Update on the Anxiety Kitty and Grad School

I was chatting with my sister a couple days ago about blog post topics, and she asked if I’d ever updated my readers on how Flynn is doing. When I adopted this 2-year-old cat back in March 2018, I shared “Lessons From My Nervous Cat” and a follow-up post a few months later called “Anxiety Kitty: The Not-So-Surprising Way Pets Improve Mental Health.” He was such a frightened cat when I adopted him. After a few months, though, he’d started to settle in and trust me. I’m pleased to report that now, a few years after his adoption, he’s turned into a happy, contented cat.

Update on the Anxiety Kitty | LikeAnAnchor.com

This year has been one with big changes for us. I started grad school, which means Flynn and I moved from my parents’ home to an apartment shared with my sister. I was worried he wouldn’t do well with that transition to a new and smaller place, but he’s settled in quite nicely and only hides now if strange people knock on the door (as I write this, he’s under the bed because UPS dropped off a package). We did discover during the move that he hates car rides, even though I borrowed a medium-size dog carrier from some friends so he’d fit comfortably since my cat carrier is too small for this chonker (he is on a diet so please don’t worry about him too much).

We’ve discovered that Flynn likes watching horror movies with my sister (something I’m not interested in, so she appreciates having a movie-watching buddy). We’ve also found that he steals cotton swabs out of bathroom trashcans, he likes to hang-out in the bathtub for some reason, and ping-pong balls are his new favorite toy. He also likes to nap on my pillow since the head of my bed is near a window where he can spy on the neighbors, including the occasional bird or squirrel.

Update on the Anxiety Kitty | LikeAnAnchor.com

As I’d shared in my previous posts about Flynn, I struggle with nervousness and anxiety too. And I’m thankful to report that Flynn’s not the only one of us who’s doing well with the recent changes in my life. The anxiety isn’t all gone, but I am doing better. There were some days (including a couple weeks in the middle of the semester) when I was starting to worry about myself again but I got through it. I’ll probably set up a couple appointments with the on-campus counselors next semester, mostly as a preventative sort of thing to help keep myself mentally healthy.

I’ve also realized that I have a much better sense of who I am and what I bring to the table now than I did 12 years ago when I started college the first time. In one sense I suppose that should be obvious–it was so long ago that I’d be worried if I hadn’t grown! But sometimes I think it’s easy to miss how much progress we’ve made until there’s some big change to shake things up and make us take a close look at ourselves.

Update on the Anxiety Kitty and Grad School | LikeAnAnchor.com

I can’t imagine 18-year-old Marissa working directly with people coaching them on how to do something like improve their writing, or see her speaking up during meetings and offering suggestions for making the campus writing center better. She also had a lot more difficulty adjusting to college than I’m having now with coming back, even though there were 8 years between graduating with my Bachelor’s degree and coming back to school for my Master’s. In some ways, being back in academia feels like coming home (which I’m taking as confirmation I’m in the right graduate program).

Life’s not without its challenges (an understatement, especially in 2020) but there are good things happening, too. I’m hoping that’s true in your life as well, and I’d love to hear about it!

What are some of the positive changes, challenges overcome, or good things that have happened in your life this year?

My Anxiety Story

My first panic attack happened in a Blockbuster about 14 or 15 years ago. I was high-school age and trying to spend a gift card I’d won in a library reading program. I hadn’t been in there before and new places made me nervous, but I’d planned exactly what I was looking for and my mom and sister were with me so it was going to be fine. Then the DVD wasn’t there. And I can’t make up my mind what to do, my mom wants me to hurry up because we’re running late, my sister says just make a decision already, and suddenly I can’t breath so I grab a DVD march up to the counter, and get out. Then my family asks why I was rude to the cashier and seem so angry.

It didn’t feel like anger. My heart was racing, hands shaking, breathing shallow. I felt hot all over and my skin seemed too small. But other than embarrassing, I didn’t know what it was. And then it happened again months later in a Hobby Lobby. I’d worked up the courage to ask about a price that seemed too high, which lead to a confrontation with the manager and the realization that I was the one who’d read the sign wrong. Again the tightness in my chest, the shallow breathing, the shaking, and too-warm feeling. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

College didn’t make things any better. After I spent most of my first quarter hiding or in tears, I found myself in the Dewey Decimal 155.2 (Individual Psychology) section of a library’s bookshelves. Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Won’t Stop Talking* and Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You* were literal life-changers. I recommend them to people more often than any other non-fiction book except the Bible. I finally understood why so many things that other people treated as normal seemed overwhelming to me. But they still didn’t explain everything.

  • *please note that these are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you, I’ll receive a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.

Realizing I Had Anxiety

I’m not sure exactly when I began to suspect I was dealing with an anxiety disorder. In June of 2013 I wrote on this blog, “I’m not very good at letting go of my anxiety.” But I was still thinking of it more in the sense of “I worry too much” rather than “a psychologist would say I have anxiety.” I started feeling guilty for thinking of myself as anxious, especially when people who knew they had anxiety started following my blog and I realized mine didn’t seem as bad as theirs. Maybe I was just a wimp who was overeating to normal, everyday worries. Read more

Announcing A Second Blog

Announcing A Second Blog | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I’m working on shifting this blog’s focus to more of an encouraging, self-help site. My main target audience will be Christians who are interested in personal development, though the MBTI posts will stay accessible to a wider audience as well. Not much is going to change in terms of post content, at least for right now. I’ll still finish up my Classics Club list and I’ll continue blogging about Myers-Briggs types and Bible study topics. But I do want to start narrowing the focus a little.

