How To Solve Carla's Challenge of Anxiety?
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Carla currently feels as though she can never sleep due to her anxiety, and she just spent the whole night awake and working on her computer. She feels as though the moment she leaves the computer her anxiety will return, and so she avoids going to sleep even though she feels physically and mentally exhausted. For her, even 30-min of sleep is better than no sleep at all, and the problem for her is that she experiences anxiety even while sleeping, and especially when she sleeps alone. She is now beginning to think that her anxiety could be a serious disability, but she is concerned that government disability payments will not provide her with enough income to survive, so she feels that she cannot take that route.
Anxiety and Academics
Carla feels intense anxiety surrounding her school work, and she is constantly focused upon how steep the grading curve is in her class – An 80% or 90% is still considered to be an “F” in her Nursing program, and although she believes that she could study enough to pass just about any exam, her biggest fear in class is focused upon papers. She remembers that during her first year undergraduate coursework she would avoid writing papers and would compensate by taking classes or performing well on assignments that did not require the completion of an essay. Although she knows how to write a paper, she is terrified of the consequences of sharing any of her work with her professors. She stays up all night thinking about her college assignments, which strongly trigger her all-night anxiety attacks, and she stays awake in bed all night thinking about them. Again, and Again, and Again. Carla’s view is that “People may offer you their hand and try to reassure you but it does not help.”
A Need for Understanding
Carla feels that her instructors never understand her experience and just send her to a writing advisor in order to assist with the essays, but she knows that this is not the solution. Furthermore, she strongly and emphatically believes that any attempt to begin a paper will result in her working on the project for double the time allotted, and the lateness would impact her grade – This contributes to her self-described procrastination behavior. The intensely negative predictions about the future have resulted in a behavior in which she avoids her work, which impacts her performance on that work - As a result, she feels irresponsible. Carla feels that most people do not understand her anxiety problems, and she would rather say that she is sick than explain her problem, which she believes that nobody will actually understand.
In fact, the most painful of Carla’s memories includes those where her teachers and caretakers misunderstood her pain and made an inaccurate character assessment that she was lazy. She thought that perhaps she had dyslexia, but the tests came up negative, and so she continued looking for an explanation. She remembers that she has battled anxiety since her childhood and that her early life experiences have contributed to her present state of mind, where “Growing up as a child, I never had the safety and security that is necessary for a child to grow into a secure adult”. Carla both loved her mother deeply and couldn’t fully trust her, because her mother physically abused her as a child as a result of old cultural norms in the area.
The Potential Causes
She has a fairly strong understanding of why she is in her current state as she explains that “Almost all of the time I feel like I have no safety. I feel like I am here but I have to be so careful. I feel like I am 12. I feel like I have to space out on the computer, or the games on my PDA, or by constantly having something to do, just to get through life. I feel like I have no protection. Even being with him [her boyfriend] is delicate. I feel I have to be careful in what I say or do or he will get mad and leave. I always feel that way; that people will leave. I used to push people to test them and see if they would leave, and they always did. I stopped pushing, and even told people what I needed. Perhaps if I am very good then they would stay. So I bend and make accommodations and tolerate things and sacrifice things that I want and still it never seems to be enough.
My therapist wants me to realize that I am the adult now. But how can I when I still feel like 12?”
What is Carla to do?
Take a look around the site, and see if you can assemble a strategy for Carla - What have you done in the past to resolve your challenges? What have others done in the past to resolve their challenges? What is your strategy for addressing Carla's challenge? How certain are you that this strategy will work?
The subject of this story has been referred to as “Carla” for the sake of anonymity. Carla’s original story can be found at the following link: http://www.experienceproject.com/stories/Have-Anxiety-Attacks/1495960
- Anonymous Contributor