A few weeks ago a gal that I went to high school with and who is a fellow IBS sufferer sent me an email to let me know about her success in managing the IBS symptoms with a gluten free diet. The note contained this sentence:
“Now, when I feel nervous or anxious about something, I just feel that emotion, rather than also feeling like I have to run to the bathroom.”
Ladies and gentlemen, it fucking blew my mind. I just feel that emotion. I. Just. Feel. That. Emotion. I JUST FEEL THAT EMOTION. That right there is the most terrifying and exhilarating proposition to me and my anxiety disorder and I can’t get it out of my mind. Because I will go to extreme lengths to avoid feeling that emotion, whatever it is. My subconscious would rather trap me in my home, keep me close to my bathroom, distract me with suffocating self loathing, make fear my “at rest” state than let me feel whatever true emotion is out there. I just had to take a break from writing this to visit the fucking john because this whole topic is so overwhelming. JUST FEEL THAT EMOTION. The author of the email, who I have not seen since 1995, just become Superwoman to me.
I’ve had IBS for more than 20 years, diagnosed for more than 10. Been in therapy for well over a decade trying to sort all this garbage out. A lot of my time has gone towards trying to get better. So it really cracks me up when I realize something so fundamental to my anxiety disorder. How could I not know that the anxiety directs me away from having to feel authentic emotion in the moment? But that’s what this struggle is. Unpacking “why” takes herculean effort because the pesky anxiety symptoms are designed by my self conscious to protect me from ever dealing with that very “why”. True, my self conscious is not actually protecting me, rather it is making me worse. But its sweet little fucked up heart is in the right place.
Earlier this week I had another major mental illness breakthrough in the john. Or as a dear friend once called it, The Thinking Room. It was the morning I was getting ready to fly back to Syracuse after a visit to see my sister and her family in NC. My stomach (and the rest of me) was a royal mess as I faced the prospect of boarding a plane with my two kids. I was thinking about how Z and my dad (two men who are so very different, but also have kind of a lot in common when it comes to dealing with me) often point out the thing I am dreading never turns out to be as bad as I think it will. And I am usually forced to admit they are right while feeling like an idiot for letting my anxiety get so out of control.
But here’s the thing. My current diagnosis? I suffer from Anticipatory Anxiety Disorder. Anticipatory. So of course the actual thing I’m anxious about is never going to be as bad as I think it will. It’s the fucking anticipation that is the problem! That’s what we should be focusing on! How did I never realize that before?
More importantly, what the hell am I going to do about these breakthroughs? Because follow through isn’t, um, exactly my thing. The class I talked about signing up for almost 6 months ago? Hasn’t happened. But in big news a couple of days ago I did make an appointment to get the tattoo. Saturday June 23rd at noon. I can’t wait.