I keep threatening to tell you about my mini-breakdown. That's why blogs were invented, right?
So when I was little my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He lived. But from about ages 3-8, I had this emaciated, frail chemo bald man living in my house who was quite often blown over by the lightest gusts of wind. And my mom had a few gentle talks with me about how my dad was going to die and what that meant.
It all worked out. I think a thirty year remission counts as cured, right? He still died young, but at 59. Not 29, like they told him the first time. And it wasn't cancer that did him in. Anyway, back to me as a kid. A dying dad is a heavy emotional load to carry, but like most kids, I was resilient. Tough, even. That kind of baggage still takes it's toll, but I found ways to deal with it.
Like, for example, if I slept with my stuffed animals in a certain rotation, nothing bad would happen. Oh, and if I climbed stairs taking an even number of steps on each leg, then chemo would go well. There were light switch things. And not stepping on cracks things. And counting things.
And wouldn't you know that as my dad got better, these tricks became less and less necessary?
Yeah, I had OCD. It runs in my dad's family, I guess. He didn't have it, but lots of my uncles and cousins do, most of them not too severely. I didn't even know I had it until I was adult. It's been latent for years.
One thing I did know and that OCD points to sometimes is that I am a control freak. I have always been a control freak. Guess what? Totally another coping mechanism.
What I didn't figure out until about a year after I married Kenny is that I also had some anxiety issues. Again, this is all very obvious in hindsight, but in the anxiety spiral, not so much. And in reading more about this over the past few years and thinking through it and analyzing blah blah blah, this is what I've learned: my anxiety is mild to moderate. I've had only two panic attacks in my whole life. My anxiety isn't chronic and it has identifiable triggers. Maybe once have I ever been in a tailspin long enough that had I realized I was suffering from anxiety, I would have been smart to go in and get some meds to help me manage it until my mood stabilized.
But on balance, my anxiety is usually near the mild end. This doesn't mean it's delightful. Or even a mild annoyance. It's super annoying actually, especially for someone who is highly, HIGHLY logical and sure that ALL things can be thought through and resolved through the mere application of reason.
Um, that's not how anxiety works.
Anyway, it's given me an empathy for people who suffer with this to a far greater degree. It really can't be controlled. But it can be managed.
It took a year of being married to my amazing and patient husband for me to realize that I had anxiety and to understand the triggers, etc. But I got to a place finally where I could let go of a lot of it and just be happy. The letting go took a long time, but it happened.
And that brings us to last week, specifically the tail end of the week where I spiraled into some anxiety. For once, I recognized what was happening. Unfortunately, I couldn't simply talk myself through it. Anxiety is more than stress--it's an extreme reaction to stress involving a lack of control over a situation. Or my form of it is.
There are certain things that I know set me off. I used to think that I was weak if I couldn't handle spinning a million plates at once. Now I realize that I totally can do it but my family pays the price because taking on too much can trigger more than simple stress for me. Also, I know that conflicts in really important personal relationships can cause problems (if I'm the reason for the conflict--that makes me even more anxious). And being excluded from stuff. That causes anxiety, not just hurt feelings (I do this crazy obsessive thing of wondering how I can control everyone's perception of/feeling toward me. Stupid.). And then of course, there's this huge category of Huge Life Events I Have No Control Over.
And trust me, I know everyone deals with this stuff. And most of the time, most of these things cause me stress but no anxiety. Sometimes, though, the stars misalign and Venus and Mars duke it or something, I don't know. But when that happens, normal stress turns into This Big Thing, days of insomnia, freak outs, panic, etc. Like I said, it's been a few years, but last week anxiety came to visit again.
I've already gone into a million billion boring details so I won't bore you with more now. Here's the thumbnail: my road to publication was really easy compared to most people's (I'll tell you the story some time) and it's set up a little disconnect between me and reality. And those two things didn't reconcile for me last week. And suddenly I realized how little control I have over the success of my new book despite my intention to be Supreme Ruler of the Universe and Most Especially My Book. And I am not good at relinquishing control over things that really matter to me (I'm going to be a peach of a mother-in-law). And a book release . . . there's very little I control about that in the first place.
And so suddenly I was dealing with a lot of self-doubt and frustration about lack of control and worry and all kinds of things. And that was the trigger and it all went downhill after that. And then I started getting really frustrated that I couldn't sleep and my brain wouldn't turn off and that I couldn't just talk myself into not being crazy which made the anxiety worse. And off went the merry-go-round.
I did some retail therapy. (Kenny, don't flinch: the following damage was done to discretionary funds, I promise.) It resulted in five new skirts, four cardigans, three sweaters, a necklace, a handbag, a pair of stilettos, two new shirts, and a lip gloss.
Yeah, yeah. I have issues. I GET IT. I think some of that will be going back. Not nearly as much as should go back, but some. Like the kinda cute stuff. I'm keeping the really cute stuff.
Anyway, guess what? That kind of retail therapy only makes things worse because then there's this whole, "I suck and have no self-discipline" fueling the downward spiral. Fun!
And finally Sunday I couldn't take it any more. The one advantage of knowing you're sometimes prone to anxiety and that it only reaches moderate levels at your worst points, is that you can explain it out loud even though you can't talk yourself out of how you're feeling.
And so I talked it out with Kenny. And I cried. And I let it out. And he prescribed nightly back rubs for me. And an afternoon in bed reading a funny book. And then he told me how he felt about my talent and why he feels so strongly about supporting me and it was really inspired, what he said. Then he started praying extra hard for me.
And then I got an email yesterday that was a tender mercy. I'll tell you about it soonish because this post is already so long I don't even want to go back and proof it so bless you if you're still reading.
But I realized: I cannot control the advertising for my book. I can't control who I'm positioned against. I can't control who will take the time to rate my book on Goodreads or other places. I can't control who will come to a book signing. I can't control a million other things.
But I can write a good book that does something good for someone. And I did. And I can be thankful for everything my publisher does for me, and I am. And I'm slowly feeling better. (Although full disclosure: I did buy one shirt, skirt, and handbag mentioned above this morning so I'm not ALL the way there yet). And I'm coming out of it and this has turned out to be a very small blip in the grand scheme of things. And I slept well two nights in a row. And I didn't eat my feelings: A HUGE VICTORY. And my pants were too big this morning and I never felt so excited to look so dumb in a too big pair of pants.
And fun things are happening this week. And I did the right thing for once and scaled down my DO EVERYTHING tendencies and turned my impending road trip into a mini writing retreat. The idea makes me feel calm.
Many of you will ask how you can help because that's how you are. You can't help, because the things I need from you are things I want you to give without me asking. I suck, I know. But that's how it is. Maybe I will become better at asking for what I need and accepting that even though what I get in return is prompted it will still be genuine. Baby steps.
But you can do this if you want: win my book at my friend Brittany's blog. I want to help get her twenty new followers and although I'm trying to move away from goals like that because failing only makes me crazy, I also was all humble bragging to her about how I thought this giveaway would be SO GOOD for her blog. So yeah, you can click over and follow her and maybe I will feel a tad less dorky than usual. I think she started at 29 before the giveaway.
And if you're still reading this post, I probably owe you chocolate. Which, if you live in Utah, you can come see me at the book signing on Thursday night (B&N in Murray, 6-8) I can give you because I'm bringing homemade mint fudge. And since I'm trying not to eat my feelings, you can do it for me. Although, if I run into cool weather and a good corn chowder up there, all bets are off. Probably I will eat my feelings and be totally fine with it.
Thanks for listening. Seriously.