I was out to dinner recently with a handful of people: some friends and a few of new-ish acquaintances. Being (usually) the most anxious person in the room, I have a fun new game: when people hear that I write about life's uncomfortable things, and cohost a podcast that talks primarily about anxiety, I look for the first person to drop their gaze, then time how long it takes for them to tell me they struggle with something.
I mean, seeing that in print I see what that looks like. Give me a break. You try having fun writing 1,200 words a week about your inner most thoughts, and then talking for hours at a time on iTunes about crap you deal with every day. A girl has to get a laugh in somehow.
(also, check out Not Another Anxiety Show on iTunes)
Anyway, it's more often than not these days that someone will come up to me and say any or all of the following phrases:
"Oh, I don't have anxiety, I just <insert an innumerable amount of anxiety symptoms here>"
"I don't need a therapist, I'm not *that* kind of crazy."
"I think my grandma had some mental illness, but we don't talk about it."
"Good for you for talking about things that other people deal with. I don't have that, but I bet you help other people."
***Then it starts to all go downhill when they see my blank stare***
"What's wrong with me?"
"I'm a disaster."
"Why am I like this?"
"I feel like everyone is out to get me."
"I'm not depressed. That's for weak people."
"I'm so anxious I sometimes don't go to work."
"I can't be depressed, I should be happy."
"You don't want to hear all this, I'm sorry."
"I'm just f*@#ed up."
That last one is my favorite. It's such a catch all. It's so juicy to me because of what's obviously lying underneath such a short phrase.
I usually gape at people who say this stuff to me, probably with a mouthful of food, and say with wide eyes, "Oh shit. What're ya gonna do???"
Reminder: I am not a trained mental health professional, no matter what I say after three glasses of wine.
But if I had a nickel for every time I was talking to someone and one steamy-hot second before they actually get really vulnerable, they stop and sigh resignedly and say, "I'm just f*@#ed up." OH BABYYY #heaven. I love that moment. That's the moment where I want to lean in and kiss you square on the mouth. That's the moment when the work starts. Well, it's where it *could* start.
If I had that nickel for every time I heard this phrase, I'd take them all and throw them straight at the big potato forehead of whomever this was uttered from.
(From whom this was uttered?)
((The utterance of the phrase from the person of which to whom the utterance was uttered?))
(((Whatever. I'm tired and I think I'm in shock from not having a drink in like six days.)))
I hate any general encapsulation of frustration in who we think we are. Generalizations like this tell the people around us that they can't be free with their thoughts either. When I hear someone say, "Whatever. I'm just f*@#ed up," there's a part of me that shuts down and thinks, "Oh. I was relating to that...I guess I must be f*@#ed up too. Better keep it in then." You're not doing any favors here.
The other phrase that makes me want to slap babies is, "I'm a disaster." Good lord. You're not. I might not even know you, but I know you're not. Do you know know what a disaster is? You're not one. You need someone to give you permission to give yourself a break. Consider me that person.
Give. Yourself. A. Break.
I mean, look it...I know, we hear nothing these days but all kinds of malarky about positive self-talk and whatever. Sheesh, even I've talked about it. Don't worry, I'm not saying here that we should pull out Louise Hay's positive affirmation cards....which I have in my night stand....judge me. I'm saying that maybe we're being a little lazy.
I'm actually being lazy by choosing the word 'lazy.' Phrases that sum up our whole life's experience in three or four words are really our ways of saying, "I'm exhausted. I've been through the ringer here, and I can't get ahead. Everything is piling on to everything else, and I don't see a way out. I am barely keeping my head above water, and I think it's just in my head. I keep making the worst choices possible. I know better. Oh and I pretty much hate everyone in my life, but I know I shouldn't because #blessed and all. It's all my fault, I can't fix it, and I'm afraid of myself. I'm just f*@#ed up."
Yas, queen. I get it.
Holla at your girl.
Praise hands emojis.
I get this at like a deep level. Like DNA deep. But I'm asking you to knock it off with these phrases.
Seriously stop saying this stuff. If you've pulled me aside whilst I'm shoveling avocado fries in my mouth during my cheat day, you clearly have something you need to say. I'm happy to start that process for you, but I'd be even more happy to help you facilitate a conversation with whomever your person is. Sometimes saying three-word-phrases is helpful when you're at a company picnic. Those aren't necessarily your people. But if you're having wine with your best friends, and those are the only words that you think you can muster, maybe try something different instead.
What if you tried, "Yo. So, this is kind of a weird thing to say over sauvignon blanc, but I'm not exactly thriving. I don't know what I'm asking for, but I just sort of feel weird and I think I need something from my homies."
I don't know, I'm not you. That seems to be the things I say these days to my people.
One other tip: no one can read your mind, and it's not fair if you want people to read your mind.
Speak up if something is bothering you. If you're having a bad day, reach out. Your martyrdom is getting you nowhere, trust me, I am the actual crowned Queen of the Emotional Martyrs. Don't assume that you're the center of someone's universe...even if you really should be the center of their universe. I mean, you did try that special thing for them on their birthday, and all...
And now for a quick personal anecdote: The other day I got a weird text that threw me way off-kilter. Luckily I was going to a concert with a friend I trust, and knew I sort of wanted to talk about it. The thing was, I hadn't processed what I was feeling, and then had all of these thoughts about not wanting to ruin my friend's night with my drama. I also expect everyone in a three mile radius of me to feel how my horrible mood has the ability to change weather patterns, so I wanted her to ask what was wrong. It clearly doesn't work this way. I swallowed some pride and said something along the lines of, "So this happened, and I don't know what I need, and I don't want to talk about it, but I totally want to talk about it. I want to have a good night, and I want to also curl up and die and/or light this person's car on fire. Hug me and let me scream-cry in your neck, but also don't touch me. Love me, but never speak of this again."
Ok, I didn't say any of that, but this friend knows when I said, "Here's what happened. I #canteven. But when I can even, I want to talk to you about it," that I meant it, and she was like, "Cool, you weirdo, you got it. Also, let's slash their tires."
Sometimes the threat of violence upon your deepest foe is better than a bouquet of salted chocolate covered pretzels.
Dear DeFazio's: make that bouquet happen in my life.
So listen...so you think you're "just f*@#ed up." Ok, cool. You're not any worse off than the rest of us, no matter what you think. I'd never ask you to do anything that I'm not willing to try once, so when I ask you to try a less "lazy" phrase, I'm saying that I know you can do it. It feels weird at first, kind of like when you tried that birthday thing that one time, but you can do it and we'll all be better for it.
I'd be really pumped to hear some of you who say those four-word-phrases to me when I'm eating quinoa at my desk at lunch try something a little more real.
Or at the very least, if you're going to tell me that you're just a hot mess, buy me some wine so I something to do with my hands while I'm rolling my eyes at your nonsense.