Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: anxiety (page 2 of 3)

Performance Anxiety

Monday night, I had a gig.

It was not my first gig. It wasn’t even my first gig at this particular venue. But I was really, really nervous.

Now, I have stage fright. It’s a thing, but I expect it, and I know it’ll usually be gone by about ten minutes after I get off the stage. Usually it doesn’t hit me all that hard or for all that long.

But Monday night was different. Maybe it was because I’ve been so damn anxious about everything else lately. Maybe it was because I was playing a set comprised entirely of brand new songs. I don’t know. But I was barely able to eat dinner, and I felt sick to my stomach, and I really had no idea how I was going to make it through all seven songs in my set.

Still, I got up on stage, and I did it. I got through everything. I rushed through almost all of it, but since no one else in the room had ever heard the songs before, no one was really the wiser. The last song in the set, I had to start over after a few measures when I realized I had started singing it up to high, but by that point I was determined to just get it done, so I didn’t let it bother me too much.

I stayed nervous through at least half of the next musician’s 25 minute set. I’m not sure if the anxiety faded on its own, or if it was aided by the Jack and Coke I was drinking, but thankfully, I was able to enjoy the rest of the evening’s performances.

People occasionally tell me they could never get up on stage and perform something they’d written. Now, I’m not a seasoned performer by any means, but I’ve played a fair number of class showcases and a handful of small gigs, which is apparently enough to impress people. The truth is, though, every time I’m going to get on stage, I wonder what the fuck I think I’m doing. I don’t do it because I really enjoy it. I write because I enjoy it, and I enjoy whatever positive feedback I might get after a set, but the actual process of performing is not a thing I find particularly fun. I do it because it makes me uncomfortable. I do it because writing songs just for myself sometimes feels unsatisfying, and while I’m terrified to put my soul out on display by performing what I’ve written, I like knowing I’m not creating in a vacuum.

So if you’re a creative person who’s been wondering if they should share their creativity with the world: the decision is ultimately up to you, but I recommend trying it at least once. It might not be a thing you enjoy doing, but you might find that you and I have something in common, that doing a thing that scares you precisely because it scares you can teach you a lot about yourself and the people you surround yourself with.

But enough of me rambling. How about some weird music? For the curious, if you follow the links to the SoundCloud pages for each song, I’ve posted the lyrics in the descriptions. Here’s the playlist of the whole set, which for whatever reason SoundCloud has ordered backwards:

Taking Care

The people who know me best know that my brain never really stops racing.

This is still true, despite the fact that as of yesterday I’ve spent ten minutes a day meditating (using Headspace) for 27 days straight.

It remains true despite the fact that I am spending large swaths of my life feeling exhausted.

Last week, I mentioned that I was getting back into embroidery for the first time in about a decade. Last week, I embroidered the corners of nine handkerchiefs in six days:

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

I embroidered all of these between Monday and Sunday.

It feels a little silly, and I have some complex feelings about indulging in a craft that doesn’t have a lot of practical application. When I knit, 99% of the time it’s something I am going to use, or give to someone else in the hopes that they use it. I knit beautiful things, but I knit beautiful things with a purpose – things that I will wear, or that my nephew will play with, or things to snuggle under. Embroidery doesn’t really make anything, it just makes existing things prettier. Which is, I recognize, a perfectly valid reason to do a thing, and my internal resistance to the idea of doing something that a part of me finds “frivolous” is likely largely rooted in misogyny and the devaluation of things deemed “women’s work” by society. So that’s my own bullshit to work through. And it’s (clearly) not stopping me from doing it.

A large part of the reason why I keep making one tiny stitch after the other is the fact that embroidery requires focus. Not so much that it feels strenuous, but enough that it occupies a significant portion of my mind. I noticed pretty early on in the week that when I was carefully stitching away, following the lines of the patterns, that my brain slowed down. I didn’t stop worrying altogether. The anxiety was still there. But the cacophony of thoughts quieted down to a more manageable volume. It gave me a little space to process some of the ideas pinging around in my skull.

