Anxiety. Something that has been an issue for me for my whole life, usually pretty manageable. But this summer, it’s smacked me in the face like a closed window in the face of lost a fly… I didn’t even see it coming, but it just seemed that, if one thing was going to make my anxiety soar, then everything was going to make my anxiety soar.
About a month ago, or maybe even more than a month ago now, I had a really scary encounter on the train. I don’t want to, and so won’t, go into detail, but it is safe to say, I haven’t returned to a certain station by myself, and every time I step on a train, or even a bus in certain areas, my heart is palpitating harder than it ever has before, and my mind is screaming at me to ‘get the f*#& out of there’ in case what happened happens again.
I don’t want to dwell on the event, however, I want to dwell on the fact that what I felt the day that the event happened, hasn’t left me alone. I had a panic attack, and I was all by myself, and for what felt like 10 hours after getting off the train (was probably more like 5 minutes) nobody was picking up the phone… I can not explain the fear I felt, other than that it comes back to me in tiny instalments whenever I leave my house, by myself.
My mum suggested I should go and speak to a psychologist about it (not the situation alone, but my anxiety as a whole – whether people realise it, anxiety is a very big part of my life), and in the first half hour of the session the man said something to me that baffled me, and if I’m honest made me laugh… because it makes absolutely no sense.
There are 2 hemispheres of the brain, the right and the left. The right half of the brain is in charge of things like our mood, esteem, appetite and sleeping, and some other things that I can’t quite remember. The left half of the brain is in charge of things like rational and logical thinking and behaviour. Now, we have another part of the brain called the limbic system, this is known as our ’emotional brain’ and is in charge of monitoring danger and using the fight or flight response when necessary. When we enter a situation our brain convinces us is threatening, – this is the bit that made me laugh- OUR LIMBIC SYSTEM SHUTS OFF THE WHOLE OF THE LEFT HALF OF THE BRAIN.
I REPEAT, when we are anxious, when something seems scary, OUR BRAIN TURNS OFF ALL RATIONAL AND LOGICAL THINKING AND ACTING AND IN RESPONSE, WE BECOME IRRATIONAL, ILLOGICAL MESSES. This is called emotional hijacking, explaining why when we are anxious, it is very hard for any sort of rational thinking to work its magic and calm us down, instead our brain will focus purely on the fact that, for instance, we may die, so either we ‘fight’ the threat, ‘flight’/flee the threat (or ‘freeze’ in hopes to hide from the threat), in my case leading to a panic attack – because I couldn’t ‘take flight’ and flee from the train situation as fast as I wanted to.
And the best part is, that when all this is happening, another part of our brains called the amygdala, acts as a mental recorder, recording all the emotions, feelings, and thoughts that we experienced when the initial situation was happening.
Hence why, when I get on a train, I really struggle to want to stay on it, or when it stops at a platform why I feel the need to sink in my seat or even wanting to hide, sometimes just wanting to get off the train… but unfortunately in doing so I would be feeding into the fear more.
But I just thought it was funny, how something like anxiety such a real thing for me, is caused by our minds/brains effectively working AGAINST us that makes reoccurring anxiety an issue for us. It’s incredibly counterproductive in this day and age, when we don’t have to run away from predators like lions and tigers… and bears… oh my…