One day I decided that I did not want to be held hostage anymore. It came to a decision, which I knew I had to stick with. I was tired of the anxiety attacks. I was tired of the social anxiousness and tired of being afraid of people, places and things. I was tired of living “Rejection sensitive,” and feeling leashed or slaved to thoughts and feelings that had the ability to spiral me out of control.
A while back, I wrote to you about Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. This is a perception based disorder, which means this is thought based and idea based; however, what this means is an extreme emotional sensitivity that stems from experiences with rejection, bullying, being teased or threatened by important people.
In my case, I trace my anxieties back to old childhood fears that stem from rejection. I do not consider this thinking to be logical or rational. Instead, this thinking is only emotional—and emotion has nothing to do with fact or fiction. Emotions do not have strategy or plan. They just feel.
In some cases, early experiences, much like physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, public humiliation, bullying and shame, act as the foundation for this disorder. I can say this is so with me. I have memories, which I will not go into now; however, I have memories of being humiliated. I have pictures in my mind that disturb me if I think of them too often.
I believed I was a fool. I believed I was stupid, an idiot, that I was too gullible, too vulnerable and painfully hurt.
“It must be all my fault,” right? As a result; I developed an intense sensitivity. I allowed this to alter my perception, in which, I always behaved in response to my fears. I swore that I would never be fooled again, but yet, I was fooled again. I did experience rejection again, in which, I responded to and lived my life in anticipation of more rejection to come.
The truth is I am far from that young boy. The truth is it has been a long time since someone with the first initial “M” stole my Iron Maiden cassette tape. See I mention this because I remember it very clearly. This was the first time anyone ever stole anything from me. I believed I lost the tape. I thought it was gone and simply moved on.
I moved on until one of my other (so-called) friends told me what actually happened. What hurt worse was the enthusiasm. I remember this so-called friend reporting the theft with a smile on his face. This contributed to my ideas of foolishness. I blamed me. Not the thief. I blamed me because as I saw it, if I was good enough, my friend would have been a real friend. Instead of realizing the poor relationship, I blamed me.
Sure, we were kids. I get that. Shit happens. I get that too. But I also remember the idea of being absolutely foolish. A) Someone that I considered to be my friend ripped me off and B) someone else whom I thought was a friend laughed when he told me about this. I believed I was an idiot. I believed I was a fool. It was all my fault. Right?
No . . .
This had nothing to do with me.
But tell that to a kid that just wants to be cool.
Feelings however are different from ideas. I was hurt. I was sad. Bottom line, I was rejected and this is my first memory of social rejection. However, being the youngest in the family and living with The Old Man whose main focus was to provide for our family, my Father was tired and often cranky. He was overworked and often stressed. He seldom played with me and rarely had patience. I was young and kid-like. He was older and tired. In fairness, The Old Man did the best he could; however this does not relieve him of faults. We all have faults; however, I took his faults personally. I blamed myself.
I never knew this was normal. I never knew what the word co-dependency meant. I never understood what people pleasing meant. I was just a kid. All I knew is that I believed I was a pain. I thought I was a problem. I thought I was annoying, which is why I believed I always had to sell myself to people to “Make” them like me. This is why I joked or flirted. This is why I tried to impress people. I did this to hide my fears and mask my concerns which to me were painfully obvious and enough to leave me at a permanent disadvantage and vulnerable.
I never knew it was okay to be me, exactly as I was. Moreover, I was always afraid and always uncomfortable. I saw myself as awkward, which meant that I believed everyone saw me the same way. And why wouldn’t they?
I believed in the inaccuracies of my reflection; therefore, if I believed them, it only made sense that everyone else would believe them as well.
When I decided to fight back and learn more about my anxiety attacks; I had to go to the root of my anxiety. I had to find the main stressor; otherwise, I would only recognize the symptoms. For some reason, I notice a lot of treatment for such disorders is symptom based. In my experience, this has been wasteful. Soothing the symptoms has only proven to be temporarily helpful at best. Symptoms will reoccur so long as the emotional virus is present.
