You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. – Buckminster Fuller
NOTE: This blog post might be kind of a downer. I wrote it two or three weeks ago, when my anxiety was through the roof, and I was very depressed. But I still stand by what I wrote here. Anyway, if you’re not in a good headspace right now, you might want to just read this post later. Just sayin.
Living With Anxiety
Living with anxiety is like building a house of cards.
But when you build little “houses” out of playing cards by stacking and balancing them against each other, they always fall down. Nothing you can do about that. They will all fall down eventually.
It is inevitable.
Now, you can spend a lot of time practicing and getting better at it.
Over the years, you can build some pretty impressive houses of cards.
Sometimes, it takes a while before it all falls down.
And it’s the same with living with an anxiety disorder.
At some point, things seem better.
So you start to feel like maybe this time is different. Maybe you finally overcame your anxiety. Maybe you finally conquered it.
Maybe you’re “okay” now. You did it. You’re back to normal, and you can do everyday things like you used to do – just like everyone else does.
But every time, that house of cards eventually comes crashing down, same as always.
Same Old Shit
I have struggled with anxiety for over 30 years.
While I got through elementary school mostly intact, I started having anxiety attacks, missing classes and falling behind in jr. high.
In 7th grade, I was recognized for being in the top 3 in my class, right up there with two other kids who went on to be the class valedictorians at our high school graduation five years later. But as my high school grad ceremony was about to start, I was still at home, in bed, having an anxiety attack, not sure if I was even graduating or not.
I dropped out of college four different times at three different schools in three different states in three different decades – and have zero degrees or certifications to show for it.
I had about 30 different jobs. And today at age 46, I don’t even make enough money as a freelance writer, blogger and Youtuber to get off welfare.
I’ve gone rock climbing, completed a triathlon, took karate lessons, held leadership positions at church, was a volunteer leader in my son’s Cub Scouts pack, was a photographer, writer and editor at my college newspaper, played guitar and sang in a rock band in front of hundreds of people, organized local concerts, got my CDL truck driver’s permit on my first shot, held supervisory positions at multiple jobs, shot photos for Hard Rock Cafe and also for HM magazine, sold my comic strips to WriteHackr magazine and (most recently) was a cohost on two weekly podcasts.
But every damn time, anxiety ended it all.
Occasionally things fizzled out without any drama and didn’t affect anyone else but me. But most other times, everything came crashing down out of nowhere – suddenly…GLORIOUSLY…and caused problems and frustration for other people too.
One day I’m there like Mr. Dependable. And the next…I’m ghosting ya.
Vanished without a trace.
It Always Ends the Same
My life is like a bookshelf filled with dozens of different books on it.
Sometimes the story starts to get pretty exciting, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.
But just when it seems like we’re getting to the best part of the book, the plot takes on a darker tone and something about the story starts to feel very familiar.
And every single time, the last chapter is the same.
In one book after another, the last chapter is ALWAYS the same.
Every time, anxiety ruins it.
It sucks. It wrecks me.
It messes up my emotions big time.
And then, after spiraling down into depression for – however long it takes – when the dust finally settles, I sit there in the dirt and ashes for a while and then pick up the pieces and start over again from scratch.
Because what else am I supposed to do? Life goes on.
So then it’s another job.
New sense of purpose.
And each time, you’re hopeful that if you just put in enough effort, if you just try hard enough, if you just figure out what you keep doing wrong, if you just want it bad enough, if you just do something DIFFERENT…somehow this time it’s going to work out.
This time you’ll be able to do regular everyday shit.
Just like how you used to do regular everyday shit.
Just like how everyone else can do regular everyday shit.
But every time, anxiety eventually screws it all up.
Different book – but it’s always the same ending.
Time to Stop Fighting Reality
I’m ready for a change. Not that my life is going to stop crashing down again. Not that anxiety won’t mess everything up again.
Because it will.
I know this.
This is my reality and has been for decades.
But this time, I ACCEPT it.
This time, I realize that I’ve been fighting reality all these years.
And this time, I’m okay with it.
I finally realize and accept that my anxiety isn’t going anywhere. It will always be a fixture in my life. It’s not some temporary thing for me to conquer or overcome or figure out or heal from. It’s just a part of my identity. This is who I am.
I resisted this idea for so many years – decades, even. Instead, I tried to be optimistic, positive and hopeful about it.
But now I get it.
Anxiety is just part of my reality.
That means my life isn’t going to look the same as other people’s lives.
What works for them isn’t going to work for me.
I’ll have to live and work within certain boundaries that seem silly to others. There’s just some things that I cannot do, even though it seems like I can – like I SHOULD be able to. But I can’t, not for the long term.
