Colin Walker describes his anxiety as “a feeling I can only liken to claustrophobia”, a term I use frequently in just this manner. One thing to know about anxiety is that it doesn’t always require “busy, crowded environments”; I can be at an empty transit stop, or even alone at home, and that claustrophobic feeling sets in. Your mileage, or Walker’s, may vary.
It’s also interesting that Walker mentions being an introvert, because I’ve discussed since early on how prior to my midlife autism diagnosis, I’d been unknowingly accommodating and mitigating some aspects of that unknown autism through a sort of introvert’s toolkit—some of those aspects unquestionably stemming from my comorbid anxiety.
I haven’t really been following along with CJ Chilvers’ series on anxiety but today’s speaks to me because it’s about applying what Chilvers calls “constraints”. Chilvers suggests that “too much information and too many options when making decisions is great trigger for your anxiety”, and to be sure it’s an issue with the psychically-toxic stew of my autism’s executive dysfunction and that comorbid anxiety.
It’s precisely why one of the first things I did post-diagnosis was drastically and dramatically reduce the need to make a number of daily decisions, very much including Chilvers’ selections of food and clothing.
One thing to consider if you think constraints will help is also to communicate with those around you.
I’ve made it clear to family, for example, that surprises are bad for me. Earlier this year, I found a terrific statement in Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women that’s about kinesiology and motion sickness but applies wonderfully to the idea of surprise: ”anticipatory control is just better than compensatory control”. Knowing what’s coming (anticipatory) is far less of a strain on my autistic and anxious brain than is having to react and respond to a sudden stimulus (compensatory).
Walker’s post on anxiety and claustrophobia set off a discussion on Micro.blog that’s been pretty spirited, engaged, and enlightening.
I agree with Andrew Canion when he urges “listen to what [your] mind/body needs and worry less about negative judgement if [you] decide to step away”. I disagree with Ron Chester that you should “break through the fear and actually do the thing that has you frozen”. I agree with Sameer Vasta that “it’s worth chatting with your mental health practitioner” (while understanding that not everyone has access to one). I agree with Matt Huyck that while “we all experience anxiety” that’s not necessarily the same as “an anxiety diagnosis”.
Much of that discussion centers around the causal or correlative interplay between anxiety and depression, and that’s where I beg off. As I said, comorbid depression remains the open question on my end, since my original diagnosing therapist and I never had the time or opportunity to explore beyond my clearly being subject to “depressive episodes”.
There’s always maybe another door to have to walk through, or to help others walk through. As I previously said to Walker, writing in public also is crucial for destigmatizing the issue. Those of us who can stomach doing so, therefore, should definitely continue do so.