I’m going to start this one with an apology to anyone out there whom I’ve hurt or offended over the years. Whether it was something I did or something I said, or maybe even something I didn’t do or say, I’m genuinely sorry for how I behaved. Now I’m not trying to point fingers at my anxiety here and stand back with my hands up like, “I didn't do it.” I take full responsibility for all the times that I’ve been a nasty person. The problem is, I’ve always put myself in the extra nice person category, but as I reflect back more and more on my personality and my life overall, I realize that I’ve been blindly acting as a b*tch. When I thought I was being normal and kind and doing good things, I was likely actually coming across as an ugly person. HOW?! How could I have had such good intentions, and executed them so terribly? The culprit I’m finding (as I work on suppressing this part of my life) - MY ANXIETY.
This story will really make you hate me, but a few years ago a co-worker called out because they had a death in the family. The correct reaction here is sympathy, maybe offering to cook them food or send them flowers, etc. My response however, was to cry. For ME! Because I was going to have to do more work that day because we were down a person. What is wrong with me?! All I could see was more work when I was already exhausted and working at full steam. My chest got tight, my heart was in my throat, and the only thing I could think about was how much work and exhaustion I would experience. As horrible as that example is, that is a pretty perfect example of what I’ve been dealing with all my life. Ever since I graduated college and had to juggle real world issues like a full-time job all the things of “adulting,” I’ve just crumbled under the weight of it.
Anxiety has made me completely selfish. I can’t see or take care of others over my own issues because the weight of them is too much to bear. Things that are minor feel inappropriately major (ie needing to do laundry and buy groceries and clean before work the next day feels like I’ve just been drafted to war). I’ve generally been a fast paced and high strung person, but my own personality wore me down over time. I expected perfection (in myself and others), I booked my time with anything and everything exciting, and I looked at slowing down to relax or take care of yourself as a sign of weakness or laziness (the me today thinks quite differently I must note).
I’ve always known this about myself - always on the go, talkative, a little high strung, no big deal! I just pushed along and kept going. But I really started to re-evaluate my lifestyle and my personality little by little when I got married because it wasn’t just my personality running the show anymore! And then the baby came, and then the TWINS came, and I quickly crumbled with all these different people, personalities, responsibilities, and lives that I directly impacted. I’ve got a million other terrible stories of little things I’ve done when feeling stressed or anxious (turned down someone who needed a place to crash while in town, skipped a big graduation event, used passive aggressive comments in a text, or been snippy or angry on the phone…the list goes on). All of these came with some sort of mental justification. Telling myself it’s ok to do or say that because I have xy or z going on, or ‘they just don’t understand how much I have on my plate’…
But now that I’m finally slowing down, working less, juggling less, meditating more… I finally feel this b*tchiness is being lifted off of me, like a dark heavy cloak was lifted off of my shoulders. I’m not saying I’m perfect, I probably still do things that aren’t as nice as I wish, BUT I finally find myself being able to say YES! to helping someone, or taking my time to sit and listen to someone who is having a bad day (really basic things that stressed me out before). It wasn’t until I slowed down that I even realized that slower-paced Christina is much nicer than fast-paced Christina, because fast-paced Christina was too stressed to even have time to consider that she might not be a nice person (yes, I just did too much third person talking, don’t judge me clown!).
Just this morning I yelled at the kids because the computer shut down on me four times in the middle of an application for something (which I lost each time) and they were yelling and screaming and throwing things. It was honestly just a normal moment of kids playing, and my reaction was totally inappropriate, but my stress and anxiety were high this morning, and hence, I was a b*tch to my kids. Like I said, I’m totally not perfect at this, but at least I’m aware so I can limit my stressors and control my anxiety by doing yoga, meditating, or journaling. In a moment of high stress, some quick and simple breath work can help me slow down a racing heart rate (unfortunately today I didn’t think to do these things until after I yelled…). This awareness helps me to acknowledge and apologize for the negativity I put out in the world when I’m stressed. Today, I was able to stop and apologize to the kids for yelling, and to explain that, “Mommy was feeling upset, but yelling wasn’t okay. I’m sorry, I yelled at you.” I hope that by being open and honest with them, they will learn to manage their emotions better than I did/do, and also not resent me for being an anxious mom.
It’s a ripple, just like the Butterfly Effect. My frustration at my husband in the morning could lead to him cutting off a car in traffic, which could lead to that person yelling at their employee, which could lead to that person yelling at the Starbucks barista, which makes them quit! That may seem like an over-exaggeration, but it’s not! If you’re interacting with someone like me, maybe take a moment to understand the underlying reason they might be passive aggressive, dismissive, or rude. Or, if you’re the one who is stuck with a mind like mine and your anxiety makes you a b*tch too, let’s all try to be more aware, control own emotions by slowing down and breathing more, and apologize and be accountable for our actions. Even Michael told us, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”