It’s been a while, I know. And I don’t even have an excuse to offer you. I’ve been working only four days a week. I’ve been exercising six days a week (yay, fending off depression!) and generally doing summer-type activities. There are no reasons for why I shouldn’t have posted more frequently, or gone on more dates, or gotten the new tattoo I’ve been thinking of getting, other than my anxiety is still an ever-present companion. Much like herpes… it’s not always obvious, but it’s always lurking under the surface. Thank goodness I’m not contagious.
I’ve found myself in the trap that all anxiety-ridden people fall into: the trap of storytelling. Perhaps this trap is the reason why so many great writers also happen to suffer from some form of mental illness, but the stories we tell ourselves are not always the best thing for us.
And this is where Cognitive Behavioral Therapy comes in. Those three words are shrink-speak for “recognizing you’re doing something and then not doing it anymore.” I needed this trick desperately, and never found it until a few years ago when I experienced the most painful month a person can experience. Lots of family drama (including the death of my lovely grandmother), a sexual assault and stalking, and continued verbal harassment from a professor to the point where she almost got fired (The Vice-President of Student Affairs got involved, as well as the Dean of the Thornton School of Music). I attended a workshop about heart, which basically means I went to the place where hippies go to deal with their issues.
And I learned a phrase. The phrase was, “I make-up that…” and suddenly, I realized that my whole life was filled with fears and stories I’d tell myself. I was a master of the make-up. And acknowledging that I make up a bunch of shit means that I am able to catch myself, acknowledge my anxiety as shit, and move on to non-shittiness.
I haven’t written anything for so long because I make up that you guys don’t want to read it. Or that it won’t be any good. Or that what I actually want to write about is stupid… the same exact things I did last summer during my depression. But I know that I’m making them up, which is improvement. Though that hasn’t kept me from succumbing to the anxiety so much as realizing I’m being anxious about something dumb and then not being able to convince myself otherwise. I have a lot of self-worth issues that I’m dealing with. I wonder where those originated from.
The more I look back on my life, the more I realized that I was storytelling every normal situation into one where my doom was certain. If I heard the house creak while I was getting ready for bed, I would hide in the nook in the corner of my L-shaped desk and hide under a pile of stuffed animals until I was convinced that I was safe. If a light went out in my bathroom, I was convinced it was because Bloody Mary or that gross naked lady from “The Shining” was trying to lure me into a potty party that ended in my death, and I would only use my parents’ bathroom until the handyman changed the light. If I heard a noise when my mom was in the basement, I assumed a serial killer had broken into the house and was slaughtering each family member one by one. I made up everything that I couldn’t control. And that storytelling created an atmosphere of fear that suffocated me until I found relief in treatment.
So now, what I make up is generally smaller. I make up someone’s anger when they don’t text me back… How did I offend them? What did I do? I make up perceived slights between my friends and I… for instance, Batman and I had a recent text exchange that went something like this:
Batman: Whitney (My thought process: oh, god, there’s no punctuation. I’m in so much trouble.)
Batman: I just saw that you wrote Batmannie. Haha.
Me: What? When? (I’m panicking here… Making up that she is angry with me for using that nickname) Ohhhh when I was squealing about San Diego?
Batman: Oh. That’s weird I just got it now 🙂
Me: Weird! Hahaha my phone misses you then… for a second I thought I was in trouble for caling you Batmanni. #anxietydisorderforthewin
Batman: Oh. That’s so sad. I lubber you.
I always assume the worst. The hippies say I shouldn’t expect anything, because then I’ll always be surprised. But if I always expect the worst, then I’m always pleasantly surprised.
Kind of like what I imagine you feel after reading my blog. You start out assuming the worst, and then hopefully I pleasantly surprise you. And not vice versa.
What do you make up?