In which I ramble about anxiety


I’m not going to lie to y’all: I’m all over the place right now.

Which end is up?
Which end is down?

I was doing really well in advance of the move, but Spencer has been away this week and . . . I’m having a tough time.

Why is it so hard for me to say that — that I’m struggling? We’re used to putting on a brave face. Many people in my life are dealing with truly tough things: illness, grief, job loss. When I stack my “problems” next to theirs, they look wholly inadequate. Silly. #firstworldproblems, you know?

And I don’t want to complain. Or look bratty. Or selfish. So I say little, smile, keep going . . . but inside, all that “nothing” has been hard. I’ve been keeping it in.

Spencer has been gone. He’s been out on business before, but I was still living at home then — so I spent that week eating my parents’ home-cooking and generally doing my normal thing. But this? Now? A week before our move? I’ve been alone in the apartment, obsessing and worrying and wondering. Trying to pack but getting too overwhelmed to do much of anything. All the ambitions I had for the week have evaporated, and I feel guilty and sick knowing I could have done so much but chose to avoid it all instead.

But it’s Thursday, I keep telling myself. I still have time. I can pack tonight, check on the new house, get some things together. The week hasn’t been “wasted.”

I think I just needed a break.

And a chance for some forthrightness. Is that a word? I’m making it a word. Because on this specific Thursday, I felt the urge to say I’ve spent most of this week feeling anxious and weird and freaked out about so many changes on the horizon . . . and that’s partly embarrassing and partly just what it is.

More than just my husband, Spence is my best friend. When he’s not here to talk me out of my nonsense, that nonsense becomes all-consuming. Before him, I’d never had a significant other so in my corner . . . someone so thoroughly in the trenches with me at all times. Until this time alone in our boxed-up apartment, I’d never considered how emotionally reliant I am on him. I just really miss him. I love him. It’s been one silly week, but this has been hard.

The truth is . . . I tend to panic. Though I don’t often talk about it, I struggle with anxiety. The easiest way I can describe it? When I’m stressed, I operate in fight-or-flight mode. Despite the fact that I am not in a life-threatening situation, my body screams at me that I absolutely am. My pulse races; I begin to sweat. I have a hard time breathing. When I’m in an uncomfortable situation (like being home alone), my instinct is to flee. My mind convinces me that I’m in mortal danger even if I’m safely ensconced in a locked house.

It’s rather inconvenient.

I don’t walk around scared all the time, but I’ve noticed my anxiety issues reach a fever pitch when I’m stressed about something — usually totally unrelated — in my life. Right now? That would be the upcoming move. The one happening next week. And because I’m stressed about that, my body has begun its attack on all rational sense. I’ve been sick to my stomach since Monday.

I’ve been thinking about why I don’t often write about my anxiety given I talk about . . . well, just about everything else. And I don’t really have an answer. I’m afraid of someone misunderstanding or judging me harshly, of course, and also of having my fears dismissed. I don’t like looking “weak” — even though I don’t see this as a weakness, per say. Just a facet. I struggle like we all struggle: shades of being human.

In disclosing our worries, we realize everybody’s got something. And when I talk about how I fear not finding a table in a crowded restaurant, some folks could snicker . . . but most accept this and try to help, you know? Rarely has anyone been unkind. Never am I teased. We adapt and accept and, when you’re with those who love you, they want to help.

Even if that means pushing you outside your comfort zone.

But that’s another post.

I felt compelled to scratch some thoughts out this morning because life isn’t always polished, as we know. I’ve felt like writing this week . . . but not in the way I normally would. My attention has been all over the place — too scattered to talk about books, though I’ve finished some good ones. I just wanted to talk out loud and think, and I knew you’d be here. You’d understand.

I feel a little better already.


56 thoughts on “In which I ramble about anxiety

  1. “When I’m stressed, I operate in fight-or-flight mode. Despite the fact that I am not in a life-threatening situation, my body screams at me that I absolutely am. My pulse races; I begin to sweat. I have a hard time breathing. When I’m in an uncomfortable situation (like being home alone), my instinct is to flee. My mind convinces me that I’m in mortal danger even if I’m safely ensconced in a locked house.”

