Friday, April 7, 2017

This week hasn't been great, and that's okay.

I live an anxious life. I always have, and while I'm mostly managing anxiety better than ever these days, it'll always be a part of me.

When I started blogging, I knew I would write about this eventually. I've eluded to it in some posts, and goodness knows I think about it all the damn time. Writing about this in the midst of an anxiety spiral means this may not be the most eloquent writing, but I also have come to know I need to accept that and write anyway.

I knew it was going to be a bad week because I can literally feel my anxiety. It's been bubbling for a few weeks. In my mid twenties, anxiety took up residence in my ribs. It's actually a legit condition called costochrondritis, and it means the cartilage in between the junctions of my ribs inflame. Weird, right? When I first started feeling it, I went to WebMD, and it told me I was having a heart attack, so that was neat. When I went to the doctor and got an x-ray, nothing showed up, so that was cool, especially when I got the bill for my ghost pain. When it was finally figured out, it was good to at least know there was indeed something there. However, it's discomfort is also what tells me that things aren't going well. I suppose it's good my body gives me a heads up, but the process is anything but enjoyable.

Anxiety for me is a million things. It's not one tipping point, rather it's literally all the things. It's all the worst case scenarios that ever were running through my head simultaneously. Because if I have everything planned out, nothing can surprise me, and I maintain control, right? (Spoiler Alert - Wrong.) It's an endless to-do list that I've built for myself with deadlines that I won't just meet, but beat because that's just what I do. It's saying yes to all the things because I worry what the alternative is and how I'll be seen if I don't do it all. It's feeling like everyone is going to find out I don't have it all together and doing everything I can to overachieve to ensure that never, ever happens. It's a Groundhog Day scenario with a loop of all the feels over and over and over again. . .

Nearly a year and a half ago, things got to a pretty unmanageable point. I left a job that had driven me to my unhealthiest. The most terrifying moment came in November 2015 as my time in the role was winding down. It's a day I don't talk about often, but I think it's important if I'm going to really talk about this stuff. After a really terrible day, I was driving home. As I drove, I was processing my extreme frustration. As a commuter, my car-time was often my destress time. However, with this job, it had started to become my overstress time. As I drove that day, I looked in my rear view mirror to see flashing lights. I calmly pulled to the side of the highway which in retrospect was odd because I'm all emotion, all the time. The officer walked up to my window and said, "Is everything okay?" I looked him in the eyes and said in an extremely calm demeanor, "Honestly, I was just thinking about work." He explained to me that my driving was erratic, and he was concerned. He didn't write me a ticket in that moment. He just wanted to make sure I was okay. The truth? I obviously wasn't. Knowing the way stress and anxiety overtook me as I drove was terrifying. It still is.

At the start of 2016, I started therapy. It had been a literal year in the making. In Fall 2014, I'd gotten a recommendation for a therapist. I'd gotten "busy" and had to cancel my initial appointment and never rescheduled. For months on months on months, I wrote the therapist's name and phone number on my weekly to-do list. And ultimately? I actually didn't call. I brokered a deal with my husband that if he'd call for me, I'd do some other chore. I'm grateful he didn't tell me how ridiculous it was I couldn't find the courage to dial ten numbers, and even more grateful he loves me for better or worse to help me when I need it most.

Starting therapy was the scariest and most comforting thing I could have done for myself. I'd been to therapy in high school, but this was going to be more raw. Anxiety was the core of me. For 2016, I was in therapy every other week working through my mess and on me. It was relearning my default responses. It was understanding how to manage my own thoughts. It was learning to live in the moment instead of the comparisons and FOMO moments that were the fuel to my anxious "I'm not good enough" fire. It was learning I had become my own worst enemy, but teaching myself I also could (and would!) turn it all around.

When I started therapy, most days were anxious days. As I progressed through the process, things got better. I learned how to say "No" again. In the workplace, I'd actually forgotten how to do that. I was finally able to acknowledge that I'm really good at what I do. For years, I had lived in a world where I didn't actually think I had any talent or skills, but also worked tirelessly to prove that I did. Therapy helped me see (to paraphrase Glinda the Good Witch) that I had the power all along. I just had to realize that for myself. I even learned how to accept compliments without analysis of if the compliment giver was actually telling the truth. These all seem like basic and reasonable skillsets now, but I'd lost them along the way.

At the start of this year, I felt confident enough in my anxiety management to go at it alone. I don't think that's a forever arrangement, but for right now, I wanted to give it a go. 

For the last few weeks, I haven't been managing well. My OG defaults have taken over, and I'm doing too much. I didn't realize it in the moment, but now that I'm on the other side (oh, hey, inflamed chest), I see the error of my ways. 

The first thing I did was acknowledge I wasn't okay. I told myself, and I told those in my life who needed to know where I was at. Now, I'm working to reset. As far as I've come, I'm not quite as okay as I thought I was. I was reminded this week that anxiety is always going to be a process I work through. Right now, I'm still trying to dig through the muck of the week. The triggers for it have come fast and furious, and I sort of let them pile up as my body (and mind) are now reminding me. I'm now in a more active management role and confident in what I can take on, so we shall see. And if I don't get where I need to be, I'll just keep going. After all, I'm nothing if not resilient.

There's really no clean way to end this post. It won't be the last time I have a week like this. I don't know if I'll always write about it, but I do know that for today, I feel a whole lot better airing my anxiety for all to see.