Thursday, January 30, 2014

Anxiety: The Only Way Out Is Through

I've wanted to write about anxiety for a while now; it's just that every time I start I become really self-conscious. I don't want you to think I'm any crazier than you already do.


The truth is, while most of the time I go about life with a can-do, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar mindset, there are times when anxiety damn near cripples me. I can go from molehill to mountain in no time flat. I'm halfway up the mountain when I realize I've don't even remember what the molehill looks like anymore.

But if I've learned anything about anxiety it's that it thrives on isolation. And the more I talk about it, the more I realize that so many people suffer. Quietly. Alone.

The wonderful thing about anxiety is that the more you study it, the more tricks you pick up to help squash it. And those tricks add up. You can call them coping mechanisms, stress reduction techniques, whatev. They work, that's all I care about.

I thought I'd share a few of mine:

Think about the Worst Case Scenario. No really, the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen. It's ridiculous, right? It's probably ridiculous. It's probably not going to happen. And if you're a super expert mountain-maker, not only is the WCS in your brain probably not going to happen, it probably isn't actually possible at all. So anything less than whatever catastrophe you conjured up is probably lookin' pretty good right now, eh? The moral is that it's often never as bad as it seems.

Exercise. I'm not talking a walk around the block. I mean, sweat like a pig, double over because you can't breathe, run until your legs give out. Something about intense physical exertion seems to reset my monkey mind. Science. It's a crazy thing.

Ground yourself in the physical. Anxiety is a mental spiral. Like exercise, doing other things to focus on the physical can help that spiral from becoming a vortex. Things like crafts, getting a massage, doing some yardwork...they can all help you get out of your head and into your body. (Hugs. Hugs, too.)

Call your peeps. You know this is a hard one for me. I didn't start actually calling my people and saying the words, "I'm anxious" until about a year ago. The thing is, there is magic in saying it out loud. It instantly becomes unhidden, taking the shame out of it. Speaking of ditching additional emotions...

Don't worry about the worry. I once read that anxiety is "worry about worry". That was over 10 years ago, when 'anxiety' was a new word in my vocabulary, and that definition has stuck with me to this day.

And that's because when I'm anxious, there are usually two emotions at play. There's the first emotion or scenario (worry, fear, insecurity, anger, disappointment: the deadline, the confrontation, the unknown) and then there's the secondary emotion about the first emotion or scenario (shame, worry, anger: I can't believe I'm upset about this again! Why I can't I just... Why can't it be different?! When will I learn?!). The thing is, the secondary emotion is actually a compounding factor. It doesn't make it twice as bad; it makes it 10x as bad.

So I've learned to cut myself some slack, because that secondary emotion is usually just thinly-veiled self-criticism. So, you've gotta show yourself some compassion and just accept life as it is, as much as possible: I'm an anxious person! Life has curveballs! People make mistakes! Writers have deadlines! So what! What matters is what I do with the portion of my life that's in my control. If I'm responding rather than reacting, I'm doing the best I can.

Be super freakin' kind to yourself. Buy yourself a new magazine. Take a really long bath. Spend an entire afternoon walking around looking for pretty front doors. What makes you feel comforted? Do more of those things. Clean sheets, tea with honey, stovetop vanilla pudding, rolled hand towels, a big stack of new books. Beauty and the Beast. Henley snuggles. And in a pinch: Skittles.

Be super freakin' kind to someone else. I've noticed that I can work my way out of a funk just by being a good friend, a good daughter, a good human. It feels good to lessen someone's load, or to forgive, or to buoy someone else up. It's not all about you anyways. Geeeeesh.

Watch your inner monologue. How are you narrating your life? Would you say it to a friend? How would you feel if you overheard your sibling talking to him or herself with the words you're using in reflection of your life? Simply being aware of what you're thinking is the first step towards...thinking better things.

How does your body respond to stress? For me, it's clenched hands. Noticing this was life-changing. I can actually spot clenched hands in old photos. The great thing about having a 'tell' is you can use it to your advantage. As soon as my hands tense up, it's like a cue for my brain: How can I counteract this? (Another thing: Anxiety, to me, feels physically like too much caffeine feels. So if I know I'm anxious or there is something happening that day that might throw me, I skip all coffee, even decaf. I also limit my daily intake to one half-caff.)

What can you control? Sometimes it helps just to clean my apartment for the sake of having things in order (says the chronically messy girl). Pay some bills, run some errands, cross some things off your to-do list. Do what you can.


These are simply tools that I use to manage anxiety--and I think that's the most important thing to remember...because in my experience, it's not something you "cure". It shows up over and over and you just get better at managing it. The only way out is through.

And lastly, I'll leave you with a few kind, albeit paraphrased, reminders I've received throughout the years from a few lovely friends. My gut says they're probably true about you, too.

"You've got this. You've already conquered way bigger things than this." -Shanon
"You're safe, surrounded, and loved." -Alicia
"You'll find the lesson in this and come out the other side inspired." -Allison
"You're amazing, and there is no way you'll mess this up." -Ellen

Friday, January 24, 2014

Books I Might Write Someday: Volume III

Volumes 1 and 2...soon to hit a Hypothetical Book Title Bestseller List near you.

