I’ve tried to write this post about three times now, and it keeps getting stuck. Maybe because I am going to try for being honest and real and introspective and all those things that are actually healthy, but people say you shouldn’t be anyway.
Last week, I ended up having an extended conversation with my editor, Liz, about my stress and anxiety levels and my tendencies to put myself down.
Basically, we talked about all of the things that are incredibly difficult for me to talk about.
At one point, Liz asked me if my anxiety levels were getting better or worse. I was honest and admitted they were getting worse. At which point, I half expected Liz to say what everyone else says, which is to just tell me to stop worrying and that it will get better. (This being a very general “it;” I have this conversation about a lot of things besides journalism.)
However, that isn’t what I got. Instead Liz told me part of doing more work as a journalist was the higher anxiety levels. The more I do, the more of a reputation I establish, the more I have to lose.
And when Liz asked if that was at all helpful, about all I could do was shrug.
One thing we talked about is learning how to manage the anxiety feel when I’m reporting. Although, honestly, I have a hard time managing my anxiety levels in general, let alone when I’m reporting. Liz told me that with all the things I usually see as negative, there’s a positive side as well. For instance, I worry a lot. Like a lot a lot. But that also means I take the time to get things right. It means I’m accurate. It means I care.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the last few days. I’ve always believed the fact that I’m excessively anxious is something I’m supposed to be ashamed of. I’ve pretty much learned at this point that people aren’t supposed to find out I worry a lot, because for some reason they’re going to think I’m weird. The problem here, though, is that the only way I’ve figured out to deal with it is to hide it and try to ignore it. Just in case you were wondering, that doesn’t work. If anything, it makes it worse.
Now, just so we’re clear, this isn’t a post where I decide to air my dirty laundry to the world and tell you all my problems. That’s not quite appropriate here.
But what I am saying, though, is that maybe instead of looking at worry as something I’m supposed to suppress and hope will go away, I actually can learn how to manage it.
I spend so much time trying to hide or get rid of my fears and my anxieties that I never really deal with them. That, or they come out in really ridiculous ways. (Have you ever noticed how much I apologize for things? It’s crazy.) Then I feel bad about myself because I can’t fix these things, which spirals into even more anxiety, and then we just keep going in a not-so-fun little cycle.
So maybe instead of hiding the things I don’t like about myself and just hoping they go away, I can figure out how to use the good parts and manage the bad parts. I can use my attention to detail to make sure my reporting is accurate and my personal life is one of care and reflection. But I can learn how to figure out what’s necessary concern and what’s extraneous worry and how to deal with the extraneous in a way that’s healthy. I can let other people help me figure this stuff out instead of trying to do it all myself.
Maybe my anxieties and I can make our peace. (If it’s possible to say that without making a complete contradiction.) That doesn’t mean I don’t deal with it, it just means I stop destroying myself in the process.
Now, I have no clue what this is supposed to look like. I’ve been feeling that way about my life a lot recently. It sort of comes with the territory of being really introspective.
But for now this is the thought in my head:
“Hinga, show yourself some grace.”
I’m pretty sure this voice is a conglomerate of my beat friends, my dorm friends, my friend Emily, my parents, Liz and pretty much everyone else who’s ever told me the equivalent of this.
It doesn’t feel like much now.
But it’s a start.