Routine

You wake up thinking, today is going to be a good day. The sun is shining and birds are singing. You think yourself into the best of moods- everything is unicorns and rainbows and butterflies. You think today I will do all the things on my to-do list, today I will be a mothafuckin Khaleesi. You lay in bed and plan out your day, bit by bit, imagining how each scenario will go, assuring yourself today will be undoubtedly bad ass.

Suddenly, the winds outside your window pick up. You flinch, yet continue in preparation for your day. You brush your teeth, wash your face- shit, the face wash you use is almost out, why didn’t I get some more? You keep going about your routine, turning on your “go to” power house playlist. Just as you start to get into that anthem, your connection gets lost. So you sing acapella.

Just kidding, your coffee is now cold because you spent the longest time trying to fix the shitty connection that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Somewhere in those precious minutes, the voices you worked to quell down as you laid in bed, the voices of “not enough” and “are you sure?” have found their way back to the surface. And yet, you still have to get the things done on your to-do list. You still have to go to work. You still have to be in a good mood because no one likes a negative Nancy- except Jonathan and Steve. You drink the cold caffeinated life source and do it all anyways. You’ve become excruciatingly good at the facade.

This is my reality. A reality where something so minute can alter the course of the day. The reality of living with anxiety. Some days I wake up with the confidence of Amy Poehler or the infectious joy of Jimmy Fallon, ready to conquer the world and even if something goes unplanned, I laugh and go about a different way. But some days, some days I wake up only to be triggered by the smallest misstep or dent in my routine. Those days are manageable, practiced. Then there are the days where it’s hard to get out of bed at all. The ones where food is of no importance, only a box of kleenex.

Even so, I am a mothafuckin queen.

I share this to not garner pity but to shed some light on the fickle flick of the mind tied to a person with anxiety. You wouldn’t tell a pregnant woman she’s fat or a Jedi that you’ve never seen Star Wars. You definitely wouldn’t tell an individual with a physical disability, “Oh, you’ll be fine. You’ll get over it.” And if you knew about me or the millions of others suffering fighting, I’m sure you would be compassionate and understanding because I believe in the human spirit.

So, how can you do your part as a citizen, a friend, or a loved one of a person coping with anxiety, depression or any other stigmatized mental health battle?

Be there like the cast of Friends, only better. You don’t have to coddle them. If there’s anything to NOT do, it’s coddle because there is nothing worse than being babied or pitied for something you’re trying daily to control. You can literally just sit there in silence and that is more of a comfort than you will ever know.

Be genuine. If you don’t get it, that’s totally cool. I don’t expect you to. But please don’t pretend to know “exactly” how I feel, then give an anecdote that unintentionally belittles the situation. We all have our shit. Mine is absolutely not more important than yours. But we are different. Let’s understand one another and have an open and honest relationship.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of times, I may not have the answers but I will always do my best. As I mentioned before, we can learn together.

Please, do not take it personally. It’s really, really not you. Sometimes, we’re just in it.

Unapologetically, live your life (and let me live mine). I’ve found that people with anxiety are some of the most passionate and intense individuals I know. Meaning, we feel. We emote. Often times, we don’t just like something, rather it manifests itself more intensely than that. When I love a film, I will IMDB the shit out of it and watch it way more than deemed the normal viewing requirement. The pure joy and excitement in those 112 minutes or so is often times a respite for me. It seems small, but don’t rain on my parade if you think something is weird and I won’t rain on yours. This also goes for life in general. Let people do what makes them happy and don’t be a douche about it.

Now, I’m not going to wear a banner or tell every person I see about myself, because my anxiety doesn’t define me. I do everything you do. However, I do feel as though we should open our eyes a bit and see that there are so many people living with unseen and unheard mental illnesses and by being a helping hand- an ear, a voice, a love unconditional- you can make the difference.

For those of you who are like me and like millions of other humans, it takes time. It takes support and understanding to not only end the stigma of mental illness, but to also find the correct path to healing and fighting. When I realized these horrible, heart stopping, hyperventilating events were panic attacks, I sought out help. It wasn’t easy. I fought with myself and my family. It’s not something that anyone had *openly* experienced in my life. So, was I just dealing with repressed teen angst? It had to just be a phase, right? I mustered up the courage and off I went.

