Diary

Anxiety

  • Tiny Walls Are Still Walls: Getting Over My Somewhat-Anxiety

    You might have heard this before, probably from one of your writer friends: writing gives me clarity. That’s what writing does for me. It resets me. It gives me a clear head, and that’s why I could never stop writing.

    That’s not to say that my writing is any good. Some days are better than others. But when you go days, weeks, months without writing for yourself, the writing gets bad. It’s like running after not running for a while. You’re going to struggle. You’re stomach is going to cramp. You’re going to want to stop. But the goal is to keep going, even if you’re slower and walking most of the time. Eventually you’ll get back to where you were and maybe even better.

    --

    I, like many women my age, have ‘somewhat-anxiety’. I call it that because I’m not taking any medication. I told my doctor that I get anxious, but she just told me to lower my caffeine intake. Sometimes I listen to her, other times I drink like 3 cups of coffee and a diet Dr. Pepper. But most days I keep it to one cup, just to wake me up. My somewhat-anxiety causes me to worry about everything and I hate it.

    When I was in third grade, my teacher, whose name I forget, told me something about myself that has haunted me since.

    “Laura, there’s a tiny wall in front of you and you tend to focus so much on what it is and where it came from,” she said, “All you need to do is step over it and just keep going.”

    I didn’t really understand her then. For a long time I pictured a tiny wall in front of me, and then a tinier me trying to climb it but being unable to. Later on, when I became self-aware of my self-awareness I realized that she was talking about something that plagues my whole generation: anxiety.

    How did I fall into this anxiety dilemma? I was such a happy kid. I really hate that it happened to me.

    I could trace it back to my childhood and whatnot, but right now, at this point in my life, I just want to get over it. I want to stop worrying about the things that don’t really matter and focus on the things that do. I don’t want to become overwhelmed by solvable problems because in the end, almost always, things work themselves out. But in the moment, I freak out and think of the worst possible outcomes and start to ready myself for them. I’ll admit that this tiny wall has been useful sometimes because it pushes me to plan for disaster, especially when it comes to work, but the times that I have ‘let go’ of the worry and just stepped over the tiny wall, have been magical.

    I recall one time in 2014, when my mother visited me in Fresno (while I was living there). I took her to the Japanese Garden and left the keys inside the car. Now, this is a common problem that happens to a lot of people. It’s happened to me a few times, but not so much that friends attribute it to my character. Anyway, the keys got left inside and I panicked for a couple of minutes. Then I looked over at my mom and best friend (who was also there) and told them that I was going to make a call and that afterwards we were going to go inside the garden and do what we went there to do, because there’s no good reason to ruin the day for something like this. And we did. We walked by the man-made lake, took pictures with the peacocks and talked about my new life. After we were done, my cousin came and helped me open my car. Everything worked itself out, and my day wasn’t ruined.

    I remember my mother being so impressed with how I handled things. And it felt good, and I felt like I had grown up a little.

    I’m getting better at not feeling overwhelmed. It use to be really bad because my confidence and self esteem where so low. Believe it or not, that adds to it. Mind you, I don’t openly freak out when something goes wrong. Maybe I’ll bite my nails, but usually I get really quite and the thoughts start to build rapidly and repeatedly inside my head. And they’re usually all bad outcomes. Some more nail biting. I have gotten better at this, mainly by feeding myself confidence and listening to some rap. But I crave the day when I’m just effortlessly resilient to all of it.

    I was listening to a podcast earlier today and the host said something I very much related to. She said, “Here’s the other thing about anxiety: You have to realize that all of those terrible thoughts you have, those are all false voices in your head. They’re like little liars that sound like the voices you’re familiar with, the ones that you’ve grown accustomed to hearing in your head that sound like the other voices and act like the other voices but are a little bit evil.”

    Basically, she was saying that, “When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.”

    And yeah, when you’re so use to freaking out about the little things AND the big things, it begins to feel like normal. And then eventually it just is normal. So how do I combat this anxious behavior that comes crawling in as I’m reacting to a somewhat (sometimes not at all) overwhelming situation? I mean not to sound like some rapper or anything, but the times I do catch on I basically tell myself that I’m going to handle it like a boss and then I do.

    One thing I have noticed about myself is that when it comes to work, I don’t get this anxious. Not anymore anyway. Sure I get stressed about ongoing projects and deadlines and things not working out the way I wanted them to, but I have garnered an amazing level of confidence where I don’t experience my somewhat-anxiety. Perhaps this is due to the constant validation that I get from my boss and colleagues. I mean, I shouldn’t rely on the constant validation of others to make myself feel better, but after hearing, “Good job, well done, awesome work,” constantly before, I was able to build a validation system for myself that counterattacked any doubts I had about the work I was doing. And maybe that’s what I need to do in my personal life as well, but without the validation of others. I need to continue feeding myself confidence, until it feels natural, until it’s just the thing that happens when something goes wrong. 

  • A Woman Thing: Feeling Like A Ball Inside A Pinball Machine

    Photo by Tyler Spangler

    Disclaimer: I haven't done my research, and while I love doing research, right now, I just want to write about the feelings accumulating up inside of me. Here goes:

    I'm starting to think that the idea of telling personal stories through film isn't the way to go (or very smart, maybe that’s a given). They seldom get financial backing and no one seems to want to watch them, especially if they come from a woman. It's like, they know. Also, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg didn't get their start by telling "personal stories" did they? I know the answer to this, but I'm feeling so insecure about myself, about being a woman working in the film industry, that I just can't say for sure. I'm sure they started by telling these cool high-concept stories. That's because men are less attached, less emotional. I'm not speaking specifically: I know many emotional, needy men, but I mean, as a whole. 

    Ugh. 

    I often wonder if things were always like this, but I just wasn’t tuned into the noise. Now, I'm so tuned in. I follow everything like a dog tracing a smell. It's distracting, but also inspiring, when I get lucky. 

    I work for two independent male filmmakers, and they have it hard. I guess getting financial backing to make a film is hard for everyone. But when I look at the broader picture, I know that women just have it harder. I read the blogs on the regular, and whenever there’s some rumor about a woman getting a big Hollywood directing-gig, it’s like a huge deal. So big you read it in the headline: “Marvel Considering Female Director For ‘Black Panther’ Movie”. You’ll never find a headline that says, “Disney’s Next Film Finds Male Director”. That just doesn’t happen.

    Here’s where I insert a clip of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

    I get so frustrated with myself about things like this, and then with the industry, which is more like an institution. I have great ideas all the time, but I shoot them down before I even begin the project because I know that all of the odds are against me. I know it sounds like a terrible defeatist attitude, but this is the reality. These attitudes and feelings have been embedded into my female DNA. No, I wasn’t alive during the 19th and most of the 20th century, when women couldn’t vote or go to certain schools or things like that. But it's like the chromosomes that make up my gender just know that these things happened to those that came before them: You’re a women, therefore you are less than. You can keep trying, but it’ll be a long time before you get what you want.

    And this feeling of oppression and defeat often makes me feel like I have all of the anxieties of an artist, but no real talent. I feel like a ball inside a pinball machine, where the flippers are the blocks that continuously keep me from creating something. It’s a joke because I just get bounced from one to the other and then back again. Once in a while, I make it out, without hitting these walls. I get an idea and I start a project and I put it out there, but then I'm back inside the playfield, feeling insecure all over again. 

    I wish there was a place, a community where I could connect with other women like me, who want to be filmmakers, but feel the way I do about the whole thing. I guess, if you're out there, let me know.