At one point, I wanted to say that my anxiety snuck up on me, but I’ve noticed that I probably should have seen this coming. There were signs that I should have paid more attention to before things got really bad. Hints that the stress was building and not diffusing properly were hidden by physical issues like my sleep apnea taking all of the blame for me having trouble sleeping. I keep kicking myself a little to have let it get this far, but I also understand that I only think this way because of hindsight. There were two mentalities that got in my way:
- I was so busy working on stuff that I never noticed what was going on. We’ve all fallen into a level of concentration to get work done whether it be at a job or at home. I’ve been juggling author, father, husband, blogger, and semi-homemaker since 2013 and it doesn’t always go well. Yet, the roles create a hazy barrier that prevented me from seeing what was going on internally. I always thought I was just tired and never considered that things were building.
- The second mentality is one that I’m sure many people know well. It’s the belief that we can muscle through and rest later. Don’t worry about that all-nighter because I’m sure the weekend will let me rest. Sure, I can do extra grocery shopping the same day that I’m releasing my next book. I’ll handle that and rest later . . . That rest rarely came and even then it would only nurse me back to partial mental health. I spent years ‘muscling through’ the stress and this is the result. It reminds me of a panicked elephant that charges through a series of fences and walls. Yes, the elephant gets to the end of the path and can relax, but a lot of damage has been done.
There was one really big sign that I was susceptible to this issue too, but it was one that felt so far removed that I never considered it. Long ago, I had a job that didn’t go well. I was miserable and stressed to the point where I got twitchy whenever I reached the parkway exit that led to the building. I had breathing issues, a few bouts of temporary paralysis in my car (parked in the morning), and began developing dark thoughts that involved an overpass that I went over. Yeah, it was mentally brutal at a time where I had a lot of personal stuff that I was juggling. I nearly snapped, but got out of the job and thought that was the situation I had to avoid.
Apparently, I was wrong. I was really foolish for thinking that specific situation was the only one. It was definitely the one that hit me fast and hard, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t slowly slip into the darkness. Maybe I firmly believed that nothing could be worse than that, so I let the small things build up over years. Once I went full-time author, I thought I had more control over my path. I didn’t realize that so many people would either have a problem with this or think this was an opening to direct me. People who aren’t authors don’t realize the time, work, and concentration needed to put out even a decent book. It isn’t something you can just walk away from whenever you’re called over to help. If you’re being stressed out over the money your published books are making then you start to lose the fun of writing the new stuff. I began to develop a little self-loathing that I was letting people draw me more into the numbers/financial side of being an author, which was stressing me out too much to enjoy the art side. I got irritable on the outside too and the negativity began to seep in. It’s actually really amazing how easily people can ruin things.
Here is where I’m sure people will say that I can’t let what others think and say affect my emotions. I’ve heard that for years, but there’s a problem. Humans are social creatures, which means we naturally leave ourselves open for these things. Closing ourselves off results in other problems like a loss of empathy, becoming anti-social, and possibly even paranoia. So, one has to find a balance between letting criticism in and shrugging some of it off. Yet, this isn’t easy to do when you feel like you’re suffering from a daily barrage of criticism in regards to your life choices. I mention ‘erosion’ in the title and that’s what I think this causes. The words and sense of being alone grind away at your sense of self-worth and confidence. Eventually, you only have the raw emotional nerves exposed and that’s when things like anxiety can turn up. Am I doing the right thing? Did I make a mistake? Am I an idiot for even trying? What’s the point of living if everything I do is a failure? As you can see, it can go very dark pretty quickly. I’ll talk about anxiety and depression doing a team up next week though.
So, I have to figure out how to reduce the stress I’ve built up as well as stop the newer batch from getting to me. This isn’t easy and I think it requires a lot more than what I’m doing. As many have said in previous comments, anxiety and mental illness in general is not something that can be handled alone. You need friends and family to help, but this also requires that they pay attention to how they act towards you. If I’m trying to handle my anxiety then it doesn’t help to stress me out even if you think you’re helping. We as a species have to get better at reading others and acknowledging our effect on others. Doing so could even help us with our own issues that we might not even be aware of. It isn’t like I’m the only person to have stress build up over time.