Remission Anxiety

I cannot fathom the pursuit of one interest.

My passions and goals are not neatly typed out into steps.
I don’t have one ideal I aspire to.
I won’t be able to reference my childhood fantasies in a future acceptance speech.
I have never focused on one thing long enough to become an expert on it.
I don’t have neat categories. No aesthetic I could be the face of.
There is no single lifestyle I can be the spokes model for.
I don’t have the cutthroat ambition needed to attain some level of greatness.
I don’t have what it takes to reach career or wealth levels that would impress the people around me or the kids I went to school with.
I will not cause any envious chatter in circles of people I don’t know.
But I wanted to.

For a few years I thought acting could be my thing. I felt like it was perfect because each role is different, a new set, a new cast. But I never got far enough into the business to get a taste of that variety. The environment got toxic, and I started making choices that made me dislike myself. My health got in the way of bringing my best work to the stage. Rehearsals went long; the amount of sleep I needed to rejuvenate myself was unattainable. I wasn’t able to create the depths needed in my characters because I wasn’t willing to be any more vulnerable than I already I was. I was never comfortable taking on relationships within a show beyond a G rating – and I didn’t have the drive to find other opportunities that would have let me stay within that comfort zone.

I kept at it while it was easy and felt natural.
Once I was asked to go beyond that, I walked away.
I quit.

I’ve since realized that this happens to me a lot. I quit a lot. And it’s ironic because I consider myself a “Learner.” I love going to school, have you seen my highlighters!? I read so much that I have an instagram dedicated to books. I watch documentaries! But something about “Learner” implies a level of commitment I don’t possess. I tend to present the bare minimum of what I am capable of. I do more than what the average is, but it’s not the best I could do. I am a perfectionist who procrastinates. I let myself down, constantly. But I do not push myself to do better. I don’t know how.

In high school I hardly put effort into my homework. I did some of it the day of or copied things I knew I could do but didn’t want to do. I tested well enough and had enough jive with teachers to get extensions, and those are the only reasons that I managed to graduate with a GPA over 3.0.

I could have done better, I know that.

But I talked myself out of it, almost every time. Home wasn’t a happy place to be, and I was only ever at school or at home. If I had access to it, hadn’t grown up with health issues, or had I not gone to Narcotics Anonymous meetings every Friday for about six years, I am sure I would have gotten into addictive substances. Instead I found that reading a lot and watching movies on Netflix was another way to numb myself and make the days go by faster. For most of middle school my memories look dark and feel heavy. Happier memories are of those moments I remember thinking, “oh good, a second of lightness.”

I think I have inadvertently trained myself to be afraid. I have come to find a sense of comfort in the darkness. I fall into this pattern of working my ass off, only to end up falling off the face of the planet. I rarely feel like I can find a happy medium. I would either be up till midnight for a week straight, working on missing assignments, trying really hard in my classes, eating three meals a day, writing and singing, and keeping my room clean. Then suddenly I would crash. I would stay in bed till noon, eat junk and leave the trash on the floor of my room next to yesterday’s clothes. I would skip class physically and/or mentally.

Senior year I dropped out of my college level science and math classes because I had gotten sick (again), missed two weeks, and was too overwhelmed by all the work waiting for me when I came back. At that point, I didn’t need the classes to graduate, and it was made clear by the attitudes of the people around me that me going to a big university the next year was a non-option.
My confidence was shattered, my motivation was shot. It was November and the cold was creeping in. Instead of letting it take over, I dropped the classes.

I don’t regret that choice, because there was too much happening in all facets of my life in that moment – dropping one of the stressors was imperative and I wasn’t allowed to drop my parents. However, it created a trend I have since been trying to shut down. I have turned my poor health into a crutch. If there was ever anything I couldn’t handle, if I ever get scared or overwhelmed, all I have to do is pull out my platinum health card.

Now, technically, it is a health issue. I have only ever lied about having colds in high school. I do have a weak immune system, and at least two rare diseases. But I think the argument could be made that it is a mental health issue, and not to blame on my physical health.

In lieu of an addiction to drugs or alcohol, I have formed an addiction to being “sick” while also fearing it to the point that I’ve developed an anxiety about it.

The idea of getting severely sick again and having to quit my life again is gut wrenching and terrifying. I did it two years ago. I did it for a lot of my childhood. Having to take a step back from everything I want to accomplish and enter a world where all that is expected of me is to get well and rest – it’s awful. I can’t even feel happy about what I have achieved because once I am sick I fall behind everyone around me. I am no longer considered a player in the game.

It instantly feels like no one expects me to live, only to survive.

But gee…  that is delicious when I am healthy and feel like I am failing.

So the second I do get sick, whether it is a cold or a disease decides to relapse, I am riding that Nope Train. I forget to do anything that makes me feel good, only the things that keep me feeling bad. I forget to brush my hair. I forget to put on clean clothes. I don’t read, or take the dog out so I can get a breath of fresh air. I forget to eat real food.

For several days I am 13 again, wrapped up in cozy blankets and watching beautiful movies, lost in a daydream about what I’ll be someday when I’m older and well.

And then when I don’t need the prescriptions anymore or the sniffles ease, I am faced with the realization that – I am older, I am well. That Nope Train has been coming around for 10 years now. This game is no longer new. I can’t keep hiding.

I like to think that every time I reach this point of realization, I get better at battling it.
I come up with new ideas on fighting myself. I get better at putting limits in place:

“OK, this time, I only get to throw a pity party for one extra day after being sick”
“This time I have to write what I am frustrated about”
“This time I have to finish x amount of chores so that I push myself to move around”
“If I stay home, then this time I have to keep up with emails and I have to respond to the texts that friends send”

I am terrified and skeptical, daily.
I am scared in my own skin; I am scared of pushing myself too far, of trying too hard.
I don’t want to fail at something I want. If I get sick, then it wasn’t my fault. I never had a chance! “My health got in the way and I had no choice but to take care of myself!” If I half-ass it then I can always say, I could have done better if I tried harder. But if I give something my everything; if I go after the things that I want and dream and crave, there runs the massive risk of failing at it.

I am so scared of getting into something, and really loving it… only to have to quit.
I simply don’t trust my own remission. And as much as we say that failure is just a stepping stone, it fucking hurts and it’s severely uncomfortable.

Sure, my health doesn’t have to dictate everything in my life.
But in the past it has.
In the past it has stunted me.

Who is to say it won’t happen again?

~Raelee


The original version of this post was sent to The Mighty around 2am about 6 months ago, when I was in the midst of a panic attack and finishing up my associate’s degree. Recently, The Mighty has changed their publishing rules and format. Before only some entries got posted, but recently they have gotten access to a larger server and now are publishing everything. So they’ve gone back and published every previous entry they passed on as well.
As a writer, this does feel like a step back because now its just a free-for-all-social-media. But as a #spoonie, I think this is utterly fantastic because it will not only widen the scope of who publishes their stories, but also widen the scope of the type of stories.
It turns out that another version was also in my drafts here on WordPress, which is what led me to editing it and posting it today. That version was called “This One Has No Answers For You, But Many Questions For Myself.”
You can read the original version here on The Mighty’s website.
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