I’ve been living with anxiety since I was twelve.
Since then, there is almost always a rumbling that sits somewhere between my throat and the part of my stomach that senses nausea– a sensation that’s not quite like sound, but sends vengeful vibrations through my body that can ebb and flow on any given day.
They’re worse when I don’t sleep well or when I have to be social for long period of time. Which makes sense, because it takes a ridiculous amount of energy to keep them in control, or to navigate them through a channel that allows me to use them for good.
That’s right, anxiety can be a good thing. High achievers are often overcome with anxious thoughts, so they have to do ridiculous things like run marathons or hold down five jobs at a time to feel productive with their high-vibration nervous system. I have discovered that I always have to be “doing” so that I don’t feel overcome with mental and emotional energy. I desperately need it to go somewhere so I can feel balanced.
That being said… all tools can be used for good or for evil. And when we are tired or cranky or having a shitty week (or month) we get sloppy. We forget how to use the tool or get lazy because we develop a “WHY ME” attitude, and wish we could just be like everyone else who doesn’t live with a Dragon Nervous System.
I’ve gotten sloppy lately. My schedule has been off, I’ve been putting off things on my to-do list because I’m over-committed, I’m staying up late to talk at the end of show nights, and I’m trying to figure out how to fit in all family for the holidays.
Cue full day of panic.
I’m pretty sure I read in one of my soft-science-based-self-help books that an anxiety attack is the authentic self trying to burst out of a body that isn’t listening to it. It’s sort of like a volcanic eruption. My logic, responsibilities, and my burning desire to people please are trying to hold in my lava— I mean, like a really precious flower lava that needs quiet, sleep, yoga, journaling, or art-making.
Which… to be honest… sucks.
I always feel clouded in guilt when it happens. Partly because I either have to break a commitment, give my husband a reason to worry, or end up crying so hard I can’t speak/teach/sing— but MOSTLY the guilt is from knowing that ‘work’ is just how we have to live. We have to work. We have to keep our promises. We have to show up for each other. And this panic within me, forces me to create boundaries that look different from others’ and I end up feeling inadequate and covered in shame.
I said earlier I like to people please. Somewhere, deep down, I think its because it’s going to get me more love (because why else do people do nice things for each other?) or maybe I’m trying to prove that I’m nice, because I’m secretly terrified that I’m a selfish heap of garbage that uses people to get ahead. Being nice is a GREAT way to make friends, but what if my “niceness” is phony? I’m very scared that I’m actually a phony, which is why I think people are lying (or worse—deceived by my niceness), when I receive compliments.
Anxiety is very complicated. It also demands to be heard. It’s impossible to escape.
So anyway, yesterday, I had a big old attack triggered by the attempt to figure out our Christmas Eve/Day schedule. I tumbled into an embarrassing despair pit twenty minutes before I had to teach for six hours. Eyes red, voice raw, and held by the love of the man I married, I showed up, shaking and shoving my emotions down so I could play the role of “Sweet, Fun Acting Teacher.”
Later, I had to check in on the show where I work, and met a new cast member who had the same area code as me. As he was scrolling through photos on his Facebook to try and find our mutual friends, a big old picture of my ex popped up. (Cue the augmented chord) Yeah, THAT ex… the guy who I thank God every day I didn’t marry, the guy whom I blame for my vocal nodules, the guy who still shows up in my nightmares, and the guy who is the reason I struggle to believe that anyone could actually love me without conditions. (Also, the guy who I am FINALLY working to reframe in therapy so he can get the eff out of my subconscious so I can move on with my life.)
Another panic attack. A little one. One that I let out more in my car when I was alone and it could be less embarrassing. But another one, regardless. I felt guilty for this one too, because I shouldn’t be upset over a stupid photo of someone who has been out of my life for six years. Why can’t I just be normal?
Here’s the thing.
There is no way out, but through.
There’s no running away. There’s no “finding normal.” There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. This my life. The TUNNEL is my LIFE.
I can’t pretend like it is going to stop showing up if i just do enough yoga, or if I read this book, or fix that relationship.
It’s. Always. There.
But I can manage it. It requires focus. It requires proper circumstances. And the perfect balance will fall out of whack again, and then it will probably happen again.
I would like to get to the point where I feel like it isn’t in charge of my life. I’m not sure if I’m there yet.
But I’m working on it.