Let’s talk about the anxt

I have been a worrier for as long as I can remember. I have squirmed my way around public speaking, dreaded every minor possibility of failure and adopted the identity of a sad, avoidant girl.

I do not remember when it started, but it was around the time when I realized I had to be a certain way, and accomplish certain things to level up in life. And in the process, realized I hated having to fall flat on my face, watch my world grow pixelated and start over. I simply did not have the social skills to walk it off like a champ. I’d just look less cool walking the same way I always did: slumped, small, not wanting to wake up the neighbors.

So I anticipated challenges before they manifested themselves, saw conflict and displeasure in people’s faces a nanosecond before they articulated it, and whenever I could get away with it, delegated, postponed or avoided any task that involved direct communication.

But that did not, in any way, ease the lump in my throat, or the burn in my stomach every time I was at a decisional crossroad or in front of a human being that was outside my comfort zone. Anxiety was like this orange ghost that zoomed into my life whenever it got the chance, to ensure that I never ever reached my potential.

I never got used to living in anxiety, but weirdly enough, over time, an odd kind of familiarity did set in.

I still fucking hated the anxiety, and was envious of people who did not second guess every element in their lives, but I also had no choice but to get to know anxiety better. After so many one-on-ones, it was inevitable.

And over time, I realized:

  • While too much anxiety caused me to curl up into a ball and not do anything, anxiety did not always intend to hurt. In fact, it made me better. It allowed me to zoom in on the details, double-fact-check and in general, give people accurate rather than half-assed information.
  • I am a very complacent individual, and it took that anxious I-am-going-to-lose-it-the-world-is-going-to-fall-apart rush for me to sometimes, give pressing problems the attention and priority they needed. It would, surprisingly make me sit down, take deep breaths, tell myself that no, I was not going to fuck this up before giving my full, undivided (basically, no social-media in the side) attention to every piece of that puzzle before I miraculously arrived at a solution, did what had to be done and experienced that sweet a-ha moment.
  • That bittersweet anxious sensation would push me to prepare for, research-to-death and conquer every possible caveat that underlay whatever I was freaking out about. Catastrophizing, in a way, prevented the actual catastrophe from happening. Even if shit did hit the fan, since I’d already pictured and dreaded the catastrophe a billion times before, it simply was not as impressive in real life. I could jump right into problem-solving mode.

Recently, a friend asked me how I had learned a random hack that I’d showed her. As I explained to her about the time when I “got anxious” because I had to get something done and couldn’t because I did not know said hack and therefore, had to look it up, I found myself talking about it rather nostalgically and fondly. This AMAZED me but also made me realize that over time, while my world remained pixelated, anxiety, the orange-neighborhood-ghost, had leveled up from enemy to frenemy.

Anxiety and Me

Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

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It’s been a year since.

It’s been a year since I started grad school in California, and I couldn’t be more different from the person I was last Fall. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the new environment, the people or my classes (though all of these things were unexpected protective factors in keeping me afloat).

Age has a way of hardening you, making you cynical and less wistful about the time you have right now and the times ahead of you.

I know I sound like an 80 year old (I’m slightly younger than that), but I haven’t felt the weight of age, and the chronology of time as much over the years as I do now. I finally choose to see ALL of the people I thought I knew all my life, and I’m stunned by the details I overlooked. Meanwhile, I make careless squiggles over an extra glass of wine, and GET the phenomenology of hair turning gray (and almost get how to use the word phenomenology).

I am more self-conscious than I’ve ever been about what I write here but I am just as invested. If anything, these posts weave continuity – help me parse out the me in ninth grade who constantly wished for life to resemble a movie from the me right now, who finally sees that it always was, I just never chose to see the gorilla – because I was told to shut up and count the players in white (see video if you need a reference to the reference: https://youtu.be/vJG698U2Mvo).