Of course, there’s the rest of my life that still needs living, and I can’t continue to let the time I take out to embroider consume the time I need to get things done around the house, get knitting projects with deadlines done, and otherwise take care of myself.

So this weekend, I have a massage scheduled for the first time since October (I haven’t been in since just before I had surgery!), and I have an appointment with my new therapist. Because embroidery is a great coping technique in its right (and is certainly a less expensive coping mechanism than some that I’ve used over the years), but it can’t be the only tool I have tucked into my belt. I want very badly to get involved in whatever forms of resistance I can, but I also need to be realistic about the fact that I’ve been finding it difficult to do much above and beyond my regularly scheduled activities. I can’t take care of the rest of the world if I’m not taking care of myself first.

The weekend won’t be without its own anxieties (I have a gig scheduled for Monday night, and I’m planning to play the songs I’ve written in the 8-week class that just ended yesterday, so I have a lot of polishing and practicing to do), but I am determined to do what I can to get my brain in a better place, both in the short-term and into the future, uncertain though it certainly is.

Inhale, Exhale

I’ll be honest, I’m really not sure what to write about this week. The world continues to be a scary place full of bad news, and that continues to be overwhelming. So I think I’m going to fall back on my usual I-don’t-know-what-to-write-about strategy, and give you a list of three good things from the past week:

  1. Knitters are the best people. A bunch of our knitting group got together for brunch over the weekend to celebrate someone’s birthday. There was good food and an adorable baby and lots of reminders why I love these people so much.
  2. I found a new therapist. I had been going to someone else, but they weren’t really up for helping me through my anxiety around the current political climate, so I ended services with them a couple of weeks ago. On Sunday I met with a new therapist that I think is going to be a much better fit.
  3. I took a day off. Granted, it was because I was feeling pretty miserable (I’m on round two of this horrible cold), but it felt good to listen to my body and take some time to get extra rest and just relax, particularly in the midst of what is turning out to be a pretty packed month.

To Do Lists

I’ve been trying to get through each day by way of to do lists the past couple of weeks. Often, they go something like this:

  • Organize request list at work
  • Do songwriting homework
  • Look for new therapist to help with anxiety management
  • Remember to eat actual meals (like a normal person)
  • Breathe

I’m trying to stay on top of things at work (because I just accepted a promotion that takes me from direct user support into project management), and that’s a struggle. I’m also trying to stay on top of my social media engagement and news intake (because I don’t want to be paralyzed by the deluge of horror coming out of D.C. these days), and that’s a struggle, too. Self-care fits in there somewhere, which isn’t any easier than the rest of it.

I’m tired. This level of anxiety isn’t sustainable. I’m doing everything I know how to do in order to manage it, but I’ve never had such a prolonged, physical reaction to anxiety before.

And I’m not just anxious. I’m also increasingly angry. I have always had a strong, ingrained sense of justice and fair play (Hufflepuff FTW!), and this administration of rich white folks walking all over every marginalized group they can reach is maddening. I will never understand why it’s considered okay to sacrifice people in the name of profit. I will especially never understand the people who are supporting this and still claiming they have the moral high ground, but that’s perhaps a post for another day.

I would love to hear what all of you out there in the great wide world of the interwebs are doing to manage your own anxiety and anger, or even better, how you’re channeling it.

Juggling

I’m exhausted. It’s been less than two weeks since our new president was sworn into office, and the whole time has been a never-ending deluge of bad news. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next handful of  years with this ever-present knot in my stomach (not to mention the knots in my neck and shoulders and elsewhere in my body).

I’m struggling to find balance. I want to stay informed, about the resistance and the things we’re resisting. And I want to help spread information around. But I feel like I’m so inundated with information every time I open Facebook or go pretty much anywhere else on the internet that I just end up paralyzed.