    This is totally normal! Please don’t feel dysfunctional because of these physiological reactions. This is to be expected when you’re going through a major life change. This is how our brains work and based on the description you gave there, I’d even guess you have some formal training in Neuroscience. 😉

    The brain can not absorb contextual information. It really doesn’t know that you’re not in actual, life-threatening danger. I spent a lot of time in college researching these physiological reactions to stress in order to develop a program that helps teach people learn coping mechanisms. Its not easy to understand how your brain works, but I think you have a good grasp on it. The knowledge, alone, could make all the difference in how your anxiety manifests itself. Basically, I just wanna say that you are on the right track and you shouldn’t let your stress consume you. Its part of life and the more you know about it, the less control it will have!

  2. Meg, I’m glad you wrote about this. You’re singing my song (it’s a rather blues-y tune.) I have a hard time admitting things aren’t all well and good and perfect with me. I don’t like others to see that side of me and, with social media, it’s easy to hide it, to post pictures and write statuses and blog posts of all that is happy and good. And when I do take the leap to share, I worry about the reaction too. I tell you this not to go on about myself but to let you know I get it. If you ever need to chat or write it out I hope you know I’m always here to listen. I hope you find some peace this week. Sending you a hug! xoxo

  3. I have a very similar reaction to stress so you are definitely not alone. Even thinking about stressful situations (e.g. walking to school during exam time and just thinking about what I needed to do to prep…) can bring on small anxiety attacks – shallow breath, pounding heart rate, lightheadedness. I think it’s totally normal during big life changes (at least, that’s what I tell myself!) and sometimes just talking about it helps relieve some of that stress. Thank goodness for blogs where we can rant and vent whenever we need to and can trust that someone out there somewhere can relate to what we’re going through. 🙂

    • Thank you, Stephanie! It’s a tremendous relief to know I’m not alone. I was hesitant to publish this post, but I had a feeling it would bring me some solace. As usual, we get by with a little help from our friends. 🙂

  4. Ah yes, anxiety .. I know the beast well. I really enjoyed the way in which you “wrote out loud” and I’m glad that it helped you feel a little better. Writin’ helps me a lot too, which is the main reason I started my own blog. Keep your chin up, take a deep breath and smile … You Got This!

  5. First of all BREATHE! You are just fine. There is nothing wrong with you. I get anxious too! Try to relax and have faith that it will all get done. Be extra kind to yourself. I am sending you prayers!

  6. I know what you mean. I’ve had a little bit of difficulty this week too. The Lord visited me, and He removed my two burdens! I can function much better now. I was worried about two things that I had no control over, but I have a saying on my laptop. I read it to myself during the day. It says: Relax. I got this. Jesus. It really helped this week, but I still needed a visit from Jesus in order to touch my heart and mind. I’m better now, and I can write with ease now.

  7. I love this post. I struggle with anxiety DAILY. It’s hard. I have zero problems discussing my anxiety with my close friends. But, putting it out there on the internet…for everyone to see. I have a lot of trouble do that.

    I am actually having one of my worst few days in awhile regarding anxiety. I can’t seem to get over it right now. I am not even sure what’s causing it, either.

    • I’m trying to get better about discussing the good and the bad, and I’m realizing where my limits are regarding both in time. It is hard. I’m sorry you’re going through that, Stephy — sending warm thoughts to you.

  8. My financee is out of town this week as well, and I feel the exact same way. I blow things out of proportion and I have no one to talk me down from a ledge, so to speak. I think anxiety is more common these days than we’d like to admit.

    • I think you’re absolutely right, Jenn — all of us deal with something, whether anxiety-related or no, and it can be easy to slip into feeling like we’re “alone” or weird with our problems, but we’re certainly not. Hope your fiance is home safe and you’re feeling better soon!

