Never fear, this isn’t an article about how Hurricane Irma brought out the best and the worst in humanity, or a “hindsight is 20-20” list of what to do and what not to do to prepare for a storm. I mean, I could write all that if you’re dying to read about it, but a quick Google search should bring up about ten thousand blogs that already have it covered.
No, in true narcissistic fashion, I want to write a blog post on the things Irma uncovered about ME. The center of the universe, right?
Primarily, I learned this. Anxiety, that sneaky little bitch, needs to take a good look at her priorities. She cray. And I’ll tell you why.
Not long ago, I had a bout of anxiety/panic in a bad way. A series of troubling events transpired in a short period of time, and, because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to protecting my psyche, I crumbled.
Let me be clear, these were not catastrophic events. My car needed a new catalytic converter. It was covered by my warranty, but there were a few tense days there when that was not 100%. I know, gripping stuff. My husband’s schedule changed. Gasp. I had a stressful day at work. I mean, that never happens to ANYbody, right? I tried on some clothes and felt like I’d gained some weight. Worried about finances. Got a stomach bug. That genre of stress. Throw in a broken nail and we could probably sell Steven Spielberg the movie rights to this thriller!
When I say I crumbled, I’m not exaggerating. I could not get out of bed. Could not keep food down (this temporarily helped with the weight gain issue, but it’s not a diet I’d recommend). Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t be still, could barely form a sentence. The full-on-stays-for-days-panic brand of anxiety that I haven’t experienced in years. Of course, I survived it, yet again. And you better believe I’m back to paying attention.
Then, last week, along came Irma. Category 5 storm, barreling straight for my city. Days and days of uncertainty- should we stay or evacuate? Do we have enough food and water? How long will we be out of work? Even if it misses us, will it hit my families’ cities, and will THEY be ok? If/when there is flooding, where will the dog poop? What if our windows shatter? Will there be looting? The questions were as never-ending as the news coverage. When the national news mirrors your local news, you might be in trouble. When the Weather Channel is broadcasting live in your neighborhood, you are definitely in trouble.
But me and my anxiety? Just fine. I mean, I was worried, but normal-person worried. I felt like I should be hosting a party, to be honest, since this is kind of my turf. Like, “Hey Everyone-in-the-state! Welcome to the level of anxiety I feel on a daily basis! I’m so glad you could join me; let me give you a tour. Here is your goody bag- you’ll find a list of everything that could go wrong, all the reasons you probably deserve this, a ten thousand pound elephant to sit on your chest, and, of course, a bag of pastel candied almonds. Because we’re classy.”
It was actually nice being anxious about something real that was actually a threat that other people could see, and talk about.
Glennon Doyle loves to say “We can do hard things.” In her book, Love Warrior, she kind-of-but-not-really jokes “…but we can’t do easy things;” referencing her difficulties in areas such as housekeeping and flossing. I have never related to something more. You give me a major crisis, and I got your back. If you are bleeding, I will know what to do. Natural disaster? I can handle it. But car trouble? DOOOOOOM.
I’m not sure yet what to do with this information. There is certainly something to be grateful for, but it’s hard to get there without being totally annoyed with the ridiculousness of the whole deal.
Every single time anxiety knocks me down, I learn something that helps me to get up faster and stronger the next time. I came up swinging this time, recommitting to all the self care and then some, and I feel better than ever today. Maybe that needed to happen so that I could weather the storm that was coming. Maybe every instance is a dress rehearsal for a storm that’s coming. And maybe that’s the thing to be grateful for, because not many people get to flex those muscles on a regular basis, getting in shape for the main event.
To take it one step further, if it weren’t for the rough times, I wouldn’t appreciate the good ones nearly as much. Today, I went to Starbucks, practiced yoga, did some cooking, walked the dog, and wrote. On paper, that’s a nice little Sunday. But. There is not an elephant on my chest today. So I’ve spent the last 12 hours feeling pure happiness and gratitude, like it’s the best day I ever had. And I’m not sure, if I had the choice, whether I’d give that up to remove the anxiety from my life. I beat anxiety almost every day of my life, and I’m confident that someday I’ll kick it for good. But that happiness? That gratitude, that I GET to feel because I KNOW the alternative? It’s gold, baby.
So. On second thought, I do know what to do with this information, and the ridiculousness is just part of the package.
Thanks for sticking around while I figured that out.
**So many people were not as fortunate as we were in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Please do not take this post to be anything but a very personal reflection of my experience as it relates to anxiety, and in no way meant to minimize the very real devastation that occurred.**