What came first…

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I have anxiety. Or I should say I had it. Or, I have it but I’ve overcome a lot of it, and what I haven’t overcome, I’ve learned to deal with. Did that make any sense?

I’ve had it since I was little. I have distinct memories going back to the age of seven…but I never told a soul. I didn’t know what I had, didn’t even know it was something to tell someone. So I went through life and figured out my own little strategies to get through it (or avoid situations that triggered it altogether).

In my late twenties, I finally got a clue what I had been suffering with. It had a name. It was a thing. I couldn’t believe it. As I learned about anxiety, it explained so much about why I was the way I was. Puzzle pieces began to click. And I began to kick its ass. Don’t get me wrong, this was not a swift ass-beating. It took y-e-a-r-s.

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Lots of people have anxiety of all varieties. Some a lot worse than me, and I’m so thankful that I have come so far and conquered so much. I feel triumphant that I don’t have to medicate to fly anymore, or that I can slow a runaway heartbeat when my anxiety is triggered – and it does still get triggered. But, I’m in control and that’s an incredible feeling.

(case & point: It took me 3 days to publish this post. Turns out it’s quite a naked – not in a good way – feeling to reveal a vulnerability. But I’ve learned that the scariest things I face are almost always the most rewarding, so I grew a pair and did it.)

However, my struggles with anxiety are not entirely what this post is about. It’s about how it has helped me be a more effective writer. Yes, that’s right. My anxiety helps my writing.

How, you ask? It’s called imagination. Basically, part of anxiety is the “what ifs.” If you have anxiety you know exactly what I’m referring to. You worry about every bad thing that could happen in any given situation. But you don’t just worry about it; you picture it so vividly that your body reacts as if it’s actually happening. The bitch with anxiety is that you’re reacting to panic, fear…terror. Not pleasant feelings to be coursing through you with the intent and ferocity of a runaway train.

It’s a genuine physiological response to imagined stimuli. One that comes so naturally to me after all these years, I can do it at will. But not just with fear.

As a writer, if I want to convey the passion of a kiss; the terror of being chased by a killer; the thrill of being that killer on the chase; the fury of betrayal, or the heartbreak of loss…I put myself there. Really there. Enough to have the goosebumps. The tears. The pounding heart.

You might argue most good storytellers can do this. I would agree with you. So following that line of logic, maybe this is a gift inherent to writers, and perhaps my ability to make my mind think I’m in a situation – enough to feel it; taste it; smell it – is the reason for the anxiety. I don’t know. It’s the ole chicken and egg scenario. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that I found a silver lining in an otherwise shitty thing, and that’s awesome.

Did you find a silver lining in anxiety, or something else shitty?

23 comments

  1. Third ever post, and you’re Out There with something really Real and brave.

    I assume that you’ll get some form of comment notification, but if not, and you discover this one day when you look back at your bloggy beginnings, know that I wish I’d known you for this post. It’s so raw and beautiful and wonderful and deeply understanding of your own self. I feel kinda gutted to only be here now, with a first comment for it, because I can’t imagine how much bravery it took to hit publish and find a vacuum (well, and one ‘like’, which is a small relief! (also, okay, totally tapping into my own fragile writer-ego here – you might’ve been fine with it…I would’ve struggled))

    I love that you’ve been able to find a silver lining in your anxiety, and that you’ve found ways to use it for Good; for creativity and invention and wordsmithery. That you’ve found ways to live with it and begin to overcome it and take charge of it, rather than being constantly at its mercy is amazing and a testament to your resilience and strength of spirit.

    And in response to your last. No. I rarely get plagued by anxiety any more, and never have in the way you speak of. My deal is the worthlessness. And the fear of expression (in person) and rejection. As a result I feel *so* deeply I sometimes nearly drown. But on the surface you’d never know. I am silent and archetypically English. My country would be proud.

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  2. You shed love all over this poor ole post! Yes, I remember it getting no traffic, but my first few posts didn’t, so in a way it didn’t surprise me, either. It literally swelled my heart and writer soul to have it so appreciated and respected by you, though. THANK YOU X 1000!

