Sink or Swim

For the most part, I am  a capable, high functioning person despite my increased levels of anxiety.  Unless you are close to me, you probably wouldn’t know that I am an anxious mess.  I have always been anxious.  Everyone experiences anxiety, but when it persists in your daily life and causes interference, then it is labeled a disorder.

Everyday, I have a constant battle with my anxiety disorder.  There are times when I am incredibly resilient.  These moments appear utterly unremarkable, but mean everything to me.  During these lulls, I do not experience panic.  My inner chatter is turned down.  I am able to focus, relax, and have some fun.  While I have the backbone, I schedule dental cleanings, regular exams, and bloodwork.  It is a state of being which I pray lasts forever, but acknowledge probably won’t.  The anxious questions that haunt me are: “When the next anxious episode will present itself?  How long will it last?  What will be the severity?  Can I cope?  Will the people I love still continue to love me in this state?”

I have had long periods of time where my anxiety is manageable.  Predictably, life changes cause upheaval.  This is where frustration comes in.  The only constant in life is change.  Moreover, change means growth.  I know I am capable and I do have aspirations.  Yet, I find myself in situations where I am  dropping out of grad school after one month (even though I was awarded a fellowship) or accepting jobs below my abilities.  Eventually, I get frustrated by routine and unchallenging tasks.  I have ideas and am unable to implement them.  I am stuck.

The world, from my myopic soapbox, is either full immersion or stunted growth.  In all of my experiences, I face a choice.  I can either do very little and manage my anxiety.  Conversely, I can try to endure the shell shock of new challenges.  When I do, my anxious mind inevitably gets in the way.  I have not found a place where there is a continuum.  Even though I have pleaded for more responsibilites and opportunities at work, I find that most places are unwilling to take the time to mentor individuals.  I really could not afford to do grad school one class at a time.  The whole point of the fellowship was to go full time, work 20 hours a week, and receive a stipend and free tuition.  All or nothing.

I feel like an anachronism in today’s world.  I may be wrong, but it is my perception that a person like myself was better able to succeed in years long ago.  I imagine a world where people valued relationships and sharing knowledge with others.  Older generations mentored younger generations.  The world was softer, quieter.  A thoughtful person who observed others was able to succeed.

Today, it feels like you need to have everything in place before you can “market” yourself.  (Yes, today is all about marketing and self-image.)  Vulnerabilities are unacceptable.  Anxiety should be hidden.  You can either sink or swim.  I guess when it is presented in this way, I choose to “swim” by making decisions which manage my anxiety but leave me in a constant state of disappointment.  I have not found a balance where I can gradually take on new challenges.

I know I need to be more present.  I have made the best decisions for myself and I cannot go back.  I also cannot be so concerned with the future.  I know these truths are evident, but I still have this inescapable drive which makes me want to give more.  I am still searching for a safe outlet.



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