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. You’re OK 🙂 This post is totally my husband! He has an anxiety disorder, and no illness goes un-googled. I remember one time when our youngest was sick and his hands started peeling. (It turns out this is a relatively common side effect of strep throat). By the time I got home from work Hubby had internet-diagnosed the child with some kind of rare syndrome that only happens in people of Japanese descent and is often fatal. We are SO not Japanese, but google had said it was so. But, even with “anxiety brain”, Hubby is still OK and is much loved 🙂

  2. You have every reason to be anxious. This is a terrible place.

    At the very least, don’t beat yourself up about it.

    I realized the other day that I should probably be concerned about vitamin D deficiency because I don’t drink milk and have turned into such a night owl. It really is good to get some sun, people who live in sunbelts have statistically lower rates of some cancers, so it’s possibly not just vitamin D.

  3. I would like to suggest you try EFT or Tapping (the more common term) to tame that anxiety. As someone similarly afflicted (anxiety brain that has sadly been right on occasion but my worrying about it changed nothing except it made me feel even crappier) I have found tapping to be one thing that is a)free and b) effective to ease, almost immediately the intensity of my anxiety. It puts the brakes on anxiety brain and allows me to get on with my life. Worrying about all that shit changes nothing, well, except to put your stress level and cortisol levels through the roof. Neither of which is healthy.

    Check it out here: http://thetappingsolution.com/
    I first found out about this last year during the free summit, which starts on Monday. you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I would be interested in hearing if you try it and how it works for you 🙂

    • This is such a coincidence…I just reconnected with a high school friend on Facebook, and he’s an EFT leader, practitioner, whatever you might call it. Then I read this. I had never heard of it before. I’m going to definitely look into it.

  4. OK. My anxiety level is rising with every paragraph. This is why I don’t write anything of significance for public consumption. Even writing this is making my wrists numb. Great piece!

  5. This is how I feel sometimes! Anxiety can get the best of you, and it’s hard to fight. I have a hard time especially with negative criticism, how you are. Even if it’s one minor thing amongst tons of positive comments from other people, the negative criticism is what sticks in my brain. I love the little boxes of text with the “anxiety brain.” So funny!

  6. Thank you for Sharing so candidly. You are not alone. Many many many of us live with anxiety brain. And that doesn’t make us weird. It makes us sensitive, creative, most likely overworked and overstimulated, in need of a good restorative yoga practice, and the reminder that we are indeed, okay. 😘

  7. Seriously, can we be best friends. You just described me, every day ever. I started freaking out last night when I was reading my book and a character was on a plane and I was convinced the plane was going to crash and the character was going to die. He didn’t. He was fine.

  8. Whenever I have days which are an unending series of disasters, and proof I’m about to die, I remind myself that my track record of surviving such days is 100%. Pretty good odds, I have to admit.

  9. I’m obsessed with you. My favorite part is your immuno-deficient-cancer-aids that you, without a doubt, most definitely have. All tests are full of anxiety, like ones that tell you whether or not you’ll have a child with Downs Syndrome, and you’re sure that’ll come back positive even though the odds are LITERALLY 1/30,000. You’re amazing and am so glad you’re writing and expanding your artistic skills (because you don’t have that chance with your job) by making charts illustrating your internal conversations. Well done.

  10. I’m obsessed with you. My favorite part is your immuno-deficient-cancer-aids that you, without a doubt, most definitely have. All tests are full of anxiety, like ones that tell you whether or not you’ll have a child with Downs Syndrome, and you’re sure that’ll come back positive even though the odds are LITERALLY 1/30,000. You’re amazing and am so glad you’re writing and expanding your artistic skills (because you don’t have that chance with your job) by making charts illustrating your internal conversations. They’re HILARIOUS. Well done.

  11. I honestly just convinced myself about two weeks ago that I had cancer…because I had a sore throat in the middle of flu season. Needless to say, I do not have cancer. I do have a very annoying sinus infection though. I also one time cried for about an hour and a half because I made a relatively minor mistake at work. Anxiety brain is the worst.

  12. Love reading your blogs, and completely know how you feel about the whole struggling between “personal life and online life”…. I’ve decided anxiety about it or not, I’m going to write what I feel about my personal life into my online life and I don’t give a damn who thinks or says what about it because it’s MY venting and feelings and it makes me feel better… so , if it makes u feel better to write…write on sista! LOL.. and , as gabriel said above… Anxiety brain is the worst and makes you think things are worst than they really are..happens to tons of us, so you’re not alone… take a deep breath and smile 🙂

  13. Ah Dr. Google. I go to him too but in small amounts because he can otherwise make you crazy (crazier). Take the Vitamin D supplements. There are correlations between low D levels and, well, never mind, just take the supplements.

