Me versus…

staircase descending into thick white fog

Sometimes it feels like the mental blocks I encounter are endless repeats caused from a looping journey on a short road. As soon as I navigate my way around one, long enough to get some writing done, it circles around once again with the same intensity as before.

The effort of self-coaching, mindfulness, positive self-talk, consciously pushing away intrusive negativity with rational explanations, and reminding myself of my accomplishments (when my own brain tries to convince me that I am incompetent) is exhausting!

My anxiety is worse now than it has ever been. It hurts to admit that. I don’t think there’s anything stressful enough occurring at present to warrant the constant tension and restlessness I feel. Several people that know me disagree with my opinion.

I am at the most stable, accomplished, and supported level of my life. But I can’t sleep, I can’t relax, and I constantly get squeezing chest pain that scares me.

I tried ignoring it. I discarded it as the same anxiety that I’ve always had. I assumed that the sensations would pass and everything would go back to normal. Obviously, that didn’t happen. It got worse. I’ve been to my doctor’s office several times, I was referred to a cardiologist, a rheumatologist, and a psychiatrist. I briefly saw a therapist that I could not connect with.

My anxiety is affecting my heart rate and treatment is still being explored.

Six months ago, I tried to convince myself that nothing was wrong. I couldn’t walk up my stairs without getting dizzy, and walking to the end of the street was out of the question. But the thought of going to see multiple doctors made me feel ill. Getting up for work in the morning, made me feel ill. Cleaning. Going outside. Driving. Cooking. Things I had done effortlessly before became intense pitfalls of irrational thoughts.

Don’t clean, you’ll end up poisoning your cats. Don’t cook, the house will burn down. Don’t drive, you’ll get in an accident. Don’t go outside, someone is going to hurt you. Don’t tell anyone what’s going on, they’ll think you’re crazy. Don’t go to sleep, you’re not going to wake up.

It has been hard.

I am accustomed to overwhelming thoughts when I’m trying to complete a task. Imposter syndrome frequently reminds me that I don’t know how to do my job – even though I’ve been in the position for nine years, graduated at the top of my class, and I’m constantly told that everyone at work adores me.

Having it creep up in mundane activities in my regular life has been paralyzing. There are mornings when I wake up, and I’m afraid to leave bed because I think I’m going to let someone down. I think I’m going to fail. I think I’m going to die. The past few days, when standing at the top of my stairs, I felt a tight flutter in my chest because I thought I was going to fall.

An instant of paranoid thought spirals into hours of over-analytical self-criticism.

How do you respond to irrational thoughts that are interfering with your day-to-day life? Lots of people have told me to combat them with rationality. Fight fiction with fact. Look to what’s tangible. Repeat it to yourself until you believe it.

Except some of these incarnate items are precisely what is stressing me out… so I’d like to try a different approach. I’m going to be transparent with my worries.

  • I’m afraid to take time off work because I look after my younger brother and sister. I equate time away from the obligations that support us as me failing them.
  • I question the authenticity of everyone in my life (their feelings, intentions, thoughts, honesty).
  • I am afraid that I’m going to fail (at everything) so I hyper focus like a perfectionist.
  • The idea of continuing to be a stabilizing force (role model, employee, friend, caregiver, etc.) for others makes me feel nauseous. Even though these are things I have actively and successfully done for years without incident or issue, part of me believes that I’m a fraud and everyone is going to find out “the truth.”
  • I’m afraid to share my writing (this isn’t new).
  • I worry that I’m too specialized in my field, because I’ve had the same job for so long, and that I won’t be employable anywhere else.
  • I don’t think I should be writing genre because I have been told my entire life that it’s more important for me as a BIPOC person to write about BIPOC issues and experiences in order to raise awareness. Because representation matters and if I’m not raising awareness then I’m betraying my ancestors.
  • I am terrified that having queer characters in my story is going to be poorly received by my queer friends (and the queer community).
  • I believe my husband is lying to me about loving me.
  • I worry that someone in my family is going to physically harm me (even though I haven’t seen any of them in over a year).
  • I have this crushing sensation in my chest sometimes when I’m writing because I’m worried that after putting all of this effort into my passion project it’ll never go anywhere. Everyone will hate it. Or worse… it’ll become popular. (I did mention this shit was irrational.)

When I think of my writing, I’m elated. I can make these vibrant places and people that I would love to be a part of. That I wish wholeheartedly were real.

When I think about my future; my siblings moving out; having children; my goal to pursue a career in writing; being published; completing this project… everything is blanketed in a thick fog. I cannot picture myself there. That is also not new.

I don’t think I have, or deserve, a future. And I have felt that way for as long as I can remember.

In the battle of Me versus Myself, I succeed and fail simultaneously each day. I am not my enemy. I am my worst enemy. I am not my truest believer. I am my most faithful supplicant. I don’t think I can do anything.

I know I can do everything.

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