On Anxiety and Masks and Hating When Other People Are Right

I’ve been thinking a lot about anxiety lately. Mostly mine. I mean, I can think about yours if you want me to but I’m more familiar with my own. I’ve just had more practice with mine. I’m so selfish like that.

I don’t talk about anxiety very often. I’m not very good at it and sometimes it’s just easier to keep quiet. There’s always the possibility that people will start acting weird about it once they know. Maybe they’ll be uncomfortable with the topic. (I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. That’s not right.)

When I take better care of myself, I handle life much better. I wish I could remember that all the time, but I don’t. I seem to forget every time that life gets complicated and I stop working out or eating right or drinking enough water. You know, that damn oxygen mask we keep talking about. I keep forgetting the part about putting mine on first.

What can I say? I’m a terrible flyer.

I wasn’t always an anxious person. I’ve always been a champion worrier pretty much all of my life. But my actual, “hey there’s an elephant sitting on my chest”, introduction to anxiety happened several years ago after a few ridiculously stressful months. As I’m wont to do, I put off going to the doctor until I really couldn’t ignore it anymore. My doctor immediately caught on. Me? Not so much. I’M NOT WORRIED ABOUT ANYTHING! I kept saying. THERE IS NO REASON FOR ME TO BE ANXIOUS, I maintained. He (politely) humored me and referred me to a specialist while saying, “Hey…I’m going to prescribe these (super low-dose) pills for anxiety because you really should think about all the ways you are obviously in denial about having anxiety.

I never did fill that prescription.

Because I’m an obnoxious know-it-all. Clearly.

See also: stubborn as shit.

Pills aren’t always the answer for me. Of all the rotten side effects that might happen – there is inevitably something that does happen to me. I’m just lucky like that. After those doctor appointments I felt that my entire self, the whole me, needed a tune-up and I took a more holistic approach to feeling better. Say what you will about acupuncture, but damn if I didn’t feel a lot better after several visits and really paying attention to a little more self-care. The oxygen mask was on, bitches.

Until it wasn’t. Until I, once again, put everyone else first and made sure I came dead last.

After some rough months (stressful deadlines and, you know, worrying about every last thing and school and college plans and, and…) I ignored all the signs that kept telling me I was headed back to not being well. My body hurt all the time. I was anxious A LOT. I felt like every task was a huge struggle. I could focus only on what was demanding my attention which meant I operating on a pretty stressful diet of hurry up and OMG YOU ARE ABOUT TO MISS THIS DEADLINE. (Or I would completely forget to do things. Important things. And then miss the deadlines.) It wasn’t a great place to be.

It’s still not fabulous. But it’s a lot better than it was. And a lot of improvements happened this week when I cut some yucky things out of my diet and started to get my run/walk on a little more. (Ok, a lot more than I was at ALL.) Gawd, I hate it when those nuts are right about things, but yeah. I feel a little better. I’m not going to pretend that I’m now living in this magical place of always feeling great and good, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. The fact that I can write about this and maybe even entertaining the idea that I’ll actually hit publish is a big deal. There is so much room for change and improvement, but I wish I could remember that taking care of myself is important. I hope I can keep this (not exactly) bullshit oxygen mask on my face. I really like the me that wears it.