I’m Me

I’ve had a hard week or two. Nothing super-awful — I gave a presentation for the first time in WAY too many years and to say I was a bit rusty is an understatement. I had such uncomfortable, panicky anxiety building up to it (and I pretty much panic-blacked-out during it)… and I think some residual anxiety stuck around even afterwards because I’ve been catastrophizing all week. I kept waking up from stress dreams and fighting off panic attacks for smaller events coming up.

I know therapy works because I was able to acknowledge my anxious feelings. I was brave enough to sit with the gut-punched sickness and explore the lies swelling my heart. I could even follow the feelings back to the first few times I ever felt similarly, to the heart of the anxiety and understand it in a way I never have.

That in itself is a huge, amazing thing I would not have been able to do at this time two years ago.

Usually, when I start to get really anxious, I ask myself what’s the worst that could happen? This is a really stupid question, because practically — logically — the WORST ending would be death, or getting fired, or something equally dramatic.

Image result for or worse expelled gif

So another thing I realized is I’m not anxious about the worst happening — I’m anxious about the let downs. The discomfort of disappointing someone. Of being seen as a failure. Inside my anxiety, that scenario is worse than death or losing my job or getting salmonella poisoning (which was another small concern this week after a kitchen mishap that led to me ingesting a microscopic amount of raw chicken).

But this time, not only could I half-encourage myself with such mantras as “I’ll survive” or “it will be ok”, I realized I am prepared if the “worst” should happen and I disappoint someone. I have been through this feeling before — and I have let people down in the past. And even if worse came to “worst” and I received a public dressing-down, I know how to pretend I’m fine until I reach the safety of my car or my home or my husband’s arms.

My mental processing — and the anxiety that feeds off it — may not be completely healthy or “normal”, but I am growing. And I found such comfort in being able to see how far I’ve come.

That is a whole lot more background than I initially intended to give for this post; I meant to just say ‘hey, I’ve been a little stressed, here are some tunes that help me’…but that’s the way life goes. If you can relate at all — or anytime you need a little “I am awesome” pick-me-up — maybe you’ll find one of these helpful.

  1. I’m Me – Us The Duo (to remind me I’m pretty great just the way I am)
  2. Who You Are – Madilyn Bailey (best line: “It’s okay not to be okay.”)
  3. Out of Hell – Skillet (this is the best song to tequila-tipsy-jump-around to…or blast in the car and shout-sing out the anxious feelings)
  4. Still I Fly – Roadtrip Romance (most uplifting part: “gotta learn to grow, watch me as I touch the sky…”)
  5. Me Too – Meghan Trainor  (between the sassy beat and the confidence-oozing lyrics, this song is a surefire ego-booster — I don’t care how overplayed it might be)
  6. *Control – Halsey (on the flip side, this one gets me angry at my fears and reminds me “I’m meaner than my demons”)
  7. Unsteady / So Alive – Haley Klinkhammer (This combines two great songs into one that resonates so powerfully with me)
  8. Bird Set Free – Sia (the whole chorus is so beautiful and another powerful thing to belt out)
  9. *You Don’t Own Me – Grace, G-Eazy (Another song that both pumps up the ego and gets me a little angry at the feelings trying to hold me down)
  10. *I’m Ready – Niykee Heaton (favorite part: “over trembling floors, I’m steady. But they’ve written my death already so many times, but this fire won’t die.”)

The whole playlist can be found on YouTube here, or if you’re *really* interested, you can follow my playlist I Am Enough on Spotify for approximately 90 songs of ego-boosting reminders that I am enough just as I am.

What’s you’re favorite pick-me-up song?

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If I Can Be Honest

This year, I’m going to be more honest. This means if I take a picture that’s perfectly Instagram-worthy, I’m going to mention all the little tweaks and not-so-perfect behind the scenes details that got it there. This means I’m probably going to swear more, because as Tosca Lee once said about picturing her mom reading her writing, “even if I didn’t write it down, I’m thinking it anyway.” (hi, Mom). This means I’m not going to shy away from discussing my struggles when I feel led to do so, or pretend I’m healthier than I am, even if my husband calls it “dirty laundry.”

Because that’s the problem. We treat things like anxiety and mental illness as dirty laundry, something to be swept under the rug or shoved into a rarely-used closet. Ignore it until it goes away.

But it doesn’t go away.

When left unattended, it gets into the good liquor and has a party. It scribbles over the walls in permanent marker and TPs the neighbors’ yards.

And we smile and laugh and pretend like the chaos inside isn’t tearing us apart. Because otherwise, we might embarrass our loved ones. Otherwise, someone else might see the chinks in our seemingly perfect facade.

To be fair, my husband is often eerily good at navigating my darker days. He’s understanding and loving. He simply accepts it (without trying to “fix it”) when I tell him I’m having a rough day, or my chest aches, or I’m just not feeling well inside. He recognizes times I may overspend my spoons (side note: spoon theory is one of the best explanations for life with chronic illness I’ve ever read) and helps me better plan my days so I don’t exhaust myself too early. He encouraged me to seek professional help, which I cannot recommend enough if you are struggling with anything.

That’s something else that is so important to me: removing the stigma around counseling and therapy. It’s so beneficial to have an objective person to bounce ideas off of, and it is incredibly validating to have someone who spent years of their life studying mental processes tell you that you aren’t in fact crazy. My therapist took all my Google-search- and undergrad-psych-fueled fears, and refuted most — and better explained others. She helped me understand the anxieties I do have, and gave me a multitude of exercises to practice to better cope.

Seriously, talk to someone. Everyone could get something out of it.

Even if it’s the freedom of not feeling the need to censor oneself. That’s what this year is about for me: freedom from hiding who I really am. Also, discovering who I really am. You know, now that I’m being honest.

A New Beginning

Do you ever get really into something, then life comes along and distracts you just long enough that returning to that thing feels a little awkward? You start to wonder if you really loved it, since you haven’t really missed it, but at the same time you feel like you should really get back to it?

It happens to me all the time, especially with blogging. I’ll be on a roll for maybe a week or two then something else pulls my attention and the next thing I know, more weeks have passed without a single post. I start to feel guilty, but rather than motivating me to write, it shifts into a bundle of anxiety that I shove to the back of my mind. I’ll get to it, I tell myself, as the anxiety builds each day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll think of something brilliant, I reassure myself, as the anxiety drips down my throat and curls around my chest.

The longer I give it free reign to grow unsupervised, the darker it gets. I tell myself there’s a simple explanation — not as simple as “life gets in the way”, but something more damning — I’m lazy. I’m a dabbler — not a true writer. I don’t belong in the blogging world, I don’t belong in the writing world. If I’m so easily chained to everything but writing, why bother keeping up the facade? Just give up already.

You already have.

It’s a metaphor for my life lately. My thoughts are scattered, too jumbled to untangle, too time-consuming to fit into a blog-length ramble. My life is on the precipice of some huge changes, both exciting and scary. And I know I should cut myself some slack, even though it’s hard.

I’m leaving my current job at the end of this week. My husband and I are moving halfway across the country so he can go back to school full time. And even though I’ve been relatively silent on the blog for the better part of this year, I want to share the adventure with you. I want to be better at making time for the things I love, and I’m hoping these changes will bring with them a shift in focus. A way to make time for things that can be hard, even though they’re enjoyable. A kick-start to get out and experience things worth sharing. An incentive to pause the Grey’s Anatomy Netflix marathons and take time exploring — either my community or my inner self.

I want to be better at this. And I thank you for sticking with me and my sporadic posting.