Yesterday was a bad day when it came to Anxiety. There is always this little roller-coaster of emotions that I go through right before I am about to do anything. It is like those butterflies in your stomach… eventually grew up into a Cthulhu-esc abomination that now tries to suck the life out of everything you do. Right before a major event, be it a trip like in the case of Pax South or simply even just going out to dinner with friends… my anxiety brain runs rampant telling me all of the myriad of things that are going to go horribly wrong. The end result however is always the same, and the final chorus of the mental play always ends up singing… “everyone will hate you” over and over again to the point of absurdity. Part of my whole being honest with my readers means delving into these things when they are happening. My general theory is that there are a lot of people suffering, thinking that no one else feels these things. If by talking about it I help someone to realize that it is shockingly common, then I guess some good has come of the roller-coaster. The internet can be a carnival of horribles, but at the same time it can be this strangely successful support group. If others had not talked about their own anxieties… then chances are I wouldn’t be to the point where I can actually talk about and confront mine.
Yesterdays anxiety attack came from two distinct sources. The first is the fact that I am meeting a bunch of people that I have “internet known” for years, for the first time in person at Pax South. The logical brain tells me that these people love me, and will just be happy to see me. The anxiety brain tells me, that I am a fraud and that everyone will hate you…. so you probably better just stay home where it is safe. No amount of reassurance really stops the voices, because they are irrational fears… the primal stuff that never really goes away. They are the evolved version of that nightmare where you end up at school naked, or in my case… I signed up for a class I never attended and it is past the drop date… and somehow have to cram and entire semester into a single week to pass the final or end up failing. I know if I can get past this…. and get out the door on this journey, I will be perfectly fine. Once I get in the moment I feel safe and happy and can really enjoy my friends, but it sometimes takes all the power in my being to ignore the anxiety brain long enough to actually make that happen. Adulting sometimes requires mental hacks.
The other big source of anxiety that happened to be looming at the exact same time was our home appraisal. Last week we went through the process and from that point onwards I have been stressed about whether or not we would get a decent enough price to be able to continue. We are currently going through a home refinance, and there are few things that stress me out in quite the way that money does. The thing is… most of my concerns are entirely in my head. Based on some quick comparisons we pulled together, it seemed like the number we were shooting for was very conservative. However until we got the physical piece of paper back, we had no clue. Also there was always the fear that the appraiser would find all of these faults that we had to cough up more money to fix… just to be able to go through with the “refi”. However about halfway through the afternoon we got back an email from the company with a lengthy form essentially saying that we were fine. The number he came back with was way more than we needed, and in truth more than even my wildest dreams would have expected. Essentially this good news was what I needed desperately to tell my anxiety brain to shut the hell up and let me go on with my life.
The interesting thing about this whole post is the fact that I was going to make it this morning regardless of anything else. There is a whole lot of “stuff” that we just simply don’t talk about. I was raised in a part of the country and a time period where this is not the sort of thing you discuss in polite society. Additionally the bullshit logic of the eighties could be summed up in the commercial slogans like “never let them see you sweat”, where showing any sign of weakness would ultimately lead to your downfall. However I tend to believe that if we were just more honest with each other about our own failings, that the world would be a much better place. I know that there will be nothing that I can do to really shed my fears, irrational as they might be. So instead I have learned to live with them, and learned ways to trick myself into doing the stuff that I need to do to be a “functioning member of society”. It turns out that today without me realizing it is the day that the whole #BellLetsTalk hashtag happens online, where folks share their own stories about mental health.
Beauty of Honesty
The thing is…. I don’t have answers to my problems, but I have things that work for me. The beauty of opening up about them… is the fact that chances are someone in your “monkeysphere” gets exactly how you are feelings. Just knowing that often times helps more than anything, to know that you are not quite as alone in your mental prison as you happen to think you are. I am lucky in that I have a lot of friends that just “grok” me in ways that I could never explain. When I go through my “turtle” periods where I pull my head inside my shell and hide from the world… they are the ones poking their head in to check on me and make sure I am doing okay. I am also lucky that I have a bunch of friends that understand that my withdrawing is not about them, but instead about me trying to give myself time to heal. So just talking about the various things that are going on in my world, has helped me immeasurably. If you find yourself in a situation where you just need another human being to listen to your problems and tell you that your brain is full of shit… then I am here. The truth is, for the most part our brains are constantly telling us lies, because they end up getting focused on incomplete data about every situation. We can never fully know what someone other than ourselves thinks, so we fill in the missing bits of data with speculation… which tends to be the worst possible view of a situation. Over the next few days of packing and travel I am going to be stressed beyond belief, but I know deep down inside if I can just trick myself into going through with everything… I will have a really fun time.