Oh no, it’s happening again.
Everything feels out of control. Who am I kidding, control is an illusion.
My pulse quickens, my throat tightens. I close my eyes, but the thoughts rapid fire. In hopes of slowing my mind, I open them again.
They don’t slow.
DEEP BREATH! Take a breath!!
My stomach lurches, now I feel nauseous.
No longer able to think all I can do is physically react. Fight or flight? I want to run, but my body is immobile because I do not trust my instincts. I know they are wrong. I need to think but the blood has left my brain and is racing through my extremities in preparation for an emergency that only exists in my mind.
The cortisol intensifies every sense, my chest has electric coursing through it, my hands tremble in response to the outpouring of adrenaline, my palms sweat, my jaw clenches, my eyes dart back and forth wildly in seek of escape.
Full blown panic.
Why does this keep happening?
I feel defeated, heavy sigh.
My shoulders are inching up toward my ears. I try hard to soften them, to bring them back to where they should be.
It helps, but then the wheels begin to spin wildly in my head again. I have lists, lots of lists, everywhere.
More deep breaths.
I am all keyed up. Will yoga help? Where will I add that into my day? Do I need to practice each day?
Another heavy sigh.
Is everyone’s head this busy? Maybe.
I feel trapped and disengaged from my most important relationships. How does this keep happening? I cleared the list, washed it clean. I added back only the most important things.
The flu! It took me down for nearly a week and I fell behind. Then there were the eight hours we spent at Children’s hospital when we thought Xander might have appendicitis.
This weekend will be busy. The boys have Tae Kwon Do belt test, a birthday party, and I have a baby shower for a cousin. No catching up. Is that even possible, catching up?
I cross two things off and add one more. I don’t want to add one more, but it’s important, it’s necessary truly. I weighed it. If I don’t complete that task it will cause more harm than good. It does add value to my life.
A tightrope, I’m in a circus or maybe a cog in a runaway machine.
So here I am again, in full blown mental anguish. How did I arrive here? Quite simply really, an incredible sense of duty and obligation combined with an aversion to saying “no”. If I am really honest with myself and I cut away all of the BS, it all can be summed up by the fear of rejection. Yep, I drive myself to the brink of sanity to please others. How pathetic.
Now that I know the truth I can just stop, right? Wrong! I have known this truth for years and believe me I have tried to stop the cycle. For a day or a week, maybe even a month I keep everything properly balance, but then someone makes a small request. Naturally, I oblige thinking “It’s just a small favor and I care for this person.” After time passes I have agreed to several small favors which now take up a significant amount of time or turned out to require more than I originally imagined.
Do I talk to the requestors about the effects or decline to continue? Nope, that would be backing out on an agreement, letting my friend down, admitting weakness. “Just pull your bootstraps up and keep moving. This is life,” I tell myself.
Is it? Is complete and total mental misery life? Is everyone flailing around in their brains?
Like a pendulum, I have swung too far to one side. I need to swing back into the opposite direction. Too much pressure, duty, and obligation has accrued smothering passion and creativity. This environment is stifling. How do I regain my footing so I don’t plummet further?
Go to war with shame and guilt
Step 1: Throw the list away
Crumble the list (you know the mile long to-do list that you are never going to get finished because it is NOT humanly possible) into a tight ball and throw it away. You could also catch it on fire for therapeutic/dramatic effect (NOTE: if catching it on fire, do not throw it into the trash can!).
See how long you can go without starting a new one. Give your brain time to purge itself, maybe a day or a week or longer if you can. I have done this a few times lately and it serves as a reset. Anything small, trivial, not that important will be forgotten and because it’s not on a list somewhere you won’t feel compelled to do it.
Step 2: Take some Me Time
Yes, this is hard, but then again, so was step 1. The guilt can be overwhelming when you take time out of your day to care for yourself. To combat the guilt I try to squeeze in my self-care during times that my family is asleep or busy doing other things. Each morning I wake up two hours before everyone else to squeeze in meditation and writing with disrupting my family’s normal morning rhythm. One a month I also meet with girlfriends, usually sometime after 8 pm. This month I almost backed out of girls’ night because my week had been so horrendous, but I didn’t and the night was the turnaround I desperately needed.
Step 3: Say NO
This lesson is one that I have to relearn all the time. Obviously, I have a problem. Yet again I have overcommitted myself, my resources, my time. I feel smothered by requests, fearful of not being seen as reliable, dependable, ol’ faithful. Saying yes, on the other hand, leaves me feeling empty, depleted, and stressed.
Am I going to feel bad either way? Yes, but when I say no it’s only for a moment. It’s uncomfortable for me to tell someone I cannot do something, but it’s more uncomfortable to live a life devoid of fulfillment. It’s also unfair to my family to give them the depleted, empty version of myself. If I have to choose, which I do, I am choosing NO! Well for as long as I can before I end right back up in this mess.
Life is beautifully messy. Living with anxiety is no exception. “It’s all in your head.” Yes, that is 100% true; perception of reality takes place in our brains. Not all battles are fought with swords and armor. I’ll keep fighting the good fight, repeating steps 1-3 as many times as it takes. What other choice is there?
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