Holding on when Tsunami, Anxiety, hits

Rob filling his pill containers.

Rob filling his pill containers.

I’m incredibly anxious lately.

After the Pumpkinman Half Ironman a few weeks ago, my coach and I decided that it was time for me to take a rest. A long rest. Mind you, a rest from training, not from life. Life continues. Hence my anxiety. I don’t think of myself as an anxious person. But right now, it seems that I am. Once again I’m learning to hold a space for my emotions whether I want to or not.  

I woke at about 2:00 a.m. this Monday — the start of my second week of rest — in a sweat with my heart racing. At first I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I felt horrible. I couldn’t breathe. My stomach was in knots and I felt like I was suffocating. I wanted to run from the bed as if it was on fire and curl up into a ball at the same time. Paralyzed. Finally it dawned on me, “I’m anxious!” “Shit. Fuck. Crap. NO! This is crazy intense. What is this about?!” More than anything, I didn’t really care what it was about; I just wanted it to stop and I wanted to sleep.

But Anxiety wouldn’t rest and I couldn’t sleep. Instead, I lay there in a panic. Anxious because I was anxious and the feeling wouldn’t go away. How ironic. I was in bed with nowhere to run. Just me and Anxiety battling in my mind. Eventually, I had to accept what I was feeling. “Fine! Okay. I’m anxious. I’m freaking anxious!” I screamed in my mind. Kicking my feet and giving my rested legs a killer calf-cramp. Swell. “What in the hell do I do with that?”

I knew what the answer was but I didn’t want to admit it. I had to accept that I was anxious. I had to hold a space for Anxiety and just sit with it. (Or in my case lie with it.) I wanted to run from it, but there’s no hiding from feelings. Eventually, if ignored for too long, our feelings bite us in the ass one way or another. So I lay there accepting Anxiety with all of its bells and whistles. When I stopped fighting Anxiety and just let it wash over me like a tsunami, I realized that I was anxious about time. Craving time like an addict craving their poison. I couldn’t get enough of it. With my training break, I finally had some time, and I wanted more. Way more.

I have an opportunity to fill my extra time with things that I really need to get done. Projects, tasks, work, writing … you name it. Things that have been festering for way too long. My dilemma is that there isn’t enough time to get everything done. (Is there ever?) I feel like I’m constantly chasing the clock and clawing to hold on to every moment of life. But more than that, when I dig even deeper into the storm of Anxiety, I think what it’s really about is my need for external control. My thinking being — if I can plow through every corner of my outside world and organize it, declutter it, cleanse it — I’ll be able to cope better when the fatigue from training starts again and I have less time. I will have created a buffer from stress and anxiety. I will have more control.

I want my outside world to be a well-oiled machine allowing me to sail through my days with as little stress as possible. If I can do that, then I won’t have to deal with Anxiety at all. If I can create order, I will have outwitted the mighty storm, Anxiety. Beating him to the punch. If I can control my outside world I’ll be able to cope better with Rob’s chronic health issues. I’ll be able to feel like I have some say in how life goes.

But life doesn’t work like that. We have speed bumps and glitches and nothing ever goes as we expect it to. If I think I’m ever going to make sense of — or create order in — life, I am delusional. Life just doesn’t work like that. I know this. And yet I’m trying like hell to lasso time, bury Anxiety into a ditch in the farthest corner of my yard and gain control over my world. Good luck to me. It’s not going to happen. I know this. I do.

But you know what? If I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m going to try like hell regardless. I’ll probably exhaust myself trying. And the lesson is — as it always is — find the middle ground. Find the balance. Accept that I can’t control much. I cannot prepare for a natural disaster. I cannot make Rob’s health better. I can only continue to work on myself and my responses to all that life throws my way. That’s about all I can control — my inner-life. The best way for me to do this is by continuing to build a relationship with my authentic-self while holding a space for all of my feelings that accompany daily living.

Creating External Order

Creating External Order

13 replies »

  1. I recognize that beautiful space! It looks serene, just like the aura I feel when I am near you. What is on the inside may not always be a reflection of what others see or feel on the outside but the aura is a true reflection of a persons soul. XO, 143

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have lived with anxiety for as long as I can remember and you are so right in pinpointing the control aspect of it. I hardly ever have severe anxiety now but I remember what it was like to accomplish tasks so that there would be “one less thing to worry about.” A finished project – one less thing to worry about. Staying in the same lane the entire drive – one less thing to worry about. Cooking all day Sunday to freeze a week’s worth of meals – one less thing to worry about. Just about everything I did revolved around making sure there was one less thing to worry about. When I look back on those years, I can see that I lived a scripted life with little true enjoyment because you’re not really living when you’re just ticking things off a list to have one less thing to worry about. The list never ends and the worry never goes away. Anxiety took a backseat in my life when I learned that putting pressure on myself wasn’t what kept the world spinning. The world simply spins. I can do only do my best and let go of the outcome. And, my best doesn’t mean being perfect, but that’s another book right there! I just love your perspective on life Jessica. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen, Thank you! Really, thank you. I feel like you get it and I’m nodding in agreement, because you nailed it with the idea that if I get “this” done, I’ll have one less thing to worry about. I’ll be able to breathe. I’ll feel in control.

      For me it’s even bigger than that — if I get his “right” — cook this anti-inflammatory meal, then I will have fixed Rob, or made him better. As I write this I’m tapping in to deeper, older pieces of myself. The old belief: If I’m good enough, “perfect” enough — then life will feel safe and I’ll feel okay. Those are old wounds and you’re right, I think there really is a book in this idea of being perfect. It’s all intertwined. All of it.

      “The world simply spins.” I’m just going to say those words to myself when the anxiety comes. I feel like it’s another way of saying, “Just hold the feelings. Don’t run or react. Just notice them.” It’s a kind, loving, freeing slogan!

      Thanks for your feedback and comments, I always look forward to hearing your thoughts. Much love to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anxiety is definitely one of those feelings that I would rather run from. But I think just embracing it in all its horror and uncertainty is what releases it. I struggle with wanting to control things and fix things and make things perfect and right and good. Like you, I think it does spring from those deep inner wounds of wanting to be better always and feeling like I am not good enough and have to be something else. But we are; both of us already whole, complete and we don’t need any fixing. I think accepting that on a very deep level may shift the external things that we try to control and fix. Wishing you strength and courage as you face all your challenges. May we be courageous enough to embrace our feelings and cradle the May we learn to accept all the uncertainties and imperfections everywhere and may we heal those deep hurts that show themselves in so many different ways.

    I read somewhere that all the parts of ourselves yearn for wholeness and so all the feelings that come up; anxiety, terror, sadness, anger are all leading us to the place we need to go if only we accept that. Like Rumi says, we should live our lives as if “everything is rigged in our favour”. How much better would we feel about everything.


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