As with most things where I am concerned, the answer to this question comes in the form of a story.
For me, as a person with anxiety (and I’ve trained myself to say it that way – I’m not an anxious person; my disorder doesn’t define me), the best way I can describe my anxiety and moments of panic is as a tornado of words directly on top of my head.
I’m not an anxious person; my disorder doesn’t define me.
In a situation that feels normal to me, when I’m comfortable, I picture myself speaking by easily selecting words from a database – for the purpose of this metaphor, a cloud – that functions as a library, dictionary, or whatever you’d like to call it – a drawer set, an archive, of words. If I’m talking about something that excites me, like books, nature, or blogging, I easily and inventively (at least I like to think so) pull the words I want from their compartments in the figurative cloud above my head and combine them to make something certainly sensical, and hopefully beautiful.
Then there are the times when I’m experiencing anxiety.
This occurs on varying levels, from feeling a knot in my stomach, to a sense of dread, to an incessant debilitating worry, to full-on panic – about a specific thing, or, as also often occurs, just feeling anxious or worried in general. Then, not only is my ability to act, or even move my body, taken away from me, but so is my ability to select words from the cloud. Partly because the worry and/or panic make me feel paralyzed, but also because the cloud above my head transforms from a lovely wisp of cirrus that swirls gently and provides me with millions of options per second that I can easily pinpoint to choose from, into a terrifyingly dark cumulonimbus, borderline tornado, that swirls above my head. It smashes words together with cacophonous booms, making it almost impossible for me to pick any sequence of words out of it that I could in any way shape into something coherent, let alone grasp even a single word that might signify to any other party what is currently happening above my head, let alone in my body, mind, or heart.
It is easy to play something off as not a big deal when you don’t have the tools to recognize or understand it.
For the longest time, talking about my anxiety has been effectively just like the above situation, only I’m not having a panic attack or worrying about something specific when I’m trying to do it.
I’ve just never been able to share one of the most important parts of me – the way my brain functions. For a long time it was because I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Only recently has talking about and de-stigmatizing mental health become common. I didn’t know what generalized anxiety disorder was until university at the earliest (which, for me, began 7 years ago). I had encountered depression and eating disorders earlier in my life – as early as my pre-teens – and developed an understanding of them, but I didn’t know anxiety existed (even though it presented itself in myself and some of my friends) until later. It is easy to play something off as not a big deal when you don’t have the tools to recognize or understand it. Like my friends often said, I was just “being Becca,” or “having a Becca freak-out.”
It has only been in the past two years or so that I’ve begun to recognize my anxiety for what it truly is.
Recently, on Bell Let’s Talk day, I shared on Facebook with anyone who I have as my friend (exactly 750 people, at the time) that I have anxiety, and have dealt with the disorder for at least 12-13 years. Prior to sharing my experience, I had only told 7 people. 7 people, in 13 years. Only 7 people who really understood what shaped so many of my decisions and coloured how I went about my life. Like I mentioned, people had known my panic attacks as “Becca freak outs.” People dubbed my anxiety (as I now know it) as “super-organization” and “ultra-involvement,” but never as a disorder, a physiological, psychological problem condition. The most attention (and I struggle to use this word; I definitely didn’t want any more attention placed on it) it ever got was off-hand remarks and (sometimes not-so-light) teasing.
The response to my post was overwhelming, and enlightening.
I was on the verge of tears all day – sad, happy, and cathartic. These feelings were especially strong because I was teaching that day. I shared with each class, mostly of 13-14-year-olds, about Bell Let’s Talk day’s importance and the impact mental health had already had on my life in my short almost-25 years (two suicides and one attempt – people I knew well, significant others and friends with depression, eating disorders, BFRBs and/or anxiety, and the struggle with stigma that surrounded all of it). The students responded incredibly compassionately, and some even shared stories of their own. Likewise, so many people responded to my post. By commenting, liking, or sending me direct messages. And I never would have dreamed that so many of the people who reached out to me were dealing with the same things as me.
“You talking about your anxiety helps me understand.”
That day, that post, finally gave me the jolt I needed to know that I was not alone and that sharing more of my experiences would help not only me, but hopefully many of the people in my life. I first put it into practice by talking to my friends and family more freely. I said to my dad, “It’s so difficult to talk to you about my anxiety because you don’t understand.” (This is true – he finds it difficult to understand the concept of not being able to stop thinking about something that worries you, of being physically debilitated by worry.) He responded with, “You talking about your anxiety helps me understand.” I find that talking to people close to me is almost always more difficult than talking to those that aren’t quite so close. After getting such an enlightening response from someone I found it so difficult to talk to, and the beautiful abundance of messages from friends and acquaintances, I am finally ready to bring Lexical Abandon, something I’ve thought about, and planned for over two years, to fruition.
That begs the question, then: What is Lexical Abandon?
Lexical Abandon, to me, is the following:
– Finally grasping the words I’ve never been able pull from the tornado or combine into sentences to finally break my silence about the struggles I’ve had with anxiety for over a decade
– Abandoning my fears of lexical overload, and sharing my views about the world from my own unique perspective. Wordily. I’ve always been long-winded, and it’s always been something I’ve been anxious about, and even ashamed of. No longer.
– Poetry. It is my creative outlet, something to finally spark me to write, something I haven’t been doing nearly enough of in recent years. I find that if I have an audience (no matter how small), a readership, I feel an obligation (not in a negative way, but a positive drive) to write for them, for you, and for myself. Creating this blog has been a long time coming, because it has taken me a long time to find the intrinsic jolt to actually publish it. I purchased the hosting and domain two full years ago. I have had “Lexical Abandon” sitting on the back-burner of my mind for two years. It has meant something for two years, for so much longer than that, and it has finally caught fire and is blazing so brightly that I can’t just keep it to myself any longer.
Finally, Lexical Abandon is not just about anxiety.
It’s about how I interact with the world. How I exist in the beautiful city of Vancouver that is my home. My experiences in the professional arena of teaching. My identity as a young, married woman, as a Millennial (and not in a derogatory sense). My exploration of the Pacific Northwest, my soul space, as I like to call it. My life. This is a life blog. But at the heart of all of it is the beautiful way I interact with everything in my world – through the lens of a person with anxiety. Sometimes it is a negative thing, but it also brings a lot of light into my life. I hope that will become clear to those who read my words, and that anyone with anxiety will find solidarity, and hopefully comfort, in my wordy ramblings (and sometimes rants).
In solidarity, de-stigmatization, and love,