8 Things To Do When Anxiety Threatens To Consume Your Whole Life

Dance like no one is watching. Even though they definitely are, and they are definitely judging you, and ohmygodIcantbreathe.
Publish date:
March 12, 2014
antidepressants, anxiety, everybody loves lists

I'm anxious. I've always been anxious. My mom says I used to scream in a panic-stricken, overwrought way even when I was an infant. That's right, other newborns had colic -- I had an existential crisis. When I was three and my little sister was born, I knocked on my parents' door in the middle of the night. "Did I do something wrong?" I asked them. "Is it my fault?"

I was a self-obsessed ball of fret before I had things to worry about other than missing Sesame Street. When I was eight, a late-night viewing of "Field of Dreams" left me so upset about the prospect of my own death that I couldn't stop dream. I mean, it was that or a deeply-felt dislike of Kevin Costner. Pick your poison.

I was and am a ball of worry. It has always been so. It keeps me from telling people I care about them, because I know categorically that no one could ever care about me, because, you know, I am an unlovable monster. "Why do you think you're unlovable?" This is a question my therapist asks me regularly. I squirm with discomfort every time, partially because I resent being a therapeutic cliche and partially because I hate not knowing things. And that's my only answer: I don't know.

But I'm working on it. Working on it means I get angry a lot, something I've never really done before. But of course, a person terrified that no one will like them getting angry for the first time, tends to just be me quietly say "I am angry" in a kind of surprised way over and over again. I'm hoping to one day evolve to a healthy level of Hulk-Smash rage. It also means I do stuff like watch "Frozen" and bawl during "Let It Go" because I over-identify. Except for the part about the cold never bothering me. The cold sucks.

Working on it always means that back-sliding and shitty days happen. There is no magic cure, but after 30 years, if I ever want to do something like, you know, date someone, or one day have children, or, you know, maintain real and lasting friendships, I've got to keep going -- even during the shittiest days. So if you are like me, a tightly-wound ball of angst, self-loathing, anxiety, and chapped-nibbled-on lips but trying not to be, here are 8 things you can do when you're having a less-than awesome day coping with anxiety.

1. Go Get Coffee, Man

Like, probably decaf, but that it not actually the point. On my worst days, the idea of doing anything, no mater how small or even pleasant can seem daunting. Weirdly, getting coffee ranks. Does this place take cards? Where do I stand to order? What if I have to make small-talk? These are things I have put in my own way. They are things that are vanquishable. On bad days, I listen to these worries and then respond: "Man, it's just coffee -- possibly a cookie if you do a good job." Even if it's a terrible experience you still get coffee. And a cookie. Everybody wins.

2. Read Comics

I love reading more than any other thing (exceptions include Kevin Sorbo and fudge). When I'm anxious, it's hard to do -- my eyes dart around like whoa, and then I give myself grief for not being able to focus. Something about the form of storytelling that happens in comics engages my brain in such a way as to calm it the hell down. May I humbly suggest for all XO'lings, a little Lynda Berry. She is the greatest. Balm for the soul.

3. Ugh, The Fucking Gym

I hate putting on a sports bra. I hate tying my sneakers. I hate the cult of competition at the gym. But I love the way working out makes me feel. So... NEXT STOP WATER AEROBICS. #notevenkidding.

4. Exfoliate Your Lips

Call me Hannibal Lecter because lip skin is a delicacy I can't get enough of. I mean, of my own. I don't go around digesting the lip skin of others. Unless they ask ruuuuulll nice. That is a joke. I do not eat other people. Moving on -- because my lips in a fit of anxiety start looking like Dust Bowl-era Oklahoma, I exfoliate them with this thing from Elf! Then I slather them with whatever balm I have handy. Then I make out with my palm because daaaayum my lips be sexy. Love yourself, because you know what RuPaul says.

5. It's Okay To Medicate

Guess what? I'm taking Prozac now. That happened. And guess what else? It's starting to make me feel better. Medication ain't for everyone, I get that totally. I don't know if I'm in for the long-haul myself. But if your bad days seem to be the rule rather than the exception, ask for help! There is zero shame in that game.

6. Fantasize That You Live With Michael Keaton on His Ranch In Montana

I feel this one is self-explanatory

7. Binge Watch Commerical-Free Television

There is nothing so curative as television. I once watched the entire first season of Roseanne in roughly one day. I regret nothing. During my last bout of awful, I curled into a fetal position and main-lined NBC's Parenthood. You know, this is starting to sound like a symptom rather than a cure, but whatever, Parenthood is awesome.

8. YouTube Karaoke

You guys, it is impossible to sing a karaoke version of America's Sister Golden Hair or Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way alone in your apartment (hopefully while wearing a Biore strip) and not feel awesome. I mean, it is, if you get really circumspect about it? But come on, isn't circumspection part of your problem anyway? BRING ON THE B.I.G.!

What do you do on your most anxious days?