The Real Slim Shady once spoke about anxiety in such a way that it made me feel like he was ripping out my soul and challenging it to a rap battle. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Marshall Mathers, better known as the lyrical genius, Eminem. I always found him rather angry at the world and some woman named Kim. My boyfriend likes listening to him at the gym, which is quite apropos considering the song I’m about to reference has also been credited as the Eye of the Tiger of the modern era. Can someone superimpose this video of Rocky Balboa to the audio of Lose Yourself? I feel like a video like that would convince me to get off my ass and sign up for a gym membership. Anyway, I found myself listening to Lose Yourself on the drive home; even though I’ve never had it on my iTunes, I pretty much could spit verse after verse thanks to a childhood growing up with Myx.
Lose Yourself reminded me of my experience with anxiety. I hate talking about this because I don’t like admitting failures or weaknesses. I cringe at the thought of talking about accomplishments, too. But if I choose not to tell people about the accomplishments, people call it humility; and society gives that a thumbs up. If I choose not to talk about failures, it’s pride. It’s pride because I refuse to acknowledge it and I refuse to persist. The big problem with anxiety is I often place myself in positions where I can neither fail nor succeed. I’m stagnant.
Every new experience becomes more terrifying than it should be. It’s not necessarily more challenging or insurmountable; it just becomes tougher to get over that first hurdle. I found myself in that position today with my feet planted at the starting line. The flare gun was positioned in the air just ready to blow. My heart was pounding in my chest. My palms were clammy and I could feel my head spin. I knew colour was draining from my cheeks. My throat was so parched I was tempted to stick my head into a snow bank just so I could soothe the burn.
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already; mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
Now, I don’t know about Mrs. Mathers’ spaghetti; but my mom has been making spaghetti Bolognese with my recipe and she makes it a hundred times better than I do, that it’d be unlikely for me to ever want to expel it out of my esophagus. Catch me on a rare night after a few too many shots of Crown Royal; perhaps the line would be more apt. The two other lines though – those perfectly describe the nerves.
I’ll admit, it’s not the same crippling anxiety that makes people black out or have a full-blown panic attack in the midst of a crowd. What I experience is quiet, internal, bottled-in. But I’m not a shaken, carbonated drink with the cap twisted open. I’m shaken and left alone until I go flat. Nothing. Nothing happens because I don’t let it happen. Maybe, in that way, it’s crippling. But who knows? Let’s call the experts.
Today, though, I didn’t let it incapacitate me. I persisted. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans. I pinched my palms to keep myself from freaking out; and it helped me remind myself that I wasn’t detached from reality. I was actually there. The flare shot up in the air and I sprinted forward. If I had failed, this post probably wouldn’t be up (remember that thing about my pride?); but I succeeded. Yet after the fact, my heart kept racing but something about it felt different. Colour returned to my cheeks, and you might attribute it to the February air, but there was an unmistakable confidence in my step. I felt exhilarated.
One leap forward and suddenly I felt like the world was mine. There are no positive aspects to anxiety; but if there were, the high after jumping that hurdle is probably on top of the list. To most people, it would just be a slight level up in their green achievement meter. But to me it’s a green pipe out of the second level of Super Mario. Suddenly, you’re out of that claustrophobic dungeon and you’ve got limitless sky above you, a stack of blocks from which you can leap and grab that flag. It’s one step out of that dark space where there’s no room for success or failure.
I haven’t always been like this. Growing up, I was willing to try anything and do everything. I also rarely failed at anything, apart from the insignificant quiz I forgot to study for. When it mattered, I always did rather well. Someone even once told me, when I was fourteen or fifteen, that they admired how I was so adaptable to different situations and different cliques. Then something happened and a switch flipped in my head. Everything became a bigger hurdle than it appeared. New experiences, new tests, and new people elicited the signs and symptoms – shortness of breath, heart palpitations, that feeling of nothing in the pit of your stomach, and the glazed eyes seeing but not processing. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel normal again. I don’t know if anyone will ever describe me as adaptable. But I refuse to let it cripple me (call it pride; but I’d rather be proud than defeated).
I keep on trucking. I jump every hurdle no matter how small, even if it makes me feel sick. I want to move forward and find that normal again, or at least get close enough to it. It’s tough trying to keep it together, especially when the thought of divulging my issues make me panic like nothing else. But sometimes, people need to untangle a few knots before they can tie themselves up into pretty, little bows. I need to be vulnerable, and I need to open myself up to opportunities even if it means failure.
Eminem says, “success is my only motherfuckin’ option – failure’s not.” I’ll get there. For now, I’m sprinting and picking up speed. Wind in my hair and red clay on my heels. I’m jumping hurdles, and knocking down a few. Whether I go fast or slow, you’ll see me at the finish line.