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You know when you meet some people and they just feel like an immediate friend? That’s how it felt with today’s guest, Maggie Germano. Maggie is a financial coach for women but she has a super refreshing, friendly approach to personal finance that really resonates with me and I hope it resonates with you, too. We talk about buying our first homes, something we both experienced in the last year, as well as savings strategies and why money is a feminist issue beyond just equal pay.
But first, I have an essay for you and I really enjoyed writing and recording this one. I had a high-anxiety experience with my health recently and now that I’m on the other side of it, I’m sharing it here. Enjoy!
Maggie Germano is a feminist and financial coach for women. She helps women improve their relationship with money so they can take control of their financial future. She does this through one-on-one financial coaching, workshops, writing, and speaking engagements. She also founded Money Circle
, which is a safe space for women to talk about money without feeling judged. It’s a way to create community and openness around personal finance. Passionate about many issues affecting women, Maggie is a member of the Women’s Information Network
and was trained as a salary negotiation facilitator by AAUW
Transcript for today’s episode available here
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All Aboard the Anxiety Express
This is a story about anxiety.
I found a lump in my neck this week and immediately thought, Huh, that’s weird. Obviously it’s nothing to worry about, probably just a bug bite or swollen lymph node.
Fast forward to midnight. I’m in bed, lights are out, husband’s asleep, and it’s quiet… but I’m frantically Googling symptoms on my phone. Obviously, the 700,000 results that say “It’s just a swollen lymph node” aren’t accurate. I become an overnight expert on the parotid gland. Obviously, I have cancer and not just any cancer. This cancer has metastasized to all my major organs and is finally showing up on a lymph node and it’s untreatable so goodbye forever. I’ll never grow my business, see my house fully renovated, or even dye my hair the fun colors I’ve been wanting to try for years. I shake with fear and my stomach churns. I take an urgent trip to the bathroom then load up on the anxiety-reducing supplements my doctor recommended. I crawl back in bed, force myself to put my phone the fuck away, and talk myself through breathing exercises to relax. Eventually, I fall asleep only to dream that everyone is watching me poop. The next morning, nothing has changed. My stomach is churning, my face is flushed, and I’m still certain I’m going to die a slow tragic death from the tumor in my neck. Then I remember that people with IUDs have a higher risk for ectopic pregnancies and I wonder, “Can you have an ectopic pregnancy in your neck?”
The first thing I do that morning is make an appointment with a doctor.
THIS is what anxiety looks like. It’s not just severe worry or brief episodes of hypochondria. It’s life-or-death dread that fixates on worst case scenarios and doesn’t listen to reason. Remember the whole situation STARTED with a reasonable response, but that was fleeting. Anxiety says, “Oh, your chances of dying from this are 1 in 8 million? Let’s find all the evidence as to why you’re the perfect candidate to be that anomalous single case and then think through how you’ll plan your inevitable demise.”
I can’t control this plummet into fear and self-doubt. I feel out of control because my body has possibly forsaken me. If I can’t control that, how can I possibly control my racing thoughts?
Instead, I hop aboard the speeding train of anxiety, which travels at warp speed, going from zero to crazy in remarkable time. I recognize that anxiety couldn’t give a damn about logic or statistics or rational thoughts so I don’t even try. It doesn’t matter how many people tell me it’s nothing to worry about. Not even my therapist can talk me off this ledge this time. Until I get a clean bill of health from a doctor, I’m a hot spiraling mess and there’s nothing I can do except sit with it.
(For the record, sitting with your anxiety is the actual worst and it’s okay to distract yourself if you need to. I recommend napping or watching the Food Network or both. I napped through a delightful marathon of Chopped.)
Less than 48 hours after discovering my obviously untreatable neck tumor, I sat down in a new doctor’s office. Because I’m also in need of a general family doctor, I vetted a few and decided on a young woman passionate about women’s health (because of course I did). Even in my anxiety spiral, I exercised patience and efficiency: I’ll get my flu shot, establish care with this new clinic, see if she’s a good fit for me, and also ask about my impending cancer treatment, I thought. I would be lying if I said this clinic didn’t catch my eye because they do radiology on site.
I met the doctor and played it cool. Hi, yes, good to meet you. I need to find a local doctor since I moved about a year ago. Could I please get a flu shot? Also I have a lump in my neck that I’m convinced is cancer because I’m a fairly anxious person and I really need you to tell me it’s nothing.
The doctor looked at me and said, “Because you’re a healthy 32 year old, it must be cancer.” I laughed with her but secretly thought, “EXACTLY.” She did a quick examination and literally patted my back compassionately. Her exact words were, “It is one hundred million zillion percent just a swollen lymph node and not cancer.”
There is no relief more satisfying than the relief from this kind of anxiety. I’m so glad to be off this speeding train to nowhere. See you next time, anxiety.