Anxiety!

I am an anxious person.

If you know me in real life, you are probably not shocked by this information.

It’s not something I like to talk about often, because it has the connotation of weakness, and I don’t perceive myself as a weak person. It’s absolutely something I would change about myself, if I could. If the option presented itself, I would stroll on down to the Brain Depot and swap out my Anxiety Brain for something a little more functional. But I just made the phrase “Brain Depot” up, and since that’s not a real option …  I … look, to paraphrase La Lady Gaga, I might just have been born this way. I was a kid who routinely practiced my escape plan in case the house caught fire and I still check the backseat of my car for muggers and rapists every time I get in. I once sat through a performance review where the feedback was “You are doing incredible work! You are really doing a great job! The only comment I have for you is ‘be less nervous.'” Just the fact that my boss had noticed how incredibly nervous I was — I thought I was hiding it so well! —  made me even more nervous, and I had to sit in the bathroom for ten minutes afterwards taking deep breaths and trying not to vom.

So a few days ago, I started to feel a little bit sick. Well….. not sick, exactly. Just … off.
You know how you know your own body? Something just felt a little off.

My brain, as usual, was super helpful:

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After a solid two days of despair spirals, I managed to book myself a Monday morning appointment with a general practitioner, and proceeded to eat every meal in the meantime as if it was my last. I drank two glasses of wine last night and ate cheese and crackers for dinner, making small talk with a friend, while in the back of my mind I slowly whispered, “Goodbye, wine. Goodbye, cheese. Goodbye, sweet friend. Goodbye forever.”

At 11pm, I was in bed.
At 4am, I was awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering if this was my last time waking up with all my limbs intact.
At 5am, I was googling symptoms again.
At 6am, I went downstairs and drank a glass of water, because it was probably the only thing keeping me alive.
At 7am, I started googling reviews of this doctor. They were all great, glowing reviews. Of course the reviews are all great, my Anxiety Brain whispered, because it’s clearly a scam. Yeah. I bet it’s a scam. I bet he’s not even a real doctor. I bet he’s just some guy who set up a bunch of profiles on, like, Yelp For Doctors or whatever this is I’m reading, and all of these reviews are just him under a bunch of fake names making up a bunch of fake stories about what an amazing doctor he is. I bet he’s going to take my personal information and steal my identity. I bet he’s going to send me a bill for a thousand dollars. I bet he’s a murderer. I should cancel. There’s no way I’m going to this thing.

I managed to shut my crazy down just long enough to make it to the appointment, where I shoved my insurance card in the unsuspecting receptionist’s face and blurted, “I have scary inadequate terrifying health insurance and I’m really worried that I can’t pay for this and can you tell me if I’m going to be okay or if I should just leave? I should just leave, right?”

I think she must get this a lot, actually, because she was incredibly nice about it and it took her all of five minutes to come back and say, “It’s a $30 co-pay,” at which point I almost fell down and wept tears of joy.

The doctor turned out to be the most genuinely lovely person I’d met in awhile, and he was funny, which I think means he’s going to be my doctor forever. About halfway through my panicked ramble, he laughed and stopped me long enough to say, “Let me guess. You looked all this up on the internet and the third result was cancer and the fifth one was full-blown AIDS and you came in today because you’re convinced you have a deadly, incurable disease?”

He just gets me.

Apparently I have the blood pressure of a rockstar and it’s vastly more likely that I have a Vitamin D deficiency than anything else. We made some jokes about my pale vampire skin. I’m likely not going to die anytime soon. This was very good news.

Except now I’m waiting for the blood test results to come in and all of the good energy from the doctor’s office has somehow dissipated. Even the phrase “I’m waiting for my test results” makes my heart beat a little faster. Which means I’m now 95% convinced that whenever the phone rings, it’s going to be my new doctor, playing really maudlin violin music in the background, slowly begging my forgiveness for misleading me, and asking me to sit down because he has something to tell me, and through his guilt-stricken sobs, he informs me that he was wrong, so wrong, because I DO HAVE LIFETHREATENING IMMUNO-DEFICIENT-CANCER-AIDS AND I ONLY HAVE ONE WEEK LEFT TO LIVE.

See what I mean about my anxiety brain?

And you know, writing on the internet about it both helps (immensely!) and yet it doesn’t (at all!) I’ve been struggling a lot with the interactions between … I suppose you could call it my ‘personal life’ and my ‘public life,’ though that sounds really pretentious, so perhaps my ‘real life’ and my ‘internet life’? That’s not totally it, either, but — you get the idea. What I write about here has real-life implications for my day-to-day existence, and I’m still learning how to navigate those boundaries. And my anxiety brain doesn’t always help that, either.

Every time I hit “Publish,” I’m like:

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And then this happens:

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And then the comments start to roll in.

