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Soulful's Story

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Friday, 30 January 2009
“It is much more difficult to love ourselves than to criticize and experience self-hatred and doubt.”  -- Susan Ariel Kennedy 

I lived in the shadows of silent anguish for years.  As I drive to work each day, my eyes would fix upon a disfigured man who primarily suffered from a facial deformity around the mouth, so that he seemed to be making a funny face on purpose, but an expression that would never leave him. He used dark sunglasses to deflect attention, but everyone noticed anyway.  He limped somewhat.  I took many mental snapshot of this disfigured man and wondered why it hurt me so much to think about his hurt.  I came to the conclusion that it was because I also struggled to overcome a kind of internal deformity, a proneness to anxiety… perhaps even shame-based for lack of a better term. 

 You see I lived my childhood surrounded by constant drama and more drama, but I thought this was normal... the fate of every human being.  I couldn’t make sense of my dysfunctional surroundings, so that left me in a state of confusion and guarded detachment.  All I really understood was that the world was a kind of boot camp just waiting for you to trip and fall into the ditch.   Of course abuse comes in diverse forms but most often it operated in the most insinuating ways, and so as a boy I learned to bear it silently behind a facade of “Everything is just fine”.  The bruises were inside where no one could see them anyway.  Perhaps that made it more difficult, since physical bruises could have at least triggered some kind of response.  My view and experience of love and affection was also just as disfigured as the deformed man’s face. One wise man says that insecure love or anxiety attachment is a distortion of life, but when you have lived with it all your life it feels normal and you just don’t question it.In my adulthood, I entered the lowest valley of my life where I quietly and slowly lost myself to the insatiable demands of a highly conflictive marriage plus the challenges of teaching children and teenagers.  My sense of peace laid flat on its back with all four feet proped up.   If anxiety and depression could describe my condition, I wouldn’t have been able to say, for I was too numb to feel.  I became as invisible as I could, flying under the radar as much as possible -- making myself as small as I could to escape the  tantrums of life.   My anxiety grew so large that if I saw an acquaintance on the street, I’d walk on by pretending not to notice him or her, because I simply did not have strength to interact.  If I was on a bus, I wished someone else could signal the driver to stop(buses in Costa Rica are packed to the full), for even that required too much energy. This is what happens when you’re buried inside your own anxiety without any sense of direction or validation.   I stopped caring how I appeared, whether my hair was cut well or not, what clothes I had on... Any photographs taken of me during this period revealed the empty eggshell existence.  There was no sparkle in my eyes, not even a trace of joy or spontaneity… and as Randolph Bourne says… “haunted with a constant feeling of weakness and low vitality which makes effort more difficult and renders (me) easily fainthearted and discouraged by failure.¨ --
Friends could see how I lived with anxiety and fear more than I could. The reflection in their eyes told me something was wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what it was, so I became more and more reclusive, yet not realizing it.

“We become hypnotized by isolation, and think we’re doing it all by ourselves. Our self-supporting skills are not developed, so when people cancel or disappoint us, we can feel a lack of support. Support is usually very close by, and we haven’t learned how or when to ask for it. This can all be changed by studying and practicing new ways of giving and receiving support.” -- Susan Ariel Kennedy

I began to find some sense of relief in my routine of domestic chores. In some odd way I was learning an indispensable lesson: to be self-motivated even though my activities were “unsung, unseen, and unsupported”. It was in the midst of this Cinderella scenario, that the survivor instinct awoke inside me.  I was putting up a heavy makeshift-blanket for my daughter’s bedroom to protect her from the cold drafts that would penetrate through her bay window, when Hope entered inside me saying quietly that my life was about to change though I had no idea how. It was a promise or taste of I discovered that the first step to experiencing love was realizing I already had all the love I needed through Christ Jesus! Yes, most Christians know that truth in theory, but fail to apply it. That gave me an astonishing sense of security that eluded me most of my life.
¨Love is what you are already. Love doesn’t seek anything. It’s already complete. It doesn’t want; it already is everything it wants, just the way it wants. So when I hear people say that they love someone and want to be loved in return, I know they’re not talking about love. They’re talking about something else¨.
-- B. Katie Mitchell

