1. I don't want to give anyone the idea that I'm a big bundle of nerves all the time and am therefore not capable of doing anything, or that I need to be handled with kid gloves. I am a bundle of nerves much of the time, but I am capable as shit. And I promise you, the kid gloves only serve to make the anxiety worse. Give me your authenticity - what you really think and feel and dream about and fear and hope for and can't abide by - give me something to connect to. None of that will make me feel anxious. I promise.
2. I feel gross using the phrase, "my anxiety." Too often I've seen it used as a way people justify rudeness, flakiness, or just a general sense of discomfort. I truly believe in removing the stigma - please, God, can we get rid of the mental health stigma?? - but seeing people flippantly say, "Oh, my gawd, I am so stressed I'm literally having a panic attack. Literally." while standing in line at a coffee shop doesn't do much for the cause and makes me question the validity of using that language in my own life.
So, disclaimers presented, I guess I should tell you a little about my experience as a fairly anxious person. Here I go:
My life? It's a normal thing. I'm a normal human. (Well, maybe not completely normal, but my abnormality has less to do with anxiety and more to do with a goofy sense of humor and quirky view of the world.)
I go about my day and do my work and see my friends and family and laugh and cry and generally experience one or more anxiety episode a day. I think of these as my "anxiety responses." What am I responding to? Any number of things, really. I've started paying attention to my triggers, and have compiled a partial list for your entertainment.
A Not-At-All Comprehensive List of Things That Trigger An Anxiety Response in Stephanie
- Not getting enough sleep
- Eating sweets
- Eating some "healthy" foods (I'm lookin' at you, sweet potato)
- Not eating enough throughout the day
- My (very peaceful and gentle) alarm going off in the morning
- Slicing vegetables
- Making eye contact with another driver at an intersection
- Feeling unprepared for an upcoming event
- Feeling unprepared for a hypothetical event
- Having a busy schedule
- Having an open schedule
- Sitting at my desk at work
- Parking my car
- Coffee hour at church
- Walking in a large crowd
- Literally nothing at all
None of these items always causes an anxiety response! They just do sometimes. These are some of my general triggers. Something happens (or doesn't) and the wave of anxiety hits. I've learned to breathe through this experience, or to maybe take a nap or hit the gym. It's certainly uncomfortable, but not debilitating.
|Sometimes it feels like this.|
|Or maybe this.|
Sometimes, though - sometimes it almost is debilitating. Sometimes the wave of anxiety gets stuck in my chest. Every so often I blow something from that list way out of proportion, or maybe more than one combine to make a SUPER RESPONSE that I can't seem to shake. Or maybe something happens, something bad or good (like signing with an agent!) that trips my brain up enough that my body can't tell the difference between fear and excitement so I end up stuck in the anxiety cycle. Or maybe - and this is the worst of all - maybe I find myself in a waiting season of life.
I am a doer. I do. And when I do, I do well. I am confident and capable. Powerful.
|One could even say I'm super.|
But when I've done all I can and am stuck waiting? When I'm chained in the train yard when I should be powering along the tracks? That's when the anxiety kicks in. This anxiety:
This is the anxiety that shuts me down. This is when my skin is electric, jolting not only me, but those near by. This is when I don't want anyone to touch me, because even a pat on the shoulder might tear apart the tenuous grasp I have on myself, and I might actually explode. This is the anxiety that makes me forget how to breathe. It is the voice that tells me I will never be good enough. That no matter what I do, it won't be enough. It traps me in a loop, endlessly caught between the need to DO and the knowledge that it won't be enough. I become a malfunctioning oscillating fan, clicking over and over again, unable to move to the next position.
Until I remind myself to breathe.
And breathe again.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
And then I text my mom, or I walk through my office and find my dad, and I say to them, "I am feeling anxious about ________."
Suddenly the fist around my heart relaxes, and the knot in my chest loosens just enough. I am okay again, at least until the next time it hits.
I'm learning, thankfully. I am discovering things that help. Things like talking about it: telling someone, joking to the people at the gym about a workout being a good place to direct my anxiety, laughing at the fact that, "surprise, surprise, I'm anxious today." It helps. And so do a lot of other things.
Look! I made another list!
A Not-At-All Comprehensive List of Things That Relieve Anxiety In Stephanie
- Talking to my parents
- Being with loved ones
- Public speaking
- Working out
- Eating a nutritious meal
- Taking a nap
- Laughing REALLY hard
- Roller coasters!
- Talking to my therapist (duh!)
- Seeing people talk about things they really love
- Sitting at my grandma's graveside
See? Normal. Ish.
Friends, I am doing well - so freaking well - and I hope you can see that. I hope you are doing well, too. If you're not, well, drop me a line. And maybe we can breathe together.