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Anxiety — 14 Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “melt down” I had the last time Patrick came up for parole. I started a year in advance assembling the packet and the letters etc. But by June (still 6 months to go) I was in a total melt down and went back to therapy.

    I realize now that my anxiety level about him getting out had risen through the roof. I took all kinds of safety measures from installing a 17 camera security system that could not be shorted out even if the power was cut, a protective dog, etc.

    Anxiety is the FEAR of something that has not yet become a threat. Anxiety DISABLES us from making reasonable and rational decisions, it raises our stress level and releases stress hormones that are good in a real attack, but NOT good on a long term situation in which there is no actual danger.

    If a person thought there MIGHT BE A LION outside in their yard, though that is not a likely situation in the US they might be anxious enough to not go out into their yard but stay locked in their home by the anxiety generated.

    Most of the time our reactions to life are ANXIETY rather than a real FEAR.

    I was always ANXIOUS that I might offend one of my family members to the point that I was in constant anxiety about it, trying to figure out a way to appease any potential anger at me. Because Ii felt that if I angered them or they weren’t happy, it was because there was something wrong in me, rather than them.

    Anxiety fuels us in allowing abuse to continue, even when there is no DANGER involved, the anxiety keeps us on edge. HYPER anxiety is totally debilitating. A person with a fear of spiders might stay in a HYPER ANXIOUS state at the thought there MIGHT BE A SPIDER IN THEIR HOUSE, or that that imagined spider will jump on them and kill them and stay in that hyper anxious state 100% of the time.

    Being anxious about anything is not a good thing for US. We must determine what is a real danger, the chances of it happening, and prepare a defense if needed, but we must not allow ourselves to live in constant anxiety.

    • Joycie, you wrote, “One of the things offenders and abusers do to us is to make us feel powerless and anxious for ourselves. They may keep our lives in a “spin cycle” of continual crisis either physically or emotionally so that our anxiety level rises to the point that we can’t function.” I am walking, talking evidence of what anxiety can and DOES cause.

      People who have been repeatedly traumatized experience a totally different kind of anxiety than someone who is emotionally healthy. For me, I lived in a constant state of fear – and, it was a fear of EVERYTHING. Fear of failure. Fear of abuse. Fear of mean people. Fear of accidents. Fear of random acts of violence. Fear of the weather. FEAR………it was a living, breathing entity that lived inside my head and had NO intention of leaving.

      For me, the bulk of my fears were related to things over which I had no control, like the weather or overdue bills. If bills were overdue, it was because I didn’t have the money to pay them, and that was it. But, a bill would come and I would see the pink paper, and just melt down and remind myself that I was IN this particular mess because I HAD been a failure by marrying a psychopath………etc., etc., ad nauseum.

      In ages past, “anxiety” had a place in survival. Before it became a state of mind, it was literally a gut response to a direct and actual physical threat – a saber toothed tiger was known to hunt in the area. A stampede of buffalo was coming over the hill. A tornado was bearing down on the farm. Real and immediate dangers.

      Today, most anxiety (according to my counselor) revolves around perceptions and past traumas, rather than actual immediate threats.

      For you, Joyce, the idea of Patrick being released on parole had an actual physical threat involved. He is a convicted murderer that had planned the murder of family members from behind his prison bars. These are facts. Add the facts to the catastrophic thinking that had been a result of the dysfunctional FOO, and the meltdown happened.

      Now that it’s over, I believe that the experiences gave you some tremendous insight and if Patrick comes up for parole, again, I don’t believe that you’ll react the same way. I really don’t.

      But, the discussion of anxiety is a very, very important one for survivors of crimes, criminal family members, and long-term trauma. It most certainly can be managed, but NOT until we learn how to sort it out within ourselves.

  2. Truthy, you are right we must ‘sort it out for ourselves” and learn and acknowledge what it is and MANAGE that anxiety, and it CAN be managed.

    When it becomes HYPER-anxiety it causes us to be unable to make good decisions, because we are functioning on that ANXIETY.

    I was taught in school and I believe as well that FEAR is when you SEE the lion, but ANXIETY is when you IMAGINE the lion might be near.

    If and when Patrick gets out, I may FEAR him, because I have NO doubt he will come for me, but I am determined never again to let the ANXIETY melt me into a puddle of jelly on the floor, unable to function or make reasonable decisions. I also realize that the past traumas I have experienced make me more susceptible to anxiety and fear, but I will bring myself “up short” and DO what is necessary to control my anxieties and fears. I also realize that this susceptibility to the anxiety is a life time thing, not something I am going to “get over” 100% so just like an alcoholic needs to stay out of bars, I need to keep my life as peaceful as I can and decrease the stresses in my life.

  3. Joyce, for my situation, the family dysfunction set up a lifetime of catastrophic thinking, so I lived in a constant state of anxiety, no matter WHAT was actually going on. I was always waiting for the worst to happen.

