This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.
On a recent long weekend trip up to Atlanta, Robert and I explored and ate and barhopped and went to the symphony and the theatre and even the opera.
We really had a terrific time. Well, most of the time. Except for the time when it wasn’t so terrific for me. (Which means that at that particular time it wasn’t terrific for HR either.)
Truffles (my nickname for my anxiety) showed up (uninvited) on the first evening of our … terrific trip. I don’t have a hold on whether or not I sometimes trigger my anxiety (I suspect I’m a culprit), but I do know that when I get pretty (ugly?) anxious, I sort of lose grip on the usually cool, calm and collected Neal. Together Neal. Funny Neal. Public Neal. Those Neals suddenly skedaddle. I can’t make them stay, though desperately I try.
We were staying in a very cool Airbnb steps from lovely Piedmont Park. Robert had prepared a beautiful roasted garlic chicken penne with asparagus supper. But Truffles was already making his presence known before we even sat down to eat. You see, I had gotten sick at the end of our last Atlanta trip, and I suppose I was a bit concerned it might happen again.
And then I looked closer at Robert’s beautiful food, and my anxiety skyrocketed. Which of course makes absolutely no sense. But neither does generalized anxiety disorder, at least not to me. I didn’t want Truffles there ruining our evening. So I did one of my Two Least Effective Ways to Deal With Anxiety Strategies: Nothing. I said zilch to HR and pretended to him and to myself that all was well. (In case you are interested, the other least effective strategy is to fight anxiety as my mortal enemy.)
Then dinner itself quickly became my enemy. The garlic smelled far too garlicky. And the creamy garlic sauce was leaning toward being alfredo. Which is perfectly fine for 99.9% of the human population, but I have a crazy connection in my mind between alfredo sauce and breath-inhibiting nausea. And the thought of being nauseous electrifies my anxiety. (I know, I know, I need to just get over this.)
The evening was unraveling. I felt bloated, even though I had barely touched dinner. All because of Truffles! I wanted to pack up and head back home. Because of course you can just run away from anxiety. Leave it geographically behind.
Of course Robert quickly saw through my attempted impersonation of “Normal Neal.” It wasn’t hard. I’m an easy read. I wasn’t eating, and my breathing had morphed into anxiety staccato. My eyes were wet.
I tried to explain. But you (well, I) cannot explain anxiety. It’s too person-specific, too nuanced. Too IN YOUR FACE at the moment.
Levelheaded HR reminded me that I had a protocol of strategies (which I had forgotten all about) and graciously told me that I didn’t have to eat. “It’s fine.”
I was so Truffled that I even called my therapist back home in Savannah, and Rubi agreed to chat. (Do other folks harass their therapists the way I do, thinking Rubi is constantly glancing at his phone to see if I need anything?) (No? Why not?!)
Fast forward a bit. You really don’t need to see me at my most anxious and illogical self. Sound encouragement from Rubi, chewable Benadryl, deep breathing and (finally!) accepting that Anxiety/Truffles was a part of me and that I have gotten though this many times before all helped to ground me into the reality that life goes on, that the storms don’t last forever.
The next morning, after I set the table for breakfast, Robert weirdly placed a third plate down. Pulled a third chair to the table in front of the plate.
HR then dramatically pointed at the third plate and chair and said …
… “I think we need to make room at the table for Truffles.”
I’m glad I married a creative genius. But I’m also glad the only other clean plate was a smaller one.
Of course Robert—and Therapist Rubi—are right. (Sometimes I get the advice from my two R’s mixed up. It’s often quite similar.) They are both gently pushing me to recognize and accept my anxiety, Truffles, as a part of my life. And to back off from being so dismissive, unaccepting, hopeless (at least in the moment) and combative toward it.
So, okay. I guess. I’ll try. If you absolutely insist.
“Truffles, I invite you to sit at the table.”
“But I expect you to sit properly at that table. And to use your best manners. And to have taken a very hot shower before you come. With antibacterial soap. We all know Truffles can reek. And do not try to dominate the conversation. HR and I have a few things to say ourselves, you know. And if you don’t have something nice to say about people or things, just don’t say anything. And please do not overstay your welcome. This is not a spend the night party!”
“So, yes, Truffles, I invite you to sit at the table.”
Truffles: “I actually feel sorry for HR and Rubi. They’ve got their hands full with this one. When I’m with him, I’m often on the verge of a panic attack myself.”