Monthly Archives: September 2015

“You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

Hey. Thank you. Seriously. You guys are so legit. You know what is just as brave as me sharing my struggles? You calling me, texting me, messaging me to say, “Me too. I love you.” It is so amazing to do life with you.

I was ready to share yesterday was because I’ve been feeling better. When you are feeling better, you can have a sense of humor and some peace of mind that being vulnerable is a source for goodness, not fear. I know that you might not be feeling better yet, which is why it’s important for me to share. But feeling “better” does not mean “fixed” and actually, if you are a real human person and not a robot, then you know that “fixed” is a fallacy. It doesn’t matter if you are prone to anxiety or not, if you are an introvert or an extrovert, if you are a party animal or couch potato. You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head.

 

But you can keep them from building nests. Here is how I am trying to do that:

1) Self Care. I am a quitter. I love to quit things I don’t love. I dissociated my self worth from “sticking it out” a long time ago and as a result, I’m a bit of a prolific quitter. I quit softball in the 1st grade because I hated playing the catcher. I quit basketball in 8th grade because I hated running. I quit band after 7 years because I was tired of marching in parades. I am not, however, quitting Whole30. I’m not cheating, I’m not bending the rules, and I’m not going to stop now. This is a new paradigm for me and it is making me feel strong. It is making me feel in control. It is making me proud of myself. These are good feelings to have when you are getting all bajigitty about everything.

2) F*ck Feelings. This article from The Atlantic has given me a great deal of peace. Super feelers- give this a read. I am constantly seeking closure, comfort, understanding of why things have happened to me. The book featured in this article argues that such behavior is a fruitless endeavor. The point is: bad shit happens. We tend to misplace how much control we have in those scenarios. No amount of therapy is going to prevent the birds from flying over your head. And further, some people who have bad things happen to them become alcoholics, stop engaging with their families and friends, and quit their jobs. If you have had bad things happen to you and you’re still a functioning human, then that deserves some credit. This approach shifts the focus away from the psychological landscape towards our actions. You’re probably never going to understand why your parents suck so much, but if you got up and went work today- how much does that matter? Overthinkers, I expect you’ll relate to this. I do. You can keep those birds from building nests.

3) Ban “Anxiety.” This is a new practice for me and one I’ve ripped off completely from my friend Holly, who I’ve mentioned before is my personal beacon of wellness. She advises banning the word “stressed” from our vocabularies because, what does that even mean really? And can you imagine a life stage when you won’t be stressed? (Close your eyes and try it. You probably can’t.) If we pay more attention, moments of “stress” are often something much simpler. We might be tired. We might be hungry. We might be sad. And these things, unlike stress, have pretty simple fixes. Indeed for me, “anxiety” has quickly become a crutch. When I label every negative emotion as “anxiety,” I give away all my power to cope.

Indulge me while I share where most of my anxiety comes from. It is a voice in my head who says to me, “Hey fat girl. You’re fat and in case you thought differently, no one actually loves you. Fat people don’t belong here and you’re fat.” *wince* I hate that voice. But when I label it “anxiety” instead of “bullshit,” I give it authority it shouldn’t have. I can’t keep the birds from flying over head. But I can ask, “why don’t I feel good right now?” And I can take some initiative and ask, “What would make feel better that also respects my self care and prioritizes actions over feelings?” Don’t be surprised if you get a text or call from me saying, “I am feeling unloved. Let’s go get our nails done.”

It is not easy, friends. And nothing feels right when you don’t feel good. I know. Hugs make your skin crawl and food tastes like dust and being out in public feels like punishment. I know. Let’s promise each other when it gets this bad, we will reach out and say, “I’m not doing good right now and I just don’t know.” And our good friends will know that isn’t the time to say “Have you tried your top 3 tricks to fight anxiety?” Good friends will just be still with us and remind us that they are ride or die, even if we are anxious weirdos everyday for the rest of our lives. But when we do feel better, let’s also commit to accepting that birds will fly, but do the work to keep them from building nests on our precious heads.

I love you guys.

The Good and The Bad

Have you all noticed I’m living my best life lately? Have you seen all the cool places I’ve been? All the fun activities I’ve done? All the amazing people I’ve been with? Isn’t it so great and fun?

I promise I’m not being sarcastic. Those things really are great and fun. But (and isn’t there always a “but”) I’ll be honest with you (because that’s what I do here): I’m tired. I’ve also been sort of inexplicably sad and anxious lately. Sad and anxious in a way that is not very Amanda-like at all. I know myself really well. My favorite thing in the world is joyful heart. One of my very best friends once told me he considered me a “champion of happiness.” Couldn’t you die? Isn’t that the best thing you’ve ever heard? ME TOO. But lately, I have frequently had the feeling that some alien being has crawled in and set up camp in my person.

It isn’t upsetting, so much as unsettling. Have you struggled with anxiety friend? I thought I was familiar with it because I have fought panic attacks on and off throughout life, but this is something quite different. Several times in recent memory, I’ve been in a group setting (which I normally love) and prompted by nothing, I find myself on the verge of tears, struggling with total sensory overload, and overwhelmed with the desire to be alone in a quiet, dimly lit space. In these moments I think, “Oh please don’t let anyone look at me because if I meet someone’s eyes, they will look at me and they won’t see Amanda, they’ll see this otherness and I will have to explain why I’m sharing space with it and I don’t have an answer for that.” In these moments, the worst feeling in the world is to have attention drawn to myself and because it is so out of character for me to be withdrawn and lost for words, it is hard not to notice my behavior. In these moments, I’m able to recognize this otherness but I’m not able to do anything about it.

Outside of these “crisis” moments, I’m finding myself increasingly concerned about my appearance, anxious about my surroundings, and discontent with my relationships. Two months ago, I thought this was about my weight. I thought I was in a funk and struggling to deal with my hangups. I am now accepting that it is probably something more. I’m sharing this for a number of reasons, the first being that I write in order to cope and the second is that saying it “out loud” makes it real and when something is real, we recognize it and give it the space it requires. I think we are often guilty of trying to squeeze out the darkness in our lives. That is, if we don’t look at it, if we give it the cold shoulder, we can somehow out ghost our issues into nonexistence.

But if happiness is real (and I believe it is) and magic exists (and I believe it does) then, so is anxiety and oft ignored partner, depression. Ignoring these feelings won’t make them go away, and I’ve had enough loved ones with mental illness to know the consequence of going it alone. I am so supported and deeply loved and because of this, I am sharing authentically where I find myself. I am sharing because rather than having another glass of wine or calling in sick to work, I’m going to reach out for real professional help. And maybe get a prescription. Or maybe try some other coping strategies. I am sharing because I think the most important and brave thing we can do for each other is say, “It’s not good for everyone all the time and that’s okay.”

I’m in the middle of a Whole30 right now and whatever influence it might have, the act of prioritizing self-care has felt really good. The creators of Whole30 argue that the food you eat is either making you more healthy or less healthy. This feels true of everything. Nothing is neutral. Our behaviors, our attitudes, our habits are either making us more well or less well. The past few months I have felt fragile when I am used to feeling bold. But I think in that smallness, I’ve been able to plant seeds of peacefulness. I started this post at the beginning of the month and felt compelled to let myself rest for a bit before sharing. I am sharing now because I think it’s a good thing to talk about. I am not without joy and most importantly, I am not without love. But we rarely are. What we often experience is a deep fog that prevents us from grabbing on to those truths. I am getting in the habit of making choices that feel good to me and I think this is a small step towards quieting the niggling voice of self-doubt and fear that can persist in all of us.