    In your situation, the fact that Patrick is a fearful individual was the fact upon which your anxiety was based upon. What happened after that is exactly the same thing that happened to me when I was preparing for my divorce trial – yes, trial. It’s imagining, expecting, and living AS IF the worst-case scenario is taking place in the present.

    Hyper-anxiety is horrific, crippling, and life-altering. BUT, it can be managed with the proper assistance and guidance. Often, people don’t even realize that they’re living in a constant state of anxiety because they’ve become so accustomed to that constant intensity.

    And, you wrote it up better than anything anyone’s ever told me, “I also realize that this susceptibility to the anxiety is a life time thing, not something I am going to “get over” 100% so just like an alcoholic needs to stay out of bars, I need to keep my life as peaceful as I can and decrease the stresses in my life.”

    How many times have we been told by friends, family, coworkers, associates, and clergy that we “just have to get over it.” Well, that’s a GREAT idea, and most every person that I’ve ever known that lives with crippling anxiety would LOVE to accomplish. The issue is HOW do we even begin? Where do we even start?

    For me, it was acknowledging that my FOO was the source of catastrophic thinking, and learning the techniques to manage the anxiety in the present. Then, it became less and less of a dreadful challenge and more and more of a muscle-memory thing.

    YEP……….I’m working on keeping my life under MY control. My choices, decisions, and actions are MINE to determine, not some past experience or flawed belief.

  4. Truthy, a long time ago after a horrific trauma I thought that “healing” was a “one and done” situation, but I realized (finally!) that it is an ONGOING thing just like being an alcoholic is not ever “healed” but is HEAL-ING on a day to day basis.

    Now that I realize that I am vulnerable I can take action to keep it cool, calm and collected, and avoid the total break downs.

    • Joyce, exactly! It IS an ongoing journey……..sometimes, I find myself slipping back towards old patterns, and I REALLY have to pay attention and focus on managing those aspects.

      And, the vulnerabilities are so, so precious that they are WORTH protecting. I have always wondered about people who seemed aloof, and I sort of “get it,” now. MOST of those people aren’t stand-offish, nor are they inaccessible. They are simply cautious of their vulnerabilities and have the good sense to play their cards VERY close to their vests……..a wise option and one that I never knew existed for me.

      So, the meltdowns are less frequent, and they are far less intense than they once were. The more I work on myself, the better I feel about managing myself. 😉

  5. Truthy I also think it is about TRUSTING OURSELVES to keep ourselves safe, rather than cowering behind the “walls of the fort” shivering and wondering when the Indians are going to attack.

    Being AFRAID when there IS danger is okay, but you still have to FUNCTION. Anxiety on the other hand CRIPPLES us and renders us unable to keep ourselves safe or make appropriate decisions when the imagined danger appears, or doesn’t.

    The high number of young men and women coming back from war with PTSD proves to me that being in ACTUAL danger as well as being ANXIOUS about UNseen possibilities of danger will short circuit the brain. Of course, those soldiers who are gravely wounded by bombs and bullets also suffer the PTSD, or some get it from OBSERVING the bloodshed and chaos or the deaths or injuries of their friends.

    While on principle I am against war, I know that at times it is necessary, WWII was definitely necessary, but I’m not so sure about the other wars more recently. There are always people pushing for wars for the financial gain THEY get from selling munitions to the government, or for the oil or other resources they might gain by grabbing someone else’s land. I used to think wars were fought for “mom and apple pie, and the American way” but I now realize that politics and big bizz are so corrupt that most of the wars are results of that corruption and seeking for power, on BOTH sides of the war.

    But while Iran or another country may get a nuke and zap us, I cannot let that anxiety cripple me…first off, why worry about something happening that you can NOT do anything to prevent? Heck, an asteroid may fall from the sky and land on my house, but I don’t’ spend any time anxious over it. And I realize that some of my anxieties over other things I could not control have at times made my life a living hail. MANY TIMES.

    So if I am feeling anxious at all over anything I CAN control, I take ACTION to control it and stop the anxiety. If I am anxious the power company might turn my lights off, I PAY THE BILL. If I can not pay the bill and I am pretty sure they will turn the power off, I LIGHT A CANDLE when it gets dark and make the best of the situation til I can get the lights back on. But anxiety about the situation is not going to change anything but my quality of life.

  6. I was recently contacted by a parent whose son is accused of taking a photograph of a child less than five and I could hear the anxiety in the e mail from the parent about what to do. The son is in another state, and the parents think that the pornography charge is “out of character” for this young man. Is he guilty? Is he innocent? If he is guilty, what then? If he is innocent, what then?

    The anxiety, fear, etc we have when we find out our child is accused of a crime (and especially one such as this) is overwhelming and the most painful I can even imagine. I wonder how I lived through it.

    These parents do not know if their son is guilty of this, and they are, I am sure, afraid and anxious that he MIGHT BE GUILTY. That NOT KNOWING for sure has got to be mind bending for them.

    Anxiety, stress, etc cause our brains not to function well, and keep us from making appropriate decisions. We not only don’t know the answers, we don’t even know all the questions to ask.

