Friday, May 16, 2008

I've been anxious to make this anxiety post...

I hope some higher power blesses Ryan Paugh for writing this article today.  Anxiety is a huge issue in my life, and probably the largest contributing factor to my current state (which happens to be laying in bed until I make myself go to the gym, and then crawling back in until the next day).  It takes huge guts for a seemingly confident Type-A to admit to any sort of instability, so I tip my hat to Ryan... and it also gives me a great template from which to explain my situation.  I've got anxiety about my anxiety.

Ryan's first tip: "Don't put yourself in a box"
  • My apartment gives me heart attack-caliber panic attacks.  In typical vintage Chicago fashion, it is a dark little box made up of smaller boxes, it is dingy, and not all of the doors work.  During the winter I felt like I could never get out of here.
  • High school and college put me in a box.  I hated being labeled: 'goth girl', 'ballerina', 'brainiac'.  These taxonomical boxes made me feel like less of a person and made me highly anxious to get out of school.  End result: I sped through both in little over 3 years, and didn't enjoy a single minute.
  • Even when I was able to dance professionally, I hated the constraints it put upon you as a person.  Everything you ate and did related to dance, and it was not a happy life.  It was a miserable, constraining life that made me so anxious I stopped eating, which is why my quadriceps gave way on the day that I blew out my knee.
Ryan's second tip: "Find structure"
  • Structure keeps a person with anxiety from feeling too pressured to occupy themselves constantly, which is an exhausting task.  While unemployed in Chicago, with my boyfriend and family on opposite coasts, I try very hard to impose structure upon myself: 3 yoga classes, 2 dance classes, 5 gym visits, 3 social activities.  This regimen is great in theory, but gets blown out of the water when I have panic attacks about the things themselves...
Tip three: "Give yourself things to look forward to"
  • This one I can't completely agree with.  I certainly want to.  But personally, I find my anxiety to be so debilitating that it almost puts me in a state of anedonia: nothing makes me happy, nothing upsets me more than life in general, and because of these things nothing can possibly make me excited.  Why am I still in Chicago? Because the beautiful prospect of moving to San Francisco is being clouded by my anxiety around being broke, getting fat, and not being able to find a job.
  • In theory, having something to look forward to might work well for some with anxiety and/or depression.  But when I do have something on the agenda, I find myself getting anxious about the hours that must be passed before I can go do whatever it is I am going to do.
Last tip from Ryan: "Have a good friend on speed dial"
  • This one really hits the nail on the head.  There's nothing like heart palpitations, pounding in your head, sweating, hyperventilating, and passing out (in my case) to make you feel totally insane and completely alone.  The only way to fully get out of one and to try to break the cycle is to have someone who knows what's going on... and like Ryan says, almost no one does.
  • I've had Nick there for me for several years now, but it took some time for him to understand exactly what was making me behave so erratically and irrationally.  He's an incredibly stable person who only deals with a bit of depression here and there, so it's been a learning process.
  • I found, in my friend Tony, someone who experiences what I do.  We have promised to call each other when we feel one coming on, or in the aftermath when we need help putting the pieces back together.  Finding someone like this is like finding a gold mine (or an oil well, these days) because there is NOTHING more comforting than feeling like you're maybe not so crazy.

Thanks a lot, Ryan.


Ryan Paugh said...


You are very welcome!


Anonymous said...

Here's some more...

- Burn the bridges - Life's a lot easier when you have one option and can better focus when there's no 'going back'.

- Keep life simple - KISS sold more records than Rush (Read there lyrics, you'll get the point)

- Pursue Joy, not happiness - Happiness is temporary and fleeting. Joy comes from pursuing interests and passions that do not obviously result in happiness.

Maybe I'll come up with some more. CIAO.

Victoria said...

@ Anonymous:

-Burning bridges seems a whole lot like just living in denial. You don't grow and learn by avoiding making life decisions.

-Life isn't simple, nor can it be kept as such. Anyone thinking they can control life is fooling themselves.

-Joy and happiness are not mutually exclusive, and I fully intend on having both.

The point of this post is that this is something that I cannot control. These attacks come on, sometimes seemingly unprovoked, and certainly due to factors beyond my control (for the most part). The trick is coping, not shielding oneself from life.

Kate Hutchinson said...


So much of what you've written hits home for me. Thanks for being brave and sharing.