  9. They say that moving is in the top 3 of stressful situations, so don’t be too hard on yourself for feeling weirded out. It’s all perfectly normal, just take a deep breath and you will be fine. Sending hugs 🙂

    • Thank you, Vicki. You’re right, and I keep forgetting that: moving is just stressful. We can take steps to make it less stressful, perhaps, but it’s still just tough. I’m feeling better this week and appreciate the hugs!

  10. I have found that we all are going through something. We have periods of times in our lives where things are really good and we seem to not have any problems but those are fleeting. For the most part we are all struggling in some way. Because we all have different experiences and upbringings and we’re well…different then we react to our problems differently than someone else would. During a hard time in my life my Mom sent me a card an it said, “When a gallon is holding a gallon it’s doing the best it can. I know you’re doing the best you can.” That gallon literally can’t hold any more. It can’t. It’s impossible. We have to give ourselves some credit for what we’re doing. No matter how small it may seem. You’re doing alright kid! 😉

    I went through a period in my life where I had really bad anxiety. I felt like my heart would explode and I couldn’t breathe. It was scary to not have control over my own body. Even harder to learn how to get control. It was a very dark depressing time in my life., My prayers are with you. I hope your move goes well and that your husband comes home safe to you.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful words and well wishes, Mary. The gallon quote is wonderful — going to put it on a Post-It! I’m glad you’re through that dark time, though we all have struggles. Life is tough, but we’re all here together. I find solace in that. ❤

  11. You do have much going on right now…and someone once told me that moving is the most stress filled thing you can do! We have been transferred 7 times! There is nothing that made me calmer…calm? I think you just have to try the one day at a time thing…go on a date with your husband and deal with everything later…lol…I guess I am not very helpful!

    • That is helpful, Patty — and you’re right: we have to give ourselves permission to take a break sometimes! Through everything, I’m thankful that we’ve been able to move gradually and work on projects as we go. It’s been a tremendous help and kept my anxiety from really going nuts. Last night we watched the last episode of “Cosmos” we’d DVR’ed rather than pack, and it was glorious. Thank you!

  12. “Many people in my life are dealing with truly tough things: illness, grief, job loss. When I stack my “problems” next to theirs, they look wholly inadequate. Silly. #firstworldproblems, you know?”

    There are always someone worse off than ourselves, but that does not mean that our problems are not real to us. You are allowed to have problems, just as much the person next to you, and allowed to react to them without feeling guilty about it. I really liked your post, it is honest and important. I hope next week will be better for you, and the week after that!:)

    • Thank you very much, Bente — I really appreciate your words. I’m already feeling better and less anxious this week . . . trying to take things as they come and keep from obsessing about unknowns. It’s all we can do.

  13. I struggle with anxiety also. When I moved the last two times it was really stressful. It is cause I don’t handle stuff that has to change in my life. Just take a couple of breaths and everything will be fine.

    • Change is really tough, Kristin. Some flourish in changing circumstances, but I’ve always been more the type to dig my heels in and try to keep everything the same. Moving last fall, getting married and then buying a house has definitely pushed me to the brink of my anxious change-o-meter, but you’re right: everything will be fine. Better than fine: great! Just in time. 🙂

  14. *hugs* You have no idea how much this post spoke to me this week. Michael and I are waiting for some news and while we’re pretty sure what it’s going to be, we’re both a complete wreck of nerves. I too have been sick to my stomach all week. I feel like anxiety is a hard thing to talk about because it defies logic in a lot of ways. You know the racing heart, shallow breathing, upset stomach are irrational physical reactions to something out of your control, but that doesn’t make them feel better. I really miss Michael when he’s gone too, even if its just for a couple of days. Sending you all my love – I hope it gets easier soon and that the move goes smoothly.

  15. We are here to listen in blogging land sweetie 🙂 a problem shared is a problem halved as the saying goes. I’m much like you when confronted with moving. I haven’t done it since we bought our forever home but I do recall my elder sister having to come and help me as I was almost paralytic with indecision about packing and cleaning! I think I tend to shut right down and use the Scarlett O’Hara excuse of “I’ll deal with it tomorrow, tomorrow’s another day” ( probably not exactly quoted but you get my drift?) . I wish you well and if I can say anything at all it’s this, be kind to yourself.

