One of the main reasons anxiety sucks so much, is that it is hard to explain to anyone who has never felt it for an extended period of time. From a distance, for me, it looks like I am just sitting there either wringing my hands, bouncing my leg or pacing around. On the inside it feels like being torn apart. My heart races, my body temperature goes up, my arms and legs begin to be inconsolably uncomfortable, my brain is scattered and random, and my eyes seem unable to be focused on anything.
I love to play games on my phone and many of them are the types of games that require patience and coordination of moving parts, like Harbor Master. When I am anxious, I can’t play that game because I can’t focus on it and it reminds me of the anxiety I am trying to get away from. Games like Words With Friends are better, because they are slower and I have to focus intently on what is going on, which is more of the distraction that I need.
When I get anxious about a project or work, I often will try to sit and look at the project or my todo list on my computer. This ends up with me staring at the computer and not really being able to see what I am looking at. Since my desk faces out the window towards the front of my house, I can only imagine that my neighbors think me very odd that I go from staring at the screen to wandering around my office and back again. I don’t really care what they think, but it makes me wonder what they see and if they get a good laugh out of it or not (I just hope I don’t scare them off).
I have had full on panic attacks in the past, those are the worst. I wasn’t able to sit, I wasn’t happy standing or pacing, and all I can think about is what I can do to self-medicate and hopefully sedate myself. The first time it happened, the fact that I didn’t know what was going on led me straight to the doctor after my boss said “seriously you haven’t been still for over an hour, whats wrong with you”. The doctor promptly got stern with me about self-medication with the only thing I could find in my medicine cabinet, some pain killers. She made me stay in the office until I wasn’t light headed anymore and finally prescribed me with actual anxiety meds. They helped for a long time, until they built up in my system and I started shaking, that freaked me out.
The anxiety itself has driven me to do some really cool things with my life, like quit that corporate job and start my own company. It has also helped me to do some stupid things, like freak out over a couple small todo items and then get them done at the last minute because I was so worried.
I guess the best way to describe how it feels is to say that it is a lot like waking up in the morning with the feeling that I am going to be called into the boss’ office because I screwed up again. It’s this constant feeling of “what did I forget” or “man, I hope that I didn’t screw that up”. Then, when I am sitting there thinking, “What did I screw up?”, and something actually does hit the fan, it is self-fulfilling and my confidence drops out of orbit. This in turn, makes it hard to get anyting done the rest of the day, let along the next time around.
I have found that little victories help. Getting things accomplished and doing them the right way, so that it doesn’t come back to haunt later on. This can be tough in the web development world, because by all accounts you can have something perfect, but the client usually has a different idea of what they want and then you are back to cleaning up a mess that isn’t your fault. This gets old quickly, but it’s part of the job and teaches me to do more work during discovery to mitigate these things.
Recently, I have been very worried about Spotted Koi. Scheming every day about how to just push through this fog that anxiety puts over me and “grind it out”. I cannot tell you how hard this actually is. Lists are a great tool for someone who is disorganized, but add in anxiety and lists become this insurmountable mountain of tasks that can never get done. Whether they are small tasks or not. This leads to things being put off, finding distractions, and generally not accomplishing things that would otherwise be a cinch. I typically will resort to cheap tactics for managing this monstrosity, like not looking at my whole list. I go for the small victories like filtering my email, distractions like Twitter or EmpireAvenue, attempting to come up with a new process for streamlining, or passing the task onto one of our guys who I know is capable of completing it.
Being effective with anxiety is tough and I am nowhere near finding my niche. I get my moments where things just don’t seem to be a problem and I can tackle anything. I do get pulled back and slapped around again just about every day. My hope is that I can figure out where I fit into this company, this life I have, and make it work in such a way that I get to choose what I want to work on instead of feeling like I am being forced to work on something. More than anything, feeling like I have a choice about things is what makes the anxiety go away. It is the difference between being listening to how bad I messed up and talking about the cool thing I just did on some project.
I am getting there for sure. These last couple blog posts have been very cathartic, because they are both a distraction and a relief for me to get the thoughts out. So now, instead of wondering what my neighbors are saying to each other about me, I am curious about what my friends who don’t know all of this about me are saying to themselves. What’s really funny is that now that I have written it, I don’t really care what my friends or neighbors think about this. Which is a nice relaxing place to be in and much better than the place I was in when I started writing this post this morning.
Now I guess, I gotta go hit that list and make things happen today.
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