This submission is from Alex Forshaw, who blogs at Married, With Aspergers.
POINT: I get anxious.
COUNTERPOINT: “You’ve got to face your fears” is what I get told. “There’s nothing to be scared of.” “You’re such a (insert term of abuse such as wuss, or worse)” “Grow a pair!”
Somebody who is 1.8 m tall and 90 kg (5′ 11″ and 200 lbs) isn’t supposed to get frightened by loud voices and sudden noises, by a roomful of strangers, by confrontation. Especially looking like I used to with leather biker jacket, heavy boots, beard and long hair.
After all, it’s easy. Just say what you feel. Don’t worry about what other people think.
ACTUAL POINT: Facing my fears is like living my worst nightmare. The anxiety levels rapidly climb through the roof and I shut down, unable to function because of the emotional overload. As ischemgeek wrote recently, “I’m scared of it. Therefore, it’s scary.” You can throw abuse at me for my fears and I’ll resent you for it, but I won’t stop being anxious.
As for how I used to look: that was just a disguise to hide my inner self from the world. Quite successfully as it turned out. I looked big and tough. It was protective coloration: in reality I’m quiet, gentle and passive. But in that armor I could walk into some place I didn’t know feeling like I was projecting “Don’t f*ck with me.” Trying to keep people at a distance.
And finally, as for saying what I feel… Half the time I don’t know what I feel. Identifying my emotions takes time and effort because I have alexithymia. It’s never easy. And in the grip of anxiety my (spoken) words fail me. Other people’s opinions are the least of my worries: it’s their potential to harm me that ties my thoughts in knots.
Anxiety is part of me, part of my instinctual reaction to perceived threat. It makes me risk-averse and that isn’t a bad thing. It helps me avoid situations that might prove dangerous.
CONCLUSION: I get anxious, and that’s ok.