Being an Entrepreneur with Anxiety: How Mental Health Therapist, Talitha Bullock, Helps Us Process
Anxiety almost feels like a verbal filler these days. It’s a cultural umbrella word sometimes overused to describe discomfort, exhaustion, withdrawal, dissatisfaction, an overworked life, and an unquiet mind. Our lives deserve certain hurdles to overcome so we can check ourselves and remember “dang, I AM strong”, but sometimes, anxiety—real anxiety—strips us of our perspective and grounding. Leaving us aimlessly fumbling towards a hurdle with no idea how to overcome it. Diagnosed and undiagnosed anxiety can bully its way into control of our minds.
This week we are here to say: we see you. We aren’t here to sugarcoat it or fix it. We aren’t here to tell you, “everything is going to be alright so just relax” (although, usually, not always, but usually, it is). We are here to let you know that your anxiety does not rule you even though it is part of you. Anxiety does not have to dictate your life forever as it may be doing right now. And, anxiety may make you feel like the loneliest person amidst the busiest of lives, but you are not alone. Most importantly, we are here to acknowledge that anxiety takes countless forms and is different from individual to individual. It is hard to be a human and we here at Makers Workshop say thank you for showing up to dig deep into your creativity when walking outside might feel like a living nightmare, thank you for leaning in and collaborating when talking and sharing with someone new leaves your clothes drenched in anxiety sweat, and thank you for being so authentically you, with all of the struggles and scars that come with it. We hope that we can present you with some tools to help you through your journey, but always remember, asking for help is never a weakness.
Intro by Ana Sarmiento
Community + Anxiety
My name is Talitha Bullock. I am a photographer and licensed mental health therapist in Seattle, WA. I work in modalities such as psychoanalysis, object relations, early attachment, and trauma based therapies. I call myself a relational therapist and if you were to encounter me, I think you’d likely feel the truth of this statement. I find that whether I’m doing the therapeutic work with patients or photographing clients, each and every person has a story to tell, and it is my deepening longing to journey with others in telling it.
What is anxiety?
I had a roommate several years back who claimed she had never experienced anxiety or panic attacks. I was utterly shocked as I grew up experiencing anxiety and panic on a daily basis. Some of you experience low grade feelings of anxiety and others may feel completely paralyzed by anxiety. My therapist said to me once, “We are afraid of what we don’t yet know.” Meaning, you may get anxious and not even know it until all of a sudden you have to flee the meeting you're in or realize you aren’t able to leave the house to get to your next appointment. So why don’t we start here by defining what anxiety is.
The dictionary defines anxiety as this. “A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” I imagine that most of you reading this can relate in some way to this definition. In simpler terms, anxiety is your bodies natural response to stress or threat.
Getting to know the anxious parts of me
I’ve been in psychoanalysis for 12 years now so let’s just say, I’ve done ample exploring of my fricking anxiety! And yet, there are moments I am perplexed by this frantic emotion and how it can leave me utterly exhausted. Back to the words of my therapist, “We are afraid of what we don’t yet know.” My job? To continue doing the work in therapy of understanding my anxieties and the situations that trigger it. I used to get afraid of anxiety because I hadn’t gotten to know it. We can see anxiety as our arch enemy and therefore not befriend it enough to get to know it, allowing anxiety to tell us something about the threat it is experiencing.
So, let’s say you’re at home relaxing alone and in one hour you have to be at a gala. You begin to feel tinges of anxiety and as you see the clock ticking, your heart starts racing and your palms get sweaty. You start thinking through any and every text message you can send to cancel. Let’s also say that you haven’t done the work in therapy to understand your anxiety or your body. (Read The Body Keeps Score!) Without the work of understanding the threat your body and mind feel, you will be left feeling even more terrified!
What to do if you experience low or high grades of anxiety?
Seek care. I always start here. Most people suffer in silence and this only perpetuates depression and anxiety. You deserve care, no matter what, no matter who you are and where you’re from.
Pause. When you begin to feel tinges of anxiety, pause. Take a moment to locate the anxiety in your body. (This can be done in a restaurant bathroom or in your bedroom at home) A lot of times, by locating where your anxiety is housed, it can help you make the connection to the threat your body is experiencing. For instance, if I have a confrontational talk coming up, I may begin to feel anxiety in my throat or that my throat is closing in on me. When I sit with this information, it informs me of my trauma growing up. Perhaps I have a story of being yelled at and feeling completely powerless to respond without facing harm of some kind. Therefore, when I get close to anything that feels remotely close to confrontation, my body shuts down. My nervous system has learned to code confrontation as a threat and it is my job to do the work in therapy to build new neural pathways so that I can learn it is possible to have healthy and safe confrontational experience.
Acceptance. Instead of running from your anxiety or panic try saying this out loud until it feels embodied. “I feel you anxiety. Thank you for letting me know there is a threat to my nervous system. I will do my best to accept you and get to you know because I know you are trying to protect from what you have experienced as threatening.” I call this “Acceptance therapy.”