I feel guilty about this mental paralysis, too. Because I recognize that I have a lot of privilege, and the ability to take time to feel paralyzed and not act is, in itself, a privilege. Yes, I struggle with anxiety and I’m Bipolar and deal with chronic pain, and those all have an impact on my ability to react to things productively. But I wish I was doing a better job, and I know that wishing doesn’t count for much, really.

The sheer number of different destructive things this new administration is doing is, to put it mildly, overwhelming. I know that I’m only likely to be able to stay on top of two or three issues at once, but I care about all of them, dammit, and they’re all related, really, because they’re all human issues. Picking a place to focus feels like I’m letting down whatever group I didn’t pick, and there are few things that get under my skin like feeling as though I’m a disappointment.

I added this article to the end of last week’s post, but I feel like I need to keep rereading it to keep from going completely mad, so I’m sharing it with you all again: How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind.

Fighting to Focus

It’s been an anxious week. I got some good news on a personal front (that isn’t official enough to fully announce here yet, sorry), but the time leading up to that news was extraordinarily stressful. And the actions of the Dorito-in-Chief in his first week in office have been nothing short of horrifying.

I’m struggling to balance my intake and output of news-related information on social media, as well as the effect of that input and output on my mental health and general ability to function in my daily life. As a white dude, I have immense amounts of privilege that I want to leverage for good. To do that, I need to stay informed, and use my voice in the hope that I can help to inform other people. However, I also deal with chronic pain, anxiety, and the joys of being Bipolar, which means that the deluge of horrible news can be particularly paralyzing.

I don’t have answers for this yet, but I’m looking for them. I’m taking steps to get my life more organized, and am trying to exercise other methods of anxiety mitigation as well. Despite the fact that the last week has been more than a bit of a political dumpster fire, I’m determined to do what I can to make 2017 a year of forming better habits and breaking out of unhealthy patterns. I’ve struggled in the past to do this for my own sake, but I’m  hoping the sense of urgency I feel now to reach out and create change in the world around me helps to propel me on to greater success.

There’s no point in lying and saying I’m super hopeful, because I’m not. I’m struggling with some pretty crushing despair and questioning where we’ll be as a nation in four years, or if we’ll be anywhere at all. But I’m clinging desperately to the hope that this is a wake-up call for a lot of people, not just for me, and to the belief that We The People are stronger than any attempt at autocracy.

Hang in there, folks. And stay alive. Sometimes that’s the greatest revolutionary act we’re capable of.

Edited to add: my partner pointed me to this article yesterday that is related to all of this and was really helpful to me. I hope you also find it useful: How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind.

Pre-Travel Panic

I’m writing this on my way to work Thursday morning. Usually I write my posts Wednesday and schedule them to go live Thursday, but that didn’t happen this week. 

Last night, we stayed up late doing chores and wrapping gifts and planning what we’re packing for our weekend in Minnesota. I’m feeling a little frazzled and overwhelmed. This is my least favorite part of travel: the pre-travel anxiety that my brain so loves to latch onto. 

Tomorrow morning I pick up our rental car. Tomorrow afternoon we hit the road. Once we’re actually underway, chances are I’ll be far less anxious. Until then, though…

Thankfully, we’re getting together with some of our favorite knitters tonight. On the one hand, this means we won’t be packing until late tonight. On the other, though, it’ll be a good distraction from my anxious brain. 

Barometric Blues

I’m writing this on Wednesday, which has been a weird one for weather.

It felt like it was still 5:30 am dark until at least 9:30 am. Between the darkness and the rain, it was a pretty depressing start to the day. Add the fact that the wind turned my trusty umbrella inside out for the first time in the eight years that I’ve owned it, mangling one of the bows and rendering it pretty useless, and the fact that I woke up with a sore throat that isn’t going away on its own, and I was quite grouchy before I even got to work.

The rest of the day has been alternating sun and clouds and the tension of potential storms, an endless and excruciatingly dull conference call, and too much time spent wondering what to include on the “development plan” my boss has asked me to pull together in advance of my yearly review, and it’s all combining to give me a headache and make me wish I’d stayed home today.

