Anxiety is just plain weird. It just is. It’s like your brain decides that it’s not enough to hamster wheel, it has to cause uncomfortable physiological responses, which then sets the hamster wheel racing even faster. This interferes with sleep, work, socializing… And then it’s even more frustrating when you know the various things that help to make you feel better, but you can’t break out of the wheel to go and do those things that make you feel better. The same goes for depression, though to me this feels different in that it’s like the hamster wheel broke, but you’re still trying to turn it anyway (albeit rather sluggishly). (Maybe this is why I am averse to hamsters?)
I’ve written before about what my experiences with depression have been (and “coming out” about it too). This seems to have been my lot as an adult, more than anxiety, but when I look back over my life, I realise that I have actually always been quite an anxious/fearful person. A “worry wort”, as it was described to (and of) me, when I was young. I’d be the kid worrying about everyone else (are they okay? did they lose something? will they get into trouble? are they late? am I late? – it also didn’t help having a mother who is always late, including quite often for picking me up from school). It didn’t help that I was bullied, either, especially as I was also hyper sensitive. Or that I went to a hyper draconian private school, where the fear of fucking up and thereby being kicked out, costing parentals oodles of $ at a time where they were broke caused major anxiety. I remember that for large portions of time living with that yucky, prickly feeling in me, and not knowing what to do about it either. So some was irrational worry, some was based on experience and reality. How does one know the difference?
Simultaneously, I have also always been silly, quick to laugh, and funny (if I may say so myself). I like to think I’m good at cheering up other people, and just as much as I feel the bad deeply, I am able to feel the good deeply too. It’s a strange dichotomy. It’s also what makes A&D so frustrating. They are good at robbing the joy from the world for me, even though I fight hard to not let them. A&D, to me, feel like opposite ends of a wonky spectrum in terms of how they affect my energy (restless vs. listless), and yet it’s weird how often one causes the other and how they intertwine. Fortunately I have learned, over time, some ways to cope, but it’s never easy to turn to those solutions when you can’t get up off the couch.
Moving to Canada was an interesting part of this journey. The first year I came here (12 years ago!!!) was revolutionary. Not only had I been recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism and started treatment (making the world of difference to my energy and mood!), but I was also free!! Free from expectations, agendas, studying, and the familiar. It was exciting and terrifying in equal measure, but the anxiety was less in some ways, especially after my initial “wtf have I done” freak out after landing. It was a whirlwind. I met someone. Got married. And then there was the stress of moving back when I was feeling really settled here, followed by the stress of immigration when the call came through that we had to return to Canada by a certain date. That early euphoria passed and suddenly it was reality – I had moved away to another country, almost as far as I could go from my home. I had a new job, new responsibilities, new worries. I had a friendship go south because I “wasn’t the way I was before” (yeah? fuck you too). I had some health issues. It was weird. I got help, I made some decisions (to quit my job, take a break). There was a lot of great things, and a lot of worry. Hamster, hamster. Sometimes calm, sometimes furious, sometimes numb. I began to work seriously hard to mend, feel better, push “play” on my life again. And it has helped, a lot.
So I have to remind myself that sometimes that hamster is under my control, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s a complete dick, and other times it’s all fuzzy and cuddly.
All I can do is ensure that I clean out the sawdust, replenish the food and water, and grease the wheel when I can.