In completing my weekly reading for therapy with the book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, one thing has become abundantly clear to me. Everyone, at some point or other experiences anxiety in their lives. It’s part of the human experience and no one is immune. Some of us though, experience perhaps more anxiety or are more upset by the anxiety that we do experience which creates lots of suffering (and as we know…suffering is created by the mind, for the mind and it’s NOT real life, it only exists in the mind!) Like, moi. I have always seen anxiety as the evil enemy and have been willing to accept 0% anxiety in my life. I have tried so hard to run away from panic and anxiety and have avoided so many different experiences because I would allow no anxiety in my life. 0% was the only amount I could live with.
When I met with my therapist last week, it dawned on me that the desire to live with 0% anxiety in my life is extremely abnormal! I have been striving to be ABNORMAL for most of my life and I thought I was trying to achieve normalcy! However, the truth is that it’s weird, strange and inhuman to expect that anxiety will never touch my life. It’s an impossible task that I’d set for myself.
So…the other day..I brought Bitey (AKA G. Cat) to the vet for his/her first check up. My main goal was to find out if he/she (I say he/she because I was told Bitey was a girl when I first got him/her but then began to have doubts about this. So… the sex of my cat will be revealed in this post, oh the scandal! Bitey will be so very embarrassed, but it’s not like I’m posting a photo of his/her nether regions) Anyway…I wanted to know…if he/she is healthy and of course find out the sex of my cat, purely for reasons of pronoun usage. Knowing the sex of my cat wouldn’t really change anything, now would it? Still the same cat…just a new proper pronoun and we know how using the proper pronoun is extremely important to a writer.
I went home, loaded Bitey into his/her cage and we drove to the vet. Unlike most cats I’ve known, Bitey didn’t make a peep in the car. No yammering or yowling or loud crying or screeching. Just some very very large wide eyes. Once inside the vet with other loud animals in the waiting room it was more of the same. Eventually they brought us into the exam room and then they took Bitey away to draw blood and determine sex. That was when Bitey…got bitey and squirmy and growly and hissy. My cat threw a hissy fit, basically.
When they brought Bitey back in, I was the proud parent of a….wait for it…wait for it….a BOY CAT!!! Yup…Bitey finally had a pronoun and is a HIM and I now have to catch myself when I say she. Now we’ve gone too far for the point of this post, which is that while they had Bitey out of the room and I was shut in by myself, I became the caged animal.
I didn’t pace, although I think I wanted to. I sat there on the bench and started thinking all the horrible irrational thoughts of someone who refuses to accept any anxiety in her life. No amount of anxiety would be appropriate or allowable. I would goddamn not allow it! Typically, if I think I’ll feel anxiety I’ll deploy my trusty avoidance skills or will beat myself up over the fact that I experienced anxiety and will allow it to ruin my experience of whatever it is I’m doing.
I have been fighting against these feelings for years…so it’s natural for me to start freaking out and worrying about getting anxious and then becoming anxious because I refuse to allow it (see the dichotomy there? I get anxious because I refuse to get anxious!! “You will have whatever you refuse to have!” SO TRUEE!!!). So I sat there, thinking about how I wanted to leave the room, go running for the door, wondering what the Dr. would say when they came back with my cat and I wasn’t in the room? Worried that I’d waste their time or they’d think I was strange for bolting, wondering where the closest bathroom was…and my stomach was in total knots. All rational thought…fled my brain. I was a machine made for panic.
I said to my therapist at our next appointment after this incident that I guess I could have gone to the front desk and asked where the bathroom was and told them to inform the Dr. where I was….and he said, “Wait…that didn’t occur to you while you were sitting there?!” And this, with disbelief in his voice. I said…no. I never thought it! All thought had left my head. There was no such thing as problem solving or rational clear-headed normal thought. There was only frenzied panic and a feeling of sickness crashing over me. Like Bitey…I wanted to bite something and I’m sure my eyes were huge.
And I knew…as I sat there that if the Dr. came back in, I would be fine. I would talk with her about my cat, discuss his health and be distracted from my mind. And that’s exactly what happened when she came back. I was literally alone for a brief 10 minutes. But in those 10 minutes, I was consumed by anxiety, busy trying to fight it off or get away from it, forgetting all my coping mechanisms and all the new things I’ve learned recently about how my mind works.
When I talked with Dr. Phil, my therapist, I told him that yes, I felt anxiety, but looking back on it, I realized that it didn’t ruin the experience. And that in my reading, I learned that sometimes you do things for the experience or what you can get out of the experience and you don’t avoid it because you’re afraid. I had a goal. I wanted to take my cat to the vet and find out his sex and whether he was healthy and find out about getting him fixed, it was important to me…and so I had to accept some anxiety into my life in order to get what I wanted.
This is when the epiphany came to me. Hello, avoiding all anxiety is pointless and impossible! It’s WEIRD and NOT NORMAL to try to avoid all anxiety all the time and that’s what I’ve been doing for most of my life. It’s not actually about how much you can stand which is what I always thought. It’s not a challenge. It’s not like…WUSSY…CAN YOU STAND THIS ANXIETY?! CAN YA? I DARE YA!! It’s more about what you want out of life and whether you will let your anxiety hold you back from what you want. And…the other truth is that avoidance is the main reason why my anxiety has been as bad as it has been. Avoidance is the worst thing you can do because it builds upon itself until many things are outside your grasp. And then more and more of what you want gets swallowed by your anxiety, until you can’t go anywhere anymore or do the things you love. That is not an acceptable way to live. However, more avoidance is not the way to fix it because it just creates more unhappiness that you are missing out on your life.
I’m not saying by any means that I have completely embraced anxiety in my life, but I am saying that I’m working on it. I have a life I want to live and things I want to do and if anxiety tries to stand in my way, it better damn well watch it! Engarde Anxiety!! Let us duel to the death!! Cause god dammit, I’m going to start being normal right now! I will accept 10% anxiety in my life! Anxiety cannot make a cuckold out of me! Big spender is getting wild with the anxiety cash!!! Watch out world…I’m gonna finally accept some anxiety into my life! No ONE CAN STOP ME NOWWW!!! I’m UNSTOPPABLE!!
Oh God, I feel a little nervous. RUN AWAY!!! hahaha…just kidding.