Anxiety is a Bitch

There I said it.  Anxiety is stupid, inconvenient, and a huge pain the ass. I’m tired of sugar-coating it and pretending like it doesn’t impact me, but today I’m too tired to pretend.  Everyone has felt anxious; some of us experience it because of an incident, like being stuck in traffic on the way to the airport, and some of us feel it all the goddamn time.

My medications help with my anxiety but they don’t take it away.  I still feel anxious just like I still feel depressed.  I think one of the reasons I get so frustrated when I feel this way is because I had this unrealistic belief that my meds were these magic pills that would take away all of the bad feelings and thoughts.  Wishful thinking.

The reality is they don’t and I still get the reminders that my brain hates me sometimes, like when I feel like people are staring at me when they’re not.  For me, one of the hardest parts about dealing with anxiety is knowing how crazy I sound.  At work I get so afraid that someone is going to try to talk to me and I’m going to feel too uncomfortable and too awkward to say something coherent and end up sounding like a lunatic. So I stay at my desk with my headphones on praying that no one will tap me on the shoulder.  It always becomes a problem because I drink a ton of water (thanks, Lithium) so I have to pee every 10 minutes.  But when my anxiety kicks in I feel so uncomfortable and unsafe that I stay glued to my chair until the feeling of having to pee becomes so painful that I have to get up.  Then I walk to the bathroom with my head down, again praying that no one will talk to me, and sit in the bathroom panicking that people think I’m crazy.

The reality is that no one usually notices.  People are caught up in their own world, especially at work.  And even if people think I’m crazy, so what?  I know I act this way because my mind plays tricks on me, but I also know that it happens to millions of other people.  My anxiety makes me do weird shit, like wear headphones without music playing so people won’t talk to me or change train cars because I think people are staring at me.  It also makes me do things that are extremely inconvenient, like walk a mile to the train station only to turn around and walk all the way home to make sure I locked the door, even though deep down I knew I did.  I even wear specific types of hair ties on my wrist because touching them relaxes me.  I do it when I talk to new people and I know it’s weird and people occasionally give me weird looks, but most of the time people don’t notice.  More importantly, it makes me feel calm and that matters more to me than what someone I don’t know thinks about me.

Anxiety is a bitch.  It makes us do weird shit that some people don’t understand and might qualify as “crazy”.  But the worst thing we can do when we’re anxious is get down on ourselves for it.  Everyone feels anxious, whether they have anxiety disorder or not.  And if you need to make accommodations for yourself, like always having headphones or hair tie on your wrist, then do it.  There’s nothing wrong with taking steps to make yourself feel safe and comfortable.  There is something wrong will constantly allowing anxiety to take over and hold you up in the bathroom while you muffle a panic attack.  Believe me, I’ve done both.  Put your mental health and feelings first and find what works for you, don’t worry about how it will make other people feel.  They probably won’t even notice.

Embracing Change

It’s 6:15pm and tomorrow is my last day at my job. I finished all the work I needed to get done. I tied up every loose end. I could have left 15 minutes ago but I feel tied to my desk.

It’s not because I have to get work done. It’s not because I feel pressured to stay late. It’s because I don’t want to leave.

Every time I think about getting up and going home the reality that I’m leaving my job sinks in. Everyone assures me that I made the right move. I was offered a great job at a growing company with a very high salary and the ability to work remotely. I even get to travel to the UK. I couldn’t ask for anything more. But when I think about leaving my current company, the only one I’ve ever loved, I can’t help but be filled with sadness, anxiety, and a twinge of regret.

I’ve never worked at a company I loved before this job. I’ve never had coworkers that felt like family. People tell me that that won’t change and that my new job could be just as great if not better, but I find it hard to believe.

I took the new job because, in the long term, it was the best decision. I know that deep in my heart but right now it hurts like hell. And I know it’s because of one reason: change is fucking terrifying.

I’m giving up the known for the unknown. I’ll go from knowing everyone’s name to knowing no ones and it’s scary. It’s scary to change your environment, embark on new journeys, and start new chapters. It’s hard to walk away from people you care about and join a community of strangers. It’s hard not to know if it’s ok to curse in meetings, drink at your desk, or show up at 10am. It’s even harder to know that you’re leaving all that behind.

Change is difficult because it’s uncertain. What if the new job sucks? What if I made a huge mistake? But…what if it’s not? What if the new job is even better? Changing jobs isn’t the only change that’s scary. Moving, graduating, breaking up, getting married are all changes that scare us. But they’re all things that are part of life.

