If you’ve been following this blog for a while or if you know me in real life, then you know that anxiety with obsessive compulsive tendencies is something I have struggled with for a long time- basically my whole life. I say obsessive compulsive tendencies because, thankfully, I don’t have full-blown OCD, but I DO exhibit some obsessive compulsive tendencies in my thinking & thus in my behavior. I had an experience this morning that made me think that a useful exercise might be writing out some of my current anxiety triggers. Not only might this be therapeutic for me but it’s very possible that others could relate- even if not to these exact scenarios.
Because I value transparency, let me say that I have been taking a low dose of generic Prozac for my anxiety for probably six or seven years now. I managed to go off of it for about 6 months in late 2019 & early 2020 but once Covid hit, I realized I needed to go back on it to manage all the extra stress & general madness of living through a worldwide pandemic. It took me a long time to admit to myself that needing medication to assist with my anxiety management was not a weakness any more than needing medication for high blood pressure or lupus or any other medical condition. Of course I always believed that for everyone ELSE- but getting myself to believe it for ME? That was a whole other story- being the perfectionist that I am. In any case, I have gotten MUCH better at managing my anxiety over the years, not just thanks to medication, though I do think that has been very useful with taking some of the “edge off” so that I can actually focus on other non-medication based strategies with a clearer brain. But it’s definitely still a daily struggle with some days being better than others.
Anyway, this post is not strictly meant to be humorous but at the same time I’ll confess that one of my best coping mechanisms has been learning to laugh at myself. Not in a condescending “I’m so stupid” way. But rather in a “Ok, self, this is a bit silly. You’ve handled this kind of thing before. There is no logical reason to be this upset about this now. You’ve got this. Take a deep breath & don’t take everything so seriously” way. If that makes any sense. So, on that note, feel free to laugh along with me if you find some of these things a bit comical. I won’t judge you or hold it against you in any way.
- Having someone behind me in line while pumping gas. This happened to me at Sheetz this morning. A man pulled up behind me in a pick-up truck as I was just getting out of my car. There was absolutely nothing overtly threatening about this man, but my immediate thoughts were “Oh gosh, I’ve parked a bit too close to the pump. This dude is probably laughing about how ridiculous I look now, trying to get out of my car. He’s probably going to judge every move I make while pumping this silly gas.” Once I got the gas pumping, I stopped that train of thought & told myself “This is ridiculous. Even if he does laugh at you, so what? You have no idea who he is, he has no idea who you are, you’ll never see each other again. What does it MATTER?” After that, I was able to calm down & laugh at myself & move on without further anxiety over the matter. This is what I mean by learning to laugh at myself.
- Having my money in order in my wallet. This one is a remnant from being a waitress back in college. That’s been almost 15 years ago but I STILL feel a very urgent compulsion to have my bills in order. What I mean by this is the largest bills have to be on the bottom of the stack & they all have to be facing the same direction (i.e. none upside down or backwards). So on the rare occasions I pay with cash somewhere & the cashier gives me change, I inevitably end up cringing inwardly when the person hands me a bunch of bills all out of order. Because, you see, I then have to correct them before putting them in my wallet- but if there are people behind me in line I HATE holding them up to do this… And yet I also hate putting the bills in my wallet all out of order. It’s a real conundrum, I tell ya! And yes, I am laughing at myself as I type this because I fully realize how ridiculous this must sound to the average person.
- Having my documentation in order as a nurse. Y’all, this is one reason I do not miss inpatient nursing. Because anyone who has worked inpatient nursing knows that documentation is wildly important & also wildly difficult to get done in a timely manner. I am one of those weird nurses who actually enjoys documentation, perhaps because I am acutely aware of how truly important it can be, but also perhaps because I enjoy writing. In any case, it can cause me tremendous anxiety if I get too far behind on my charting. I HATE that feeling of knowing I’ve done something but it hasn’t yet been documented. I guess it was drilled into my head enough times that “If it’s not documented, then it wasn’t done” that until something is documented, I don’t feel like my task is truly complete. This is one reason I’ve been reluctant to go back to school to become an NP, which was my original career goal, because providers of all disciplines (i.e. doctors, NPs, PAs) all struggle so much with timely documentation. I just know I would be the kind of provider who couldn’t relax after work until all my notes were done, & I also know that it’s very rare that one can finish them all on the same day…. Soooooo… Yeah, I’d probably just be permanently anxious as hell! Just another reason why I’m pretty content to be “just a nurse” for now.
- Too much noise. Y’all, this is one reason motherhood is hard for me. Between Rachel hollering constant questions & the dogs barking, I’m pretty sure I’ll be deaf in the not so distant future. I don’t think I realized it at the time but this is another thing I don’t miss about inpatient nursing- all the constant alarms dinging!
- Social events that feel forced. I’ve talked about this before but work parties or parties where I only know one or two people are anathema for me. Just look up the song We Don’t Have to Dance by Andy Black. It’s an anthem for every introvert with social anxiety. I’m great at one on one or very small group discussions. But networking type events where you have to talk to a bunch of people, usually only for a few minutes & about mundane topics that feel forced? Ugh. The WORST! Thank goodness I’m in a career field where such things aren’t really an issue.
- Having unread texts, messages, or emails. Ohhh man, what I wouldn’t give to be a type B person who doesn’t care that their inbox is overloaded! But it’s just not in my nature to ever be that way. Nope, I have to read everything quickly & usually feel compelled to respond quickly too. Otherwise I end up with that “unfinished business” feeling that I mentioned earlier with documentation at work. This is one of many reasons I refuse to get any new social media accounts such as Twitter, Snapchat, or Tik Tok. Not only do not I find those apps of any particular interest but I also don’t need any more notifications pouring in to my phone. No thanks.
If you don’t struggle with anxiety &/or if you aren’t plagued by obsessive compulsive tendencies, this post may have read like a real laugh riot. Or you may be tempted to say that I’m clearly crazy & in need of serious help. While that may be a fair assessment, remember that my anxious, obsessive compulsive tendencies also make me a fantastic nurse. You better believe I monitor my patients’ vital signs & labs like a hawk. You better believe I obsess over dating my PICC line/IV dressings. You better believe I notify providers of even subtle changes that I know might be important. You get the drift.
Outside of nursing, I like to think some of these tendencies are useful as well- as a wife, mom, & friend, etc. We all face challenges in life, & I think, as with anything, there are pros & cons to this type of mindset. The key- at least for me- is being cognizant of my triggers so that I can better manage them when they happen. Trust me when I say that’s a work in progress!