The past few weeks have been a study in living with anxiety for me. After my coping mechanisms were overwhelmed during an incredibly stressful week, the nearness of my recent trip prevented me from taking the time I needed to recover. As I’m learning, though, it prevented me from taking the time I thought I needed to recover. This isn’t to say that I somehow did better because I was so busy, or even that I managed just fine. I think time to properly rest would have benefited me, of course, since I felt a deep, aching weariness by the time I had to drive across half the country for a flight and that drive, the flight, and settling in to my trip just added their own spins to my exhaustion. But I managed just fine and I don’t think it was even as self-destructive as I thought it might be. As it turns out, since I was so focused on doing something new and had to take care of or at least confront a bunch of personal issues I’d been putting off, I’m probably better off for being put in this position.
I mean, ideally, I would have had time to rest and still managed the growth and personal development I associate with being pushed out of my comfort zone in the weeks leading up to and including my trip, but I didn’t have that opportunity. I just had stuff that needed doing and no time to procrastinate or cut myself some slack. I also wasn’t so hurried that I was pushing myself to the point of total exhaustion. I’d taken the time to plan everything out before things got messy, so I had a decent, three-week plan for getting everything done to fall back on when I was too stressed and anxious to do anything but spin my mental wheels. I’d planned enough time to do everything and still have space to run last minute errands or take care of things I realized I’d forgotten (or correct decisions that made no sense in retrospect, like buying only three new shirts instead of the six I needed). It all worked out in the end, even with removing two planned evenings so I could drive to the east coast rather than fly out of the Midwest like my plans originally called for. It helped that those two evenings had been designated for rest and final packing, so I was able to just cut the post-preparation rest out of my plans to make my new timeline work.
Which, you know, was only as expansive as it is because I wanted to avoid pressuring myself to drive a thousand miles in a single day. Instead, I drove a bit, slept in my car, and then drove the rest of the way. I’d never slept in my car before (mostly because I’m a large person and my vehicle is a small car), so that was a new experience, but I figured it would be easier to just drive when I felt alert, stop to rest when I did not, and then get back to driving. Instead of trying to get it all done in sixteen hours, I gave myself twenty-four with the option of taking more if I need. Only the drive back was crammed into as little time as possible and even then I kept my options open for stopping to rest if I needed it.
Somehow, through all that, I never had a panic or anxiety attack. I rarely felt prepared and I frequently felt anxious (not just about the logistics of travel but also about meeting a bunch of new people), but I managed because I’d prepared myself, made sure I had enough time for everything, and made sure that I took what breaks I could. Only once did I push myself to keep working when I was ready to rest and that was during the last night before my trip when I was making clothing lists and trying to figure out if everything I needed would fit in my suitcases (and that I had everything I would need in the first place). Even then, I still managed to get to bed earlier than I had some nights during the peak of my stress and anxiety a month ago. I also managed to get into work before nine in the morning every single day (which was super important since I needed to get all my work for the week done in four days so I could save some vacation time for future trips and events). I didn’t do extra work when I could rest instead, I stuck to my schedule, and I made sure to take time to do something new and fun at least once a day.
I hope I never had another month like this. It really sucked. I am not overall better for this experience. I am better than I might have been without the past few years of practice at choosing rest when I can and not pushing myself too hard, sure, but my life would still be better if things had gone smoothly from the beginning. I’m just trying to take away some positives from this experience. I’m trying to focus on what I learned rather than what I went through, at least for now. There will be time to work through all that in future, but probably not in the next two months as I try to sort out where I’m going to live and how I’m attending my friends’ wedding. Still plenty to do, of course. No rests for me until July at the earliest. At that point, though, I’m going to just collapse in a heap and either go to a spa for a weekend or rent someplace with a massive bathtub or a hot tub and rest until my DNA unwinds.