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Anxiety brain, man.

And it’s better on some days than others. There are days when I hardly notice it. There are days when it takes the wheel.

(I present to you, Figure 4a: two incredibly insignificant moments in the past hour of my life):

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And the thing is, while I would change it if I could, most of the time I don’t think it’s all that bad. Anxiety evolved as our brain’s mechanism for keeping us safe, right? If those early humans weren’t justifiably afraid of those sabertoothed tigers, things probably wouldn’t have ended so well for them. And my anxiety brain has this useful quality that I often find motivational — if I’m really anxious about an upcoming deadline, or anxious about not wanting to seem like a failure — it pushes me forward, it helps me to focus. Is it annoying and distracting and maybe a little detrimental to my overall well-being? Sure, yeah. But it also makes me get shit done.

And the funny thing about it is — I worry. I stay up all night, I pick my nails, I pull my hair out and every time, every damn time…..

I’m fine. I always am.

Know what usually happens? Nothing.

Nothing at all.

So I’m going to work on being better at remembering that last part. When it’s 4am and I’m staring out my window, or when I’m on my twelfth page of WebMD results. I’m going to remember that in all likelihood, the answer is “You’re fine.” The answer is “You’re okay.”

So here’s the part where I hit “Publish Post.” And I take a deep breath. And I wait for the comments to roll in, and I remind myself that the comments that matter are never the ones from jerks with names like BonerBrain6969, they’re the ones from real people who are listening, and who want to engage with what I’m saying, and that is an incredible and wonderful thing. I take a deep breath, and I hit the button, and I remind myself, “I’m okay.”

 

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT UPDATE: And sometimes you post a long thing about anxiety, and you wait for the comments to roll in, and the first one requires a copy-paste into a google translator, and…

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 10.07.54 PM

I think “patience key to the vagina” just about sums it up.

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94 thoughts on “Anxiety!

  1. I’ve had a few times in my life where I went from A to Z in 60 seconds, went directly to jail, did not pass go, and did not collect my $200.

    One time I went to the doctor for a routine check-up. After the fact, the doctor’s office called and said my white blood cell count was elevated and they’d like me to come back in. I thought nothing of it and said I would make an appointment. They responded, “We can get you in today.” This kinda freaked me out because it seemed unusual…why was it so urgent that they see me that day? I had three hours to wait before leaving for my appointment. I Googled. I went to Web Md. I decided I had leukemia. After my blood test, the doctor told me my WBC was still a little high, but not much, and that my “normal” might just be higher than average. Glad this was so urgent. Until it wasn’t.

    Then there was the lump in my breast that had to be biopsied. Even though I was assured most lumps are NOT breast cancer, I pretty much felt like Dead Woman Walking until the tests came back and it was just a little cyst thing.

    Then this one really takes the cake. Routine physical. My doctor realizes one tonsil is bigger than the other. Yeah, so? This can be a sign of LYMPHOMA. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I get sore throats a lot too, so then I decided I either had lymphoma or throat cancer. Turned out I just had a big ass tonsil.

    So, yeah, I know how you feel and what you’re going through.

  2. Haha, love the comment translation. Humor is a great anxiety diversion tactic. Sorry to hear you have anxiety brain, I had terrible anxiety and panic attacks years back and also when I was younger, so I can certainly relate. Thanks for having the courage to share your thoughts and feelings, that can be such a huge help for anyone that feels they are suffering alone. Hope you get relief soon!

  3. I suspect (and hope) your anxiety subsides for you as you get a little older, K. I know I was once a very anxious person and now – at 44 – so much real stuff seems to have happened that I guess I know “it” will be gotten through no matter what “it” is. I heard somewhere that older people tend to worry less than younger ones about problems that haven’t actually happened yet. In this way, aging is a great blessing. Try not to lose sleep over problems – If they happen, you’ll handle them. You’re tougher than you think.

    • Exactly. Well said. I also think that the been there- done that, didn’t die thing really helps put the future into perspective.

      On the age is a blessing thing…Unless you happen to be walking past a mirror naked. In that age is so NOT a blessing.

  4. This is almost exactly how my brain works. This article is so comforting to me because I am constantly trying to analyze how to make it better when I go into my “panic modes.” And the fact that you annotated what it’s like to be in a situation and have all the irrational thoughts go through your head is so perfect to me. I also sometimes feel like I am the only one that has “anxiety brain” and it makes me relax (if only a little) to know others are out there with the same crazy thoughts flowing through their brains.

  5. 😀 Damn…now I have to go look up the symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency…that and patient vaginas. Fucking spectacular and everything I tend to think on any given every day! Good stuff!!! PS: I get really anxious when I can’t remember what account I’m using to comment and then can’t remember the passwords.

