Amateur Level Anxiety

A

I read an article about 18 struggles only anxious people have to deal with. I only identified with half of them.

Obviously, I suck at being anxious.

I read this article and my inner critic piped up: Did you READ that? You talk about being anxious, having anxiety and you don’t really have a problem. Other people with REAL anxiety are the ones who suffer. You’re just a pussy. Half, Michelle. You identified with half of them. Probably most people would identify with half of them and they don’t call themselves anxious. They probably leave their house every single day without a bottle of xanax. 

I shut her up for a few minutes by reading a Buzzfeed article that promised to restore my faith in humanity. I can always use a little faith in humanity because so very often humanity proves how horrible it can be.

I was only halfway through before I was crying. Randy is used to this behavior from me, especially since I started skipping into menopause.

Randy: Why are you crying?

Me: This picture. A little dying girl wanted to hear Christmas carolers. She was only 8! She was just a baby.

Randy: You want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

Me: I kind of do.

I know I write a lot of blog posts about the silly arguments we have and I poke fun at his logic some times (all the time), but I have to say, he’s incredible and he never fails to take care of me. He never gets annoyed with me when I overreact or worry obsessively about my health or our kids. He might get a little annoyed when I search my symptoms on WebMD, but really, he’s entitled to that much. And him being annoyed doesn’t stop me from doing it, so I am not inconvenienced by his annoyance in any way.

The peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk helped me get beyond the sadness of the stupid Buzzfeed article that I knew I shouldn’t read but I did anyway. Do I want to cry over everything? Is that why I do it? It’s like reading the comments on articles about fat shaming or women’s rights. I know I’m going to get angry when I read the comments, but I do it anyway. It’s like poking a sore tooth with your tongue. You don’t want to do it, yet your tongue keeps finding it’s way to the sore spot.

Or is that just me?

Then I turned back to my idea that I really don’t have it that bad. That the anxiety I feel isn’t professional level anxiety. I truly don’t understand my brain. Do I WANT more anxiety? Am I disappointed that I’ve never once felt agoraphobic? 

I know how debilitating anxiety can be. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to struggle to leave your house. It must be horrifying to have regular panic attacks. I’ve had panic attacks and they are terrifying. I am glad that they are few and far between. I have a friend who went through a months long stretch of having them nearly every day.

I struggled this afternoon with feeling guilty and well, feeling anxious over whether or not I’m anxious enough to call myself anxious.

I’m grateful that I can walk through my front door without pause. I’m glad that I can go places alone and not be afraid. As long as those places aren’t in a social setting. I can see a movie or eat in a restaurant and not have a moment of anxiety.

Put me in a situation where there is a gathering or a meeting or a party or, fucking hell, a performance review and I’m crawling out of my skin. I’m grateful that I can bluff my way through most of these situations without letting them see me sweat.

I might struggle with feelings of anxiety when I go to a party, whether it’s large or small, but I can still do it. I might need to hide for a few minutes, but that’s a small price to pay.

I’m trying to convince myself how nonsensical it is to make comparisons. It reminds me of people who sneer at tragedies. Oh, a bunch of school kids were gunned down? That’s NOTHING compared to the number of children who die from (fill in a horrific cause of children’s death). 

There is no comparing those things.

In the end, the dead kids are still dead.

Well, that’s a happy little thought, isn’t it?

The thing is, no one is asking me to defend or validate my mental issues. Except for me.

I guess feeling guilty about having amateur level anxiety makes as much sense as the time I was upset that my car repairs were affordable.

Either way, I have enough to work through without worrying whether or not it’s valid.

I will be grateful for the good days when I feel light and confident. On the days when I’m circling the drain or I’m pouring out sweat and the inside of my mouth tastes like I’ve been sucking on pennies, I will do my best to not berate myself for not feeling worse.

Or does that make no sense at all?

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51 comments

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  • It makes way sense. (More than that sentence, anyway.) It’s not until you really try to work yourself into a frenzy of dysfunction and victimhood that you realize how truly, truly awful some people have it through no fault of their own. Then all the cliches about feeling grateful make a little more sense, and you go on. With the help of the healing power of PB&J, of course.

