Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Tools in my backpack

Remember in January when I wrote that I never wanted to write about anxiety on my blog again? I still hold to that, in that I don’t want to have post after post chronicling my day to day successes and missteps with anxiety. But in a different way, I want to still write about it if only to help me remember when times get tough again, and to maybe somewhere, somehow help someone else.

Last Friday, I spent all morning trying to write a post about podcasts. But all of the words that I had were about anxiety, not podcasts. After multiple attempts at writing, I thought I figured out what was missing. For months, I’ve been thinking about drawing a…map of sorts about my anxiety, but I couldn’t think of a way that it would work. I decided that I needed my map for the podcast post, and so I dove in to making the map. And then I had a super exciting creative breakthrough. My quandary was still how to illustrate the nuclear bomb that was my meltdown with what lead up to it and what came out of it. All the vaporous clouds and squiggly lines that were in my head didn’t make a very interesting or satisfying depiction of what I wanted to put on paper.

And then came my breakthrough. A comic strip!  I loved the idea of a comic strip because I could use all the pictures and words that I wanted. It didn’t have to be one concise depiction. It allowed me to tell the story that I wanted to tell using bits of words and, mostly importantly, memories of moments that are already like a comic strip in my head. And while I’m a stick-figure person with no natural art talent, I could still get across exactly what I wanted to. I mean, it’s not as if I will ever share it with the wide world. I just needed it for me. I eagerly grabbed my markers and sketchbook and dove in.

The journey I’ve been on in the past year has been interesting. I got a lot of answers at the end of 2016, but the answers weren’t enough. I had made resolutions, such as:

·         Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
·         Dropping the story line that constantly ran through my head
·         Not looking for the magic solution to my emotional states

Which are all great things to realize and want for oneself. However, I kept realizing in January and February that I had what equated to backpack (I’m going with backpack instead of purse, because, well, if you know me in real life, you know that purses aren’t my thing. But I’m currently carrying a backpack around, so it works!) with nothing in it that mattered. No wallet or keys or gum or hand lotion or chapstick or notebook or pen or half-read novel, all the things that make a backpack a helpful item.

One of the most important pictures in my comic strip is of my empty backpack. After the initial creative rush that I had on Friday morning (which was essentially an hour and a half of filling up 3 pages of my sketchbook with little boxes of words and stick pictures and one airplane that looked more like a UFO) I spent time on Saturday coloring in some of the pictures and finally working on the items I’ve discovered help me that go in my backpack. Because I can say finally, that I can spend whole days now in which I’m not terrified of remote but terrible things happening to me. I don’t have the electricity flashes that used travel through my body on a regular basis, resulting in my heart beating extra fast and my breath being hard to find. The vague underlying fear that I couldn’t put a finger on but made me withdrawn and stuck in my head and unhappy to the worst degree.

I will say it did not happen overnight. And just like a hammer can’t stand in for all of the other tools in a tool bag, there hasn’t been one figurative tool that could have gotten me here by itself (not for lack of trying - I looked high and low for that one magical tool for almost two years!) But I finally have multiple tools that can all work together to make it so that I can now get on the freeway without fear. And on the days that I do have fear, I can handle that fear. I didn’t think that would ever be possible.

I want to do a series of posts on my tools. Now that I’ve explained where they come from, I won’t feel like I have to go back to the beginning each time. I can now finish the podcasts post, write a post about playing the piano, and another about a book my husband and I read together, because I don’t have to start with anxiety. Which means that maybe it will stop being a major theme in my life.

I’m looking forward to those posts. Mostly because of the pleasure and healing that those things have brought to me. I couldn’t have gotten to them earlier – I had go through the hell of 2015 and 2016 to have them be so meaningful.

If you have tools that have built up your backpack, I’d love for you to share. I don’t think a person can have too many tools. And if you are searching for tools, come back and maybe some of mine can help you.


Feisty Harriet said...

I love this. My number one tool to combat anxiety is a solid, well-thought-out list with provisions for two or three different scenarios; it's my Plan A-C for optimal experience and a couple of just-in-case pieces. I do this for almost everything in my life and it significantly reduces my anxiety, because if something doesn't go accordingly to plan (whatever "plan" is), I already have some go-to options to try next without having to flail and freak out about it.

I can't wait to see/read more about what you've come up with!