Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Happy Mental Health Awareness Month.

As a heads up, this post contains a lot of anxiety talk, which can sometimes be triggering for other anxious people, so avoid if that's the case for you. Instead make a cup of tea and watch Mind of a Chef on Netflix. Or Fixer Upper. That's good too.

I'm back! By now, most of you know a blog hiatus (especially an unannounced one) means I am in a giant pit of anxiety and am currently clawing out of it. I hate that this happens, and in less anxious times I try to backlog posts so I can fill any gaps, but it doesn't always work. Writing doesn't always work. In fact, the second I start feeling the yawning pit of anxiety somewhere in the distance, the desire to write, the ability to write...completely goes away. So there are gaps.

Here is what a "good" time is for me:

I wake up. I bathe and get dressed. I take medicine and eat breakfast and put on nice-ish clothes and go to work. I do work. I go to the gym. I go home. I watch cooking shows on Netflix and eat dinner. I get comfy in pajamas. I lie awake in mind-numbing panic that everything and everyone I love in the world will be snatched from me in the night and THERE IS NOTHING I CAN EVER DO TO KEEP THEM SAFE AND WHAT WILL I BE WITHOUT THE PEOPLE I LOVE, I WILL CEASE TO BE WITHOUT THEM. EVERYTHING IS MELTING.

Then I fall asleep.

Here's what a bad time is for me:

I wake up multiple times in the night, with raw, soul-crushing panic. I try to fall back asleep but can't manage that, so I lie in bed in a cold sweat wishing I could pass out from lack of oxygen, because yeah, I can't breathe. It feels like my heart has forgotten that beating thing it used to do, and that's probably not good, but the doctor did a test and everything is okay but everything is not okay EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY.

Then my alarm goes off and a new wave of panic floods my veins and I choke down breakfast and sometimes throw it up, then I get clean and dressed and cry and then try to use makeup to cover up the crying and then I feel sick and get in the car and want to dissolve into the seat cushions but instead I drive to work and sometimes I sit shaking in the car in the work parking lot thinking about how it would be so much easier if I didn't know anyone, because then no one would notice or care that I'd been crying. And then I do work. And sometimes I cry in the storage room and shake some more. And then I go to the gym and try to run away from what I'm terrified of, even if I don't know why I'm afraid in the first place. And then I eat dinner and go to bed and the cycle repeats itself.

I can't NOT do anxiety. It's something that just IS, and I share space with it. As far back as I could remember, I have been anxious. There are a few reasons, some of which have been circumstantial, like a death in the family or career-based stress. And this year, I found out I have sensory processing issues, which upon further study, has pretty massively shaped my life and development. Also it is probably why I'm so massively clumsy.

So, coping. It's a thing. I know I've talked about it before, but it never hurts to go through it again, just in case you didn't need it then but you do now. Here's how I do it:

Tea. I drink it. Caffeine-free because it doesn't make my anxiety even worse. Hot tea, because iced is not even the same thing. There's a reason why making tea is an actual ceremony in some cultures. The very act of making tea is soothing. Coffee isn't the same. Coffee wakes you up and makes you energized. That is not tea's job. Tea's job is to make you feel safe and loved and at peace. Drink tea.

Exercise. On a good day or a bad day, exercise. I run, I lift weights crappily because apparently my body doesn't understand muscle development. I go to barre class and fall on my face because my socks are too big. After I've gotten sweaty and worn myself out, I feel better. Sometimes only a little bit, sometimes a lot. But it helps.

Talking. I go to a therapist who is awesome, and I talk to Jennifer loads, usually during long car trips to and from places that have tasty food (or Target). Talking through what you're going through makes anxiety less isolating, and the last thing anxiety needs is a dark quiet place where it can grow like mold. Sometimes it means I write blog posts for you. Sometimes it means I tell the teens I work with that anxiety is a thing people feel and that it's okay to talk about it.

Audiobooks. I can sleep at night for one reason: I listen to audiobooks as I drift off to sleep. Usually to audiobook. One book. Howl's Moving Castle. I practically have it memorized, but it doesn't matter. It's soothing.

I turn off the news. One of the biggest anxieties I have is news-based. I cannot control the terrible things in the world. There are many terrible things in the world. When I watch the news, or too much of the news, depending on how bad off I am, all I can think of is the bad stuff. I forget that good things happen, and that people can be kind. Instead I think that everyone is terrible and that's why Donald Trump is going to end president, no matter how many people mobilize to vote for someone else.

I spend time alone. Too much alone time can be a bad thing for me and so is too little. I'm an introvert. That and sensory issues mean people = anxiety trigger. But only SOMETIMES. When things are getting too big or too loud, I go to a quiet place. It makes things better.

Anyway. It's Mental Health Awareness Month, so now you're aware.