My friend J is the biggest worrywart in the world. But you would never have guessed by merely looking at her. In fact, the more awkward and anxious she feels, the more she’s all rainbows and unicorns and heart-dotted washi tapes. So if I see her looking extraordinarily perky, I know that there’s a huge possibility that she’s dying inside at the moment.
I didn’t buy it at first, admittedly. I thought, how First World of her to be unable to move or even to think just because of “feelings.” Eventually I understood that there’s nothing fancy or cinematic about the condition.
What’s even worse is that the type of anxiety she has is plagued by guilt. So while other anxiety-ridden people will feel fretful about how their outfit looks or the totally embarrassing thing they said five years ago, J would be completely immobilized by thoughts of all the “bad” things she has ever committed. Like saying “no” to an impossible favor her cousin asked her. Or being too poor when she was 20 years old that she was unable to buy a wheelchair for her dying grandaunt at that time.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. We would actually joke about her condition all the time. My favourite superhero for her is Anxiety Girl: “Able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound!” I gave her gifts like a cute comic book titled “The Worrier’s Guide to Life.” Her favourite is a set of postcards spoofing horror movie teasers (The Phone Call… Why Don’t They Just Call?). When J is feeling panicky, I’ll comfort her by telling her not to sweat it! Because, you know, things can actually get much, much worse!
I remember that one time when she fell into a really serious funk. She had to see a therapist. This therapist would teach her various tips and exercises that will help quiet down that voice telling her that she’s not good, smart, kind, funny, etc. enough. J would teach me those exercises because well, let’s just say that I’m a world-champion worrier too.
Some of the exercises are just too woo-woo for me, but guided imagery soon became a regular activity for us. Good thing we both got pretty wild imaginations, so doing visualizations was something we can manage to do even when the negative thoughts are racing on. A surprising bonus of guided imagery is it helped me with my writing. At that time, I was writing children’s storybooks and copy for a cookie brand client, a script for a documentary, articles for a magazine and reporting for my day job as a news writer in a major TV network — all at the same time. I wouldn’t have been able to swing it without the clarity driven by guided meditation.
The story doesn’t end with J finally escaping free from anxiety. Of course she’s still a worrywart, though not as bad as before. And that alone is good enough for me.