Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scrutiny Plus Insecurity Equals Full Blown Anxiety

What is up with scrutiny?

Here is the definition that I found in the dictionary.

scru·ti·ny - noun

1. close, careful, searching examination or inspection

2. careful study or surveillance

3. a searching look

Scrutiny Plus Insecurity Equals Full Blown Anxiety

When you are on the receiving end of scrutiny it is unnerving. Personally, I’d rather not know when someone is giving me the once over. It’s annoying to watch as others make a careful inspection of you, down to your shoes and then back up again. You’ve got two choices, either look away and pretend you didn’t notice or maybe you really don’t care. Or like a car wreck, unable to divert your eyes no matter how uncomfortable it makes you, you look and wait for the judgment.

What information can someone get out of this type of scrutiny, the searching look kind of scrutiny?

Checking out the clothes, rich or cheap. Checking out the shoes, old or designer, polished or scuffed. Checking out for jewelry, gaudy or rich. Checking out the hair, salon or do-it-yourself. Checking out the body, frumpy or slim or better than mine. Checking out the demeanor, how’s she taking my scrutiny, my eyes laughing at what I see, my smirk. Have I made her uncomfortable yet or not? Haven’t made my mind up on this one yet or totally not worth my time.

I used to care. I have had many full blown anxiety attacks in the past, precisely because I cared what people thought of me. What a retched existence and complete waste of time it was. It took me many years to “get over it.”

Any admonition, any criticism, any giggle, any finger pointing, any smirk, any dismissal, any cruelty were all a sword that cut very deeply. I reeled in mental anguish. I felt physical pain although no one inflicted it upon me. What a baby I was. Where was my backbone? Why did I allow people to affect me this way?


I learned that many people wear masks. These masks give a sense of security and help folks cope with the outside world. I’ve had long term relationships with co-workers and friends, yet I know nothing personal about some of them. They have never revealed an intimate thought or moment. They are very guarded and trust very little to others. These people are closed.

When it’s a conscious choice, I find this trait to be admirable at times, the fact that they can reveal so little when others will inappropriately tell you their most intimate history within the first few minutes of meeting you. But there are those that are hiding who they are, because they cannot take the judgment they perceive will come.

There are those that play the superficial game. Every thing is light and airy. They want to be perceived as nice and very sweet. No serious conversations, lots of joking around, quick quips and put-downs all in a friendly way. Any details are given in stereotypical terms, such as complaints of the “ball and chain” or “the kid’s are driving me crazy” or “the boss is such a jerk.” They want to join the Club of Humanity, but in all its banality. These people are afraid that if you scratch the surface, you will find them out and this must be avoided at all costs.

Then there are those that have learned through experience, that being open opens you to cruelty. Maybe they felt different or didn’t even know they were different, until their fellow human beings began pointing it out.

These people have endured a lot of mental abuse and have learned to steel themselves against any future scrutiny. They have learned to step back and scrutinize others carefully, untrusting, as though they are waiting for what will inevitably come, the judgment of their person and eventual cruelty. They’ve learned others will wait until their guard is down and so, are vigilant in protecting themselves from others by perhaps pushing them away first.

Others are paralyzed trying to avoid the scrutiny. They won’t try new things because the need to be perfect or because it attracts unwanted attention. They don’t want to be judged for their ineptitude, mistakes, or missteps. Decisions they make are based entirely on what others will think or say. They make no move without the advice and guidance of someone else, so blame cannot be placed at their feet. They busy themselves distracting others from looking too closely.

I practiced all four. I was closed. I kept it light and airy. I waited for the inevitable. I became immobile.

I was a disappointment to me. Human beings were a disappointment to me. They are such fragile creatures resorting to all kinds of subterfuge. Their egos required so much. It was hard to be around them and I was finding it to be very hard to be around me. All that I had experienced led me conclude that maybe they were right about me.

Social Scrutiny - Suck it!

After years, and finally growing up, I realized that other people didn’t matter. What they thought or their opinions of me were inconsequential. I made a conscious choice to choose whom I allowed into my life. I would no longer accept the negativity that was so eagerly offered. My time on earth is finite and precious and each moment would not be stolen or given away again. I was able to get rid of my fear of social scrutiny. That’s what happens when you finally grow up and gain experience and perhaps wisdom, you no longer fear social scrutiny.

Hide and Don't Seek

But the one scrutiny that I was most afraid of, terrified really was the scrutiny of the one I loved the most. This relationship is the most crucial in my life. It means that I allowed someone to come very close to see my vulnerabilities, to even scrutinize.

In the beginning of the relationship, its as though you are holding your breath perpetually, waiting for the judgment that must come. The facades go up, morphing and reinventing yourself into whatever you think he will want in a woman. When he stays, you realize that you’ve done such a good job hiding your true self that you either keep hiding or slowly reveal who you really are, dreading the inevitable outcome.

If the relationship lasts years and the goofy, manic, crazy woman that you are is finally revealed and you still haven’t scared him off, you start to relax a little, but the doubt remains. He has seen all vulnerabilities, your emotional being. He has had time to scrutinize and has made the conscious decision that he wants you. You wonder why.

Throughout all this, add the physical hiding. Women have a tendency to hide their bodies from their husbands when it’s not the same body he made love to in the beginning. Just as the emotional wall drops, we build a physical one. We hide in the dark. Rarely do we disrobe in front of our mates anymore. If the sex is good, it helps to delay the scrutiny a little longer, so the doubt continues. Maybe that’s why he stays.

