I have anxiety, usually social but performance based anxiety sneaks in from time to time as well.
That said, I will go through extended periods where nothing really hits my radar.
I'm typically able to blissfully navigate my days worry free by focusing on the things within my control and letting the things outside of my control run their course.
When I do experience anxiety, it feels almost like a current in the air around me. My body reacts to it - I feel staticky
I became, over time, really good at mitigating the risk of becoming anxious. As a result, I could easily avoid the situations that had the potential to trigger my anxiety.
I feel like my anxiety, much like the first fish with feet, has evolved. It's no longer an ocean dweller - it's on land now and it has fast little legs.
Think of my anxiety as Usain Bolt and my brain as a chubby 2nd grader and we're competing against one another in a 50 yard dash. Even if you're not sure who that is - all you need to know is he never loses a race, not ever. My brain however is in the corner eating a croissant with its shoes untied.
For me, the onset of my anxiety is a very visceral sensation, like that moment where you think something is wrong right before the hairs on the back of you neck stand up. Some sort of evolutionary "oh shit - you need to go" feeling.
What is so ridiculous is it usually seeps into areas of my life that I'm most proficient in - so clearly it never strikes me when I'm at the gym or in my personal life - it's always work related ... or related to things I'm doing on a BoD or on certain committees, etc.
I do certain things incredibly well - I am a phenomenal speaker and I lead meetings, regardless of content, better than most anyone I know. I'm good at it and I love it.
Lately, however, I have been feeling tremendous anxiety before meetings. I have no idea why my anxiety is popping up in this space as even with me dreading walking into the meetings, the second they start I'm back at 100%. I don't stumble, I don't bumble around trying to sort out my messaging or delivery - the meetings go incredibly well, they flow & they end well.
But every day, when I open my calendar that static / that electrical charge begins to swirl around me and I become very aware of this heightened sense of dread ... I become anxious and want an out ... I want someone to tell me to move it or cancel it.
The good news is I know what's going to trigger my anxiety the bad news is all I do is sit in meetings which apparently is the trigger for my anxiety.. As of late, I feel like someone who is absolutely terrified of fire yet gets a job as a fire eater in a carnival.
Every single second of every single day, I'm planning a meeting, leading a meeting, prepping for a meeting, prepping for a meeting to talk about an upcoming meeting, being pulled into meetings unexpectedly, when I'm not in a meeting I am thinking of my next meeting ... it's never ending. It's literally never ending.
I shared with my manager, whom I'm crazy about, that I feel a bit stranded - like no one is helping or stepping up on some very large and critically important initiatives. So I go through the motions, I'm plugging the holes, and spinning the plates but I honestly feel as though someone dropped kicked me out of a helicopter into the middle of a shark infested ocean and I know no help is coming and I have no life preserver, and for some reason I'm dressed as a seal-pup. There's no doubt, I'm about to get ripped apart by sharks.
Above: Me at work.
I'd like to think that seal went on to live a very charmed life after receiving a much deserved promotion.
Anyways, I know how I'm feeling is causing my anxiety to grow legs and it's really starting to creep into other areas of my life.
A few things happened today that was really rather remarkable though. I kicked off my day with an email war so out of the gate my anxiety was growing and then someone I can't stand, like I literally HATE this person, called and left me a 3 minute voicemail.
Just think, for a moment, how long a 3-minute voicemail is ... I saw him call, while I was in a meeting obviously, I sent him to my VM and 3 minutes later the notification came through.
By this time my meeting had ended so I sat there and stared at the VM screen for a few minutes. My logical brain assumed it was nothing but my anxious brain had a "hold my beer" moment and flooded my mind with: Why did he call me ... What does he want ... What could possibly take 3 minutes ... What horrible things will this person say to me ... Is he suing me ... Is he threatening me ... why after all this time would he reach out ... did he reach out to anyone else or just me, etc.
I happened to talk to a friend a few hours after the VM came through who also knows this person and I told him that he reached out and how I can't bring myself to check the voicemail. I shared that it was really stressing me out and I couldn't listen to it. Immediately, he told me to just send him the VM, that he would listen to it and let me know if there was anything I needed to know.
First of all - I had no idea you could forward a voicemail ... Secondly - I have never had someone just so effortlessly take over a situation that was creating anxiety for me. It was such a small gesture on his part but in an instant, my anxiety went from an 8 to a 2. Someone casually stepped in and removed the stressor. I didn't even care what was in the VM at this point.
After being incredibly stressed out, enough to mention it to someone else, enough for someone else to jump in - it turns out, there was no VM. When I sent him to VM I think he thought he disconnected so it was literally 3 minutes of listening to nothing. Just background ambient noises. It could have been an unintentional phone call - who knows really.
What I'm finding is that my anxiety is really rather rooted in feeling like I'm solely responsible for something (a project, the success of something, my home, etc) and anything that threatens my stability or how I define myself or something as successful, it sends me reeling.
I don't mean to imply that I'm alone or actually solely responsible for absolutely everything (it's a lot though) - I have amazing friends, amazing family, amazing people who support me, amazing relationships, a great job for the most part, etc.
Today I realized 1. it really easy for someone to step in and disrupt an anxious cycle I just need to ask for help and 2. anxiety (for me) has no basis in reality - it's just my mind running wild identifying countless worse case scenarios when the reality is, it's probably just 3 minutes of static.
I feel that perhaps I have a lot of static that maybe I just need to acknowledge and confront head on so i can get back to enjoying each and every day! Life is too short to give anxiety a lot of care and feeding - it's exhausting and it has worn me down over the last 4-6 weeks but today something shifted a bit ...
The next few weeks will be stressful with meetings and large projects but my hope is that I can be a bit more like water than rock and let some of it roll over me versus trying to force something or trying to stop the unstoppable.