The Return of the Anxiety Monster


Recently it has come to my attention that being truly open, honest, & sincere is far more appreciated by the world as a whole than being some kind of continually positive peppy cheerleader type.  The latter becomes more of an annoyance than anything because inevitably there are times when life sucks, & at those times I think all of us desperately long for someone to validate our fears, our anxieties, & general woes about the difficulties we’re facing, whatever they may be.

flow15a-feel-like-shit-chodron-quote

In an effort to be completely honest, I must preface this post by saying I am currently a bit of an emotional train wreck.  My hormones are all over the map (I recently came off birth control since my husband & I are trying to have a baby), work has been increasingly demanding, & there have just been a number of other stressful situations in my life lately, all of which have contributed to me struggling with my anxiety far more than I have for a long time.  And because I’m trying to get pregnant, I’m now taking a 50% lower dose of Prozac (which means I’m now on the lowest dose available), so as you can imagine that has been an additional stressor.

hello-my-name-is-anxiety

In any case, this past week I was placed in a situation that brought up a lot of negative memories.  I was criticized in a way that I felt was at least 90% completely unjustified, & as usual my response was to cry.  I only shed a few tears during the actual conversation, & I did manage to stand up for myself FAR more than I would have years ago, but it took everything in me not to just break down & sob right then & there.  Trust me, when I was in the safety of my car I cried harder than I have in a long time. tears

The end result of this situation is that suddenly I felt just as small as I did so many years ago when I was in elementary & middle school & many of the other kids teased me & used my “weaknesses” to make themselves feel stronger.  Memories of being teased about everything from not knowing what an erection was to wearing the wrong style of clothes to forgetting to shave my legs to being “too smart” to being out of touch with popular music & TV shows to sucking at sports all came flooding back in a deluge of torment.  Many of these memories had not crossed my mind in well over a decade.  But suddenly the pain of those moments was just as real as if they had happened yesterday.  Suddenly I was the last kid picked in gym class all over again.  It was as if all the self-confidence I’ve built up over the past decade since leaving high school had evaporated like the morning dew on a sunny day.  teasing

And here I am two days later still struggling . . . Am I over-reacting?  Of course.  But I’m an intelligent, sensitive person who cannot help but take criticism to heart.  I do this because I truly care.  I want to be the best I can be at everything I do.  I’m not saying I need to win some kind of award for everything I attempt in life.  Hell no!  I’m just saying I have very high standards for myself, probably too high sometimes, & it’s difficult to take criticism, especially that which feels unfair & poorly presented, as anything other than evidence of a glaring failure.anxiety

I know I should just “shake it off,” forget it, & move on with my life. But that’s not in my nature.  Trust me, at times like these I would give almost anything to be so light-hearted as to be able to do that.  I’m trying very hard to remember that one person’s perception of me is simply that: one person’s perception of me & nothing more.  I hate to sound like a whiny first-world bitch, but sometimes being smart is not all it’s cracked up to be.  I’ve spent my whole life being largely identified & singled out for my intelligence.  All things considered, I realize this isn’t a bad lot in life.  There are definitely a lot worse characteristics for which one can be known. But the down side to it is that any “evidence” of failure makes you feel like you’re losing your whole identity, not to mention the inevitable phenomenon that everyone just expects you to deal with anything that comes your way because “she’s smart, she can handle it.”  Then there are also the people who think that just because you’re smart means everything you excel at must come easily to you, that you haven’t really worked for your successes, which of course could not be further from the truth.  And then there are the inevitable people who are jealous of your success & are probably just waiting for you to screw up so they can feel better about their own failures . . .intelligence

