Still Life With Anxiety: An In-The-Moment Internal Monologue of Negative Thinking
I’m on the verge of panic as I write this. My anxiety level is off the charts at the current moment.
I am ready to snap.
And why? Stress. Just the plain ol’ everyday stressors that most other people can deal with just fine: prepping to host a brunch tomorrow morning, making last-minute Halloween costumes for a Saturday night party, and tidying up the house.
Agoraphobic ol’ me spent 7 hours outside of the house today — no small feat, obviously — running errands of all sorts.
“Seven hours?” my husband said, quizzically, a few minutes ago. “How? I don’t get it.”
I don’t either, really. And instead of patting myself on the back in self-congratulations, I’m just gritting my teeth and feeling exhausted. That relentlessly critical voice inside of my head is dishing out the word “should” like it’s going out of style: I shouldn’t feel exhausted. I should be able to do shit like this. I should be able to get excited about friends visiting.
My heart shouldn’t be racing. My stomach shouldn’t be nervous. I shouldn’t feel woozy.
I shouldn’t feel scared that I’m woozy. I shouldn’t have to do things at the last minute. I shouldn’t be a procrastinator. I should be having fun putting costumes together.
But I’m not.
Blogs are a curious thing: they allow us the opportunity to selectively self-edit our personalities. We can nip and tuck. We can conceal our blemishes and highlight our best features before unveiling ourselves to the world. (And don’t tell me you don’t do this — when’s the last time you’ve uploaded an unflattering profile pic to Facebook?)
Usually, I approach this blog in one of two ways: I either adopt a neutral tone in describing my own struggles, or I adopt a positive tone in providing anxiety-related advice for others.
But I cannot will myself to be positive today — or even neutral. You are getting a clear and honest vignette of me, panic-disordered me, on a dumpy day.
And I do not feel like dressing up this dumpy day in a top hat and bow tie.
My fingers are covered in dried Ok-To-Wash-It glue as I type. My husband’s Bill Lumbergh costume (ever see Office Space?) is sitting across from my laptop at my kitchen table — a drab dress shirt with Lumbergh’s characteristic white collar and cuffs. I scoured multiple thrift shops to find a cheap base shirt and a white dress shirt that I could take a pair of scissors to. I cut off the collar and cuffs and glued them to the base shirt and it was sort of a pain in the ass.
It looks fantastic, but I’m miserable. I will be well-prepared, perhaps, for my own role as Joanna, the Office Space server who works at PJ Calamity’s, wears flair, and gives her boss the middle finger. The sour look on my face, if it lasts until tomorrow night, will fuel my method acting.
And I have friends visiting tomorrow morning at 10 am for brunch, and somehow, by then, my kitchen table needs to be clean. But right now, the glue (which should be given 24 hours to set — fat chance that’s going to happen) is the big priority here. I can’t clean off the table until morning, which means I have to get up early to do it. And I can’t get up early to do it until I get to bed early.
And I can’t get to bed early if I don’t finish my (massive) to-do list of cleaning up my kitchen and prepping the food and packing up my own costume and — dammit, I totally forgot to dig around for “flair” for my suspenders — great. One more thing to add to the to-do list.
Chain-linked priorities. One thing is contingent upon another. Oh, the lump in my throat that forms when I think about this concept in depth! It’s the greatest stumbling block for folks like me: perfectionistic procrastinators with anxiety disorders.
It doesn’t help that I had a migraine earlier today and I still feel the subtle throbbing somewhere between my right eye socket and my frontal lobe. And it doesn’t help that even the smallest of sounds are irritating to me right now — like my husband’s floor-tapping in the kitchen as he…wait, he’s supposed to be helping me out by unloading the dishwasher and putting in a new load so the kitchen isn’t a crazy mess. What the hell is he doing?
He’s literally just sitting in there and tapping out drumbeats on the floor. Nothing else.
I just blew up at him between paragraphs. Not just for the tapping, which is sending my aching head into a tailspin, but also the fact that he is sitting there and doing nothing while I am freaking out about how in holy hell we’re going to get everything done on time.
And already I feel terrible about snapping at him. I feel it in my gut. I feel not only the anxiety in my gut, and the pre-panic sensations I’m so intimately familiar with, but also the sharp regret that’s swimming around with the greasy fast foot I ate earlier.
I shouldn’t be eating fast food. I should be eating healthy. I don’t have time to eat healthy. I should have time to eat healthy. Why don’t I have time? God, I must be doing something wrong with my days. People should have time to eat healthy. I’m doing something wrong. Maybe I’m doing everything wrong.
Oh, balls. I’m “shoulding” myself again and I know it — but it feels so…inevitable.
What a perfect contrast: my husband, so cool and collected that he’s tapping out drum beats, knowing that shit’s going to get done on time. And then there’s me over in the next room, frantically typing out some sort of haphazard missive with sticky fingers, unrelenting and unwelcome adrenaline rushes, a nebulous wooziness, a bad headache, and (admittedly) a bad attitude.
This stream-of-consciousness Still Life With Anxiety is brought to you by unbridled honesty and the letter “F”.
Beretsky, S. (2013). Still Life With Anxiety: An In-The-Moment Internal Monologue of Negative Thinking. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 26, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/panic/2013/10/still-life-with-anxiety-an-in-the-moment-internal-monologue-of-negative-thinking/