To say this has been a trying week in the life of Dan is a bit of an understatement. I somewhat successfully recovered from working night shifts, but I’m still trying to shake off the last vestiges of the Cold From Hell. As I said, the coughing mostly comes at night – mostly. Being physically sick has reminded me of how much energy it takes to keep my chronic anxiety in check. It takes a lot of effort some days to keep the belt from flying off the pulley – an analogy my father used on me back in my late teens before I had any clue what was going on inside my head. Even with the help of medication, it’s still up to me to do the work. And when your body siphons off energy from that kind of work to heal itself physically, it’s surprising what little is left to fight what is pretty much a daily battle for me.
The thing about dealing with anxious thoughts and feelings is that, left unchecked, they color every aspect of your life. Everything becomes a tragedy, a worst-case scenario, or a death knell. I have to work very hard most days in evaluating whether or not something is really as bad as it appears to be. Sometimes, my plugging into the situation causes a brush fire in my head, making it seem worse to my brain than it actually is. Figuring out what I do and do not own in a situation is a daily struggle for me. I am desperately envious of those people to whom it seems to come naturally or of the people who just don’t give a shit. I’m sitting here now wondering about a million different things and if they really are as frightening as they seem. This usually leads me to feel anxious about feeling anxious, which is just a whole other circle of hell.
I always try to remind myself that “feelings aren’t facts.” Rather they just are – good or bad, right or wrong. They just happen. Knowing that they are not facts doesn’t mean that I am spared the honor and privilege of feeling them, an experience that does not always tickle. Sometimes I get kind of angry that feelings are not facts because it’d be so much easier. I’ll find myself thinking to myself “I just feel so bad” at which point, the intellectual part of me chimes in “Ah..but feelings aren’t facts!” and the part of my brain that was thinking that is left to sulk a bit. Cutting off that path has been immensely helpful in my life, but also immensely frustrating, if that makes any sense. Gone are the easy answers, and you’re left to face the harder facts of your life.
I work this weekend and I’m heading into it feeling a little bit defeated. It’s one of those stretches in my life where I am not alone, but feel lonely. I have nothing to be upset about, yet I feel sad. Notice the words “feel” in there – always a red flag to me. Just feelings, not facts. They always feel real, almost as if I could touch them, but they are not real.
Fear not, I will persevere. As Madonna sings “I’m gonna be okay, I don’t care what the people say.” And when the turkeys try to get me down, I’ll just keep this picture in mind.
It’s always so hard for me to hit the “publish” button on stuff like this, but what the hell.