I’ve been thinking about my anxiety a little bit more recently. And, as always, trying to understand how it works. I’ve also been thinking about the small things that psychologists always label are “maladaptive” (basically an ugly word for behaviours, thoughts or actions which are not considered normal or helpful to recovery). Some of these include; obsession with routines (such as cleaning from right to left or visiting a certain amount of sites per day), numbers (lucky numbers, doing things in sets of numbers) or strong emotional attachments to people, places or things (favourite coffee shops, people or objects which are used to achieve a sense of stability).
To be honest, I find the idea of maladaptive behaviours pretty fucking irritating. Obviously for a lot of people, obsessions such as the ones listed above, can be highly frustrating and interfere with their daily life or quality of life. People often describe them as “debilitating” and expect me to relate. However, I find quite the opposite. For me, these routines only ever bring comfort and joy, so it seems strange to label them as unhelpful. For example, I experience a high level of satisfaction when I order a coffee from uni with the exact change ($3.30) and then proceed to the library to visit my favourite sites, in a order which I find highly comforting. This routine might be labeled as obsessive, but I don't know how else to feel okay. Ordering my coffee and sitting to drink it can often be the highlight of my day. As I travel along my carefully planned day, I think to myself, “this is so perfect, everything is great, this is working out okay”. It’s a type of control which I struggle to achieve in many other aspects of my life and can be read in both of a negative and positive way. I’d prefer the latter.
Sometimes my number obsessions get a little frustrating when I might have to do something once more to achieve the total of a “good” number, or if I can’t complete a routine which makes me feel worse (eg. there is no wood to touch or too many pavement cracks and I’m running late), but mostly, I’m just happy that these things keep me functioning in my everyday life. I’m glad that (with the exception of needles), individual objects, actions or events do not cause me anxiety in the same way others experience. I have a friend who cannot stand to be late and another who has to check all her calculators three times before she is sure she’s right. These situations are immediately anxiety provoking to the individual, rather than immediately anxiety quelling (like mine). My lovely friend, Hagrid, manage to get over her extreme claustrophobia and travel Europe as a child, and again this year. These types of highly specific entities are fears, which I find is almost the antithesis of my "maladaptive behaviours.". I find many everyday things highly comforting and reassuring, this is unusual in classic anxiety cases. Things like post men, bus and trains that are timed to link up, floors with minimal patterns, customers with small children and fresh flowers, all give me such an overwhelming sense of comfort and happiness that I cannot express into a coherent sentence.
I guess that’s the catch with (my) generalized anxiety. It’s so generalized that life becomes the stressor; not any particular individual factor, and therefore life must be the cure. I believe that because of my anxiety, I am more greatly able to appreciate the small things that other people miss. And to love more deeply. I am often lost for words to express how much I love my friends; especially people who make me feel calm within myself, make me laugh genuinely, and who know enough about me to expect little, yet give a whole lot. I appreciate tiny adjustments to everyday life that makes it easier for me to live an anxiety free life.
Signing off with love, Eri. x
PS. To Sab...I got three black stars on my left arm :)