When I told my therapist last week I wasn’t feeling any emotions (only anxiety) I was shocked at his response.
“Anxiety is an emotion,” he said, “it is an emotion based on fear.”
I don’t know what was more shocking, his response, or the fact that I was shocked by it!
I guess in my experience, anxiety has never been a member in my usual emotional club. This might have something to do with the fact that I have bipolar disorder, though it might have more to do with the fact that I also have generalized anxiety disorder.
Er… let me explain.
Because I have bipolar disorder, my moods are very erratic. They aren’t typically logical, but they can be reactive at times. I’ve been tracking my moods for three years now and they jerk around all over the place.
And then there’s anxiety.
My feelings of anxiety don’t follow the other emotions, or the other types of responses I have due to bipolar disorder. On the contrary, I’ve been tracking my anxiety levels for three years as well and they most often have nothing to do with my other mood swings.
While the bipolar mood swings will build up and die down (for me somewhat rapidly) my anxiety level almost always remains relatively constant (minus panic attacks). It has for as long as I can consciously remember.
Sure, it will get worse if something stressful is going down, but even when something stressful isn’t going down, or something fun is going down, it is there. It is like a feisty leprechaun inside my chest who holds onto my spine, takes a deep breath, and then holds it to take up as much space in there as possible.
Most of my anxiety these days is almost purely physical, I’ve learned to cope with the serious quantities of dread I’ve felt every day since childhood (or, at least, I thought I did). I think this is another reason why I haven’t been considering it an emotion, because it feels much more physical these days.
On top of that, I’m sure the fact that all my other huge emotions have been overshadowing any emotional aspect of anxiety for a while now. Like I said, it pops up every once in a while (that dread) but for the most part, I’m too busy feeling depressed, or elated, or a horrible mixture of the two to notice it.
I know that this “overshadowing” of emotion put on by bipolar disorder is another reason why when all of my emotions (except anxiety) disappeared last week (we are still looking into why that happened, you can expect more on that odd situation later) I quickly felt like that little leprechaun was working overtime. There was nothing to dampen his smug little escapades.
Ultimately, the concept of not feeling my typical barrage of emotions made me… well, anxious. It didn’t matter much, considering that anxiety was already present. Still, I wanted to demand my therapist explain to me why that emotion remained when all the rest (many of which I typically enjoy) were gone.
Still a mystery, but I feel like I am getting closer to figuring it out every day. We still need to run more tests, I need to take more notes, and though my other emotions are returning (sporadically) I feel totally confounded by the whole situation.
Have I ever felt nothing except anxiety before?
If I have it has been too long for me to be able to recognize the feeling, since childhood, perhaps… probably more specifically before the 6th grade. Even then, most of my anxious memories are littered with anger. A substantially pissed off kid, angry for not knowing why I felt so afraid all the time.
“At 28 you think you’ve felt every emotion there is? You don’t think there are any you haven’t experienced?”
My therapist brought up a good point. I have gotten used to feeling so many emotions that it can be easy to feel like there couldn’t possibly be any beyond the ridiculousness I’ve experienced. I’m sure that isn’t true though, heck just last year I had a manic episode unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, and found myself in the same kind of uncharted territory two weeks ago.
I guess I find the notion of unlimited emotional possibilities a bit tiresome… frankly it can be very difficult with the ones I’ve already got.
At any rate, once I know more I’ll share it. This whole thing has been a big learning experience, and while it can be rather disconcerting getting thrown a curveball I am someone who is always eager to learn something new. I can’t say this is the way I wanted to learn it, but it is too late to look back now.