Two months ago I shared a story about the impact Lyme disease has had on my life and work for the past four years.
In your responses to that post, I heard you loud and clear: Keep saying the things no one else dares to say.
Your comments struck such a deep chord within me that I made a commitment to myself—a commitment to you, really—to dig deeper and keep sharing the things that others don’t dare to share so honestly.
Yet I simultaneously felt stupefied as to what to write. I’m not trying to hide anything or hold back. I have had a hard time knowing what is worth writing about, what will resonate with you, and what will help you on your journey.
Unable to solve this conundrum from an intellectual space, I set an intention and a date. My intention was to find the right story to share by today’s date, the date I wanted the next truth-telling post to go live.
And that’s how today’s post came about.
It’s another personal story that felt right to share with you. (I’m even letting you in on some of the conversations I have with myself in my head!)
So here goes…
I Woke up in a Total Panic
Just over a month ago, around 2 o’clock in the morning, I woke up in a total panic. Adrenaline rushing through my system, fear flooding my brain, and anxiety knotting up my stomach, I went from dead asleep to a hot mess in a mere second.
This is not a normal occurrence for me. In fact, I can’t remember the last time it happened.
I tried desperately to calm my harried brain and fall back to sleep but had no such luck.
I tossed and turned, tried to calm my fears, and did everything I thought might help — but I stayed very awake.
On top of the stress, my body ached, so no matter what I tried, I couldn’t fall back to sleep. My brain and body couldn’t relax enough for me to drift off.
For four hours, I was on a stress rollercoaster, sometimes half-falling asleep, sometimes overwhelmed with physical pain, other times knotted in a ball of anxiety. It was a rough night.
When my husband woke up the next morning, all I could do was look at him and say, “I’m so sorry.” I knew I had woken him up countless times throughout the night and he hadn’t slept well either.
His response, with love and concern: “What happened?”
“I have no idea. I woke up in a panic about something that really wasn’t worth panicking about. It had me up half the night, though.”
The Nightly Panics Didn’t Stop
Around 2 a.m. the next night, I awoke in a panic — again. I can’t remember the specifics of the panic, but I do remember thinking to myself, “Seriously! This again!”
I tossed and turned for several hours that night, full of anxiety even though I knew it was over nothing.
In the morning I told Paul what had happened. He looked at me puzzled. Like I said earlier, this isn’t something that usually happens to me.
Yet the trend continued. For three weeks.
No matter what I did, how much less I worked — or how much more — no matter how quickly and easily I fell asleep, how much I journaled, exercised, or anything else, the nightly panics continued and the daily anxiety remained.
Each night the duration of my tossing and turning got less (thank goodness!), but I was unable to shake it entirely.
I finally confessed to a friend how much anxiety I was carrying around and how mysterious it all felt. And that, it turns out, is what helped me solve the mystery.
Before I get to that, you need to know a few other things.
Anxiety Is My Companion
As a woman who could be described as having tendencies such as worry, perfectionism, Type A, drive, and achievement, it’s no surprise that anxiety is a companion of mine.
In fact, my second memory of my whole life is me being anxious. I’ve been like this as far back as I can remember.
This isn’t to say I’m justified in feeling this way, that I’m more anxious than anyone else, or that I have a chronic problem that you should sympathize with. Not at all!
In many ways, I feel the opposite. Like I should be “over it” already. I should have meditated, yoga’d, run, Lyme-diseased, mind-body-connected, or just simply grown out of this habit.
Regardless, this is where I am, embarrassed for sure, but whatchagonnado? Anxiety and I know each other well.
As anxiety does, it often held me back from going through life with ease or putting myself “out there” as much as we business women are supposed to.
Every time something doesn’t go perfectly — I hit a hiccup, something breaks, I don’t say the right thing or didn’t act like the perfect coach, businesswoman, friend, wife, sister, whoever — it’s an opportunity for me to freak out, lose my shit, slump into a puddle of tears, spend endless hours and 100 journal pages tearing myself to shreds for not having it right, thinking that I’m doomed, or fearing that all that I’ve built will come crashing down because someone will “find me out.”
Maybe you can relate…
When Anxiety Slows Me Down
Like on May 11, when my assistant emailed me to say, “The welcome video for Get Your First 1000 Subscribers has some details in it that are no longer applicable. What do you want to do?” Mind you, this was 6 days before the re-opening of the program.
“Um, shit,” I thought. I quickly emailed my videographer to see if he could squeeze me in at the last minute for a shoot. (Thankfully he could!)
He turned the video around in an afternoon, and when I saw the finished video, I saw how exhausted I looked, how funny my hair was, and how the sunny spring weather gave me an arm tan line — not good for a sleeveless dress.
(Are you enrolled in Get Your First 1000 Subscribers? Did you see the arm tan line? If you didn’t before, you sure will now!)
