Wednesday, August 24, 2016

turn it off.

when i was in college, my family and i were driving back from my grandparents' lake house late at night after a fireworks display. we were in the car that my brother and i shared in high school and my father informed us, about halfway home, that we were five miles away from hitting the 100,000 mile mark.

for anybody else who pays attention to that kind of thing, this would've been an exciting moment. in 2006 my old minivan broke 100,000 miles and i was upset when my dad didn't inform me. (we were driving to new york and i was asleep.)

i remember my dad telling us about the 100,000 mile mark very vividly. we were on lincolnway, almost to columbia city, and it was going on midnight. i was sitting behind my dad, my mom was asleep in the front seat, and my brother was next to me listening to his ipod.

but i was not excited about the car's milestone. i was absolutely terrified.

you've probably seen something like this before.

i just swiped this off twitter, where i saw it about five minutes ago. hence the post. 

for all intents and purposes, worrying is a waste of time. worrying doesn't actually change anything. it does mess with your mind and steal your happiness. all of this is true.

but that doesn't mean that i don't cringe when i see posts like this on twitter, facebook, someone's perfect instagram, whatever. 

every time i see something like this, i cringe.

my anxiety is not a secret. i was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder when i was sixteen and it explained my entire childhood. in third grade my teacher told me to take an envelope to the secretary in the front office. i got halfway there before being absolutely frozen with fear. i paced up and down the hallway, holding the envelope in my increasingly sweaty hands before finally deciding that i couldn't go inside. i walked to the office, crouching so they couldn't see me through the windows, and left the envelope on the visitors' bench in the commons. 

that was in 2000. i have no idea what was in that envelope or if it ever made it to the secretary. 

i had always put that story out of mind, and i've never told anyone about it, not even my parents or my boyfriend. but when a psychiatrist in 2006 told me that i had GAD, that was the first thing that i thought of; a terrified ten year old too afraid to walk into the front office to deliver an envelope.

many other stories come to mind, most of them dealing with elementary school and middle school and situations that i could never explain and therefore never spoke of.

driving through the country at midnight with my father telling me that my car was about to reach 100,000 miles, my first thought was that as soon as the car reached that milestone, it was going to break down in the middle of nowhere. as soon as the odometer hit 100,000.00, the car was going to stop. there would be a clanking noise and it would cease to run.

i thought on this for ten seconds, and then my mind zoomed into overdrive. it wouldn't just stop working and we'd be stuck calling AAA. no, the car was going to crash. it was going to roll over and flip. the windows would break and we'd have to crawl out and there would be screaming and broken bones.

i thought on that for ten seconds and my mind kept going. it wasn't going to stop running or flip, it was going to fucking explode.

if you're thinking that this is irrational, you are absolutely right. but to me, these thoughts were completely rational.

i spent the next five miles in a state of sheer panic. i didn't want to alert anyone that i was so scared i almost shit myself, so i sat quietly, trying not to make too much noise as i hyperventilated, thinking about what the afterlife was going to be like when the car exploded and my family members and i died. hopefully instantly. 

we passed 100,000 miles. nothing happened. we made it home. i went to bed and woke up the next day. my life did not change.

the summer that my anxiety took a gigantic step backwards and dragged me with it (2013) i brought this up with my therapist. she instructed me to go get a small journal at the store and write down everything i was ever anxious about, including anxiety trains, like the car train. often one small worry will spark another until a gigantic spiral takes place, and she wanted me to document those.

i kept that up for literally half an hour. anything more than that was too overwhelming.

i don't have that journal anymore, but i remember writing the list of things i was anxious about for ten solid minutes. it was almost four pages long and i wasn't even doing anything. i was just sitting at home listening to regina spektor.

i've said this before, but i related to jenny lawson's memoir let's pretend this never happened when she talked about her experience with GAD and how irrational her worries were. she spoke of how she carried crackers in her pockets in case she was ever trapped in an elevator for an extended period of time or in case she was attacked by a flock of birds. the elevator scenario is a lot more likely, having been stuck in an elevator myself for a short period of time. (you don't need to know about THAT panic attack.) she dealt with her anxiety by preparing for irrational situations. 

last week i had an ingrown toenail removed. a normal person would call their podiatrist to have it removed. here's what i did.

1. i realised i had an ingrown toenail.
2. i thought about what would happen if my big toe died and had to be removed and what would replace it, since it's hard to balance without a big toe.
3. i thought about how quickly the rest of my foot would die if i didn't call my podiatrist (phone calls give me anxiety) and how long i could get away with it.
4. would i call in time to save my leg?
5. yes. i would. i would only need to have my foot amputated.
6. what kind of prosthetic would i get? do they have blades for just feet? 
7. what if something went wrong with the amputation? that happens on grey's anatomy ALL THE TIME. 
8. what kind of shoes could i wear with a prosthetic foot? i'd really prefer the blade. it would be better for when i weightlift with my mother.

THEN i called my podiatrist. he removed the ingrown nail. everything is fine.


i tried giving up worrying once. it involved me looking at a pair of window hangings and thinking about how easy it would be to hang myself with them. 

so i stuck with worrying.

the me that i am meant to be is an anxious woman who takes antidepressants and has irrational thoughts all the fucking time. i will always worry to the point where it sometimes becomes unbearable. i will always have irrational thoughts, but now that i'm on medication and have an anxiety toolbox, i can go through them, realise they're irrational, and then move on without completely losing my mind. i don't keep a worry journal anymore, but i am starting a mental health bullet journal to help me get through online graduate school this year. 

there's one thing that the worry post got wrong, and it's that worrying can change things. worrying changed my college major and kept me from getting my teaching license. worrying keeps me from going after opportunities and chasing my dreams. it changes my behaviour and sometimes makes me impossible to live with or be around. worrying makes me feel worthless sometimes, and seeing posts like the one pictured above makes me feel even more worthless, mostly because i can't just turn my worrying off. 

i've had my anxiety my entire life. i cannot stop worrying. that is not an option for me. and i get upset when people or posts tell me to stop worrying, to take away a piece of myself. "worrying is a waste of time" makes me feel like i personally am a waste of time. of course i'm not my anxiety, but my anxiety is a part of me that will never go away, and i'm still coming to terms with that. 

i'm coming to terms with a lot of things right now. mostly that the olympics are over.

it was a really good olympics. 


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