By Caitlin Kelly
I know, for some people, it’s a chronic and debilitating issue.
There are days I think I’m going to explode.
Being asked by my doctor to monitor my blood pressure every morning is making me much more aware how chronically anxious I am, even from the moment I wake up.
This is not good!
So I’m trying to do more deep breathing.
Keeping up with my three-times-a-week spin class, which I enjoy a lot and which burns off a lot of stress.
Taking more and longer naps, even if I don’t sleep but just snuggle under the duvet and stare out into the cold, gray, cloudy winter sky from the warm safety of bed.
It’s odd…some things that make people feel really really freaked out don’t bother me at all; I recently read a tweet by someone much higher profile than I who literally ran off stage at an event to vomit with a panic attack.
Public speaking has never scared me.
But it’s time to really examine why I feel so stressed.
Part of it is very real — our monthly living costs are high and we have done everything we can to reduce them. So, working freelance means paid projects we rely on can — and do — fall through. That means making sure we always have accessible savings (which, thankfully, we do.)
Part of it is just the sheer exhaustion of constantly having to manage so many relationships — professional and personal — and the inevitable conflict and misunderstanding that often comes as a result of much (too much!) online conversation. If I piss off the wrong person, I can lose valuable friendships and clients, so I too often feel now like I’m walking eggshells to avoid that.
Part of it is knowing we have zero family support or back-up, whether emotional, financial or physical. I no longer have a relationship with my mother (her only child) and my father and I have a very stormy one. My 3 half-siblings are not people I know or like, and vice versa. Jose’s parents have been dead for decades and we very rarely see his two sisters who live far away. Whatever happens, it’s all on us.
Part of it is what happens after you’ve gotten a diagnosis of any form of cancer; mine in June 2018 for DCIS, stage zero, no spread, surgery and radiation. But I live every day in fear of recurrence.
Part of it is not having quite as many supports as would be ideal, really close friends who live nearby. I have three or four close women friends where I live, but the other day, really in a panic over a work issue, I had to call one who lives in Toronto, a woman I’m lucky to see once a year but who knows me very well. At my age, most women are retired, and at leisure and/or traveling and/or obsessed with their grandchildren, so I have very little in common with them — more with peers decades younger still in the work trenches yet also at a very different stage of life and facing very different challenges.
Part of it is just my general fears about my health and how to strengthen and preserve it as I age. I’ve stopped drinking alcohol to lose weight. I’ve added another day of a different kind of exercise. I’m trying to eat less meat and smaller portions.
Part of it is age. We are not able, now to get another well-paid full-time job in our chaotic industry because of rampant age discrimination. That keeps us in the financial precarity of freelance work and extremely expensive health insurance.
And I know — believe me! — having lived in and traveled to and worked in much poorer places (like Nicaragua, March 2014), that these are all “first world problems” — worries relatively very small indeed in comparison to those of millions of others, abroad and domestic.
I took six weeks off in the summer of 2017, a massive splurge of savings. It was worth every penny to travel, alone, through Europe.
When I came home I remarked to a friend that my head, literally, felt different.
“That’s what it’s like not to be anxious all the time,” she said.
I would like to feel that way again.