My anxiety skyrocketed last month without any medical triggers. I celebrate my 26th birthday this weekend, and my third transplant anniversary is a couple of months away. I’m doing great physically, but I don’t feel like I’m getting enough done or that I’ve gotten enough done or that I’m going to be able to get enough done — certainly not enough to satisfy myself.
The years tick by, and there’s a voice in my head reminding me that I’m running out of time. As much as I eschew survival statistics, I’m still thinking about median survival rates of six to eight and a half years. Three years down, and there’s no telling how many more to go.
There’s a downside to living every day like it’s my last. Subconsciously, I feel like I need to do all my personal projects today, lest I don’t wake up tomorrow. This can mean feeling tremendous relief whenever I complete a goal, for instance, hiking Half Dome or publishing a book (whoops, still haven’t done that one). But it also means crippling anxiety that I won’t accomplish everything I plan to.
Bookstores make me anxious; every time I go into one, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of books I will never get to read. Another of my deepest sorrows is being unable to provide the desired level of love and support to people I care about.
My boyfriend’s mother has Alzheimer’s disease, and it has challenged all of us. Still, we truly enjoy spending time together. I adore her! She lives in Kansas and I live in California. The fact that I cannot be present every day to paint her nails and show her how much I love her son is a painful reality for me.
I am indebted to other people. I owe my life to them, and I add that layer of guilt and pressure to myself every single day. The list of thank-you cards I should write never ends: my organ donor, my donor’s family, my surgeon, my parents, my friends, strangers, etc.
But “thank you” seems insufficient, and some people simply cannot be thanked, so I tell myself I will pay it forward, and I do. And yet, sometimes I fall short of how much I expect myself to pay forward.
Sometimes I can drop everything to support a friend or family member, and sometimes I can’t. That disappoints me so much it can paralyze me. Facedown on my bed, I despair that I’m not enough: not generous enough, not grateful enough, not good enough.
Then I consider giving up on all of it. If I can’t read every book in my lifetime, why bother reading one? That makes no sense, Kathleen, we are all thinking, but my anxiety doesn’t make sense. Most of my other emotions don’t, either.
I don’t have a solution or a satisfying ending to this piece. Undoubtedly, I need to be more present in the moment. Wincing, I try to let go of the pressure I put on myself to be present in the moment and the judgment I have for myself for not being present enough. You see my dilemma.
This piece isn’t good enough, and it might not be good at all. If it’s not going to be good, then why bother writing? The closest I’ve come to an answer is that I don’t want to let my anxiety continue to keep me from showing up.
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