worry wart

I had a ninety-minute full-body massage on Saturday. It was wonderful, but it took me a little while to fully relax. Until that happened (probably around the forty-five minute mark…) my mind wandered.

I thought about the lunch and drinks I’d have with my friend after the massage. I thought about the hair cut I had scheduled for the following day. I thought about my next date with a guy I’d met recently. I thought about an ex-friend who’d betrayed me. I thought about my novel in progress. I thought about the new Facebook ad I’d created for an existing book.

And then it occurred to me that with almost all of these thoughts came worry, stress, and fear. What if the menu didn’t have anything I could eat on my restricted diet? What if things didn’t go well with the guy? What if my new book wasn’t good? Why weren’t more readers buying my existing books? For as long as it took me to finally grasp mindfulness and give into the pleasurable pressure of the massage, I was as tense as senators at a U.S. congressional meeting.

Fear and worry have always been my Achilles heel. For the most part, I muddle through, but other times, it’s a small itch I scratch until it becomes a festering sore. Sometimes it keeps me up at night. Occasionally, it affects how I communicate with others, and causes me to do or not do things I regret later. Over the last week, I’ve been attacked by worry from more angles than I can handle. My stomach has been in constant knots and it’s making it hard to enjoy myself in the moment.

Before he passed away, my friend Alan hated when I’d get this way, and he’d talk me off the ledge. I have another friend who is pretty awesome at it too, but the truth is, no one can “heal” me except myself. When I mentally talk myself down, it helps temporarily, but then I forget what I said to myself.

As an experiment, I decided to talk myself down in writing so I could read it again as needed. I wrote down each issue currently worrying me followed by a list of arguments against it—why I was being irrational. I also wrote down the worst-case-scenario—if what I worried about came to fruition, what was the worst thing that would happen as a result? (This helped me put it into perspective) Finally, I jotted down a logical thought process for handling it in the moment—if this happens, don’t forget about this, that, and the other thing. I found it really helped for at least one fear I was stressing over!

Everyone has different ways of dealing with their demons. I’m a constant work-in-progress. For other worry warts out there, care to share your tricks?

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Warning: personal information enclosed

I began my day extremely anxious.  I had a doctor’s appointment, nothing alarming, just your standard “annual physical.” Except that my “annual” physical has not been “annual” in quite a few years.  It’s not that I neglected my health but I concentrated on the specific issues handled by specialists – dentist, eye doctor (optometrist?), gynecologist and dermatologist.  I must confess that with the exception of the dentist, I wasn’t seeing the other doctors like clock-work either, although definitely regularly enough not to be considered negligent.  Anyway, as I woke up in sweats wondering what blood disease I had, if I had thyroid issues, high (or low) blood pressure, etc., I realized it was probably my conscience telling me to start acting like a grown-up and get my butt to the doctor.  It’s just that doctors make me anxious.  Despite the fact that they exist to keep me healthy, I am afraid of them.  However, as much as I dread going to the doctor, I adore a good nights sleep and so after a few weeks of interrupted slumber, I summoned the balls and made an appointment with an Internist/General Practice physician.  My insurance had recently changed and so I chose a doctor randomly based on her proximity to my apartment and my office.  My appointment was this morning and so I began my day anxious. During my workout at the gym, I worked out hard, noting to myself that if I was dying, I probably wouldn’t be able to work out as often and with as much intensity as I do.  And when all of my favorite songs randomly came up on my ipod, I decided it was a sign that everything would be just fine.  But I was still nervous.  (I’m sure I sound like a huge baby/drama queen.  And yes, I am both of those things sometimes…)    

When I got to the doctor’s office and began filling out my insurance information, my stomach was tied up in knots and it remained that way after the nurse brought me into the room and told me to wait for the doctor.  The doctor came in and introduced herself to me before I was told to undress which I thought was a nice touch.  It might have been awkward meeting her for the first time wearing nothing but a thong and a paper robe.  I was less nervous after she left me to change.  And even less nervous after she took my blood pressure and said it was perfect, was pleased with my weight, felt my neck and said my thyroid was fine, gave me a breast exam and concluded that I seemed pretty darn healthy to her and that she would send someone in to take my blood and give me an EKG.  By the time my blood was taken, I wasn’t even nervous anymore and was just extremely happy that I had started what I decided would definitely be an annual tradition.  For real this time.  My life is way too important to me and my health plays a huge (the hugest) part of my life and should not be neglected.  Although I am still awaiting the results of my blood work, I am currently content with the knowledge that I did what I had to do.  While I was feeling brave, I even made an appointment for my first mammogram.  I’m sure I will not sleep the night before but knowing that the doctor didn’t find any lumps during her exam and that I am young and healthy will hopefully keep me from nightmares of having breast cancer. 

I gotta say, getting older comes with a lot of crap I would prefer to avoid, including the aforementioned mammogram but the alternative to getting older is not something I am ready to face.  I have too much love to give and receive and too many more books to write to take my health lightly.