Anxiety: Like A Hell-broth Boil And Bubble


I stole from Macbeth for this blog post title.

For at least two years now my life has been occupied, to a large degree, by self-discovery.

Much of this discovery has been painful or, at the very least, uncomfortable. I’m not sorry for these discoveries. The end result is usually good. I guess I would equate it to the absolute horror of an annual performance review that is followed up by a pay raise.

The discoveries haven’t all been problematic. Often, I find where my thoughts travel to be exotic, hopeful, and accepting. I am far from kind to myself, but I have also distanced myself from my cruel and relentless internal voice. She’s still there. Sometimes, I can feel her resentment at being locked away, but locked away she is.

Unease has been my constant companion. Anxiety infiltrated every part of me and became background noise. Had I been asked 30 years ago if I were an anxious person, I would have laughed it off. 20 years ago, I would have insisted that my life was happy and I was mostly serene. 10 years ago, I would have freely admitted to having depression issues, but even then, I didn’t realize how anxiety had been affecting me for most of my life.

Now? I have recognized that anxiety has been my BFF for most of my life and I’m exploring that relationship.

This morning, I sat on my deck, and looked at the wreck that is my “not-flower” bed. I went through an exercise that I’ve been practicing for a while. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and pay attention to how I am feeling. Am I anxious? I don’t always recognize it right away because anxiety is so familiar to me. I usually determine that I’m at least a little anxious. Then, I try to work through the reasons why. Sometimes, those reasons are neon signs and other times they dance just out of  my reach.

This morning, I saw anxiety as a cauldron.

Our heads are filled with gray matter, right? So it makes sense that the contents of the cauldron are gray.

Most days, the goopy, steaming contents of my brain simmer at a quiet, bubbling rate. The gentle, popping bubbles are my anxiety at it’s most functional level. Thoughts escape when bubbles pop.

That project at work? You’re totally going to tank that project. 

You have got to get that cracked windshield replaced.

The house will never be ready to put on the market in the spring.

Seriously, how many weekends are you willing to go without doing any real housework? I think this is your record. 

Some days, however, some days the heat fluctuates and the cauldron bubbles more violently. Large gray bubbles rise and pop releasing a flood of thoughts that can barely be processed before the next wave of fears are released.

You’re very ill, you know. You’ve been ill for months. This is serious.

Maybe, dying serious.

By the time the doctor figures this shit out, it’s going to be too late. 

We can’t afford for me to be this sick. 

How badly have I fucked up the kids?

What if I lose my job?

No one really loves you.

I have accepted that I can’t control this. I have no control over the spikes in my anxiety. The fact that I cannot control anxiety, invokes feelings of inadequacy. Even shame. Why? Why can’t I just stop? This is another failure. 

Accepting that I have very little say in when my anxiety flares up is freeing. I know it will happen. I understand that outside forces sometimes triggers anxiety, but mostly, it’s me.

If I look up at the cauldron at the person stirring the brew, then I see that it is me and I’m wearing a hat. The severity of my anxiety depends entirely on whether the hat I am wearing is black or white.

I am working very hard to make peace with both.

Getting angry with myself for allowing my anxiety to race out of control has not been effective. Ignoring the fears and shoving them into boxes is not only ineffective, but damaging.

I feel the way I feel. I have to let it happen. Then I get to decide where to go from there.

I really have been freaking out about my health. I am completely convinced that my summer of hyperthyroidism is the forefront to what will bring my early demise. I accept that I feel this way and until my doctor or whatever doctor figures out what the fuck is going on, I will probably continue to feel this way. I just have to make room because constantly fighting these thoughts is so goddamn exhausting.

I am in no way suggesting that I am giving my tacit agreement to these thoughts by not fighting them. I am merely acknowledging them and accepting their presence. When I am ready to show them out of the door, I will.

It occurred to me this morning that I’ve been railing against anxiety for a while now. Anxiety is a dick. I hate anxiety.

Yet, anxiety is a part of me. The constant battle only has one casualty. My peace of mind. I’m tired of hating something that I can’t even completely define.

I accept this.

I have no idea what to do with this information.

I do know that just writing this has brought my cauldron back to a low simmer.

That’s a start.


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  • I feel as though I need to give you the secret handshake. I have GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). I didn’t clearly perceive this until I was 52 years old! I have long had anger management issues. I attributed this to having an alcoholic parent model poor behavior, but now I see that having a lot of tension in my body from anxiety and perfectionism in my brain can lead to a big explosion of emotions. I have long been labeled by others as hyper, high energy, intense, energetic and high strung. Those are all correlated with anxiety. I have to consciously work on managing my anxiety so that it doesn’t ruin my relationships and my productivity. It’s a freakin’ part time job! Sometimes I get super discouraged and feel extremely broken, so I relate to your statement about shame. All my best to you as you dance the tango with your anxiety and negotiate through the lava. Hugs to you (and secret handshake).

