One of the hard truths about anxiety is that it can very easily make you feel overwhelmed by the smallest tasks. There is no rhyme or reason for it, but once you begin to feel that way, it takes incredible effort to find your bearings again. Worst of all, it almost always happens when you least expect it. Or more accurately, it happens when it’s the least convenient. Seriously, give yourself a few goals and deadlines and suddenly your house is on fire (metaphorically, I hope).
A little over a month ago, I was asked to create a gift basket of Color My Life products for a benefit dinner. I am still honored to have been asked, and I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to showcase some of my work. Unfortunately, after I was asked, I immediately began panicking. I had almost two months to put the basket together and I knew I could handle it. So, what was the big deal? Why did I automatically get the sense of being underwater and losing air quickly?
The fact is, it has very little to do with the basket. I was already feeling anxiety about my various projects and adding another project just tipped the scales. But it was bound to happen no matter what. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was at my breaking point. One way or another, something was going to push me over the edge. It could have been something as simple as getting a medical bill in the mail, or even just trying to figure out what our plans were for the 4th of July. It was inevitable. It just happened to be at a point when I had a lot of things planned, I had finally created what I thought was a feasible schedule for myself, and I thought I was in a good place. Boy was I wrong.
That’s the reality of living with anxiety. On good days, you feel like you can climb Everest and nothing will be able to stop you. On bad days, and they are usually more common, you aren’t even sure you can get out of bed without doing something wrong, screwing everything up, accidentally pushing the self-destruct button on your life, or falling down the stairs and breaking every bone in your body. Bad days generally continue into bad weeks, and sometimes even bad months as the pressures of falling behind create even more anxiety. Logic would tell a normal person to just relax and take it one step at a time, but Anxiety Brain isn’t logical or polite. She’s a drama queen and knows better than anyone how to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Her thinking makes no sense. There is no logic to any of it. But it’s life as we know it.
I’m guessing that may be why anxiety and depression so often go hand in hand. It’s hard to live this way sometimes. You begin to feel like a spectator in your own life because you can see what is happening but you somehow begin to feel detached from it all, like it’s happening to someone else. The logical part of your brain knows that your anxiety and what you are feeling isn’t normal, that things will get better, but there’s nothing you can do to make it stop. Actually, that isn’t true. There are things you can do, which I’ll address in another post, but when you are crippled with fear, it’s hard to remember to breathe, let alone do anything else. In the moment, you are stranded underwater in the middle of the ocean. There is no boat. No help is coming. Every move you make uses up what little oxygen you have left.
If that seems dramatic, welcome to my world. I hope your visit is short and that you never feel this way. To anyone that feels like my story is all too familiar, please remember that you aren’t alone. In the words of my favorite animated fish, just keep swimming.
That’s exactly what I’m doing. I have been absent the last month because I was in my own personal hell, fighting for my life. I did what I could when I had the ability and energy to do it. Everything else had to wait. This morning when I woke up, it felt like my face was still underwater but at least I’d finally found a snorkel. I’m still swimming for my life, but at least I can breathe and I’m moving in the right direction.