Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

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Forgive me, but I’m not writing this post for you. I’m writing it for me. I need to hear this, ok? So bear with me. I’ve written and rewritten some variation of this over and over again in my head. Mostly, it sounded a lot like complaining, and something about that didn’t sit quite right with me. There’s more to the story.

Here’s the thing. Lately, life has been absolutely crammed full and busy – even more than usual. I’ve picked up extra classes at the barre studio because one of our instructors moved across the country. My responsibilities at my job are exploding at what seems like an exponential rate, and the projects we are working on right now are extremely mentally and emotionally draining. I’ve done this to myself, of course. I’m always gunning for more opportunity, more responsibility, more money, more everything. I know that about myself.

It’s to the point right now where I come home with my shoulders nearly up to my ears from stress. I find myself pouring a glass of wine at night more often than usual during the week. If someone asks me on a Monday what I’m doing that weekend, I audibly laugh. I’m just trying to get through Monday and have no extra brainpower to expend on thoughts about the days to come. Everything is planned. Every assignment, every email, every meal is scheduled. I’m crazed about getting enough sleep, fitting in my workouts, and getting all my extra work done.

And yet.

And yet, as much as sometimes I want to pull my hair out and as much as I sometimes (often) feel like I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown, as much as sometimes it feels like I can’t take even one more day of this schedule…I kind of like it. It’s helping me to grow tremendously. No, I don’t like feeling slightly crazed. But you know what I do like? I like finishing each day checking off the items in my planner and thinking “I did it.” There was a period of time, not that long ago, when this type of pressure would absolutely have broken me in half. There was a time when much less pressure did. Although I have dealt with anxiety for many years and still do, I used to have terrible panic attacks that absolutely crippled me.

A few years ago, I emailed a sorority sister of mine who also struggled with anxiety. Some of the text of my email said: “Sometimes the things that seem like they might fix or help my anxiety CAUSE me anxiety, if that makes sense. For example, when I was actively going to therapy and getting medication, I got anxiety because of the cost of the medication, the time out of my schedule, etc. It feels like it’s hopeless! I also haven’t had the great results with the stuff I’ve tried.  I guess my question is, what do you find works for you? Have you been able to get your anxiety under control at all? Is there hope, or am I gonna be a mess for the rest of my life (haha, sorta kidding, sorta not)?  I feel like no one understands and everyone just feels like I’m being overly dramatic. I don’t know how to express to the people around me how real it is to me.”

How true those words are sometimes, even to this day. I still struggle with anxiety. There are still times when I feel the panic rising in my throat, when my chest tightens and I feel like I can’t breathe. There are times when I can’t think straight and my brain won’t stop racing. I feel my blood pressure rising and the whole world starts to slowly fade to black as my laser focus hones in on all the things that are about to go wrong.

The difference is that now, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I will survive that moment, that day, and that week. I didn’t always.  While that isn’t usually enough to stop the panic from rising and the anxiety from starting to take over, it is enough to hold it just slightly at bay. It’s why I haven’t quit my side jobs, haven’t turned down new assignments, and haven’t flinched when bosses ask for just a little bit more time. I don’t want to. I don’t need to. I won’t.

This isn’t bravado; it is real application of the hard work it takes to overcome my anxiety and push myself to be the best that I can be. I struggle terribly with self-doubt and still feel those moments every day. But, just like I’ve worked to reconfigure my body image, my confidence in my abilities is also a work in progress. I won’t get anywhere by staying in my comfort zone, sticking to tasks that are easy for me or a schedule that accommodates a ton of downtime. There was  absolutely a time when I needed to do those things, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. It’s ok to work within your limits. But at Barre3, we say “Go to your edge.” That means that you should work to push yourself to the end of your comfort zone rather than worrying about what someone else’s “edge” or personal limit is. Everyone’s looks different.

I am going to my edge every day, and each day, I feel stronger and more equipped to deal with whatever comes my way. While I don’t think that an insane amount of stress is sustainable in the long term (nor would I advocate a crazy schedule for anyone), I also know that we adapt to situations over time. One day, this may not be the right lifestyle for me anymore, but it absolutely is today. I’m growing. I’m changing. I’m proud.

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

22 thoughts on “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

  1. Can I get a “hell ya?” I love this! I love that you’re sharing it but mostly that it’s a letter to yourself. As you know (I think?) I have awful anxiety and it’s a daily task to keep it under control.
    I also just got a little pouch that reads: My Anxiety Is Giving Me Anxiety
    It says it all.
    xoxo

    1. I think sometimes I have to remember that a lot of my stress is born of my own choices. It can be hard to remember that in the moment! Sometimes I wish my personality and drive could chill out for a minute, but that’s not who I am. Still, focusing on the fact that I am doing what I WANT helps me to remember to be grateful for opportunity, even when I feel overwhelmed. My anxiety does give me anxiety! I give myself anxiety, haha!

  2. Well, hi there.

    This is my life. You are telling me my own life story right now (or, at least, the chapter I’m currently in). I legitimately registered for my second half marathon (13 weeks before the race…so, guess it’s time to train) because I was like, “Well, life is so crazy right now I probably won’t make time for working out unless I HAVE to.” And now that I’ve bought my wedding dress, those extra pounds of “taking a break” weight aren’t really an option.

    But here’s the thing: being busy means I don’t have time to give into the craziness. The structure that this busyness requires me to build in is good for me. Being busy helps me stay more even-keel. I’m bipolar — having people that are counting on me to fulfill my obligations means I don’t have time to mope when I’m down, and I don’t have the room to run when I feel on the manic side.