  • As someone as who has dealt with anxiety my whole life, I kept shaking my head while I read this! For me, I have come to see my anxiety as a part of me. It’s also my warning system that lets me know where in my life I need to focus and work on. Thanks so much!

  • Lately it seems like I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about anxiety. (Is this something I should be worried about?) This is the first real insight I’ve gotten into what it’s like and I really I appreciate it. I’m also glad that writing helps because your writing is amazing and if it helps you to write then everybody wins.
    Thinking of that cauldron I kept looking at the picture at the top and thinking of a lava lamp and how the goop heats up, rises, then falls back down, not unlike your anxiety which seems to go in cycles. But that kinda ruins lava lamps and no one wants that.

  • ….”Yet, anxiety is a part of me. The constant battle only has one casualty. My peace of mind. I’m tired of hating something that I can’t even completely define.”
    Oh how I get aspects of what you describe. And really there is no “one size fits all” way to manage anxiety. Identification and acceptance are the first steps toward peace of mind…and what a gift it is that writing is a way of turning down the flame, without heat the pot can’t boil. Breathing helps too. Brave and raw, thanks for sharing today.

  • You know what Michelle, although I am sorry to hear of your struggles, on a selfish level, I did find huge comfort in this post. I am struggling badly right now and cannot talk about it to anyone. I hide away at home and get absorbed in art, crafts and writing. When I am forced to deal with people in person (as opposed to the superficial online world), I have to put on a massive front for my aging parents and anyone else that I encounter. Is it an age thing? I see people keep posting stuff about depression and suicide and it seems as if the whole world is suffering. The anxiety and sadness I have is manageable as long as I don’t have to talk to anyone. I am finding it harder and harder to hide and when well-meaning people say stuff like, you don’t seem quite yourself, I start to panic because I feel cornered. So I avoid people as much as I can. The only person I feel at peace with is my husband who doesn’t ask questions, he just quietly comforts me with no pressure to explain myself because he knows I can’t. I have pushed so many people away because I can’t cope with being around anyone. I am running out of excuses not to see friends. I have several blog interviews waiting and no desire to do them. I was happy as hell 6 months ago and thought the anxiety I suffered when I was much younger was way behind me and then this. Nothing at all happened to cause it. It is like permanent PMT all of a sudden but I got done with menopause eons ago. It is EXACTLY as you describe and I am grateful to you that you actually found the strength to write about it. I haven’t been so brave. Even making this comment is scary for me and I don’t know if I will be able to publish it when I am done which is why it is so long. I hope you feel better soon. x

    • I am so glad you sent this comment! Good for you!

      Give yourself a break. You feel the way you do. I will suggest seeing your doctor, however. I learned this summer that a lot of my issue was due to medication screwing with me. Maybe there is something they can help you with?

      • Thanks Michelle, appreciate that. I have always shunned medication for anything but way back in the spring, I was given hormone pessaries called Vagifem to cope with the usual crap post-menopausal women get down there. I was ok with them at first but about a month ago I had a raging tooth infection and had to take amoxicillin. I have just found, by scouring the Internet, that some women have reported a severe emotional reaction to the hormone pessaries. I also just found that they don’t go well with amoxicillin. There is nothing on the drug sheet that says this so it’s only just anecdotal evidence. I am stopping the pessaries to see if I get any better. I find it hard to believe an inch wincy teeny pessary could have such a major impact. I bloody hope it is them because I am tired of the cauldron and I want my old self back. That is such a clever way to put it. I am sure loads of women will relate to what you said.

        • My issue was thyroid medication. It turned on me. Side effects? Anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and nervousness. YAY!

          I hope adjusting your meds helps you! Let me know if you think of it and don’t mind sharing.

          • My mum is on over-active thyroid meds and is having problems with all over body pain. Especially legs at night. Well I am off to see the doc in about 20 mins. I am going to ask about the Vagifem and my apparent newfound madness. I don’t expect to get much sense out of him. He is a man for one thing. I think he is young too. I have never seen him before either. I go there so infrequently I have no relationship with any of the doctors. I am sure he will look at me as if I come from Mars (maybe I do!). Will let you know how it goes. Thanks for asking. Have a good rest of the day – hope the bubbling is still at a minimum.

    • I’m glad Gilly posted what she did.
      I’m glad you posted this, Michelle.
      My chronic pain doctor is weaning me off my meds after a year of medicine and I feel anxious because I’m worried my pain will come back. I’m sure it’s silly, but the anxiety is roaring at me through RLAS (restless leg & arm syndrome) which has me making an appt with my GP. I tried pot and Ivory soap between my legs and under my pillow for my arms. I was up and down three times last night 🙁
      I think we all have anxiety in one form or another since the day we were born. We can medicate, self-medicate, use breathing techniques or the grounding technique. We will always have anxiety.
      We have to learn to live with it and accept that fact.
      Fucks sake.

