Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Immobilizing Anxiety

"I need to talk to you later."

I'm amazed that words can paralyze me, produce fear that seeps out of my heart uncontrollably, and render me useless. It doesn't happen often. But each time it does I'm thoroughly stunned and tend to react like a trapped animal; first I play dead then I freak out.

So there I was on Sunday ... paralyzed. As I worked through my mid-morning mummified state I did what I always do and over-analyzed every detail as obsessively as possible. I quickly ruled out the words themselves as the culprit. They were just seven words ... in and of themselves they were not at all damaging.

No, those words didn't pierce my heart. It was the brief arm touch, quick exchange, and lack of smile on the sayers face that did most of the damage. Expression and tone are crucial. If there was a smile associated with those words I wouldn't even be here discussing this with you. Unfortunately the expression and tone used were on my "do not fly" list and I immediately went into crisis mode. You know that feeling ... heart beats as fast and as loud as a jet engine, tongue swells instantly causing you to resort to grunting instead of speaking ... I began asking myself all the emergency-related questions ... where is the nearest exit?

The next 45 minutes were a complete blur. It took all my energy to stay in my seat. I frantically tried to find a happy place. The pen and paper in hand became my immediate focus (thankfully it seemed appropriate to be "taking notes") and I quickly made a list of all the situations in my life that led me to feel trapped by those few words. As I furiously penned my thoughts I fought to suppress the nausea and tears. "I need to talk to you later" released the Wounds of my Past like hounds out of hell ... and they were coming back to make me pay restitution for all the time they'd spent in Repression.

My well-thought-out, detailed list looked something like this:

The person who said that thing and completely offended me
The individual who accused me of doing that and not doing this and it was all just a big misunderstanding

(end of list)

Uh, yup. That was it. Two things.

Certainly there were more ... no? No. Strange.

I quickly jotted down all the times I was summoned to a conversation where the outcome was positive. It was a much longer list. Yet two negative events somehow overshadowed a dozen positive situations where concern, advice, and constructive criticism were displayed with love.

As the crippling fear slowly departed I decided that "I need to talk to you later." probably wasn't meant to destroy me. With the evidence in my notebook, I took several deep breaths and gave myself a detailed pep talk and rehearsed all the ways I could respond should this future conversation turn sour. It was quite motivating.

Turns out ... he just wanted to know if I'd be part of a new church committee.

I said "sure".

I hate when that happens.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

i do this same thing. obsessive anxiety. i hate it. i am now going to go worry about how much i worry.