  6. Gosh I feel the same way. I feel like I lost then next thing I know I’m anxious being around people. I’m excited I’ll be visiting my family then I think about what will happen when I get there. The brain work just bouncing all over the place.

  7. Pingback: Things I’ve Been Reading and Fretting About Needlessly | Purposely Sidetracked

  8. This is me to a T. Sometimes it’s so bad that I refuse to go to doctors and my parents get angry at me for not going to the doctor but I am in a foreign country and I freak out about what will happen when they find something wrong with me and I need to get surgery… so all of that happens and I get stressed, and then the stress bleeds into my job and relationships. Getting sick is seriously enough to reduce me to a panicky mess, but I have to remind myself that I am always fine and that people go through way worse than I do. This week I learned a tactic where you start your day by telling yourself that nothing will upset you or anger you. It works well because, as a teacher, tons of little things my students do annoy the crap out of me, but most of them aren’t worth the trouble to act on or worry over. Feeling less stressed about my students helps me regain peace in other areas of my life, and it really helps. I think our brains go on overdrive but it’s good to have a friend who can slap us out of it.

  9. Wow, yup I can totally relate! This is my day most days LOL! My psychiatrist refers to this as cognitive distortions! Thankfully I do not have to worry about health insurance as this is provided in my provincial health coverage. My doc is free! Thanks for sharing. My university is doing a mental health forum in January, do you mind if I share this?

  10. Haha – I love this post – I actually laughed out loud! So many people have these same thought patterns and it’s great that you are able to laugh about it and be so open. You have a fantastic style of writing #following

  11. I struggle w/ this is a well. On my best days, I’m compassionate with myself and my anxiety gets lower. On my worst days, I engage in lots of self-judgment. I recommend the self-compassion over the self-judgment. 😉

  12. Hehe! Just stumbled upon your blog. I really enjoyed this and could definitely relate. I am more of an anxious person in denial. I started my blog here just a few months a go. Do you have any advice for building a fan base?

    P.S. I also live in Philly !

  13. Soooo, as a therapist who also struggles with anxiety, this is amazing. Up there with Allie Brosh’s blogs about depression (check out Hyperbole and a Half if you haven’t already!). Shared on Tumblr, and printing out when I can get technology to cooperate, as a potential resource for clients. You are amazing. THANK YOU!

    [also yeah. that whole publish anxiety? right now. got it. xD]

  14. Ha – I love this post. It reminds me of me…a lot. I sometimes wonder if I have ADD (which starts another avenue of anxiety in my brain) because I go down these rabbit holes of fear.
    When I was around 8 or 9, I would run to my mom’s bed and ask if we were going to end up poor and homeless. I had no reason to fear this way. We by no means had a lot of money but my parents had steady jobs and we were doing okay. I’ve always been a worrier.
    I loved your thought boxes. I laughed seeing them because it’s exactly how I react. I look forward to reading more.

  15. I grew up wanting to be a writer. I wanted to write stories to entertain people, but as I got older I thought it would be even better if I could make people feel better by reading my ramblings (I’ve always had a ‘helper’ mentality). If I could get through to just one person, I’ve told myself, then it would all be worth it.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever had that thought, but if you did, then I’m that person (and based on the other comments, I’m one of many).

    I’ve always been a worrier, which caused me to become a planner to make sure I had fewer things to worry about (hello life as a Project Manager!). But until recently, I never gave it much thought. Until I woke up in the middle of the night with chest pain, convinced I was dying. Like you, I hopped on WebMD, which made me think I was having a either a heart attack or heart burn (my anxiety brain said the former, obviously). I couldn’t sleep and, after it happened a second time, I went to the ER. Where they told me I was fine, didn’t have a heart attack, didn’t have a blood clot, and most likely had heart burn and an inflammation in my chest that caused the pain.

    Fast forward to my doctor’s appointment (a guy that totally gets me, just like yours), and he assures me I’m fine. But it doesn’t turn off my anxiety brain. He told me that I need to see a mental health counselor to talk through my anxiety and have them give me some coping mechanisms. Which has my anxiety brain going off on, telling me that I’m falling apart. But at least I have a plan.

    I tell you all of this for two reasons:
    1) To thank you for sharing. And making me feel like I’m not alone (which my brain was telling me I was, no matter what my doctor told me). And, even though you’re a stranger and I’m new to your blog, for understanding and putting it out there for the world to see.
    2) To show you that you’re not alone, either. I get it. It really sucks. And I’m glad you don’t have a rare form of super-immuno-cancer.

    I look forward reading the rest of your blogs.

  16. As a ridiculously overconfident girl with a massive ego, I can’t relate, so I just wanna say, you’re fucking amazing!

    Also… Patience key to the vagina.

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