I got a pretty good night’s sleep last night. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day with temperatures in the “Josh’s favorite weather” range (60s-70s F). It’s the last day of the work week before a weekend that involves me driving to Wichita with my daughter to see the Go-Go’s and hang out with my imaginary girlfriend, Jane Wiedlin. My job is going well, I had fun playing Pathfinder with friends last night…this is an excellent day.
It’s also a day when my anxiety is running really high. On my drive to work, my hands clutched the steering wheel like they were glued on, my knuckles white. Every time a car or truck passed me on the road, my heart skipped a beat. I feel like my clothes don’t fit me right and look stupid on me. When I see myself in the mirror, I look fat and idiotic. Everything I’ve said in the past week, no matter how trivial or conversational, is running through my brain, my mind scanning every sentence and phrase for blunders.
We’ve come a long way in our understanding and perceptions of mental health, but there’s still a lot of thinking that people can just “get over it.” “What do you have to be depressed about? Why are you worried when it’s such a nice day?” And while it’s true that situations and environments can trigger or compound anxiety, depression, compulsions, etc, they also exist independent of that. I can step back a bit, step outside of myself, look at how my brain chemistry is spiking my anxiety even when everything today is so good, and it fascinates me. It’s strange and amazing how our brains function, even when (especially when) they’re not functioning in the ideal way.
I can step back and look at it, but I can’t get away from it. I can take meds that help regulate my brain chemistry. I can use techniques to help keep myself calm and to deal with unhelpful thoughts that come up. But I can’t just look at the beautiful, blue sky, feel the delightful breeze whisk around my skin, count all the blessings in my life, and flip a switch that turns my anxiety off.
If only it were that easy.