  • Even if you only suffered from one of those things but very badly that doesn’t make it any less debilitating, so it’s not that you don’t suffer from anxiety, you just don’t have all those triggers. I had to read the article of course and I scored 14 out of the 18, but the levels of reaction for all of them are very different, some are mild discomfort, others can cause extreme panic. If even one of those scenarios means you have to take a Xanax or in my case a beta blocker just to handle it, then it’s chronic anxiety.
    >
    While many people may not feel comfortable in a lot of those scenarios they can usually get through them without pharmaceuticals. I’m working toward being able to handle these things without beta blockers and I’m a zillion times less anxious than this time last year, but there are still some serious triggers.
    Don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re not a pussy. Anxiety sucks, there is nothing you can do about it when it hits. If you could control it you would, as would I, because that’s just who we are!

    • Thank you, gorgeous. I needed that. It seems I’m not happy unless I am criticizing myself over SOMETHING, even when it’s nonsensical. Wonder where I get that? Hahahahha

      • Ha, yes I know where mine comes from too. On somewhat of a post script, I had to do one of the things that I get very stressy and anxious about today, travel to rehearsals lumping a heavy keyboard on a very hot and crowded bus, on which I’m usually the only woman not covered from head to foot, for about an hour and then a long tube ride. This was made much, much better by some pervert who felt it necessary to stand inappropriately close to me on the bus when it wasn’t necessary and rub himself on my arm, he standing me sitting so I think you get the picture. Having made it to rehearsal and done an almost equally crappy journey back I poured myself a drink and am kind of feeling less panicked inside now. How the hell are you supposed to react to that kind of behaviour? Probably not by ignoring it and trying to pretend it isn’t happening I guess. Need to remember how to breathe again…what a complete douche.

        • what a fuck head.

          Don’t beat yourself up over how you dealt with, if ignoring it is what you needed to do, then that was the way to deal with it.

          I wish we could take care of each other’s stresses..I would have spit on him and then you could spit on my boss.

          • Ha ha ha, I’d accidentally trip your boss next to an open window so he fell out of it, (hopefully from several storeys up), closely followed by ukelele man 🙂
            >
            I need to work on reacting like a normal human being instead of a damaged child in these kinds of situations. I just freeze up and react later with an anxiety attack. I’d have felt much better if I’d have elbowed him the nuts
            :-))

    • HAHAH.

      Oh, I know this. I know. But I do it anyway. Not always..usually when I’m already in a bad mood. I guess they give me someplace to direct my pissyness

  • Amateurs. I’ve worried about stuff that would make the network news if it was true. I’m certified. I just recently completed paperwork, after 7 years, for the Social Security Administration that will continue my disability into my retirement years where it will become my SSA retirement. I’m also certified by the Veterans Administration at 100%, permanently.

    Being certified pays well. I figure I’ve had a total over twenty psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers review me for certification. To date there has been no question. The form letter from the SSA was actually too late but it’s resolved.

    Make it easy on yourself with your cognitive distortions. I do. I have to tell myself that I’ll probably not get into an accident while traveling. We have a safe vehicle. Strong. Ten airbags. 😀

    You’re one of my favorite people Michelle. So there, partly certified now.

    • Hahah…I should have a certificate for that!

      I worry about accidents before a trip, but it’s usually fleeting, not bad. I worry a lot more about having to interact with people once we get where we’re going.

  • I think that we all, in some way, “want” to feel those emotions because it still means that we can actually FEEL. We are desensitized to things a lot with the media, movies, tv, video games, news, ect. and we want to make sure that we still have a heart about certain situations. Now go enjoy a PB&J.

  • There’s a difference between Generalized Anxiety Disorder and having anxiety. Neither is worse or better than the other. “Anxiety disorder” is a huge umbrella for a plethora of things. I have specific anxieties, few of which are on that “18 things…” link. It doesn’t make those anxieties any less debilitating or hard to handle.

    You don’t have to convince yourself or anyone else of your anxiety. Just let it happen and work with it.

  • That makes total sense. I also feel guilty, like, people have it worse than me so I don’t deserve to feel this way. I’m trying to accept the fact that I feel the way I feel no matter how badly anyone else feels. Just because someone else passes out when they see a spider doesn’t make my panic attack in the grocery store any less traumatizing. I’m *trying* to accept that, lol.

