Being trapped between the desire to get out and embrace the world and the overwhelming need to hide from it can be an exasperating experience. For me, it the word impotence is the one that best fits the situation. Knowing I have the strength, knowledge, intelligence and bravado to face any situation, but feeling anxious to the point of vomiting at the idea of simply opening a door if I don’t know what is on the other side of it fosters a feeling of impotence and despair.
The natural inclination for most of us can be to avoid situations that trigger anxiety. We find ways to complete tasks without putting ourselves in a situation that makes us feel unnecessarily fearful or make excuses as to why we cannot do them at all. For me it is taking a step back to let someone else open a door rather than going through it first, creating excuses as to why I am unable to attend that party I sounded so excited to go to three weeks ago or suddenly discovering ways to be helpful in a social situation rather than actually talking to people. Oh look, the drinks are low and I need to go and refill the chip bowls…
When we treat our anxiety by completely avoiding the situations that trigger panic symptoms, are we really helping ourselves or are we self-sabotaging?
The problem with avoidance is that it not only does it not solve anything, but it fuels the problem by creating an image of the issue that is much more alarming and insurmountable than it started out as. The more we avoid a situation, the harder it is to face next time it occurs.
Vicious cycle, really.
Many, many years ago, my beautiful friend Eileen told me about her friend, Sybil. Both Eileen and Sybil worked on the buses in England in a time where men considered themselves to be paying a compliment by slapping a woman on the arse and lewd comments were banter, not verbal harassment. Sybil was incredibly shy, and to work on the buses you needed a strong personality to stand up to the drunks and bums, as well as all manner of testosterone and ignorance fuelled misogyny.