As we’ve been going through this series on Anxiety’s Tricks, it’s my goal to always try to relate each lie of anxiety, to how it feels to an abuse survivor. This latest trick is a doozy, “anxiety gets power when you suffer in silence and isolation.
This one can be especially tricky for survivors because not only do we have anxiety trying to affect us in daily life as a parent, friend, spouse, and coworker, but then you add in the trauma of abuse and it can be even more difficult to handle. So first, let’s look at how silence and isolation fuel anxiety.
Fear can be a powerful tool in anxiety’s arsenal, and it uses fear to help keep you silent. It’s not that fear in itself is a bad thing; rather it’s a very healthy, normal, emotion that we are all born with to help keep us safe. Just like virtually anything else though, anxiety will use whatever it can, whenever it can to try to assert it’s power over us.
I can recall countless times when I felt a rush of anxiety, I would do one of a few sure-fire things that would help me get through the attack, or so I thought at least. My go to remedies were things like sleeping, listening to sad music, and vegging out alone watching tv for hours on end, sometimes all day and night. Even when anxiety would hit me first thing in the morning, it was nothing for me to call off work at the last-minute and just stay home alone.
The silence and isolation work hand in hand, one fuels the other. Even with music playing or endless tv shows cycling through the same channel in the background, it was still mindless enough that I was more than capable of worrying, wallowing, and over thinking everything.
The more I isolated, the easier it was to stay silent. It was an unhealthy habit that I had found myself embracing without even realizing it.
There’s also fear of reaching out, because of what people could say if we speak up. The fear of being ridiculed or misunderstood is very powerful, especially when anxiety already effects in other ways. Rather than reach out for help, and be vulnerable, staying silent and isolated seems to be the safer option. This way nobody can hurt us, right? Little do we know that anxiety is already hurting us, we just fail to see it because it’s so comfortable and familiar.
For survivors, silence and isolation are very common. The shame of knowing that someone abused us can fuel so overwhelming that we would rather not risk the potential humiliation of reaching out and asking for help.
- What will people say? Will they talk behind our back, will they say something to our face? Around others?
- What will they think? Will they inwardly judge us? Will they think less of us? Would the relationships we have with people change?
Whether or not any of those scenarios are actually realistic makes no difference, because anxiety will try to make you think that the worst is going to happen if you reach out from your solitude.
Then there’s the grooming and threats that an abuser so often uses, and yet again they used fear to keep us silent and alone. Anxiety is more than happy to use the memories of what an abuser told us, even if it was a long time ago. Often times we hear people say, “such and such was years ago, a long time ago, it doesn’t bother me anymore” or “it happened so long ago that I just lived with it and got over it”. Saying something like that to an adult survivor of abuse is very damaging. It’s like reliving the abuse all over again, no matter how long it’s been since those awful acts occurred.
Don’t give the person who abused you, that kind of power anymore. They’ve ruled your life long enough. They no longer get to say how YOU live your life, who YOU talk too, and how YOU act or react around others. They no longer get to make YOU stay silent, to feel ashamed, and to fill your life with worry about what “could” happen.
Anxiety doesn’t get to feed off of the abuse anymore either. You have the power to take that power back for yourself. Question those fears and the reasons that you are staying silent and alone. Realistically look at all of the things flying around in your head and ask yourself:
“Why am I giving into those voices and fears?” “What am I gaining by staying silent?”
Don’t listen to anxiety as it tries to tell you that everyone will make fun of you, look down on your, or that all of your relationships will be ruined. Don’t live in that fear, you deserve so much better.
Take that first step of reaching out and talking to someone, even if it’s difficult, and do it Because You Are Worth It.