Tag Archives: High Anxiety

High Anxiety: I’ve Got Mail

Right now, there is an email sitting in my inbox. Seeing it there makes my. It’s not from a lover (or a hater), not from my mother, or someone I’m specifically trying to avoid because I said something that made her mad, or he said something that made me hate him a little bit. The email is from my thesis supervisor. It will be a small email, quite short I think, because she is busy and has other students to tend to. I haven’t opened it yet. But I can read the beginning … “my main suggestion would be”

My body takes up the tension like a sponge. Would be what? To just scrap the whole thing and start again? To just be better? To just give up? I am too proud for this, and my pride makes me anxious.

Deep breaths.

It’s just an email. It’s just words. Just pixels on a screen. Word are my friends, and so are pixels. No, words and I are more than friends. We go way back, back to when my father gave me my first note book and pen and told me I could write whatever I wanted in it. That was the root of it, the feeling I had when he gave me that book, when he gave me that freedom to create. It is the root of why I am still writing, of why I am am doing this stupid thesis in the first place.

But I am the worst with emails. I have deleted emails from people who have hurt me, and are trying to apologize. I’ve deleted emails from people who I’ve hurt, and cannot bear to read how and why. It is a sick coiling in my gut, to read those first few words, and only those, to scroll through the possibilities of what they could mean, and settle on the worst one. It is cowardly to obliterate their carefully thought out lines, and the time they have spent crafting them. Now they are just floating through space, unread, like unseen stars, and even the thought of that makes the bile bubble up.

Maybe I’ll walk to the Blackheart and Sparrow, buy myself one of those nice imported beers, the ones they keep up the back, and cost the same as a whole bottle of wine. Maybe I’ll take it home, maybe I’ll sit at my desk, maybe I’ll take a long sip before I open that email.

Maybe it won’t be as bad as I think. Maybe this is just a chamomile tea situation.

Maybe.

Deep breaths.

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Star Wolf

Star Wolf & Cosmic Crow by Jilly DreadfulI am a wolf made of swirling galaxies and I am in search of a pack. The constant search for wolves made of similar stuff has been wearisome on my wolf bones. The pads of my wolf feet are dry and cracked from miles of searching in the snow—snow that goes on for infinity in all three dimensions of cubic volume. So it comes as no surprise that the trails I once found have long since grown cold. It comes as no surprise that I have lost the scent of creatures made of the same star stuff as me.

But then there is a crow. He is white as the snow I trudge through, and I can tell he relishes the surprise he causes me by undermining my expectations of what a crow should look like. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a crow to be made of the same density of blackness as myself. The crow enjoys the way he stands out in the murder of other crows—at once, accepted as part of the collective, but, also singular in his peculiar color.

My heart is made of dark matter, and it’s comes with its own gravitational pull, and although the crow is curious about my orbit, he is wary as well. And he should be. I am made of the crushing force of a thousand collapsed suns. What creature could possibly withstand the catastrophic force of a star running out of fuel and condensing into a black hole shaped like a wolf?

It is better to not be curious about such creatures. It is best to make my bed in the snow and sleep and sink into an event horizon of my own making.

But the crow’s curiosity follows me, outweighing his natural impulse of wariness. He makes wide circles at first, creating his own apogean path, giving me time to decide whether I trust the crow to come any closer, giving him time to decide whether he trusts my jaws to be still.

I stay still. I don’t snap my teeth, I don’t even howl, even though the moon is bright and full, and I can feel her yanking on the tides of the planets that swirl inside me. The moon makes me want to run; not in fear, but to run for the joyful crunch of paws on snow, and my particular ability to melt into the night.

When the crow swoops toward me, he conjuncts my heart and flies right through. He isn’t bound by my gravity. He isn’t bound by the orbital path I would’ve expected my dark matter heart to force upon other creatures who dared to venture too close. The diving conjunction gives the crow his own momentum, and he flies the highest I have ever seen a crow fly. So high that the moon is able to lean down and give the crow a kiss, and moonbeams bounce off his back.

Seeing him fly in such a way gives me hope that I, too, can survive as a star wolf, with swirling galaxies, but without a pack to call my own.

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Definitions

Mary Oliver

 

 

“Poets are among the most fearless of writers when it comes to self-revelation.” – Richard M. Berlin

 

 

There is a wonderful book about the intersection between mental health and poetry that I strongly urge every poet to read. It’s called Poets on Prozac: Mental Illness, Treatment, and the Creative Process. The book’s premise is that, contrary to popular belief, madness does not inspire creativity in poets. The book is comprised of a series of essays from published and well-read poets that have struggled with mental health and their very personal take on how mental health, and consequent healing through medicaton and other therapies, has affected their writing.

What’s even more unique about this collection of essays is that it features each contributing writer’s poetry before, during, and after treatment for mental illness. More often than not, the writing of the poet had improved. They were able to tackle subject matters in their poetry that they’d previously been afraid to explore. Because of their increased attention span, they were able to stay with a poem longer, pulling it through the rigorous edits necessary for publication. And, of course, they found the motivation and courage to publish.

It’s been a couple months since I read that book, but like any book worth reading, I find myself thinking about it, going back to it and re-reading parts, highlighting new quotes. It’s the first book I’ve read that doesn’t romanticize the connection between poetry and mental health, the relationship between the poet and her writing. I started to consider both my work and my illness–previously two separate entities–in the context of these essays. How had my anxiety affected my writing? And the more important question: how had my recovery improved my writing, if at all?

