IF YOU’RE FEELING NERVOUS
By: Lauren Anderson
Two days ago I woke up with a mouth full of blood.
Do I have your attention?
If I ever write a mystery novel… I’m yoinking that line from this blog and using it again!
Yup. My alarm went off at the same respectable time it always does for a person that works mostly at night– and when I turned over to put on my glasses so I could shut off my alarm—I tasted iron. Like some goblin has dropped a bunch of fresh copper pennies in my mouth while I slept.
When I sat up, blood dripped off my lip like a slow-motion werewolf fresh off a kill. I put my hand to my mouth, embarrassed because I thought I had drooled on myself, and when I pulled my hand back—I SAW BLOOD.
Now I don’t know about you, but this scared the bejeezus outta me! That was not what I was expecting to see. I leapt out of bed and ran to my bathroom. I didn’t know what to do, so I just started spitting into the sink. I desperately tried not to be grossed out by the blood in the basin, because the whole affair was becoming just a little too close to a scene from “It” for my taste. I took a swig of water, took a deep breath, and investigated my mouth.
When I opened up, I didn’t have to look very far. Apparently in the night, my tongue had gotten lodged between my teeth, and I was biting down so hard on it, that I accidentally broke the skin. God knows how long I was biting down on my tongue.
I looked a little more. There was only a little tiny spot where the skin had been punctured, but the rest of the entire side of my tongue had teeth marks so deep, it was almost laughable. Like when you accidentally fall asleep on your watch band, and you wake up with link marks on your face. But this was teeth– ON MY TONGUE.
What a strange sight! I have never done this before, and in the days following, I never did it again. But I would be lying if I didn’t say it worried me. Is this a thing I have to think about now? Is this something I have to fear doing again?
According to the trusty internet, and my 20 minutes of “hard investigation”, teeth grinding and tongue biting in your sleep is like, Anxiety 101 stuff. I was feeling nervous, so in the night, my body decided to grind out the tension ON MY TONGUE.
The joke of it all though, is that waking up with a mouth full of blood is about the least relaxing/ calming/ soothing thing that can happen. But my body doesn’t care about the optics. It only wanted that nervousness OUT.
That morning as I made a pot of coffee and thought about it, I guess I have been feeling a little anxious lately. Not full-blown attack mode, or even low-key panic attack like I experienced a few months ago. But a general uneasiness. A general jumpiness and inability to feel 100% calm.
What’s that about?
Well, I do have a few guesses. If I was gonna start at the most honest place? I would blame September. And the fact that September is now Suicide Prevention Month. As someone who lost their brother from suicide less than 3 years ago, it has not been easy to navigate the social media surrounding this topic.
Sorry if that’s a lot, or a Trigger. I just feel like that’s the most honest thing. And grief is cyclic. When grief is fresh, it’s a tight circle around you. And as the years go by, it widens out and kinda hula hoops itself. Sometimes it’s very far out, but it will always circle back. Touching down on the sides of your body at random times. And of course, never when you expect it.
Even though it’s been years, there are days when I wake up and it feels brand new. Or I’ll be walking along and BAM. Something or someone will remind me– and I’m right back in the center of a tight circle.
Just the other day, I said “My brothers” plural, when I was talking to my co-workers. And I caught myself. “Do I still say brother(s) even though Kevin is gone?” I thought. And then I was like, “Of course, I will always have two brothers… but…but… how do I say this now? When nothing feels right?”
And I got trapped in the moment, and grief circled back and ripped at my chest like an angry knife.
On the one hand, I am so grateful by all the open promises made online to put on a pot of coffee and be with someone through the night when they are in their darkest places. People have actually done this for me, and I have done it for others. I know first hand what a difference that can make.
I also know that speaking your truth about depression into the light is SO IMPORTANT. Hell, I’ve tried to do that very thing right here in this blog. I also think that urging people to reach out and talk to each other does WAY MORE GOOD than not.
But I also know that it’s not so simple. And it’s not so easy. It never is. And I don’t think anyone claims that it is– it’s just, well, I don’t know… it’s all hard stuff.
And my own grief and thoughts on the subject are so deep and varied, that I think it’s been making me jumpy. Because some of it might be unpopular, because I still might be angry. Or I might be feeling like, “Where was everyone 3 years ago?!” or even, “Where was I?!”
(Jesus. That was hard to type…)
But I think I’ve been trying to avoid coming clean about all this. Cause I want to manage it, or make it not a big deal. Or even, try and be a more vocal advocate, because of my history. But I just can’t seem to do it yet. Fall is already hard for the family, because of the timing of my brother’s death. But now there’s an extra month tacked on?
In an attempt to “STEADY ON” and fight the good fight, I think I’ve been trying to act like it’s not a thing. But maybe after a mouth full of blood, my body is telling me a different story. If Solcana has taught me anything, it’s to listen to my body. Because love it or lump it, it never lies.
I guess it’s time to rinse my mouth out and come clean.
You’ll be happy to know, that I am in counseling for this. And I have lots and lots of people that are so willing to talk to me about this stuff. And I am so grateful. My family and I talk too. A lot. We made that promise to each other, and we’re sticking to it.
But what about the nerves? What do I do in the spaces between the good days and the bad moments?
Well, as if by chance or good fortune, I stumbled across a little rhyme in an article on the internet. Don’t ask for the details of who or where, because it’s already lost (sorry!). I don’t recall where I saw it, I just know that it struck me. And because it has a soft rhyme, I was able to remember it. It goes like this:
“If you’re feeling nervous, be of service.”
After I read it, I was like, YEAH! That could help! So for the next few days, every time nervous energy would bubble up, I would try and get out of my own head, and go help someone. Sometimes it was me offering to stack some chairs. Or other times it was me sending a random text to someone I care about letting them know I think they are great.
And what I noticed was because I wasn’t focusing on myself and trapping myself in my own mind, I was able to breathe and re-group. The acute nervousness would dissipate in the actionable deed. And then bonus! I felt good for helping. I felt useful! And that is a very good thing to feel.
Another thing that has been helping me with my nerves is weightlifting. Always. Every time I go back to the bar, and I lift something heavy, I am always shocked and delighted at how calming the after effects of it are. It’s weightlifting’s greatest secret.
I think it’s similar to helping others. The idea of lifting something gets you out of your head and into your body. Because there are a lot of moving parts– you have to focus on the task at hand ONLY. There is no room for distraction.
There is pressure and then release. Exerting force and then resting in between. And even the repetition of it. It feels meditative and so so calming. And in a way, it is being of service to your body.
* * *
September is almost done, and I know I’m okay. I’ve got lots of support and I’m getting honest about where I’m really coming from. I look forward to no more bloody tongues. No more unchecked nerves. And lots more trips to the gym.
And if you get a random text from me offering to wash your car, or help you grocery shop– please just humor me. Cause now you know. I’ve got a rhyme in my head that I can’t get out.
I’m trying to help you… but the real beauty is, you’re also helping me.