  • Once again, you have expressed the same feelings I have carried with me for most of my life. And I also wanted to address Gilly’s comment, too, with this post. I’ve had good times/bad times as far as how well my anxiety was managed, but on some level, it has still ALWAYS been there. And as I entered perimenopause (and now that I’m officially IN menopause), my anxiety increased. I’ll have a good day, but still have the anxiety nagging at me just below the surface. It feels as if you carry this sentinel around with you and he/she never goes “off duty”. I can’t speak for you ladies, but I do believe that part of my inability to totally relax is a result of actual experiences I’ve had throughout my life. People in authority (my parents, teachers, etc.—I’ve had this since my mid-teens) threatening me for “defiance” and accusing me of making these feelings up to “get out of things”, when I did, in deed, have a severe anxiety disorder, but did not know at that time what was even wrong with me. I have suffered physical and verbal abuse due to having this issue. And when you have the people in your life who should be caring for you actually turning on you, it leaves quite a lasting impression inside your brain. Frankly, at this stage of my life, I become angry because I’m tired of having to explain myself to people who just don’t GET IT and feel that I enjoy these feelings so I can use it as a “get out of jail free” card. They’re of the opinion I should automatically take medications, not allowing for the potential side effects that I will have to endure. Not them. ME. And now, I have been diagnosed with Crohn’s, an autoimmune condition. So, I’m all for the secret handshake or signal! There are more of us out here than you realize. We’re just nestled away inside our homes and don’t feel like mingling! HAHA!

    • OMG! Yes – all of this Terri. I don’t know how old you are – I am 59 and had similar experiences to you re younger life. Now I am older, I have run out of patience with people’s BS and since I have been like this I can’t button my lip any more. It’s as if the low moods drive me to tell people how I really feel about their crap. Then they get confused because I used to be so ‘nice’. Hence, stay indoors like you say! I am so glad Michelle wrote this post. Secret handshakes all round!

      • Yes, Michelle and Gilly!!! Yes! We are members of a select tribe of fascinating, intelligent wild women who just happen to carry around physical and mental disorders along with their purses! Nothing like a little extra baggage. Haha! I laughed at your comment, Gilly, about people wondering what happened to you because “you used to be so nice”. 🙂 Yep! That was me, too, especially early on in the perimenopausal stage. After years of trying to be nice, polite and obedient to keep people from inflicting harm on me, I suddenly did a 180 and no one was safe! Haha! I’m hoping my anger pendulum is done swinging to extremes, but I no longer tolerate any fools (or their abuse) gladly. Honestly, haven’t we all done enough of that in our lives already? I would say that the fact we are all still here kicking ass in our own unique ways says VOLUMES of great things about us. Screw the assholes!!! 😀

        • This SO sounds like me Terri. Just got back from doc’s. When I asked about the Vagifem making me nuts, he didn’t look at me as if I was from Mars as I feared. Pluto yes, Mars no. Of course he has no idea if it is that but told me to ‘have a break’ from them. Really good to chat with you and Michelle – thanks so much for the support inherent in the sharing of experiences.

          • I feel the same about communicating with you and Michelle! Thank you also for being so brave, as Michelle always is, and opening up. I’m all too aware that it isn’t easy for people like us to do that. Stay well, my Plutonian sister! 🙂

  • I’ve got it, get it and fight the beast frequently. For the last 35 years it’s been an almost constant companion. Aerobic execise helps burn off some of the adrenaline, a culprit, meditation helps some, drugs work of course but suck too. My cortisol levels are off the chart and my adrenals are burning out. With all I try, my damn reptilian brain keeps kicking me into flight or flight! It sucks big time.

  • I am also a rider on this bus. For years, I alternated between crushing depression and terrifying anxiety. Sometimes I welcomed the depression because it felt better than the anxiety. It wasn’t until I found a doctor who was finally willing to treat the anxiety with the medication I needed that I got better. So many doctors are willing to throw anti-depressants and other really scary drugs at you, but won’t prescribe Xanax even when you tell them you walk through every day with a stomachache. The first day I finally got the prescription and woke up without the stomachache, I spent the day almost in tears from happiness. I took it for a really long time and finally weaned myself off. Like you, Michelle, I still hear the woman telling me I’m no good, but it’s easier now to recognize she’s just a voice. It’s a journey, that’s for sure.

