It’s incredible the flood of anxiety I feel when people begin to argue.
These two people do not shout. These two people do not throw things. These two people do not hurt animals. These two people do not give each other the silent treatment later or love each other any less tomorrow.
But they do get intense with their voices. One of them is forceful and the voice raises, not in volume but in pitch. The other gets forceful and uses “YOU” statements that I find very rude. “YOU” are not listening. “YOU” have switched what you are arguing.
These arguments always end peacefully and they love each other the same immediately after. For them, the effects are null. They argue. They debate. It’s part of what they do. Frankly, I would go so far as to say it is part of who they are as people.
But for me, the effects are longer lasting. I will be afraid of them for days. It was not directed at me; nobody is arguing or debating with me. I have already put in my noise-isolating headphones and escaped up the stairs. I have already blared music directly into my earbuds.
But the flooding of anxiety is so strong and so immediate. It’s an emergency for me, when two people argue. It is danger. It is red alert. It is unpredictable and unsafe.
They will not hurt me. The worst either of them could do to me, based on who they are and what I have seen, is to use an insulting tone of voice and say “YOU” don’t understand what I am trying to say. Or something like that. That’s the worst I’ve seen or heard from them.
But my body goes straight to fear. My body says, the monsters have surrounded me. I am prepared to run. I am prepared to hide. I am prepared to face the streets in the dark at night amongst strangers. I am prepared to kill to protect myself.
My intestines prepare to evacuate immediately. I need to run. Outdoors. I need to be one speck in an infinite darkness, alone. Unknown. Safer.
Instead, I am trying to prep for bed. I brushed my teeth. I’m listening to my music, blaring into my ears. I can hear the voices. They are calm but still firm. It’s only a difference of opinion and grilling over various scientific studies to prove one side or the other. My shoes and coat were already on (because me and one of them were about to go on a very short walk). I am ready; I want to run. I could take anxiety medicine that will help me sleep. It’s been 30 minutes, right? I could take off my shoes and coat without offending. … Or I could slip past and go on a jog into the darkness.