It is no secret that I’m a bit high strung. My friend Steve once informed me of this fact about 15 years ago. Since 3rd grade, I can remember having worry and anxiety resting on my shoulders, weighing me down. Some people are good at sports. I’m good at wringing my hands.
Lately, and I mean in the past four months, my anxiety has morphed into a raging hulk, a fiery bull smashing through a china shop. And I’m both the bull and the china shop.
This anxiety muscled its way into my every day life over ordinary, mundane things: cooking, cleaning, driving, shopping, etc. Usually, while in Afghanistan, I’d worry about missing a flight or if I’d make it through another ride in Kabul. While a Resident Director, I’d have anxiety about shutting down a party or working a domestic violence case. Not debilitating, not soul crushing.
So like a good psychology 101 class, I flipped the avoidance switch and anything that could cause me anxiety got avoided. These episodes would develop into these ever so charming nearly OCD qualities. Avoiding chores or people. Avoiding rooms or choices. I was creating any system to avoid anxiety and uncertainty. (At this time, I’m living with a family, looking for work, and coming up bone dry on that front. So I was super fun to live with.) And since I assume you are a part of a human race, you can see where this is going.
These episodes would be like, oh, let’s make one up, shall we, putting together a desk and when it became difficult, thinking of a plan like: let’s just throw the whole thing out and get a plank of wood and use that. Or maybe a father figure in my life called my Dad says something sharp to me on Christmas and I start to fall apart and make a bee line for the door hoping Denny’s is open. (Note: first time and hopefully last, that I hope Denny’s is open) My niece and nephew showed up just as I made it to the driveway. Otherwise I would have been eating a Grand Slam with a sad waiter. Hypothetically.
And during these episodes, these anxiety storms—my memory would short out—I’d lose track of the basics, car keys, wallets, iPhone—and then I’d be anxious about that. Like a Mobius strip of panic. Super.
I’ve had to ask myself these questions:
- What does Afghanistan have to do with this? I mean, the first two months were hard, but after that, not horrible.
- Genetics? (My brother and I have the exact same condition.)
- Saying goodbye to California and the 8 years of a life I built now gone?
- A combination of all of it?
Now that I have my own place and a job I love (and I mean love), these episodes rarely show up. The storm has settled and I’m much more at peace. I actually knew where I put my car keys the other day. And there they were—in my pocket.
But I am no fool loyal reader. This anxiety is still there, dormant now, hibernating now. And it is such a thief, robbing me of peace and relationships, faith and development.
I have some space between now to work on it (and possibly insurance in a month!). So now I’m gathering strength to tackle this monster that lives in here and regroup. I’m looking for a church, friends and the blocks that build a life.
Because I’ll tell you this—I’m tired of being the worst version of myself.
And if I learned anything in Afghanistan—press into the fear, face it head on, and wade through it.
There is another side.