Master of Anxiety

We can’t all be virtuosos, but I’d like to suggest that I have, in fact, reached the status of a master in at least one area.

It takes a lot of hard work to master something. Dedication. Focus. Consistency. Repetition—you can’t achieve master status without these things. 

Sometimes people are born with innate talents that lend themselves to mastery in one area or another. Think of some amazing musicians, athletes, or public figures like Beethoven, Venus Williams, or Oprah. But along with those inborn abilities, comes a strong sense of drive and a helluva lot of hard work. 

In my case, I was both born with and have spent many years honing my particular skill. It’s something that has taken many hours to master, although these hours of hard work have been complimented by my natural instincts and inclinations. 

Friends, what I’m talking about is my incredible gifts with anxiety.

Not to brag, but I’m confident that I fall into the category of the elite when it comes to overthinking,  second-guessing, and rumination. I can take any situation and infuse it with a level of anxiety so high that food loses all taste, music sounds completely bland, and just taking a breath becomes a challenge.

It’s incredible, isn’t it? I mean, I should be as famous as Oprah given my latent abilities. I seem to leave people wondering: “how does she do it?” Yup. I’m that good.

So what does it take to be an elite in the realm of anxiety?

Well, firstly you must possess a deep sense of worry and insecurity. You need to really feel like anything could go wrong at any moment and that you can in no way trust yourself. 

Second, you must experience trauma that undermines this already fragile sense of security and safety. This can come in the form of physical or emotional stress and can happen at any point in your life.

These two steps will guarantee success in becoming highly anxious. But wait! There’s a third step to truly reaching first-class anxiety and it is this: you must hold onto the first two steps indefinitely. In spite of counselling, moral support, life changes, or personal development, you have to cling to the comfort of your discomfort and allow it to seep into all parts of life, both good and bad.

I know I’m painting a picture that may be hard to see yourself in; it’s only the upper crust of the anxious who can really get to this level. But with hard work and a smattering of bad luck, you may one day find yourself sitting in the upper echelon of anxious people. 

Here are the signs to look for when determining your anxiety status:

  1. Having panic attacks
  2. Frequent rumination
  3. Physical ticks like lip-biting, skin-picking, tremors, or leg-tapping
  4. Exhaustion complimented by bursts of intense/manic energy
  5. A deep sense of unworthiness
  6. Hyper-vigilance
  7. Isolation
  8. Lack of appetite and/or voracious eating
  9. Constant second-guessing
  10. Catastrophizing
  11. Self-sabotage
  12. Pretending everything is fine while feeling exactly the opposite

I myself have mastered all of the 12 Signs of Being Severely Anxious. It’s truly been a lifelong effort, I have to say, but I don’t even have to try anymore—it’s just so easy at this point. 

Are you a member of the Anxious Elite? Have you mastered the 12 Signs? Don’t worry if you haven’t (easier said than done, I know). 

Not all of us can be Oprah, but we can all master something, even if that something is a bitch called anxiety.

xxJ   

Anxious AF


From Victim to Survivor

Survive
survived; surviving

intransitive verb
: to remain alive or in existence : live on
: to continue to function or prosper

transitive verb
1: to remain alive after the death of
he is survived by his wife

2: to continue to exist or live after
survived the earthquake

3: to continue to function or prosper despite : withstand
they survived many hardships

Survivor
\sər-ˈvī-vər\ noun

(Merriam-Webster online dictionary)


I am a domestic abuse survivor.

I survived emotional abuse.

I survived financial abuse.

I survived gaslighting.

I survived codependency.

I survived neglect and ambivalence, love-bombing, sexual assault, hypocrisy, and rage.

I survived depression.

I survived anxiety.

I am a survivor.

It had to be pointed out to me that all those statements are true. I pay a very good professional counsellor to help me with all this shit (a reminder here that we all have shit to deal with, this is just my shit) and he looked at me in one of our sessions and casually said these words to me: “Juliana, you’re a survivor. You are a domestic abuse survivor.”

It took me months after that to adopt those words as true—to hold them in my heart and my head…to feel them in my mouth and body…to repeat them and believe in their validity.

I have survived.

And, honestly, at times, I’m not sure how or why, but I did and here I am, still surviving.

The abuse I endured wasn’t abuse as most people think of it. It was neither violent nor physical; it didn’t shout and it didn’t bruise me. No, it chipped away at me, over many years, in many small ways, and kept at me until I lost myself and my body was depleted of all vestiges of my identity and my vitality.

Survival doesn’t mean that my life isn’t stress free, and it doesn’t mean that I won’t face hardship again, but I now proudly wear this badge of honour and state that I am, unequivocally, an abuse survivor.

I used to believe that I was crazy. I 100% bought into the garbage, bullshit notions that my abusive partners fed me. From the time I was 15 years old, I was told/shown/convinced by them that I was the problem.

That my brain didn’t work properly.

That I was irrational, hot-headed, controlling, manipulative, pathetic, stupid, and ugly.

That I was never good enough and I was never thin enough.

I was told that I didn’t eat right. I didn’t dress acceptably. I had no true friends. My family didn’t love me. And, of course, that I couldn’t exist outside of the relationship I had with my partner.

