Have you all noticed I’m living my best life lately? Have you seen all the cool places I’ve been? All the fun activities I’ve done? All the amazing people I’ve been with? Isn’t it so great and fun?
I promise I’m not being sarcastic. Those things really are great and fun. But (and isn’t there always a “but”) I’ll be honest with you (because that’s what I do here): I’m tired. I’ve also been sort of inexplicably sad and anxious lately. Sad and anxious in a way that is not very Amanda-like at all. I know myself really well. My favorite thing in the world is joyful heart. One of my very best friends once told me he considered me a “champion of happiness.” Couldn’t you die? Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever heard? ME TOO. But lately, I have frequently had the feeling that some alien being has crawled in and set up camp in my person.
It isn’t upsetting, so much as unsettling. Have you struggled with anxiety friend? I thought I was familiar with it because I have fought panic attacks on and off throughout life, but this is something quite different. Several times in recent memory, I’ve been in a group setting (which I normally love) and prompted by nothing, I find myself on the verge of tears, struggling with total sensory overload, and overwhelmed with the desire to be alone in a quiet, dimly lit space. In these moments I think, “Oh please don’t let anyone look at me because if I meet someone’s eyes, they will look at me and they won’t see Amanda, they’ll see this otherness and I will have to explain why I’m sharing space with it and I don’t have an answer for that.” In these moments, the worst feeling in the world is to have attention drawn to myself and because it is so out of character for me to be withdrawn and lost for words, it is hard not to notice my behavior. In these moments, I’m able to recognize this otherness but I’m not able to do anything about it.
Outside of these “crisis” moments, I’m finding myself increasingly concerned about my appearance, anxious about my surroundings, and discontent with my relationships. Two months ago, I thought this was about my weight. I thought I was in a funk and struggling to deal with my hangups. I am now accepting that it is probably something more. I’m sharing this for a number of reasons, the first being that I write in order to cope and the second is that saying it “out loud” makes it real and when something is real, we recognize it and give it the space it requires. I think we are often guilty of trying to squeeze out the darkness in our lives. That is, if we don’t look at it, if we give it the cold shoulder, we can somehow out ghost our issues into nonexistence.
But if happiness is real (and I believe it is) and magic exists (and I believe it does) then, so is anxiety and oft ignored partner, depression. Ignoring these feelings won’t make them go away, and I’ve had enough loved ones with mental illness to know the consequence of going it alone. I am so supported and deeply loved and because of this, I am sharing authentically where I find myself. I am sharing because rather than having another glass of wine or calling in sick to work, I’m going to reach out for real professional help. And maybe get a prescription. Or maybe try some other coping strategies. I am sharing because I think the most important and brave thing we can do for each other is say, “It’s not good for everyone all the time and that’s okay.”
I’m in the middle of a Whole30 right now and whatever influence it might have, the act of prioritizing self-care has felt really good. The creators of Whole30 argue that the food you eat is either making you more healthy or less healthy. This feels true of everything. Nothing is neutral. Our behaviors, our attitudes, our habits are either making us more well or less well. The past few months I have felt fragile when I am used to feeling bold. But I think in that smallness, I’ve been able to plant seeds of peacefulness. I started this post at the beginning of the month and felt compelled to let myself rest for a bit before sharing. I am sharing now because I think it’s a good thing to talk about. I am not without joy and most importantly, I am not without love. But we rarely are. What we often experience is a deep fog that prevents us from grabbing on to those truths. I am getting in the habit of making choices that feel good to me and I think this is a small step towards quieting the niggling voice of self-doubt and fear that can persist in all of us.