A Year of This Nonsense?
I keep insisting on cooking things that stink up my entire apartment. E.g. and/or i.e., I'm reducing an entire family sized bottle of cheap red wine in a sauce pan with thyme and garlic. An entire family sized bottle, minus one reasonable 24 ounce glass for me. Moderation is key.
This reduction is supposed to end up as a red wine demi glace. Whatever that is. I used to be a sauce making savant, well, at least I have the equipment for it. I have more kitchen equipment than there are Trump jokes.
I'm having The Girls over for Girls Night. I say this like it's thing we've been doing for thirty years, but technically this is only the second one. The first time was when I strong armed everyone into celebrating my paniciversary. Turns out, it was a darn good time, and I'm not above forcing lightning to strike twice.
This time I'm having the gals over for no real reason, I guess, but secretly, I realized today that it's been a year since I started this dumb blog. Humph. That's an awfully long time for someone who would have rather had a back alley root canal than write anything that people would actually read. It's funny how just the tiniest smidge of encouragement turns me into Ron Burgundy when he pulls a flute out of his sleeve like he's being forced to perform jazz on stage.
So while I'm power searing chicken pieces, I start thinking about why in the holy hell I started all this.
Here's the thing, I didn't know I had an issue with anxiety. I didn't even know after I had a bunch of panic attacks. It took months of investigating, and work, and therapy, and coaching, and tears, and being weird to finally figure out what had been going on. I didn't know I had an issue with anxiety at all, I was just super miserable all the time before panic attacks. I thought that was the norm in life. Get a job, buy a house, do grown up things, be stressed out and miserable, watch TV, go to bed, do it all again the next day.
I dealt with being overwhelmed with a unique brand of martyrdom (patent pending), a good example of which would involve me stomping away when mad, expecting people to chase after me and make it all better.
I ate to feel better and I drank to feel nothing. I didn't sleep enough, I had unhealthy relationships with destructive people, and then I'd have a Red Bull the next morning to kick start it all again. I had no idea it wasn't sustainable. I was promoted at work and made a lot of money, so I worked even more hours because that's just what you do when you have nothing else.
I throw my browned chicken in the oven, and move on to the green beans I need to trim and wrap in bacon. Bacon is my love language.
Counting my beans into little piles of ten, I think of the things I'm grateful for: fake eyelashes, my nieces, pillow top mattresses, DeFazio's, and that I had panic attacks that spring in 2015.
Thank you, tiny six pound, eight ounce baby Jesus for panic attacks. I am many wonderful things but self-motivated is not exactly one of them. Apparently, the kick in the back side from On High is exactly what was needed to start afresh.
And it was hard. I was bewildered and embarrassed. I realized that while I thought I could control everything in my mind as well as I seemingly controlled everyone and everything around me, I was actually a hot mess, and I was in for a real treat of self-discovery.
Feeling like your life is in upheaval is sort of the pits. It's isolating. Well, actually, a better way to say it is that I isolated myself. Not for lack of people wanting to be around, mind you, I just had no idea what the heck was going on. Anxiety and shame tell us to put ourselves in the dark, they love it there.
Annnyyyyyyywayyyyyyy.....I talked to my therapist a lot. I went to the doctor a lot. I took every supplement, bought crystals, did yoga, started meditating, ate less, drank less, did less, slept more, got an anxiety coach (ahem....www.panicandanxietycoach.com....you won't regret it). I just dealt with it. I did what I could, and then it was just sort of behind me.
<Please note: this was hard work, I'm not minimizing it...but how bored are we all of this part of the story? Hopefully not that bored since it's like my bread and butter now, but I'm trying to not beat a dead horse...go back and read a year's worth of awesome if you want to know how we got here.>
The thing is, when you're weirded out by something, you can sort of act secretive and strange. Because I was acting that way, I was treated like I was secretive and strange. It's the way we treat people who we think are mentally ill, isn't it? You can, actually put Baby in a corner, and that's exactly where I went.
It became a huge weight off my shoulders when I found people who would understand how hard it was to put pants on in the morning. Having someone who really understood and would say, "Me too," was probably the biggest thing that has ever happened in my life, and I started to feel better.
I wanted to tell other people that I understood too. I wanted to let people know that they didn't have to be weird any more. It was *subtly (*read: bullied by Kelli Walker) suggested that I type it out, because I'm funny and relatable and have all this hair, so, one day, after I had worked out for the first time after a panic attack, I threw up a Facebook post in the style of my old college news letter: Dear Anita.
Dear Anita was sort of a BS advice column for our dorms that would help people deal with the riggers of residence life, but no one ever actually wrote in with questions.
I thought it might be funny again a decade later, so Anita answered the fake question of "Why are you telling your anxiety story now?"
Almost immediately, I started getting private messages from people I knew, and people I didn't know knew me. Almost 60 messages in a few hours, actually. I don't think I know 60 people. It was overwhelming in the most beautiful and daunting of ways. I got messages that shared heartbreaking stories of silence and shame and depression and numbing and anxiety. No one was looking for an answer. Everyone was looking for connection. Every single message was just a quiet reach out of the dark corners, letting me know they felt like they were heard, and that they could hear me saying, "Me too."
And that, y'all, is why I have tortured myself at 11:38pm every single Thursday night for a year.
By the way, never make green bean bundles. It's effort that's best saved for small children who need to learn discipline.
Like the aforementioned green beans, sometimes I don't know why I do this blog, then, inevitably, every single week I get an email from someone that will say that my little story resonated. I have nothing unique to say, and between us girls, I really could write this earlier in the week and actually proof read the freaking thing. But weirdly, what I've found over the last year is that people want to read normal and somewhat boring things because they feel connected.
I get emails about all kinds of things, just because people want to talk. I love it. I'm tired, and this is a lot of work, but I love it deep down. Looking up at the girl in the Keds who was the first person I ever heard say that she wasn't ok, and being able to call Kelli my anxiety coach who said "Me too" were what got the stories to come out of my head. I'm honored to my bones to be that for even one person if they need it.
Plus, I'm like *super* full of myself most of the time, and take flattery very well.
These days, I get a lot of emails and messages asking me to write about a specific topic, even if it's not my own issue. I'm more than willing to take that baton for people if that's the way they can get the story out of their head. That's the whole heart of the thing. Get that crap out. It's toxic.
And that's it. A year. 52 weeks of hot air, and 52 DeFazio's mentions. Thousands of words, and hundreds of emails and messages in response. Pretty neat.
As I set up my little wet bar and get ready for my gaggle of gals, I'm so thankful. I'm so thankful that I get to help people tell their stories, and I'm thankful that I get to ramble on with mine. I don't know where it will go or how much more there is to say, but I can tell you one thing, as long as I keep hearing "Me too," you can mark me down to keep showing up to this freaking thing.
That, and one fine day, I will actually run in slow motion into Brene Brown's arms on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah, and I want to say that I've "The Notebook'ed" her pretty much in this thing all this time, and maybe we'll get a summer home together.
No pressure, Brene.