Updated: Aug 6, 2020
First of all, HAPPY FRIDAY THE 13TH EVERYONE! I feel like a traitor for not writing about something super spooky on a day such as this, but I have been feeling more down and anxious than usual the past couple of weeks and wanted to briefly talk about something that just truly isn't fair:
Anxiety has a Catch-22.
Besides being a great book by Joseph Heller, a catch-22 also simply means 'a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions' (Woo, thanks Google!).
So, for example, you want to go out with your friends. There is a cool event you want to check out, a movie you want to see, or you just really want to catch up over some craft beer and pizza. Your anxiety has kept you lying low for the past few nights, so you should be able to go, right? WRONG.
Here is the catch-22: You feel anxious about NOT doing fun things with you friends, but you also feel anxious about DOING fun things with your friends. There is a heavy guilt and a lot of FOMO happening, but is it worth going to the bar and having a panic attack in the bathroom and having to explain to your friends that you have to go home, that it's not them, and you're sorry that you always do this?
It can be very painful and frustrating to not have the energy to do what it seems like everyone else is doing on Facebook and Instagram. Getting through work, cleaning, and running errands is sometimes too much on its own. You want to be the person who comes home, changes into a fun outfit and goes out on the town during any night of the week but you're just not. Instead, you order food in and binge Sex and the City to live vicariously through the women who do seem to do it all.
For the past few months, I have experienced a similar thing with my writing as well. I took a hiatus from submitting to online and print literary magazines, and now I have some stuff that I would love to push out into the world. But with submitting, and then getting accepted and published, comes great anxiety - er, responsibility?
I feel anxious actually going through the process of submitting my work, and then waiting. It can be weeks, and sometimes months before a publication gets back to you. And when they do, they either say Yes (yay!) or No (that's okay, there is always a next time). Waiting for the final answer is very nerve-wracking for someone who is already an over-thinker, but then when your piece DOES get accepted, a whole new layer is added.
Now, hundreds, maybe thousands of strangers are going to see your work. In the past, I have published some pretty dark or intimate stuff about depression and anxiety - because I wanted to reach someone and help them feel less alone. But once you know that it's out there, you start to wonder if people will like it, love it, hate it, be indifferent to it, or think you are a complete weirdo! Like ahh, why did I just tell SO MUCH about myself to the internet? What if my boss or second grade teacher sees this? WHAT HAVE I DONE...cue more anxiety.
I can imagine that performers feel the same way about auditions, or visual artists when opening a gallery. Like YES, I FINALLY HAVE A GALLERY - WAIT NO, THERE ARE TONS OF PEOPLE HERE LOOKING AT MY STUFF DEAR GOD DON'T LOOK AT MY STUFF.
Ah, the sweet double-edged sword. I wish I had something insightful or uplifting to say about this, but please know that if you feel this way - I feel it too. You are not alone. If your friends are actually quality friends, then they will understand your needs. And if you are an artist with thoughts and dreams, then you have something valuable to say. Just think of all of the great creators who have impacted you. What if their anxiety or nerves kept them from seeing their vision through?
Your work could save someone, so just keep going.