At the same time, I’ve been wanting to expand on my project to type fictional characters from the Star Wars universe. And so to avoid cluttering up this blog with posts about fictional characters’ personality types, I’m launching a new blog for those posts:

Costumes and Characters: A Star Wars Blog

Announcing A Second Blog | marissabaker.wordpress.com
My latest sewing project: Viking-era apron dress and underdress

This new blog will feature in-depth analysis of Star Wars characters’ personality types. I’ll also be keeping a new version of my Star Wars MBTI Chart there, which will update as I continue to type new characters.

The “costumes” part of the title comes from a hobby of mine that I haven’t really talked about before on this blog. So far all the costumes I’ve created have been for Renaissance Faires, but I’m starting to turn that into a Star Wars-related hobby as well. My first project is the Queen’s Handmaiden Flame Gown from The Phantom Menace. There aren’t any tutorials or patterns available on this gown and I’m excited to tackle the challenge of figuring out the design.

If you’re interested in Star Wars (or even just in seeing fictional examples of the different personality types), I’d really appreciate you checking out this new blog and clicking the “Follow” button. Thanks!

Why There Isn’t A Blog Post

It’s been hard for me to come up with Monday posts lately. I’ve actually skipped several weeks in the past few months. I have a few ideas saved, but Sunday (when I usually write Monday’s posts) rolls around and I have zero energy to write them. I can’t focus on “Avoiding ‘Us vs. Them’ Mentality When Studying Personality Types” right now. And I’m not yet at the point where I can write “Tips For INFJs Going Through Heartbreak.” But I didn’t really want to share what’s going on with me either. So I just let the posting schedule slip.

I guess I’m going to share it now, though. My boyfriend and I broke up a little over a month ago. The cat I wrote about two weeks ago ran away the last day of March. And if you rank anxiety on a 0-10 scale (0 being none and 10 being a panic attack), mine last week was hovering at 3-4 and jumped up to a 9 one morning.  I feel like my life is unraveling and my mind keeps swirling through weird thought patterns.

  • Update: I wrote this Sunday evening and Monday morning before the blog post went live my cat came home! He was there when I woke up, hungry for food and attention. Praise the Lord, for He is good and answers prayers even about missing kitties!

If I take a mental step back, it’s clear my life isn’t really spiraling out of control. The breakup was emotional, but we both decided we didn’t really see a future in the relationship so we agreed to end it and stay friendly. I feel terrible that I still haven’t been able to find my poor little kitty, but there wasn’t much I could do about it (wind rattled open two locked doors leading out through the garage — what are the odds?!). And I am seeing a counselor to work through my anxiety, so for the first time since my inaugural panic attack over 10 years ago I’m getting help.

But knowing that breaking up was the right thing to do, that I can’t control whether or not my cat comes home, and that I’m working toward healing and coping doesn’t really help me feel like writing. At least not writing anything to share on this blog, other than typing up my weekly Bible studies. So that’s why there isn’t a real post today. And there wasn’t one three weeks ago.

I almost just skipped this Monday again, too. But sometimes I think it’s good to let people know things aren’t really okay. If we all just go through life keeping up this “I’m fine, how are you?” facade, then no one gets the chance to be authentic or to experience authenticity in other people. And if we believe that everyone else is “fine,” then we can feel guilty for the times when we’re not at all fine. So it’s okay to share when you’re not fine. To stop hiding and invite people to share in your tears as well as your triumphs. Because it’s okay if I’m struggling. And it’s okay if you’re struggling, too. We’ll get through this together.

Not Wanting To Write

It’s about 4:30 in the afternoon Sunday as I write this. Usually by this time I’m either proof-reading a completed post for Monday or wrapping-up my work on a finished idea. What’s worse, I don’t even I care that haven’t written a post yet. I mean, I’d probably care tomorrow when I wake up and realize I failed all of you readers, but at this point I’ve had too little sleep and too much Netflix to function as my normal self.

Well, perhaps not entirely. At least I’m writing about not wanting to write. It’s a start. I’ve been writing professionally long enough to know you can’t just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike if you want to get a blog post, article, story or book written. People who do that aren’t writers.

Not Wanting To Write | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: “Content writer” by Ritesh Nayak, CC BY-SA via Flickr

If you aren’t a writer you can get away with not writing when you don’t want to. Hobbies and pastimes are voluntary. But when writing is what you do you don’t just stop. In fact, if you’re doing things right, most of the time it feels like you can’t stop writing. For writers, not-writing should feel stranger than writing.

There’s a myth out there that writing is easy (“Oh, so you’re a writer? That’s cool. I might write a novel in my spare time some day”). It’s not. Yes, there will be days when the words flow out and you’re convinced what you’re writing is pure genius and you just know these words have the power to touch people’s souls. But mostly you have to sit down everyday with your pen or your laptop or your typewriter and make the words move from brain to fingers.

 

Struggling to write is perfectly okay just so long as you don’t give up. I suppose it’s that way with most things, actually. Anything worth doing is going to be hard at some point. What’s important is that we don’t stop, at least not for long. By all means take a break, eat a little chocolate and watch some anime (my sister hooked me on Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood), but don’t stay there.

It’s about 7:30 in the afternoon as I finish writing this. Look at that — we’ve got a finished blog post, even with the distractions of searching for quotes about writing and playing Star Trek Online. And you know what? I think I just might keep writing. My short story collection needs one more story, and there’s a character named Taline just waiting to be discovered …