    • Oh, I so relate to tomorrow being another day! I’m terrible about procrastinating until I force myself to consider how good I’ll feel to just have something done rather than left for tomorrow’s to-do list. (That being said, well . . . I totally still procrastinate.) Thank you so much for your kind words.

  16. Getting things outside of the brain into actual words helps me too. My mind resembles a naked child running around screaming defiantly that he isn’t going to take a bath when I get stressed.

    I hope you have a fantastic, less-stressful weekend.

    • Thanks so much, Melanie. You’re absolutely right: just the process of sitting down to shape my fears into words can take away much of their power!

  17. Oh Meg, as you can see we all get you. I am a card-carrying worrier. I am always up inside my head imagining worst-case scenarios and getting myself all wound up. It used to be that just my husband had to deal with me (and my BFF but she is just like me), but now my kids get to experience mom having a fit. Then it almost becomes funny because they tell me I need meds and they talk me down! LOL! My only fix when I get like this is to exercise, go for a walk, etc…or sleep. You’ve got a lot going on right now. You are on the verge of life, so it is completely understandable. (And I had a chuckle…when my husband goes out of town now, we have a mini-vacation! No cooking, we order out, no cleaning, no structure! Haha!)

    • Thank you, Sandy! I’m definitely a card-carrying worrier as well, though I’m trying to unpack my anxieties and get to the root of them. It does help to ask myself what I’m really afraid of versus just what my mind is making me think I’m afraid of . . . and I like your ideas about exercising, sleeping and walking. It does help to keep moving — literally!

  18. Thanks so much for opening up with this post, Meg. It’s always refreshing to hear that others experience the same kinds of feelings/anxiety that I do from time to time.

    This is a seriously crazy time for you and I think it’s only natural that you’re feeling a bit freaked out. So much change has happened in such a short period of time; I can only imagine how you’re feeling!

    I just read your post about finding a table at restaurants too and I had to laugh out loud (because I can relate). My brother, sister and I went to Shake Shack for the first time a couple of months ago and that was the ultimate anxiety-inducing experience trying to find a table!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Jess! You’re so right: it’s a ton of change, and I need to be easier on myself. And I’m sure I would have had a meltdown at Shake Shack! I heard rumors we have one in D.C. now, but I’d have to go off-hours. 😉

  19. Anxiety is horrible! There are a couple things that have a tendency to set me off and once I get off the rails, it’s so hard to get back on track and it just feels so scary! I totally get you missing Spencer. My husband is the one that can talk me down from spinning myself up and I miss when he isn’t there to help me out in that way!

    • Thank you, Meg — I appreciate knowing I’m not alone. It is easy to get off the rails, but I’m trying to control how quickly I start to panic! I know my limits better now and can avoid certain situations that will really put me on edge, but I’m trying to gently get used to controlling my anxieties rather than run from them. We’ll see how it goes!

  20. I’m really similar to you. When a ton of change happens, I feel off kilter and all these little things start worrying me. I can’t imagine not having my husband around to “ground” me. Sending you virtual hugs!

  21. Hey Meg. I’m just discovering that I have some issues that I need to discuss with someone other than my grams during our conversation over the phone as we watch Paternity Court. I’ve always worried more than most but figured it was nothing. Now I find that leaving the house is a chore that I have to plan days in advance just to talk myself into it just because I fear what will happen if I go out. Then I wonder if I go..what will happen if I’m not home. And if I do leave, I worry that I didn’t lock the door, turn off the iron (I haven’t used in years) or that my kids have a half day in school (which they don’t usually but I call the school anyway…just in case). I am beginning to become obsessed. It doesn’t help that I absolutely love to read, so I am totally at peace with a great book, a cup of blueberry coffee, and my sofa. A book a day (literally) keeps the doctor away. But I know I can’t continue on this path of untreated, sweep it under the rug, girl…everyone feels like this, way of life.

