Saturday, January 10, 2015

Today's Rant: Anxiety Sucks

Anxiety Sucks.

Apparently, that's one of those things that we all deal with.  And I am made to understand that it is a particularly prevalent condition among graduate students.

(There's something very wrong. I just know that something awful is going to happen!)

And I really hate the anxiety dance.

It starts with feeling utterly overwhelmed.

So, I hide, because it somehow makes sense.  Anxiety can follow me anywhere, but if you can't find me, you can't make me do anything while I'm busy not losing my mind!

Then the anxiety starts to subside just enough for me to realize everything I've been avoiding.

That's when the second wave hits.

(I'll just stay here.  Anything else is just too much.  I'm sure things will be better if I stay here.)

This is the paralyzing wave.  I feel frozen; unable to actually start dealing with anything I've avoided, because starting to do anything draws attention to what I haven't been doing.

That's when I hit an impasse.

(Everything is perfect when I'm in bed. I'm going to just stay here.)

The problem with anxiety is that it doesn't always matter that I know its irrational.  It often doesn't matter that I know that it is unbalanced thinking.  I even know that the choices that seem easiest when I am most anxious are oftentimes the exact opposite of what I should be doing to alleviate and reduce my anxiety!  But I can't just think my way out of anxiety every time it strikes.

Anxiety and depression are bosom-buddies.  They love their quality time together; they sit in a pathetic pile of pajamas, surrounded by books that go unread, and clothes that go unwashed.  They obsessively list all the ways the apartment is going to hell, the ever-growing list of tasks that need to be done will eventually destroy the world, and then they repeat all of the most manipulative guilt-inducing speeches they've ever heard.  When they grow weary of talking they turn on Project Runway and ponder society's obsession with cheekbones and thigh gaps.

My worst problem with this dynamic duo is figuring out how to move past my impasses and kick these nasty sisters out of my home.

This is especially important with my doctoral program.  These nasty twins of anxiety and depression often tell me stories about how my advisor is against me, mad at me, etc.  

For example, over two months ago, my advisor saw me at a meeting and told me to check in with her.
But, of course, I didn't.
Because reasons.

So, when I got an email from her, checking in with me, last week, I felt some serious anxiety.
Because, well, according to those mean girls, its like this:

(except that instead of summer it was winter, and the weather was mostly rainy instead of sunny.)

But, yes, there's even a tall clock tower.

And supposedly no interruptions, 
or distractions, 
because I have no classes right now.

But, really, I had nothing to show for the time I've had to do all this writing.


"Shame on You" say the nasty sisters in my head

But thankfully, they don't get the last word.

(What if we just cuddle up together?  It feels better to be not alone, doesn't it?)

I talked with a few of my close peoples about my fears, the email from my advisor, etc.  I found a way to respond to my advisor's email a few days later.

Sometimes I just need the right person to help me with a reality check, because reality is usually so much better than the world in my head.

I am really thankful for those who are close to me who understand this irrational headspace in which I find myself trapped.  I appreciate their ability to draw different pictures, tell different stories than the fear-riddled depictions I come up with in the midst of anxiety.

I showed up for the meeting my advisor scheduled with me.  I got the best pep talk and reality check of my academic year.  

Daily life is filled with ebbs and flows, the tides come in and go back out, the waves continually run up on the shore.  A large part of the sand is composed of shells slowly broken down by the movement of the ocean's waters.  

I know that life wears on me.  I know that last week, the tide feels like its high, and the shore feels much more like the rocky N. CA. Pacific coastline than the easy going Atlantic coast of SC and GA.  I am thankful that, for now, I feel like the tide has gone back out.