I’ve had a rough couple of days. And honestly, this post is written for me mainly. But I hope you like it too.
I hold many defenses, beliefs and manifestations from my trauma, but the most prominent has always been my anxiety. When I started this journey, my anxiety was the first thing my therapist noticed giving me the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder. My anxiety normally looks the same in my body. My hearts starts racing, it gets difficult to breathe and my manic mind chatter paralyzes me. It is very difficult to ground my way out of this feeling, but I am getting better at it.
Even though my anxiety might look the same each time, it comes from many sources. There are so many triggers for my anxiety, avoidance would never be an option. And I guess I know that, which is why I haven’t tried that approach, sort of. Maybe I never thought I tried that approach. But I think this week, I have to face the fact that I have tried that approach a bit. One of my biggest triggers for my anxiety is chaos and uncertainty. I have done a pretty good job of living a boring life.
I know it doesn’t seem that way on the outside. I am doing a lot of risky things for my business. Some are working. Some are not. But that is life with a business. My kids go to a great school where they do far more than sit in a classroom and that takes me out in to the world some too. I travel to give presentations on occasion. It all seems a bit exciting from a distance. But in reality, most of my days look the same. There is a schedule and we follow it. We eat our three meals, we go to school every day, I work the same hours, and honestly, most of my life happens at home.
But recently, I have been feeling the urge to get out of the house a bit more. I planned a trip to England and Scotland this summer. And this week, I decided to join a class field trip to a nature preserve along a bay in Virginia. It is gorgeous here. And it has moments of peace that are hard to find almost anywhere else. It is a big lodge. But there are 14 10-year-old children and 5 adults in this space. And they are spending their days in the wetlands, on the beaches and various other kinds of natural environments full of grime and muck. It is chaos on so many levels. On top of that, I can’t just drive my car out of here because they don’t allow public vehicle access. I have to be driven out when someone is available to do it. So now, I am trapped in chaos. Trigger central.
Here’s the thing. I knew what I was getting myself into. Everything was explained ahead of time. I knew the chaos and unpredictability would be tough on me. But I chose to step out in a new way. Nobody forced me, coerced me or anything else. I chose to be here. But my controller would vehemently disagree with that statement. My controller was absolutely opposed to this decision from the beginning:
“You have responsibilities at home. You can’t get away from your business.”
“You should enjoy the peace and quiet at home for a change while the kids go on the field trip. You never get peace and quiet.”
“You’re going to work, work, work to provide yourself three days of space, so you can go be stressed out there. What a stupid idea!”
Is my controller right? On some levels, my controller has a point. But my controller has a point because my controller is looking for all the reasons they are right. So when the anxiety kicked in to high gear the day before we left for the trip, I could hear my controller ripping me apart for my stupid choices to leave the comfort of my own home and schedule. I could hear the controller saying that things would go wrong, horribly wrong. The car would break down, the chaos would be too much for me and someone would get bitten by a snake (most likely me). This is how the controller works. And sometimes, I can’t help but wonder if that anxiety is right. Maybe I am predicting the future. Maybe I know something nobody else knows.
And when I get started on the trip, I start looking for all the reasons my controller is right. The weather isn’t perfect so I shouldn’t have come. I saw two snakes so I shouldn’t have come. I’m not sleeping well so I shouldn’t have come. My clients need me to be more available so I shouldn’t have come. I find all the things that support my anxiety about coming. And I perpetuate the cycle of never leaving the comfort of my own home and schedule. And my controller is satisfied. Their work here is done.
But it’s not true. None of that anxiety is true. Staying at home doesn’t keep me safe. Choosing not to take chances doesn’t keep me safe. It keeps me bored. It keeps me unfulfilled. It keeps me wondering about everything I am missing out on. It keeps me wondering if there is more to life.
Yesterday, I was walking down a “road” with another parent when we spotted a snake. We weren’t surprised, but it still jolted us a bit. I told her to be careful and keep a distance until it moved. I told her they could spring the length of their body. I said we must respect the snake. It appeared to be crossing the road, but at the moment, it wasn’t moving. She misjudged which side had the head and said she was doing to walk around behind it (which was right in front of it). I said, “You go ahead. I’m going to stay here so we have someone who can call the ambulance.”
We both laughed and neither of us moved any closer until the snake passed. I wasn’t anxious in that moment. And I think we will tell this story for years to come, not as a scary story, but as a funny story, a story I would not have if I had stayed at home.
It doesn’t really know. It can’t know. Your controller can’t tell the future. They can only repeat the past.
If you are triggered by snakes, don’t read further, but I had to include a photo to go with the story. Does anyone know if it was poisonous? Either way, we did the safe thing.
Written By Elisabeth Corey, MSW