  • Sorry if you get 2 posts I don’t know where the first one went and I’m not good at writing how I feel twice . Just to let you know
    YOU WILL BE OK I just pray that it’s soon I wish I could be there to ( I know you might not like it ) give you a big bear hug and pour some bourbon on that shit your going through xxxxx

  • Well, I think you’re awesome, and I love that you can put into words how so many people feel.

    I don’t know if I have anxiety per se, but I find myself nodding at so much of this and so many of the comments. I have been called “high-energy, intense, hyper, and perfectionist” at various times in my life, but I seem to have dwindled down into a point where I barely care enough to mow the lawn and keep the laundry done. Because I’d rather be reading or painting my nails or something, I guess..

    Also a huge YES to the lessening filter on being as nice “as I used to be”. It’s kind of freeing to be able to call BS, BS, so I’m good with the post (yes, post) menopausal me. At 45…

    What I hate is the voice I hear all day, telling me that our property looks like shit, that the 2 acres of landscaping full of weeds isn’t going to clean itSELF up, why haven’t I swept the floor, and why has another whole sunny day gone by and I haven’t gotten anything done outside? Also, why can’t I even lose 5 pounds, let alone the 30 I need to?

    So…yeah. Secret handshake from over here, too.

  • I know I’m getting anxious when I feel my blood pressure rising, despite the medication I take for it. Having already suffered a stroke, I have to take that seriously, but am often at a loss as to what to do about it. I’ve been trying to teach some of my internal voices to STFU when what they have to offer is the opposite of helpful. Some days that seems to help, some days it doesn’t. I have found that it got easier after I successfully dealt with my last major health issue (cataracts) so perhaps it will get easier for you when you finally get your thyroid issues worked out, even beyond whether that’s what is causing your anxiety. Here’s hoping that is the case.

    • Health issues always make it worse…and my condition causes anxiety…so there’s that. I JUST got back from the doctor. They took more blood..going to see if I’m normal yet. His plan is to just adjust my dose again if it hasn’t righted itself. Sigh. It’s taking forever.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. When we share we can help others not feel alone. I am not sure what age your anxiety started, however, many women suffer from depression and anxiety when their hormones begin to plummet during perimenopause and menopause. Unfortunately, many doctors do not even look into this when women come in with anxiety and depression. But, it is worth checking your hormones. The symptoms of perimenopause can begin anywhere from 6-10 years before menopause. Menopause is when you have been without a period for 12 consecutive months. In addition, around this time many women experience thyroid issues. Download my free eBook MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriends Guide To Surviving And Thriving During Menopause at You can read about these symptoms chapter by chapter. Good Luck!

  • As always – such great writing although I do want to know how you managed to get into my head ?????????????? My anxiety issues started when menopause it and while I do seem to have got better at dealing with it, there are times when I just want to run and hide from everyone.
    I really related to what Gilly and Terri-Lee said and I would love there to be a secret handshake – that way we would know straight away whether the other person really ‘got’ us !!!
    Sending heaps of huge hugs your way – sleep tight !

  • Writing has always helped with my anxiety issues. Of course, I have an ulcer, my hair sometimes falls out and my finger nails bleed, but hey I’m good! Lol! I love how you can put what your feeling into words. I’ve always had trouble with that. I always feel that if I write it, it can be held against me later. Weird I know.

    • I don’t think it’s weird and I DO struggle with these things. Like an employer finding my blog and thinking…HOLY SHIT..she is bat shit crazy.

      But then I write it anyway.

  • Anxiety is definitely an asshole.

    I’m sure you already know this Michelle, but for others reading here – there can be a connection between hypothyroidism and anxiety. Here’s an article about it:

    I also suffer from anxiety, and for me, talking about it often helps. Knowing I’m not alone, and that I’m not bat shit crazy is a huge relief. Well okay, I AM bat shit crazy but that isn’t my point… My point us sharing is good (unless it’s gonorrhea) and I am loving all of these comments and people talking about their own experiences with anxiety. What wonderful folks you have here Michelle! Who says the internet is just a bag of dicks?

    (Me actually. I say that … but it doesn’t apply to this site.)

    I take Xanax on occasion as well and it usually helps. I don’t take it every day though … I have booze for that. 😉

    Thanks for sharing this … and thanks as well to all who have commented and added to the conversation. I’m feeling a tiny bit less anxious now.

    Let’s make this our secret handshake:

  • I came back to check the comments, and–WHOA!–we have company in the anxiety tribe. I have seen statistics (such as this one: “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population.”) However, making eye contact with a fellow anxiety sufferer (even if virtual) makes those stats come alive.

    All my best as we try different venues for managing our anxiety. I find that I have to constantly tweak my approach because life events and changes to my body switch things up from time to time. Gentle hugs, good humor and good (mental &) health care to us all! Michelle, you are a wonderful host with this post.

By Michelle

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