My Anxiety Boilers Burst!
Last updated: March 2021
Getting diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) was something that really took me by surprise. I thought everybody lived with this much anxiety! I thought it was normal to pace around a room when anticipating an audition or interview. That it was normal to be unable to sit still through lectures. It turns out that most people deal with their stresses differently.
Do you experience an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety and nervous energy
My anxiety is like the boiler of a ship. It’s a network of pipes and tanks that contains highly pressurized steam. See, as an actor, I often take that nervous energy as fuel and let it out in controlled bursts. It can, sometimes, be harnessed and funneled into a craft or hobby and gain excellent results. This sort of energy is what fueled me to memorize Hamlet for my college production of, well, Hamlet. It was my first big show, on our enormous ‘drama’ theater. I went a nobody in my department, just a scrawny kid whose name nobody knew to a different scrawny kid - the lead of the show. It was only the hardest role an actor can take on. All of a sudden the spotlight was on me and let me tell you. My boiler totally didn’t burst.
Pushing myself too far
We were practicing a very important scene. It was Hamlet and Ophelia’s “Get thee to a nunnery.” Hamlet is trying to get Ophelia out of Denmark, out of harm’s way when he realizes that he’s being spied on. Every line was followed with intention and every action was choreographed. It was the first time I had felt like I was in my own! As I screamed my words at my fellow actress and walked through our stage combat, I took a pause and realized oh no… I might have pushed myself too far. All this stress, mixed with intense focus and physical activity, gave me an aura.
My anxiety got the best of me
As if the boilers in my head had blown. I had let my anxiety loose, too hard, and nearly ripped a worm hole in my head. Right through to the pain dimension. I was shocked that I had gotten to that point. That I had pushed myself to that extreme. I was stressed, tired, expressing intense emotion, underfed, all while trying to focus. My migraine stars had all aligned and nonetheless. I hadn’t let out my anxiety in small, controlled bursts, but used my entire exhausting reserve in this one moment.
Getting a migraine attack
I felt like I had really given myself a migraine. It’s been years since that incident. When I let myself go buck wild without reservations. Without taking care of myself and letting my boilers burst. Are things much better for me nowadays? I mean, 2020 has been incredibly anxiety-ridden and I find myself living with migraine on a more frequent basis than ever before. Like water is pressing up against my skin, ready to sink me with a Titanic migraine. However, I find myself thinking about that moment a few years ago. Where the spotlight was on me and my body paid the price. Since the time I exploded, I remind myself: “My anxiety is a migraine trigger. I can’t let it build up.” As long as I keep that idea with me, I’ll find ways to keep that anxiety boiler rupture far far away.
Have others downplayed your migraine pain?