20-Something, Hipstercrite Life

The Dizziness of Freedom

I recently discussed on my blog how I’ve developed crippling anxiety attacks at nighttime. Crippling is a strong word. More like curling up in a ball and whimpering myself into exhaustion. I’ve become absolutely convinced every night someone is trying to break into the house. Every single night. Like people have nothing better to do than hang outside my house and contemplate stealing the useless stuff I have to offer them every single day.

I know that these fears are irrational, though they are somewhat founded in recent violent goings-on in my neighborhood. Last week, two separate muggings occurred at popular east side bars, one where a young lady was brutally punched in the head. My boyfriend also lives in close proximity to the one intersection in all of Austin that houses every crackhead, prostitute, and pimp. Needless to say I envision a Thriller-like ragtag group parading in on the house as soon as the clock strikes 3AM.

On the surface my anxiety stems directly from these feelings. The feelings of being scared, vulnerable, unprotected. That everyone in the world is planning to kill me (“It’s not all about you”, my mother would say). That I and everyone I love will be violently murdered and I am helpless to stop it. I never felt this way before. Even when I lived in crime-riddled neighborhoods in Los Angeles I never felt such uneasiness. Seeing dead bodies, having police helicopters shining lights into my window, and being nearly shot by a disgruntled driver barely phased me. So why in the heck have I been so nervous lately?

Southerns will tell you it’s because I’m a Yankee and I’m a Jew, but I realized that something deeper than my failed attempts at being Woody Allen have to be at work. Something recent brought on these anxieties. After some heavy conversations with myself, I realized that some of my anxiety could be directly related to the new relationship in my life.

In my adult life, I’ve never really been in love. I’ve never had a person who stood up and say, “You! I chose you!” Someone who stops in mid-conversation to tell me how lucky he feels that I’m in his life. Someone who is confident in who he is and what he wants. Until now. Being in your 20’s you get used to dating people who are confused, indifferent, or downright selfish. People who jump ship or make you feel bad about yourself. You may date them in part because you are also confused, indifferent or selfish. I’ve come a long way from the girl I was seven years ago. A girl who had difficulty transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Who constantly had her heart broken because she propelled illusions. That girl grew up and threw her insecurities to the wind, but as I’m discovering maybe they never fully go away. Maybe they just subconsciously manifest into other fears- like ax-wielding hobos trying to chop off my toes.

This new found awareness made me wonder if the idea of not feeling comfortable when everything is going well is more common than not. Right now my life is perfect. I have zero complaints. I live in a wonderful city, I have a decent job, my creative endeavors are growing, my friends and family are healthy and not-crazy, and I chanced upon a wonderful gentleman. But for some dumb-ass reason I’m the most anxious I’ve ever been. Somewhere deep in my mind I feel that the other shoe is about to drop. That this is only the calm before the storm. None of these anxieties are preventing me from enjoying my life. Neither am I trying to self-sabotage the good fortunes I’ve acquired. I simply can not sleep. A feeling of panic swims through me in the wee hours with growing fervor. Is this a common development in twenty-somethings when they make the transition from fumbling novice to adult? Or am I not even an adult yet, but have just learned to compartmentalize my uneasiness? Or maybe that’s what being an adult is? Learning to stuff your worries deep down until you wake up one day 40 pounds heavier because you’ve become dependent on 8AM martinis to help you get through the day.

Do you get anxious when things are going well for you?

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  • Reply Guise Faux May 19, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    This is where I would usually interject some inappropriately snarky remark intended to diffuse tension with humor.

    And *this* is where today I won't.

    "I get up. I walk. I fall down.
    Meanwhile, I keep dancing."

  • Reply Jo and the Novelist May 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Great post – I totally relate to what you're going through. My anxiety attacks have returned even though all the mad people and mad boyfriends, and horrible flats in the ghetto have gone away. I don't know why it is either. But you're right, it's like you panic because everythings going… well… and that doesn't normally happen. Right?

    Sometimes I wonder if I just can't accept the smooth running of things, and have to create drama for myself? But don't tell my ex-boyfriend I said that 😉

  • Reply elisal20 May 19, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    This is exactly me right now.

    I just moved closer to friends to enjoy the summer with them and, I'm having a blast. Somehow I landed a job I love making much more $ than I ever have. This better income is going to help me move to Austin in the fall, which has been a goal for a long time. Its amazing.

    Everything is perfect and it freaks me out!

    I tell myself that worrying prevents nothing and fixes nothing. So I guess we just have to enjoy it!

