Updated: May 21, 2020
I would like this email to make its way to Jess if possible. She needs to know how much what she wrote helped me.
I read your piece in The Lilly yesterday. I sent it to my husband and my therapist with a note saying that it described EXACTLY how I experience anxiety. I have never felt so validated or less alone, and I cannot tell you how rare and valuable that experience was for me.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
After I emailed you, I also sent the article to my postdoc advisor. I remember trying to explain to him what my life was like (he was a friend and mentor years before he took me on as a postdoc). He kept trying to get me to work less (he limited me to 35 hours a week for awhile; normal for me was 50-70), and I kept saying that doing it that way didn't work for me, that it didn't decrease my anxiety at all, just gave me more time to feel it too strongly. So, I thought it might help for him to see your description of how the anxiety is still there, even if the to-do list isn't.
I wouldn't say that my husband understands my experience, but he accepts it. I don't really expect understanding anymore. Part of me wants that, but part of me doesn't want someone else to have to go through what they would have to go through to understand my experience. Really, I just want people to believe me and accept that my experience is hard and real.
That's not true of my family. That last part you wrote, about asking people not to make you feel like a burden or explode at you, that's not something much of my family is capable of. So, for now, I'm only in contact with my one brother who does accept that he cannot understand.
My anxiety is different right now. I'd never dissociated really, but that's all I do nowadays, dissociate and distract. That's why I have a grant due on Thursday that isn't done yet. I was always a "done a week ahead of time" kind of girl. Mostly, I think I'm just exhausted, not just from carrying it all, but from unsuccessfully trying to explain things to people who cannot or will not understand or accept them.
(I have degrees in math (BA), physics (BA), physiology (MS), and applied math (MS, PhD, thought the latter is actually half applied math/half physiology/neuromechanics) and a postdoc in computational neuromechanics; other than my husband and my postdoc advisor, there are very few people who understand or accept how I see things intellectually and emotionally.)
As for coping, I'm getting there. I had some really good pieces in place and was doing OK, and then I survived and then left an interconnected toxic workplace and family. (I moved home to take a tenure-track position at the university where my dad and grandpa are/were profs.) Now, I'm rebuilding after starting from less than scratch after leaving academia and my family, pretty much rejecting my entire life's framework. But, my derivative is good, even if my position isn't stellar yet.
My biggest issue is just having no energy, which is hard, especially for someone whose best coping strategy is running.
Anyway, I'm talking to my therapist on Friday about your site. It seems like it fits me, with all the cussing (very much my thing), but he wants me to look at options. Since I can get tunnel vision, it's worth it for me to take his advice here.