High Anxiety, or, What, Me Worry?

If worrying were an Olympic sport, I would have a Gold medal. Literally. Get it?

Anyways…Over the last several weeks, I was involved in a very stressful “this could change your life in profound ways” situation. I tried as best as I could to stay cool about it. I went about my usual business, working, working out, taking care of house and yard and pups, talking to friends and family, eating, watching bad TV and Jane Austen movies on a loop. All that jazz. But I was definitely stressed out and worried about what would happen, and it manifested itself in several ways. I said a couple of really stupid, thoughtless things to people I love. I broke out in a rash. And I could NOT sleep. I tried every known remedy, from increased exercise, to reading children’s books before bed, on to Melatonin, and finally, prescription sleep aids. Nothing worked. Even if I was able to fall asleep, I would have terrible nightmares, and then wake up after an hour or so, unable to fall asleep again for the night.

Finally, the situation resolved. Unfortunately, not in my favor. I was extremely disappointed, but there was a small part of me that was actually relieved, because at least I knew what was going to happen. As in nothing. And as bad as that was, I figured I could finally dial down the anxiety and get back to my usual level of mildly neurotic worrying.

But it didn’t happen. The switch had been flipped. To illustrate: a few days ago, city tree trimmers were on my street, finally trimming the hugely overgrown Magnolia trees that line our street. Except, a car was parked in front of my house, owner unknown. The tree trimmers told me they would have to skip my house and come back “some other time” because they couldn’t work around the car. You would have thought this was a crisis. It totally wasn’t, but I fretted and sweated and cursed over this like it was a big deal. Like it would impact my life in a profound way. Ridiculous. And you know what happened? After about an hour, someone came and got the car and my trees got trimmed. Did I learn a lesson? Nope. I moved on to worry about other things.

I’m worried about Ebola. I’m sad and worried about what’s been happening in Ferguson, MO. I’m worried about that homeless guy Miley had accept her VMA award. I’m worried about the drought and the 15’ surf, and the fact that we can invent an app for just about everything but we can’t channel the surf to fix the drought. Oh, and I’m worried that they say another El Nino is coming.

I’m worried that none of my old work clothes seem to fit, and even though I weigh less than I did a year ago, my pants all seem tighter. I’m worried about the odd lump that has just sprung up on my left wrist.

I don’t have children; God knows I would worry about them all the time. But, I do have nieces and nephews that I adore, and although they are each practically perfect in their own way, there’s just enough wiggle room there, yep, for me to worry about them.

I’m worried about making my exorbitant COBRA payments. I’m worried about what will happen when my COBRA coverage ends.

I’m worried about planes. Planes disappearing. Planes being shot down. Planes reducing their seat sizes so drastically that I will have to pay an oversize fee simply for my size 10 feet the next time I fly. I’m oddly not worried about sharks attacking a plane, killing the pilots and snacking on assorted passengers, although I understand that can happen, or at least I heard it happened to a cousin, that one time.

I worry that I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep, because I’m worried.

It needs to stop. But how? How do I break this very bad habit? Therapy? Pharmaceuticals? Just saying No?

As in so many things, I seek guidance through the mighty Google. I type in “how to stop worrying” in the search bar. Hmmmm, 14,400,000 results. That’s a lot of worriers out there! At least I’m not alone, one less thing to worry about already. I click on the web.md link, because hey, they’re doctors, right? And they have a list of 9 techniques to stop worrying. I won’t give you the whole list, you can look it up yourself if you need to (and take comfort in knowing you’re not alone, 14,399,999 people are right there with you, plus, oh yeah, me). But here’s the one I think makes the most sense:

No 7. Remember that it’s never as bad as you think it will be. Anxiety or worry is all about anticipation. The ‘what ifs’ are always way worse than how you feel when something actually happens. “Worriers tend to worry about things that even if they happen, they can handle it,” Leahy* says. “Worriers are actually good at handling real problems.”

I like this! It’s true, I have never encountered a real life problem that I couldn’t handle, and trust me, I’ve had some doozies! Everything eventually works out the way it’s supposed to. I know this, I believe this, I live this. So, I’m going to re-embrace that mantra and get on with things. Hell, I’ll stitch it on a sampler if I need to, and hang it up on a wall. I’m tired of worrying, and tired of being tired. There’s far better ways to spend my time. Not sure exactly what those ways are, but I’ll worry about that later.

The end, for now

*Identified in the Web.md article as Bruce Levin, MD, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., but later referred to as “Leahy.” Hmmm, worrisome!

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