Anyway, it has also come to my attention lately that it is possible that I may be intimidating to some people.  Because I have a tendency to still think of myself as the nerdy weird girl, a bit of an ugly duckling for lack of a better term, it’s really quite incredible to me that this could possibly be true.  However, when I think about it objectively, I suppose a twenty-something woman who’s in good shape, reasonably attractive, successful in her career, happily married, & generally seen to be “on top of it all” could be a bit intimidating.  And I am all of those things.  I’ll never forget a situation in college where a friend of a friend told me that when he first met me he was really intimidated by my intelligence, but he then went on to say that he quickly discovered that I was also incredibly kind & any feelings of inadequacy on his part melted away.  When he told me that (probably 8 years ago now!!), I remember being totally flabbergasted because the idea that I could be intimidating to anyone, much less a guy, just seemed utterly unthinkable.  But I doubt he’d have admitted to such a thing if it weren’t true.  As much as I cannot help but admit that being known as intelligent & “successful” is indeed flattering, I sincerely want to be known at least as much for being kind & generous & helpful.  I guess the reason the criticism I faced earlier this week got under my skin so much is because I felt like it implied that I’m none of those things.You-are-nice-quotes-kindness-quotes-politeness-quotes

I really don’t know why I’m writing all of this other than to try to maintain my own sanity.  I suppose the message I’m trying to convey is that even those of us who may seem to “have it all together” are extremely vulnerable & just as hard on ourselves, if not more so, than anyone else.  The truth is none of us has it all together.  We’re all facing our own unique battles.  Perhaps it’s to my own detriment that I am so adept at seeming like I’ve got it all together because it masks the battles I’m facing with my own anxiety.  I’ve said it before & I’m sure I’ll say it again, but I truly believe the world would be a far better place if more of us were honest about the battles we’re fighting on a daily basis.  Anxiety is my battle, the anxiety monster is very real, & right now I’m fighting it harder than I have in a very long time.  So in an effort to live up to my own beliefs, this post is me being truly candid & letting you know that at this point in time I’m really struggling . . . But struggling though I may be, I won’t be defeated . . .  times are hard

Before I end, I feel like I must include this quick side-note: to the people who say those of us with anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses should just pray more or read the Bible more, I may as well tell you to pray away your diabetes or your cancer or your heart disease.  Now do you realize how ridiculous you sound?  If you’re going to take the view that disease is a product of sin & can be cured by pure faith, then at least be consistent about it.  If you’re going to criticize me or anyone else for taking medication for a mental illness, then I better not catch you taking an antibiotic, a pain medication, a blood pressure pill, or anything of the kind.  Just saying . . .

I’ll conclude this post with one of my favorite “pick me up” songs by the talented guys from Redlight King.

My favorite lyrics from the song are below:

Risk it all, I’m gonna risk it all
I’m gonna break my back and risk it all
I’m gonna pick my spot, take my shot,
Swallow my pride and risk it all
I’m gonna risk it all
And I won’t look back
I’m gonna pick my spot,
Take my shot, swallow my pride
And risk it all

The light’s on, the last round
The dark horse keeps on fightin’

I’m gonna make a comeback
I’m gonna dig six feet up tonight
I’m gonna get it all back
I’m gonna make a comeback this time

Anxiety, you will not win.  I know I’ll never bury you completely, but you will not take away all the progress I’ve made.  You may have won a few battles here lately, but trust me, you are not going to win the war.

The 6 Best Bands You’ve Never Heard About


One of my favorite activities in life is discovering new music.  As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I grew up in a conservative family in a small town in Virginia, & thus it’s not too surprising that I was very sheltered for the first 18 years of my life.  However, once I got to college & had unlimited access to the Internet, including that fascinating place called YouTube, as well as dozens of new friends to broaden my horizons a bit, I began to explore all kinds of new (to me) music.  The biggest discovery I made was that I actually loved rock & metal, which I had previously shunned for most of my life as “devil music.”  In any case, over the past 8 years or so I’ve become a real music junkie.  Indeed, I have to be one of the only people under 30 who still buys actual physical CDs on a regular basis (because I am just weird like that).  I’m also proud to say that I’ve started to become that person who introduces other people to new bands & artists.  Furthermore, one of the best compliments I can receive is being told I have great taste in music (or books).

music speaks

Anyhow, today I thought I would share some of my favorite bands from various genres who are a bit out of the mainstream music scene but whose music deserves to be played on every radio station in this country.  I’ve provided links to at least 2 songs on YouTube for each artist so that you can easily locate some of their best pieces.  I sincerely hope you’ll click at least a few of these links because you never know when you might discover a new favorite band.

