Exclamation marks make everything more exciting, even blog post titles about unpleasant mental health issues.

There are things that warrant a certain degree of anxiety. Will I have a seizure on the subway platform? Will I manage to feed myself tonight? What will I do with the rest of my life? These are all perfectly legit worries. Anxiety is, in fact, useful in that it pushes us to action—to take our meds and stand back from the train, to buy groceries and make dinner, to finish our degree and look for a job, etc. Practical solutions to what I assume are universal concerns.

Problem is, when my anxiety is especially high, my reactions to, well, everything are more extreme than necessary or healthy.

Here are a few examples:

Maybe it’d best to mitigate the very small risk of falling on the tracks by never taking the TTC! Actually, I’d be better off not leaving the house at all!

I’ll ruin whatever I cook, so I might as well have cereal! For every meal!

Things aren’t going to work out career-wise, so why try? Time to get a companion gerbil (cat food is too expensive), switch to off-brand cereal (since cereal’s all I’m going to eat anyway), and start stockpiling crossword puzzles from the free Toronto newspaper—I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands!

This is my brain on anxiety.

Epilepsy has definitely made things worse, and unsurprisingly so: uncontrolled seizures have a way of making one feel uneasy. My anxiety, however, has been spilling over into most areas of my life as of late, some more than others.

I have a particular talent for picking a specific thing on which to ruminate literally for weeks on end, picking it apart and requesting reassurance from various people, most frequently my husband.

Though he’s patient at first, it inevitably reaches that point that he refuses to engage. Good for him, I say. I’d refuse to engage with me, too.

A complicating factor is that the source of my anxiety is usually something about which someone without an anxiety disorder would likely also be at least a bit anxious. Yes, I blow whatever the current crisis may be completely out of proportion, but I feel justified in doing so, and I love me some self-justification.

If you’ve experienced anxiety, you know how consuming it can be. It occupies a hell of a lot of head space, and while ideally I’d be able to redirect my thoughts or CBT (look it up) it away, it ain’t always so easy. I try. I fail. I try again. I tell myself that my worth as a human being doesn’t disappear when I commit a perceived error or even a real one and wouldn’t if I had an “embarrassing” seizure in public or if I lost control in some other way.

I don’t believe any of these well-intentioned attempts at self-help, so I usually distract myself with a frozen treat because many days, that’s all I can do. Right now, my goal is managing, not fixing: that means getting on with my life as best I can, when I can. Not ideal, I guess, but other stuff has to take priority.

At least I have my consolation dessert.

Delicious distraction. Note: Ikea frozen yogurt does not cure anxiety.
Delicious distraction. NB: IKEA frozen yogurt isn’t a cure for anxiety.

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