So, I’m back at work.
I’ll be honest. There was a good hour this morning where I seriously thought about not going in; but I’m trying to practice some of the things I’ve been learning in therapy and through reading Don’t Panic, part of which is being intentional with the way you talk to yourself. My self dialogue during moments of anxiety often goes like this:
anxiety: Dude! Come on let’s get going we’ve got all this stuff to do and no time and how are you going to get it all done and WAIT that kid from 3rd grade whose name you can’t remember is probably definitely still mad at you for that thing you accidentally said and you’re in a great relationship but it’s only a matter of time before you probably definitely fuck it up and probably definitely don’t tell anyone how stressed you are and about all of these things you have to do and YOU SHOULD BE MORE WORRIED WHY AREN’T YOU MORE WORRIED.
For me, there are also physical symptoms that go along with the ruminating(being stuck on one thought) or the racing thoughts. I typically have some nausea, sometimes I feel jumpy like I had too much coffee, sometimes I cry a lot, sometimes all of those at the same time. This makes it hard to deal with the thoughts because you just feel so shitty physically. What’s helpful for me is to deal with the physical symptoms first, then address the mental ones. When I can remember (because, let’s be honest, the struggle to think anything beyond anxious thoughts and ohmygod I feel so gross during a time like this is real), my first action is always to take some Tums or some Dramamine. It might be a placebo effect, but that usually helps me get the nausea under control enough that I can try to address the anxious thoughts. Sometimes, I’m able to shush my anxiety with meditation or yoga. Often the easiest and most accessible option is reading. If I’m home, and good cuddle with the dog or the dude will help a lot, too.
I know in my rational brain that these thoughts are ridiculous. I work hard to be a good partner and good at my job, and I make adorable To Do lists with little boxes to keep myself organized. I set reminders. But sometimes, even when I’m using my nicest, gentlest voice and doing everything I know to do that helps, it envelopes everything and I have no choice but to give myself up to it.
Which is kind of the point, really. Talking about this with my therapist has yielded some interesting insights, and so have some of the anxiety books I’ve read. Basically, when you fight the feeling with thoughts like this has to stop right now or what if I’m not feeling better by this time? or what if people see me like this? you’re actually creating more tension and making it worse. That was a big part of my problem on Wednesday: I felt like I needed to hide what was happening with me, and it was making it so much worse. And that’s why I decided to share my experiences publicly – it’s a way for me to address what’s happening and to practice accepting my anxiety. It’s kind of a way to keep me accountable and motivating myself to practice self-care. When I don’t have anyone regularly checking in with me, I tend to forget to take care of myself(much like I forget to take care of plants because they can’t tell me they need anything and then they die. Sorry multiple succulents).
So this morning, I tried to keep telling myself that it was ok that I was feeling anxious, it was ok that I was feeling nauseous, it was ok that my chest felt like it was so big that I’d never be able to fill it with air. I kept thinking that I actually wanted to feel it, because it accepting it would help me feel better. And it worked.
I still felt kind of shakey and vaguely nauseous when I got to work, but overall, so so much better than the last few days. I remember saying to my therapist when I first tried this technique that I almost wanted to be anxious more often so that I could try it, develop my trust in it, and know that it would work. And conceptually, I know that it will work, even though I’ve only really tried it once or twice. The practice is really tough, though.
It’s just hard to want to feel gross when you feel gross. It seems counterintuitive and it’s against your natural instincts. It’s really difficult to ask for something that is so not what you want at all, especially if you’re like me and you even have trouble asking for things you do want. It just feels wrong on every level. But it was kind of cool to try that today and feel it working. I’m feeling more like my usual self today: more jokes, more interactive, no ruminating or racing thoughts, no nausea, actual hunger. It’s nice. I missed it.