Dust Tornadoes

I’m not a medical doctor, nor am I a doctor of psychology or psychiatry (although if you give me some symptoms and ask me for a diagnosis, you bet your ass I’ll pretend to be one and give it my best shot. Diagnosing is my favorite hobby.). I’ve seen medical professionals and counselors and psychologists and while I’ve received guidance and been prescribed medication, I’ve learned that anxiety isn’t really something that you can get rid of.

All aboard the anxiety train, because I’m gonna take you for a little ride. (Do you think I’m as clever as I do? Say yes.)

I currently feel like I’m in the middle of one of those dust tornadoes. Ya know, the swirls of dust you see when it’s windy outside? Have you ever just wanted to go stand in the middle and twirl around with it? I feel like that. All around me – the people, the situations, the relationships among all of them – is normal. It’s standing still and is just fine. Meanwhile, I’m spinning and I’m surrounded by junk spinning with me. Everything is jumbled up and I feel like everyone knows it and can see it. This happens every so often. A situation will trigger my anxiety something fierce and it takes a lot of effort (not just from myself, but from friends and family) to clear that little dust tornado away.


When this happens and the trigger is centered around a relationship of some type, I start worrying about every relationship I have. I worry that I’ve done something to make everyone think twice about being my friend and I spend lots and LOTS of time scrutinizing every text I’ve sent, every conversation I’ve had and every greeting I’ve made to make sure they were appropriate and okay. My worst fear is people thinking I’m mean or malicious or a bad friend. That gets really exhausting. It leaves a constant knot in my stomach and lump in my throat.

I tend to talk through situations over and over with a few people – my mom, my dad, Danny, my closest friend. I’ll recount conversations or situations and search their faces or voices for a hint that I’m in the wrong and have made a poor choice. I’m high maintenance when this happens and I know it, but I’ll go nuts if I can’t talk it through. Not everyone sees this, only a very select (sarcasm) few. They’re awfully understanding and know this about me and I think – i hope –  they know that that role they play in my life keeps me from losing it. I’m kidding but I’m not. Life would be a lot harder without them.

Usually these little ‘episodes’ (that sounds so dramatic) don’t last long. A few days, a week at the most, where something is bothering me. Then I go back to feeling like myself. I’m productive and a normal friend and, “..are you sure?” isn’t a constant question I ask. And what’s so weird is that even when I’m in the middle of it, I go about my day and few people would suspect a thing. It’s all internal which makes me feel even weirder.

What drives me crazy is that I’m confident. I’m happy and silly and a really good friend. I’m smart and driven and if I want something I work really hard to make it happen. So when my anxiety hits me, I don’t feel completely like myself. I can still be happy and confident and silly and all those things but not as much as usual. And that’s a yucky feeling. Anxiety is a really yucky feeling. And even though I don’t have that awful feeling every second of every day, I know that it’s never permanently gone. It’ll come back and I’ll deal with whatever it is all over again. I’m bound to be that high maintenance friend for a couple days and I’ll likely drive myself crazy with my lack of self-confidence. But just like I know it’ll come back at some point, I also know that feeling doesn’t last forever.



For friends of people who have anxiety: Be soft. Be kind and understanding.  Try to think that sometimes if they seem a little unlike themselves, they’re probably just trying really really hard not to show you they’re having a rough time. Wait around, because it’ll pass. That’s hard to do, I know. But it’s worth it. They’ll be themselves in no time.


(ps – I’m fine. I’m more than fine, I’m great. This totally, 100% was not a post in which I’m hoping to receive lots of nice comments and words of support…for real. I’ll feel really uncomfortable if that’s what you think. I’m really lucky in that I know what to expect and how I can best deal with it. But writing about it is good for me, and that’s why I do it. And I think it’s important to know the hard things about people as much as the good because it all goes together, right?)



3 thoughts on “Dust Tornadoes

  1. Katie Hollingshead

    My anxiety never feels as, I guess, profound, as yours, but I so appreciate other mom’s perspectives on it. It’s not always an inability to go outside, but so much more, exactly what you describe, doubting all the decisions you would otherwise not think twice about. You are still awesome, I am still awesome. Admitting our struggles makes it so much easier to relate to the ones our kids suffer.

  2. Mindy

    Oh Ruthie, you’ve got me crying right before bed again, and you KNOW I’m going to wake up to weird puffy eyes. That whole post, all of it, is so very me. It’s SO hard to talk about; terrifying, even with my select few, but necessary for me as well. To be able to write it down, to open yourself up so much where others can see…I’m not there. I’m not quite that brave yet, but I’m glad you are. You somehow managed to capture just what it feels like to me. Knowing that someone I admire so much not only understands, but can empathize with those awful feelings, is comforting, Ruthie. Thanks. Love you.

  3. eprofitt

    Word. Thanks for posting this. It’s reassuring to know that even people who seem to handle life like a rock star can also have fall apart, “I wore a shirt that accentuates my tramp stamp” kind of days.


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