day 14: writing with anxiety

Art courtesy of Manjitt Thapp

Art courtesy of Manjitt Thapp

Hello! it's day 12!

I've been yoging / poetrying / best friending all weekend. My longtime galpal and former roommate Maddie came up to visit, and while there was much downward dogging and writing poems on wine tasting menus and in the notes section of my phone, I failed to update you in blogland. So if you're also doing this challenge with me—keep on it! We're all doing great! 

And, also importantly, Maddie is engaged! This is very, very exciting, especially since she''ll be getting married to another friend, and it's two friends coming together and both being so happy and I could not be happier for them. I'm so happy I almost bought Maddie a horse. 

I want to talk about something that starts with a capital A. It is anxiety. I don't need to google any statistics to know that anxiety plagues a good portion of humans these days. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when I was 23, about six months out of college graduation. Much of this anxiety was situational, and I'm pretty sure that the cocktail of pills I was prescribed didn't do much but exacerbate the problem. Since then (I'm 26 now), I've had celexa, citalopram, zoloft, xanax, wellbutrin, and ativan. Some of these were for depression, which I did not have, but for some reason me and my psychiatrist were like, "WHATEVZ," and threw them on the mix. I am currently on nothing, though I probably drink more red wine than I should, and I'm occasionally one to eat my feelings while watching Gilmore Girls reruns. C'est la vie. 

Part of having anxiety is dealing with the physical symptoms. Sometimes nothing will be wrong. Most of the time, nothing is. I have so much to be grateful for and very little to complain about. But occasionally, be it work, relationship drama, the fact that I'm comparing myself to someone more "successful," on Instagram, or my adrenals are out of wack, I will feel shaky and my brain electrocuted. It's hard to make connections, to think clearly, and to be creative. 

I find this extra difficult: I'm already anxious, likely over not doing ________ (insert art, laundry, yoga, spending enough time with loved ones, etc), and so the last thing I want to do is stare at an empty page and feel like there's nothing I can do. Some writers, many, will tell you to sit and stare at the page and write anyway. I agree with this, to an extent. Writing when you have nothing to say is great when you are not in the middle of a bought of anxiety. When you are calm, or bored, you can often sit around and throw some words out. Maybe they're good, maybe they're not. You figure it out later. The point is, those suckers are THERE. 

But with anxiety, I think it can be hard for anyone to sit totally still and put the pressure on themselves to CREATE. I know I was always wanted another tactic, something to help with the anxiety so that I could approach the page with a fresh mind. 

Here are my ideas:

Practice yoga / meditate. Often times, we feel anxious because our minds are skipping ahead into the future, plotting ideas or mapping our plans. Yoga and meditation encourage us to focus on the present moment, or specifically the breath. Also, and especially with yoga, both of these practices encourage you to think about the badass beautiful gift that is your body. That's one of the reasons why this challenge has been so beneficial—it allows me to rekindle the relationship I have with my physical self. Writers know that there is something known as "the flow state," or when you are so caught up in what you are doing that you are one hundred percent present. Your ideas seem to flow effortlessly, as if they are being channeled through some mystic stream of words and wisdom. I imagine it's like what Oprah feels 24/7. 

This too is true of your mental state. Meditating and practicing yoga affords us the opportunity to hone in on the present moment, and ultimately, find that flow state. If we're anxious, and fearful to write, taking the time to mediate or practice yoga is still beneficial to our creative crafts because we are essentially practicing to be mindful. And mindfulness leads to true and beautiful art. 

Go on a walk. I got this one from my boy Stephen King, even though these walks ultimately got him into a bit of trouble. But—go on a walk. Leave your cell at home, don't take notes. Just savor the vivid experience of the outdoors, from the cotton candy glow of the sky, to the couple dressed up to drink margaritas on a Tuesday, to the TVs illuminating the windows, to the smell of tamales wafting through the summer air. Anxiety will be soften, connections for new creative projects might arise (even if subconsciously), and you'll stretch those legs and that bum that likely spend so, so, so much time sitting in a chair. 

Talk to someone who makes you laugh. Much like meditation and yoga, laughter brings us into the present moment. When we are genuinely laughing about something, we're so caught up in delight that we can't help but be present. Laughter is a beautiful way to draw ourselves out of anxiety—we feel the endorphins surge, we feel the simplicity of joy, we enjoy the absurd, and the ridiculous. And furthermore, fostering relationships, or being with that bombass guy or girl who makes you double over in a flaming fit of giggles, greatly enhances ones quality of life. At least, I think so. :) 

- Listen to music while lying on your back and staring at the ceiling. Sometimes, you just gotta get emotional. Let your former teenage freak flag fly. Play some Lana Del Rey and question the existence of the moon. If you're anxiety is getting the best of you, confront those emotions with the emotions of other artists. It makes you feel less alone, and I find that the lyrics give something to focus on. It's inspirational to hear that we're not the only ones in the world dealing with anxiety/fear/grief/loss, and that there are plenty of artists who transform these feelings into art. Be with your emotion. Befriend it. Through knowledge comes empathy. 

But perhaps most importantly, know that you are not alone. Anxiety and art aren't separate entities, and you can still make one when dealing with the other. Take notes on how you feel and write about it. You never know who it might help. 


instant gratification

My lover says to love-- 
Where I am, 
And so I spend the days counting wine
Sips, red and white,
And counting backward to the days of
When I saw women
Naked and telling me all about
The neighbors laundry machine.
I drink too, with my words as
Gray smog floats on blue skies,
Trees as green as my shorts 1995.
They grow unsteady, dancing further away
While I crawl on hands and knees to eat
The flesh of where  I am. 

- amk 

what does your anxiety say to you?