For at least two years now my life has been occupied, to a large degree, by self-discovery.
Much of this discovery has been painful or, at the very least, uncomfortable. I’m not sorry for these discoveries. The end result is usually good. I guess I would equate it to the absolute horror of an annual performance review that is followed up by a pay rais
The discoveries haven’t all been problematic. Often, I find where my thoughts travel to be exotic, hopeful, and accepting. I am far from kind to myself, but I have also distanced myself from my cruel and relentless internal voice. She’s still there. Sometimes, I can feel her resentment at being locked away, but locked away she is.
Unease has been my constant companion. Anxiety infiltrated every part of me and became background noise. Had I been asked 30 years ago if I were an anxious person, I would have laughed it off. 20 years ago, I would have insisted that my life was happy and I was mostly serene. 10 years ago, I would have freely admitted to having depression issues, but even then, I didn’t realize how anxiety had been affecting me for most of my life.
Now? I have recognized that anxiety has been my BFF for most of my life and I’m exploring that relationship.
This morning, I sat on my deck, and looked at the wreck that is my “not-flower” bed. I went through an exercise that I’ve been practicing for a while. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and pay attention to how I am feeling. Am I anxious? I don’t always recognize it right away because anxiety is so familiar to me. I usually determine that I’m at least a little anxious. Then, I try to work through the reasons why. Sometimes, those reasons are neon signs and other times they dance just out of my reach.
This morning, I saw anxiety as a cauldron.
Our heads are filled with gray matter, right? So it makes sense that the contents of the cauldron are gray.
Most days, the goopy, steaming contents of my brain simmer at a quiet, bubbling rate. The gentle, popping bubbles are my anxiety at it’s most functional level. Thoughts escape when bubbles pop.
That project at work? You’re totally going to tank that project.
You have got to get that cracked windshield replaced.
The house will never be ready to put on the market in the spring.
Seriously, how many weekends are you willing to go without doing any real housework? I think this is your record.
Some days, however, some days the heat fluctuates and the cauldron bubbles more violently. Large gray bubbles rise and pop releasing a flood of thoughts that can barely be processed before the next wave of fears are released.
You’re very ill, you know. You’ve been ill for months. This is serious.
Maybe, dying serious.
By the time the doctor figures this shit out, it’s going to be too late.
We can’t afford for me to be this sick.
How badly have I fucked up the kids?
What if I lose my job?
No one really loves you.
I have accepted that I can’t control this. I have no control over the spikes in my anxiety. The fact that I cannot control anxiety, invokes feelings of inadequacy. Even shame. Why? Why can’t I just stop? This is another failure.
Accepting that I have very little say in when my anxiety flares up is freeing. I know it will happen. I understand that outside forces sometimes triggers anxiety, but mostly, it’s me.
If I look up at the cauldron at the person stirring the brew, then I see that it is me and I’m wearing a hat. The severity of my anxiety depends entirely on whether the hat I am wearing is black or white.
I am working very hard to make peace with both.
Getting angry with myself for allowing my anxiety to race out of control has not been effective. Ignoring the fears and shoving them into boxes is not only ineffective, but damaging.
I feel the way I feel. I have to let it happen. Then I get to decide where to go from there.
I really have been freaking out about my health. I am completely convinced that my summer of hyperthyroidism is the forefront to what will bring my early demise. I accept that I feel this way and until my doctor or whatever doctor figures out what the fuck is going on, I will probably continue to feel this way. I just have to make room because constantly fighting these thoughts is so goddamn exhausting.
I am in no way suggesting that I am giving my tacit agreement to these thoughts by not fighting them. I am merely acknowledging them and accepting their presence. When I am ready to show them out of the door, I will.
It occurred to me this morning that I’ve been railing against anxiety for a while now. Anxiety is a dick. I hate anxiety.
Yet, anxiety is a part of me. The constant battle only has one casualty. My peace of mind. I’m tired of hating something that I can’t even completely define.
I accept this.
I have no idea what to do with this information.
I do know that just writing this has brought my cauldron back to a low simmer.
That’s a start.