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Anxiety Warrior

written by Sue Northcott 14/04/2016

As part of my research into my anxiety I came across an article which explains that the part of the brain that controls anxiety is called the ‘amygdala’. It’s about the size and shape of an almond.  Its job is to protect you from danger. It has been described as being like your own warrior bodyguard. It is in charge of the ‘Fight or Flight’ response.   The trouble is, it hasn’t really evolved from the time when we were hunter gathers, and in this fast modern world it doesn’t seem terribly bright and can make really bad decisions.AnxietyWarrior.jpg

If you’re being attacked by a bear or even need to get out from the path of a moving train the warrior has it all under control. However, when it comes to preparing yourself for a dinner party or taking a faulty item back to a shop, experiences gained from running on the open plains aren’t terribly helpful.

Some people’s warriors (mine, for example) have taken the default position of assuming pretty much everything is a danger to you. Your intellect may be telling you that everything is under control and you’re pretty much on the ball, but your warrior is screaming ‘Run away, run away’. This is terribly wearing.

I’ve said before that when I didn’t understand it I saw my anxiety as a Gollum like creature. As I’ve taken the time to get to know it I can see that it’s a bit more like Boudicca’s rather slow sister. She’s ever watchful and desperate to keep me safe, but not very clever. I can’t trust most of her decisions, but that doesn’t stop her shouting, or, strangely, sometimes not. Because, while she can lead me to be terrified of a simple conversation, she really doesn’t have a problem with me taking to lonely dark cycle tracks on my own (no scary people there), and is so overawed by my righteous indignation at gangs of boys trying to steal a neighbour’s bin at 2am that she doesn’t even try to stop me chasing them down the street in my nighty and no shoes.  

So, I have a faulty warrior. I can’t take her back to the shop. I’d be too scared anyway. So I’ve got to try to train her, and learn assess her decisions with my ‘sensible head’ and to stick my fingers in my ears and ignore her when she’s got it wrong. That’s a bit like trying to ignore your kids when they’re in the constant nagging stage, but it’s got to be done. To be honest, I sometimes need to ask for a third opinion when Sensible Sue and the Warrior can’t agree, but I’ve got people who I can trust to have those conversations with now that I’ve started being more open. As a team, me, my friends and the Warrior, we’re getting there.    

If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email info@timetochangewales.org.uk

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