Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.
This week, we hear from Marigny Goodyear, an artist and writer living in Talent, Ore., with her husband and daughter. She uses creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, plays in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and visits her hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of her heartbeat is renewed.
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I have struggled with anxiety since I was a child, although I didn’t know it until I quit drinking at age 36. Alcohol was the coping mechanism that I discovered when I was 13. I didn’t realize that the drinking was an attempt to cover up uncomfortable and sometimes paralyzing feelings. In the nearly seven years that alcohol has not been in my life, I have come to realize that I have always struggled with social anxiety, self-esteem issues, and big-time battles with fear and failure. It caused me to feel out of place, awkward, not good enough, and depressed.
My most common physical symptom is exhaustion. However, I also struggle with joint pain, nausea, loss of appetite, migraines, heart palpitations, the feeling that something is stuck in my throat, and on a few occasions, I have come close to passing out (shortness of breath and tunnel vision fading to black). I also nervously pick my fingers, often until I look down and find I’m bleeding.
I feel that in my head, there is a hamster endlessly running on a wheel, which is simultaneously being tossed about by a tornado. All of my thoughts are swirling so fast that I have trouble concentrating on one at a time as new ones keep arriving at tremendous speed. It makes decision making impossible and I wake in the middle of the night with a head full of ticker tape worry, creating endless scenarios most of which don’t and will never exist. It’s the “what if” runaway train. I also still struggle with thoughts that I’m not good enough, I don’t do anything right, I don’t work hard enough or do enough, that I am a failure. After a period of time where I sit in that swill, I get depressed and then I think I’m simply useless to everyone around me and my family would be better off if I just went away. The negative self-talk is paralyzing and belittling, and I have to live with the fact that I’m doing that to myself.
Like I’m sleepwalking. Everything is hazy. I cry at random thoughts that occur at inappropriate times (like standing in line at the grocery). My knees hurt to the point that getting out the car is painful. My heart feels like it’s flopping around in my chest, and I feel as though it will be this way forever. I usually make myself push through but very little gets accomplished which just feeds the “I’m not good enough” story.
The best way for me to cope is to be proactive about self-care. I meditate daily, say morning gratitude and guidance prayers, exercise often, write, make art and surf. Being in the ocean is extremely healing as when I enter the water, all other thoughts stop. It is the only thing in my life that does that. When anxiety rears its ugly head anyway, despite practicing good self-care, I have a therapist who I trust and I lean on my parents and a few others that I trust. I talk to my anxiety and recognize when it’s there. I say, “Hello anxiety. How are you?”, and create “I will” mantras such as, “I will get through this bout. I will go to the post office. I will make dinner for my family.” That helps keep my life rolling. I also wear a tiara in my art studio. It helps by making me smile and stop taking myself so seriously.