I’ve spent a few good weeks now working on my anxiety in a quiet way, in a private way. I’ve worked not through challenging myself in the obvious areas (go to the gym! Pick up a textbook!), instead strengthening one of my my support systems, the warm, soft cushion that keeps me safe in the roller coaster that is not just anxiety, but life as a whole.
What I mean is, my boyfriend came with me to therapy! (Thank you, boyfriend!)
Never in my life did I expect to ever date a guy brave enough to go to therapy with me! Boyfriend is absolutely one in seven billion!
It’s been bliss living in a fairy world with him, my kind and completely charming best friend, who somehow memorized everything he learned in that therapist’s office about my anxious heart. I may not be religious, but people like him bring to mind some big kind alien looking out for me. I hope to keep appreciating boyfriend, returning his love, and paying it forward.
Still, somehow, I am often afraid that cuddly time with boyfriend is.. a guilt-ridden waste of time. Don’t ask me how this is possible – an anxious mind can be an illogical mind!
Not that humans are or necessarily should be especially logical anyway! see:
I am afraid many, many things I do are a waste of time. That if they make me especially happy, they will somehow rob me of my ability to handle the especially difficult troubles in life.
“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” Dumbledore said – and did he ever speak to my anxiety!
So, I? I should never choose easy, for it can never be right. With that in mind, boy, did the Dark Times come. Black or white. Easy or right. Choose. Choose and suffer. Feel pain to hopefully be right, be ashamed if you catch yourself in happiness. Choose!
I’ve thought this way for a very very long time, with no alternative in sight. I may change what I did on the outside, but this? This I held in my heart. This I still hold in my heart. But something else is inching its way in.
Today, another idea brightened me, shedding a warm light on everything. It is hard to say exactly where it started, though I’m sure it has to do with my family and my boyfriend’s love, the promise of upcoming adventure that motivates me like nothing else (Italia!), or some amazing books which I bought second hand, Walk Out Walk On by Meg Wheatley and Deborah Frieze as well as Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser.
I’m no book critic, but in my humble opinion I recommend both for anyone needing a little hope, and I also recommend used bookstores everywhere that have shown me wisdom in their dusty shop windows and then practically given it away for free (which given the cost of therapy I’m sure we can all use, haha).I cannot say that everything I read in these books, or any books I read, spoke to me, but I will say this: Walk Out Walk On will give you hope that you are not a failure for living differently from how you expected, in a way that is truer and more beautiful to you.
When it comes to Broken Open, with its descriptions of the many losses in life that may allow you to grow and blossom, I personally read between the lines was that there is tremendous joy that I can appreciate when not in a crisis, that maybe I can “stop sleepwalking” now, and discover some of the important things in life before death and disaster uncover them for me.
When did your anxiety really start? I’ve said ‘beginning of this year, things just got worse…’. I’ve said, ‘the year I turned 15 was difficult, I had wisdom tooth surgery and after I stopped the codeine pills, everything became too much’.
I’ve said many things and I’ve been talking, really, about the symptoms and not the cause. A short talk with my grandfather, for example, reveals that the signs were there much earlier. Procrastination for example, which I now realize was an early example of avoidance on my part.
But why, but why? As I write I don’t really know if I’m brave enough to say, and although I’ve known for a while the gist of it, it came to me today, the exact mechanism by which my guilt drives my anxiety, and drives the pattern of avoiding seemingly dangerous things that gives anxiety its strength.
When I was very young, an adult in my life tried very hard to help me reach my potential in terms of traditional accomplishment. Would my life be on a path of awards for academic excellence, of early entry to school, of discipline? This is what this presence wanted very hard to me. Like many people who have a child, they saw the unique spark in that child and believed it was important to do everything in their power to make it grow.
Which is where things went ever so slightly off the rails already, because no one ever can, nor ever will, make another human being’s spark brighter. The spark within us is already infinitely bright, already beyond all of our wildest imaginations. The only thing a person can do for another is to let them shine.
I think this is all I will say about this matter for now.
To my loved ones, if ever you come across this, I just want you to know that I am grateful for all the blessings you have provided me. Any mention of my early years is only meant to help myself and others with anxiety heal, not to hurt anybody.
I want to finish with this quote that a friend showed me today.
“Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.”
I hope we all find that which is gold within ourselves.
It’s 3:55 am, and everything is very still.
My de-stress playlist* is playing gently.
My boyfriend is over, dozing nearby, so kindly, so peacefully, just keeping me company. It’s been a fun day, an unproductive day – you might say. I am behind in school. I am behind on all my courses, with doctor’s notes for the anxiety.
And usually? I feel SUPER MEGA EXTREME GUILT SUPREME about this situation.
But not tonight.
Because tonight? Tonight I got a little thrill from organizing a paragraph in one of my papers that is due. I am a person who loves learning, and lately my anxiety had stripped all of that joy of my school experience, had made of it an impossible test, a loaded die made so that I cannot win. That little thrill means that maybe spending my days purposefully relaxing and trying to reconnect with friends and exercise ARE what I’m supposed to be doing right now. Not a shameless indulgence, a necessary health practice. Maybe I’m getting a little bit of what I lost of myself back.
This morning was rough. I woke up and I didn’t want to get out of bed at all. Through some magic and trickery I did, and – it does work! If you can get out of bed and brush your teeth, the next step – breakfast, work, class, a date with a friend – is never as hard as it seemed before you got out of bed. Another little trick I tried today was dares with myself. “A sad girl doesn’t make smoothies,” I dared, then smugly whipped one up. “A sad girl doesn’t do all the dishes in the sink!”. Then most outrageously, “A sad girl doesn’t wear polka dot pants!!”
I shivered and slid them on, tearing my eyes away from my very cozy sad day sweat pants.
I looked at the clock. It was just before noon. Not bad! I thought. Okay, not sad girl. Time to make that phone call to that course coordinator. It will be okay, I reasoned with myself, a sad girl would have trouble with this – but that’s not who you’re going to be today.
And call I did. But my voice came out small, confused. I was easily torn down, reading so much into the smallest remark, the tiniest hint of negativity was a dagger through me. I got off the phone as quickly as I could, promising to call back.
The anxiety was at full tilt and it was inescapable. I made phone call after phone call. Mom, boyfriend, R., boyfriend, Mom, Mom, MOM. Please call me, please, please, please, I texted my boyfriend as I shifted back into a terrible loop of thoughts, all ending in worthless. I headed to an emergency appointment with a crisis counselor in the community because I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think anything good, anything helpful.
And it helped. She’s calling me in two days to check in.
Then I had lunch with one dear friend, dinner with two others. Had cups of tea and pretended to do homework and giggled at everything.
And just like I’ve been told, feelings and actions go hand in hand. I had fun – and now I can make a step of progress towards this smelly old paper.
Everything will be alright, I remember.
So now I’ll look over this outline. Then I’ll sleep on it, and maybe have ideas for the paragraphs in the morning.
The human mind can do wonderful things, if you are kind to it.
*songza app playlist called Sleepytime Acoustic Guitar, I meditate to it, it’s got such a lovely soft rolling feel to it! Try it out 🙂