The internal battle between anxiety and self loathing

This post was prompted by something which took place earlier this week which made me reflect afterwards on how it made me feel and the complex internal battle that was taking place at this time. Before I start this post, I want to make it clear that I am fully aware that both anxiety and self loathing are not solely the preserve of those on the autistic spectrum but, to me, it is an important topic and one I wish to educate people about.

As mentioned briefly on this blog before, I have struggled with anxiety for many years. One of my key sources of anxiety is asking questions of authority figures that may cause them to think badly of me . I know that, in general, people are brought up to respect people in positions of authority but, in my case, it goes beyond that into a pervasive fear of these figures in certain situations. When I have to ask them something for which I cannot predict their answer, I get reduced to a state of extreme nervousness. I start trembling, lose my ability to speak clearly (and often lose my ability to speak at all) and lose my ability to even look in their direction. Whilst all this is happening to me, another part of me understands that getting into such an anxious state is completely irrational and it is this part of me that then deteriorates into self loathing. At the same time that my stomach is tightening and I am experiencing all these other physical symptoms of intense anxiety, the other part of my mind is continually ranting about how I am stupid to be getting so anxious and that my inability to control my anxiety at that time is pathetic. It is this part of me that makes me distressed as I can be so harsh with myself.

Earlier this week, I was in a position where I had to ask an authority figure at work a question which, to me, was a difficult subject to broach. I needed to know the answer to this question by a certain date as it involved visa requirements for a holiday (long story and one that I won’t go into here). As I went into work that day, I already had the warning signs of anxiety because I knew that I had to ask this question. I kept attempting to pluck up the courage to ask it and, every time, my courage would fail me. My hands started shaking and the part of my mind that wasn’t consumed with anxiety began taunting me with thoughts such as, “You’re letting everyone down!”, “You’re letting your boyfriend down! He’s relying on you for this!” and, “Just stop being so pathetic and ask the question! Man up!” These thoughts made me distressed which, in turn, made my anxiety spiral even further. My mind was consumed by these thoughts and, although I managed to still complete the work related tasks that needed to be done, the continued negative thoughts at the back of my mind made me feel like I was worthless. The person I needed to speak to then left for a work related meeting. I was  furious with myself that I hadn’t yet plucked up the courage to ask him such a simple question that should take two minutes to ask. I then emailed him, letting him know that I needed to discuss something with him. This is something I should have done a lot earlier. I find typing a lot easier than speaking, particularly in situations where I am feeling anxious or nervous. I eventually did ask the question but it was extremely hard for me to do so. I can’t bear the thought of someone that I respect thinking badly of me and the anticipation that they may think badly of me makes me fearful of asking them anything that may make them think this way.

I had a similar experience with a member of security staff at the accommodation where I live a few weeks ago. I was locked out of my flat and needed to get back in but I was utterly convinced that this security official would berate me for being stupid and leaving my keys in my bedroom. I keyed the number into my phone and sat there staring at it for 20 minutes, willing myself to call it but terrified that the consequences would be severe. Of course, in the end, it turned out well, as these things have a tendency to do. I always feel embarrassed and humiliated afterwards when I reflect on what happened and think about how I must have come across to others at the time. I know, in my mind, that it is not “normal” for a 27 year old woman to be so scared of asking a simple question or making a simple request that she loses her ability to speak but I can’t work out how to prevent the anxiety from spiralling when my normal coping strategies don’t work.

Living with the internal battle between anxiety and self loathing is exhausting. It is bad enough going through it at the time that you are anxious but then your mind helpfully decides to play over the event afterwards and then you feel horribly embarrassed even when the rational part of you knows that everyone else involved has long since forgotten about how you appeared, if not forgotten about the event itself.

I urge you-if you know someone who becomes anxious easily, please don’t use the phrase, “There’s nothing to worry about! Just chill out!” or variants of that phase. People living with anxiety know that, in most cases, it is irrational and out of proportion to any actual threat. Often part of their mind will be telling them furiously that they are pathetic for getting so stressed out over something which, in the grand scheme of things, is tiny. They have enough self criticism to last them a lifetime-they don’t need criticism from anyone else, even when it is well meaning and said with good intentions.

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2 Responses to The internal battle between anxiety and self loathing

  1. Rip Van Winkle says:

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    -Julia Child

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