    So, thanks to putting words to this trying, stressful, awesome chapter. I’m growing so much right now. And so are you. Keep up the great work. I’ve been quietly lurking your blog for a while and I feel like I’m looking in a mirror sometimes. A mirror when the other version of myself is significantly more in-shape than me, but…that’s besides the point 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for coming out of lurkdom and commenting, Kelly!! I really appreciate it! I completely understand what you’re saying, Kelly! Goals and obligations can be extremely helpful for keeping me on track, too. I have to be too focused and can’t get inside my own head nearly as much. That doesn’t make it easy – but it’s the lesser of two evils, I suppose. Thanks for sharing some of your story with me!! Good luck in your half marathon – I know you’ll rock it!

  3. Danielle, you are awesome! I felt every bit of this. I still feel anxious, inadequate and almost overwhelmed most days. Like someone will find out I’m an imposter who is not qualified or smart enough for any of the things I’m working at, but having gone through this process for years, I’m at the point I can actually acknowledge those feelings, swallow them and handle full time work, full time school and full time life without melting down and quitting or turning to the crutch of hating and punishing my body. Not something that was possible even 5 years ago. Sometimes I tell myself the anxiety is just the itch that keeps us from getting complacent and settling.
    Keep on rocking everything you do and know there are those of us out here who admire you for it and are pulling along with you. Every day you check off that list is a victory. 🙂

    1. I relate so much to what you’re saying, Kelly! I have suffered from imposter syndrome throughout my life too – like someone is suddenly going to figure out that I’m not good at my job or I have no idea what I’m doing! It’s a terrifying feeling. At first, when people told me I was doing a good job, I just thought they were crazy. But I’ve slowly forced myself to believe that it doesn’t really matter if I think I’m doing a good job or not – do the people around me think so? They’re the people that are paying me, right? So if they think so, that’s what matters. At least, that’s what I try to tell myself! Thank you for sharing some of your story with me! I totally understand how you feel.

  4. I can relate to this so much Danielle. I struggled with anxiety for a while and I can relate. You are truly incredible and I can’t imagine how much you have going on. I know you can’t tell someone how to feel or what to do but I do know you’ll make it through this period. Besides, didn’t we all start blogging for ourselves anyways?

    1. Anxiety is a pretty powerful force! I know you can relate. It can be really overwhelming and there was a time when it ruled my life, but I don’t want to live that way anymore, so I have to fight it! Sometimes, that goes better than others, haha!

  5. You can ride a bicycle slowly and sensibly and meet approval from everybody. Yet, if you speed up, going faster and faster and faster still, until the handlebars are shaking and you’re barely in control – the adrenaline starts to flow. Then, you give it just one more burst of power, reaching terrifying speed.

    For most people, that is insane. For many of us, however, that is the way life is meant to be. Keep pedaling, and hold on. You’re living life your way!

    1. I love this, Emery!! You summarized the situation perfectly! Most people think I’m crazy, but it’s the only way I know how to live. Thank you for your comment!

  6. Yes yes yes to so much of what you’ve said. Learning (over and over and over and over) that I DO get through things has been invaluable.

    For much of this fall and winter I’ve needed to cocoon myself and now that I’m coming out of it, I need to relearn where my edge it and keep working towards it.

    1. Sometimes cocooning is really important and valuable! I totally understand. I find that it’s really hard for me to break out of that cycle (like, years!), so I spend most of my time trying to avoid getting into it in the first place.

  7. Love the comments, glad I came back to re-read after scanning on phone this morning 🙂

    I think you touched on a nerve that most driven people deal with – and what makes me happy is that dealing with anxiety has become something that has become more recognized as ‘real’, not something to dismiss as ‘oh you’re just stressed out’ or whatever like it was in years past. My kids – younger one in particular – deal with it, so we have always been upfront about talking to therapists and dealing with these issues. My wife deals with depression and anxiety (separate issues, each kid got one 🙂 ), so knows how NOT to address it.

    There was an interesting article I read about how our genetic code has not caught up with the rapid advances in society and lifestyle … how 150 years ago you had a 15-25% chance of being killed by an animal or another human (not counting formal wars), so hyper-vigilance was necessary … now that it is incredibly unlikely to be killed those ways, our same senses cause us anxiety and depression. It was really interesting 🙂

    I am fortunate that I really am pretty ‘easy going’ and haven’t dealt with stress or depression in my life … but I am also fairly intense and driven in my own way, so my thing is to seek ‘balance’. I made huge career advances in my 20s and simultaneously made my marriage a priority and staying in shape. My 30s and 40s have been about continuing my career, but with an attempt of being 100% husband, 100% father, 100% employee, and taking care of myself 100%. Quick math puts that at 400% 🙂 So yeah, it is about being able to maximize all of them without killing yourself.

    As others note – there is an edge. And edge between where you feel exhilarated and stressed and exhausted and like your mind is on fire … and where learning the printer is out of paper and getting more will cost you 10 minutes and seeing your entire life crumbling around you … 😀

    Living as close to that edge – and more importantly OWNING that you live on that edge – makes you feel alive.

    1. Your whole comment is amazing, but I have to say that the part about how our genetic code has not caught up with society made SO much sense to me. It explains a lot about why we hear more about depression and anxiety today than we did decades and centuries ago. I always related it to Laslow’s hierarchy of needs, and I think this is sort of along the same lines.

      I am constantly reminded that my motivation is internal and that I don’t HAVE to do the vast majority of this stuff. And for sure, that’s true! But I FEEL like I have to, and ultimately, that is what ends up driving me forward. I used to hate this aspect of my personality, but I’ve come to appreciate it because I think it contributes a lot to my success and the things I’ve achieved. That said, it would be nice if the idea of not working on vacation didn’t make be break out in hives, but maybe I’ll get there one day 🙂

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