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All Panic, No Disco
What do we do with all this anxiety?
The hairs on your arms stand, like blades of grass whistling in a hurricane. Stomach churns. Sweating. Body aches, burning up and chills rattling the spine. Knees weak, arms are heavy. Vomit on his sweater - mom’s spaghetti. Sorry – humor is a defense mechanism.
My Anxiety Story
Anxiety has been a part of my life ever since my daughter was born in 2016. Now, it’s not really her fault. She is a beautiful, wonderful delight. But the stress of her screaming in the middle of the night was the first time I recall being ignited with strange, terrifying feelings that I couldn’t explain. I thought my blood pressure had finally manifested in heart problems. What I realized eventually was that I was experiencing panic attacks every time I heard her wail at 2 in the morning. I was able to see a doctor and get medication that helped offset these panic attacks, but it has nevertheless left a scar on my psyche.
What I’ve come to realize over time, though, is that this may have been the start of my anxiety journey, but it wasn’t when I started experiencing it. I think most of my life has had anxiety churning in the background, like a hum oscillating at an unintelligible frequency until my daughter’s cries knocked it loose and into the forefront. Worries compounded on worries, stress on stress, until all it took was that little push into the murky depths of exacerbated death tingles ⚡️1.
I think a lot more folks have joined me here since the pandemic. The stress of an overhanging disease, the change to social dynamics, and the added pressures put on individuals and families alike has created an environment ripe for anxiety run amok. If you’re here: welcome. The walls are padded for your protection.
So – what now?
First, I’ll say this: you are not alone. This article from … checks notes … 2019 says an estimated 275 million people suffer from an anxiety disorder of some kind. You read that right, about 4% of the entire world population (at the time) was suffering from anxiety before the pandemic. Safe to say, that number has changed, and not for the better.
Second, I think we are inclined now, more than ever, to admit we aren’t okay. We suffered through a global pandemic that is still being felt. People lost lives, jobs, and a lot of comforts we just don’t have anymore. There is an epidemic of loneliness, apparently.
Third, I have to have a third thing. I don’t make the rules. Things come in threes. Trilogies. Bad things. Celebrity deaths. All threes. And so if I have to make up a third thing, it’s going to at least have some resolution, like Return of the Jedi. What is our Return of the Jedi in this instance? Namely, that we can overcome the dark side by coming together and tossing the emperor over the guard railing and save the rebellion. I think “our emperor” is probably the nasty old thoughts we’ve had about how things used to be and that we have to live up to the expectations of a time that has been completely obliterated by three catastrophic events masquerading as one event in a trench coat.
In summation, embrace the feeling that life has altered. Our society is different now. And we should be open and willing to take stock and cast aside the obligations that no longer served us or maybe never did. If we can’t take the time to rewrite our way forward, then we’ve squandered a perfect opportunity to improve this first draft we call life.
Also, since we acknowledge that life has altered, let’s not make excuses for missing people. Just call someone up and hang out. No ‘man I’ve been so busy’ or ‘I was thinking about you the other day’ just say, “Hey, want to go get lunch?”… and then here’s the other side of that – actually go get lunch. No postponements, no rain checks… just like – Chili’s or something. ✌️
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The emoji ⚡️ is supposed to make light of panic attacks. They are super serious, but I’m tired of giving them power over me, so here you go ⚡️