Monday, July 6, 2015

So I have anxiety. . .

I'm coming out as suffering from anxiety.

Let me rebrand that in a more positive way. I'm living with anxiety. No, what I mean is I'm thriving through anxiety.

Call it what you want...

But I have lots of free-floating worry. Sometimes it morphs into full-blown panic. Blame it on my personality, my upbringing, my environment, the madness of modern times or an insufficiency of seratonin. I think it's a combination of each of these factors.

It does occasionally get me down. There are volumes contained in that word DOWN, by the way, but I'll leave it at that for now.

I'm not good at just pushing through things. And I believe in being frank about my experience, because I constantly meet other anxious people. My perspective may be able to help someone feel less alone.

I take medication. I've been to therapy many times, and probably will need another counseling tuneup—a checkup from the neck up—before long. I'm also an unrepentant devourer of self-help books.

But anxiety aside, I've got one life to live. (Unless it turns out that there is such a thing as reincarnation, in which case my point is still applicable: I have one life to live at a time.)

I do what I need to do. I mother my kids.  I drive my car. I "adult," as they say, dealing with bank-tellers and bosses.

I also do what I want to do. I'm a writer, so I conduct interviews. Thanks to some entertainment writing I've done, I could even drop a few names, if it were in good taste. Okay, you pulled my arm: Perry Farrel, Adam Ant, Rick Springfield, Henry Rollins, Scotty McCreery, Sandra Bernhard. . .

I'm a musician myself, and have gotten on stage a few times. I hope to do it some more in the future. I also was, before the recession intervened, an adjunct professor in the communications program at a community college. I've been in front of classroom full of students, and if that's not nerve-wracking, I don't know what is.

I think I'm done touting my resilience. I'd venture to guess that this getting on with things despite anxiety is prevalent to an unknown and unbelievable number of people.

How many of us must steel ourselves for a family gathering? And how many of us simultaneously see the irony in having to brace for something that's meant to be a joyful occasion, something that helps keep our support system strong—which is especially important when you have a mood disorder.

My advice to people with anxiety, in general, is as follows: Don't disappear. Know you're not alone. Reach out for help. Try everything. Don't beat yourself up for being imperfect. In fact, from the objective stance of a pretty good day, I can write a phrase that sounds to me like a small epiphany.

"You're not a broken human being because you have trouble controlling worry and fear. You're just extra-human." Not super-human, although that would be great, because you could tell all obstacles, inner and outer, to go to hell.

And keep your eye out for what other people who have experienced anxiety have to say about it. It can be inspiring and enlightening.

I encountered a couple valuable quotes just today while browsing through the enormous shopping mall of the mind that is Pinterest. First, there's this gem by Kierkegaard.

That's a good way to think about it. My significant other Brian, who sometimes has moments of startling insight, occasionally reminds me, "You're not anxious. You're excited." When you spend a lot of time trying to tamp down fear, you become hyper-vigilant. Adrenaline is adrenaline and so, if your inner anxiety police are working overtime, they can confuse eagerness, anticipation and exhilaration with terror. True story.

And here's another.

Can you imagine that? Georgia O'Keeffe, that desert walker, that world painter, terrified?!

So who am I to curse my fate—to rail against being born with what sometimes feels like a rabbit heart. I'm human and I'm in good company.

—Sarah Torribio