The medical professional I went to see gave me a prescription within the first fifteen minutes of meeting me. This race to medication before we had even had our first date really messed with my head for a while. I didn’t take it but should I? Was I really that fucked that he noticed right away? Medication and antidepressants can be absolutely wonderful, life-saving even, but it is your body and your choice and if it doesn’t seem right in that moment, then don’t go for it. Trust yourself. I didn’t take it. And for me, it was the right decision at the time. The professional that followed wasn’t bad, we just didn’t mesh well and that’s okay. It takes time and patience for you to find the best fit, like a relationship or a pair of jeans- don’t rush that shit.

In the meantime surround yourself with loving, supportive and funny individuals who make, even the darkest of days a little bit brighter.* Find something you love and never let anyone shame you for it. But most importantly, live like the Khaleesi (or John Snow) that you truly are.

 

*You can always reach out to me if we’re friends but also if we aren’t real life friends just yet, check that contact form out. Here if you need an ear, a smile and/or a support system because we’re all in this together. Also, here are a couple of quick resources:

If it’s an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or if you need immediate assistance go to:  http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call their number 1-800-273-8255

Some tips on day-to-day anxiety management: https://www.adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

Let’s learn: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/mar2016/feature1

A dose of cuteness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg

 

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Undies

Saturday night. Youthful, bright, full of life. Having fun. Making mistakes. Getting shit-faced on 6th. Dating hipster after hipster galore…

Now, I got the shit faced thing in motion, sippin’ on some spiked eggnog- more rum than anything at this point. Throw in a Biore strip, a baby and a When Harry Met Sally quote-along, and you’ve got yourself a Saturday night fit for a B-rated (fine, C-rated) sitcom. I commend myself for the multi-tasking, really. That shit requires effort. Only now, I am here. On a couch, cuddling with a pup. Coming to terms with reality. Applying for dozens of jobs, some of which only minutely deal with the field I aspire to be in, and any that would help me, ya know, survive.  

Twenty-two, unemployed and babysitting my sister’s kid, as I am seduced by the soundtrack of every ‘90s New York City film and taken into a trance by Nora Ephron’s words. The unemployment part came by my own-doing. And the drinking alone and being single, also me. Social anxiety, self-deprecating humor and *adorably* overactive pop-culture references only land with so many. My own righteous indignation and romantic ways got me to this moment. My bad, but also, worth it.

I’m realizing this unemployment period doesn’t completely suck. The job searching sucks. Constantly checking my bank account sucks. Feeling useless absolutely sucks. But with this comes a new sensation of liberation, freedom, a world of possibilities. Or something less cliche and a bit more fun.

Unemployment in your early twenties leaves more time for:

Binge-watching TV series you only pretended to know (using someone else’s password, of course)
Drinking
Cooking
Reading (real fucking books, not just excerpts or reviews)
Drawing
Drinking
Cleaning
Dating
Exercising (I hear it’s great)
Talking to cashiers about life and weather and actually giving a shit
Anxiety Attacks
Deleting a few *thousand* unread emails
Drinking
Trying homeopathic treatments for all your ailments
Diagnosing your ailments on WebMD
Coming to terms with your mortality
Laughing (shit just got real, I know)
Self-care
Crying
Family
DIY EVERYTHING
Learning how to play an instrument
Adult coloring (which is just coloring with a glass of red and tears)

And of course, coming up with a clever caption for your Bumble profile (and every Instagram picture ever).

I like to refer to this period of time as my Undies. “So, Aimee, what have you been up to?” Oh you know, just going through my Undies.  

“Enough with the clothing metaphors,” you say to yourself and yourself alone.

Undies is a less sophisticated version of underwear, and less sexy than panties, but absolutely necessary. It’s what you refer to when you’re on your period (shout out to my ladies who wear their Vadge of Honor proudly). It’s comfortable and familiar. It reminds you of times when you weren’t as concerned about the societal pressures around you. Or, ya know, panty-lines. It’s uncertain. “Is the elastic going to give one day? What if it gets a hole? I will never find another pair like this again!” It is exceedingly unapologetic. But most importantly, it’s something we all experience and revert to at one point or another. We all experience the Undies.

