Crash Gently

Why do I crash at the end of a great day?

Yesterday was really great. Despite my UC acting up, I met with two volunteers and recruited them to lead canvasses in their town, (probably) recruited a minion intern for the summer, recruited a brand new volunteer for our Sunday canvass, called a bunch of virtual phone bankers, made awful jokes about Votebuilder than no one but Democratic campaign organizers would get, called some delegates to try to set up dates for a couple of convention strategy sessions, cut about 15 turfs, and called a bunch of volunteers to recruit for other upcoming canvasses in our region. Usually phone calls make me anxious, but being at HQ with a dozen other people making calls somehow soothed my anxiety. And then it was one of the regional field directors’ birthday, and we went out to a bar. I think I even managed to seem at least a little social, even though I was surrounded by people I barely knew. Anyone who’s met me knows I haven’t been blessed with social graces. I do great in structured settings like a job where the social expectations are impersonal and clearly defined, but I usually hate informal social events. I felt awkward because I couldn’t drink, and I texted BF through most of it, but I smiled and nodded and occasionally even said something.

But then on the drive home, I crashed. My anxiety went through the roof, almost to the level of a panic attack. Usually my anxiety centers around obsessive thoughts of something–everyone hates me, I don’t have enough money to survive, somebody banged on my window at midnight, etc.–but this time there were no thoughts. There was no specific fear triggering the anxiety. It was all just the physical symptoms–the racing heart, feeling like there’s not enough air, dizziness, ears ringing, feeling like I was going to die.

It just pisses me off that I can’t have a good day without a crash. I knew beforehand that today was going to push me to somewhere near the limit of my supply of spoons, and the surprise UC symptoms subtracted precious spoons. But I was expecting the crash to be mostly physical, with maybe a little bit of depressed mood as I came down from the frenetic high. I was not expecting the sudden anxiety.

And I can’t help comparing myself to others. The other regional lead, E, does this routinely, and he also has a paid job and is finishing college. My RFD, CA, does even more than this every single day. So why can’t I? I mean, I know why: I’m dealing with severe, chronic physical and mental illnesses that take a lot out of me. I know that’s not my fault, and everybody I’m working with on the campaign knows I’m sick a lot, and they’ve been very understanding of my limitations. CA has even made an effort to learn more about UC so he has an idea what I’m dealing with.

I just see all the stuff these other people can do, and I want to be able to do those things too. I love working on campaigns. It’s let me find who I am and feel competent, valued, and important. I love getting to meet interesting people and learn new things. I love that each time I learn something new, I find a little more self-confidence. Working on campaigns makes me feel alive and like I deserve to be alive. And I do better emotionally when I’m busy doing things that feel meaningful.

So of course I want to do it all the time. Who wouldn’t want to do that when they find something they love?

For the most part, I’ve accepted having UC. I can deal with the embarrassment of farting all through a phone bank and finding out in the ONE bathroom stall at HQ that I’m leaking something bright orange out my butt. I’ve even dealt with crapping my pants at my town caucus. Those are messes that go away when you clean them up. They’re over after not too long. But the fatigue, the pain, the unpredictability…the limitations never go away. I can’t clean them up. And it makes me angry. This disease is keeping me from doing what I love full-time.

I’m really trying not to turn that anger on myself, though. I’m actually doing pretty well at that. I tell myself it’s okay that I don’t do as much as CA or E. I tell myself that I’m still WAY more involved in the campaign than almost everyone in the region. I tell myself that I’m doing work that matters and I’m making a valuable contribution. And, amazingly, most of the time, I actually believe those things, which is HUGE for me. But when I crash like this, I really have to fight to believe the good things about myself. I have to accept and allow myself to be anxious, even though it doesn’t make sense to me.

I’m crashing, but I’m trying to put the plane down as safely as possible. And today I think I can.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Crash Gently

  1. Many pats on the back for all you accomplished. Crashing after working so darn hard all day? Do not think you are alone there. You are not. You just do not get to see others do it. Cut yourself some slack. And maybe you will not always crash.

  2. kat

    you deal with a lot, just day to day, without adding working/volunteering into the mix. i think you are amazing and admirable to be able to move beyond the day to day problems and be productive at a job, a job that matters, and that makes you feel so good, so positive.

    I do have physical issues, but none that are as bad as UC. And i have mental health issues, and the best I can do is to get through each day on a positive note, without losing it and screaming or having so much anxiety i can’t function. And even though I have wanted to, I still cannot handle working or volunteering.

    Point being, praise yourself for all that you do, all that you accomplish, because you are an amazing person doing amazing things!

  3. I think what you are doing is awesome. I’ve been in remission from UC for awhile and my most severe symptoms were as a child but chronic physical and mental illnesses take a toll. I think it’s good you can recognize some of the good you are doing and that you have found something you enjoy, are good at, and passionate about- it’s hard to find that combo.
    I hope you landed the plane safely. I will have to use that analogy as I have been crashing lately myself.
    Anyways what you are doing is awesome and I give you a pat on the back for what it’s worth.

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