i Things That Give Me Anxiety

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

A couple of days ago was Pi Day. This isn’t a super significant thing in my life, though I did have a roommate in college who always made a couple of pies because she is a fantastic baker and loves math. She still makes them, too. I just saw pictures on Facebook and now I want pie.

The desires of my stomach aside, however, I have a vaguely mathy post for you today. It’s not about pi, though that would be cool. It’s about pi’s only slightly lesser-known cousin, i.

(Okay, it’s not really about i either, it’s about anxiety but there’s a connection so give me a hot minute to explain myself.)

Pi is what is known as an irrational number. I have not ever considered myself a math person; the closest I got to being a math person was barely passing the AP Calculus test in high school and therefore testing out of my math requirements in college. However, I am fairly certain that one of the defining traits of an irrational number is that you can’t write it into a simple fraction that accurately represents ALL of it. I think this is mostly due to the fact that pi doesn’t end. You get infinite decimals that can be written into fractions— .3333333333 etc can be written as 1/3, and my favorite, .142857142857 etc can be written as 1/7. (It’s my favorite because I am .142857 etc of a family, and since I believe we’re an eternal family the infinite decimal thing is sort of fitting.) 1/3 and 1/7 are rational numbers; pi is not, and neither is the square root of 2, for instance.

You have rational numbers, you have irrational numbers— and then you have imaginary numbers.

To me, imaginary numbers are to math as quantum physics is to science— I’m not entirely sure that they’re not Just Making Things Up. However, I did learn enough math to know one imaginary number, called i. This number, i, is the square root of negative one. Or, if you prefer the notation with symbols, i = √-1. Yes? Any questions? It’s okay, me too. I have all of the questions. I can’t wait to ask God how to write i in numbers.

We don’t really know the exact numerical value of i. At least, I didn’t learn it in any of my high school math classes. But i x i = -1 and I don’t think the point of it is to make sense. It’s just a stand-in for a value we don’t yet know.

So i is an imaginary number, and imaginary numbers are by definition not rational. You can’t write i into a fraction that expresses its entire value— mostly because it doesn’t really have one.

Now we get to the part where it relates back to me and my anxiety, because this blog is about me and not math.

Anxiety, much like i and pi and √2, is not rational. As it is a noun and not a number, it also cannot be expressed as a simple fraction. If there were some way to state “Life, divided by Stressful Situation, equals Anxiety,” then I would try and make it cute and mathy for you; but the thing is that it’s different for everyone. There is no Formula. There is no Equation. There is no Law or Theorem or Rule or Pattern for how anxiety works.

There are people in the world who will say that anxiety is imaginary, like i. These are the Lovely Sorts Of People who also tend to say things like, “Well, why don’t you just decide to be happy and calm?” or “You know, other people have it so much worse than you do.” These people believe you are making up a legitimate medical condition for attention. These people believe that even if it is a real illness, you aren’t supposed to talk about it or ever admit you have it because it’s got the social stigma of Mental Illness, and you Just Don’t Talk About It because it’s Not Polite.

The thing about anxiety is that it tries to convince me it’s imaginary already. “Do you really have anxiety, or are you just worried? Do you really have anxiety, or do you just not want to do whatever thing you’re supposed to do?” I don’t need other people trying to invalidate me. I already invalidate myself constantly, thanks.

There is physical proof for my anxiety, which is something I have to remember when my mind is trying to invalidate me.

When I am experiencing anxiety from outside sources such as Facebook and other social media, I tend to bite my nails a lot. It’s a terrible habit and I’ve never gotten out of it because I have had anxiety for a very, very long time. I’ve probably had it far longer than I believe I have. I would go so far to say that I have had it since I was a child, but I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t know how it manifested in my life until fairly recently. Besides nail-biting, I also end up picking at the skin and cuticles right around my nails, and I also end up doing this to my face and picking at the acne. When I need proof for my anxiety, I just go look in the mirror. It’s all right there. When I need proof, I look at my hands and am reminded that playing the piano or typing with bitten-to-the-quick nails is kind of painful.

When I am experiencing anxiety from social situations, I get physically sick. I don’t actually throw up, but I do often get nauseated. My stomach hurts, and I feel like I want to throw up but can’t, because throwing up would promptly relieve the stomach pain, but I don’t actually need to throw up. If psychosomatic nausea is a thing, then it’s a thing I get because of anxiety.

When I am experiencing anxiety about some internal crisis, I tend to sleep poorly. The last few days have been very Weathery in Pennsylvania; we’ve had about a foot and a half of snow and everything is cancelled. My brothers haven’t had school for three days in a row, we haven’t had evening church activities, my mom had to cancel half her piano lessons, etc, etc. Everyone has been spending time at home, and I haven’t needed to go anywhere and my sleep has been awesome. When I’m worrying about something— when I don’t know what to do with my future, when I can’t find a job, when I have a bad day— my sleep is terrible.

I’m sure there are other categories, and I will bet you anything that with some more self-evaluation I could probably pinpoint exact behaviors to exact situations; but there are a lot of things that cause me to experience anxiety. I’m going to provide you with a fairly brief list. Unnumbered, because anxiety isn’t rational. Some of the things on the list you will probably read and think, “Wait, really?” Yes, really. I’ve been getting to know my body and its responses, and this list has things that cause my body to respond in a manner consistent with anxiety.

