Anxiety is so freakin weird, you guys.
For the past several weeks I’ve actually been on a really good kick. My anxiety has stolen morning sleep from me only….twice (three times?) lately, and once was because I decided it was a great idea to watch Bird Box.
As a rule, I’ll never say I’ve beaten anxiety or that I’ve banished it from my mind and body forever. I know that’s wishful thinking, but it’s just not going to happen. Anxiety, in acute, appropriate doses, is actually healthy and adaptive. It keeps us out of danger.
Anxiety has always kinda been in the background of my life, but for the past two years it’s been (almost) ever-present. Right now, I seem to be in one of those almost times when I get to have a break. To a certain degree, I can enjoy these times. But then a funny thing happens. I don’t even know what to call it. It’s this state of mind where I’m worried that I’m forgetting about something that should be causing me anxiety. (I just reread that sentence, and yes, I know exactly how crazy that sounds.) It’s because anxiety has been my BFF, glued to my side, banging around in my brain, burning a hole in my chest, hitching a ride on my back, for so frickin long now, that when she’s gone, it feels…unnerving. Weird. Not normal.
It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
So even though it’s a “break,” I still find myself having to do a lot of daily (sometimes hourly) work reminding myself that I’m safe, my kids are safe, the sky is not falling.
First, I stop and ask myself if what I am feeling is, in fact, anxiety. If the answer is no, then I employ a certain flavor of self-talk and any number of mantras I’ve collected over the years that feels helpful.
I am safe now.
I will figure it out.
I have nothing to be worried about.
Everything is going to be okay.
There is nothing wrong.
I have everything I need.
I am capable.
I am healthy.
Sometimes, it feels ridiculous that I actually have to say these things to myself, and that I have to say them so often. But, as I spontaneously explained it to my husband the other day, because I’ve dealt with anxiety so intensely for so long, it’s been seared into the neural pathways in my brain. Responding to situations with panic has become automatic, and the process of interrupting and rewiring those pathways is long and hard. The good news, however, is that it’s possible. In no way am I doomed to always feel this way.
And so, I do my best to inject hope into this shitstorm that is all too often my life.
Please continue to wish me luck, and I’ll keep telling my anxiety to go to hell, where it belongs.