    • Sending warm thoughts to you. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and I can definitely relate. Our interior lives can be very fulfilling — especially for passionate readers like us! — but there is life out there, and we miss so much by not venturing outside our comfort zones. Hope you find peace and encouragement. ❤

  22. Sending a lot of love and positivity towards you – I know exactly what you’re going through and you will know as well as I will, things do get better sometimes and the good things will come to you soon ❤

  23. Like you I struggle with anxiety, and I found that when the Man had to travel for work to be particularly stressful. It doesn’t help that you went through all these changes, really fast! Once things settle down I’m sure you’ll find the anxiety diminishes, too.
    Give yourself and your body the time it needs to adapt; I know that personally, especially when moving, I tend to focus really hard on my to-do lists, which makes me all the more anxious; when in fact a lot of these things (unbox things! clean that stuff! paint that corner!) could certainly wait a little longer while I take time to relax. You’ll get through it! 😀

  24. Wow, every word of this — I felt like I wrote it. I can relate so much to everything you said here. Anxiety is REALLY hard to talk about + like you, when I measure it up against “real problems” people are facing, I feel silly + don’t say anything about it. But at the end of the day, it is a problem because it makes people feel terrible when it’s happening. I can completely understand that restless, all-consuming feeling that comes, especially when there isn’t someone to distract you from it. There’s so much changing in your life right now, it’s 100% natural to feel this way. Hoping that the move goes smoothly + Spencer comes home soon!

  25. The mere thought of moving makes me want to crawl out of my skin, so I can totally understand how the move and being alone makes your heart race. Blah. Can’t wait to hear that you’re safely and happily on the other side. SO SOON!

  26. I get anxiety from time to time and time and it’s super tough on me. But whenever I listen to my favorite upbeat songs, they really help me relax. Hang in there because you bring so much joy to and understanding to all of your followers and through your posts we can tell that you’re a beautiful person. Listen to All You Need is Love – Beatles; Hey Ya – Outkast; Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa – Vampire Weekend; and Something Good Can Work – Two Door Cinema Club 🙂

  27. Thanks for sharing this post! Not only does it help to just get things *out*, but it gives you and others the opportunity to know that no one is alone in feelings of stress or anxiety. And like someone else said, you can’t compare your stresses to someone else’s stresses. I’m saying this to remind myself too! We’ve got a lot of life changes happening here too, so I feel like I can’t remind myself of that enough. Hugs to you!

  28. Hi Meg. I am new to WordPress and found this particular post so nostalgia, I felt as if my fiance wrote this! I am following your blog as you have common interests as I do: writing, eating, and marriage. I am currently engage and looking forward to the days as a united couple. I do, at times, spend extended periods of time away from my loved one and she feels anxiously beside herself as you do. I am glad to have found your blog and look forward to your future chronicles. Also, if you don’t mind reading a newbie’s blog, it would mean a lot to have your feedback. All the greatest 🙂

  29. Okay, first thing first, big hug!

    Second thing, I totally hear you girl. We really do all struggle. I find myself feeling a similar sense of anxiety lately. I have these lists of task that I need to do and yet no structure since my boyfriend is gone at work and now that it’s summertime, I’m the one stuck at home. And this is like exactly what I wanted for the entire school year. And yet, when boyfriend comes home from his long day at work, I have nothing to show for my long day at home.

    And the anxiety bits: I also feel you there. I’m one of those super self-conscious, always in her head kind of girls. I constantly narrate what people must be saying about me. And I’m usually wrong. Most of the time, people don’t really even care or notice me. I’m still not entirely sure if that’s better or worse, but it is what it is.

    And yet, knowing that doesn’t really necessarily make any of this better. I’m sure that the hubby is back now and that you are all settled in your new domestic bliss and I’m oh so happy for you. I’m madly catching up on your blog posts loving the stories about your life and how cool, calm, and collected you always seem to me. But I also know that perfect doesn’t exist. We all struggle. We all stress. And that’s honestly what has always kept me coming back to your blog however infrequently I get around to it!

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