  • Oh, I cried the ugly cry over that little girl too. But I’ll take that over people who can read that and don’t feel a damn thing.
    .
    We had recent anxiety when my doctor sent me home with THREE prescriptions. Sheldon said “We may not be able to get these right away.” I thought, Great. Especially since I go back to see her on the 1st!
    .
    So he drops off the Rx at CVS then calls me later to ask me to call them and find out how much they are. He can’t do it because they are under my name.
    .
    The lady asks me to hang on, and then gets back to me and says “Your total will be $5.66.
    .
    FIVE-DOLLARS AND 66 CENTS. I have that in pennies alone.
    .
    Sheldon’s anxiety was relieved.
    .
    So was mine.
    .
    Sometimes life just sucks.

    • First of all..I am so glad you had enough for your prescriptions. No one should have to worry about that shit!

      And yes..sometimes life really sucks..but SOMETIMES..it’s pretty awesome. I keep reminding myself of that.

      • I need to be reminded of that too. I’ve had some days which were extraordinary and maybe I’m left here to do the remembering.

  • It makes perfect sense to me. I only identified with about half of these too (although in some cases, because I don’t do what they were describing, e.g. Twitter), and immediately started scolding myself, “Stop with your poor little me routine–you don’t have it anywhere near as bad as some people. Get over yourself.” And yet, I’m supposed to drive to Portland with my family this weekend, and I’ve been worrying about it for the last two weeks, and I probably won’t enjoy the trip because I’ll spend the whole time stressing about what could go wrong. I hate flying, I hate driving, I hate leaving my bubble of perceived safety. And I finally had to stop using WebMD. Why don’t they just call WebMD what it is? Youhavecancer.com

    • I try to quit WebMD, but I just can’t do it.

      I usually have a brief bout of anxiety before we drive anywhere and I fucking HATE to fly. I’m sweaty and uncomfortable and on the verge of tears the entire time.

      It’s mostly people for me…

  • At a certain point you have to accept that you are who you are, and that what you feel is important and very real regardless of how it compares to what other people feel. The good thing, though, is that I get the sense that you’re really laughing about only having half the triggers for anxiety, rather than getting anxious about it. I know it doesn’t solve everything, but at least your response is healthy.

    It reminds me of Eddie Izzard talking about his dyslexia: “I thought I was really dyslexic until I met another guy who said, ‘yeah? well my handwriting’s all over the place!’ There’s a lot of rivalry in the dyslexic community. That’s ‘rivalry’ with three v’s.”

  • Not kidding…I read this exact list a couple days ago and thought, “Do I really have anxiety if I don’t get panic attacks? I mean, sometimes my breath will be fast but I don’t sweat much. Is it a real panic attack without sweat?” Etc. These reactions speak as much to being OCD as being anxious. Why just be anxious when you can be GOOD at being anxious? :p

  • You see a lot of that these days – this need we have to legitimize everything we do, say, feel. We torture ourselves to the point of creating anxiety and other health symptoms. What we forget is that we are all entitled to the way we feel; the way we see ourselves and the way we react to things. It would definitely be beyond boring (and super-frustrating; could you imagine me working in an office full of Jar Jar Bitch’s!?? Nooooooo!) if everybody followed the same stringent set of standards. 🙂

  • Don’t feel too bad. Maybe you have a unique and special kind of anxiety that can not be properly classified – like a rare hothouse flower you have your own quirks and tics that make you beautiful in your own right. If it makes you feel better at all- based on your writing I would classify you as “fucked up in all the right ways” – normal people are boring. No one ever accuses you of being boing, I bet.

  • Michelle, it doesn’t matter who else suffers what. Or how many of these things give you anxiety.

    Your problems are real. Your fears are real. Your anxiety is real.

    I don’t want to try and pooh pooh MY problems, just because “people are dying of starvation.” I get the whole perspective, but my problems still are challenging, for who I am, for where I am in my life.

    That quiz was bonkers. Who WOULDN’T shit a cold purple Twinkie if their doorbell rings unexpectedly at night?

