Wednesdays are always the days I moan in bed. Five straight hours of chemistry can drive anyone’s motivation into the ground. Unless you’re a chemist, I suppose.
But I always try to look at the day with a positive light and today was no different.
In our chemistry lab we work in groups and if you’ve ever read any of this blog, you know that’s not exactly my favorite thing to do, nor is it an easy thing for me to do. However, I’ve learned that before I have to deal with any sort of interaction with people on this personal of a level (you know, having to . . . ugh, talk with them) that if I’m able to convince myself to “Go with the flow” that “whatever happens, happens,” I’m a little less nervous. It helps to remind myself not to over think.
Anxiety is a lot like energy. Energy is defined as “the capacity to do work” and anxiety should be defined as “the incapacity to not think”. Both are rather vague and people argue over their validity every day. If you’re a quantum physicist or whatever, you probably have a way better understanding of the complexity of energy and if you have anxiety you have a way better understanding of the complexity of over-thinking. The Law of Conservation of Energy states energy cannot be destroyed nor created. It just changes forms. It can come in two common categories: Potential and Kinetic. A Before and During, if you will.
I would argue there’s a Law of Conservation of Anxiety when you’re in the midst of battling an untreated anxiety disorder. It’s always there in the back of your head no matter where you go, what you do, or what you tell yourself. You can’t destroy it and you’re so confused because you also didn’t create it. Even on my best days I’m highly anxious. Even when you think you’ve conquered or destroyed it, it rams your head into the wall like a wrecking ball (#MileyCyrusShit) and you come to the disheartening realization that it’s only been in hiding. These are the hardest days of your life, but they’re also the most important. If you can’t learn to deal with the downswings, the discontent of having “failed” against this thing in your head, then you’ll never learn to live with yourself. When you get that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach, that sensation of self-humiliation, of self-doubt, of depression, don’t fight it; analyze it. Understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, and see if you can rationalize it. You won’t be able to, and that should be a cue you’re over-thinking.
It’s one thing to be aware your thinking isn’t rational, it’s another thing to pick it apart and understand it.
I would also argue there is Potential Anxiety and Kinetic Anxiety. I’ll take a much more literal interpretation than science. When you know there’s an event or class coming up that’s particularly worrisome to you and you spend hours, days, maybe even weeks wrestling for sleep in your bed, fighting off nausea, and ruminating on what could go wrong or what could happen (You ever notice you never think about what could go right?) then you’re experiencing Potential Anxiety; you’re registering a potential threat to your sanity in your future that could happen. When you’re participating in the situation and you get those cold sweats and stuttered speech and red face and scattered thinking, that’s your Kinetic Anxiety taking over.
I give them names because it helps me separate myself from my symptoms. That changes my train of thought; I’m no longer the problem, it’s my anxiety, and I’m allowed to distance myself from it because I am not my anxiety.
If energy can change form, than I would argue Anxiety can as well. It’s highly malleable; you can shape it how you want once you get a good grip on it. You’re not destroying it, just fitting it in the back of the closet in your mind with all the other old things you don’t give a shit about like that one creepy porcelain doll with the satanic eyes that speaks words backwards when you pull the drawstring on its back that your grandmother gave you for your sixteenth birthday because she thought the devil music you listened to meant you were in a cult and she wants to show you that she’s supportive of any of your life choices.
Whatever. The point is to be aware and in control, not obsessively searching for a way to get rid of it and then never learning how to cope. There are two things you can focus on. 1) The anxiety. 2) Coping with the anxiety.
That being said, I only have one partner in Chemistry (Score!) and she already has a bachelors degree for something I forgot (watch her stumble across this post, that’s something that would happen to me). We work well together. That’s something I don’t say often. We both are equally lost in chemistry and our confusion brings us together. When I speak to her or ask a question there’s always that little voice in my head telling me how stupid I’m sounding, how dumb of a question that was, how the group next to us is laughing at how stupid I am, but honestly I’m so wrapped up in Cations and Anions and their fucking non-metal/metal rules and electrons and man-made elements that I don’t have the time for those voices to fuck with me. Therefore, I won’t give them the time.
When we pack up and get ready to leave I’m never sure if I should say “see you” or “bye” or ” see you next week” or “see you next Wednesday”; most of the time I greet or say bye to anyone who doesn’t do so to me first. There’s always the voice in my head saying it’s awkward when you speak first, your voice sounds weird, they’re going to think you’re weird and intrusive, just walk away.
Today I took the initiative to speak first on many things, and I helped her with proper naming and she helped me with proper formulas. I cracked jokes because that’s all I know how to do in conversation. We were a team. And although my anxiety sat on my shoulders from the moment I woke up this morning, I succeeded in forcing it to the back seat of the bus. It’s okay to discriminate against your anxiety, it’s an asshole to you all the time.
A girl walked up to the professor to ask her a question and she got incredibly frustrated because she’d done the entire page of work wrong. He said “Don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re learning, that’s what you’re here for.”
They were simple words, but they fueled a revelation in me. This time I could walk from the classroom and call that social situation, as awkward as I felt I was, a success. If we’re not supposed to beat ourselves up about learning new material in school, than why should I beat myself about learning how to interact with people? I’m learning, nothing more. I’ll make mistakes. I’ll get frustrated. I’ll have my bad days and by the time I’ve done a thousand of these types of interactions I should be 100 times better at squashing that anxiety.
Take it a day at a time. Give yourself a pat on the back when you have successes and give yourself a pat on the back when you don’t. Learning is a process.