try again.  This time the knob turns and the door opens. I walk in. Say my name to the receptionist and sit down.

That's anxiety.

Edit: re-reading the above my point does not seem very obvious. So I will say it very explicitly. The point is that I got very anxious throughout this. That makes no sense really does it? That's what anxiety is about, being anxious when it makes no sense.

After a bit of a wait I had the root canal treatment I had come for. I didn't particularly enjoy it but then also I didn't feel anxious in the same way at all.

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