  1. Honor By August (Soft Rock)

I first heard Honor By August at a street concert in downtown Raleigh this past Spring.  They were one of the opening acts for Third Eye Blind, & let me just tell you that they blew 3EB way out of the water.  I was so impressed with them that I almost immediately bought their most recent album online & purchased tickets to see them again in August at the Pourhouse in downtown Raleigh.  I was even more impressed with them the second time around.  Honor By August is a 4-piece rock band based out of Washington DC (although their bassist is from right here in Raleigh).  Their music is substantially “softer” than my usual taste in rock, but their lyrics & delivery are absolutely stellar.  The emotion that comes through in Michael Pearsall’s voice is just undeniable.  By turns uplifting & by turns heart-wrenching, the lyrics to their songs are well-crafted & strike straight to the heart.  For a more upbeat song, check out Already Yours (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvhxWavi9eQ).  For a mid-tempo piece, check out We Were Young (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2Qq0JpnNpM).  And lastly for a real tear-jerker about lost love, check out Johnny (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGHaKJrrg9A).

honor by august

  1. Brandi Carlile (Alternative Country/Folk Rock)

Brandi Carlile’s name has certainly started to gain more recognition, as several of her songs have been featured in TV commercials/shows & major Hollywood films.  However, such features hardly do justice to the power of this woman’s amazing voice.  I started to get interested in her when I read Eric Church’s praise for Brandi’s talent.  (After all, anyone Eric Church recognizes as talented is worth at least a cursory listen.)  Well, it just so happened that I came across one of Brandi’s CDs in Boston a few weeks ago, so naturally I jumped on it.  Not only is her music stellar, but I admire her courage in being open about her sexuality.  A married lesbian country singer/songwriter (who is NOT from the South) is clearly far from the standard country music paradigm, & I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s part of the reason she is not played on the radio as she should be.  It’s hard for me to pick favorites, but I’d highly recommend checking out 100 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mS6wXth2bEA), The Story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8pQLtHTPaI), & A Promise to Keep (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oayzr_KDYFM).

brandi carlile

  1. Nikki Lane (Alternative Country)

I first read about Nikki Lane a few months ago & was immediately intrigued by this alternative country singer who embodies a real rock & roll spirit.  Just this week I received both of her albums in the mail, & I’m thoroughly enjoying diving into both of them.  While maintaining a country style, it’s easy to pick up on jazz & rock influences in her albums.  As someone who loves music that crosses genre lines, Nikki’s music is instantly appealing.  For a slower-paced piece that superbly features Nikki’s sultry voice, check out You Can’t Talk to Me Like That (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCRRO_IqVgs).  Then check out her rock & roll spirit in Right Time (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzS3vU6wZa4).  You won’t find a Wikipedia page about Nikki (yet), but you can read a good interview with her here:   http://www.americansongwriter.com/2014/07/5-nashvilles-finest-nikki-lake-rebel/.

nikki lane

  1. Gemini Syndrome (Hard Rock/Metal)

I first discovered Gemini Syndrome last summer when I saw that they were on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.  As FFDP is one of my favorite bands of all time, naturally that was enough to intrigue me.  As I started looking up their songs on YouTube I was thoroughly impressed with what I found.  Here is a hard rock band, with some definite metal influences, whose music is sensational AND whose lyrics are philosophical & deep.  It wasn’t long before I purchased their album Lux & fell in love.  Introducing others to new music is one of my greatest joys in life, & I’m happy to say that my husband also fell in love with this fantastic album, which sounds much more mature than a debut album.  For an inspirational piece, check out Pleasure & Pain (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5Y1whCvdpo).  Another stellar piece is Basement which was written by the lead singer in relation to his albinism.  I think we can all relate to Aaron Nordstrom when he sings “I never wanted this/I never asked for it/But this is what you gave me/I never wanted this/I never asked for it/But this is what you gave me/Why would you forsake me?”  Haven’t we all felt that way at some point in our lives for one reason or another?  Check out Basement here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMmnl2Gs_Ho.  (And just in case anyone’s wondering because of the symbolism in the videos, no, this is NOT a Satanist or pagan band.)

