They always tell you not to sweat the small stuff, but as someone with generalized anxiety disorder, that’s most of what I do. Not that I don’t also sweat the big stuff (getting fired, getting sick or injured, having no home or money), but that the little things flit around in my head nearly constantly like a swarm of gnats that you walk through and that get in your mouth and just… yuck.
What if I lose my house keys, what if my parrot gets sick, what if I get the flu, what if someone yells at me, what if I screw something up at work, what if I don’t get all of my slush reading done this week, what if I miss a bill payment, etc. I think about all of these little things all of the time. How can I not?
So when someone tells me not to worry so much, I literally do not know how not to. My brain has carved new neural pathways of uncontrollable worry because of years of trauma I endured, trapped in unending chronic pain and emotional abuse. Through no fault of my own, my mind works… wrong. But I am now saddled with this malfunctioning grey matter and have to find a way forward every day regardless of how much my brain is actively trying to sabotage me. I’ve tried exercise and meditation and neither has given me results (meditation can actually be counter-productive to those of us with chronic pain). I am in therapy, but it’s a slow process, unpacking and trying to “fix” issues with anxiety.
Do I let it stop me? No, I don’t. Do I take medication when the symptoms actively disrupt my life and work? Yes, and there’s no shame in that. But does it make everything just a little bit harder to manage? Sure does and I’m not letting it win.
Deidre Delpino Dykes, an author of speculative fiction, may actually be three birds in a trench coat. She is the co-organizer of the Columbia Writers critique group in Maryland and a passionate player and GM of tabletop role playing games. She is working on a novel-length manuscript and enjoys writing short and flash fiction, some of which has appeared in Wizards in Space vol. 1, Ghosts on Drugs, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Deidre tweets as @DeidreDykes and previously worked as a slush reader for Clarkesworld Magazine.