But I was hiding a deeper secret about the person that was me. The person I was hiding from further inspection not only had a lot of emotional issues but deep character flaws.

He must have known, but we both pretended that they were not there. As long as we both pretended, I felt that my flaws were hidden and there was no incentive to correct them. I imagined that he didn’t even know the depth of my flaws.

Since the scrutiny didn’t come, I could imagine that he chose not to care, that he loved me enough. I realized that years of this would definitely turn him off, his patience would be tested, and I waited for the inevitable.

I agonized, had anxiety attacks, I judged, questioned his judgment, his reasons for staying. I did everything in my power to make the inevitable happen because he grew as a person, and I didn’t. I did little to change and this was my biggest flaw. He would finally know who I really was and decide he had had enough. I would lose him. He would finally turn that scrutinizing eye and look deep within and know, or more terrifying, verbalize what a useless human being I was.

But it didn’t happen. His acceptance, his understanding, his deep love for me was real. The scrutiny was comprehensive, his knowledge complete, but he had a need for me. He wanted me for the forever. He made me his One. He made me his queen. This and this alone saved my life and my sanity.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Darkness - Not a Peaceful Hiding Place, Treading Depression

Darkness, in the dark clouds on the horizon. I see them coming. Can I dispel them before they get too close? I get depressed by just seeing them there. Go away.

Darkness is not a peaceful hiding place. It’s not a time to sleep. It is a tumultuous place. Pandora’s box is opened every night. The pain was searing, I seek distraction to quiet the emotions and the never-ending stream of questions and answers that are in my head.

Depression comes as dark moments. It envelops me completely. No matter what direction I turn there is total darkness. It is my darkest moment, the moment when my mind turns from peace to anguish.

It is a heavy presence. It presses on my head and drapes over my shoulders. It throws its hood over my head and impedes my sight. It drapes all the way to floor.

It soon becomes warm and comfortable. Soon the abnormal seems normal. The paradox becomes truth.

But I am treading. Why am I treading? My darkness has volume. Besides completeness there is depth and breath to the darkness like a vast sea.

But I never look down. Why not?

It was a place I did not want to go. I couldn’t acknowledge that space. It was as though I was treading above a slow moving vortex; one I couldn’t see but could feel was there.

No, I look straight ahead, turning my head back and forth looking. I’m barely there above the darkness. Why is there no darkness when I look up? Why am I treading? Am I trying to survive?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dark Clouds on the Horizon

My depression would come in that way, like dark clouds on the horizon. I could see the stormy clouds and sometimes tried to avoid them by distraction. I would try to build up a high-pressure system to keep the low one at the horizon line. I could sense them. Could I talk myself out of it? Could something happen that would shift the winds in another direction?

Other times the depression would come in a snap. A word, a voice, a comment, a delay, a laugh, an interruption, a dream was the trigger and I would hear the sound “snap” in my head and my neck would involuntarily twitch to the right, or was it my neck that snapped from the sheer force of it?

Keeping the clouds at bay meant distractions. It’s a human’s answer to an overactive negative mind. I need to stop thinking and during daylight hours there is more than enough distractions to keep my mind busy with other pressing matters. Attending class, doing homework, later working at the office, reading practically non-stop, doing sudoku for hours, and watching television long into the night until exhaustion put me to sleep.

If the storm clouds stayed away, I was relieved that only a few stray clouds rolled in and created only a few days of shadow.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Remission from Depression

When did the torture stop?

How different I feel than a decade ago. My mind was in constant anguish, a fiery anguish I myself kept lit for many years. I feel so different now. The torture I put myself through, the constant barrage of negative thoughts I spoon-fed to my psyche no longer plagues me today. I no longer feel that my life is a waste. But I am a realist, so in essence I still do, but I don’t seem to care about it anymore. I almost revel that my supposed punishment for a life wasted is not what I expected. What happened? Why did I stop berating myself? When did it shift? How did I stop the torture?

Was it when I looked around and found that the things that were supposed to go wrong didn’t? Was it when I realized that who I really was had become known finally and totally, and I still found acceptance? Was it when after living almost a half century I realize that my self-loathing was a fantasy? No. It was real enough, but why did it change? What happened to those thoughts? What happened to the hate?

Was it because I was becoming older? My anguish tempered because I no longer felt I had to compete. Were my hormones changing relieving me of my mental pain?

Was it that I still had love and will always have love from my man? Yes, that helped so much. I love him for waiting it out with me.

At one time I loathed him for it, for his apparent shortsightedness, for his unceasing gestures to soothe me, for his total lack of judgment in this need of his for such a girl, his weakness. My self-centered loathing did not deter him. Maybe his complete acceptance was really the example, the lesson I had to learn. Was that when I stopped the torture?

My soul and mind are taking a break. They are finally taking a few cleansing breaths, deeply inhaling while they can.

I think I can say that I’m in remission.

Are there dark clouds on the horizon of my mind? I can’t see any, at least not of my own making. I don’t feel any either. The knowledge was certain a decade before that they would be there again, dark clouds signaling the approach of a tsunami that would hit shore with a deafening crash and awash my brain with mayhem. But now I don’t feel any doom.

With fifty years behind me, the scale of life is tipping. My experiences are tallied and the scale tips more on heaven than in hell. In truth, my life overall has been pretty good. My life as an adult has been better, so much more than that of my youth. There is a distance now from my youth and my thinking processes of that time.

As an adult I am a different version of myself, at least it is different. I can live with different.