Below is my own essay, written as if it could be published alongside those authors in Poets on Prozac. While sharing my story isn’t exactly something I delight in, I do feel that it needs to be done so that we can begin to lay the groundwork for a safe place to talk about mental health. As always, sending my love.

DEFINITION

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Creature of Comfort: The Comfort Box and Managing Anxiety by [sic]

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A selection of items from my comfort box.

 

The Comfort Box by [sic]

*NOTE: Sharing aspects of my anxiety is something that I struggle with, but I felt this was so important to write. Thanks to my fellow Kindreds who encouraged me to post this piece.  Love and support: two vital components to managing anxiety. I hope this also inspires my other Kindred spirits to join in. This is such a hard subject to talk about. Anxiety is difficult, but together, we can start a conversation. Enjoy.

Anxiety is hell. Sometimes, even just accomplishing basic tasks can be exhausting. As I began learning how to manage my disorder, I wondered how others coped with their anxiety and went searching on the internet, finding sites such as Kill Your Anxiety, which offers resources, advice and soothing images. I believe it was through them that I stumbled upon a blog post from Mental Illness Mouse about making a comfort box, and it was one of the best things I could have ever found. Reading the list inspired me to think of all the little things I could do to care for myself, even at my most anxious. I went about curating the box with the utmost care. My box is an ottoman that I had bought on a whim at Target when I first moved into my apartment. Sturdy and gray with a padded neon yellow cover, it matched absolutely none of the décor in my home, but it called out to me. I’ve had it in my room ever since, storing odds and ends, but once I started on my project it made sense to have this ottoman be the place to house my comfort items. A journal, a rotating selection of fashion magazines, volumes of poetry, books sent to me by friends, mints, hand lotion, DVDs of calming movies. A Ziploc bag full of magazine clippings, glue sticks and packing tape for making collages. Colored pencils because coloring and doodling is so relaxing to me. Gel pens because they write smoothly and my thoughts can flow onto paper uninterrupted. Tiny treasures that may not seem like much to most but provided calm during trying times.

I’m not saying that surrounding yourself with lovely things will cure you of your anxiety. It doesn’t. Nor does shopping incessantly to fill a void or relying on material items for happiness. The comfort box is my way of making sure I am remembering that I need to care for myself, that I am a human being and can love myself, even if I don’t have money. Self-care is so necessary.

You don’t have to have a lot of money to make a box. Most of my comforts are gifts or items sourced from digging through closets and boxes to repurpose things I already own. The comfort box has inspired me to be resourceful with what I already have and create little comfort centers throughout my home. I whip up my own cheap, natural body scrubs and bath salts for a relaxing soak. A red and white polka dot makeup case in my bathroom holds beauty and skincare samples so I always have a little spa-like experience whenever I need a pick-me-up. I’ve loaded my e-reader with soothing music and reading material, and I bookmarked some of my favorite websites that help me combat anxious feelings so that I can just launch the web and see something calming right away. A portable comfort box, if you will.

After reading an article on Goop titled “Selfish Selflessness: The Art of Self-Healing“, I created a “womb-like” space in my living room by outfitting my beloved ugly secondhand recliner with the softest cable knit blanket, my Ugly Doll and the first Christmas present my husband ever made me, a hand-drawn poem scroll. I like settling into the recliner and wrapping myself in the blanket and a soft pink Isaac Mizrahi Live! scarf, given to me by a dear friend, while writing in my journal or reading a good book and drinking a cup of tea. It’s a good place to sit and center myself when I’m having trouble sleeping or just need a little time to reset. I keep a yoga mat in my living room closet for impromptu stretching and meditation.

I turned a table, another free secondhand find from years ago, into a special desk with little tubes of glitter and a tutorial from Jinx in the Sky. Every time I sit down to work, I feel like I’m in another realm. The old mug with a broken handle that my sister gave to me way back when I lived in Brooklyn is now my pen holder. The mug is decorated with a picture of my entire family, and seeing us as kids with toothy grins, snuggled up with my mom and dad on our old sofa, instantly brings me happiness. Having that sparkle and warmth to greet me every day helps to distract me from anxious feelings so I can focus on writing. I’m learning how to turn old containers into office accessories. Not only does it save me money (which eases stress!), it makes everything in my work environment seem personal and a little more special. The space is decorated with collages and vision boards.

It’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s okay to breathe and sparkle and read and look at beautiful pictures and drink warm tea and feel good. It’s okay to cry and be scared and then soothe yourself after you cry and be proud of yourself for dealing with fear. Creating a comfort box helped me to realize all of this.

[sic]

 

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[sic] New Kindred Theme: High Anxiety

Hello everyone,

It’s your friendly neighborhood [sic], here to introduce the Collective’s new theme for this month: High Anxiety. Anxiety is something that has been on my mind a great deal lately. On my mind, in my gut, running through my bloodstream. If you look through some of my past posts, you’ll see that anxiety has plagued me for some time. Now, as I learn to manage my anxiety and live a full life, I invite all my Kindreds to share their experiences with High Anxiety. Let’s talk about the darkness and the light. How do you manage anxiety? How has it affected your lives? When has anxiety hurt you? Saved you? Have you made peace with that dreaded feeling? Anxiety can be crushing and isolating, so let’s start a conversation. Readers, feel free to comment and share with us!

Cheers,

[sic]

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