Making the Beast Beautiful: Ambitions, Breakdowns, and Pandemic Anxiety

I yearn for a complete sense of self; I’m not sure it’s something I can find or something I just have to wait for. I want to be authentic. I yearn to find the real me. I feel I am missing a connection with myself … I want to have yearning and be in this life. Everything seems to be fractured, rather than unified as my gut tells me ought to be the case. This stems from a yearning for the world to make sense, to fit together. I yearn for life direction and purpose … I want to know the real me, even if I have no idea what the real me is. To know the connection to a bigger force. To know that the universe has got this one. It burns at me every day to know that everything I’m doing makes sense.
—Sarah Wilson, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety

Oh hi! How are you? It’s me! Are you there, anxiety? It’s me, Jeffrey. Are you still there, lovely blog readers? I hope so! It’s been far too long. So long, in fact, who knows where to even begin?!

I figured we could s…

Change Doesn’t Just Happen in January: and Other Thoughts on Reflection and the Holiday Blues

This is real. Your eyes reading this text, your hands, your breath, the time of day, the place where you are reading this—these things are real. I’m real too. I am not an avatar, a set of preferences, or some smooth cognitive force; I’m lumpy and porous, I’m an animal, I hurt sometimes, and I’m different one day to the next. I hear, I see, I smell things in a world where others also hear, see, and smell me. And it takes a break to remember that: a break to do nothing, to just listen, to remember in the deepest sense what, when, and where we are.
—Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

It’s January. Which means you’ve survived another year. It’s also 2020, which means you’ve survived another decade. We’ve survived another year, another decade, another day on this incredibly stressful planet known as Earth where being a person can be an absolute nightmare. Let’s celebrate that!

January—at least the first week or so—also means it’s a time for everyone to reflec…

Try Harder: Anxiety and the Wonderful Messiness of Being Alive

And forget that nonsense about loving and embracing all of your flaws. You don’t have to love the things that impair and disrupt your life. You just have to see them as workable, and never just unique to you. Everybody’s fucked and has a brilliance in them. Let yourself be good and honest and committed to life and know that this is all you can do. Know that it’s enough.
—Beth McColl, How to Come Alive Again: A Guide to Killing Your Monsters

Lovely blog readers! Are you out there somewhere? Anybody?! Are you there, God? It’s her, Margaret! Are you there, anxiety? IT’S ME, JEFFREY!

*Britney Spears voice* It’s been awhile.

I’d love to say that the lack of new blog posts here has been because I’ve just been so delightfully busy in the last two months that I simply neglected this blog just because I had no time for it… but that’s not true. In the almost two months since my last post, let’s just say I could have been better. If I’m being honest, I’ve been in the bell jar (a.k.a. the bad pla…

Perfectionism Rehab: Dispatches From a Detoxing Perfectionist

It’s really fucking hard to tolerate uncertainty, disruption, and change in all aspects of one’s life at once when you don’t even know who you are and who you are supposed to be. And when SO much is going on, it’s too big to fear. Fear is specific. It is outward in the fact of a threat. When you fear something you have the opportunity to move away from it. Anxiety is different. With anxiety, you don’t know what the fuck to do, because it’s all internal. There is no specific threat.
—Faith G. Harper, This is Your Brain on Anxiety: What Happens and What Helps

A few months ago, I read Rosie O’Donnell’s 2007 memoir Celebrity Detox, which peaked my interest after finishing Ladies Who Punch—an inside look of the daytime talk show The View. Celebrity Detox was published a few months after the end of Rosie’s infamously troubled one-season run as the moderator of The View and discusses how, after the end of her own daytime talk show in 2002, she began a four-year break from the spotlight and…

Was It Even Real?: Existing Beyond Your Anxiety and Mental Illness

We all have a bag. We all pack differently. Some of us are traveling light. Some of us are secret hoarders who’ve never parted with a memory in our lives. I think we are all called to figure out how to carry our bag to the best of our ability, how to unpack it, and how to face the mess. I think part of growing up is learning how to sit down on the floor with all your things and figuring out what to take with you and what to leave behind.
—Hannah Brencher

I’ve often found myself asking this question, especially in regard to the games my mind has played on me and the tricks my anxiety likes to pull. When all is said and done, and we accept that it’s time to let some things go, was it even real? Am I even real? Who am I without my anxiety?

I’ve only recently learned that part of the reason why I’ve had such difficulty letting go of my anxieties is because they have made up a great deal of who I am. I’ve learned that I have always resorted to rituals and compulsions to make things right…

Let’s Not and Say We Did: Living Up to Nobody’s Expectations But Your Own

I suppose what I’m getting at is that, one way or the other, I never entirely fitted in. I was immature in some ways and overly mature in others. Adults assumed I was capable because, by now, I was tall and good at exams and well behaved in class, but really I was just trying to work things out and I still barely knew myself. I always felt something of an outsider.
—Elizabeth Day, How to Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong

This personal essay is brought to you in part by this iconic and timeless quote from Kat Stratford in the iconic and timeless film 10 Things I Hate About You.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve often found myself feeling stifled by expectations: the expectations of others and the expectations of the world, combined with my own expectations for myself. And I’ve learned that much of the reason behind why I’ve felt stifled by expectation is because I didn’t realize how much of a people-pleaser I had become.

In her book How to Fail, Elizabeth Day explain…

Summertime Sadness: Seasonal Depression in the Summer, Being Human, and Other Stuff That Happens

Summer, summer, summer. I loved and hated summers. Summers had a logic all their own, and they always brought something out in me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration. Summer was a book of hope. That’s why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.
—Benjamin Alire Sáenz

*Tina Fey in Mean Girls voice* How many of you have ever felt personally victimized by seasonal depression in the summer?

The general consensus and sweeping generalization is that the vast majority of people suffer from seasonal depression—also known by its official term, seasonal affective disorder (SAD)—in the winter months, when there is less sunlight and the days are shorter, and this typically causes people to fall into what we commonly call the “winter blues.” That is very much true for a lot of people. Winter blues is an actual psychological condition, and there has been a wide variety of research into the true a…