Being aware of what can trigger me into have an episode of anxiety is difficult. Sometimes it hits me so lighting fast, with one minute I feel fine and then I’m anxious, to the point, the anxiety is a figurative ball on my side of the court and I can’t quite figure out how the hell it got there or where it came from.
In this post, I will talk about a specific reaction I’ve been having lately that is a combination of feeling like I’ve been sucker-punched with anxiety before it gets swept away into the undertow and I’m left feeling extremely pissed off.
One example is when I came home today after a day out by myself. It was almost dinner time and my mom was getting ready to stir fry some fish so we could eat. I was finishing up on typing out a comment on a blog post I just read. My mom called me from the kitchen saying I could drink some soup first if I felt hungry. I kinda half heard her but didn’t say anything in response because I was distracted from typing. Then a few minutes later, she came out to the kitchen hallway and asked me (as I was seated in the living room a few feet away) if I wanted soup. Sounds like a simple enough question, right? Well, she made it a point to speak at a louder volume this time and I certainly got the impression she did it deliberately. But in the moment, I did not have time to process that she likely spoke louder to make sure I heard her clearly, especially since she had the overhead stove fan on, which is both very noisy and used to suck up fumes that emit when there is something cooking on the stove. Instead, I felt a spark of anxiety at her tone and speaking volume. The anxiety dissolved in a half second and was replaced by a feeling of indignant annoyance over how she was speaking to me. For another half second, I wrestled with the building irritation, the How dare she speak to me like that echoing in my own head, before I attempted to gain control back by answering her in a normal tone, “No, not right now”. I doubt she noticed, but I seriously felt like it took everything in me not to tempt faith and raise my tone and snap at her in the same way I perceived she had spoken to me in. For this instance, I can see a virtual scale in my mind’s eye, with both sides swerving up and down, fighting for dominance over which emotion I should give into.
So what happened here? Am I a lunatic? I don’t think so. My initial self-prognosis after this event was the realization I definitely had a problem with the volume of her tone. I thought, Ok, maybe I felt anxious and then upset over the increase in noise level because prior to my mom prompting me for a response, I had been sitting quietly and kinda in my own world.
But now I see that’s not the only reason why I felt so triggered. I do think I am a person who prefers her quiet time, that much is true. I spent some time at the library today and there were only a few select tables with open outlets to allow people to charge their phones, so that’s where I sat. Some of the girls sitting near me were somewhat loud as they chatted and played games on their phones. Not obnoxiously loud to the point the librarian had come over to tell them to simmer down, but their chirping back and forth to each other was so frequent and they kept “announcing” things out loud (such as when one of them lost a battle or their character’s energy was depleted) that it grated on my nerves. I wasn’t so annoyed that I felt the urge to snap at them to shut up, though I admit I threw them a few scattered glances, wondering if I could telepathically tell them to please keep their enthusiasm down a little because the library isn’t an arcade center. This kind of annoyance was different from what I felt in the situation with my mom.
I’ll be tentative about what I am implying: that there is something else embedded in my psyche which triggered me into reacting in that way (anxiety, then anger) because I am acting out towards a past trauma that relates to being spoken to in a harsh and threatening manner. I admit I have had some recollections of bad childhood and pre-teen experiences with certain family members speaking to me in loud and intimidating ways, and at least one of these times I felt in fear of my own life. At this time, I do not want to name who these people are. I don’t know if how they behaved towards me was abusive because the distinction between abusive and not abusive may be a bit blurred in my case because there were certain cultural aspects that I perceived were accepted and not thought of as wrong by these people, which may have contributed to how they behaved towards me.
Even just alluding to the past is a box of complications that I’m unsure if I want to open fully right now. Maybe I will explore this topic more in depth when (or if) I’m ever ready.