I am dreaming in illustrations and I can see thought bubbles above people’s heads. To any freelance illustrator, this is good news! This means my work has picked up. However, this is also bad news for someone who keeps piling on projects and work onto a small petri dish. Also difficult when I am someone who can’t seem to say ‘no’ to anything though my inside me wants to strangle the life out of the outside me. Anyway, thank goodness for all of those family members who just give out Starbucks gift cards during the holiday season…I think I have enough to last me through March.
Thus, I have not found the time to write in this blog within the last 2 weeks, but I have found plenty of time to get my anxiety levels to a pretty high level. ‘When?’ might you ask, my imaginary readers, have I found the time to do this? During my peak sleeping hours, of course! Why is it that you can go all day without thinking of anything to worry about then night falls and you are all comfortable and warm in your bed just about to close your eyes, and boom! One thing after the other, and, before you know it, you are wide awake worrying about things that are of none of your concern like, ‘My tire light just went on in my car today. I have to get my tires changed. I also need to get new wiper blades. Is it going to snow this weekend? I have so many errands to run. I am going to get stuck in the snow while running my errands. My tires are going to fly off my car. My wipers are going to fail. I am going to be stuck in the snow, in my car, with no tires, and no wipers, and somehow every serial killer in the world will be in that area, walking around looking for people like me.’ *This is a total exaggeration, but honestly, it’s ridiculous the things that can keep me up at night.
I am aware that it is my workload that makes me anxious. I know that everything will get done, and I will find a way to finish and accomplish all of my goals yet I still worry about it. Once I start worrying about one thing, I start worrying about everything. Things that don’t matter in the bigger picture. The bigger picture being the big L word, ‘life.’ Once I got out of my own head, which I have managed to do, I realized how often people I’m surrounded by (coworkers, family members, friends) care or worry about things that won’t make a difference in a week’s time. I find myself getting frustrated about this, now that I have made myself aware of it again.
I feel like I am in a Lifetime movie when I bring up what I am about to bring up, but it makes sense to discuss this now. A little over 2 years ago, 2 weeks before Spring finals, I woke up with a tiny cut on the back of my right ear. By noontime, my ear swelled up, and the cut had gotten larger. I woke up the following day to a fever and my ear had gotten even bigger. I had gone to the doctor and received some ointment and an antibiotic. This didn’t work, and by Saturday my ear had gotten even bigger and the little cut had grown into a gaping wound. I was put on different antibiotics. The following week, I had gone to the doctor for a checkup of my ear. My fever spiked to over 104, and the whole right side of my face was so swollen, had I been green, I could have passed as the Hulk. I was put into the hospital into isolation (I was the mystery diagnosis of the afternoon). The ER doctor didn’t say much, but what he did say was, “if this infection has spread to her brain casing, which it appears to have done, this is life threatening.” My mom had turned gray. He then wheeled me into the hallway and placed me outside of the exam room, where I waited, by myself, for 10 minutes, which felt like eternity. My mind raced with the idea that I could die from something as silly as an infected cut. I thought about my mom and dad, the look on my mom’s face, I thought about my nieces and nephews, I thought about my last hospital trip (6 months before this one, I fell 10 feet and broke 3 vertebras in my back) and how that ER doctor said had I been 1 foot higher, the fall could have paralyzed me. I thought that I couldn’t be that lucky twice. I can’t tell you what else raced through my mind that evening as I waited in the hallway in a hospital gown with a pounding, swollen, ear – but, I can tell you what I didn’t think about. I didn’t think of the stress and anxiety I was feeling earlier that morning about my finals. I wasn’t thinking about the silly fight I had gotten into with a friend over that weekend. Nothing else mattered. It was as if nothing had happened before that doctor said the words, ‘life threatening.’
Needless to say, I am fine. However much ‘my life is a Lifetime movie’ that last paragraph sounded like, sometimes you have to go back to those places to set you back on the right track. The week after I had gotten out of the hospital (I was awarded with a “Bravest Patient’ certificate – oh, forgot to mention that at 22 years old I was placed on the Pediatrics floor for about a week because it was the only floor with a room available for someone with a ‘mystery diagnosis’), I remember feeling like I could not have enough love for anyone that was a part of my life. I want to get back to that place. We get so consumed by the hustle and bustle of day to day life and all of the stresses that it brings, that sometimes we don’t even have a second to pause and say, “Does this even f****** matter?”. Chances are, if we do take a second to breathe and ask ourselves that question, then answer it honestly, most of us would say no.
Note to self: Anxiety, shmangxiety - worry about things that matter, don’t bother with the things that don’t.
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
- Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love