Over the last three months, I’ve observed a narrowing of my physical anxiety triggers to very specific instances:
*when I come down with a cold
These scenarios share a theme. This theme didn’t occur to me until recently, when I caught a mercifully mild version of the plague that’s been circulating among my associates and loved ones. I said aloud to myself, “I just hate not feeling like myself” — and the proverbial light bulb clicked on.
My period. Feeling sick. Being a little tipsy. In all of these situations, I don’t feel in total control of my own body. Biochemical forces out of my control alter the sensations in my body, and those altered sensations trigger my anxiety. Feeling tired or weak during menstruation or a cold leads me to feel panicked, and I start to wonder if I might faint. The same sensations and thoughts occur when I’ve had any amount of alcohol.
Anxiety feeds on uncertainty, and in my case, a need to be in control. Not necessarily in control of others or of all situations, but of myself — my feelings and my lived experience. I have a long history of controlling my own feelings, so it isn’t shocking that my body freaks out when I lose control over how I feel physically. That loss of control over physical sensations, or their predictability, is exactly what triggered my panic disorder over the summer. When my brain threw a curve ball at my body, I freaked out, which of course prompted my body to continue throwing curve balls. (My sports analogies will end there, I promise. I don’t know how to write with them. I probably didn’t even use “curve ball” correctly.)
Do any readers with anxiety find your triggers have “themes”? Comment below!