Monday, April 22, 2013

Calming the Storm

(Just FYI - this was mainly for me to get some thoughts out about my anxiety that I've felt about life in general the last couple weeks. There may - or may not - be anything substantial here.)

Anxiety stinks. It's been a while since I've been so stressed and anxious that I've lost the ability to think and function, but that's happened to me a couple times this week. I remember as a kid, especially at night, I would get so wrapped up in worries and doubts and fears that it seemed the world was burying me and I couldn't breathe. However, I learned to be able to silence it, to avoid it, run away from the anxiety that threatened to suck me in.

Until recently. During this last week, the weight of all the choices, pressures, issues, stresses, etc. of my life finally mounted to the burial point and I had a couple of moments where I had to stop myself and remember what reality was and where I fit into it. I had to tell myself to stop worrying and thank goodness that my rationality was able to overcome my anxiety.

However, even if I was able to qualm the storm for an hour or two so that I could focus on a project or distract myself with a friend, the issues were always lingering in the back of my mind. My leg has been shaking nonstop for the past week: not that on-the-edge-of-a-cliff-and-terribly-nervous shake which I have every time I repel, but that I'm-just-sitting-in-class-and-I-don't-feel-comfortable-unless-I-shake-my-leg-even-if-I'm-annoying-everyone-else shake.

I'm going to try and make an analogy for what I'm experiencing: it feels as though all my worries are buckets of water that I'm trying to keep in a pressurized, bursting tank. The tank is slowly cracking as I perceive my life is falling apart. So, I'm running around trying to fix the little cracks and keeping my worries at bay. I've realized two important things about how I've reacted to my problems: 1 - generally I've felt that if you can't fix everything all at once, then nothing is going to get better. I keep searching for life solutions or for keys that will solve everything at once and lead me to this place where I'm "at peace". 2 - instead of letting my worries go, or draining them bit by bit (relating to problem 1), I'm just keeping them in a container and only adding to it. Then, I only patch up when the worries reveal themselves.

For example, for the last year I've been quite anxious about what I'm going to do after I graduate. Business School? Sociology doctorate program? Work? However, to fully concentrate myself on my schoolwork, I've just ignored it and put off the questions. Every so often when I have nothing to do, I remember every question, doubt, thing I need to do and my tank cracks a little bit as my worries spill out. So, I do as little as I can to solve the question (maybe talk to a teacher, research a school or two) or to repair the tank (for now). What am I left with? Thousands of haphazardly repaired cracks that do little to address the actual question. I keep doing this with all of my worries as I wait for the epic solution that will solve all my problems.

However, is this really going to happen? This skewed perception that I can only fix my problems all at once and my inconsistency in working out my worries has led me to an overflowing tank of worries with not enough energy to keep it all from spilling out. So, a couple of nights ago, I wrote down everything that I was stressing me, worrying me, or otherwise on my mind. Then I separated those that I could actually fix or do something about and I told myself to let the other things go (while that might be hard to do for now, the recognition that I need to let it go was quite a step).

So, finally I've given myself an agenda of things to do. I don't need to address everything at once. I've picked the two most important issues that are giving me the greatest grief and I'm working on those right now. I'm going to take charge of the tank rather than letting it split at random intervals on its own. I don't want my worries to dictate where I go and what I do, but I want to control my life, and that is only going to happen if I step up and start taking control of it.