Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When Nothing And Everything Is Alright

It's funny how something can happen to us as grown-ups and automatically we feel like we are 8 years old again. Our heart palpitates, we break into sweats, we feel like we're going to throw up.

Actually, it's not funny at all. We often wonder "Why am I feeling this way again? I'm making too big of a deal of this. Just snap out of it!"

I feel this particularly with my anxiety disorder (I also deal with chronic to major depression and bi-polar).  When a tense moment happens, even now when I am approaching 35 years old, I feel almost exactly like I did when I was a boy.

And the coping mechanisms were quite helpful back then. The shutting off of emotions, the bottling of anger deep inside, the daily worrying that things would get even worse. Keeping quiet.

They were helpful as I listened to my father, almost nightly, yell and yell at my Mom, and secondarily at me. They were helpful when he didn't want to go out and spend time with other people, preferring to preoccupy himself with pen and paper for hours on end. They were helpful when we would drive the 20 minutes to buy groceries and the quiet tension was so thick you could feel it in your chest. They were helpful when I was ferried off to a church leader's home on many nights when he was too angry to be around. I lived under this abuse for my entire childhood and into my teenage years.

These were helpful coping mechanisms when I was a boy and a teenager. But I am not in those situations anymore and rather than help, those coping strategies only hurt. The anxiety doesn't need to be there, the dread, the fear. Rather than helping, they can ruin relationships, careers - it just goes on and on.

A person can go their whole life merely surviving if they don't learn to leave the coping mechanisms behind. For me this has required many therapists as well as medication, and a support network of family and friends.

Often I'll be walking down the street and feel like nothing is right. In reality, nothing is wrong.

Mark Andrew Nouwen


James McDowell said...

Good writing...the open ended ending is really effective and probably communicates exactly what you want us to feel.

I find this especially a propos as I think some of my grandchildren may be experiencing this type of thing. What should I be doing?

Mark Andrew Nouwen said...

Hi Jim,

My first response to your question of "What should I be doing" is to involve yourself if you suspect your grandchildren are living through some kind of abuse. Many family members simply look away because they don't want to rock the boat or offend parents, but the child's well-being is paramount. Approaching the parent first is a good initial approach, but if that doesn't help, an anonymous call to Family and Children's services may well be needed. I've called them numerous times on a former neighbour. Finally, spending regular time with the child reinforcing a good self-image is helpful. Hope this helps.

Jim said...

Thanks, Mark. It is helpful to hear from someone on the receiving end of this type of thing. We are doing some of what you mention. Particularly the time with the children. It does help, but there is so much lost for the child when that affirmation doesn't come from the very place from which it is most needed. More when we meet.