On Proportional Anxiety

Sometimes, when you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you find yourself with a stress level that you understand…intellectually…is extreme for the thing that is stressing you out. Unfortunately, that does nothing to lessen the anxiety you. As a matter of fact, in some situations…knowing that your stress level is completely out of range can make you feel more stressed out.

For me…my social anxiety does this to me the most often. I may have a simple and small lunch I have to attend with just a few casual acquaintances and I fill find myself completely unable to sleep the night before. OVER LUNCH WITH FRIENDS.

Last summer we signed Wesley up for swim team and we learned in the parent orientation that it takes A LOT of parent volunteers to put on a swim meet and so most teams have a certain volunteer requirement they hold parents to in a season. THIS FREAKED ME OUT because I knew absolutely NOTHING about swim teams or swim meets. Since I was spending so much time in Knoxville last summer, I basically made my swim Mom friends there walk me through all of the volunteer jobs they have done in the past to help me choose what to do.

But then a “lead” position opened up at my pool for the concessions and that job would fill ALL of your requirements so I jumped at the chances because…NO UNDERSTANDING OF SWIMMING NEEDED! It’s just shopping/stocking/setting up the concessions for all of the home meets. Also, we had intermission concession stands at our big shows when E was in high school and so I was experienced with on-the-spot concession stands! GIVE ME THE JOB.

The thing is…my stress level was completely ridiculous for this job. I had many sleepless nights in advance of all 3 home meets worrying about how to transport ice and how to keep drinks cold with limited coolers and what if we run out of snacks or water and what if everyone changes their mind this year about what candy they like?

(If you’ve ever stocked concessions year to year for any event you become quickly familiar with how undependable yearly shopping lists can be. One year our intermission concession stands ran out of Skittle so the next year we increased the quantity only to find that the NEXT year Airheads were the hot candy.)

I remember just getting so mad at myself and then having to do the: Be Kind To Yourself talk where you try to STOP being hard on yourself. It went something like this:

Kim…this is simply the way your brain works and maybe you need to break out some of the coping skills you learned to keep your panic at bay EXCEPT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IMPLEMENT COPING SKILLS WHEN YOU ARE EXHAUSTED FROM NOT SLEEPING AND OH MY GOD I AM GOING TO BE THE FIRST PERSON EVER FIRED FROM THIS JOB.

I feel confident that many of you are nodding right now going, “Yes…I have also failed at giving myself the same talk.”

Well…I’m here to tell you that a year later? And I’m still doing that stupid dance of ridiculous levels of anxiety for a minor volunteer obligation. Our first home meet is today and I woke up at 2:30am, unable to sleep, so I started making our signs. It’s just such a weird position to be in, to feel a thing that one part of your brain understands is WAAAAAAY OUT OF PROPORTION for what the situation requires and yet…YOU ARE UNABLE TO MEDIATE IT.

Intellectually I know that even if we run out of water and snacks and if the gatorades get hot or we run out of change…everything will be FINE. This is not a job that ensures anyone’s safety, it doesn’t even have any effect on the kids swimming unless they swim worse knowing we don’t have their favorite candy. BUT THAT IS ON THEM, NOT ME. The non-anxiety side of my brain knows there is no reason to panic about ANY of this.

But the OTHER part of my brain? Convinces herself that all of the other parents think our concessions are terrible and that anyone else would be able to do a better job. That side of my brain makes this job out to be THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB IN THE WORLD when it’s actually the LEAST important job of the whole meet as I could actually NOT EVEN DO IT and the meet would still happen without me.

Anxiety is a funny thing. I’ll just try my best to remember my tools…especially the “worse case scenario” game where you actually walk yourself through all of the “catastrophes” you fear so you can show your anxious brain how either a) rare they are or b) how easily survivable they are. This game is less effective when you’ve been up since 2:30am, but it’s something.

I am also so very grateful that THIS is my job and not anything that requires a stopwatch or an understanding of flip turns. COULD YOU EVEN IMAGINE IF I ACTUALLY HAD A STRESSFUL JOB?

2 thoughts on “On Proportional Anxiety”

  1. I feel you! I am sitting in my son’s backyard watching my granddog running happily around the yard checking all of her favorite spots and ignoring me, her Gammie.

    My son and family have gone on vacation and my husband and I have dog duty. So I spent most of yesterday and most of the night imagining all the horrible things that could happen on our watch!

    My monkey mind always finds a way to rule me

  2. Oh girl, yes. I am a Over Thinker, and cannot sleep if there is a thought/worry/question circling my brain too aggressively. One of my biggest is fears is forgetting something and/or otherwise looking stupid in a social situation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself doing something super weird in the middle of night because if I don’t, I will worry about forgetting it, and then I won’t sleep. I fought the urge so bad just last night at like, midnight, to make lemonade for a picnic FOUR DAYS FROM NOW, because that’s silly. So instead I got up, piled the jugs and cans of mix on the counter, so I definitely won’t forget. There was also a December night where I was wrapping gifts at 2am, crying because I knew how ridiculous it was, but I wouldn’t have been able to function with the fear that I was going to forget to do it (?) and ruin Christmas.

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