Most of us will not live in the same town, stay at the same job, or even stay with the same person for our entire lives. Change is inevitable. Change is necessary. Change helps us grow. As scary and uncomfortable as it is, change is part of life. We can stay in the same comfortable situation or we can pursue new opportunities that make our lives better. Sometimes we choose change and other times it’s thrust upon us, like when we lose our jobs, our homes, or our loved ones.

Maybe if we embrace change instead of run from it, it would be easier to accept. Maybe if we stopped focusing on all the things we’re losing and focused on what we’re gaining, we could enjoy it. It’s not easy, but change happens whether we want it to or not.

If we have faith in our abilities, ourselves, and the universe, change doesn’t seem so bad. We need to remember that even though things can seem rocky and uncertain, there will always be a way for them to work out. We need to trust ourselves to make decisions for change and embrace the changes we don’t ask for.

Even though it feels safe, if you stay in the same place physically or metaphorically, you never grow. Maybe change isn’t bad after all.

Do Me a Favor – Never Say That Again

It’s human nature (or at least it certainly appears to be) to say something stupid from time to time.  We’ve all had the moment(s).  You know that moment where words come out of your mouth and the expression on people’s faces immediately tells you that you have made a horrific error?  Yeah, that moment.  Commonly known as “foot in mouth” or as I like to refer to it “stop talking immediately”.  Profusely apologizing and saying that you’re really tired and distracted because your cat is sick and you just got fired and you had no idea what you said was offensive can sometimes alleviate your faux pas.  Other times, you just need to never EVER say it again.

For your reading pleasure, here are some of the hilariously stupid and ignorant things people have said to me over the years:

“Women don’t drink whiskey.”

Someone legit said this to me at a bar.  Pretty sure “I will cut you” was my response.

“Your job sounds really boring.”

It often is, thanks for bringing that up.  It’s also how I pay my rent, buy whiskey, and feed myself.  What do you do?  Oh you’re an accountant?  Your work must be riveting.

“But you seem so normal.” [In reference to my bipolar disorder]

That’s because I’m medicated – if I wasn’t, you certainly wouldn’t be thinking that! You’d be preoccupied trying to figure out an escape route.  Also, educate yourself.

“You’re so lucky you’re thin.”

I get up at 6:20 in the morning to go to CrossFit i.e., expensive self-inflicted torture that gives you a nice butt.  And when I don’t do that, I spend my lunch break at a spin class.  I also eat pretty damn clean (minus my occasional jelly bean indulgences), drink almost a gallon of water a day, and cut way back on beer.  This isn’t luck, it’s dedication – I earned this body.  End of rant.

“You’re successful for a woman.”

Also something someone legit said to me at a bar.  That was the end of that conversation.  And that man’s self-esteem after I ripped into him.

“Where do you see yourself in five years.”

Ideally?  On a private island writing my second best-selling novel and eating truffle fries.  Realistically? Writing fucking user guides.

“That’s what you wear to work?”

I sit on the non-client-facing floor of my office surrounded by engineers wearing tee-shirts and sneakers.  So yeah, I’m wearing jeans and a hoodie.  You don’t know my life.

“I’m voting for trump.”

Get away from me. I can’t.

How to Suck at Relationships

I’m going to be honest here for a minute – I have not always been the best at relationships.  I know, it’s mind-blowing.  Unless you knew me in college, then you’re probably nodding to yourself right now.  Regardless, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes when it comes to love.  Now that I’ve found the most amazing partner and am happily settled in a healthy relationship, I feel I now have the right to judge other people’s relationship flaws…

I’m totally kidding!! That was a joke…sort of.  I’m not here to judge, no one is perfect and neither is any relationship.  However, I am here to tell you that there are ways to suck at being in one.  I know from experience, either as the perpetrator or as the unfortunate witness, so I’m here to help.  If you do these things, you probably suck at relationships but don’t worry – there’s hope!  Just keep reading.

You micro-analyze

At 3:30pm (s)he took 3 minutes to respond to your text so that means they must be cheating, right? No!  That means they were at work!!  He came home from work and barely said hello, that means he’s mad at me, right?  No!  That means he probably had a shitty day!  Don’t read into every little thing your partner does or you’ll drive yourself (and them) insane.  If you think something is up then ask them.  Don’t become a psycho detective to get to the bottom of it.  Trust me, if you’re dating a guy and he says nothing is wrong, then nothing is wrong.  They’re not like women where “fine” actually means “I’m going to stab you”.  Relax.

