I set myself up with a scad of blog topics every year and write them in my planner. 26 ideas will take you through a whole year if you do one every other week. Thanks, Marie Forleo, for that tip (and for letting me gaze upon your beautiful hair. I’m totally not a creep. Obsessed).
I think it’s funny that this week’s topic happens to be “current obsessions,” because my therapist just emailed me to make sure I’m not obsessing too much. I was expecting to write about some great chocolate I’m super into these days or a book I’m reading or how I used to have a gross love for fat free sour cream and talked about it A LOT. But it looks like I’m writing about anxiety again. As much as I love various creams of varying fatness.
The great news is I am feeling better. The annoying news is I had an anxiety attack on Sunday night. My allergies (I think) are making it weird to get a full breath (though truth be told today I feel awesome — could be that our cat got good news at the vet for the first time in a few weeks and $2000 later).
I was having trouble singing a song without getting winded on Sunday night and it put me into a yucky tailspin. I then started getting really weird and obsessive about it and dizziness set in and then I went and pooped. And there was a grasshopper in the bathroom, about which I was like, “Hey, I gotta look up what the grasshopper animal totem means.”
The grasshopper can be all sorts of things. I’m choosing not to think it’s about pestilence, but instead like good omens, fertility (creative, hopefully), etc. Leaps of faith, innovation for me!
My therapist told me the fear of fear is what takes a regular old run of the mill anxiety attack (normal, common) and turns it into a panic disorder. She told me to distract myself. So that’s what I’ve been doing (among other things). I feel normal again (well, I never feel exactly NORMAL because I’m a big freak), or normal for me. I’ve always felt it’s the conspicuously “normal” people you need to watch out for, but more on that another time.
Luckily I’ve been sleeping well, the last few glasses of wine I’ve had at dinner have been the best damn wines of my life. In fact, it reminds me of when Joan Didion would go to the women’s prison and come out and the doors would slam behind her and she would ravenously eat a hamburger and drink two gin and tonics. My Monday night Chardonnay felt like the best decision I ever made.
Also this, from Didion’s “In Bed”: “The migraine has acted as a circuit breaker, and the fuses have emerged intact. There is a pleasant convalescent euphoria. I open the windows and feel the air, eat gratefully, sleep well. I notice the particular nature of a flower in a glass on the stair landing. I count my blessings.”
“Convalescent euphoria.” I think of it every time something goes screwy in my person or I’m being tested or having blood drawn. I exhale with the heft of a Terry McMillan screenplay and my only worry is that I’ll become addicted to the convalescence and create neural pathways devoted to me feeling something has to be wrong and chasing the high of it turning out right. But I won’t. Someone who does that would make an excellent character, though.
Speaking of Joan Didion — Joan is always one of my obsessions (I wrote my thesis on The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem), and my current obsession is this amazing Saint Joan Didion prayer candle I got from this shop on Etsy.
And, because it's inescapable, on the back of the St. Joan candle is a quote about mortality. But I guess that’s what I signed on for when I became a devotee of Didion’s work and, maybe more important, a devotee of life. Which includes death. And anxiety attacks. And potentially sick pets. But, luckily, hamburgers and convalescent glasses of wine as well. I’m willing to go there to be here.
Postscript: I'm happy to report the battalion of tests I had yesterday at my new primary care clinic came back all normal. Thyroid test all good, EKG clear, lungs clear. It's all in my head! Well, I do have allergies, I think. But it was super helpful to have the doc look at me and talk with me about potential help for anxiety. I'm going to keep an eye on it, but not stare at myself like a weirdo under a magnifying glass. Ah, our beautiful brains.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.