Posted on 1 May 2016 by Michael Dahl

self criticism of my Anxiety … until I asked “Why?”

Panic can invade the smallest of my worries. This morning, admitting that seems trite. I fear some people may say, “Michael, get over yourself. If only I had the luxury of complaining about the things you say set you off.”

Sometimes I agree with my imagined critics. And then I get extremely angry at myself for letting my bully, Anxiety, occupy my brain.

(Deep down, I know I shouldn’t shame myself for the Anxiety I feel … but I’m being honest here.)

Last night a panic invaded a space I hold sacred … my garden.

Later today I hope to write a post sharing about the peace my garden provided me and hours of my weekend. But now I need to write about how consumed with worry and self-criticism I became last night … until I asked, “Why?”

Last night, I prepared for bed while it was still light outside. (My mental health medications often make me tired by 8 pm and ready to start a new day by 3 or 4 am.)

I looked out my window at my garden below expecting to feel joy about a day of good work. Earlier, I planted a pollinator garden, sowed three varieties of beans, and transplanted fourteen zucchini plants. For several minutes I did, in fact, feel the joy I sought.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, my throat and chest started to clench up. (I immediately knew where this was going.) I looked at Raised Beds #5 and #6 and believed I saw a few transplants falling sideways. (This was more imagination than actual sight.)

I started to anxiously pace my bedroom.

“Michael, stop it!” I silently shouted at myself. “You are imagining things. And even if a few plants didn’t take, you have well over a dozen replacement transplants ready to take their place still under the grow lights in the basement.”

I felt my brain getting heavier and darker.

“You %#!@?&! idiot! Couldn’t you simply waited a day for the wind gusts to die down! Sunday’s going to be a beautiful day for gardening.”

I told myself, “Just go outside and see that everything is okay.” But then I stated the obvious, “This Anxiety is not about my garden. What! What the %#!@ is agitating me?!?”

For several minutes I tried to search my mind for answers, but it felt as if the rational parts of my brain were locked behind an impenetrable wall. Thinking to myself, “It’s too early to go to bed on a Saturday,” I felt embarrassment as I took one of my doctor-approved chill pills and plunged under the covers anyway.

“You freak, Michael.” Anxiety chided me. “It’s 8 pm on a Saturday night! What are you doing in bed, you loser!”

For quite sometime, I was beset with Anxiety, self-criticism, and physical (throat, head, and chest) pain.

Thankfully I found the resolve to keep my brain focused on the question, “Why am I feeling this way?” (Asking “why?” can jar an anxious brain from irrational fears to what the real issue(s) are.)  And that’s what eventually happened last night.

A deep sadness hit me. But this was a good and warranted sadness — not tied to “woe is me” or “what have I done to my garden” sadness. Instead it was a sadness I had packed away after a serious conversation I had earlier in the day.

(Sorry, dear readers, I am not going to share the content of that conversation. It’s too personal.)

So I just let myself be sad — the type of sadness anyone would feel about the real issue I was grappling with. While I was sad, I also began to feel as if I had accomplished something.

And I had, in fact, accomplished something.

I jarred my brain from the irrational place it had been to thinking about the real issue I needed to process.

I fell asleep, exhausted (and acceptably medicated).

Now a new day has begun.