I didn’t want to use it. I wanted to reshoot it AGAIN. I wanted a do-over. I wanted to not put this imperfect me (the real me) into the world.
The conversation in my head went like this:
Me: This is NOT good enough. You have to reshoot it!
Me: That’s absurd. Shoot it again? There’s just no time.
Me: Fine! I’ll use it.
Me: But I don’t want to! It’s not good enough!
Me: Stop being so freaking nutso! It’s fine!
Me: People will think that you don’t care enough if it’s not perfect.
Me: They won’t notice!
Me: Yes they will!
And on and on and on.
Have you ever had a battle like this? It makes you want to scream at yourself, right? So maddening!
The problem was I didn’t have much of a choice… unless I wanted to delay the program release. Which was stupid! Over a tan line and funny hair! This is just a 51-second welcome video, not a program module (those were painstakingly edited), for heaven’s sake.
Does any of this sound similar to things you tell yourself? (Or am I alone here?)
The Challenge of Anxiety
One of the things I’ve come to realize is that emotions aren’t all that they seem to be. You can’t take them at face value.
Sometimes, they trick us. Sometimes they lie. Sometimes they aren’t even ours. (Did you know that emotions are contagious? Maybe I should write a future post on that…)
One thing I often do, though much less than I used to — something I see my clients doing a lot — is over-interpret an emotion and make it mean something way more than it really means.
When I’m anxious, I can easily make it mean things like:
- I shouldn’t being doing this.
- I’m making a mistake.
- I’m such a fuck-up. I have no idea what I’m doing!
- I’ll get “found out.”
- People will stop respecting me because I’m not perfect.
- It’s going to totally bomb.
When in fact, none of those is what the anxiety is trying to tell me.
Uncovering the Mystery of My Nightly Anxiety Attacks
After two weeks of stressing, when I confessed my situation to a friend while we were out on a walk, the root of the issue finally came to light.
The anxiety was pointing to the fact that I haven’t had to have my hands into every little nook and cranny of my business recently. Instead, much of it has been in the very capable hands of my team.
You see, over the last six months, my team has grown considerably. I am lucky to work with incredibly talented people who take personal responsibility to deliver amazing work for my business. For this very reason, I don’t have to have my hands in everything (which is exactly why I hired them!).
Since being self-employed since 2009, this is the first time I’ve not known every single detail of everything that’s going on or how to “fix it” myself if something breaks. My business is at their mercy.
As a result, I’m anxious. Not because they aren’t doing their jobs — they are! Simply because I’m navigating new territory and doing business in a way that’s new to me.
New Behaviors Create New Anxieties
As a solopreneur and a one-woman show since the beginning, I have always been the bottleneck in my business. You probably are, too. This isn’t really a problem — it’s part of how we designed our work.
I had a huge realization a few months ago that if I wanted my business to go where I want it to, I had to stop being the bottleneck. I was ready to leap ahead; I knew what I needed to do; and I was more ready than ever.
I set out to delegate massively, and it’s been working — amazingly well. I am blessed with the most incredible, capable, kick-ass, motivated, responsible, driven team that I could ever hope for. Everyone knows their roles, loves what they do, and does incredible work.
It has been all working — just like I planned!
Yet, without realizing it, I was terrified.
Why? Because I was navigating new-to-me territory. And the truth is this:
Which means, unfortunately, that I had to ride it out. Like I said, I have the right team doing the right work. It’s me who is the problem — not them.
So riding it out is what I did.
I’m Better AND I’m Still Freaking Anxious
The good news is that the nighttime panics stopped the evening we re-opened Get Your First 1000 Subscribers, the third big project my team tackled in the span of just 2 months.
Passing that milestone resulted in massive relief on my part. (I slept 11 hour nights for three nights in a row after this was all done.)
We navigated new waters together, accomplished some big shit, and passed with flying colors. My anxiety learned what my head already knew: they’ve got my back.
Yet, anxiety is still my companion. As I grow as a businesswoman, panicky nights will still probably happen, especially as I continue to grow my business.
Even looking ahead, I see the continued upleveling that’s still to be done, the free trainings I want to create, blog posts to write, and more clients to serve. Seeing this list alone makes me anxious. It’s like I can’t get it to you fast enough.
And before it is all “done,” my inner perfectionist will continue to point out the gaps, the holes, the pending changes, the work that’s not yet done — and try her best to make me panic (because that’s what she does). It’s my job not to let her send me into a tailspin.
The good news is that I think I know better, because I’ve played this game dozens of times before, and I’ll play it hundreds of times more.
I simply need to keep taking action, dance with the anxiety, and not let my fears stop me from doing the work I’m here to do. Not let it stop me from fulfilling my purpose, living my life, and serving you.