  14. Me too! I’m always happy to swap stories about this stuff. Also- accupuncture has changed my life. If you’d consider it say the word and ill tell you more!

  15. I don’t ever go to the doctor, I don’t google anything that’s of any importance and I don’t anticipate the worst…but I still have fits of anxiety about certain things. Like hating my job, or feeling too comfortable where I live, or believing that my friends are tired of my reclusiveness or that I do nothing that tests myself anymore.

    So I quit my job, sold all my stuff, left my friends and came back to start a new life in Australia after being gone for 22yrs. I have a backpack and very little money in the bank but I’m hanging on to you and your blog because you inspire me and I’m hoping you’ll keep me smiling when the shit comes down. 😊

  16. “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”

    Arrrghhh!! Flashback .. flashback alert …! BUT very brilliant and really funny!

  17. My company recently downgraded our basic/adequate health insurance plan to a scary inadequate terrifying health insurance plan.

    It’s taking all my willpower and logical reasoning to avoid paying $90 to see the doctor about a swollen lymph node that is almost definitely a result of seasonal congestion and not cancer but it could be cancer because I recently started following some young guy on Twitter who just developed cancer IN THE SAME PLACE so I definitely have it too, probably because I hold my cell phone on the side that’s swollen and its radiation gave me a cancerous tumor.

  18. I. What. How? Thank you for writing about your anxiety brain. I completely understand. And as someone who is also in the theater world it seems impossible to get done the things I need to do. I’ve done many of the same things you wrote about. I don’t have any skin around my finger nails. But the thing that hit me the most was how you described what you like about your anxiety. I’ve never had someone put into words what that relationship is like, and how it’s possible to actually like your anxiety. Thanks lady. You fucking rock.

  19. Me too! On pretty much all of the above! I was (well, am) having a REALLY crappy day for completely different reasons, but what you just posted made me feel SO VERY MUCH BETTER!

    I have been in that crazy internet death spiral sooooo many times!

    You keep goin’, girl, and write that damn book so I can send you money! Your writing helps me cope with my life.

    Also, you know how some people use “Peace, out!” as a sign-off line? I want to make mine “Patience vagina, out!”

  20. The only difference between you and I is that I don’t pull my hair out. It falls out on its own, so I don’t have to. I love this post, it is so me! You are a fabulous writer and so fun to read. The ONLY blog I subscribe to. Not kidding.

  21. So, I tried to figure out how to send this to you as a message, as I don’t want to look like a weird other blog promoter, but I have been reading http://julia.typepad.com/ for ages and a while back she had a huge “panic brain” realization and she loosely chronicles how she tried a couple different prescription drugs when she she felt it affecting her life too much. I recommend reading her journey, even if it is not the one you choose to take, because she is an excellent writer (reminds me a lot of your wit) and it may help you. All the best.

  22. I am laughing so hard at this post. Not at your anxiety, but because I can relate so much and at some point you have to laugh at the ridiculous things anxiety makes you do and think. I always look forward to reading your posts – you articulate things I feel in a way that I I’ll never be able to do (as evidenced by the fact that I’ve rewritten this simple comment 5 times and reread it twice as many as my anxiety brain grasps for something witty to say so you’ll read it and not think I’m a schmuck). So keep doing what you’re doing because you’re great at it!

  23. My wife does this on a regular basis. Everything is googled and she has every disorder under the sun, and I’m pretty sure it’s just water retention. But she’s fine, and you will be too. I think WebMD is one of the most evil websites out there. How many people misdiagnose themselves every day on that site, I wonder…

  24. OK so first of all, I went to college with you and we were in Voice in Acting together, so I pretend I “know” you even though you probably wouldn’t recognize me by face or name (I was the weird non-theater major who hung out with the accompanist), but whatever, we have a bunch of mutual friends on FB so it counts. Love this, love the blog, love your thoughts.

    Mostly, though, the entirety of your “extremely important update” was brilliant in every way and I am reading this surreptitiously at work and I had to try so hard 1) not to choke on the water I unfortunately happened to be drinking, and 2) to hide my laughter from my secretary and my boss in the office next to me so I wouldn’t have to tell them why I was laughing so hard my face is now bright red and my stomach hurts.

