Like everyone, I have friends. They are a cynical smart nerdy bunch in person. When we get together witty nihilism is on the menu. Our sense of humor is pretty dark. And we think we are a riot. It is great. But then we all go home.
Like everyone else, we keep in touch over social media. And once the internet gets involved in something, it quickly gets messed up. My snarky inappropriate friends plug in their laptops, and they plug into some kind of cosmic cotton candy machine.
Every day I’m bombarded by news feeds of cute kittens, cute bunnies, and uplifting thoughts. All from a group of folks who can spend an entire night joking about The Aztec Ass Bellows (a real thing-but I can not in good conscience call it recommended reading) We joke about skin conditions in person, on the internet I get beautiful pictures of rainbows and fractals and rainbow fractals.
My friends are Dr. Feelgood & Mr. Hyde.
And I don’t mind, really I don’t. I read all the sweetness and light. There is often good stuff in there. I watch any and all video of cute animals. That is always good stuff.
But lately I notice that the memes are encouraging me to ‘let go of fear’ in one way or another. I’ll let go of fear right after I give away my dog (filed under: Never)
Fear is my constant faithful companion. Sturdy and steady, always at my side, protecting and guiding me. Fear reminds me that the stove is hot. Fear tells me not to push stuff into the food processor with my finger. Fear reminds me that I am too clumsy to hurry on stairs. I have no war with fear.
My war is with anxiety.
Anxiety is an electron cloud that circles my head constantly. It grabs onto everything. Someone is 5 minutes late? Fear grins and suggests another cup of coffee. Anxiety gets busy as the coffee brews. Anxiety promptly suggests 3 things (anxiety is an over achiever) They got hit by a bus! (thanks mom) They are not even coming over, they actually hate you! (Thanks school bullying) The Liberty Bridge collapsed! They died in horrible flames and drowned, too! It’s all your fault! If they were not coming to see you, they’d be safe! Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know who to blame for that one.
It is ridiculous. Pointless, baseless, and, frankly, silly. I can see that. Or most of me can see that. The rest of me is watching vivid footage of a burning car full of drowning people blaming me. Usually, using good and well-practiced technique, I can fend off a panic attack. But my hand will shake, and I’ll probably be sweating a bit.
And it is something that happens multiple times every single day. I lead a very quiet very secluded life, not many people visit, and I rarely leave the house. So there are not a lot of easy targets for the anxiety. My anxiety is thrifty. It can find senseless upset in stuff that is 10, 20, 30 years in the past. My anxiety will hammer a point into dust, and keep pounding the dust trying to make liquid. Dealing with this kind of anxiety is a pain in my dupa.
But I can and do deal with it. Friends who arrive 5 minutes late are not examined for signs of recent flaming drowning. Nor do I weep and dramatize my fears for them. (Unless it is so spectacularly ridiculous that it will end up being funny-in that case, it’s Game On!)
If this is all the anxiety can do, I can still function. I think everyone probably experiences some of this type of anxiety to some degree, I think it is a result of caring for other people that we worry about them to an absurd degree.
Sadly, my anxiety mostly focuses on stuff that is less concrete. Stuff where it is much harder to reason my way through. It likes to wait until bedtime and just toss something random at me…something like, ‘you are totally past the age where anyone will ever love you again’ I can just kiss a good night’s sleep good-bye after that.
It is a sly concept. Basically, I have given up on trying to find love. If it finds me, I promise to feed it and pet it. And I do keenly miss it. But looking for love is one misery right after the other, and my life is complicated enough. So these sideways little digs into a wounded place are very hard to combat. I can’t tell it I have a date, I don’t. I can’t tell it I’m looking, or trying. I’m not. My best shot is telling my anxiety that miracles happen. My anxiety finds my premise specious.
Anxiety has a limitless arsenal. My poverty, my looks, my trusting both a doctor and a government process, my age…it just goes on and on. And it often feels like anxiety is in the driver’s seat.
I use all my tools from therapy. It is like charging a machine gun nest armed with a rubber knife.
There are medications which have helped in the past, but there is no money for a doctor visit for me right now, or any time soon, and the pills are expensive.
I think of this process as ‘The Insanity Sit and Spin’
And I sit here and spin. Thankfully, the beadwork still slips through my fingers and becomes art. Thankfully sometimes people buy the art, and gratefully I can buy some groceries. And my good friend fear flips anxiety the bird and reminds me to be careful of crazy drivers in parking lots. It is holiday season here in the ‘burbs, after all.