gemini syndrome

  1. Mindset Evolution (Hard Rock)

My husband & I discovered Mindset Evolution at Uproar Festival in Raleigh two years ago.  Their live performance was very impressive so we bought the five-song disc that they had for sale at the show.  Over the next year I stayed up to date with the band on their Facebook page, & naturally I purchased their first full-length album on the very day it debuted last summer.  This is yet another debut album that sounds very mature.  These five guys from Illinois are clearly dedicated to writing & performing their music & that dedication shows through in their songs.  Check out heavy-hitter Burn It Down (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA3DP55qumE) & the inspirational The Change (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnADuQVecPA).  How these guys are not on the radio more is absolutely beyond comprehension.  Additionally to anyone who thinks rock music is all anger & negativity, I beg you to give this band a listen & let them prove you wrong.

mindset evolution

  1. Redlight King (Rock- with rap influences)

Redlight King is yet another band my husband & I discovered at Uproar Festival two years ago.  This band features Canadian singer/songwriter Mark Kasprzyk.  After the festival I started looking up their music on YouTube & was surprised at the great variety of styles in the band’s music (some more traditional rock, some with heavy rap influences).  Two years later I now own both of their albums . . . Check out Bullet in My Hand which was the song that really caught my attention at Uproar Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1KL5U-fyMc.  Also don’t miss Kaz’s tribute to his dad in the rap-rock song Old Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGt54Ozo8LQ.  Lastly, be sure to check out the inspirational song Times are Hard:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IziTRWzTUo.

redlight king

I sincerely hope you’ll take the time to check out at least a few of these bands who are truly worthy of your attention.  And if you like what you hear, I hope you’ll take the next step in supporting these great artists by purchasing their albums &/or tickets to a live show.  As you may have noticed I discovered three of these bands at live shows . . . And all three of them were NOT the artist I had gone to those shows to see . . . As I said at the beginning, you just never know when or where you might discover your newest favorite band.  Happy listening!

Finding Peace When Times are Hard


There was a shooting in my hometown today (about three hours away from where I now live).  Being a very small town in a very rural area, this isn’t exactly something you expect to read about when scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.  But sadly this isn’t the first time there’s been a shooting in this supposedly peaceful place.  It’s the second hometown shooting I’ve found out about via Facebook just in the past four or five years.  In any case it goes without saying that this is a horrific tragedy that has no doubt affected countless individuals.  It’s ironic to me how so many people have this idea that small towns are inherently safer, more peaceful, and generally more moral than the rest of the world.  I can tell you from personal experience that they are not & that small towns are exactly how Agatha Christie used to describe them in her books: they are a microcosm for the larger world.  All the evil that exists in the world as a whole exists just as strongly in a small town.  It just might not seem quite as apparent if given only a cursory glance.  This isn’t a rant against small towns (even though I’ve long since realized that small town life just isn’t right for me anymore, at least at this stage of my life).  I’m just trying to say that evil is everywhere.  There’s no running from it.  No hiding from it.  However, despite what I often hear, especially at times like this, I don’t believe the world is getting any more evil than it’s ever been.  First of all there is absolutely no scientific way to measure that.  And second of all, I truly believe it’s only due to technology such as TV & the internet that we are more aware of so much of the evil in the world, which of course makes is seem like the world is getting worse & worse.  Perhaps if good news received even half the attention that bad news receives, we wouldn’t be so convinced that the world is “going to hell in a handbasket,” as it were.  But sensationalism sells . . .

times are hard

Anyway, at times like these, I find myself slipping into the cynicism that inevitably rears its ugly head whenever such senseless tragedies occur.  I did not personally know the victim but I interacted with her a handful of times growing up, as she worked in the local school system, & her son was involved in a teen group at my church when we were growing up but I haven’t seen or heard from him in many years.  The alleged perpetrator as I understand it, who at this writing is still at large, was a barber in town for many years & as such was well known in the community (somebody correct me if I’m wrong here).  I believe my dad used to go to his barber shop.    Point being, I don’t have a strong personal connection to this tragedy, but even so it is a shocking event that sends the mind reeling with questions about the uncertainty & unfairness of life.  I like to think of myself as mostly a positive person but I think at heart I am actually a realist.  I cannot help but see reality for exactly what it is most of the time.  For example as a nurse, I cannot help but realize how completely futile the care I provide is at times.  Or when I think about becoming a mom, I cannot help but realize how difficult & tiring of an undertaking that will be.  I often hear women say “Babies are cute but I just had no idea how much work this would be.”  When I hear such things, part of me wants to slap them in the face.  How could you NOT realize how much work a baby will be?  To me it’s just so obvious.  Just as it’s obvious to me that a 90 year old who cannot speak, eat, or care for herself in any way & generally has no quality of life should be a DNR and should not receive a feeding tube to prolong her misery.  But I’ve strayed from the point . . .

