What High-Functioning, Low-Level Panic feels Like

Well, first off, it's chronic, unless it's not.

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is frantically taking notes while having a heart-to-heart with a friend because you don't want to lose their loving words. You don't want to forget the part when they said you are amazing. You are strong. You're fighting the good fight. You're healthier than you think. You are not sick.

It's finding an activity, any activity- having a solo dance party until midnight at your empty yoga studio because you just can't go home yet. And you like dancing, but really it’s a carefully choreographed distress signal, trying to tire out the thoughts stuck in your head, like they were a toddler.

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is being so hungry but you don't want to eat. Nothing sounds good. Nothing tastes good. It won't go down well and it won't come out well, so you might as well just be hungry.

It's having orgasms that sound like you're terrified. Because you are. 

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is rolling your eyes when a dear friend texts you multiple times a day. You just want to be left alone and for Christ's sake, WHAT do they want this time? And why do they want YOU? 

It's when you really want to talk to your Mother, but you just can't pick up the phone. You wish you could. But you can't. 

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is your heart racing while sitting perfectly still. And nausea. And imagining yourself vomiting so much and so violently that it's cathartic. Like, the devil would be expelled from you. And God that would feel so good. You just want to get it out.

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is very similar to depression. But you're not depressed. You can't be. You're NOT depressed. And you don't need medication. Okay?? Got it??

It's trying to speed up conversations with people so you can go right back into your head to sort through things and figure out what you need to do to feel better. To feel whole again. ...it's also not being able to figure out why in holy hell someone is so interested in taking to you. I mean, fuck. 

You're irritable. So very irritable.

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is like holding a baby that won't stop crying. And you've tried everything. Almost everything. You haven't tried the thing that might work, because, well, it might actually work. And then what?

It's wanting so badly to be touched. By another human. But every time you are, you're only focused on when they're gonna get tired of touching you. When it will end. Because it will always end before you're ready for it to. 

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is keeping mental score of how many times you've reached out to a friend for help, so you don't use up all your turns. Oh, and your "turns" are based on your warped definition of friendship and how little you feel you deserve it.

It's imagining how you'd one day unload, emotionally. Really fall to pieces. Come undone. Lose your mind. Where you'd be. What you'd be wearing. Who would see it. What they would think. How they'd respond. Where the camera would be. What the Director would want.  

High-Functioning Low-Level Panic is TV shows on DVD. Always playing. Season after season after episode after episode after episode. Background noise. There MUST always be background noise. 

It's confusing replying to a text with being chased by a lion. It's also when answering a text impulsively and thoughtlessly is an act of bravery.

It’s sobbing because the worst-case-scenario that just went through your head at high speed seems so real, so vivid, that even when it’s proven to be untrue, it takes hours for you to feel calm again. Hours.

It's knowing that no one really knows you. Because if they did...

High-Functioning, Low-Level Panic is also...

a quiet knowing; a knowing that nothing is permanent. It's a very subtle yet recognizable suspicion that this will pass, and only its gifts will remain; a desire for a higher standard of thriving and a lower tolerance for suffering. It is the knowing that a good first step is staring at it in the eye and calling it by its name. 

High-Functioning, Low-Level Panic knows that just because its high-functioning doesn't mean it's healthy. High-functioning is not a noble way to suffer and it doesn't pretend to be.

It asks us to pause for just a moment and breathe. And phone a friend without the urge to take notes. To just listen. To just be listened to. And personally, my High-Functioning, Low-Level Panic reminds me to use my oils consistently. And do Yoga (only some days. Other days it's the worst idea ever.)

Hang out here, my friends. Make friends with whatever you've named your feelings. They are here to transform you, move you, test you, love you...and it may not seem like it today, but in the end, it won't let you down. And neither will I.




Life-Changing Magic: Part One

photo 1-14 If "I've always been tidy" means, "I've been shoving things under the bed, into the closet, behind the dresser, between the book shelves, into a trash can and, just, on the floor since I was a little girl", then yes, I've been a very tidy person my whole life. I have my Dad to thank for this. From the time I was five, he'd give me thirty minutes to clean my room in exchange for a "special prize"; (usually that prize was lunch at a sushi buffet and that's a WHOLE other blog post for another day.) But I'd pride myself on my amazing ability to jam everything I own into tight spaces, giving the illusion my space is well-kept.

