This Is the Face of Anxiety


Now that my therapist and I are past the getting to know you stages, one of the things that we talk pretty regularly about are all of the things I’ve avoided doing for lo these many years.  These are things that normal people do on a regular basis but that I found ways around doing for a very long time, either because no one taught me how to do them, or because they scared me and so not doing them was much easier than doing them.  There’s a long list of these things and you’d be amazed at how normal I managed to make my life seem while I never drove anywhere, never went to the dentist, never pumped my own gas, never got my hair cut.  Life was going along just fine without these things.  Until it wasn’t.

The bitchy thing about anxiety is that running from it never makes it better.  There is literally one cure, and that cure is to face the thing that makes you nervous square in the face and then to do it over and over again until it becomes powerless over you.  Running from these things never ever helps, even as it makes you feel better because yeah! You’re not doing the scary thing.  Unfortunately your life becomes very small when you’re afraid of everything, and you eventually have to fight your way out or pretty soon just waking up in the morning seems like too much to deal with.  But facing and doing really hard things is a really hard thing to do and it’s work and it’s a slog and it’s just not a fast getting better process.

Did I ever tell you about the time that I didn’t go the eye doctor for eight years? Well.  The other thing about people with anxiety is that they think they are extremely good at problem solving, when in fact they are very bad at problem solving.  Instead of finding an eye doctor and figuring out how much it would cost and making an appointment for a time when I would have child care and getting over my fear of being in an enclosed room with a stranger literally in my face, I just wore the same pair of very old, very falling apart and crooked glasses for eight years, and I ordered my contacts from Canada.  What a great solution?! Right? In the US to get contacts regularly you have to have an eye check up once a year, but in Canada, they apparently don’t require that, so you can just order contacts online, pay slightly more than you would if you just bought them at Costco, and everything is great! You never have to see an eye doctor!

Can you see how this is bad problem solving? And how good problem solving would be finding an eye doctor and arranging child care and checking with my insurance and making an eye appointment?  Probably you can see that. I could not.

I thought I was SO smart, you guys, I really did.  I thought I was SUCH a good problem solver.  Turns out, no. Not so much.

However.  Eventually even I had to admit that my glasses were one minute away from falling apart completely and also my eye started to hurt whenever my contacts were in and my therapist started giving me the side eye and telling me we were going to make some appointments together during my therapy session.  So I took a deep breath and I made way too big a deal out of the whole thing and I googled like mad and I asked Erik nine thousand stupid questions about our vision insurance and I googled some more and then I made an appointment at Costco, took a Xanax, did some really questionable deep breathing, and for the love of god went to the  eye doctor and got a glasses prescription and some new contacts and also that’s when I found out that the contacts I have been wearing for the past seven years are NO LONGER MADE THEY ARE OUT OF BUSINESS AND THEY GAVE ME AN EYE INFECTION.  What a good idea to never go to the eye doctor and order sketchy contacts on the internet from another country, anxious crazy Elizabeth of the past! What a very very good idea that was.

Anyway.  Now I have new glasses and I love them and they are not about to fall apart. I have contacts that are still being produced in America! I have an eye doctor and a place to order new glasses or contacts any time I want (I can’t recommend Costco enough for this) and I do not have an eye infection.

And now I have to go finish learning how to be a grown up and call the gynecologist.  Gulp.



19 Responses

  1. This describes me to a T, and guess who made a gyn appointment just this morning, not because I’m all responsible and grownup but because I’ve Googled myself into thinking I have ovarian cancer, and whoa nelly, did that light a fire under me.

    p.s. I like your glasses.

  2. I haven’t been to the gyno since my 6 week post partum with Ben…….

  3. The thing I have found upsetting is that doing things over and over DOESN’T seem to make the anxiety go away. I’ve made thousands of phone calls, thousands of appointments, and I still have intense anxiety about it every single time. Running doesn’t help, but facing it doesn’t help, either.

    • This has been my experience too =(.

    • Huh. I thought it was just me and that calling people just annoyed me. I’d never considered it anxiety. Interesting. Maybe my kid gets it from both of us then. I hate making appts for anything, especially for myself. I just went to the dentist after 10 years and now I need to switch dentists cuz I hate them and i’m totally dragging my feet. It doesn’t get better each time I do it. Weird. Thank you.

  4. My husband makes my dentist appointments, which is weird and humiliating but otherwise it would never happen. I look for places that will take online appointments as that seems to be the only way I can manage it on my own. It is so nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles in her own head and makes workarounds – and overcomes it!

    • I. Feel. You.

      I went to the dentist for the first time in 16 years recently. I cried just being in the chair, scared. Not from the actual work. Just fear of what would happen.

      Anxiety is a bitch. It’s sneaky. Just when I think I have a handle on it, something smacka me in the face to show me just how much I have no control over it. Avoidance sucks. (So good for you!!)

      I also highly recommend Costco for eye-wear-needs.

      • The first time I went to the dentist in a large number of years (longer than you), I cried and cried in the dentist’s office. And I still can’t sleep the night before I go. I’m so sympathetic.

      • I haven’t been to the dentist in years, either – maybe 10? I have awful terrible, very sensitive teeth. I can’t seem to make myself make an appointment. It is terrifying.

  5. That part you said about your life becoming very small: yes. That’s how I’ve described it, too. Eventually I felt I couldn’t even safely sit on a chair in my house. That’s pretty small.

    I am delighted for you and the steps you’re taking. And your glasses are super cute.

  6. Way to go E! I didn’t even realize I had anxiety until a few years ago. It made me sad to realize all the things I’ve missed out on because of it, but in dealing with it, my life is so much better than it once was. Keep going!

  7. I haven’t found a doctor here and we’ve lived here for almost two years. I just don’t even know the logistics of how to make a doctor my primary care physician. Is this something you learn in grownup school and I missed the class? (I also think I missed the classes on how to create a smoky eye and how often one cleans/dusts/vacuums, but perhaps that’s too tangential.)

    Also, those glasses are super adorable!!

  8. Your glasses are adorable and GO YOU for getting through this obstacle!!! Anxiety is rotten and I am so happy to hear you are finding ways to chip away at it – or at least get it to submit to you long enough to take care of important things.

  9. Way to do it!

  10. You are awesome for tackling these things. Don’t let the nasty neurons tell you otherwise. 😉
    Though, my husband (who is very anti-establishment with regards to medicine… ironic because his livelihood depends on my paycheck from said dysfunctional system), totally idolizes you for ordering your contacts from Canada. Damn the Man! Except for the whole expired part… haha.
    Also, I swear you’ve fixed my child’s hair. Love that Kinky Curly stuff. Thank you for saving me from curly toddler hair anxiety.


  12. I’m glad that your peepers are not infected and I’m glad that you are conquering your worries one at a time.

  13. I also get really intense anxiety, but I am also stubborn and tend to force myself into doing the stuff that causes the anxiety because it really pisses me off when I WANT to do things but CANT because my body is sitting there being a wimp and letting my physical symptoms win. I really do think that doing them over and over is the only thing that helps. (That and repeatedly telling myself that I am NOT in fact dying, it’s just a panic attack.) I see from others’ comments that it doesn’t work for everyone, but it does for me. I can even fly without taking a Xanax now! (Still working on other stuff.)

    Anyway, you look SUPER GORGEOUS here, so I think your therapist knows what’s up. Those are the kind of glasses I have always wanted but can’t seem to find. You should print this picture as a reminder of how calm and confident you looked after facing an anxiety demon – that would certainly be motivating to me!

  14. Internet high-five, grown up Elizabeth.

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