In brief: TODAY SUCKS. (and that’s awful, and ok, and not something I can control, and something our society allows for and supports)
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I feel like this today:
I don’t even know why.
That’s the fun part an anxiety. You don’t need a reason (neither does your body) to have a jittery, jumpy, blood sugar crash feeling alternating with exhaustion and complete lack of motivation and energy to any damn thing at all.
If that sentence was hard to follow, picture yourself in the brain that spat it out.
I recently assigned my friend Rachel Vorona Cote’s piece “On Productivity Anxiety” to everyone who has to deal regularly with me and my “stuff.” This part in particular applies to me and has probably saved three months of miscommunication with my therapist:
“Cobbling together a life from writing and teaching gigs, I’ve succumbed to a value metric determined by words written and read, papers graded and student emails answered.This mindset does not allow for pauses; it does not honor the silent energy of thought. Despite my best efforts to recalibrate, productivity remains, for me, inextricable from the tangible evidence of production itself.”
If you reacted similar to this….
…you aren’t alone. That was my doc’s reaction as well as that of the guy I’m seeing. We dug through it further in therapy and now Doc understands part of my distraction and communication style. And the guy now understands why “How is your day?” is often met with a checked-off to-do list. He follows up with “How *are* you?” to remind me that I am not simply the sum of the tasks I was able to accomplish since we last spoke because he is a good, kind, patient, empathetic person.
No idea what’s going on.
It could be side effects of the new ADHD meds. I just reached the dosage I need to be on for a month to find out if it works for me. And Strattera is prone to side-effects, which is why the dosage increases incrementally and I’m still allowed Adderall in the meantime.
It could be not sleeping very well last night. For no particular reason other than that I have a lifetime of being prone to that. I am not plagued by it the way I was for the first three decades of my life, but it still happens without invitation and completely without cause. (If your impulse is to try and help me find The Cause, I invite you to read more about anxiety, ADHD and my #GetWell2015 posts on social media to understand why that’s like telling someone having a panic attack “Hey, just calm down, ok?”)
It could be the looming deadline on a piece I will enjoy writing, but know requires me to focus in very short, designated bursts because of the schedule I have with the girls over the next week and a half.
It could be an emotional hangover from a misunderstanding early in the week that caused a cascade of insecurity.
It could be too much coffee in combination with the Adderall.
It could be not enough coffee and my system is in withdrawl because I was a 10+ cup per day drinker three weeks ago.
It could be how gloriously productive I was Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday causing my body to demand in the only way it knows how that I slow the fuck down for a minute so I don’t collapse.
It could be about money. That’s always there lurking, fueling my guilt about not pitching more. I mean, I only have the girls round-the-clock for three and a half days a week; I should be able to get more writing done. It’s not like an 18-month-old and a 6-month-old require focus and energy and they totally sleep through the night on the same schedule, so I ought to be able to get work done on the days I have them.
It could be about outstanding pitches.
It could be about pitches I haven’t submitted yet.
It could be because home things have lead to a schedule/routine shake up and even thought this is rewarding and better and easier to plan around and healthier…it’s still a schedule/routine change and that always makes me uncomfortable until it hits autopilot.
It could be how much my fucking teeth still hurt because the four-hour dental appointment that was supposed to replace my temporaries with permanent crowns only resulted in one actual permanent, which leaves me with another six weeks of heavy sensitivity and discomfort eating and drinking. And another all-day dental appointment marathon that I know will hurt like a motherfucker because I have essentially already been through it once.
It could be that I know anxiety days bring down my productivity so I’m panicking about things I haven’t done even though I could be doing them right now. (Sit with that one for a minute.)
Or it could be everything.
And the best part of a brain that can’t slow down — let alone stop — is that even knowing it could be all or nothing and that I can’t control it, I will continue to try and figure it out so I can mitigate whatever is going on. I also need to communicate to my doctors how I feel on new meds and with current therapies. Because that additional pressure is super fun.
Any day with my nieces is a day worth getting up and going through the discomfort because they’re amazing and their mom appreciates me and supports me in return. But today quite simply blows. And here’s the thing…
Not every day has to be awesome. Mental disorder or no mental disorder, no one’s life is an endless string of sunshine and unicorns farting glittery rainbows.
The good thing about every day is that it will end. And there will be another one waiting on the other side. A lot of dealing with anxiety is simply riding shit out with the understanding that almost nothing lasts forever — even the inexplicable crap feelings you can’t control.
If all of that makes you relieved you aren’t like me, please understand that you know someone like me. You know someone who isn’t “neurotypical.” We are creatures with a vast array of complicated brains and personalities and functionalities. Our society needs to become flexible and supportive enough for people like me to thrive without destroying ourselves trying to keep up on the standard, cubicle, 40-hour/5-day hamster wheel that demands we be “on” when someone deems it necessary. It should matter to you that your friends and neighbors thrive and it is on every one of us to bring about the change that makes that so by ending stigma.
This post is an entry in my year-long project documenting all the messiness and inconvenience and stigma of trying to get well in our culture. You can subscribe, follow, and join in the journey at #GetWell2015 here and on Twitter.