    I feel (and hope) through your blog you’re able to express those abyssal FEELS you hide so easily. It’s better to get them out, yes? and you do it oh so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just found this now. From FEBRUARY DUUUUUDE! Because I thought you never wrote back, cos once again, somehow, you didn’t tag me (this time by hitting reply), but I guess I’m glad to know you read my comment and appreciated it.

      Cheering you on from the sidelines πŸ™‚

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  3. Very proud of you for finding the positive in a negative. I deal with a lot of the same issues but I have to take Prozac for it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to use anxiety to my advantage….unless getting out of jury duty counts.

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  4. Oh yeah. I have read this, and it was just as good the second time around. You are a BRILLIANT writer, so however you make your magic, I’m for it. Glad you got the anxiety under control though. I can’t wait for the world to see the writer that I know and love. Speaking of…#threechapterwhat??

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  5. I think Writers all have a “thing”, whether it is the anxiety that helps toss them into the moment or the voices they can hear in their minds, have conversations with, and name Norman…

    I have no idea who that last one is about πŸ™‚

    Love this. #SW

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    1. haha Norman! Yes, I agree. We’re artists first, and artists express themselves differently than the rest of the world, but we also process our feelings in a unique way. A writer way. Each of us with our own rituals and processes.

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  6. I like both of your outlooks on this. It’s awesome when you can see the silver lining in something difficult or negative in your life. But I also think that writers are sensitive in such ways that we are more easily affected by these things. We can put ourselves in others shoes. We have had our fair share of trials and tribulations. We tend to experience great love and great sorrow. It’s that sensitivity, that level of deep feeling combined with our writer brain that allows us to share it with others. And that part is a gift.

    Love this and glad it was part of your 4. I LOVEADORE you! πŸ™‚ #SW

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    1. I totally agree with you! There is something different about the way we (writers) process things, an innate ability to convey feelings/experiences into the written word. A NEED to do this. It’s our way of expressing, totally unique to all artists I think.

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  7. This is what connects us. I thought it was normal to be frozen in bed at night scared to death the light on my ceiling was aliens about to visit, or that the bridge we were driving over would end in a fiery inferno, or that the strange man next to us wanted to hurt us somehow. When my daughter was born it got worse. I didn’t want to ever leave her alone with anyone and I would break out in sweats with the stories and images that made me break down in tears and the drop of a hat. I thought it was normal.

    Anxiety if left untreated keeps your head spinning at night and robs us of sleep and after six months of sleep deprivation you are not only anxious but mental exhausted and depression hits hard.

    I am so glad you are in control…and I am fighting to be πŸ™‚ #SW strength

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    1. Oh Hasty, my sisterwife, I’m so sorry you struggle with this asshole demon, too. I think the thing that clicked for me was *believing* (I’d heard it a million times, but only when I really BELIEVED) it’s all in my head and I’m in control of it. Once I had that power (so to speak) things got better. One thing I noticed (which may explain why it was worse after your daughter was born) is that it was worse when my hormones were raging. I specifically recall the day I put it together that times when I laid awake, sweating, panicking about the scenarios my mind wouldn’t stop playing over and over in my head, happened worse during PMS. EFfing hormones. They ruin all the fun.

      You are stronger than your anxiety! *HUGS* #sisterwive POWAH.

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      1. I think that is definitely part of it because although I think back to childhood things it definitely has gotten worse with age. I was on medication for awhile but I am 4 months off so… πŸ™‚

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        1. OH that’s awesome. How are things off the meds? I know how freeing a feeling that can be. I was on migraine meds for 5 years (a daily) and just stopped taking them over the holidays. So far, so good!

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  8. I try to, and if nothing else it could always be worse. Odd that it helps, but it does. Once you’ve been through hell and survived it all seems … not so scary I guess. You’re a champion, you can handle anything! And turn into a good story on top of that.

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