  • Reply John Poet May 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    'It is hard to tell of happiness. Time goes by, and we feel safe too soon…'
    ~Legends Of The Fall

  • Reply Athena May 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Yes, yes I do.

    I call it 'waiting for the other shoe to drop.'

    It is a horrid, scary place, but I work in it and through it every day. I try. There are times I do not succeed, and that is when you'll find me in bed at 6 p.m., covers up, lights off.

    Hang in there. You aren't alone.

  • Reply Brooke Farmer May 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I go through long phases of waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety. Mine is usually something I can't pinpoint though. Just the physical effects of pending anxiety attack. I think it started around the time I was 26 or 27. I have no answers or advice other than sometimes a glass of wine helps and I don't care if it is 4:17 am, if my heart is pounding so hard I feel like it's leaving bruises on the inside of my rib cage I will drink a glass of wine to try and make it stop.

  • Reply Hipstercrite May 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    @Guise Faux- I like that quote! And snarky remarks are always welcomed!

    @Jo- I hope that over time we'll become comfortable with the good fortune we have. We should be reveling in it, not worrying about it. I'm just going to go ahead and blame my parents. 😉

    @Elisal20- I try to tell myself to stop worrying too! I've definitely gotten better as I've gotten older, but lately it's been kind of rough. And a preemptive welcome to Austin!

    @John- Who would have thought that movie was so wise?

    @Athena- Thanks, Athena.

    @Brooke- I've definitely done that, but with rum…and sleeping pills…at 4AM. Not the best idea, I can tell you…

  • Reply The Average Broad May 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Honestly, I think this feeling is just symptomatic of our generation. You posted a blog a while ago about how we (the 20-somethings) are frustrated with seemingly self-imposed commitment phobia and I think they go hand in hand.

  • Reply Tara May 19, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    I feel like I'm constantly waiting for that bad thing to happen that I convince myself is inevitably coming. It's actually quite miserable, expecting that something negative must be coming because things can't possibly go this well without and equal and opposite occurrence.

    The past few years I've been dealing with terrible anxiety and depression, and I feel like it has prevented me from enjoying and fully appreciating the good things that have been happening in my life. It's like, things can't possibly be this good without something bad happening to balance it out. It's pretty miserable, sometimes.

  • Reply girluntitled May 19, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    one word. ATIVAN!

  • Reply Jessica May 19, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Because people with anxiety should help each other out- I put it off, but xanax is a good thing to have on hand for the bad attacks. For true. Also, I once had a counselor who advised me to try different breathing techniques when I felt an anxiety attack coming on- try taking deep breaths and counting down. Congratulate yourself for getting to 1, and then start over again. It sounds silly, but reassuring yourself and having the sense of a minor accomplishment really is a good way to get your mind out of the rabbit hole of anxiety. Hope that helps.

  • Reply tennysoneehemingway May 20, 2011 at 1:37 am

    Welcome to growing older kid, you're doing fine. And that isn't supposed to be snarky, it's true. I went through exactly the same thing when I met my wife. It only stopped after our second year together. Hang tough and you'll be ok.

  • Reply Heather P-J May 20, 2011 at 1:49 am

    i love this post. I feel terrified when i'm home alone. like everyone just wants to kill ME. i love your blog so much! its insightful and humorous!

  • Reply Teeny May 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Oh. I can empathise with this. Going through the sh*t of the twenties where relationships are fickle and then finding someone that is like The One. The One that makes sense. I married my One (eventually) – but I shit you not the first couple of years of our relationship, i was waiting for the inevitable crush of disappointment. I got full blown depression. Which some might say is a result of anxiety. I hope that the anxiety lessens and you can trust that it is all going to be okay.

  • Reply Shanna P. - Nostalgia Film May 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Yes! I started imagining all sorts of terrible happenings right around the time I got married. Like, we finally found each other and are in love, and now the other shoe has to drop, right?

    As far as safety goes, I have slept SO much better after getting an alarm after someone tried to break into my house in the middle of the night. Best $30 a month I spend. That and having a small pack of rescue dogs helps!!

  • Reply kwertz12 May 26, 2011 at 3:22 am

    I can also relate. I have had so many horrid things happen in my life and I'd sleep like a baby, but once my life felt complete, I would have the worst anxiety. I think it's because you realize all that you have to lose. I'm 28, 2 beautiful daughters, an AMAZING husband, an awesome house, nice cars and nice stuff. I think it's all a bunch of pressure that I didn't realize I would feel. Now I have to make sure we can provide for our kids, keep the house/cars/nice stuff, pay the bills and live in happiness. I think I'm afraid that somehow I'll lose everything. Buck up, buckaroo! 😀

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