And me, I’d rather kill the virus so that I can live symptom free for the rest of my life. I had to learn how to heal this. I had to learn how to recognize the base of my issue. I had to improve my cognitive behavioral skills. I had to create new pathways of thinking; otherwise, I would continue to think the same way—hence, I would feel the same thing.
I had to learn how to replace thought with action. I had to learn breathing exercises. I had to create a system in order to counteract the deception of my perception.
In my case, all my anxiety goes back to rejection. This goes back to fear of being unlikable, or worse, unloved.
My fears of rejection go back to the concerns of always being dissimilar from everyone else or misfitting or chaotically different from the rest of the world. When in fact, I just wanted to be liked, to be wanted, and more accurately, I want to believe I was acceptable.
I never wanted to be ordinary. I always wanted to stand out as something special. The problem was I never learned how to nurture my special qualities. In order for me to overcome, I had to learn how to overcome all of the above.
Over the years, I have had to learn more about cognitive skills. I had to learn how to decipher between fact, truth and the deception of my perception. I had to learn how to change my behavior in order to change my thinking.
I had to learn ways to defend myself against depressive thoughts and suicidal ideation. I can say that with success, I have found that my skill set has improved. And I continue to improve on a daily basis. Keep in mind, this takes work. This takes direction. It takes strategy and planning.
When I began to research more by interacting with people that live with things like anxiety disorders and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, one of the common themes is fear. One of the common barriers is fear as well. Afraid to try, afraid to fail, or afraid to succeed; it’s not the outcome that creates the fear—more accurately, the intense fear comes down to the anticipation of the effort to overcome. It’s the work that become intimidating. There is a common thing of inherent laziness, which does not want to do the work. This makes sense because this is linked to depressive thinking. Again, this is where deciphering between thought and irrational thinking becomes important.
The first steps are the hardest. If you chose to create a team to overcome something like this, please choose wisely. Do not share too much of your plans with too many people. Find a coach. Find a therapist. Find people that you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with. Find someone that can help you remove your apprehensiveness. You need to feel comfortable with your support group. Find people that inspire you to switch your problems for possibilities and obstacles to opportunities.
Create a game plan. Create a curriculum that suits your needs. Stay away from one-size-fits-all models and realize that we are all unique in our own way. Therefore, we all deserve to be treated on an individual, unique basis.
Create a language for yourself, which you will share with your coach. This will consist of key words that sum up your triggers and lead back to the foundation of your desired changes. Plain and simple, remove the problem and the symptoms will follow.
Not so much. Be prepared. There will be work involved. Be ready to do this. Be ready to counteract the inner voice which has held you back. Be ready to decipher between the thoughts that push you forward and those that have kept you stagnant.
Next, define the stressors in your life. Look at the people you include in your daily living. See which relationships benefit or drain you and then ask yourself, “Would my daily living be better if I had more or less of this person in my life?” Consider your relationships with people, places and things. Think about the habits you keep. Write them down. Keep this private because the list belongs to you.
Break this down and see this through. Imagine yourself now, the way you always wanted to be. See yourself.
Picture what you would like your day to consist of. See your diet because food is important. Look at your physical and mental health because the two are very closely related. See the way you care for yourself. If you notice things are out of place; does this reflect the way you feel about yourself? If so, what would it look like to create a plan to change this?
Anxiety is a drain of our energy. In our mind are countless rooms with the lights on burning energy. Remember when we were kids and out parents would tell us to turn out the lights when we left the room because we were wasting electricity? Well, the mind is a similar thing. Think about the rooms in your brain. Think about how many lights are on, just wasting electricity. Now, thinking of how much spare energy you would have if you would reduce this consumption by even a small percentage.
See what I mean?
My favorite quote from Socrates sums this up best. This is what I base a lot of me motivational presentations on. And now, I would like to share this with you:
“If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.”
What would it look like if we created an honest reality unhinged from things which hold us back, free from fear based ideas, and opened to the disconnection between us and the things we cannot change?
It took me a long time to be able to breathe freely. Now that I’ve learned how, I like helping others find their own way to doing the same thing.