What I’m saying is I’m struggling right now to fight my way out of the darkness.  I know there are plenty of wonderful people in the world & I truly believe that good is stronger than evil.  If I didn’t, I don’t think I could keep going.  But when you’re presented with tragedies like this that quite literally hit close to home (the shooting occurred maybe two miles from my parents’ house), it’s easy to lose sight of that.  Having no strong personal connection to this horrifying event, I feel actually quite selfish being so upset by it.  I know the victim’s family & friends are suffering so much right now.  Yet I also know there are others like me who have no real connection to this story & yet are horrified just the same.

Certainly this is a time of grieving for my hometown & there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking our time to grieve & process such a horrific event.  As I wrote around Christmas, grief is a ghost that will haunt us forever until we learn to work through it (https://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2013/12/18/processing-grief-during-the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year/).  We each must identify the coping mechanisms that help us to work through our grief and the cynicism that can naturally follow such a tragedy.  For me music is quite often the best healer.   Music along with writing is what helps me make sense of a senseless world.  Or perhaps I should say to come to terms with a senseless world.

As it turns out, earlier this week I was fooling around on YouTube, as I often do, & came across a new song by a band I discovered at Uproar Festival in Raleigh in September of 2012, shortly after we moved down here.  The song is called Times are Hard by Redlight King.  I have been listening to it almost non-stop for the past few days & I cannot help but feel like the timing of discovering this song was quite providential for lack of a better word.  The song talks about how when life is hard, when tragedies take us by surprise & there seems to be no balm for our wounds, we need to find someone to hold onto to keep us strong.  How appropriate at a time like this.  To me it’s an empowering song, yet it doesn’t gloss over how difficult life can be at times.  I don’t know if the song was necessarily written about this kind of horrific tragedy, but that’s the beauty of music: it can mean whatever you want it to mean.  It can speak to you wherever you are at this point in time.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics & a link to the song on YouTube.  Check it out.  It’s powerful stuff.

Sooner or later life will pull you in

Make you choose to either sink or swim

Somewhere down the line it’s gonna break your heart

Put you out & make you wear the scars

All these dreams, they come with all this doubt

When we can’t fit in we try to find a way out

Learn to fight so they don’t seal our fate

They say you never see it coming till it’s way too late

These times are hard, feels like nothing’s gonna change

Nowhere to start, & you got nothing for the pain

`Cause when life moves fast, it don’t matter who you are

You gotta find someone to hold onto

Damn, these times are hard

We build those bridges & we watch them burn

So quick to pull the trigger, so slow to take our turn

We’ve all been locked out & we’ve broken down the door

Some of us hit the dirt, some of us still come back for more

When the thirst gets so bad, you’re just dying to get a taste

When it don’t involve religion, when it don’t involve the race

And there’s everything to lose `cause we were never born to win

Willing to sacrifice everything we have just to roll the dice again

These times are hard, feels like nothing’s gonna change

Nowhere to start, & you got nothing for the pain

`Cause when life moves fast, it don’t matter who you are

You gotta find someone to hold onto

Damn, these times are hard

 

Life isn’t perfect, so it’s just what you make it

And that’s what they tell you

But it’s hard when they’re holding you down

Somebody out there for you

They’re praying it all gets easy

Someone you hold onto

These times are hard, feels like nothing’s gonna change

Nowhere to start, & you got nothing for the pain

`Cause when life moves fast, it don’t matter who you are

You gotta find someone to hold onto

Damn, these times are hard