Warning: My Anxiety Wrote This Column, and She’s a Side Effect of My Sickness

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by Bailey Vincent |

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This column is brought to you by anxiety.

My anxiety isn’t very nice to me. She knows I need to write a column today, and that it’s the only day I can do it, but also that I have a mile-long to-do list I need to finish quickly.

She knows there isn’t really anything “wrong” in my life right now — that all of the important pieces I review in my mind at night (“Are my children safe? Are my children safe? Are my children safe?”) are OK — but she doesn’t care. She likes to think about all of the things that could go wrong, or have gone wrong in the past but can’t be fixed now. Or, the things that will most certainly happen … I just don’t know it yet.

She likes to remind me of all the times I don’t feel liked by everyone. I like to be liked by everyone, even though that’s illogical. I want zero conflict in my life. I’m scared of it. (Unless someone messes with my kid, and then I’m like J.Lo from “Enough.”) And I’m utterly terrified of someone hating me.

Everyone has someone who hates them, and I really hate that. My anxiety likes to remind me of tiny micro-nothings that mean, well, nothing.

“Remember when someone said they miss doing pirouettes in dance class? That’s your fault. You took this return-to-dancing-slowly goal too slowly, and now people hate you, and they hate dancing with you, and you aren’t making anyone happy like they deserve because you don’t use enough pirouettes.” (I told you she wasn’t very nice.)

Sunshine doesn’t mean you feel like sunshine. (Courtesy of Bailey Anne Vincent)

I review sentences I once said that others have forgotten, and they live a thousand new lives in my mind.

Last week, I said the word “spazz” in dance class multiple times. As I was saying it, I realized that the word is offensive to those with cerebral palsy or nerve disorders, and I needed to retract it from the air back into my mouth as quickly as possible. Instead, I said it about five more times.

The next day, in dance rehearsal, I said the word “gangsta” (as in, “in paradise”) to describe the level of swag we needed to have for a silly combo. I then cycled through in my mind how that’s offensive to Black culture, and most definitely appropriated, and most definitely not a good word choice, but sometimes my inner ’90s child just comes flying out of my mouth when I least expect it. How do I make mistakes and learn that I’m just making them, not of them?

But you know what I hate the most about my anxiety? The fact that I hate people who talk about their anxiety. Including me. In certain ways.

When we talk about it like it’s our whole person, all of us, who we are. When we secretly compete for who has the most anxiety. When we start sentences with “when.” (Do I even write for a living? What is happening here?) And when we don’t seem to recognize that anxiety doesn’t make us suffer more or set us apart from others — it connects us.

Sun is out, sad is out. (Courtesy of Bailey Anne Vincent)

I think we all have anxiety — in varying levels, yes, and differing forms.

For some, it’s a disorder — something to raise awareness of and educate about. For others, possibly me, we pretend it isn’t much of a “something,” even while losing sleep nightly because we can’t turn our brains off, sure we’re failing at everything.

Am I failing at this column? Probably. I’m not really writing it, am I? It’s my anxiety doing the typing. But it’s also me. A person.

A person with physical health problems, which can be seen outwardly in certain bathing suits and felt inwardly, always. A person who spends so much time worrying about the safety of her children (which isn’t always guaranteed) and the next surgery or appointment (which is less stressful than the children part) that she doesn’t recognize that this is also a part of her health. This is no less important than the scars, and the signs, and the somatic suffering you can see.

We talk about the “anxiety and depression” side of chronic health and I always think, “Is that even a thing? It’s not a symptom on its own. It’s just a side effect of the symptoms we have.” But maybe I’m wrong.

I’m wrong a lot. That’s a side effect of life, too. I want to be better about being unwell, because even when things are going well …

I keep worrying they’re about to get worse.


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Judy Moreland avatar

Judy Moreland

I always worry about my next appointment at the CF Clinic or telemedicine appointment with my CF Clinic. Always. As a matter of fact, since appointments at my CF Clinic are always on Mon or Tue, the weekend before is my "Worry Weekend." That has been going on for probably 15 years or so. Also have to go to a Endocrinology Clinic for osteoporosis, and I worry about that one, too, but I don't have to go every 3 months like the CF Clinic. That clinic tests for CF-related diabetes every year, and I really worry about that test each year. You're not alone in your worrying, Bailey. I wish I didn't worry so much because it doesn't change anything except my mood beforehand. If I've gotten worse, the worrying didn't cause it or help it in any way. Chronic illness is a pain.

A good friend said on the phone to me today, "I have to go now because my daughter is leaving soon for a trip to Idaho. Also, I don't want to hear you cough anymore." Well, guess what. If you want to talk with me, you will hear me cough. I didn't say that to her because she needed to get off the phone, but she's a good enough friend (met her in nursing school over 50 years ago) that I feel comfortable saying it.

Judy Moreland avatar

Judy Moreland


This is the 3rd time I have tried to write this comment. Hope it goes through this time.

I'm with you about worrying ahead of the next appointment. Here in Syracuse's CF clinic, the appointments are always on Mondays or Tuesdays, and the weekend before the appointment is my "Worry Weekend." Ever since my lung function plummeted in the early 2000s, the appointments cause me a lot of anxiety.

On another topic, somewhat unrelated, I was talking to a very good friend of mine from nursing school yesterday. We've known each other for over 50 years. I called her for her birthday, and after we chatted awhile, she told me she had to go because her daughter was visiting and she wouldn't see her for awhile because she going to Idaho for the summer. This particular friend lives in northern New York State near the Adirondacks. And then she said that she really didn't want to get me talking more and coughing more. She meant well, of course, but has anyone ever said that to you? I cough so much when talking with people that I don't even notice it. But they do and sometimes say things that mean well but are hard to hear.

Have a good rest of the week and weekend.


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