I just got home from a vacation with my kids and I’m not only delirious; I’m overwhelmed.
I look around and notice the bathrooms need to be cleaned, we need to unpack and get the groceries I got on the way home in the fridge. All of my kids need a shower and the hydrangeas are in full bloom and are ready to be picked.
I want to get it all done, stat. And before I know it I am elbow-deep in all the chores I set out to do because I keep moving onto the next thing.
The bags are half unpacked, I’ve thrown the laundry in the washing machine but haven’t yet started it because I grabbed the scissors and abandon everything for a moment to pick flowers.
My anxiety is getting the best of me, and I let it. I feel a little irritated, I know my body wants to rest after the 5-hour drive I just had with my kids, but I don’t lie down. I don’t know if my anxiety will let me read until I get it all done anyway.
I’m rushing around but I don’t need to rush– it’s 2 in the afternoon and I have no plans for the rest of the day. There is time. We have time. I have time. And if I don’t get it all done, I know nothing is going to happen.
But even worse, I keep adding more and more things to my unnecessary to-do list: The trash needs to be taken out although trash day isn’t until tomorrow. The car could use a good vacuuming, I could do that after I vacuumed the floor that’s going to need it after we are all unpacked.
There is a pull to look around, see all the needs to be done, and instead of being rational, I let my anxiety pull me under.
I’ve been going about my life like this for a long time. A few people have watched me go through my house like a tornado trying to tackle everything at once because my anxiety chews me up, spits me out and leaves me thinking, When I get it all done, then and only then, will I be able to calm down.
When I was in my 20s a friend said to me, “You know you act like this because you are anxious. There is a pill you can take for anxiety, it makes you so much more relaxed.”
I froze when she said it. I found instead of wanting to be cured from the burning feeling in my stomach that makes me want to buckle down and work hard so I can breathe normally again, I’d rather stay the way I am; stressed about getting it all done. Because what would my life be like if I were able to ease the stress and anxiety?
Who would I be then? What would drive me?
My anxiety has become such a part of who I am, I’m almost afraid to let it go. I’d rather hang onto the self-induced state than let myself change– just the thought of it scares me.
Throughout my life I’d heard people tell me I was wound too tight, that I worry too much, that I need to calm down and realize everything will be okay if I don’t get it all done. And it’s hard to listen to that because deep down, this is the me I know.
I can truthfully say, I don’t take medicine for my anxiety, although it feels crippling at times, and I get myself so worked up, and feel sick to my stomach with worry, not because I’m ashamed to take it, but because I’m afraid of who I would be without that force driving me. It’s a twisted kind of motivation and I know it.
Would I still be an obsessive cleaner? Would I still push myself extra hard during workouts? Would I still hold myself up to this sometimes unrealistic standard?
I’m afraid if the unknown just like everyone else. But the truth is, I’ve had high-functioning anxiety for as long as I can remember. In fact, I remember cleaning a friend’s house while spending the night in the first grade because I couldn’t handle how messy it was. Her mother was so thankful for my help and it made me feel proud.
When I’ve helped friends move, or get ready for a wedding, or plan a party, I’ve been called “a machine.” People tell me I make it look easy, but it’s not easy. There is a voice inside me every hour of every day trying to kick my ass and tell me I could do more; be more; help more.
I’ve learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And I’m not sure who I’d be if I were able to quiet the voice of may anxiety.
So, for now, I’ll stay here, in this mind that I know and can work with. Because as strange as it sounds, there is quite a bit of comfort in that.