Managing My Anxiety

Sorry it’s been a couple days since my last posting. I’ve been fighting what appears to be a hormone-induced migraine, which made it very difficult to do anything last night. Currently I am feeling much more like myself again and with a good night’s sleep, I should hopefully be back to normal by tomorrow.

This is one of the things I intend to work on fixing over the course of the future. I’m fairly healthy overall, other than being a little overweight, and even my doctor noted that I’m very flexible, something else I’m very proud of. But I know I have a hormone imbalance and some mild to medium anxiety issues. Not quite enough to call it a disorder, I don’t think, but it has definitely gotten worse in the last year. And after experiencing two pretty severe attacks within 12 hours of each other, which is rare for me and actually made me consider quitting my job in my heightened emotional state, and then having to deal with the aftermath the next day, I am determined to do everything I possibly can to manage my anxiety better. I never want to feel that way again. It was debilitating. There’s just no other word for it.

Managing my anxiety is one of the main reasons for weeding out the toxic people in my life. Only two of my friends really know and acknowledge/accept my anxiety for what it is, and of those two, I think only one knows about the dual attacks because she is my rock when I need her and I tell her everything. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t even know that I had anxiety. For a long, long time I was told, “Oh you’re just shy. The nerves will pass.” And sometimes they did. But more often than not, they didn’t. I once gave up participating in a spelling bee, despite being an excellent speller, because I knew the boy I had a crush on at the time was in the audience and I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of him. That was in 6th grade. Considering I’ve been out of college for six years now, this has been going on for a damn long time, and I either went along and let it control me, or I found an outlet to let me express what I was feeling. Most often the fear won out and I missed out on some excellent opportunities, but I did also discover that writing was the best and more therapeutic outlet even back then. As I grew older and more familiar with language in general, I was praised for and took a lot of pride in my writing skills. I excelled at research papers; I usually had too much to say.

However, the real joy came from making up my own stories. I wrote the very first draft of my first novel (still in a lengthy revision phase) in high school and looking back at it, it was horrendous! Like, laughably awful. But I guess you have to start somewhere, right? I finished the initial rewrite in college some six years after I started it and ever since, it’s been on hold because life kept getting in the way. But for 2016, it was one of my goals (“resolutions” if you may) to write out length character profiles for all of my major characters in this series.

Well, truth be told, I didn’t get ALL of them done, but I got at least half of them done, which I call a win, and through these profiles, I learned a lot about them as relatable characters and also things that were vital but missing from their parts in the story. I hadn’t realized how little I knew about these people or why they did what they did until I did these profiles for them. This alone helped me understand the bigger picture of the story I was trying to tell. On top of that, my best friend, who is also currently my editor because of her enthusiasm and love for my babies, asked a lot of questions and helped me see things I hadn’t seen while writing initially. She also pointed out contradictions, redundancies, and parts that needed more description. Yes, she was sometimes brutally honest with me, but that’s what I needed. Someone to tell me when I suck and not sugar coat it. You would think as a person with anxiety, such harsh criticism on something you love would make the anxiety worse, but I’ve grown a hard enough shell with my writing  skills to know to take all feedback with a grain of salt. Usually I can tell when something’s bad or needs work, and she helps me figure out what I’m looking for or need to make it better and more vivid.

Criticism on me personally (clothes, personality, etc.), still working on a shell there. I can usually ignore it, but stuff meant as “jokes” such as being assumed stupid based on what kind of car I drive, yeah, not tolerating that anymore. I’m still upset that the people I call “friends” continue making that “joke” even after seven or eight years when it’s no longer funny, and when my car is twice as old as any of theirs and in decent enough condition because I take care of it.

Ok, end rant. So yeah, part of managing my anxiety will be these designated writing sessions, which will hopefully not only manage my anxiety, but also help with the revision process on my book. Maybe by having an established writing routine, I won’t have to wait for inspiration to strike. It’ll just flow naturally. I hope.

A Step Forward

Yesterday I met someone. Not in the Match.com way where you’re looking for someone to date, although it might sound like that from my descriptions. No, I met someone who I would like to have as a friend because we have a lot in common. Also, having done a lot of soul-searching and self reflection in 2016, I’ve come to the very difficult decision that I need to get rid of some of my current friends and replace them with new ones who are more supportive and less draining. Friends should make you feel energized and alive, not drained and exhausted, and after meeting this girl yesterday (let’s call her Maka) I felt energized and refreshed that someone else geeks out about some of the same things as me.

First off, she’s an anime junkie and has gotten me intrigued by several new animes I’d like to watch. She loves manga, gaming, Supernatural, Game of Thrones, and animals. Her dog is named after a wrestler, and she told me she’s not as big into wrestling anymore, but was when she was younger. She is a bit younger than me but that doesn’t bother me. My best friend (we’ll call her Tsubaki) is younger than me and I honestly don’t know where I would be without her.

And sure, Maka has her fair share of problems, but who doesn’t these days? There are days where I truly feel like a starving artist, even though I’m not actually starving. But I try to live within my means, which usually means I will forego something I really want because I don’t have the money to afford it. And the same goes for hanging out with people. There are just some days where I want my peace and solitude because I have learned to enjoy my own company. The best part about that is no one can hurt you or put you down about it. I mean, they can try but I’m not afraid to admit I am a very happy hermit, and my choosing to hang out with someone is an indication that I genuinely like and trust that person.