The truth is that just when I think I feel strong and brave, reality pricks my dreamy world and I start to tremble awakened by anxiety once again though the trigger takes different forms. Like everyone, I have to attend areas of improvement: For example, I tend to be overly guilt-prone, and require a justifiable reason to play and enjoy life - which sometimes makes me look standoffish. I’m also too tactful … okay, okay too non-assertive! I don’t want to hurt anyone, so I spend hours quietly beating myself about things I have said or should have said or done or should have done … when I can no longer change the past. Many people speak their mind all the time and don't think twice about it. The snag is if I don’t create enough space for myself, I get exhausted and overwhelmed, so that in any given moment I can overreact about something insignificant. Just as we have great capacity to bring joy to others, we can become overwhelmed by excessive demands, or too much social contact. That is why journaling, reflection and blogging are not luxuries, but a vital inroad to emotional and spiritual well being.

Reflection has not been the only rejuvenating factor, however. I’m pleased to have recently discovered kindred spirits that not only share my values, but who understand the struggles and complications that anxiety can produce! That is why I’m here…

What is also growing inside me is that I no longer expect others to understand me as I once needed them to. If someone understands I’m grateful! If not that too is now acceptable. It used to amaze me that though I described my dreadful, oppressive past, EVEN THEN, well-intentioned people would give me this or that advice having no idea what they what social anxiety meant. I one day realized it was not my responsibility to convince anyone about the validity of my story. That had been my first step to freedom.

So, this is my testimony -- a man who was lost in the land of anguish and people-pleasing but through God’s grace is now in the process of recovery… recovery of my spiritual passion, talents, and emotional/relational strengths. The underlying motive that now compels me through each day is the search for connectedness -- authentic connection – seeking to share rich, satisfying, deep thoughts and feelings.
Comments (6)add comment

ceejay said:

Thanks so much!
Your story is one that many of us can relate to. Even if we experienced different things along the way, we find ourselves emerging into a new world of authentic connection and recovery.

It seems to me that you have found rich resources and a lot of support through reading. I have too. I spent many years reading Carl Jung's works, and through him I found others who were writing of experiences that mirrored mine - in essence if not in substance. This made a tremendous difference for me.

Slowly, slowly, slowly I began to believe that there were actual people (not just those far-off, successful authors) who understood me and with whom I could connect.

It's been a long process, but I wouldn't change it for the world! I wish you all the best, and I hope you'll continue to share here as you go about the process of recovering and living!

February 12, 2009
Votes: +1

Reckals said:

I hear you on the empty shell and all that goes with it, that's kinda what I'm just coming out of. The lack of motivation stage. It's getting better, but is by no means easy. But keep with it! And listen to the well-intentioned folks too, the advice isn't always as cut and paste as they make it seem, but there may just be a few snippets you could use. God works in many ways...

Cheers, and never give up! This is a good survivor story. :)
February 17, 2009
Votes: +1

Soulful said:


Thanks for the motivating words. I think we find that the persons who suffer from some form of anxiety tend to connect. We also have a fighting spirit in common.

Many thanks,
March 05, 2009
Votes: +1

Soulful said:

Hi Reckals,

Yes, we can learn from all examples even if it means doing the opposit .

Thank you,
March 05, 2009
Votes: +1

sandyhopes said:

thank you
thank you sooo much for writing this...i hope to one day find all you have with this disease that battles us. your story has given me a small sense of hope that I wish to grow as yours has. thank you!
March 07, 2009
Votes: +0

Irish said:

The first thing that caught my interest in your blog was the beggining when you compared the mental with the physical. This is what I've always tried to bring home. Our anxiety disorder illness is just as seriou as parkinsons or cancer. You just can't see it, feel it or relate to it and that contributes dearly to our own isolation with others. I hope you know that you are luckier than most people with your connection to God as this life is merely a trial period for what is to come in eternal life. It's the most important connection we can make. I always remember the words of Jesus Christ when He said the more I make you suffer, the more I love you. This is God's way and we have to accept it, but I cherish it at this point in my life. Good luck to you and yours. You are a true survivor....Ed
August 25, 2009
Votes: +1

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