Sometimes when I say I’m feeling “under the weather,” I’m being less metaphorical than people think. Barometric pressure changes do weird things to this Bipolar brain of mine.

It’s not just headaches. Several of my coworkers were complaining in the morning about the headaches they woke up with when the weather changed. I get those, sometimes, too, but that’s not all of it.

Something about storms and rapidly changing weather patterns makes me feel like my grasp on reality is a little…tenuous, I guess. Like I’m walking the edge of the abyss of psychosis and one wrong step could sent me tumbling away.

There’s not really any empirical evidence in my life that this is the case. I’ve never really had a psychotic episode. I’ve never actually lost my grip on reality. Barometric shifts have never done more than make me profoundly uncomfortable.

I’ve had panic attacks on days like these, though, when the air makes me feel claustrophobic. I panic when I feel like reality is going to get away from me, even though I’ve never actually experienced the realization of that fear.

I have known people who would tell me this is altogether untrue, that in fact I spend much of my life disconnected from reality, that my very identity is proof of this. On a less severe level, there are people who would say that surely, someone who loves fantasy and plays D&D has to have made some sort of break with reality. I have heard these arguments from several family members over the years.

But the thing is…yes, I enjoy my escapist indulgences from time to time. I like getting lost in a book for a while, or inside the head of a character I’m playing (although at least half the time I find role playing as someone else is in fact some of the best therapy). But I am always, always, always aware of the reality I’m escaping from. I’ve known people who can’t keep truth straight from fiction. I am not one of those people. I’ve never lost sight of what’s real and true around me.

There’s something about the tension in the space before a storm, though, that makes me feel like I’m not completely in control of myself, and that’s really terrifying.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. All that to say, I guess, that brains are complicated and react to things that may or may not make immediate apparent sense. So, you know…be gentle with each other.

Brains Can Be Sneaky

Being Bipolar is an adventure.

Sometimes, I can feel the shifts in the cycle coming, like the ache in my joints when the weather changes, only the ache is in my brain and it feels less like an ache and more like an electrical current under my skull.

Other times, it jumps out from behind a corner, beats me up, takes my lunch money, and leaves me wondering what in the world happened to get me here.

This week has been an example of the latter. I have so many things to be excited about, and so much to work on to get there, and yet DepressedBrain has decided to come to visit. I’m so tired all the time, and I’m spending way more time than seems necessary feeling paralyzed by the sadness.

With DepressedBrain has come what feels like a particularly paranoid iteration of AnxietyBrain. My internal monologue seems to get stuck on an endless stream of worst-case scenarios if I let my mind wander. Which, as you might imagine, is a super fun time while waiting to find out if my insurance is going to cover this otherwise extraordinarily expensive surgery that’s now less than a month away.

Still, it does feel like things are falling into place, and I am tentatively hopeful that everything is going to work out.

It’s a Process

Holy shit, it’s September!

That’s about as coherent as my thoughts have gotten over the past few days. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job with anxiety management lately, but as October draws closer, I find I’m often just a big old bundle of nerves.

I’m still waiting on a letter from my doctor that is a crucial part of raising my chances of having insurance cover surgery next month (if I’m lucky, I’ll have the letter by the end of the day today).

Once I have that letter in hand, I can turn it (along with the letter from my therapist) in to the surgeon’s office, who will submit all of that to my insurance, and then I cross all appendages and wait to hear if I’m covered, or if I’m going to be in a whole lot more credit card debt at the end of all of this.

Still, despite the anxiety, things are going pretty well. I am constantly reminded that my people are the best people, and I am super grateful for that. I have such a great support system, and multiple creative outlets, and a cute, cozy place to live with the love of my life. So even though I have several thousand dollars of credit card debt that might be about to double hanging over my head, I feel like I can’t really complain too much. I’m finally in a place where I feel like things really are going to work out, somehow.

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