My original plan was to write about a very meh YA book I recently read that was The Great Gatsby set in a modern day high school. It was an interesting exercise, but a rather boring book. But I’ve decided against it because I really don’t have that much to say after all about this book, and there are bigger things happening in my life (or on the cusp of happening, maybe) that seem more worth my time and your attention.
I have always been an anxious human. I just didn’t realize it or have the right terms for it until sophomore year of college when I took Abnormal Psychology, and later identified the awful feeling ripping at my existence in the middle of one particular night as a panic attack. And then I thought back to all those nauseated-panicky-dizzying episodes of my younger years, whether prompted by a stage performance concluding a church camp or occurring randomly in a Johnny Rockets, and realized that this was not a new development.
A part of me is angry. A part of me is sad. A part of me is relieved. A diagnosis is great. Humans crave explanations for terrible things. But that explanation can’t save Young Maggie from her panic attacks. And giving a name to something only gives you so much power against it.
But in the years since, I’ve started to make sense of my anxiety and what wakes it from its slumber to strangle me and my desires to exist and enjoy things. In college, it was largely based on social things. I had some friendships blow up in my face at the end of freshman year that left me feeling like I was a terrible person who did not deserve to interact with anyone ever. That definitely catapulted my social anxiety to a whole new level. But I met with a counselor on campus several times and learned some tips for working through that whenever it springs up (it’s been pretty chill lately).
Since graduating, anxiety has mostly come out to play when the post grad void sucks me in and makes me feel all kinds of miserable about my future and the lack of direction currently in my life. I’m constantly astounded by how at age 23 I have come to believe that I am falling behind in life. Sometimes I want to smack myself for that. I am doing just fine.
I am doing just fine.
The summer right after I graduated was particularly bad for this kind of mindset. I think there was a little depression sprinkled in because I was in a really dark place for a bit. Fortunately, at that time, I also got really obsessed with twenty one pilots.
twenty one pilots is pretty much a household name by now, being that they are one of the ten most popular bands in the world at the moment. Yet, I still can remember wandering across their music video for “Stressed Out” when it was just recently released and loving the sentiments deeply, but thinking the song was maybe too weird for the rest of the world to latch on to. Everyone in the Clique (their fan group) seemed to think for a while that “Tear in My Heart” was going to be the radio hit. It’s funny to look back on that now and see how wrong we were. Anyway, I digress.
This band has for me, like so so so many of their fans, become a tool for fighting against mental health issues. I didn’t really realize that until this week when anxiety suddenly reared its head after quite the slumber and tore at me quite violently. I retaliated with all the self-care I could manage–writing, dogs, chocolate, sleep, coloring, reading. I listened to twenty one pilots’ music while getting ready in the morning and while driving, willing Josh Dun’s drumming to push out the panicky feeling still lingering inside me as Tyler Joseph’s screams invigorated me. And today, at my worst, I curled up and listened to a track on my phone some wonderful Clique member on Tumblr shared last summer: an hour’s worth of clips of Tyler talking underscored by the sound of a thunderstorm. It is the most soothing thing I have run across.
I felt worlds better afterward.
You see, exciting things, both good and bad are the main invitation for my anxiety to come out and play. In general, I’m not someone who handles ridiculous amounts of stimulation well. Restaurants with loud music have left me nauseous. Fireworks booming over the creek near my house have left me rattled and running for quieter spaces. Amusement park rides, 3-D movies, and swings have all churned the contents of my stomach.
I was not designed for the excitement of life. I thrive on dull and predictable. Schedules, plans, patterns, and to-do lists are the framework of my existence.
Yet, I enjoy traveling to different states and countries, trying new food, going to concerts, braving I-95. I am capable far beyond what you or I might expect.
But anxiety still crawls out every so often to remind me that I have yet to escape its grasp. I am still fearful.
This week’s anxiety has been brought on by the excitement of all excitements in the post-grad world: an in-person job interview for a small business in Northern Virginia!
I AM EXCITED. Mom and I were squealing in the kitchen when I read the email. I had felt the phone interview had gone well, and I like what I’ve read about this company. And the job itself seems like something I could do and enjoy. This news and its associated excitement are good, wonderful, and refreshing.
But it also has me wishing it weren’t happening at all or that it was over sooner. This excitement means change might be on the horizon.
I don’t handle change well. Even when well prepared for it, change is tricky. As mentioned above, I am a girl of schedules, plans, patterns, and t0-do lists, so I am not at ease until my life has found its structure.
With a potential job looming in the near future, I am frightened and excited. Both about the idea of a yes and a no.
If it’s a yes, then I’ll be in a flurry of getting myself settled into adulthood and independence in Northern Virginia. Building a new life in a week already sounds miserable. But I know on the other side it will be everything I’ve been wanting and working toward for so long.
If it’s a no, then I’ll be back to nothing. Back to still living at home and the mundane pattern and life I’ve forged here. Back to everything being temporary, but also extensive. The post grad void is confusing and I’ve found a way to make it work, but for how long? And what if I just can’t find a job?
So I’m trying to hope for this great change to strike me soon. All the while, anxiety is slithering up inside me, reminding me how awful this change will be initially. How it will feel like so many terrible things. But it will also lead to some really excellent things. And the only way out is through.
I’m not sure if there’s any message to this, or if it’s just me offering a measly history of my anxious self and a scattered recap of this week. I don’t really think I have any amazing advice when it comes to dealing with change. You just have to accept that it’s going to happen, whether or not you can see it coming.
As far as this job goes, I know it won’t be the answer to all of my problems. But it will be a step forward in a new direction. It will deliver me into a new phase of schedules, plans, patterns, and to-do lists. And as far as anxiety goes, it’s always going to be there. No amount of fame, money, or power is going to get me the answers that will sate the questions and doubts anxiety whispers. But I have tools like words, music, phone calls with friends, snuggly quilts, and chocolate.
I have hope.
As a popular twenty one pilots’ lyric says:
fear will lose, peace will win
So here’s to whatever comes next. Talk to you soon, friends.