The point is, the list isn’t rational. Anxiety isn’t rational. I don’t know how many times I’m going to say that in this post. Let it sink in. Anxiety isn’t rational.

  • Going to any social event that may involve speaking
    • Subcategory: Church, weekly
    • Subcategory: Institute, weekly (when I go, that is)
    • Subcategory: YSA activities, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Shopping or errand-running, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Public speaking, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Teaching Relief Society, monthly
  • Getting crushes on boys
    • Subcategory: Being in the same room as said boy
    • Subcategory: Talking to said boy
    • Subcategory: Trying to decide whether said boy likes me back
    • Subcategory: Telling the boy I like him (if I tell him, which usually I don’t)
  • Performance
    • Subcategory: Choir practice at church
    • Subcategory: Accompaniment in general
    • Subcategory: Performance in general
    • Subcategory: Violin
    • Subcategory: Vocal, with my sister
    • Subcategory: Vocal, alone
  • Driving
    • Subcategory: Rush hour
    • Subcategory: Highways and Interstates
    • Subcategory: Changing lanes
    • Subcategory: Other drivers
    • Subcategory: Driving somewhere I’ve never been before
    • Subcategory: Getting lost
    • Subcategory: Inclement weather
    • Subcategory: Driving at night
  • Specific people
    • Subcategory: A person I completely cut out of my life five years ago, further details unnecessary
    • Subcategory: People who ask me too many questions
    • Subcategory: People who dislike or resent me (I always know. Always.)
    • Subcategory: My father
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing finances or my bank account
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my sister
    • Subcategory: My mother
      • Subsubcategory: The “do I really have to do the dishes” conversation
      • Subsubcategory: The “whoops I forgot this song has a swear word in it” conversation
      • Subsubcategory: The “given any media there is probably gay fanfiction of it” conversation
    • Subcategory: My older brother
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Literally every Facebook post ever
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my sister
      • Subsubcategory: Mental illness
    • Subcategory: My sister
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my older brother
      • Subsubcategory: Religious discussions
    • Subcategory: Extended family
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Religious discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Feminism and LGBTQ+ activism
  • Cooking
    • Subcategory: Using/opening the oven
    • Subcategory: Mistakes
    • Subcategory: Preparation
  • Looking for a job
    • Subcategory: Seeking perfection
    • Subcategory: Overqualification and boredom
    • Subcategory: Lack of qualification
    • Subcategory: Relocation
    • Subcategory: Phone calls
  • Dating
    • Subcategory: Variety
    • Subcategory: I AM GOING TO DIE ALONE
    • Subcategory: Relationship > dating but dating has to happen first
  • Future Events
    • Subcategory: Childbirth
    • Subcategory: Raising children through depression
    • Subcategory: My parents
    • Subcategory: My sister, who has epilepsy
    • Subcategory: My second-youngest brother, who has autism
    • Subcategory: Being an orphan
    • Subcategory: Terminal illness
  • Body Image
    • Subcategory: Acne
    • Subcategory: Yellow teeth
    • Subcategory: Hair
  • Self-esteem
    • Subcategory: Dying alone
    • Subcategory: Depression
    • Subcategory: Fear of activism
    • Subcategory: Slippery slope
    • Subcategory: Loneliness
    • Subcategory: Uniqueness
  • Writing
    • Subcategory: Courage to submit work for publication
    • Subcategory: Criticism
    • Subcategory: Fame
    • Subcategory: Money

Some of these you may find relatable. I have been assured that many people worry about dying alone, and that many people do not like driving in inclement weather, and that many people hate making phone calls.

And some of them, like using the oven, are probably… less relatable. I only know one other person who has a problem with using the oven. But I really don’t like it. Turning it on, fine. Opening it and putting things in and taking them out— bending over, hot air on your face, your center of balance is off, usually the thing going in and coming out is kind of heavy and what if you fall over on the oven door and sustain third-degree burns all over your face and hands and have to be rushed to the emergency room and have skin grafts taken from your butt— okay, I need to stop. Let’s just say I Don’t Like It.

Don’t try to make sense of this list. It’s just a thing I wanted to share. And I know I tend to overshare (though I have a lot of worries about sexual activity and bodily functions which I left off the list, you’re welcome), but this doesn’t feel like oversharing to me. This feels like me letting out a few secrets, a few carefully selected burdens. This feels like me saying, “I’m afraid of these things, or they make me worry, or they make me feel sick, or they make me bite my nails.” My hope is to end some of the stigma around anxiety by sharing these things. My hope is that you might look at this list and see something that you relate to, whether it’s because you have anxiety or you simply dislike the concept.

Anxiety is not rational, but this list is proof that it’s not imaginary, either. See you next time.

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.



2 thoughts on “i Things That Give Me Anxiety

  1. Very good list. I understand the anxiety around All The Things, even the ones I personally don’t have anxiety about. I totally relate to your anxiety about family and political/religious/activism conversations, because 1. I hate disagreement and those things are fraught with it and 2. I’m only barely starting to understand my position on All The Politics and 99.9999999999% of the time can’t articulate what I feel about the Wherefores Of It All.


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