Two helicopters, Two Lessons

by justine

Recently, I mentioned to a friend that I didn’t have to deal with LAPD helicopters keeping me up at night since I moved out of Los Feliz. So last night’s racket of two helicopters circling my neighborhood for upwards of 30min felt like a joke. Like, wtf? The noise was terrible, but the spotlight on a house a block over and the late hour (almost midnight) made the whole thing even more nerve-racking. I’ll admit I was actually scared.

I clicked on one light and let the dog out of his crate. I crept downstairs to make tea and diddle around on facebook to squelch my anxiety. It didn’t help much. Wide awake as I could possibly be, I got back into bed around 1AM and hoped for sleep.

Mild anxiety, aka “worry” or “unease”, is a daily occurrence for me. It stems from my need to be in control (or vice-versa?). Recently, however, it’s acute and exhausting, like those helicopters were a manifestation of my recent feelings of imbalance. That’s how it feels – like two insanely loud copters circling your bedroom when you’re dead tired. There’s no particular cause for it which makes it all the more frustrating. And that’s exactly the word for how it affects my daily routine – frustrating. Everything becomes more marred, more mucky, like you’re racing through the woods and suddenly your foot hits a mud patch and your whole body is thrown by the combination of speed and stuckness.

Anxiety causes me to lose patience easily. Everything becomes black and white, my ability to focus on the big picture dissipates and all I have is tunnel vision of a situation I believe I have no control over. I spiral down into despair-laden thoughts “I’m so alone” “Nobody loves me” etc. Mostly I’m unaware that’s what’s going through my head, but I’m fairly certain in retrospect it’s not a warm and fuzzy spattering of thoughts.

But what does this all mean and why do you care? Well, I don’t know why you care – maybe you experience the exact same thing and feel relief or you never experience this and…feel relief. Either way, here are two lessons I’ve been learning:

1. While I have no idea how to actually do this, I’m discovering that there really is no one I can depend on as surely as myself.  Self-support, that internal voice that cheerleads you through major life decisions and long stretches of traffic, is not my biggest strength. In fact, contrary to my confident nature, I simultaneously think I’m the best thing on Earth and then am untrustingly caught off guard when there’s the slightest chance that someone else may think so too.

Building that internal sense of support and self-trust is something I’m working on, because if I am confident in myself to hear and do what I truly want and need, I will be able to handle the inconsistencies and emotional forces that come with connecting with others without losing myself.

2. Another ah-ha is a suggestion made by my therapist. As a list maker, to dos rattling around in my head, I feel both a surge of accomplishment when I cross something off and a pile of pressure when I can’t. Perfectionism kicks in here and I will fill the page up with easily accomplishable tasks to boost my ego or panic about unresolved tasks. But nobody is perfect, right? So, therapist suggests that instead of beating myself up and forcing myself to carry out tasks 4, 5, and 6, I sit with the anxiety of leaving those task pending. Because, really, the key to my happiness does not lie in tasks 4, 5 and 6 being done. There will always be more chores, more responsibility, but that pressure I put on myself is useless. For one thing, I never enjoy the success of tasks 1, 2 and 3! And I hardly give anything my full attention because I’m so panicked about the next thing. It’s a stupid cycle that gets me nowhere.

Those two items, self-support and sitting with the anxiety of being imperfect, are in the forefront of my thoughts lately. And here’s imperfect for you – if it makes you feel any better about your day – I just ate 1/2 a box of Lucky Charms for dessert. We do what we can with what we have 🙂