On Mental Health

Anxieties and List-Making

Donnie and I often discuss where those lines fall in my anxieties of “Things I Will Work to Conquer” and “Things I Will Build My Life Around.” A simpler way to refer to them as the “Someday” list and the “Never” list. First, we both know that there are things I put in the later category that sometimes make their way into the first category. Like trail running. Or group running. Or group anything for that matter. I mean, I remember when I first started trying to run in 2006-2007, I told someone at the shoe store, “I don’t like running with other people.”

HA! Silly, Zoot.

So the recognition that things change aside, we often discuss whether or not it’s “giving in” to just arrange my life around some of my anxieties. He’s definitely not pushing me to do things I’m not up for, he knows how far I’ve come in so many ways to ever push me to do anything, but he doesn’t like when I write something off “permanently” because of anxiety. He would much rather me say, “Someday,” and be open to the possibility whereas I feel like there’s a little bit of relief given to my soul if I say “never” even if part of me recognizes that I’ve moved a lot of things off of the “never” list. It’s like I have a “Things To Worry About” list and if things are on the “Never” list, they don’t have to go on “Worry” list! If they’re on the “Someday” list then they’re also on the “Worry” list.

A good example is me and a Manual Shift vehicle. My Dad tried to teach me way back when and there were so many tears we just pushed it to the side. Donnie tried to teach me way back when and basically the same thing happened.

I just really experience high levels of anxiety when I’m driving, so adding an entirely different set of things to worry about on top of the other things I’m already worried about? Seems cruel. And Donnie has accepted it as a “someday” anxiety but he just bought a 5-speed Jeep and now he’s realizing my resistance is a “never” anxiety and he does not like that. But I would rather us not having to keep revisit the idea so I prefer “never” to which he sees as me letting my anxieties dictate my life.

Language matters. And it’s just like with our kids, we don’t like them to say they can’t do something, because then they believe they really can’t and they become closed off to the possibility that maybe they can. AND I GET THAT. But I also know that there is a foreboding sense of dread that hangs over the possibility of someday and I really prefer the reassurance that, if I don’t want to, I don’t have to ever do it. Then I can take it off my “Worry” list! My “Worry” list is long enough. I don’t need “someday learning how to drive a 5-speed” on there. Currently on there is “visit my kid in NYC” and that terrifies me (due to travel anxieties and big city anxieties) and I don’t want to add any other BIG ANXIETIES on the list in the near future until I conquer that one.

What say you, dear friends. How do you use language around talking about your anxieties? Do you put things on the “Never” list just to take them off of your “Worry” list? Or do you believe that gives them too much power?

11 thoughts on “Anxieties and List-Making”

  1. Okay, I know this isn’t what you’re looking for, but I have to comment – for me, driving a manual gave me such a better sense of control that it actually lessened my anxiety with driving. I switched back to an automatic when I got a bigger car but I still miss my stick shift after 3 years.

    But to answer your question, yes, in general, I think it’s totally okay to put things on the “Never” list just to get them off your mind. You do what you have to do to make it through the day (week, year, whatever).

  2. Maybe take time out of the equation entirely? Maybe there is just a no list and a maybe list?

    My husband gets yourself when he thinks I’m being too hard on myself ..I think he sees it as supportive “but you could totally do that!”. Okay, sure, maybe, but it’s totally making me anxious and I don’t want to. There is no reason we have to do everything single thing we are theoretically capable of. If it’s degrading your quality of life, then sure, address it. But some theoretical, far off, maybe an issue? Can sit on the no list until something changes that drives a need to reevaluate.

  3. I think it is perfectly fine to have a “no” list. Honestly, you gave it a try TWICE. There are some things that we should be allowed to say “no” to, especially when we did give them a try. Why do we HAVE to do everything. I suffer from generalized anxiety and social anxiety as well as being an introvert. I push myself A LOT to do things I know my kids and husband need me to do and to try things I want to do. Why can’t we have the break of having a some things we don’t have to worry about. I started doing much better when I embraced my anxiety and introvertedness as part of who I am and that is OK. I don’t see it as holding me back anymore, I see it as helping me to make decisions without as much guilt because I am much more present and less anxious for my family and friends and colleagues when I do say “yes” to something. I still struggle A LOT, but my quality of life is better.

    I had the exact same experience with manual shift. My husband doesn’t like it, but he has accepted it. I tried three times and I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Why do we all have to be the same? My mom didn’t have anxiety and still wasn’t able to drive a stick shift after trying for over a year. Some people just don’t feel comfortable with it.

    And, I have to say that I have read your blog for years and it has been such a tremendous help having someone be so open and honest. I don’t reply (I think this is only my second time) because I spent too much time not taking moments for myself for many years. Now I see it as the self-care that I need.

