Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can somebody please explain this to me?

Here are the facts:
  1. I am caught up on my grading, with the exception of half a dozen short papers I took in from my grad students tonight.
  2. My bills are paid, and I will have enough money (barely, but whatever) to make it to payday on Friday. My credit card debt is going down, rather than up.
  3. There are no current family crises, other than the usual background chaos.
  4. My committee work is fine and solid until Friday, when more stuff comes in.
  5. I have a presentation a week from Wednesday that I feel prepared for.
  6. My travel to an upcoming one-day symposium does not require me to present anything.
  7. My session organizer paperwork for Kalamazoo is turned in.
  8. Ditto on my travel authorization forms and applications for travel funding.
  9. I have bits and pieces to finish on two projects due by the end of the month, but I can get them done by this weekend, no problem.
  10. I have eaten decently today, though I probably could have had a little less sugar and a little more vegetable and/or whole grains, and I got a moderate amount of exercise (two 15-minute bike rides), though I've been short on sleep for a couple of nights now.
So can somebody please explain why I've been suffering from low-grade but constant anxiety for the past two hours, as if there were something important that I haven't done? I mean, I think I'll probably feel better when #9 is done, and there's a little worry that one of those two projects is going to be half-assed, but really -- what's up here?

Argh. I hate feeling like this.


ladysquires said...

That happens to me all the time. I was there last week, in fact. Sometimes, it's a project that isn't exactly urgent but that is still occupying enough brain space to be a nuisance, and sometimes I think that I have a hard time coping with things being basically ok in my life. If I'm not fighting a fire at that moment, it must mean there's a pile of smoldering embers hiding just out of sight, ready to turn my life into a raging inferno. Or something like that.

Then again, it might be purely biological, some kind of lizard brain response to the fact that something, somewhere might be trying to kill and eat you, even if you can't see it or even if it isn't really there at all. I try to just tell my brain to shut the fuck up so I can relax, but sometimes the only thing that works is absorbing myself in a little project of some sort. Or taking a nap, if at all possible. I've heard some people recommend breathing exercises.

Anyway, I hope you figure out a solution. Feeling that way, especially when you could be recuperating, really sucks.

Anonymous said...

I can speak directly to this. When I have a great deal of work to do my background anxiety seems to disappear. I think to myself that I no longer have anxiety, I'm really cooking now, look at me charging ahead. Then I get some downtime with nothing to focus on or attribute anxiety to (upcoming presentation, etc.) and I realize I'm feeling anxious. With nothing to excuse it, I get more anxious since obviously there's something wrong with me! I'm anxious! And there's no reason!

The only cure I've found is learning something. If I distract myself with something really interesting, it passes. The worst thing I can do (she says from tiresome experience) is try to figure out what the fuck is wrong with me. And the work always rolls back in and the new project shows up to explain any anxiety.

It's only taken about a thousand reiterations of this cycle for me to be able to see it so well. I just wish I could stop the anxiety completely, but even meds have only been able to take it down to a livable level. Does it help to know that you are absolutely not alone?

Anonymous said...

As a lifelong anxiety sufferer, it has been important for me to move beyond the idea that anxiety is necessarily connected to anything in particular. It is certainly affected by events, of course, and can be exacerbated or ameliorated by any number of things, thoughts, and feelings.

But none of those things are necessary to cause feelings of anxiety, just as sad things are not in and of themselves necessary to causing feelings of depression.

For many anxiety sufferers, though by no means all, anxiety is more of a way of life, a free-floating phenomenon that just finds things to settle on. The direction of causality is not always or even usually from event/stressor/situation TO anxiety, but can and for me often does go the other way around.

(Disclosure: I am not a psychologist, but my partner is, and I have been dealing with anxiety and its implications for me from my earliest childhood memories).

Anyway, none of this is meant to be universalizing a necessarily local and dynamic experience, but understanding that anxiety is, always has been, and likely always will be a part of my life has been liberating for me. It means I am not constantly trying to be something I am not and have not ever been, it means I do not self-identify as deviant because I am Anxious-Self trying to become Non-Anxious-Self, and it also reflects the Aristotelian view of identity I am attracted to, which is that we are deeply habitual creatures.

Understanding that my anxieties will be more or less present even in situations where there are relatively lesser or fewer events/stressors has been liberating, and enables me to get on with the business of managing the frequency and intensity of my anxieties, as well as accepting my self.

Take all of the above entirely FWIW, which may be very little for all people who aren't me.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Yep - this is when I always check every burner on the stove to make sure that I've turned them all off. When I've got all my ducks in a row, that's when I feel like, "oh shit, I must be forgetting something!!" I find that the only thing that helps is keeping a meticulously annotated calendar so that I can double check to make sure I'm not missing anything.

Well, that and checking the stove. ;) Hope you feel more calm soon.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks for the support, folks. This is actually not a chronic or even regular condition. Usually there's something I can pinpoint as a cause, even an irrational one.

But even so, Anon #2's comment makes a good point: that sometimes we just need to accept these things with a simple "this, too, shall pass."

@ Fie Upon: checking the stove is my one major OCD area. I have a gas stove. And I *have* left it running more than once. But my compulsion is all out of proportion to the facts.

Edward said...

Maybe you are worried about global warming, America's illegal wars, the growing U.S. economic disaster and its evolution into an oligarchy, or the control of propaganda over political discourse.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I probably shouldn't admit to being such a basket case, but in your position, here's how I'd respond to the items on the list:

1. There is still grading. Ack!

2. What large unexpected expense is going to come up?

3. The background chaos could spawn a tornado at any time.

4. More stuff will come in on Friday; how awful will it be?

5. Being prepared means that now I'm free to obsess instead of pushing aside the obsession while I actually do the work.

6. Flying. Ugh. Need Xanax.

7. What if I forgot somebody? Will we get a decent time for the session?

8. I bet I forgot to fill something in. So I won't get the money. And there goes #2.

9. Nearly-finished projects always spawn some loose thread that turns into a huge snarl. (Sorry, mixed metaphor.)

10. Oh no! I’m being healthy! Now I’ll have to keep that up!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

How about a nice fucken sangwich, a little smoked provolone, roasted peppers, and basil on a fresh-baked ciabatta? That'll make you feel better!

the unknown said...

it's called zeigarnik effect.

i hope it aint due to over analyzing of things. :P

lol comrade, not everyone resorts to food for comfort. in russia maybe, but ppl in the states are more health conscious.

Michael said...

It's because you are part of the family you belong to. You're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just do what I do: enjoy yourself now and smile like an idiot when something finally goes wrong.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Ha! Michael, you may have something there.