I’m Reading Sylvia Plath’s Diary

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A lot of inner turmoil has been coming up for me lately, but as I write this, it doesn’t steal my peace and I know I have to take time for myself. Sylvia … ended her life at age 30, and I remember in my teens vowing to myself to end my life by 30 if my anxiety didn’t get better. I’m 29 now, and yes, my anxiety has improved, or rather, I have improved my ways of dealing with it. It’s just hard to know that someone you admire (or any human) struggled and lost their battle with a mental condition … and knowing it just as easily could have been you.

Sylvia writes about being acutely aware and living with intensity. Sometimes my anxiety/relational trauma get to me in that way. I over-interpret and misinterpret things, feel too intensely at times, and yet at others it takes a lot for me to really feel¬†anything. And in that I feel isolated. Anxiety makes you very aware of unpleasant things, things that cause you to be nervous or self-conscious, being that type of detail oriented can be good for survival, but not for every day living. So when I am upset or anxious I am hyper aware of my surroundings and what I think people are thinking. On the flipside, at other times I’m blank and feel starved for good conversation and any type of feeling. That may be why I seek out intense experiences like white water rafting. And I can’t do small talk, I want intense conversations. And you could say, “Well, you’re a therapist, don’t you have them all the time?” Yes, but they’re one-sided and not reciprocal, and when you’ve grown up without feeling as though you’re wanted or that anyone cares to get to know your inner thoughts, you crave that a lot. So if you’re familiar with attachment theory, I’m definitely not securely attached, probably more so avoidant or disorganized. I want to spend time with people I find interesting until we’re so tired we can’t make another coherent thought because it’s 4 am. But some people are living the dark and prefer not to think about existential problems, like how you’ll likely never know the last time you’ll do something or see someone, but those are the things that I think about. But living with that intensity can become exhausting, you feel a sense of urgency. I think this is related to relational trauma and anxiety in some way that I haven’t figured out yet.

Therein lies my paradox, though, fulfilling the intensity-seeking part of me and tending to the anxiety-ridden, fearful part of myself that wants to be a recluse… and of course also not going insane/scaring people off with those vacillations lol.¬† It all comes down to problems with intimacy, I know, that I think are exacerbated when my anxiety flares up and I can’t seem to get out of thought loops. I’ve gotten better with that, though. Here are a few things that are simple, but have helped me in the past. When I’m anxious, I challenge myself by thinking:

  1. How much does this matter? Will I remember this person/situation in a week? In a year? If not, try to use a HEALTHY distraction, like music, coloring, or calling someone and NOT to talk about your obsessive thoughts.
  2. People are likely not thinking about what you did/said even half as much as you are. You are actually not that important and no one pays that much attention to you or puts you under as much scrutiny as you do yourself.
  3. Overwhelmed? Prioritize. What absolutely NEEDS to be done? If even that one thing is too overwhelming, break it down into smaller steps and just force yourself to do the very first one, if nothing else. That usually makes me feel productive and not like a paralyzed bump on a log (which helps when self-hatred runs high).

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