  • It is interesting that you look at it as if you are not succeeding at having anxiety instead of seeing it in positive light. You are not so anxious as all that, this is a good thing. I hope you can get to a place of feeling good about NOT identifying with 100% of those things.

    Just my humble, half way anxious (apparently) opinion. I read that list and thought, thank the Gods I don’t worry about all of those things!

    • It really is a good thing…and I am glad that I don’t worry about all those things. I just need to stop feeling guilty about what I DO feel anxious about

  • Michelle, you are awesome, anxieties and all. And I’m dying over here about the cold purple Twinkie.

  • I’ve never suffered anxiety much…if at all. But recently I’ve had an avalanche of it.
    My left leg has been amputated above the knee…and after a long rehabilitation I’m learning to walk again.
    I’ve had a few car-wreck-falls doing this and it knocks your confidence. I think anxiety and confidence are the same thing…
    You know how you see an athlete or a musician take a deep breath before performing an event or a soaring lead guitar? That’s jumping into the void…we do these things every day.
    But if your confidence is shaken it takes a mammoth suck of air to do something that might hurt you a lot.
    That’s my two-bob’s worth!

    • Oh wow…I can imagine that you’ve had some anxiety…what a shocking change to have to get used to. I am sending you good and calm thoughts (for what it’s worth)

      I am familiar with that deep breath. I have to do it before meetings or walking into a room full of people.

  • First of all — yes, Web MD is the devil — we should all swear off of it forever, lest it convince us we are going to die of rare and horrible illnesses! Second, I find some things on that list to be incredibly rational — like being alarmed when the doorbell rings unexpectedly at night. Usually that shit isn’t the girl scouts selling cookies, you know? Last time it happened here, it was the police come to take my son to the ER because he was talking about suicide online and an online friend halfway around the country became alarmed enough to call the police in HIS neck of the woods, who then did their IT thing and tracked down where my son was located and contacted police here. I found that pretty amazing and incredible — and I was grateful (after just about peeing my pants in alarm when the police came striding into my house).

    I consider myself to be an anxious person in a lot of ways — but most of those ways are not on that list. I think it’s a continuum — there are a myriad of symptoms and not one is more “valid” than the other. The last thing I need is to start feeling guilty that I’m not anxious in the proper way — or not anxious enough 🙂

    • Yeah, that’s the last thing you need. Holy hell..marital changes and surgery..that’s quite enough, sister.

      I am still working on listening to my own thoughts. For so many years, my subconscious just assumed that any thought I had was wrong. I’ve gotten way beyond that, except for when I haven’t.

  • I know I’m weeks behind here but I had to comment on this post. (By the way, I am always weeks behind!) I don’t care how “amateur” it might seem compared to others’ anxiety levels, it sucks. I’ve had the tiniest anxiety attacks and I’ve had the “pull the car of the road because I can’t breathe or feel my hands and feet” panic attack and they all suck. I’m glad you have your husband. He sounds a lot like mine. He’s gotten so good at spotting one coming that he sometimes knows before I do just by the look on my face. He doesn’t make a big deal out of it, he just lets me know he’s there. It’s nice to have that.

    As for WebMD….Lord! I’ve had to stop looking things up there no matter how tempted I may be. According to that site, I should be dead by now!

    • It’s good you have your husband, then. Mine doesn’t always see mine right away and he might get annoyed when it starts, but then he’ll realize what is going on and he’s awesome. He’s starting to understand the irrational bitchiness of menopause as well…poor guy.

      Yeah, WebMd has not been good for me.

  • I don’t have all the ones on the list, but the ones I do have can be overwhelming. I was diagnosed a year and a half ago with PTSD, depression, a panic disorder, and an anxiety disorder. I always joke that it only affects me about 10 % if the time–the other 90% of the time, I just pretend hard that it doesn’t. I love sucking at being anxious–to me, that means that maybe I’m getting better. I was actually relieved when I saw some of the things on the list and thought, “Hey–not really! This is a good sign that I’m getting closer to who I used to be.” So don’t anxiety-shame yourself and keep writing this good stuff.

    • I never like to hear that anyone is struggling with anxiety and depression. I hate it. I am also grateful to not be alone.

      Thank you so much for your encouragement!

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