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, 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.