Sometimes shit hits the fan. Sometimes its emotional. Tonight was sometimes. Sitting in class I felt my anxiety hit its peak, I’d been feeling this…yuckiness this stress and I’d notice as it took a slow chokehold on my life. I noticed as I worried constantly about my day to day processes, do I have my keys? Did I check the mail? Did I close the refrigerator door all the way? And I’d become a bit of a check-er. I had to be sure I was doing it right. Doing it at all. It was tightening and binding and tonight I stopped breathing.
Sitting in class listening to a colleague discuss his dissertation process, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. And being the usual light heart that I am my classmates laughed my behavior off not knowing that internally I was counting. Counting to ten, repeatedly just to steady my breath. I was choking. It, the anxiety, was squeezing me and in this moment I knew two things: 1) that this feeling was mental/emotional 2) that something was really really wrong, and I needed to call attention to it immediately. So I went to find my advisor. Sane right?
I knew she was somewhere in the building so I just hung out for a while til she appeared. And I told her everything. And she listened, in her way. And told me the same thing my work wife said: one day at a time, one step at a time. And while that offered some solace, I couldn’t help but still feel very unresolved. I called my Person.
I told her about the panic attack. I told her everything, as I always do and I told her how foreign this felt because I am just not anxious (at all)…she laughed and agreed, because usually that is her role in our relationship. I told her something was wrong. She asked, innocently enough, why I couldn’t just focus on right now and I told her because I felt like working towards faculty meant I needed to do certain things like publish articles, present at conferences and…in the midst of telling her this I realized here was my anxiety. It was performance anxiety. Since I made this decision to pursue faculty, I’ve felt extremely inadequate. Like I need to do more, be more, like I needed to do things that feel so god-awful to me.
My Person asked if I had to “choose” like officially, if there was some track. I said no, but that the preparation for the admin versus faculty tracks was different. And what I realized in explaining to her was that I’ve been putting immense amounts of pressure on myself lately to be what I think “faculty” is. That, in and of itself is not me. I somehow got sucked into the house of should and was suffocating under the weight of expectation.
She shared her personal opinion that she saw me as more of a practitioner, as an administrator. And maybe I am. I don’t know. There are things about both that I like and enjoy. I think what I want to try to do right now, though, is just be where I am. In my 2nd year doing research and not thinking about what it could/might/should lead to…just the right here right now. That’s what I can handle.
In the moments after I felt extremely grateful for my advisor, and for my work wife, and for my Person. For people in my life that ground me and offer far more clarity than a glass of Pinot. I don’t have to stress about what’s coming. I don’t have to BE 5 years from now, it will come. I just have to be right now, over and over again. And for the first time in many weeks, maybe even months, I felt the noose loosen and I could breathe.