Monday, May 30, 2011

Rejoicing in knowing what's wrong with me

I suppose most people would be dismayed to have their therapist confirm that they have a mental illness. Not me. I was really glad.

Last week at our session, my therapist told me that I had free-floating anxiety. She may have told me this before but I didn't listen or couldn't hear it. I didn't get the feeling that this was major news to her; we've been working together for about 4 years or so. But it was so helpful to me to know that that's what it is.

As a recovering alcoholic, I do believe that mental illness is part of addiction. In AA, we say that we have an allergy of the body to alcohol and an obsession of the mind with it. When I was in the throes of my addiction, I was certainly obsessed with alcohol. It's what I lived for. Everything else was peripheral. And as I've dealt with my continuing addictive behaviors (to work, to food), I've been looking for the common denominator.  

With free-floating anxiety (also called Generalized Anxiety Disorder), I am not afraid of any specific thing. I am just afraid. And when the fear hits me, I look for a reason to be afraid. I look for symptoms in my body, I look for something in my circumstances, I look at the world, and I find plenty of reasons. But they aren't why I'm afraid. Some researchers think that it comes from a glitch in the neurotransmitter chemistry of the brain. Others that it is based in childhood trauma or is inherited. Whatever it is, it is inside, not outside.

And for some reason, for me, that is good news. I can stop looking for what's wrong and just be with what is. It may not be easy, but it seems a lot simpler than trying to figure out each time what's wrong and how to fix it. There probably isn't any fixing it, just a being with it.

"Invite it in for tea," says Anna.

1 comment:

Bridget B. said...


It's so nice to be able to give it a name, isn't it? Much easier to invite it in for tea if you know its name. . .