The Noise is Gone

By Sara PintilieJuly 21, 2014

The office phone rings.

I watch it from across the room as I finish composing my email. I strategically place it where I can’t absentmindedly pick it up, but still can hear it.

It rings again.

My mind starts whizzing through the people that could be calling: freelancers, reps, the sales team, or someone asking for the last Editor-in-Chief. I get that call about once a week, though I have worked here for a year. I hate that phone call. I dread that phone call.

As it rings a third time, my IM pings. It’s one of the designers asking about a layout. Then my boss’ phone rings, and he answers in his hearty voice that carries throughout the tiny office. My email dings on both my computer and phone.

I freeze. When did it get so loud? I find myself rubbing a scar on my wrist while I work through the anxiety building inside me. I remember how I got that scar, but I push the thought away. I’ve trusted myself enough not to self-harm.

My boss’ other phone rings, and it snaps me out of my stupor. Two colleagues in the next office bicker like cartoon sisters. Great, more noise. I can’t focus. I take in a deep breath as my cell phone dings again. Or did it ring?

My anxiety is slowly creeping into the driver’s seat, which is never a productive or good thing with my bipolar II. I take another deep breath—and my gaze stops on my wall collage, one of my tricks to handle stress. It is something I learned after 10 years of trying to figure out a way to focus and not let anxiety succeed.

I call it the inspiration wall. Well, “wall” is perhaps a generous term. My hodge-podge of magazine pieces I’ve accumulated now branches across two walls. It looks as if a desk vine lost sight of its real mission in life and started sprouting corkboard in the corner (which is a good upgrade from a sad desk vine any day, I suppose).

Once the corkboard settled on its spot on the dreary white walls, I covered it with anything and everything that inspires, intrigues, confuses, or entertains me. This is something I have done since I was diagnosed when I was 14. I would surround myself with colorful things that fueled my ambition and explained my disorder. This “wall” became my mental soundboard, and I love that creativity makes me feel centered. My soundboard followed me to England, where I studied abroad, to Korea, where I lived for a bit, and then back to my home. Remnants of the first inspiration wall can still be found at my childhood residence. I never had the heart to take it down.

A phone rings again; I stare at the wall, at Lara Croft, then a photo of Jennifer Lawrence from W Magazine. I breathe. Now I am looking at the gorgeous pink font involved in this Penelope Cruz spread. I breathe. My focus shifts to artwork done for a piece on Anonymous. I breathe.

I breathe again.

I answer the designer’s question. The blue tones in Jennifer Lawrence’s piece inspire it.

I breathe again.

I replied to an email, explaining the strategy on how to handle this stressful client. Thank Lara Croft on that one.

I breathe again.

I stop sliding my thumb over my scar. Instead, I start jotting down notes for the next issue, our Latina Edition. My brain, encouraged by my mental soundboard, has broken up all the anxiety into creative little chunks. That’s what anxiety is to me: a muddy cloud that blocks my inspiration. And my muddy anxiety cloud is worsened by all the noise. But sometimes, we just need to understand how our brain works. What curbs my anxiety is what stirs my ambition: creativity. And it makes me believe I am always going to be fine on days like today.

My phone rings.

I watch it as I finish my notes.

It rings again.

This time, my mind doesn’t whiz frantically. This time, my thumb doesn’t feel the skin on my wrist.

I breathe.

This time, I walk over to the phone and answer.

“This is Sara.”

“Sara? Oh, you are the gal I have been trying to get a hold of.”

I smile. The noise is gone. 

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Comments (3)

  1. Maggie

    This post is beautifully written. Truly. Thank you so much for putting into words something that I’ve struggled with for months.

    Reply  |  
  2. Anonymous

    this makes me feel so much less lonely. thank you

    Reply  |  
  3. Anonymous

    I can’t even explain how much this resonates with me. This is amazing and highlights so many things I’m going through now, have struggled with, along with my inspirations, dreams, and aspirations.

    Reply  |  
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