And the sooner I accept that – the sooner I stop fighting reality – then the sooner I can begin restructuring my life to minimize the damage I cause to myself and others. And the sooner I can start achieving goals that are more realistic for me.
A New Strategy: Let the Anxiety Win
Going forward, I’m going to stop saying YES to certain commitments – no matter how fun or easy or awesome they sound.
That means I’m also going to start saying NO to more situations where people will end up depending on me to follow through, to do certain things or show up at certain times – especially if it’s on an ongoing basis.
It doesn’t matter if I can do it SOMETIMES.
It doesn’t matter if I’m GOOD at it and want to HELP.
It doesn’t matter HOW HIGH I CAN STACK THOSE DAMN CARDS – because I know how this is going to end down the road. I’ve seen it all a million times over the last 30+ years.
Because when it all ends – when it all comes crashing down – it doesn’t just affect me and make me feel like shit and fuck up my life for X amount of time and make me look like a flake.
It affects other people too.
It affects THEIR mindset and their motivation too.
It affects THEIR business too.
It affects THEIR productivity and THEIR relationships and THEIR reputation too – not just mine.
Building a New Model
I’m not really sure what my life is going to look like going forward. I’m not totally sure what things I’m going to pull back from and cut out of my life.
I mean, I don’t want to become a hermit who never leaves the house and never does anything with anyone. I’m not anti-social. I like people.
But my social life isn’t going anywhere for a while.
(Well, nothing new there, really lol.)
Still, I’m not giving up on life or anything. And I’m not going to stop trying to do new things or stop improving on who I am and what I’m capable of accomplishing.
But I’m done committing to situations where my anxiety will screw other people over. It’s bad enough that it messes me up – I won’t let it mess other people up too.
I still want to put myself out there. Life is all about pushing boundaries. Growth only happens outside your comfort zone. So I still want to push myself.
But I need to do it without being tethered to other people.
What will this look like?
Going All-In On the Solopreneur Lifestyle
Big emphasis on SOLO.
First, I am so grateful to be living during this time in history. I can’t imagine what kind of job or business I could do if it weren’t for the internet and digital technology. I’d be so screwed otherwise.
If I had no other options than to show up in person at a job, punch a clock every day, be micromanaged by bosses and company policies and beg for vacation days a year in advance – or simply starve to death – there is no doubt that I’d end up starving to death.
Not by choice, obviously.
Just…it is what it is.
In terms of how I intend to make money and pay my bills, not a lot is going to change right now. I guess I’ll just double down on doing what I’ve been doing for the past nine years:
- vlogging on Youtube
- freelance writing for content mills
But I need to do it without committing to other people so much.
Again, emphasis on the SOLO aspect of being a solopreneur.
Can I do podcasting again?
Maybe. But I’d have to just do it on my own instead of co-hosting a podcast with others (which sucks because that shit was fun).
Actually idk. I don’t see myself doing a podcast solo anytime soon. It’s just not the same without my drinking buddies.
Can I continue freelance writing?
Yeah. But if I even freelance at all, I’ll have to just stick with low-pressure, anonymous content mills. I’ll have to forget about building relationships with clients or getting locked into retainer contracts and weekly schedules and daily correspondence.
I’m about to have an anxiety attack just thinking about all that stuff.
Can I keep blogging and vlogging?
Definitely, yes. But I won’t be committing to doing weekly guest posts or collaborations or meetups, that’s for sure.
I don’t even know if committing to a regular publishing schedule on my own blog will work for me.
Maybe with batching content on my good days and then pre-scheduling content ahead of time, it might work out? But publishing blogs and vlogs every day as I go ain’t gonna happen. No way. I need to accept that and stop attempting it.
That puts way too much pressure on me anyway.
That sucks too because as a blog reader/subscriber/consumer myself, I always enjoy the rhythm of reading daily blogs and watching daily vlogs as part of my daily routine. But as a creator, I don’t think I can commit to that consistency.
If I could change ONE THING, this would be it. I’d really love to do daily vlogs. But I just can’t see myself being consistent over time.
Mostly, I’ll keep doing the same types of work that I’ve been doing over the past nine years, but I’ll have to tweak things to maximize freedom and flexibility. That will definitely cost me some opportunities and could make it take longer to grow my income streams. But it’s not like I have much choice.
Obviously, I’ll keep thinking about this. But that’s what I’m thinking right now.
- Why I Disabled Comments on My Blog
- Why I Deleted My Twitter Accounts
- Why I Don’t Watch or Read the News Anymore