"I'm Just a Girl, Texting a Boy, Asking Him to Love Her": Dating in a Digital World

Developing An Editorial Eye-Twitch: What They Don't Tell Aspiring Writers on High School Career Day

You Don't Wanna Know What's On My Mind: A Collection of Facebook Statuses I Deleted Before Posting

Finish Your Goddamn Sandwich: A Collection of Angsty Open Poetry to a Commitment-Phobic Male Generation

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bullseye Bobbi

It feels a little like I went home for the holidays, turned on the love tap, and let it run the entire time I was there.  I spent a lot of time with my brother and parents, and it was exactly how I needed to see 2013 to a close. My cup runneth over, and it made for a rough transition back to city life.

But I promise that this is not my 450th post about the sway between my roots and my wings.

No, this is a post to let you know that my new nickname on the mean streets of the Upper Peninsula is Bullseye Bobbi. Or at least that's what my dad calls me now when he wants to make me giggle.

As part of my 30-before-30 list, I asked my brother and dad to take me to our family's hunting camp to shoot a gun for the first time. It was pretty sweet to see them so excited to teach me one of their favorite hobbies. We turned it into a family affair, pups and all.

It was so much fun! I got a bullseye on my second shot, and tried out three different guns--a 9, a 22, and an assault rifle. Every time I shot the latter (above) I screamed involuntarily. It was a reflex!

I definitely thought that this would be a one-and-done, but I think it'll become a new family tradition. 

...and one more because I think it's the Yooper equivalent of a glamour shot 
and it makes me laugh a lot. Deep thoughts at the shooting range.

I also just realized that I match my dad's truck and that makes me super happy. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Things I'm Going To Stop Doing When I Turn Thirty

  • Calling the people I date "boys". I'm not sure when I'll start calling them men, but I'll concede that "boys" sounds silly. I like "guys" for starters.
  • Accepting half-love from said guys. 
  • Forgetting to refill my contact prescription and going blind for a week every fiscal quarter. 
  • Avoiding the dentist. 
  • Dreading confrontation of any sort. Confrontation is progress. Confrontation is progress...
  • Not asking for help when I need it. No need to figure everything out on your own, yo.
  • Giggling when I receive a compliment.
  • Hesitating to ask for what I want.
  • Eating cheese when I know I really shouldn't eat cheese. 
  • Minding the nay-sayers. The haters can suck it. 
  • Letting other people's moods affect me so much.

And, some things I'll never stop doing, regardless of age or sideways glances:
  • Calling my dad "Daddy". 
  • Daydreaming about being Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I mean, that library! Swoon.
  • Digging Lorde. Mah girl
  • Avoiding the phone most of the time.  
  • Giggling in general.
  • Asking my mom to make me snack. Being overwhelmingly pleased with whatever she brings me.
  • Twirling whenever I wear a twirl-worthy dress.
  • Acting like a kid in a candy store when, you know, I'm in a candy store. Or on a cruise ship. Or in Europe. Or in Bed Bath & Beyond's bedding aisle.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Resolving, Revisited

So, you guys, I didn't really start the bright and shiny new year out on a real...bright and shiny note.

Truth be told, I was a little bit wompy. A little bit homesick. A little bit in my head.

I realize this is grounds for having my Yooper Card revoked, but Chicago is damn cold in the wintertime. More than that, it's really harsh.

It's a far cry from the homeowner-with-a-big-backyard and a remote-starter-on-the-trusty-Jeep lifestyle I was living in Michigan. Henley needs to pee. And experience a life other than the apartment we live in. And that requires layers upon layers of clothing for me and many, many treks in the great windy city. At all times of the day and night. #whinewithyourcheese? Add to that the fact that I just gave up my car and need to brave the cold and wind any time I go somewhere for anything....

Needless to say, I had a little bit of a hard time adjusting from 17 days home over two stretches in a 40-day period. It was a rough week, and an especially rough morning this morning. There were a lot of tears, and some of the frozen, wind-smacked sort. (You're allowed to call me a baby. I own it.)

Some gym time, some quiet time, and some conversations with some of my nearest and dearests helped me sort it all out and I'm feeling back to my normal self. My crush on Chicago has resurfaced.

But what I really want to tell you about is Henley. #duh.

I came home a few minutes ago from a completely impromptu soul-warming and bolstering night with one of my nearest and dearest Chicago friends, Whitney. I prepared to let Henley out, per usual, but at the last minute decided to let her take a toy out to the alley where she does her business.

We have snow out there. Not Michigan-quantity snow, but snow. It's not a plowed alley--we trudge, there is slop.

I threw the toy for her several times--maybe 20?--but the last time, it got lodged somewhere in the snowbank. I stayed where I was, nuzzled in my NorthFace, letting her sniff and search, trying to find it.

You guys, her tail was wagging the whole damn time. Like it was the best moment of her day, trying to find that damn toy in the wet, soupy snow. She circled, she perched, she dug, she rolled. She wagged.

That's my New Year's resolution. To be happy while searching. To be so damn joyful about how much promise there is in this fucking cold, snowy city, no matter whether I'm sure I'm going to find the prize here or not.