Thursday, August 14, 2014

From My Journal: Tackling My Anxiety, Head On, For The First Time.

A few weeks ago, I dealt with an ambush. In the same week: I was promoted at work unexpectedly, healing from an accident, I hadn’t been writing, and removing a really close (but shifty) friend from my life. I woke up on the Friday of that week, took a really long shower, put on my smoothest suit, and spritzed myself in my favorite perfume. I'd prayed the night before, called my parents and my mentor, made peace with my decisions, and decided that I was going to conquer the day. 

I got to the office and tackled my to-do list, checking off items, one by one. As the list dwindled, my spirits rose. I felt the anxiety dissipating slowly and I couldn't wait to spend my weekend writing and giving my apartment some feng-shui love, which would help to rid me of the rest.  

I was talking to some co-workers, when a text came in. I glanced at my phone and continued to figure out if I wanted sushi or a salad. The text was from an old romantic interest turned friend. We were madly in love once, but after an onslaught of unfortunate events, in his life, he’d decided that the relationship direction wasn’t for him. Over the last few months, we’d been trying to be friends; we sent the occasional meme to each other and exchanged pictures of our daily lives, keeping the other informed.

After my co-workers left the room, I checked it.

“Hey. I’ve been trying to tell you these past few weeks, but I couldn’t figure out how. I’m engaged. I wanted to tell you, before it went up on social media.”

Instant trigger.

My fingers were cocked, aimed, and ready. I was ready to flip out on him, to tell him all about himself.

How is it possible that someone that I loved and who seemed to love me so deeply could just skip over me and decide on a union with someone else? How could he have not told me, when it all began? How could he not love me?

I caught myself. I heard my friends and mother’s reiterated commentary of men knowing when they wanted to be with someone. I made excuses for him. They were all apparent. I was there for every slip-up and missed opportunity. No one in his situation and mental space could be ready for the next step.

Or so I thought…

I sat and felt it wash over me: The nervousness of my promotion, the pain from my accident throbbing through my leg, the anger of not having the time to write, the absence of a friend and the scorn of a lover. I felt an anxiety attack’s initiation and I waited for it to explode.

I opted out of lunch for the day, typed my way through my last few assignments, and ignored the fast paced beat of my heart and shortness of breath. I grabbed my workbag, when the clock struck quitting time. I opened my phone and got ready to call off all my evening events and isolate myself at home, for the weekend. Interestingly, my email with my mentor, from the night before appeared.

After a long talk about my inability to scribe, because of the demands of my day job, my ongoing anxiety, and how much I needed regular talks with him, he gave me incredible advice:

“You spent your college years in a seaside town that is over 400 years old. You became a legendary spoken-word poet. You became hungry for what you could do literarily. Going to NYC made sense, given your ambitions, but there is much to learn and gain in other places as well.  One of the problems the NYC publishing industry has always had, in my humble opinion, is that it forgot the rest of the world is not NYC. There is beauty everywhere. You might very well find you can write a novel at a retreat in Vermont faster than you could in the literary capital of the world, Brooklyn. Personally, I enjoy being the one writer in a hundred people. I don't know how I would feel about being the 100th writer on my block.

Cherish the time you have at your current job, but continue to seek out things that will give you more time with your writing. Carve out the life that will make YOU happy. That is something within your control. Vacation elsewhere. Fantasize about the feel of a fresh pair of Dunks on your feet. We do have to grow up, but we define what that means, not other people. I named my company Cap & Sneakers to remind myself that my ultimate work uniform will always consist of those two things, regardless of my age. Tell Frankie Beverly to take off his hat at his age and he will laugh in your face. You can always age your swag, but dressing the way other people tell you sucks if you have to come out of pocket to do so.”

Of course, we were talking mostly about writing. However, the paragraph glared at me, as I stood in front of the 4-train. I NEEDED TO CARVE OUT THE LIFE THAT WOULD MAKE ME HAPPY.

I had to stop letting, if I could, the infliction of men, friends, and others control my happiness. A HUGE factor in having severe anxiety is utilizing the things you love to calm it. I had major life changes happening, but I wasn’t truly doing the things that helped to smooth things out. I hadn’t taken a vacation in ages, I couldn’t remember the last time I entered a sneaker store, I tried to fathom what chapter of my novel I’d been working on, and my new skateboard didn’t have one scratch on it.

