My Brain in Pictures

There’s a lot going on in here…

I have a lot going on right now, but don’t we all? With anxiety, though, “having a lot going on” is as much an internal thing as it is external. For every outside “thing” happening in my life—changes at work, an upcoming conference, adapting my schedule to go to the gym—there are at least two or three things happening in my head.

Overwhelmed and Overrun

There are a couple of nightmares I tend to have when I’m really stress out. In one, my home is infested with bugs: wriggly ones, skittering ones, flying ones, big and small. They’re everywhere and I can’t get away. The other is usually me facing some sort of enormous natural disaster: fire, hurricane, tornado, flood.

Giant Wave Tiny Boat.jpg
original here

I am cognizant of feeling a sense of dread sometimes, of that squeeze in my chest that tells me panic is trying to take over. I suppose my subconscious depicts panic as bugs and tsunamis.

Weight of the World

With the state of the world right now, my… hero complex? Sounds too grandiose. My “I have to fix everything” complex comes into play. I want to do more, be more of an activist, but I just can’t handle it right now. So then I feel personally guilty for not single-handedly fixing things for my fellow humans. The weight of that (unnecessary and frankly absurd) guilt presses down on me, as the anxious part of my brain screams at me to “DO SOMETHING!”

godzillafoot
from Godzilla, 1998

I tell myself that just taking care of myself, doing my best in my work, and being as kind and compassionate to those around me as I can is enough right now. And sometimes I even believe it.

Frozen in Fear

There have been times when my depression and anxiety have paralyzed me. I can recall a time many years ago, when I sat on my sofa the entire day and stared at the TV. I’m not even sure it was on. I had a million important things to do and could not figure out where to start. The fear of failure left me unable to make a decision, any decision.

deer-in-headlights
original here

I’m better about that now, but I still tend to procrastinate out of fear of making the wrong choice. That seems to be a common issue, so at least I’m not alone there.

Hanging by a Thread

Recently, when I was going through a particularly bad patch, I remember telling someone that I felt like an action movie, paused as the bomb has 1 second left on the clock. That sense of dread I mentioned earlier comes into play here. Sometimes, when things are really bad, I feel like a tightrope walker or a mountain climber: one wrong move, and I’m done for.

cliffhanger
from Wikipedia, “Free Climbing

Aside from the fact that I’m not fond of heights (well, not so much the height, as the concept of plummeting from it), this image reminds me that sometimes just staying on the path of one’s life is a struggle. You can’t always just stroll along. Sometimes you have to cling to it with white-knuckled determination, just to keep from losing your way.

I feel like things may be looking up. But this past year has been a series of ups and downs, and I’m not sure whether I’m reaching the top of the cliff or just the crest of another wave.

Woke up too early again…

Woke up too early again. My emotional mind taking over, telling me nothing will ever be good again. Sadly, these days, my logical mind seems to agree.

Grief over loss of love has weighed me down for months. I struggled under a heavy load of pain and despair, trying to step forward even as greedy, groping hands pulled me down into the earth. Sometimes I sink into the pit. But I cling to the edge, to the walls, holding on and refusing to drop further.

Slowly, slowly, I have been shrugging off the weight, climbing out of the hole. But now I feel heavier. Gravity has increased, pulling me back down into darkness.

I know I cannot control anything but my own actions and reactions. I say this to myself often. I cannot change what has happened. I can only respond to it as best I can. But anxiety is a seductive, narcissistic companion, curling around me, snaking its arms through mine, pulling my head toward it and whispering into my ear: telling me I am in control of it all, and thus I am responsible. Other people’s decisions were and are because of me, because of my failings. I am at fault.

Fear for the future–for my own and for my world–twists my insides to knots. The lump in my throat, the burning in my gut, the pain behind my eyes tell me I am not safe. And the seductive companion tells me I can change things, I can make it right. If only I knew the perfect word, the perfect deed. The act that will return things to right and bring my happiness back to me. The one weird trick that will save the world.

As my emotional mind becomes overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility, and my logical mind tries to reason its way out of pain, my primitive lizard mind simply panics. It screams at my brain, my gut, my blood, my heart: Prepare to run! Prepare to hide! Prepare to fight!

Or, perhaps, prepare to curl up and accept the end.

Sometimes I cannot decide which would be best.