You never stop talking about your relationship

Whether it’s positive or negative, it’s still annoying.  You should certainly talk about your relationship to your friends and family, but if you start every sentence with “OMG guess what she/he did”, your friends and family are going to learn to instantly tune out the second you utter that phrase.  If you’re upset about something your partner is doing, try journaling about it or even try a relationship counselor (solo or together).  If you’re really happy with your partner, then tell them.  A lot of people don’t tell each other they love enough so give your friends a break and share the love with your partner.  Besides, you have other important things to talk about with your friends, like last night’s Game of Thrones and Drag Race.

You blowup everyone’s social media feed with your relationship

THIS IS THE WORST. If you have posted more than one picture of you two kissing I guarantee I (and many of your friends) have unfollowed you.  This is also a red flag that your relationship is not all it’s cracked up to be.  A #mcm is certainly cute once in a while, but if you find yourself constantly posting about everything your partner does for you and everything you do together, ask yourself this – who are you trying to convince?  The internet or yourself?

You fight in public

This is just mean to your friends and people commuting on the subway.  It’s awkward for everyone involved and a really quick way to ruin brunch or someone’s birthday party.  If you’re having an issue, either table it for later or leave.  Either way, do it in private or you will become to couple no one invites anywhere.  Then you’ll have no one else to each brunch with and that would just be the worst.

You get too serious too quick

You moved in after three months.  You got engaged after six months.  Slow down crazy!  Sure your relationship seems fine now…but what about in the future?  Have you ever gone through a crisis together?  Or airport security?  These are the moments that determine if a relationship will last.  Enjoy dating each other without trying to achieve milestones because your friends did or you reach a certain age.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  Like day drinking.

 
I’m telling you these things because I love you and because they’re preventable.  A relationship should not define who you are as a person, so don’t let it.  I see people disappear into their relationships and I know I’ve done it too.  But instead of letting your crazy get the best of you, try to be awesome at relationships instead!  How do you do that?  You take care of your needs first (more to come on this), you treat your partner with respect, and you put down the Instagram and enjoy your time together.  It’s a simple as that.

Don’t Stress, Do Less

I know that’s corny and it rhymes, but I thought it was clever and it might have made me giggle when I thought of it.  Don’t judge me.

I just got caught in what I like to refer as a “mind trap”.  A mind trap is basically when a thought goes awry and spirals out of control leading to stress and (potentially) a panic attack .  Like I started thinking that in three weekends I’m going to get to see my friends again (good thought).  Then I thought about the fact that we’re going to need a car (bad thought).  Then I thought about the weekend after that weekend where I’m either going to need a car or muster up the patience and serenity for a very long train ride.  Then I thought how am I going to get back in time for dinner with my family or if I should even say I’ll be there. And then I noticed that I was panting and my eyes were bulging out of my head.  Instead of continuing to fall deeper into the mind trap, I took a deep breath and said to myself –

“Do less.”

Two simple words that can have a tremendous impact.  I could have let my mind keep running wild and let the racing thoughts spiral into a panic attack, but I didn’t.  I chose to do less, and what that means is I chose to focus on one thought.  One that was the most relevant and easiest to control.  In this case, I chose to think about this weekend.  This weekend is simple – I’m not going anywhere and the only defined plan I have is to get my hair cut.  Easy, low stress.  But then I could think about the stylist fucking my hair up and what if the prices online were wrong and it ends up costing a shit ton of money and then – PAUSE.  Deep breath.  Do less.  I’ll just think about today.  What is going on today.  Not tomorrow or in two days, just today.  Just this hour, even.

Much better.

It can be easy to fall into mind traps and let your thoughts race and take over.  Well, it’s easy when you have bipolar disorder and you’re still adjusting to your medication, but I assume this type of thing happens to everyone.  Right?

We all get stressed.  Even fun things, like parties and other social gatherings that require planning, can be stressful.  But that stress can ruin it and that’s stupid because stress is an unnecessary evil that tries to ruin everyone’s lives.  So do yourself a favor – don’t fall into the mind trap or give into the evil temptress of stress (that also sort of rhymed ::self-five::).  Instead, take a breath and do less.  If you need a reminder, tattoo the word “Breathe” on your wrist.  I did and it’s done wonders.  Then you could get “Do Less” on your other wrist!

