Shame vs anxiety
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Surprising no one, I have experienced severe anxiety for as long as I can remember. I've had phases of anxiety so severe, that I will be sitting in meetings, quietly having panic attacks. I had a particularly bad bout of anxiety earlier this year and ended up having to take a couple of days off work. I had no concentration, couldn't focus, couldn't watch TV or movies, but could play Stardew Valley and I put on an audiobook to listen to.
I've been a fan of Clare Bowditch for years. A good friend of mine was managed by her husband, and I've been to a few events that she's run - Tea with Jam and Clare. Her story was exactly what I needed to listen to that day. It's not always an easy read (or listen in my case), but she details her struggles with anxiety and how she healed herself. She discussed the strategies that she put in place to manage her anxiety, referencing Dr Claire Weekes and her work Complete Self Care for your Nerves. I immediately downloaded that, too, and read it from cover to cover.
Essentially, the strategies that they recommended are:
Let time pass.
Face involves facing your anxiety. Don't try to push it away, don't try to suppress it, don't shy away from it. Doing this makes it grow, like a gremlin fed after midnight. Anxiety breeds in darkness and shining a light on it can prevent it from multiplying exponentially.
Accept means letting yourself feel the anxiety. Don't judge yourself, don't judge the emotions, just observe how the anxiety feels in you. Are your shoulders tight? is your breathing shallow? do you have a nauseous stomach? what does anxiety feel like? Eventually, you start to realise that anxiety is unpleasant, but it passes, and you don't need to be scared of the sensations.
Float means observe from a distance. So distance yourself from your emotions and imagine yourself floating through the difficult tasks.
Let time pass: exactly what it says on the tin.
So where does shame come in? Essentially, what I've realised is that I experience shame in a similar way to anxiety. And having ADHD means that I have deep stores of untapped shame that I've been burrowing away. The shame directly leads to anxiety for me, actually, in a lot of cases. I work so hard at masking the impacts of ADHD and trying to be perfect, be better, do more, do better, be perfect, don't stuff up again... that I feel intense shame for any areas I perceive myself 'failing' in, and tell myself it's because I'm a terrible person, or lazy, or useless or whatever.
So I'm trying something new. Instead of blasting myself with shame and negative messages, which I've been using as my motivator to get stuff done prior to now, I am going to use the same strategies that work on my anxiety to reduce my shame. I'm going to try to be kind to myself and show myself the same compassion I show other people. I'm going to FAFL my way through shame.
I'll let you know if it helps... I think it will.