I’ve crawled out of that pit of horrible lies and found ways to shed the misused and misunderstood parts of myself that were previously held against me. I’ve learned how to forge authentic connections with people, to be more assertive, to perceive my intuition again, and to understand things like my very real and very legitimate struggles with anxiety and depression.

Survival has often felt more difficult than maintaining the status quo. For a long time, the things that were familiar felt safer and more reliable than what was healthy and fulfilling. I had to put a fuck ton of work into making changes in my life (and the work isn’t nearly done yet!) and I had to do it in the face of the abusive situations I was in. It wasn’t easy, but it was essential for me to keep living.

I think the most amazing quality I’ve discovered in myself in the last few years is that I have grit. And I wholeheartedly believe that you have to be gritty to be a survivor.

Movies tell us that gritty characters are dark and stubbly, with gruff voices and gruff attitudes. Men (usually) played by people like Clint Eastwood, or Bruce Willis, or Christian Bale (when he uses his Batman voice). But I think grit can appear to be gentle. It can be quiet and soft. It can simply mean that you maintain an attitude of not giving up—that you keep going and keep trying.

To survive means to have grit, full stop. One doesn’t exist without the other. (And you don’t have to maintain stubble-y cheeks or speak in a gravelly voice to be gritty in real life. My Batman voice is pretty spot-on though…just ask my kids and they will confirm.)

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t faced hardship in their life because everyone has traumas and failures. We all struggle at times and we all feel like giving up sometimes. I don’t wish for anyone to go through what I have or worse. I do wish for everyone to have a reason to keep going though. We all have to survive and then maybe, dear god just maybe, we can start to thrive.

Owning the phrase, “I am a domestic abuse survivor” has been a cornerstone of my self-development in this journey and I would suggest that if you’re struggling right now, you should try to find ways to remind yourself that you can survive. Seriously…you have to say it out loud, or write it down and practice it like you would a piano piece or a pie crust recipe. Try it on like a shirt in a dressing room, then walk around in it and feel how it fits. 

I used to feel defeated and I used to believe that I was. Now I’ve seen that I can survive and I’ve used the power of language to internalize a survivor’s mentality. To be honest, it’s something I’ll have to continue to remind myself of, but I’m edging towards “thriving” and my life is hinting that I could move beyond survival mode.

Some days it feels unbelievable—that I am where I am—but I am here.

I am surviving.

I am a survivor.

xxJ

surviving + thriving in this messed up world; come at me, bro!


664 Kilometres

On Tuesday my daughters will be leaving for 7 days with their father and travelling north of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. Weeks like this are always very difficult for me; it’s been three years since my marriage ended and it still hurts like hell whenever my girls have to be away. 

The first time I had to say goodbye to my daughters for a full week was in August of 2016. I wrote something that day that I’d like to share here. The feelings may be slightly less raw now, but the heartache is just as present.


August 5, 2016

My ex just left to take our daughters away for the week. They’re travelling 664 kilometres away to Havilland Bay, 40 minutes north of Sault Ste Marie. That’s a 7 hour drive, give or take, and it’s 7 hours too far.

The reality of having to share our daughters…my daughters…hits home today more than any other. Because this moment will be one that I have to relive again and again and again as we now become “co-parents” instead of husband and wife, Mommy and Daddy. 

And yes, I made the choice to leave my unhappy marriage. I chose to walk away and accept this new, awful reality, because I have faith that ultimately, we will all be happier and healthier. If I had stayed a wife, I would have continued to suffer in what felt like a jail sentence instead of a marriage. And so my daughters would have suffered too. 

But this feeling…this new reality where I have to share my daughters with someone who betrayed me, used me, lied to me, cheated on me, ignored me, forgot about me, disrespected me…I can hardly bear it. 

To watch him show up in his new car, with his now stylish clothes, a new haircut and cool sneakers… To listen to him tell me about how important it is that I make sure he and his family have more time with the girls… To wave goodbye while he drives away with those two precious beings… To smile for my girls, despite the pain inside… What do I do with these feelings??

Two years is what my lawyer told me. 

Two years is what my counsellor told me.  

Two years until it stops feeling this way. 

Two years until this is “normal”. 

Two years until I’m okay. 

In this moment, it’s hard to believe that life will ever be okay, because although I left my unhappy marriage, I will never leave my children’s father. And they deserve to know him and love him, but damn I want so much for them to understand why I made the choices that I did; understand the hurt and shame and pain that he caused me. That he caused our family. 

664 kilometres is much too far between me and who I love most, and yet 664 kilometres will never be far enough away from the man who hurt me most. 


Well, I’m calling bullshit on the whole “Two years and you’ll be better” thing. Two years is nothing! It’s been THREE years since my official date of separation and I’m still hurt and angry! I still don’t trust my daughter’s other parent. I’m still in therapy and on psychiatric medication and trying to stop struggling so much! Things are getting better in some ways, but I don’t know how long it will take for me to be able to enjoy the time I have apart from my girls and not have it be so tainted with resentment and fear.

I didn’t want to be a part-time parent, but that’s how it’s ended up. I will always, always stand by the statement that choosing to have THIS life is better than the one I left behind, but that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult every day.

664 kilometres is still too far between me and who I love the most, but I have no choice but to accept it and try my best to get through the days until my heart comes back to me.

xxJ

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) – ee cummings