I think I was at work, at about 7:00 in the morning, drinking my tea and gearing up to get some stuff done. As I watched it, I started to cry.
It's not exactly a secret around here that I deal with anxiety--and while most of the time my tone about it may seem joke-y or blasé, I'm not being cute. I truly do find myself feeling unaccountably and irrationally anxious over things that, in my mind anyway, I shouldn't. I think I try to joke it off a little, to keep people from worrying about me. Those who know me best see right through my jokes.
It can be something as stupid as a leaf blower--a constant, loud, whining leaf blower--being used nearby--or, you know, a power saw in the condo below mine. Or it can be the non-stop feeling that I'm never going to get everything done, that each unchecked item on my To Do List is a small failure, and those small failures are adding up into Big Loser.
My life is never exactly dull. Hey! I'm going to England! To Washington! To Antioch! To Stockton! To Lincoln! I'm buying a home!! I mostly roll with change pretty well and figure it's just part of the adventure. But now that I'm putting down roots, I have this near-constant fear that it's all going to be yanked out from under me. I have a home--a good one, despite it's worn-down parts--and a really great job. And since August, every day, I've lived in some form of terror that it's all going to be yanked away from me.
The boss comments on a behavior issue that happened in one of my classes, and I immediately go into fight-or-flight mode. I'm not aggressive, just quick to defend myself, to try to show that I'm on it, I've got this. I have enough clarity to realize I do this because my boss in Stockton blamed every pre-teen moment on me, even as every other teacher dealt with the same behaviors in their classes. A kid did something naughty, and it would be my fault. My current bosses are not like that. But old habits die hard.
If I'm not fighting to prove that I'm worthy of this job, I go into total flight mode, driving home with tears in my eyes thinking, "I'll just find another job. The kids will be better at another school." (They won't. Kids are kids are kids are...) Or I hunker down at home in a bubble of avoidance, figuring I'll deal with it tomorrow. Or the next day.
Fight or flight is an excellent survival adaptation. But it was never meant to be a 24/7 thing.
Several months ago, I sat sobbing in the doctor's office at Kaiser, having just behaved like an asshole to the physician's assistant over my blood pressure reading. I apologized to the doctor again and again, and cried, and grabbed more and more tissues from the box on the counter as she sat on her little rolling stool and looked up at me on the exam table with the kindest eyes, saying nothing until I had to pause to breathe.
Then, "I can see that you are having some very deep anxiety."
That simple observation, made in a soothing voice, stopped me in my tracks. She understood.
I told her how many changes I've been through in the last few years. Jobs coming and jobs going. A great new job, but still an adjustment. Losing two cats. Buying a new car. You know, life.
She asked if I wanted to take a low dose of anxiety medication.
"Oh...no. I run. I work out. I think that helps me a lot."
And it does...to an extent. It certainly doesn't hurt, but I feel more and more like it's not enough to really help me at the deepest level. As my anxieties get bigger, there's only so much that a really great workout can do to help.
So for a couple of weeks now, I've been thinking that maybe it's time to go back to her and get some help. Start the anxiety meds again, maybe see if I can talk to a counselor once in a while. I want to take charge of my health so that I can enjoy the really great job I have...because the saddest thing of all is that I really haven't been enjoying it for the last couple of months. It's just been a job, instead of the career I love, and fought so hard to keep.
I made an appointment for this coming week.
I made an appointment for this coming week.
The best analogy I can come up with is that it's like being in a boat that's taking on water. I'm frantically bailing the water out by the bucketful, and mostly staying afloat. People sail by and offer help, but I paste a smile on my face and tell them, "Oh, I've got it! I'm totally fine!"
I'm not fine.
But I will be.