One of my depression busters is to “become the expert.”
This means, as I’m peeing my pants about where Eric and I are going to get our next paycheck, I am doling out advice on how to cope with such anxiety. In telling someone else what you are supposed to be doing, I actually learn the lesson myself. And then I think if I can actually fool people into thinking that I have it all together, maybe I could have it altogether.
A few days ago a reader wrote me this email:
Lately I have been nearly paralyzed with fear and anxiety about financial issues. I have contacted my former shrink and hope she will take me back. Could you possible write an entry about dealing with and handling such fear? I’m sure that it would help me so much.
Ironically, I read it an hour after I got off the phone with my friend Michelle and vented about all the anxiety I have lately regarding finances, and that I’ve never in my whole life — that includes college — not been able to pay off my credit card. To this OCDer who loves numbers — that is, BLACK numbers — a little red ink can send me into a tissy.
What do I do? These two things. (Twin powers, activate!)
1. Imagine the worst. That’s not a typo. Interestingly enough, going to the absolute worst scenario in that imagination of yours can bring peace.
The second time I was hospitalized, I was disabled in panic: fear that I would never get well, fear that I would be hospitalized for a year like some of the other patients, fear that I would never be able to work again or contribute anything to my family or the community.
Then my friend Mike told me to forget about it. Forget about all those “goals” or “aspirations” … the ones that required me to graduate from the psych ward ASAP. “You’re fine,” he said in the most peaceful way. “You’ve got everything you need.”
I will always remember that moment.
So when I am wrapped in anxiety about something like having no money to pay for swim lessons and school uniforms for the kids, I go to a place in my mind where I don’t need the school uniforms and swim lessons.
I remind myself that if both Eric and I can’t find work, then we can sell our house and buy a very small apartment in the suburbs. We can pluck our kids from Catholic school, even as much as I would hate doing that, and move to a better school district where they could go to public school free.
We will still have running water.
We would have a roof over our heads.
We both could possibly wait tables or work at a bookstore, or something that would at least provide minimum pay.
2. Be like an eagle.
The other day when I was looking for the origins of one of my favorite songs, “On Eagles’ Wings,” I came across this beautiful explanation of what that song means on Bob and Brenda’s “On Eagles Wings” page. Their friend, Veronica Evans, said this in an e-mail:
Did you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.
Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we handle them.