Tag Archives: anxiety

The day Muhammad Ali made me smile

AliOnce, when I was 10 years old, I met Muhammad Ali.

I remember he was making an appearance at Burdines department store in Miami, and he was signing autographs. My mother encouraged me to go up to him. I did — but not without lots of trepidation.

When I was a kid, I was painfully shy. I barely talked to people I knew, let alone people I didn’t. I’m pretty sure I had some form of depression or anxiety even then, but when I was little, they didn’t call it that. They just called it being very, very shy.

So I went up to Muhammad Ali — and said absolutely nothing. I just handed him a piece of paper to sign. I wouldn’t even tell him my name when he asked me what it was. So he looked and me and said, “Okay kid. You’re the quiet type. I get it. But if I’m going to sign this for you, you can AT LEAST give me a smile. I KNOW you can smile, kid.”

As he said this, he looked me square in the eyes. He was calm, but there was a hint of the bravado that made him such an icon. To me, one of Ali’s great gifts was that his bravado was not off-putting. In fact, it was infectious — at least to me. 

All I know is that when Ali told me to smile, I literally felt my face light up. The Greatest smiled right back at me. The store might have been filled with people wanting his autograph. But at that moment, it was as if I was the only one in the room with him.

I don’t remember if I at least thanked Ali. I hope I did. But I kept that autograph for many years. And I’ll remember my brief moment with the Greatest for as long as I live.

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A new home for my meds, thanks to Shakespeare

Shakespeare pill boxLike just about everyone I know with a mental illness, I have a love/hate relationship with my meds. But now I have something that helps ease some of the hate — this Shakespeare pillbox.

Recently, I went with some good friends to the Yale Center for British Art. While browsing in the gift shop, I found this. I had to have it.

I’ve loved Shakespeare for as long as I can remember, and I’ve loved him even more since being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Now, I can relate to characters like Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth on an even deeper level than I could before. I know what it’s like to feel melancholy and despair.

On the flip side, just the site of this pillbox makes me smile. I look forward to opening it, and I’ve become much less likely to forget taking my meds. So, thank you, Will. You are helping me “to thine own self be true.”

 


My anxiety is sky high — and it’s exausting

I’m exhausted. I’ve been doing a lot of fighting in the last 48 hours. Not with anyone else, but with myself.

I’ve been trying to tame the monsters in my head, and I have not succeeded. I have succeeded in not leaving my apartment, and for the most part, not leaving my own bed. That’s not good. I know it. And I don’t care.

I’m not sure what brought on my latest bout with anxiety. I’m almost never sure. As I posted yesterday, one of the most frustrating things about social anxiety disorder is that it’s not logical at all. All I know is, I heard people with loud voices talking outside my apartment, and it set off something within me. I do not want to be around noise. Or people.

It so happens that I have an appointment with my psycho pharm today. I will bring myself to go to that, if only because I know that most of my meds need refilled, and I want to make sure they get refilled.

I try to fight this as best I can. The fact that I care about my meds is proof of that. But the monsters in my head are formidable opponents, and I get so tired of fighting them. The second I got up this morning, my first thought was “you are so dead.” I have no idea why I thought that. But there it was.

I’m going to keep fighting. But it’s so damn hard. And I’m so damn tired.


5 things that people living with anxiety probably won’t tell you

I found this article on Facebook today and I relate to it so much. As I type this, I don’t want to leave my apartment. Why? Two of my neighbors who have loud voices are having a conversation outside my apartment. They’re not arguing. They’re just talking in their very loud voices.

I know this, but right now, I’m afraid of both of them. I don’t want to leave my apartment until I can no longer hear them. Is that ridiculous? Yes. Do I know this? Yes. But I still feel this way. That’s what makes anxiety even more frustrating.

Read the article here.


Choice: a tricky word for people with mental illness

Last night, I visited one of my best friends. If I told you he was fighting colon cancer, he’d be the first to correct me about that.

As he was reclining on his lounger, watching MSNBC, and doing his best to look comfortable despite two catheters, a deep incision in his abdomen, and his now having to wear Depends, John, almost out of nowhere, says “I don’t see myself as fighting cancer. I see myself as someone with a choice. I can look toward the sun, or I can look away from the sun. I’m looking toward the sun.”

With that, my eyes watered. I couldn’t get what John said out of my mind–especially the word “choice.”

As someone managing chronic depression and anxiety, “choice” is a tricky word, one which can easily cause me to become defensive. That’s because there are still too many people who believe that my illnesses are my “choice,” and that they’d be gone “if I really put my mind to it.”

No, my illnesses are not my choice. But what I do about them, and how I handle them? Well, those are choices.

John also has depression and anxiety. Maybe that’s why, when he saw my eyes water, he continued. “I came so close to ending my life on my own. Maybe that’s why I think about choices the way that I do.”

In an odd way, John’s cancer is giving his mental illness a run for its money. If his mental illness has told him that he wants to die, he now very much wants to live. John still doesn’t know if his cancer is incurable. If he has two more years on this earth, he will be very lucky.

Maybe that’s what makes what he said all the more meaningful to me. I know damn well that there will be days ahead where he’ll find it difficult, if not impossible, to look toward the sun. I know he knows it, too. But, just by being his honest self, John has really inspired me.

 


Fear and crossing the street in Boston

Boston traffic

This is what I often face when I cross streets in Boston. No wonder I’m afraid. 

“Show no fear!”

That’s what a young hipster girl with short cropped red hair shouted at me as I tried to cross a busy street. It was a two-lane street with cars going in the same direction, and there was a lot of traffic. A driver slowed down and signaled me to cross. I said no. I never agree to this when there are two lanes of traffic going the same way, because who knows if the driver in the other lane will be as kind.

Yet another driver signaled for me to cross. Yet again, no way. Then I third driver. Uh uh. I looked and saw traffic coming as far as I could see. And I thought that I needed to make a move if I was ever going to get across this street.

That’s when Hipster Girl shouted at me. I guess in her own way, she meant to be helpful. Still, this just isn’t a good thing to say to someone with Anxiety Disorder. Of course, she had no clue that I have Anxiety Disorder, though she must have seen the fear on my face. If only I could tell Hipster Girl that I am afraid — not only of crossing the street, but of a million other things. Telling me to show no fear is like telling Donald Trump to show some class.

I must say, though, that when it comes to crossing streets in Boston, I honestly believe that my anxiety is justified. Boston prides itself with being one of America’s most walkable cities — until you have to cross a street. Too few streets have walk signals, and the ones that do exist are hopelessly out-of-date and out-of-sync. Here’s an old Boston joke. How do you cross the street in Boston? You run for your life and pray.

But in this situation, I stood like a statue. Hipster Girl noticed.

“Show no fear!”

Oh, how I’d like to. Girl, you have no idea.

But, as embarrassed as I was, I slowly stepped from the sidewalk and on to the street. I got bold. And drivers did yield to me. I made it across the street.

I should thank Hipster Girl for giving me a jolt. But I face anxiety in some way just about every waking hour.

“Show no fear!”

Maybe I need to remember that voice. Maybe I need to tell myself this over and over. Maybe if I do this long enough, I’ll actually believe it.