If you’re wondering where I’ve been, and I’m not so egocentric to assume you are, I’ve been absorbed in the stage of business-building known as the clusterfuck stage. (I just made that up; I don’t know if anyone else really calls it that. But it’s apropos.)
This stage is characterized by a bombardment of random tasks that need to be completed on a weekly, daily, sometimes even hourly basis…work on website copy, revise business cards for the third time, design promo items, haggle over price of promo items, call web designer back, send 5th message to photographer friend asking when photos will be ready, meet with networking group, research pricing…and on and on and on. The to-do list just keeps growing, and at the end of a whirlwind day, I sit mindlessly on the couch scrolling through online articles and only half-listening to my husband and kids as they try to engage me in casual chatter (sorry loves, I’m trying to be better). I’m sure many of my friends also feel ignored, discounted, or just plain irritated by my flakiness in responding to text messages, or my inability to remember the date/time/location of that one thing they wanted me to do with them.
And as guilty as I may feel about those things, I must confess that I’m not sorry. Not because I feel no regret, but because I know it’s just the opportunity cost of running down a dream (R.I.P. Tom Petty, one of my all time favs). And I’m getting closer to that dream every day, and I know that the people who truly love and support me understand the sacrifices I have to make in order to chase that bitch down. So instead of saying “I’m sorry”, I think it’s more appropriate to just say “THANK YOU!!!!!”
As I get closer to officially launching my business venture towards the end of this month (launch party is October 28th!), I’m also kicking off a social media campaign inspired by my business tagline: DEFIANTLY THRIVE. But it’s more than just a catchy tagline. It’s more than marketing b.s. It’s the key to living your bravest, most authentic life. The kind of life where you do more than just survive the challenges; you thrive in spite of them. Like a renegade! And I know there are many of you out there who have your own personal stories on how you defiantly thrive, and I want to hear them. The world NEEDS to hear them, because there is enough negative bullshit out there to euthanize a small country.
But listen, I know it’s tough to share the REAL stories. I’m not talking about all the pretty pictures you post on Instagram, or the clever tweets, or the inspirational memes shared on Facebook. I’m talking about the raw, unadulterated stories of survival, overcoming obstacles, dealing with failure, facing fears, and rebuilding after disaster. We all have these stories, but they’re typically not the ones we choose to share because they make us vulnerable…maybe we’ll look weak, or incapable…maybe others will judge us. You know what? Maybe that’s all true, but, who gives a crap! It also makes us more authentic, and I think we can all agree that there is an extreme authenticity drought plaguing society right now. So, I’ll start with my own DEFIANTLY THRIVE story, and then maybe you’ll be encouraged to share your own:
I like to joke with people that I had anxiety long before having anxiety was cool. At the age of 17 I started having crazy panic attacks, although at the time I didn’t know that’s what they were; only that my heart would race uncontrollably for no reason, almost to the point of blacking out. Then my mind would fill with all these thoughts of horrible things that might happen to me if I left the house, so for weeks at a time, I didn’t. I would hyperventilate while driving and have to pull over in order to catch my breath. Some days I would have so much nervous energy that I would have to run laps around the block just to burn it off. On the low-key days I would still endlessly twirl my hair or chew on my cuticles. You get the idea; it was bad. At first I thought maybe it was from too much caffeine or amphetamines, but the Dr diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder. I thought he just made it up, since I had never heard of it before. SURELY there was something physically wrong with me, like my heart was getting ready to explode, or I had some kind of crazy tumor growing in my brain. But no, I was just mental. (Settle down, PC Police, I say that in jest)
So for several years after, I tried every drug on the market to help manage my symptoms. Xanax was a winner and became my best friend all through college. It was there that I finally met other people with the same condition, and realized some cases were far more extreme than mine. The realization that anxiety was a relatively common mental illness empowered me to start fighting back. I wasn’t going to just accept the status quo and be enslaved to a mind-altering medication for the rest of my life. I was already a slave to insulin for my Type 1 Diabetes, but that was beyond my control. If anxiety was within my control, I would learn how to become its master, rather than vice versa.
Easier said than done, it turns out! I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s an ongoing battle. Thanks to a combination of therapy, exercise and healthy habits, I was able to go years without any medication. Until one day I needed it again, out of the blue, for no obvious reason. I could have daily panic attacks for 6 weeks, or even several months, and then not have another one for the rest of the year. Some days I take stress and chaos like a CHAMP; and other days it still leaves me hyperventilating in bed, unable to slow down my thoughts, until I finally drive to the ER to make sure I’m not having a heart attack. Sounds funny, and a little crazy right?? Some of ya’ll out there know what I’m talking about, and we can laugh at it just as easily as it can bring us to tears.
One of the biggest not-so-fun surprises from quitting my job and starting to build my business was that anxiety seems to LOVE this kind of scenario: tons of uncertainty, extreme multi-tasking, financial stress, constant barrage of meeting new people, pressure to make strong first impressions, etc. It’s like Disneyland for those little anxiety demons that live in my head! And believe me, they have been LIVING IT UP. But the same way I didn’t let them beat me in college, or beat me during other periods of drastic change, I’ll be DAMNED if I let them beat me now, with so much more at stake. I’m actually learning to make my high-anxiety days my most productive. Tons of nervous energy? Write an extra-long blog post in one sitting! I’ve even got new tools in my war chest, like acupuncture, CBD oil, yoga, meditation and just good ol’ fashioned deep breathing exercises. And a couple of Xanax on backup, just in case.
The point, my friends, is that my anxiety is just one of many challenges that pushes me to defiantly thrive. Because, fuck you anxiety, you’re not going to keep me from living my best life. You hear me, right? Snaps for Amanda!! So, now I challenge you to think about it…what are your own “defiantly thrive” stories? And when you’re ready to share them, let me know. I’m building a place for you to do just that.