Would my anxiety over these issues hold so much weight, if I were immersed in things I loved?

I left the train platform and went to the closest spot, in the station, with reception. I called my best friend, from back on Long Island, and told her I was coming home for the weekend.

“What do you want to do?” she asked.

“BOARD,” I said.

That night we went to Long Beach’s boardwalk and shredded, despite the signs that warned against it. I felt like a teenager again, draped in a hoodie and sporting fly kicks. We rode until 2am, when we saw a police car approaching us. We ran, laughing. Afterwards we gulped Slurpees and cracked on one another, until it was time to go home.

The weekend started my healing, but I knew it was only half the battle.

I sat my parents down that same weekend and told them that I’d need space. I know how my anxiety works: Sadness, isolation, coming to terms, and recovery. My parents are never happy when I’m in my isolation phase, but they’re getting better at it. Instead of “invasive” (b/c that’s how my anxiety interprets it) phone calls and visits, they’ll send the occasional text and wait for me to answer. I also sent out a mass text to my closest friends, with an article on what I was dealing with. It was something that I’d been ashamed of, but recently decided that it was better if the people I loved were prepared for it.

I spent two weeks in my apartment reading books I never had the chance to finish, finally watching “Lost Girl”, and letting go, when I wasn’t working. I ignored the gym-buddy requests and the doorbell, via my best friend & neighbor. I knew she could hear that I was home, through the door, but she was also aware that if I wasn’t answering…I wasn’t up to it. I let my friends DJ their radio show, from my apartment, hoping they’d liven up the place. They let me sleep through some of the show, but woke me up with great tunes and forced me to laugh and smile.

Eventually, with time, space, and understanding, my anxiety lifted. It took two weeks, shorter than usual, with intentional precautions. I decided what I could/could not deal with. I took the lead. I made it clear to all those around me and they respected my wishes.

I could’ve chosen to hide the real reason behind this post. I could’ve wrapped it up in gorgeous prose. The title would’ve been: How to Deal, When He Chooses Her.

I didn’t.

This time it wasn’t about him. I’d gotten over our “love” a while ago. I should’ve been disappointed, but the way my body deals/dealt with it, isn’t normal. It was an amalgamation of things. Knowing this kept me in check. It urged me to deal with the issue, right away. It gave me the power to involve everyone, in the healing process.

This time it was about me.

& if you see him or my last anxiety attack, anytime soon? You can tell them I said: Peace. 


Anonymous said...

Conformity is usually the main cause. Most peoples primary problem is that they literally forget to keep doing the thing they wanted to do. Beautiful post & may THE LORD be with you on your journey.

Je Tuan Jones said...

Thank You for sharing. I'm currently working on better ways to cope with my anxiety. This helped a lot.

Veronica said...

My best advice to you: LIVE, Riv!

DO make time for yourself and the things that you love to do outside of work. Don't allow all that you do at your age to be just work. The years, they fly by in an instant.

Yes, you have goals and a legacy to build--seek them out with everything that you have in you but MAKE time for solace, for nothingness.

And by nothingness, I mean SILENCE and PEACE in order for you to sit, observe, be inspired, write, paint, skate, dance (even if it's all alone), sing.

And for men, there is an article I read once. Many times a woman may take it as an insult that they weren't "chosen" and they refuse to believe that he just "all the sudden" got ready when he moved on with someone else.

Sometimes all it is, when he finally gets/is ready (which can happen in an instant) it's whoever is "in his lap" that gets chosen. Whether you believe it or not...I believe there may be some truth to it. I'll have to search for the article and if I find it, I'll post it IF you care to read.

p.s. Go get those sneakers girl! I tried to get rid of mine with that ole "pretty girl project" and in the midst of all that, I had the realization that it's still ok to be that sneaker-wearing tomboy and its also ok to wear my heels and I'll do whichever I please at any given point. I agree with your friend, you've just got to "age your swag" and do it in the way that YOU see fit.

Anyway, I hope you are well and remember to always take care of/take time for YOU whether you are shoulder deep in love or somewhere in between.


minah said...

Thank you for this, "I had to stop letting, if I could, the infliction of men, friends, and others control my happiness." This is exactly where I am trying to get to. I need to read that and this post in its entirety.

Thank you! I appreciate your transparency. I know your willingness to be transparent will release others to do the same.