Staying Stylish in Suburbia

For the love of anxiety-How I came to respect my angst

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A different perspective...

It's back. That invisible palm pressing down on my breast cage, keeping me from filling my lungs completely with air. My body always seems to betray my anxiety before my mind fully comprehends what's happening. After dealing with it for so long I've learned to read the signs though. It started in college. Or more accurately it got so bad the summer before my junior year that I was finally forced to face it head on. Meaning that I went to the doctor wondering if I had some sort of brain tumor. No. Seriously. I got a CAT Scan and everything. After which I was told there was nothing wrong and given the diagnosis of anxiety. It was a relief. Finally a name for the way I was feeling and a drug, Zoloft, to make it go away. Well kind of...Zoloft did help me manage it for years and I am a huge fan. It got me back to my old lighthearted self. My anxiety didn't totally disappear but it did lighten the load so to speak. Then I decided to get pregnant with our first baby and wanted to try and clear out my system. (A little side note here- Never attempt to ween yourself unsupervised off of a medicine like Zoloft.  When done right it can be easy-peasy but you definitely need a medical professional to guide you through the process.) After it was out of my system I felt fine. That was partly due to the fact that I was older and wiser, happier and more secure in myself and in my spot in the world. It was also probably partly owed to the fact that the medicine I had been  taking for so long had retrained my brain to produce serotonin again. Either way it felt good to be drug free and able to manage my anxiety. 

I say manage because it never fully went away. Sally Winston, the co-director of the Anxiety & Stress Disorders Institute says that "The presence of unpredictability, uncertainty and uncontrollability all provoke anxiety pretty automatically." And who isn't faced with those sorts of things on a fairly regular basis, right!? Of course there are all kinds of anxiety and every one's experience and the degree to which it effects their life is different. I can only speak for myself and my own experience. My first major panic attack after clearing out my system, came when I was told that I was a high risk pregnancy (again with our first born) and would have to go into the hospital for close to three months. Panic for myself and my unborn child flooded my system. It was a raging, roaring river and there was nothing I could do but be swept away by the fear. Some might argue that, that sounds like a reasonable circumstance to loose your cool. And I would agree. Only that I felt that same sense of sheer terror during my first acupuncture treatment when the acupuncturist stepped out of the room for a moment and I realized I couldn't get up because I had little pins stuck all over my back. It's that lack of control that gets me every time. And the response is the same whether the circumstance is big or little. Plus, once my brain learned the trick of panic it became easy for it to return to that same sorry state no matter how small the situation. 

After a while I began to recognize the signs. I even learned ways to change my response to both the fear and the stress that usually causes it. In other words I became somewhat accomplished at talking myself off a ledge. I even began using those feelings to my advantage at times. Because here's the thing about anxiety. I'm not saying you have to love it but it really is a mixed bag. Not all good but not inherently bad either. It's the way we react to it that makes all the difference. Almost all of my most creative friends deal with anxiety in some way or another. Time Magazine did a piece called the "Two faces of Anxiety," where they explored this dynamic between creativity and angst. "Philosophers and Poets, from their perch on the cutting edge of reason, have always seen the advantage of anxiety. It is the "dizziness of reason," argued Soren Kierkegaard; "the handmaiden of creativity," said T.S. Eliot; "the beginning of conscience," observed novelist Angela Carter." And it's true.  If you can learn how to channel that energy and use it to your creative advantage, it can become an extremely powerful tool. An aid rather than a handicap. I think back to when I was in a theatre. Every single performance right before I had to go on my mind would go completely blank and I wouldn't remember a single line. I cannot describe to you how frightening that was. But sure enough as soon as I stepped out onto the stage it would all return to me. And those moments were when I felt most tuned into the creative source. I had harnessed my fear. Just like I had to do before writing this very post. Just like I am learning to do when I feel that familiar pressing on my chest. When I'm overwhelmed by all the projects we have to get done in the new house before the new baby comes. I take a breath and calm the chatter by writing or making music or art. And hopefully something beautiful comes out of what was so overwhelming and frightening only moments before.  

What about you? Anyone else out there dealing with anxiety? What have you found helpful? 

P.S. All the artwork featured in this piece have to do with anxiety in one form or another. You can check out the artists by following the links below. 

Source: via Juniper on Pinterest
Source: via Juniper on Pinterest
Source: via Juniper on Pinterest


  1. thank you for being so honest about a condition many suffer from, but still find it hard to talk about. my first real round of anxiety came when I relocated...i literally felt that the balance of the world had shifted, i did return to my roots and the axiety subsided...but it seems once it really shakes you, it never totally lets go. when i feel it bubbling up again, i try and do my own version of works for me.

  2. I just stumbled onto your blog. so so lovely! I covet all things blogmilk so I just knew I would love it as soon as I laid eyes on your site! What a stylish place you have created here. This post is so great. I appreciate your perspective ~very brave to talk about issues that affect so many of us. xxoo

    1. Thank you, Rebecca. I'm so glad you found the blog and that you've enjoyed it. Truth be told I had a bit of anxiety about my post on anxiety after I published that piece. It is so very personal. But hearing from you and others has reminded me why I wanted to do it. I really appreciate you sharing and hope you'll consider signing up or stopping by again. xoxo