Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Jason Large who is a regular writer over at the Daily Zen.
I heard a clinking noise in the backseat of my dad’s Toyota Corolla as I drove up the suburban side road.
I turned around to see if I could move whatever was making the noise. I couldn’t reach it and I shifted my attention back to where I was going.
All I saw through the windshield was the large chrome grill of the pickup truck I was about to hit. Instantly a loud crunch and I was stopped.
I unhooked my seatbelt and searched for where my glasses had flown. I found them on the floor, put them on and staggered out of the car.
I plopped myself down in somebody’s lawn and finally looked at the damage I had done.
Dad’s car was totalled. The front end was about half as long as it was supposed to be, folded like an accordion.
I was stunned, not really realising what had happened. The police came. A tow truck came. My grandfather came and took me home.
I remember laying on my bed that afternoon. I worried. And worried. And worried. I worried if I was going to get in trouble. I worried if I was going to have to help pay for a new car. I worried about how Dad was going to get to work. I worried if I was going to be allowed to drive again.
These questions cycled through my mind that afternoon. I couldn’t think about anything else. I worried.
When I was older, working in retail management, my worrying went to a whole new level. It didn’t matter what my actual level of responsibility was, I carried the weight of the whole store on my back. This went on for years.
I would try to go to sleep at night. I’d lay in bed with my mind racing about issues at the store. Eventually I’d start turning the TV on to distract me till I could fall asleep.
I’d worry about what had happened the previous day. I’d worry about what I wanted to do the next day. I worried about who would say or do what. I worried about things I couldn’t control. I took little problems I knew about and blew them out of proportion into massive scenarios that could get me fired.
Once I did fall asleep, I still wasn’t safe. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and start worrying immediately. I could be awake for hours. Most nights I didn’t sleep well. I spent a huge amount of energy worrying.
I was suffering from severe anxiety at this point, but didn’t realise it. I had always worried about things. I assumed that this was just the normal pressure of being an adult. So I tried to plow through it the best I could.
I increased an already high caffeine intake to get more energy to get through the day. I had no idea I was intensifying my anxiety as well.
My mind raced all the time. I used to keep index cards in my pocket so I could keep track of my speeding thoughts. I’d write and rewrite those cards, scratching items off as I’d go. I called them my brain.
At home, my brain was on multiple legal pads that I would juggle and scratch and rewrite. My brains kept the jumbled mess of my mind organized and under some kind of control.
Now I take medication for my anxiety and I don’t feel it the same way I used to. My mind doesn’t race as much as it once did. But I still feel it.
Money’s the concern these days. Changing to a lower-stress, lower paying job and three leaves of absence from work over the past two years have really hurt an already unhealthy financial situation. I don’t feel jittery, don’t feel the butterflies as much anymore.
Instead I feel the tension. I feel it in my gut, in my jaw, in my back. I get headaches I never used to get before. My neck gets stiff easily and I feel my teeth grinding together.
I worry how we’re going to make ends meet. I worry about how close we are to maxing out our credit cards. I worry about where we’re going to come up with the money for our next mortgage payment. I worry about asking my family for help. I worry about what they’re going to say to me. I worry about how we’re going to break the cycle of debt we’re stuck in.
I worry about going back to work. I can do the labor that’s necessary, but I worry about how I’m going to handle the pressure of being back in the workforce. How I’m going to handle the pressure of responsibility. How I’m going to handle the unreasonable expectations I will inevitably put upon myself.
I worry about feeling like I’m on stage again – on stage in a group of 200 employees. Most of them don’t even know my name, but I feel like I’m in the spotlight when I’m at work. I feel like people can see my every insecurity, every doubt. I feel like my every move is being scrutinized. I feel like I’m being judged.
But I know I’m the one doing the judging.
I’m the one putting every last thing I do under the microscope.
I’m the one focusing on my doubts and insecurities.
I’m the one pointing the spotlight at myself.
And that light’s awfully bright.
It’s hard to focus when you’re pointing that bright of a light at yourself. It’s difficult to see the world for what it really is. The glare is so harsh it’s tough to see beyond yourself.
You have to trust yourself and turn that light off. Give yourself the room to breathe and let your eyes readjust.
When you’re out of that spotlight, open yourself to the possibilities you can now see. Let go of your worries. Let go of your fears. And step into the opportunities that await you.
Do You find yourself worrying a lot? How do you cope?