I’m moving at the end of this month. In 16 days, to be exact. I’m upgrading to a gorgeous apartment right down the street from where I currently live. The new place checks all of my boxes and is in a fantastic location. I decided that I needed to move last summer, and began planning my move in earnest at the end of 2018. I found my new home at the beginning of March. This is my third move in my slightly less than seven years in Arizona, so I’ve done this before. Oh, and lest I forget, I moved across the country from Columbus, Ohio to Phoenix with not much more than my mattress, my dog and my turtle. This is nothing new.
So, why am I freaking out?
I do this every single time I’m faced with change, especially a change for the better. I drag my feet. I get gloomy. I look for reasons why I’m perfectly happy in my current state, which is ironic because I wouldn’t actively seek out change if I was happy, right? I sleep a lot, I eat my feelings, I renew my affection for Pinot Grigio. It’s textbook, and at the age of nearly 44, it’s exhausting.
It hit me recently, that 23-year-old and even 33-year-old me thought that I liked to fly by the seat of her pants. I believed that I thrived under chaos and did my best work when the deadline was ‘this close.’ I ran through life like a contestant on “Supermarket Sweep,” and I didn’t have much to show for it because instead of doing the things that I was supposed to be doing, I utilized my very favorite anxiety response. I froze. I fed the anxiety so intensely with all of the wrong things that I created a monster that grew to the size of Audrey 2 in “Little Shop of Horrors” It was so bad that it took nearly 44-year-old Stephanie sitting on her couch in her barely packed apartment, sipping a glass of wine, to come to this epiphany.
“How did I ever think that I liked living like this? How did I ever think that disarray suited me?”
How did this ‘Come to Jesus’ happen, really? Well, at the risk of sounding cliché, I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, especially since I am an incredibly healthy person. If I don’t deal with the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression, they start manifesting themselves in my belly. I say all of the time that my stomach is my ‘mood ring’, and digestive issues are the first signal that I am not dealing with something head-on. If that doesn’t get my attention, the next alarm system is initiated….hives. I was also sort of over myself. Whenever I get overwhelmed, I am what the kids today refer to as “extra”. Everything is exaggerated, I’m one big exposed nerve, I go through my days as if I’m on autopilot and then lament the fact that I just never have enough time. I tend towards the melodramatic (more so than usual) The issues that I’m dealing with as far as the anxiety involved in this move are quite literally all in my head, but instead of fighting them and denying them while waiting for my body to rebel, this time, I’m really taking a look at them, ‘sitting with them’ for a minute and then…letting them go.
It sounds a lot easier than what it is, actually, but my role at Anxiety Resource Center has taught me that you cannot overcome the gross feelings that come with your anxiety symptoms until you look at them, really look at them, NOT just confront (which is my first line of defense, leading to some pretty interesting one-sided shower conversations) but more like greeting them.
“Hey there grumpy pants. Does your sullen pouting have anything to do with the cost involved in a rent increase and the prospect of buying new furniture? You know that you’ve planned for this and even though it’s going to be tough for a minute while you adjust, you’re going to be FINE.”
“Hi, sleepy girl. Do your extended bouts of hibernation have anything to do with feeling overwhelmed by the amount of cleaning/organizing/packing that you have to do? Set a timer for one hour and commit yourself to do NOTHING for that hour but cleaning and packing a specific space. One hour is the equivalent of two syndicated sitcoms you’ve watched dozens of times, so chop chop.”
“What’s up emotional eater/drinker? Are you worried about moving to a new place, meeting new people, adjusting to a new environment? That’s valid, but you’ve done this before. I’m sure that most of your future neighbors are just as nervous about meeting you, and wondering what kind of neighbor you’ll be as well. You’ll be fine.”
I treat my icky feelings like a child, gently, firmly and authentically. I’ve learned that is the only way for me to get to the other side of them. I’ve spent so much time, like I’m sure a lot of people have, trying to deny, bully or numb my feelings because I just don’t like them, and those ‘coping mechanisms’ became my default. This is why it took me to the tender age of nearly 44 to realize that wasn’t how I want to live my life anymore.
I’m sure that when the next big life event happens (or the next birthday) I’ll be in the midst of another emotional temper tantrum involving my inner child, but I’m confident that with more information and education about anxiety, depression and their symptoms, a lot of practice, and above all, some patience and kindness with myself, it will get easier and easier to get to the other side.
If you’ve been flying by the seat of your pants, and you’ve tried to convince yourself it’s your normal, know that one day it will hit you that this state of chaos and anarchy is NOT how you should live your life. That’s a game changer, and that’s the first step in turning it all around. Facing that truth and seeking out the help of a counselor or therapist will give you the tools you need to co-exist peacefully with your own inner child, but if you’re not there yet, and even if you’re getting there, remember that above all during the process, be KIND to yourself. THAT’S a key to see true progress.