Because my mother knows me far too well, she came home today with a self-help workbook on managing anxiety. It has techniques in it to identify the types of anxiety you suffer and techniques to combat them. I'll be working through these over the next few weeks.
I had a number of people contact me on Facebook after my post, and being honest about my problem with anxiety seemed to comfort others who have felt that way, so I've decided to combat my own feelings of shame and embarrassment over the anxiety by writing about it. I've ignored the blog some lately, but I think the type of people who are artists and writers is a demographic that largely intersects with the type of people prone to anxiety and depression. If writing about it might help someone else feel less alone, less crazy, less like an aberration, then that's enough for me.
I know a lot of artists suffer from anxiety. I'm doing a lot right now artistically, and I'm going through a lot of shifts in my professional life that have affected me personally as well. I plan to post occasionally about these anxiety-management techniques as well as the techniques of establishing a new trigger for productivity (not unrelated).
About My Anxiety
According to the book, I have a lot of the symptoms for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, social anxiety, and panic attacks. I say that I have the symptoms because I have done some tests, but not been diagnosed by a psychiatrist or medical professional (my physician prescribed medication for panic attacks, but that doesn't really constitute a diagnosis in my mind). I will provide an update of formal diagnosis when I see a psychotherapist, but I have no projected date on when that will be. For now, managing the symptoms I'm facing will at least start to help.
The constant worries and feelings of dread an doom do cause days to be de-railed, contribute to debilitating insomnia, and send me to the Internet to make sure I'm not having heart attacks or haven't poisoned myself somehow. I can't even take medication without feeling worried it will conflict with something I've eaten or taken and cause me to go into shock and die. The idea of being anesthetized completely petrifies me. I often imagine catastrophes with little reason, or wonder if saying goodbye to someone who is leaving will be my last one.
Partly, that final one is true because it's happened before. When I watched my grandfather walk off to his car after my farewell party before heading to Japan, I thought, "what if this is the last time I see him?" It was. He died almost exactly a year later, and I hadn't seen him since. I wasn't able to go home and grieve, either, because I had planned to stay in Japan.
I had those fears, to some extent, before that instance. I always worried when Adryn was riding down on her motorcycle to see me. I remember getting her (drug-voiced) phone call after I left one day and, five minutes later, she wrecked her bike and broke her collarbone. I didn't get the call till hours later.
Now, those circumstances are never fun, and I think everyone dreads them. I guess I just didn't realize that the knot of doom in my stomach every time I said bye to someone or waited for someone who wasn't on time was not normal. Hell, sometimes I do it with myself. I'm driving and I think, "what would happen if I whipped the wheel sideways and the car went rolling? Would I die? Would I even notice? How would my parents feel..." It's not that I ever even WANT to do those things. Just the opposite--the thought scares me so much that I guess I conjure it. I guess that's not a normal person's response.
I'm determined to become a professional author and narrator. To do that, I know I've for to have a schedule. I've got to be productive.
Which means that I've placed a lot of significance on doing those things. Which means slipping up with them is now tantamount to failure. Which makes doing them a source of stress.
Can you see how this is a problem?
I'm working on it. I'm trying to establish a routine, and trying to combat the situations that throw me off it. I'm trying to be gentle with myself about my slip-ups, but firm enough to get back on the schedule when I fail.
So the panic attack Friday derailed my work on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It's Monday, and I'm feeling like I have enough energy to get myself reorganized. I'm behind, but not too far behind. I've got to finish revising chapter one of Mark of Flight, and I've got to write scene 3 of Song of the Heretic. Tomorrow, I need to start recording the next audiobook.
It may be that the work-schedule I've created is too heavy given the anxiety, and given the fact that I hope to start a part-time job slinging coffee at my local Starbucks later this month. Trial and error.
And I have to be okay with the error, and not let it send me into fits of psycho-flagellation (if that's even a word).
What techniques do you use to combat anxiety? What goals do you have? How can you plan to achieve them without letting them become a source of stress?