Rambling tangent aside, meeting Maka yesterday was not only uplifting, but a huge win for me. I’m not the outgoing type so meeting strangers for the first time usually scares the crap out of me (and usually doesn’t end well either, but those are stories for another time). This time I was excited to meet a fellow nerd. I didn’t have an upset stomach from nerves, I wasn’t super jittery from my anxiety, and when I spoke, it wasn’t at a rushed excitable pace. In fact, our conversation flowed almost seamlessly from one topic to the next, and sometimes circled back to the same topics. There were almost no awkward pauses and the whole situation felt natural and easy. Which, for someone who doesn’t make friends easily, made everything that much better

And the best part of all this is that I did it almost entirely on my own. I say almost because technically my mom initiated the Facebook friend request from Maka to me because she and Maka work together. But once I accepted her friend request, I initiated the conversation, I set up the time and date of our meet up, and most importantly, I went to meet her by myself. Usually, the way I used to make friends was simply by proximity to more outgoing personalities. For instance, in college while waiting for a class, I stood near a girl who looked pleasant enough and she started a conversation with me while we waited. Through her, I was sort of welcomed into her circle and through one of her friends, I met two of my current friends. I never did the initiating. I was always the one being approached and welcomed. Well, no more. I might still be skittish about approaching strangers, but I know now that I have the confidence to do it if I really want to.

Finding Freedom To Be Myself

It’s very freeing, being out from under the yoke of your oppressor. To find out exactly who you are without anyone else telling you who to be. You find new things you didn’t know you enjoyed, because nobody else enjoyed them, or wanted to try them. You find out who your real friends are and who only wants you around to control you.

2016 was a monumental year for me because I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know a few years ago when I was undergoing some psychological abuse. For example, I’ve always been quiet, shy, and kept to myself for the most part, but what I didn’t know was that some of that shyness might have actually been a mild form of social anxiety. Last year I spent a great deal of time learning how to handle my anxiety in ways that didn’t always include prescription drugs.

One of the ways I found that helps keep the anxiety down is, not surprisingly, working out, which for me included POP Pilates and yoga. I’m still trying to find a good balance of each in order to maximize their feel-good effects, but I can’t imagine getting up every morning and not doing at least one or the other or both before I start the rest of my day. The instructors for both are highly energetic and upbeat, and agree that we should love ourselves as we are and not compare ourselves to anyone else, that we are all on our own journeys. That mentality really resonated with me personally, having had pretty low self esteem my entire life, and it lifted me up to see the good in myself that I couldn’t see before. It also helped me to achieve certain goals that I thought were beyond me, like being able to hold certain yoga poses or get through an entire Pilates workout without stopping to catch my breath. Little victories like that were huge accomplishments for me.

Writing is a close second to helping keep the anxiety down and while I didn’t do as much of it last year as I would have liked, this year I plan to incorporate daily writing sessions on select days so as to make writing a habit again. I’m actually writing this during one of those sessions. I’m a writer at heart and am always carrying around a notebook, just in case inspiration strikes me, and I’ve found that when I’m really upset or anxious, writing out everything that’s running through my head calms me down, not only because it empties an already busy mind, but because it also validates what I’m feeling at a particular moment. Sometimes I don’t know what’s upsetting me until I write down whatever I’m thinking about. Sometimes what upsets me most is my current place in life. I’m not where I thought I would be at this point, and I have to remind myself that that’s ok. All things considered, I’m doing just fine where I am. I have a job, a car that runs with no problems, a roof over my head, enough food to eat, and a support system that’s there to help me when I need it most. And that’s all that matters right now.

One of the last things I learned about myself is that, to truly be free, you just have to do what makes you happy, not what everyone else wants. Just let your nerd flag fly high and those who matter will encourage you and be right there with you, supporting you. At the end of 2015 I did a test run of my first cosplay ever. I was so nervous no one would know who I was, but I walked with as much confidence as I could muster, and it went over so well that I did it again a month later for a concert based around the video game franchise my character was from. And even though it was not a “professional” level of cosplaying (none of my items were handmade), I still had a couple people ask for pictures. That was one of the greatest feelings in the world. At the end of 2016, I did a different cosplay, also low maintenance with the only handmade item being the skirt, and went to a concert for a different gaming franchise. Once there, while we were waiting for the show, the three of us were asked multiple times for photos and one woman even put us on a live stream video to Mexico. I can’t even begin to explain the elation I felt personally for that kind of attention. I have a great respect for those who take immense amounts of time to make their own costumes, and I hope to someday learn to do it myself, but being in costume for me was one of the most freeing things I could’ve ever done. It gave me confidence I didn’t know I could have and it helped me relax enough to carry on a conversation with a stranger, which I don’t typically do. What I’ve found is that most cosplayers are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and they are always willing to share how they made their costumes, or where they got their inspiration, and they can be supportive even if you’ve never met. Just being part of this group means a lot to me.

With a lot of help from my best friend, without whom I don’t know where I would be now, I started to see the toxic people in my life and am now trying to rid myself of them, even though it will be very difficult. But after having so much time to myself and discovering my worth and what makes me happy, I can now distinguish those who put strain on my mental well-being and make me want to hide the important parts of myself, like being a cosplayer and a closet anime lover, and find those who share in my enthusiasm for what I love most.