It’s kind of snowing outside. I mean, I haven’t actually seen this for myself but there’s about 6 posts on Facebook proclaiming this. And I verified with Weather.com so I feel confident in making this announcement.
I hope your Saturday has been sufficiently productive and/or relaxing.
I mentioned last week that I’ve been having some brain problems. Or what my psychiatrist called a “mental break.” Which seems to be a conglomeration of depression, anxiety and OCD. For weeks after this “break,” last month, I would just cry. For not really any reason at all – or for crazy reasons that I didn’t know why I was thinking them.
I read online that thinking about a giant stop sign helps when you’re obsessing over something. So I would Google image stop signs when my brain was spinning downhill too fast for me to keep up – it’s very hard to think about anything when you’re just staring at hundreds of STOPs.
Which inevitably led to me crying at work…staring at stop signs for 20 minutes. Until my coworkers were like “Are you OK…?”
The first time I told my therapist this, I added “So am I crazy?”
“No, you’re not crazy…” he answered soothingly (seriously though the UMD Health Center therapist they assigned me has the most soothing voice. I want to record it and play it when I fall asleep. Is that crazy?)
“Can you write that down?”
“You want me to write that down in my notes?”
“Um…sure. Not….crazy….” he wrote.
Another thing that’s been helpful with stress has been praying again. Since this “break”, I’ve felt weirdly nostalgic for seminary (my gap year which I spent learning in Israel at an all girls seminary). I told you last week that my life was going on some weird journey – and so far it’s included me connecting back to my Judaism. Praying every morning, being more careful with Shabbat and Kosher.
It started with me finding a book in the UMD Hillel that said COURAGE! on it (I liked the exclamation point, like it was an exciting play). I read it on the train to work just to distract myself from obsessing. But it was all about letting go of anxiety and trusting God. About how all crises help us become better people. It all sounds so Delilah on the radio to me when I say it out loud. Two of my favorite parts said:
“Who asked us to move mountains? Who told us to make long-term plans? No one, if not our imaginations which trouble us with its false problems”
“Only in the middle of a struggle our hidden capacities can appear and grow. The important thing is not to let ourselves be discouraged, but to take heart, no matter what happens during the crises. Then, if we hold firm, we will succeed in transforming all our past falls into instruments for true progress.”
Which, to me said “Who told you to worry about this thing that might not happen? Who told you to freak out about events you have no control over? No one.”
Well, I mean I guess I did. Or my brain did. But as a friend who’s suffered from depression and anxiety for a while told me:
“Sometimes our brains are dicks, that doesn’t mean they’re right. You are what you choose to be and do.”
The medication that I’ve been on has helped this problem that has obviously been medical (I’m not suggesting all people with depression just read COURAGE! and be cured. Even my broken brain knows that) But there’s a bunch that I’ve done that has helped the anxiety that wasn’t medical. And I hope it helps you too:
1. The stop sign thing really did help me. Something about seeing tons and tons of those bright red octagons really makes it hard to think of anything else. And then when you’re done looking at them and your coworkers are like “Why are these stop signs making you so sad you weirdo?” you can go back to work. And flip back and forth between the web tabs as needed.
2. My friend advised me to keep a gratitude journal. And write down five things that made me happy/thankful that day. Sometimes it’s hard and my list is like “I didn’t get hit by a meteorite” and “My shoes were comfortable all day” and sometimes it’s like, “My article got a lot of positive reviews” and “I got a 96 on my media law exam.” Either way, taking time to think about the good totally repaints the day. Sometimes when you have an anxiety attack it feels like it dominates and ruins your whole day but when you really think about it, there’s so much else to be grateful for. And there’s some good in every day.
3. Talk to people. I said in my short story that when you show people your scars, they love to show you theirs. I’ve found the same with emotional scars. When I opened up about my anxiety to people, so many started telling me about their struggles and how they coped. People I had no idea suffered from any problems like that. Knowing you’re not alone takes away some of the power of your fears. If others have beaten it then maybe it’s not the worst thing ever.
4. Do something for someone else. Bring in cupcakes for your coworkers. Give a dollar to a homeless man. Hold the door open for a bunch of people. Call a friend for her birthday. Pray for other people. When you stop focusing on yourself and your problems – they fade for a little bit. Plus, being a nicer person makes you feel better regardless. And baking cupcakes will make your boss totally like you more than your coworkers.
5. Ice cream. A lot of f*cking ice cream. (Did you know I had four milkshakes this week?! IS THAT NOT A WORLD RECORD? Call me, Guinness. We’ll set up a photo-shoot)
So we continue on this weird road. There’s been some interesting twists. I don’t exactly know where I’m going.
But I hope this helped someone today.