In which I ramble about anxiety

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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.


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How ‘let’s play it by ear’ stopped striking fear in my little heart

Weeks after returning from the beach, it’s hard to conjure up those warm, the-sun-is-on-my-face and I-have-a-book-in-my-lap feelings. Work is busy. Birthdays are coming. Each weekend in the summer seems scheduled, arranged and preordained, each moment maximized for our enjoyment.

Supposedly.

I’m a busy person, and I do that deliberately. When I’m in a “slow” period without many plans, social or otherwise, I tend to start thinking too much, worrying and becoming obsessive — especially about things beyond my control. As we grow up, we learn so much about ourselves — and what we need to be happy, fulfilled people. For me? It’s scheduling. Organization. Basically, I need to get on my feet and stay on my feet, running to the beat of a well-executed plan.

Lately, though, this tiny voice has been piping up from somewhere deep in my chest cavity — the same chest usually swelling and pounding with anxiety as I try to accomplish all this stuff on my ridiculous to-do lists. It’s weak, but it sounds like me — and I know it’s me. It’s whispering, “Let’s play it by ear.”

The idea of looking at wide-open Saturday, all fresh and shiny, and telling Spencer or my family that we can “wing it,” “see what happens” or “see how we feel” regarding the day’s plans is basically crazy. This is me we’re talking about: the Queen of OCD Organization. I make lists for everything. I make lists of my lists. I consult my Google Calendar as one would a religious text, searching for answers to any question. I like color-coding things so my eye can scan them quickly, taking in an entire month’s worth of business at a glance. I’ve got scheduled book reviews, dentist appointments, barbeque, bridal showers, day trips and concerts all mashed together in one colorful grid, blinking up at me like a promise of good things to come.

But lately, something’s begun to happen. On the days Spencer and I meet up early to have breakfast, go to yard sales (yard sales!), attend photography club meetings with Mom or other random activities, a strange sense of excitement comes over me. And looking back through the months, those days hold some of my favorite memories. Spencer and I eat when we want to eat; we go where we want to go. Holding hands in a hot car, we turn to each other and say, “What do you want to do now?” Sometimes we go for drives. Sometimes we stay home and watch TV, eating ice cream on the couch. Sometimes we run to Target or go take pictures. And sometimes? We do nothing at all.

Regardless, it’s delicious. And feels . . . almost rebellious.

I’m not saying I’m completely changing my ways. I still firmly believe that planning is necessary to avoid boredom — my boredom, at least. I know I thrive when busy and making plans. I’m not one to wander or loaf around, and I hate the absent looks that come from a group of people turning to each other and muttering, “OK, but what do you want to do?” I take charge. I plan stuff. But this whole getting out of the house without a major plan? Well, it’s exciting.

And I just might get used to it.