    To sum up: thanks, and keep up the good work 🙂

    • ok, i never reply to comments because i’m bad at it, but (after a quick FB stalk) – hey girl! of course i remember you. slash i kind of had blocked that class from my mind (i can’t believe i took a class where i had to sing in public). how’s everything?! so good to hear from you! xox

  25. Wahahahahaaaaaa
    الصبر مفتاح الفرج
    means : patience is the key to relief
    By being patient , you can overcome the hardships in life
    Google translate needs to update it’s dictionary (lol )

    But seriously , being patient, giving or volunteering and (if you’re religious) praying brings peacefulness and calmness to your life and all of your anxiety hopefully will decrease .

  26. This is probably the most relatable thing I’ve ever read in my entire life.. I get so anxious about the stupidest little things that I know I have no control over and shouldn’t even be worried about, yet I continue to lose sleep and bite my nails. Seriously, thank you so much for publishing this haha as you can tell from the rest of the comments, you’re not alone. Anxiety brains unite.

  27. Anxiety is a bitch. Lived with it for 53 years, because I’m pretty sure I was born with it, to two highly anxious people. I’ve been on meds for over 10 years, and they do take the edge off, but that crazy little voice in my brain is always in the closet and eager to jump out at any time. Some days I remember to breathe and some days I just have to live with it. You will survive. You will carry on. It is the part of you that you learn to accept. And it’s a motherfucker.

  28. My battle with anxiety has been long and arduous. Anxiety brain SUCKS absolutely. I have been in all those places, and all I can say is this: You are not alone. You will get through. I am still here. And stay off WebMD, because no one deserves that kind of self-abuse!

  29. Voice of experience here…I get. I know. And it’s also February in Philadelphia and it’s been so damn snowy and gray….Next sunny day…?tomorrow? Get outside and soak in some sunshine. If you can’t manage that, get into the sunny window, shed as much clothing as you can without the neighbors gawking. Peel yourself some wonderful citrus. Cuddle up to the sun like a cat…….it’s been a long winter. You’re just fine. And you make all of us smile.

  30. Enjoyed your post..you are so honest. Good for you!
    I used to think like that…all the time…worried about EVERYTHING. Don’t worry now.
    I have used EFT many years ago…is a bit ‘out there’ but it does work…and it’s something you can do for yourself without relying on anyone else. No harm in trying it right? If it doesn’t work for you, then you’ve wasted a few hours of seeking…totally worth it in comparison to two hours of worrying, no?
    But what worked for me? spirituality…yeah, I said the ‘s’ word. Got into alternative medicine, meditation, reiki all that stuff and ended up becoming a channel myself (certainly didn’t expect that). And now see that anxiety brain as ‘the monkey brain’ that you can quiet down when you realize that you don’t HAVE to think this way…it’s a choice.
    Do whatever works for you to get out of that thinking pattern cause let me tell you, your life can be so great when that worry monster is at bay. Quality of life changes how you see the world….
    from one recovering worrier/anxiety freak to others…
    Maureen
    p.s. love your blog…laugh every time…love you writing style.

  31. I definitely relate to this. 🙂 It’s taken me a long time to be able to remember, in those desperate-feeling moments, that it is most likely an overreaction. This small piece of info is SO helpful.

    The other thing I’ve had to figure out, is to not resent myself too much over it. To try to accept myself and hear my feelings out, because lots of times if I will just listen to myself without overreacting, in either direction, the whole thing becomes less intense. 🙂

    Yours is still the cutest blog I’ve seen. 🙂 I like your style.

  32. Holy Jeeze Louise! I relate to this a crazy amount. I loved reading every second of it. I’m new to this whole blogging world, loving every second of it. In some aspects it has really helped my anxiety issues – in other ways, not so much. I’m suddenly so concerned if people will like my writing, which before – that was so low on my list of writing priorities (probably because I wasn’t actually writing for anyone.) Thanks for the good read. 🙂

  33. You are my very favorite today. I just read your “do whatever the fuck you want” blog on some yoga site, and then wrote a new blog of my own about anxiety, and then hated it, and then read your blog. This is why we share. To make someone out there feel a second of relief that anxiety is real and get the hell off of webmd, crazy. love love love you. tokellykapoor.blogspot.com is my nonsense blog, by the way.

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