Sometimes anxiety means “I don’t want to”. I’ve read about anxiety sometimes being related to hidden emotions and had an interesting experience with it just last month. First of all, I’m one of those women who hates shopping for clothes. I have a hard time finding clothes that I like in my price range and often feel like I’ve wasted my time, coming home empty handed. (If only I was a trust fund kid) But recently two things happened - my Mom & I were looking through old photos and there I am wearing the same cranberry turtleneck and black skirt in a decades worth of holiday photos. Then, we were having dinner with friends and my girlfriend commented on liking the color green in my shirt. “Oh, I’ve had this shirt since we were in grad school together”, I told her. Smiling, she said, “Oh, I know.”
It was time to venture out.
I pulled together a short list of what I was looking for and drove toward the mall. I dropped into a few stores, not seeing anything I wanted. A few more and now I’m checking my watch. Shoot, I only have an hour before I need to be back to nurse the baby. What am I doing here on this beautiful day?
The phone rang and it was my husband checking in – “How’s it going? Have you found anything yet? We’re fine, don’t worry.” I heard the joyful chortles of my kids in the background. As I walked toward the dressing room, armed with about 20 items, I felt a sudden surge of adrenaline and began feeling panicky. My first response was – “What’s this?” I questioned why I would feel panicky while I was out shopping – that’s not a trigger for me.
In the dressing room, I looked at myself in the mirror and utilized the paradox technique thinking, “Do you wanna freak out here? Bring it on.” It took a little while, but I realized that sometimes anxiety means I don’t want to; or I feel guilty. I felt guilty that I was away from my family; I felt silly for spending so much time with nothing to show for it and I wasn’t having much fun. Bingo – my anxiety was telling me to either change my attitude or just go home.
Looking back, I can think of other times I’ve had similar experiences. Maybe not panic, but that cocktail of “I don’t want to” mixed with adrenaline – for example: dragging 3 tired & strung out kids through the grocery store while they all beg for something – Can we get a cookie? Why can’t we get a cookie now? Is it time yet? Or, times when I agreed to volunteer for something just because I couldn’t find a good reason not to or a way to nicely say no.
I did end up finding a few cute things. I stopped to grab a cup of coffee and kicked up my feet to really feel like I got a break from parenting. And, when I got home, my family was excited to see the goods and welcome me back like I’d never been gone.