  4. Oops and to address the talking around kids…I totally get that. Both my girls have anxiety and intense fears and I want so much for them to at least FEEL like they can do anything they set their mind to. I don’t use “never” around them, but I also tell them that it is OK to have things that they just aren’t interested in doing or working on right now. It can go on their “no” list, and it is their choice to take it off of there if they want to someday. Some things are on the MUST list though…like learning to swim as I see that as a safety issue. They are both freaked out, but I saved up to be able to afford semi-private lessons for them together solely for getting them used to putting their face in the water, etc. They understand intellectually that there are a few things like that which I will have them do and exactly why it is important, but they also know that I will be with them every step of the way.

  5. I will learn to drive a standard shift vehicle when I grow a third leg- period. the end. I learned to drive when automatics were just becoming popular. I took driver’s ed the year they got the first automatic car. My husband tried to teach me once. He didn’t try again. When he bought cars for himself, he said I prefer to get a standard. I said, thats fine, but realize that whenever it needs service you will be the one to take it in. I don’t drive standards. I could drop cars off and walk to home or work, so he didn’t have to do any of that. We bought automatics. I am sure that he would like his mustang to have a stick shift, but the same applies. My stubborn daughter did learn to drive a standard in a baptism by fire situation. Her boyfriend was a work party and was so drunk that a coworker used her connections to find our phone #. I took her down and said we will take him home. She said there is no way he will leave his truck there, I will drive it. I said, you don’t know how to drive a standard. She said, well I guess I am about to learn. I followed them to be sure she got him there, and she had a bit off an issue, but she made it and I brought her home. I don’t think she has driven a standard since. In addition to learning how to drive it, she learned that I really did mean that I will pick you or your friends up any where at any time for any reason.

  6. If you are in Huntsville, contact Beth Benefield. She is an amazing swim teacher. I had taught swimming since I was in High School. However I knew that my daughter wouldn’t learn from me because she would give me a hard time. So I dropped her off with Beth B and left the area, and in 2 weeks she could swim across a hotel pool using a reasonable facsimile of 4 different strokes. I also took my “granddaughters” to her. She is the best.

  7. I definitely have a never list. There is nothing wrong with that. People like to tell me I must “face my fears” but, I’m sorry, I will NEVER go skydiving. There is just no need.

    As for the stick shift, I’m with B.A. above. I feel more in control when I drive one. We made all of our kids learn so they had a better understanding of how cars work. And, I feel like they are less likely to be distracted because they need to pay attention. (much more difficult to do things like text while driving a stick.) However, if it is causing you stress then screw it, you can live a perfectly fine life with never learning how.

  8. As for the lists, put as many things on the no list as you like . Maybe write it out, give it a kiss goodbye. Then burn it, literally burn it, at night and watch the flames. I have anxiety, depression, and ADHD. I have a no list and a Hell No list- One the no list would be driving a stick shift, parachuting out of a plane, etc. On the hell no list would be riding a roller coaster, trying to learn higher level math, speaking in front of large group of people, although I did do this once. Although many people don’t believe me because I am so chatty, I am an introvert. I do border on being an extrovert. I just read the book Quiet. It is about maneuvering the world as an introvert. It also describes a third category-an ambivert. I seem to fit that. I also just read an article that said that introverts can be chatty. I just wish that people including ourselves would stop seeing extroversion as a negative trait. We are as we were born and the world needs balance.It needs the quiet , contemplative, solitary people as much as it needs the extroverts.

  9. i wish there was an edit function on blogs. In my last post it says extroversion when it should say introversion.

  10. I agree that a maybe list and a no list are good. I don’t know how to drive a stick shift either. My dad tried to teach me (he also couldn’t teach me to drive an automatic. Too much yelling.) Strangely enough I did do better with it when a car dealer took the time to teach me. When I was 20, and shopping for my first car, the one I thought I wanted was a Dodge Rampage (combo car/truck). So perhaps that is where things change – I wanted it, so I was managing to learn. In the end I bought a 65 mustang, automatic, so I never really learned. I think there has to be a desire/need to overcome the no list and if it isn’t there, that is okay. I try to encourage my kids not to say can’t or never as well. Sometimes I will tell my Wesley that he can try something when he his ready. If he is really interested in it, he will warm up to the idea, otherwise I will let it go away. I did make him learn to swim, but found a teacher who worked with his fear really well and taught him. Now he has a great time in the water!

  11. There is a lot of freedom with having a no list…and having it respected. I discovered this through therapy when we discussed some issues I was having with my husband. While I had tried to mention them before, he hadn’t really heard me, so kept pushing thinking it was best for me. We had to have a real heart-to-heart (which of course started with a blow up) for me to express how important it was to be heard and respected. Now that he does, it is such a huge weight off my back and has allowed me to move on in so many other ways as well.

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