Upon reading more of the philosophical perspectives of Stoicism, I came across a quote by Marcus Aurelius: “Today, I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions, not outside.” I've discussed triggers in other blogs and I see the error in my perceptions now. Recognizing triggers is a good tool for avoiding anxiety escalations early on, but, recently, I had forgotten that the internal response was the most important aspect to focus on. Anxiety has a tendency to do that: through increased adrenaline the external senses become heightened while introspection/cognitive functioning declines.
The externalizing of the anxiety through focusing primarily on triggers is detrimental due to the fact that it diverts focus away from internal awareness by paying too much attention to external stimuli. This is something I knew, but fell away from. Get back up. I had forgotten about this aspect and became more engrossed in self preservation through the fight/flight response. The irony is that I became woefully unaware that I was engaged in a fight/flight battle, that my body was experiencing physically, with something that was transpiring internally. I knew as this was occurring the symptoms of anxiety and its subsequent paranoia and projection would and did manifest, but was unable to set them aside. There was an internal conflict with rationalizing what I was actually experiencing physically with the irrational thoughts that occurred as a reaction to the heightened stress.
As a test, I just imagined something that I knew would trigger my anxiety. I can feel my heart beating harder, my pulse increase, and the pressure in my head. This trigger was imagining packing up my belongings and moving back to live with my wife. My cognitive functioning just took a dive and typing just became more difficult. What is real: I am sitting here at my laptop, writing this piece. I am not there. That thought only exists within my head. Why does it make me so anxious? I am not ready. I do not want to move back there yet as my current emotional instability would not be beneficial in rebuilding or creating a supportive and compassionate home life. I remembered the isolation while we were going through the trauma and how powerless I felt against my wife's alcoholism and my inability to help her. Cognitive functioning is continuing to decline and I'm having trouble focusing. I'm being taken back to memories of arguments we had, the sadness I felt to see her like that, and the consuming pain I felt after she was raped. I am close to the point of having the PTSD flashbacks of that night.
“Practice,” I hear my rational mind calling out from within the increasing internal chaos. “Practice, it's all Practice.” Okay, Marcus Aurelius, here I am and I'm going to discard the anxiety. The thought that such a thing is even possible, to just discard something as consuming as anxiety, is oddly calming, but the residual adrenaline is adding a bit of excitement. Breathing is helpful, but not as effective as when there is a concept, ideal, belief, etc. to focus on and give the practice a foundation or support. Taking a moment to breathe. Paranoia glimpses into my mind, but I am not allowing it to take hold. I can still feel the pressure in my head, but I am capable of clearing my mind. Now, it is just waiting for the adrenaline, the chemical reaction, to pass. My heart is still racing, but my mind is calm. I almost want to laugh in a “eureka” moment of triumph.
Let's continue. My response was not to anything external. It was all literally all internal: a hypothetical that my body began to react to as if it was a physical stimuli. All of this transpired over the course of about 20min due to one thought: returning to live with my wife hours away from friends, family, and support outside of our tiny family unit. Even now, I can still feel the physical response as the adrenaline continues its course, but I can already tell that cognitive functioning is returning as I'm almost capable of typing at my normal speed. Simple thoughts caused such an incredible reaction within me. I must do this again. I must practice this more often: inducing a state of anxiety while typing out my experience and paying particular focus to the physical and emotional reactions, then recognizing that I can discard it. Wow, this was such a rush, bringing myself right to the brink of being lost in PTSD flashbacks, like standing at the edge of a cliff, and then stepping back. Even reading back over this to check spelling and grammar caused the spike to occur again. If I missed anything, I apologize. I cannot go back over this again tonight. Two steps to the ledge was enough for me tonight. I hope I don't become an adrenaline junky. lol