When I started middle school, I began painting my nails semi-regularly through early high school. It was a phase. I liked the way it looked; it gave me something to do to keep my hands busy when I was anxious or bored. But I didn’t like the way the polish looked after a few days. It chipped. My nails grew, so it started looking shabby. And I didn’t like the way it felt or how my nails looked after I removed the polish. So I stopped painting them. I’d remove the old polish and go longer and longer without repainting my nails because I was too busy and I didn’t find it worth the effort anymore, and I didn’t like everything that went with removing the polish (the smell of acetone, the way my nails felt and looked, the soiled cotton balls or tissues that kept that smell lingering in the air when they were in the trash…)
And I don’t like strangers touching me, so I’ve only had my nails professionally done three times; 1 manicure; 2 pedicures…all at the request/suggestion of someone else who wanted me to go with them as a ‘treat.’ It’s not a treat for me to have a stranger constantly touching me for almost an hour, but that’s beside the point of this post…mostly. This post IS about anxiety, and how it’s not rational.
I’ve had a few readers ask me what living with anxiety is like, because (thank goodness) they don’t have it, and sometimes it’s hard for them to understand it. Sometimes it’s hard for ME to understand it, honestly. It’s particularly weird to be a normally rational, positive thinking person and have anxiety. But that’s who I am.
Anxiety leads me to a lot of catastrophic thinking spirals, and when I have them, there’s always some piece of truth that sparks them, but then anxiety just runs amok, driving me to worst case scenario every time. And…just like practically everyone when they are really IN a worst case scenario situation…I have a pronounced physical response. Anxiety looks differently on everyone who experiences it, but for me, my heart races. Sometimes my body shakes, especially my hands, and I bounce knees a lot when I’m sitting down. Or I shake one foot. My breathing gets shallow. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I sweat a lot. I grind my teeth. My muscles tense. Sometimes things start hurting…headache…chest constriction…joint pain…nausea.
Like I said, I don’t like strangers touching me. So I don’t enjoy beauty/spa type treatments. And I don’t like doctors appointments, either. Those are actually probably worse, because not only are strangers touching me, but there’s probably something wrong with me. So any kind of potential medical situation stresses me out.
All of this lead in is to say, right before Christmas, I painted my toenails for the first time in years. I was feeling festive, I guess. I used red nail polish. This seems like random information about me that doesn’t connect and is maybe not important, but for this post, it kind of is. So, to recap…
1. I don’t paint my nails often, because I don’t like taking the old polish off.
2. I’m not a fan of medical…situations.
3. I did paint my toenails red on a whim right before Christmas.
Then, right before the New Year, some acquaintances on the internet began talking about a 2020 challenge…walk, run, bike, swim, whatever it is you do for exercise 2020 miles in 2020. That falls in line with my fitness goals, and sort of like NaNoWriMo in November helped me move on writing a long awaited sequel to a previous novel, I figured this was a nice long term goal/accountability measure for me. So I signed on. That’s walking 40 miles a week, a certainly doable aim for my legs and cardiovascular system, and the corniness would help (and is helping) me stay motivated. I did my 40 miles the first week of this year, no problem, but I got a lot of blisters. So I went shopping to buy some fancy moisture wicking socks to avoid blisters for the rest of the year, hopefully, but before that, I had to put on a lot of band-aids; most of them on my toes.
The polish had been on for a couple of weeks, and I’d been walking miles with the bandages on my toes, so when I removed them to take a shower after treadmill time was over the first day I’d worn them, and saw this…
…my initial reaction was panic. “ALL MY BLISTERS ARE BLEEDING! OH NO!!!”
Cue me checking out my feet in terrified detail for the next ten minutes.
But of course…it was just old red nail polish.
If I was only thinking rationally, I’d have known that immediately. There’d have been no panic. And when it was clearly confirmed that it was just old red nail polish, I felt foolish and ridiculous. That’s a pretty regular occurrence with anxiety for me.
Something worrisome and bad and possible but not probable shows some evidence to me…I assume the worst and freak out!…then it turns out to be nothing, or at least nowhere near as bad as I assumed it would be…and I feel dumb.
That’s what anxiety is like for me. It’s always thinking it’s blood when it’s just old red nail polish.