The Hamster Wheel of Anxiety

My quarter-life crisis happened a year ago. I was 25, unhappy in a city I had been sure would be my place to shine. I was desperate to finish my Masters degree as quickly as possible, which is basically how I spent every day of my life at the time; desperately waiting for the next step. On weekdays, I would go to work and wait for 4:30 when I could slip out. And then I would count the minutes until my grad class was over and I could go to bed. Just to wake up the next day… repeat, repeat, aching for the weekend. When the weekend would arrive, I usually spent my Friday nights watching Netflix until I passed out as early as possible, just wanting to get to Saturday. So that I could get through Saturday. So that I could get through Sunday. So that… well, you get it. I wasn’t getting to anything, I was just waiting for each day to tick by.

When you have generalized anxiety disorder, this feeling of life being constantly, consistently, forever overwhelming is just how I thought adulthood was supposed to feel. I wasn’t even living for the weekends, because I was too crippled with anxiety to do anything come the weekend. I would wake up and immediately obsess over making it to the gym, and food prepping, and if I could afford an Uber to brunch or would I have to wait for the metro and what if I missed it and it’s Saturday so they aren’t running as often and God forbid I had to stand at the station and be 30 minutes late to getting wasted downtown, and then mimosas have calories and I had groceries at home so why would I waste $20 on eggs at a restaurant and, fuck it, I’ll just sit in bed and watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns and eat my pre-portioned, carbless meals and hopefully fall asleep before 9pm.

For the longest time, I didn’t realize I suffered from anxiety. Anxiety meant panic attacks and hyperventilating and being scared of public speaking and petrified to talk to new people. I wasn’t dealing with that… I was just being hit with real life, and I needed to suck it up, because this is what everyone must be feeling like inside. I felt like I just needed to try harder. Be more fit. Do more yoga. Craft my schedule more carefully. Eat more healthfully. I needed to make more money so that I didn’t stress about getting an Uber. I needed to read more books so I didn’t feel unintelligent at work. I needed to find the right makeup, cut my hair the right way, so that I didn’t have a near breakdown getting ready for work every morning.

Fuck. It’s exhausting just reading that. That was my mental dialog every. single. day. all. day. every. day. It never shut up. I was constantly scrutinizing every millisecond of my life, trying to figure out how I could make tweaks to optimize myself… how could I be the absolute perfect person? Once I figured out that math problem, and put everything together just so, I could relax. How fucked up is that? Except, I think that’s how a lot of people feel about themselves. Or, at least, I know I’m not the only one that’s lost an entire night’s sleep trying to plan and contingency-plan every minute of the next busy day.

The thing is, no one tells you this. We think this is how life is supposed to be, and that somehow we just can’t hack it, and we don’t want to admit to everyone else so perfectly managing that it’s a fucking mountain to climb just to get dressed for a big meeting at work. The first time I ever told my dad I felt like this, he told me that’s how he feels every single day, and that’s just life. And then I discovered Prozac, and I realized that is absolutely not just life. I discovered the KonMari method and now own an “office uniform” so I don’t have to stress about professional clothing. I discovered I can eat a carbohydrate and still fit into my clothes. I discovered I can quit my job and throw stable caution to the wind and manage just damn fine.

I discovered that life is not a particular chemical reaction or mathematical equation, requiring us to plug in exactly the right variables and elements to achieve the perfect resulting reaction. Anxiety terrifies you into thinking you must remain in your carefully constructed comfort zone, but there’s so much life right outside those lines… if only you can tell your doubts to shut the fuck up long enough to step over.


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