Not allowing myself peace: Anxiety and Me

Throughout much of my life, anxiety has been an unavoidable burden for me; a consistent obstacle to long-term serenity and self-confidence. No matter how much I try to escape it or reduce it by getting some work done, playing video games, doing a bit of exercise, and talking about it with counselors and therapists – it always finds a way to take over my thoughts and slow down my productivity. It is thus probably one of my more serious issues, and it’s one that my family and teachers have been trying for years and years to help me cope with.

I am not completely sure why, but it’s sort of like my mind has this continuous need to feel anxious or worried about something. It isn’t exactly that I’m always paranoid about the future or frantic that something terrible is about to happen. It’s more like I’m constantly under a presumption that there is at least something for me to be concerned about or something that I need to address soon. A lot of times, sadly, I cannot fully settle this issue that’s bothering me, or at least I’m unable to satisfy myself enough to soothe the tension. Therefore, it’s a little rare for me to feel truly at ease with myself or self-assured that everything is going to be ok.

I think that in most cases, what’s making me anxious is this lingering notion that I’m NOT doing what I should be doing. There is this consensus in my head that whatever I’m doing or wherever I am at the moment: I’m “not doing enough” or I’m “hurting myself” in one way or another. It doesn’t really matter what kind of task I am currently performing, there will be a voice in my head to incessantly remind me about all the other things that I need to work on or need to improve on. As much as people tell me to stop being so hard myself and not demand so much of myself all at once, it’s hard for me to let go of this ongoing sense of urgency; this desire to have everything resolved.

Let’s say, for instance, that I’m working on a homework assignment for one of my classes. I might be working pretty diligently on it and possibly even making some good progress on it. However, what will probably come to dominate my thoughts is the stress of my other assignments, other important tasks, other commitments- just about anything constructive that I could be doing. I will obsess over the fact that I still have studying to do for another class; running to do as part of my regular exercise routine; friends that I need to remain in touch with so that I have a social life; reading that needs to be completed for other classes; the fact that I am not up to date on the news; or perhaps I could be at some charity event that would make me a “better person.” As a result, the homework assignment will take longer than it should to be finished, because I spend so much time worrying and trying to vainly appease my own demands for perfection.

In any case, I’m frequently under the assumption that I am wasting time and sacrificing other things that I feel have to be addressed at some point. It seems that there is always SOMETHING for me to obsess over: whether it’s my lack of a fulfilling social life, whether it’s my heavy load of schoolwork, whether it’s a controversial social topic, or whether it’s my feelings of inadequacy when compared to other people. I can’t help but repetitively hear in my head: “Everything is NOT ok. You cannot feel at ease or allow yourself to simply let go. Something is wrong!” In other words, I always give myself a reason to be worried, upset, doubtful, or self-critical.

Of course there are moments here and there where I might be too distracted to be restless, like when I’m watching a movie or relaxing at the beach. Plus, it’s not like I’m so nervous and insecure that I’m completely unable to sleep or finish any task at all. Rather, my anxiety tends to take over whenever I am encouraged to add something to my schedule, or when I’m given a chance to analyze myself as a person. What makes it worse, I believe, is when I have a number of responsibilities and commitments at once, whether they be mandatory or recommended, and can’t be given specific instructions on how to manage them all.

There are three main factors that seem to be the most commonplace sources of my anxiety. They include tremendously poor time management, difficulty with focusing on single tasks, and lingering uncertainty over what I should do in a given moment. I might go over each of these issues in more detail in later posts, and I have a feeling they similarly affect several others with Aspergers. Anyhow, this mixture of problems not only makes it exceedingly difficult to avoid stress, but it also serves as a justification for having these fits of anxiety. It’s not at all easy to feel relaxed when you know that you are bad with keeping a steady schedule, you can’t concentrate on things you want to get done, and especially when you can’t figure out what you ought to be doing right now. How can someone who is constantly worried about their own productivity give themselves permission to calm down and go easy on themselves?

Fortunately, as of late I have found some hope in overcoming this cycle of stress and nervousness. After so many failed attempts in the past, it looks like my parents and therapists are finally starting to get through to me on how I need to stop being so harsh and demanding on myself. It seems that I’m actually getting the message this time that I don’t need to have every single concern resolved at once, and that I can only improve by one itty-bitty step at a time. Additionally, I am currently trying out things such as yoga, guided meditation, positive affirmations, and support groups. Trust me, to anyone out there who might be suffering from similar problems, these tools are infinitely helpful! Though my anxiety issues are nowhere near resolved, I have been making considerable progress so far. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I am able to handle numerous tasks without having to stress myself out in the process.

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4 thoughts on “Not allowing myself peace: Anxiety and Me

  1. I really enjoy your writing, Tim, and despite not having to deal with Asperger’s, I relate to your statement that often you cannot settle issues or “at least I’m unable to satisfy myself enough to soothe the tension”. I often feel that way. I wish your deep understanding of the causes and nature of your anxiety provided you with more relief, because your articulate description of them actually helps ME understand the futility of my anxiety, and how to try to alleviate it. Thanks, and keep writing!

  2. These entries are very well written, and very thought provoking. Even though they come from the point of view of someone with Asperger’s, I find that I can relate to many of the anxieties that you have (maybe we’re all a little Asperger-y at times?) Many people don’t know when to enter/contribute/leave a conversation, even ones without Aspergers’s. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and consideration. Keep calm and keep writing!

  3. Hi Tim: It is terrific that you can analyze yourself and help yourself to understand yourself. And in such precise terms. Now that I have your blog address I will be reading and learning about you. This is a great help for me to understand you. Thanks for making it possible. Love, Grandma M.

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