The fear is about everything.
And yet, a part of me knows it should be about nothing. That I overthink. That I am reacting emotionally and outside of logic. Yet too often, I think I try and discount my emotions. Pain of any kind is always unpleasant, but usually, especially with physical pain, it points to something that needs attention to heal properly.
Understanding the smoke and mirrors of anxiety means looking beyond the easy answer, beyond the initial spark of fear, or numbness, or pain. Of course, a certain situation or memory or word or action will likely be that initial trigger. Yet it is like it stirs a domino effect of fears, too many, too broad, too overlapping to easily pick apart when in the midst of a panic attack.
A friend and I have been going through a rough patch, and we met earlier this week. For the most part, it was wonderful to see her again and reconnect. On the other hand, some of her thoughts emerged in our conversation that took a while to sink in. Twenty four hours later, my mind put together the subtle pieces that seemed to underly one of her observations. Suffice it to say, the implication bore a judgment on people of faith being idiots and stupid. This emerged through an example of humor, in the midst of sharing another story. Her intent was not to hurt me in any way. I know she cares a lot about me.
Yet the following night, my mind began to spin with experiencing pain of judgement from someone, who I care about so deeply, whose underlying beliefs ooze out so constantly. As a Christian, my faith is a large part of who I am. Although there have been times I have been angry at God, times I have been far from devout, I have never really doubted his existence. The world around me is so complex and ordered and beautiful, I have come to the conclusion that an intelligent design had a hand in crafting it.
Yet I am also a scientific minded individual. In a way, I was raised with the Bible in one hand and the Scientific Method in the other. My parents taught me it was okay to question, and good to explore the possibilities. While that freedom didn’t extend to questioning them, I suppose I pride myself in evaluating the world around me. I believe what I believe through a mixture of research, faith and experience.
In short, when I calmed down enough to dig beneath the multifold layers of anxiety, I began to realize that it was more than my feelings about my identity as a Christian that was smarting. I began to feel as if my very intelligence and rationality were being questioned. When I talked to Guy about it later, he held me, and reassured me, and yet a chance comment by me later made him tense. We have addressed the topic of my faith and his agnosticism before, but this was the first time I think he really realized what I have been saying.
He said all the right things, sought to comfort me, but that moment of tenseness conveyed to me a little of the conflict in his own mind. Which layered his reaction atop my friend’s. And triggered me again.
By this point, already raw, there was no desire in me to talk about it further. I felt frustrated that I felt so under attack, that I was being judged, that I would even have to feel like I had to defend myself for a viewpoint that I believe.
Another friend could tell I was upset, and finally convinced me to talk. She, inadvertently, triggered me on the exact same thing again. By this point I ceased all conversations, all interactions, with anyone else. I curled up in my chair at home, my soul hurting.
What was I afraid of? It has taken me three days or so to really begin to drill down, and I’m not sure I’ve discovered the root of my fears yet.
Truth: I don’t mind others having different opinions. I just have the expectation that those who love me should respect that I am a thoughtful, intelligent individual and I have come to my beliefs through reason and choice.
Fear: When people make allusions to faith in a mocking light, particularly alluding that those who believe a certain way are dumb, I feel that they are saying I am dumb.
I have worked so hard to build up myself, to find my voice. Those who triggered me this week have all encouraged me to do so. Yet it seems when that voice conflicts with their own beliefs, something changes.
Perhaps it is too much to ask, but in an ideal world, I think I would like to ask the following question:
“Do you believe I am an intelligent, reasonable person?”
“Yes.” They will reply.
“Then, please grant me the respect that I have a rationale for my beliefs, and they are intelligent and reasonable. I am not asking for anyone to share them, but the people in my life who are the closest to me, have to come to terms that I believe differently than them in certain ways.”
I am still processing. I have not yet found all my words to describe the fears that swirl in me after this week. I fear I am unlovable. I fear that others who I love dearly and trust see me as a joke. I feel like I’m back in thatot terrible marriage, where I was never enough and the things that mattered to me were belittled. I cannot pretend that I am always right, but when wed to such a powerful force as my ex was, I had to learn to stand firm on what I believed. To not change without researching and teaching myself more about an issue. I am slow to change, but not immovable.
I am working hard at emerging from my protective shell this weekend. My counselor would call it ‘titrating’. Going to take a xanax to calm me down enough so any triggers won’t push me over the edge.