Bonus, while being unemployed, you don’t have to change your undies if you don’t want to (but ya know, I recommend you do).

It’s not just about unemployment or being in a funk. It’s about actively and consciously making the decision to breathe and accept the present and work towards shaping up for that next step. It’s about embracing crying fits and assuring you have a laughing one to follow. Loving and feeling so wholly that you don’t take the things you care about for granted. I never thought I’d be so sad after leaving an environment that wasn’t right for me. Or that I’d be searching and begging to do any kind of work to keep my mind busy on something other than my own thoughts. The Undie stage crept up on me unplanned and, initially, unwanted. I don’t want to go back to what’s comfortable, I want to be successful and happy. Now.

undies

Where I suspect my Undies began to form and lie in wait.

The impatience, the uncertainty- It’s what so many of us post-job, post-grad, post-relationship, post-posts feel. I am in it. I’ll move on from it someday- when I finally get gussied up for a night out on the town or have a hot date- but until then, I’m trying really hard to be comfortable and content, happy to be back to basics- to just be. If sketching, going out, or drunkenly quoting a seventeen-year-old romantic comedy gives you joy, then make time for it and do it as loudly and unabashedly as possible. Funks don’t last forever.

Get weird, (wo)man, and go make the best out of your Undies.

Level Up

This is it. This is what it feels like to die. You know how they say your whole life flashes before your eyes? Yeah, well the only thing I’m seeing is my damn beanie baby collection. I mean, give me gritty repressed childhood memories, regrets or picture perfect moments. Something. I just got my arm slashed off by some high level half orc and I’m bleeding out. I’m dying here and no one could give a shit, not even my subconscious.

Okay, so I might not be dying dying but this is called Live-Action Roleplaying. I’m in character. Who knows though, I might actually be dying. My lungs could totally give out. My body is not in peak physical condition- I’ve decided to lay off exercise for the 26 years of my life. Who knew this game required effort, stamina. The amount of rules and configurations is just excessive. The confusion, the yelling, the demands, the fighting, the bewildered look on my roommates’ face- it’s all anxiety inducing.

The three of us wanted to do something as a group to bond or whatever. I jokingly suggested LARPing for a weekend. “All the cool kids are doing it,” I playfully added. My sarcasm deficient roommate said I was “too city” for LARPing and would just end up quitting or leaving right away. Rule Numero Uno for being friends with Shannon: You do not dictate my actions or emotions. I will prove you wrong and rise like a fucking phoenix. Maybe I got a little overzealous but I went out and bought costumes, read all the rules, found a league for the weekend, and got all my shit together. This is legit and I was ready. I have to admit, my inner nerdy world was being rocked. I’d never done anything like it before but I had it all planned out. I figured, I’d outrun the nerds, get an ego-boost, tell Drew to suck it and then go home to stream Grey’s Anatomy or something slightly less embarrassing.

Only now, the reality is that I’m lying dead on the ground, recouping and waiting for the horn to sound. I wish I had a milkshake. And fries. Oh god, the ones from the deli on the corner. Yes. I’m sure if I got up and left no one would even notice. I could leave, eat and come back to play dead. First things first though, do my lungs even work?

As I’m still struggling to catch my breath, return my heart rate to normal and soothe my rage for a milkshake, Drew and Becca make their way towards me. Becca lays a flower from her crown on me and Drew whispers, “This is for you.”

The two then charge the remaining opposition, dominating in every sense of the word. Becca is the most beautifully strategic Elven Queen I’d ever seen and Drew is one bad ass humanoid thing just killing it left and right. The skill, the agility- he does the sports thing back at home.

It pains me to lose. I am dying as we speak, still mentally and physically drained, but something about being here on the ground makes me feel like I’m winning. All the cool kids are fucking doing it. I think I’ll try this thing again. My superbly talented friends are avenging my death and I don’t have to exercise anymore, so that’s a plus. If that’s not living, I don’t know what is.