I may be onto something here…

gay love

Stand Tall

I had intended to post a lighter hearted blog post today, but after the horrific tragedy this weekend I felt compelled to write this.

My heart breaks for Orlando.

I spent an amazing Saturday celebrating Gay Pride with my beloved friends.  We watched the parade, we went to the festival, and we danced at one of the gay clubs.  It was a day filled with laughter, happiness, and love.  On Sunday morning we learned what happened and we all had the same thought; that could have happened here.  My heart sank thinking about all of the people who were out celebrating, causing no harm to anyone, and then had their lives taken away from them in their safe haven.

So now what?  Will gay bars have to have weapons to defend themselves should another monster come in?

What is happening in this country?  This is not a place where people should fear for their lives in bars, movie theaters, or fucking elementary schools.  I feel like we as a society crossed a line when Sandy Hook happened, a line that should never have been drawn in the first place.  When no action was taken to change the gun laws we inadvertently decided that it was ok to murder children.  That’s harsh but it’s true.

The fact that the piece of shit college kid isn’t getting the same treatment in jail is yet another failure of our society.  Just like the fact that 1 in 5 female college students WILL be assaulted.  We have nail polish that shows you if you’ve been roofied. WE SHOULDN’T NEED TO DO THAT.

We need two things – we need love and education.

Love each other, show compassion for others.  If you don’t understand the way that someone else lives their life then educate yourself.  If you have a problem with someone being gay, straight, black, white, or whatever it’s YOUR PROBLEM, not theirs.

Parents, teach your children to accept others just as you teach them to accept themselves.  Change is possible.  Despite how horrific this weekend’s tragedy was, let’s remember that just about one year ago gay marriage became legal in all 50 states.  That was a testament that we can change the world.

Let’s remember how strong the gay community is.  Let’s remember how brave women are.  And let’s remember that every single vote counts – so don’t do something stupid in the fall.

#OrlandoUnited #EndRapeOnCampus

There’s Nothing Wrong With Drugs

I think more people need to know that there is nothing wrong with taking drugs.  Psychiatric drugs, that is.  Not hard drugs, like crack.  That’s a bad plan.  Probably should have led with that.  Either way, I think a lot of people have a really negative reaction to psychiatric drugs (we’ll call them ‘meds’), because they either don’t understand why people need them or they’ve seen the negative effects they can have.

I was on meds for 8 years, then off for about 6 years, and now as of last week I am back on the wagon.  Or off the wagon?  I’ll say on the wagon because I’m getting back to being stable, happy, and healthy which is what being “on the wagon” is all about.

You may be wondering why someone even needs meds.  I often hear people say that someone suffering with depression needs to “stop being so sad”, someone with OCD needs to “stop being so obsessive”, and someone with schizophrenia needs to “stop being be so paranoid”.  Well here’s the deal – none of those people are being sad, obsessive, or paranoid by choice.  Mental illness is not what happens when you’re having a rough patch; mental illness is often due to chemical imbalances in the brain.

Certain events can trigger someone with a mental illness to feel worse.  A death of a loved one, losing a job, or developing a physical health condition can all worsen the symptoms.  But sometimes the symptoms get worse without an external trigger.  That’s what happened to me a few months ago.

Without warning or cause, my symptoms came back.  When I decided to go off medication my psychiatrist warned me that mental illness can go “into remission”, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever.  After six years of med-free life I thought I had finally beaten my mental illness…and then the mood swings came back.  And the racing thoughts.  And the depression.  And the anxiety.  I was stubborn at first because there is still a horrible stigma that surround mental health, especially when it comes to medication.  But then I realized that suffering in silence was a thousand times worse than a weird look someone might give me for taking Lithium.  If people don’t understand, then they’re stupid and you should hang out with cooler people (like me!).

People think taking medication means you’re “crazy” or “unstable” but it actually means the opposite; it means you’re taking care of yourself and there’s nothing crazy about that.  People with diabetes take medication, would you judge them for using insulin?  Or cancer patients for getting chemo treatments?  Illnesses need to medicated regardless of whether you can see them or not.

If you think you might benefit from taking medication, then go see a doctor.  Just be sure to see a good one because 90% of them are horrible.  Trust me, I’ve done the leg work.  If you’re not sure, then try some lifestyle changes first.  Exercise, diet, sleep, and meditation did wonders for me for many years, but my brain hates me so I need a little extra help.

 
And there is nothing wrong or shameful about that.