Credit: Eleonora Pala
Up until now I had been mostly triggered by what I would describe as big picture things. Things like upcoming school projects, what I plan on doing with my degree, where my current relationships are going, where I see myself in 10 years, and the like. These things bring me anxiety like nothing else in the world, and recently, thanks to learning about mindfulness, I have been able to stabilize my thoughts and put more focus on the present. Of course I still stress out about what is to come, but I’ve been taking steps to combat and reduce that overall stress and anxiety.
About a week ago, I came across a Buzzfeed (good old Buzzfeed) article about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which I recently found out from my doctor that I scored quite high for on the GAD-7 scale. Through my own experience and living through the experiences of others, the entire article was unfortunately second nature for me, as I identified with pretty much every single point that was listed. The one that didn’t sit well in my mind was the one about irrational things. As mentioned above, I stress out a lot on big things, normal people things. Things like big exams, job interviews, first dates – those are normal things to get anxious about. But I couldn’t reconcile this “irrational anxiety” – that is, until today.
Friday night that turned into Saturday was pretty much a disaster for my anxiety. I was caught unprepared with making myself lunch. This, by no means, is anyone’s fault. I feel that the collection of other things – assignments, tests, just life in general – surmounted to a rendezvous with irrational anxiety.
I’m not a genius cook, but I’m decent enough. I’m pretty flexible and can make a mean “insert dish name here” with literally any and every edible ingredient in the fridge. But coming off of a stomach bug and being anxious already led me to be indecisive and come up with a meal that made absolutely no sense: a massive quick oat bowl with peanut butter, apples, pumpkin granola and cinnamon, as well as a stuffed chicken breast. Again, this makes absolutely no sense.
I was a wreck. When I say a massive bowl of quick oats, I mean it. I had no idea how to prepare these oats because I usually make instant oatmeal. I decided to be a little bold this time around, and today might not have been a good idea for it. But I went bold anyways, and when I saw that I had way too much water, my first thought was not to dump out excess water but to add more oats.
I went through a lot of trouble afterwards to make it look pretty, but when the oven timer went off signifying that my chicken was ready to come out of the oven, I lost it. My breathing became so shallow that I fell. I became so overwhelmed at how much food I had – too much for a person with a less than 100% stomach could handle. I was so distressed that at one point I considered calling 911 because I was afraid that I would hurt myself, all over the fact that I couldn’t finish what I made.
Instead, I messaged a trusted friend and they stayed with me until the feelings subsided, and walked me through a rational solution: put the excess in a Tupperware and nothing gets wasted, “because you’ll probably get hungry later, right?”
My point here is that people with anxiety do have these moments. In reflecting what caused this aside from all the existing factors, my thought process was one that short circuited somewhere down the line: I was hungry, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I still felt sick, but I still needed food. Nothing appealed to me, so maybe I should just wait for dinner. No wait, I’ll make two things. But now I’ve made too much, I’ll make myself more sick, I’ll end up wasting food, my parents will get mad at me, and there are people out in the world that have nothing to eat. I’m so wasteful, I’m a horrible person.
It’s unfounded and irrational, but again: I have those moments. And I want you to know that I just need you to be there, to assure me that I’m okay and work things out with me. I don’t expect you to have all the answers or to solve all my problems. But I’ll take any support you can give me, and you can count on the fact that I will be there for you too.