Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Perception is Everything.

So one of the reasons my blog frequency has been steadily decreasing is due to my going back to school about 15 years later then when I started.  Funny thing about school, when I last went I could give two craps and didn't know what I wanted to do.  The difference now is I am really invested in attending college; I'm learning new things, meeting new people and empowered by getting good grades and feedback.  Each new semester is a challenge and brings out my anxiety--it's funny all the things I'll worry about that are really no problem.  For example, some of the thing I worry about are:

  • completing the homework and getting credit for it
  • doing the correct homework assignment
  • remembering my homework
  • remembering to turn in my homework
  • getting good grades on the tests and quizzes
  • doing well on the mid term and final
  • getting credit for any extra credit issued
  • scoring well in those ambiguous areas, such as "class participation"
  • forgetting to do an assignment I missed

Funny the physiological symptoms I'll feel--I get a little jittery, like a coiled spring full of tension and potential energy.  My hands also get sweaty and sometimes I get a little dizzy and dry mouthed.  I have an increased urination frequency too, and yes I know that might be too much information but it's true.  So sorry if girl pee offends you.  

But realistically, logically, I can rationalize all of those things I worry about:

a)  I have good study habits so inevitably I will do well

b)  I'm detail oriented

c)   I'm not shy so if I'm unclear I can get help, 


d)  It's really not that important.

This is a school scenario, but you could apply the worry list and rational justifications to any aspect of my life.  It is definitely generalized.  I worry when I leave for work that I left the stove, heater or coffee pot on.  Realistically, if all three were on ultimately there would be no harm done.  The apartment wouldn't burn down, and the coffee maker has an auto-shutoff after two hours.  My iron has an auto-shutoff too; when it's down and there is no activity it shuts off after 30 seconds.  If it is upright and I don't use it for 3 minutes, it also shuts off.  It's a pretty state of the art iron and I like it a lot, but more about that later.  

Picture two miniature versions of me on my shoulders, one sitting on each.  Like the devil and the angel we've seen so much on TV and in the movies when a character is facing a moral dilemma.  So instead of a devil and angel, it's like anxiety and the voice of reason.  Anxiety is screaming and jumping up and down about something on one side of me, where Rationalization is lounging on my other shoulder, reassuring me that just about everything that Anxiety is telling me is bullshit.  It's an interesting dynamic to navigate in the middle of a tense busy workday.  I had Anxiety and Rationalization show up today while I was in a meeting at work, and I accidentally said something I was thinking, then as soon as I said it I felt so uncomfortable I wanted to implode.  And I said it to my boss in front of my superiors and colleagues, it's officially the first choke of '09.  It was really bad, I totally lost my train of thought and my boss was looking at me like I was some kind of flake.  I swear everyone else looked embarrassed for me, and I swear the lady next to me started to blush.

Anyway, Rationalization appeared and saved the day.  I ended up plowing through and confidently reading off the rest of my report.  I also engaged in good solid conversation with another division head about a common interest.  Next thing you know I'm joining the group discussion and throwing around one-liners.  Before I knew it the meeting had moved on and things seemed comfortable again.  

Or maybe they never were uncomfortable and the whole thing was in my head.  In any event, that's how I get through most of these situations and it seems to keep me off of medication.  Dealing with anxiety this way also helps me enjoy things, I was able to enjoy parts of that meeting after I choked, and I enjoy school and everything else I do.  I feel like I am moving, not stagnating and that feeling alone is bigger then anything anxiety can throw at me.  I like the things I do and eating well, taking care of my body and the satisfaction of a good work out.  These things hold great value and transcend anything else I've encountered so far.

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