At the thirty-minute mark, my Dad would tap into his "Camp Counselor" alter-ego, knock on my door and shout, "BUNK INSPECTION!", at which point I'd take him by the hand and give a "tour" of my room, showcasing how spruce and organized I had made everything. I'd "escort" him over to my dresser, saying, "and here we have a VCR and television set, resting comforbly (comfortably) on it's shelf."  But when he got to my closet, just as he was about to open it, I would say, "I'm still working on that, Daddy. It's not ready yet. He let go of the knob and chuckled, knowing the contents of my entire room was behind that door. Nevertheless, he congratulated me on a cleaning job well done and off to the buffet we went. And THAT is my basic blueprint for tidying up...

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A couple of weeks ago my BFF, Hailey, told me to read a book called, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. Since it has been Hailey's job in our friendship for the last twenty-two years to read, seek and search the best ways of being good at life, I bought the book on Audible right away.

The book provides detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy”, and which don’t. The author believes in "tidying" once and for all, not once in a while, or in pieces. The system is pretty cut and dry, written specifically for people like me; people who are attached to possessions, no matter what they are, because they contain memories and carry my story, (even if they spend their precious life under my bed or wedged between the fridge and the bookshelf, collecting bugs and dust. They're still sacred, okay?)

Now, to be fair, I haven't listened to the whole book, as I accidentally napped through the important parts. But judging from what I have "read", perhaps it should really be called, Clean Your House Once and for All by Tearing Your Life House Apart and Shoving Everything You Thought Mattered to You and Ought to be Kept into Hefty Garbage Bags and Drop Them off at GoodWill Like Nothing Ever Happened. I don't feel that way entirely, but a little. And I've found myself in mini debates with Hailey over it. My feeling is: how can you legitimately ask your readers, followers and customers to just do away with things that matter to them, all in one swoop? That's like asking a binge eater to just stop binge eating, or worse, just stop buying food. Maybe that's a bit dramatic but as a mostly-recovered binge eater, it's not.

Speaking of disordered eating, some people who've read this book and adhered to the system have reported actual weight loss (or at least a big bought of diarrhea, which is almost just as good.) And as an Eating Psychology Counselor, who studies the ways in which food and weight issues often have very little to do with food, I'm curious about this; can getting rid of my physical stuff help me feel physically lighter? (That was a total Carrie Bradshaw-type question. WOW. I AM a writer!)


The truth is, despite my Dad's desire for me to have a tidy room in our tidy-looking house, I didn't realize just how messy and untidy his life was until it was over. When he died, it was up to me to decide what got kept and what got tossed, what "sparked joy" and what had left me (and probably him) feeling empty and helpless and sad. My Dad had kept everything; Velcro shoes from the 80's, golf clubs from the 70's, papers and documents from the 60's. He kept receipts and old apartment rental agreements. He kept his divorce papers and the teeth I lost as a child. My Dad made photocopies of every letter he ever sent to someone and saved every letter and card he ever received. I think my Dad spent the majority of his adult life trying to hold on to joy that had long since passed. And I know I do the same.

So what's my point? Why should you care? What do I really want you--my friend, my reader, my confidant-- to hear from this post?

I want you to hear that I'm gonna try this thing, this only keep things in my possession that 'spark joy' thing. I want you to hear that this is hard, out-of-character and scary for me and I'm going to do it anyway and maybe you wanna do it, too? Maybe you're looking to clear out your space, your life, your world? Maybe you wanna do it but not alone? Maybe you want to find a way to do it that works for YOU and not *exactly* as written in the book? I dunno. I just like you. I wanna help.

As you know, I'm not at all a "How-To" blogger, but I'm documenting my experience with this method so at the very least, it might be entertaining.

Over five million copies of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up have been sold, which means at least five million people are ready to make a change for the better, or they're ready for their neighbor or neice to. Five million people are more willing to consider that the things, the trinkets, the clothes, the pictures, the books and the Tupperware they would never dream of discarding are, in fact, what's keeping them from living their best life, in and out of their best home. Five million people are being nudged to take things out of the closet and drawers, out from behind the couch, away from the outdoor shed, (if not the entire shed) quickly evaluated and then tossed away. As much as I've resisted, I'm ready to do the same.

Over the next 3-4 posts, I'll be walking you through my experience of throwing my current life non-joy-sparking stuff away. Lord knows I'm gonna need a lot of decent tunes, energy drinks and drugs Essential Oils to get me through this process and I'll keep you in the loop of what those are, since I'm into that stuff.

I mean, I do like things that are life-changing...and I also like magic...so what's the harm in learning to love tidying up? If the least tidy, most nostalgic, deeply sentimental and super-attached-to-her-stuff girl can do this, maybe you can, too.

Want to?





Photo Credit: Tidying Up Pic