    I remember when Patrick was arrested for Jessica’s murder, he of course claimed to be innocent, and I went into MELT DOWN for three months, locked myself in the house, didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, lost 35 pounds in weight, and cried 24/7 wondering if he had done it or not. . I was in the worst pain I had ever been in. So I can imagine the pain these parents are in wondering “did my son do this or not?” If he did do it, THEN WHAT? In retrospect, I can see I actually should have been hospitalized in a locked psych ward I was in such a state.

    My prayers go out for this family, and for all the families in this kind of distress.

  7. Joyce, while I can ‘feel’ for this family in distress, maybe I can add a few words of wisdom for them in their time of need.
    1) look at the police report with an open mind and an objective pont of view. If there are things in it that cannot be disputed or explained away in a rational manner- he most likly did it. Sad but true.
    2) look at his behavior over the past few months in relation to the victim or the accuser. Is there a lot of accusations on their part and have you heard the other side of the story? Do they have proof to back up their words? If not, how come?
    3) If all things point to the fact the young man did this, put yourself in the shoes of the victim for a moment and ask yourself “How would YOU feel if this happened to YOU?”
    4) which side would you feel needs your support thru all of this? I know the ex-spath’s parents have supported his actions thru the whole mess and will to their gaves. They live in the land of Denial! and I doubt they will ever move on.

    I hope this family finds peace in whatever the outcome truly is

    • I thought of something else that may help this family reach a conclusion of what their reality is. When they read the police report, leave their own names and personal information out and read it as if it were about someone else… See how they feel about it then? It might make a difference in how they feel.

  8. Good points, Phoenix….I feel so much empathy for this family, and I can only hope that the young man is not guilty, but if he is, then that leaves the family in a deeper hole of “what now?” How to cope with it…enabling him is of course not the answer…been there and DUN that. If we assume he is guilty (and that is not yet assured he is) then what approach should the parents take?

    If he is guilty, the parents have also “lost” their son, the son that they thought he was, hoped he was…just as my son’s behavior in killing Jessica was the death of my own relationship, my own fantasy of what I wanted for him, etc.

    When anyone we love breaks the laws of man and/or God, even if they get the “just consequences” of their actions, WE TOO are devastated and bereft of the relationship.

    I think that one way or another they need to know if he is guilty or not, because NOT knowing the truth of the matter leaves one swinging in the breeze and in the “spin cycle” At least knowing, “yes he is guilty” or “no he is not” will help the parents make the best decisions, both for them and for their son.

    I know I didn’t want to believe Patrick was guilty or was even CAPABLE of murder, but yet, I knew in my heart he was guilty. But it was so hard for me to accept the truth because the truth was tooo painful to even contemplate.

    IF the young man is guilty, then he is going to have to “face the music” with the law, and he SHOULD face the music. It doesn’t necessarily mean he is never going to change, but he will have to WORK at changing, not just saying “I’m sorry” He is going to have to OWN UP to what he did and get some therapy, etc. and the parents would have to be supportive but NOT enabling of his attempts at change. A tin line to walk. God bless his family and I hope that they can learn to truth one way or another, as painful as it might be. Denial is not a river in egypt and it isn’t going to help us solve any problems.

  9. I agree about the part- if he’s guilty, then what do we do? That’s a tough call to make for any parent, spouse, sibling, friend or loved one. There’s no ‘Playbook’ or instruction manual to go by. Many of us can say “I would do this! I would do that!” but the truth of the matter is, NONE of us would know WHAT we would actually DO! until or unless it happens TO US. Even still, as they go thru the process, they will hear AAAALLLLLLLL about HOW everyone else thinks things SHOULD be done by them, the police, the prosecutor, the judge, the courts and anyone else involved in the case.

    I can understand the parents reserved feelings in waiting to understand if their son is guilty or not. Look at the case not too long ago, when the parents took the ‘naked baby in the bathtub’ photos and turned the film in to be developed. Innocent enough, but they were in “hot water” for a while and under the scrutiny of the nation because of something that started out innocent enough, with no intentions of the photos being made public.

    Many times when we are the ones caught up in the s/hitstorm of reality and emotions, we do not think rationally or clearly about what we could or should do. There’s also plenty of ‘knee jerk reactions’ that we make. They happen a lot and may not yeild the best results, but they don’t need to beat themselves up over it. Which leads to my next thought.

    The parents DID NOT do this. They were not the ones holding the camera or forcing their son to take the photos or video. If they live in another state, I’m guessing their son is old enough to have made his own decisions. If their is true pain in their hearts over this and pain in the ‘tone’ of their words in email, then I believe they did their best to raise him to be an upstanding individual, not pedophile.There’s more I can add to this, but I will let it lie for now. I’m sure they have a lot to take in and deal with.

  10. GREAT Points, Phoenix, but I can’t help hurting for the Parents of this young man, guilty, innocent or just a simple “mistake” like the couple taking INNOCENT nude bath time photos of their infant. I think our society is crazy!!!!

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