Where did my anxiety go?

I posted this on my main blog but I wanted to share this here as well. In fact, this is a post I would generally post here anyway. 

The past week or so has been taken out of a dream. My constant companion for the past eight years has seemingly packed its bags and left. Now, I am not superstitious so I don’t have any reservations about sharing my good fortune and I have experienced this before. Living with mental illness is exhausting. I hate having anxiety. I hate experiencing panic attacks. There is nothing about suffering from those two things that anybody enjoys. When I am not feeling anxious I am usually thinking about the next time I will be anxious and so the cycle continues.

Any sort of trip causes me a lot of anxiety. Being away from home (my home base) sends my heart rate soaring. New places are difficult for me to navigate because when I am home and I am feeling like the world is about to end I can somehow grab onto my reality to anchor my mind and settle my thoughts. It is difficult for me to do this on the go. Difficult, but not impossible. This past weekend we took a trip to Orlando for a wedding. Orlando is familiar. It’s far from home but I’ve been there enough times that I can’t justify classifying it as a new location. Weddings involve crowds of people, which I am not fond of but I can manage. Still, I was nervous and worried that my anxiety would rear its ugly head.

I can’t say what has changed over the past week. I haven’t done anything differently. I haven’t started taking medication. All I have been doing is what I have always done: following Dr. Liebgold’s book and holding on to hope that every episode of anxiety/panic attack will be the last one. I have been challenging myself more. Going out more and doing one thing that scares me daily. For me, it’s doing one thing that triggers my anxiety every day. I have been more diligent, more consistent and it has payed off.

This weekend I felt like myself. The way I felt when I was 22 and not yet suffering from mental health issues. It was glorious and I went with it. Did my boo try to crash my party? Yes, he did. He is an asshole after all. But I kept him at bay and enjoyed my vacation. I was present. I was not caught up in my own mind wrestling thoughts and worries about anxiety.

The thing about anxiety (and mental illness in general) is that it is not visible. Anxiety happens internally. Somebody can be having the worst panic attack of their lives and you’d be non-the-wiser standing next to them. Anxiety can take over your life and render you unable to function. I know that I am not magically cured. Anxiety is something I will always live with but anxiety can be managed and even though there will likely be set backs I know that I will be okay. And I will use these blog posts as reminders that there is respite. That I CAN and WILL feel much better than I do when my anxiety is at its worst.

I write about my anxiety because it is infinitely helpful to record and celebrate the victories no matter how small they are. It is also important to give a face and voice to these illnesses that are still so often stigmatized by society. It is important for me to be open about what I feel and how I am feeling. I don’t want the curtain to fall on me. I have a support system by design. I make sure to speak up and seek help when I need it. I have been to therapy and I am always actively combating my anxiety. I am not currently seeing a therapist but it is something I think of doing again eventually because I find it very helpful. I am fortunate in that I have the access and the means to do so.

If you have somebody in your life who suffers from anxiety or another disorder and are wondering how to help them just ask them how they’re doing. A sympathetic ear that seeks to listen without judgment or paternalistic advice is invaluable. If you are suffering from mental illness yourself, seek help. Talk to a friend. Don’t give up on yourself.

Getting shit done

I’ve often written about the limits that anxiety imposes on me and how my goal is to do away with them. In the past few weeks I have been going out on my own more. Today I went out truly alone as I did not have my son with me. This was equally liberating and worrying to me as he often distracts me when my thoughts start straying towards anxiety/panic inducing territory. Even though I enjoy going shopping with my son (he’s two and a half) it was a different experience to go without him. The store was less charming and wondrous but I did like not having to worry about him. I felt carefree knowing he was home with his dad while I got to browse as much as I wanted without worrying that I was keeping him buckled into a shopping cart for too long.

My husband wanted me to pick up dinner for him on my way home and I can’t lie and say that I didn’t consider going straight home after the grocery store. I felt that I had pushed myself enough for one day and that pain in my chest was threatening to bloom. I said fuck it! I am going to do this thing and do it all the way. I’ve been letting my anxiety win for far too long. (That’s how I look at it but I am by no means making some sort of blanket statement that blames myself or other sufferers of mental illness for their plight.) I managed to do that as well with a relatively low level of anxiety. The one thing I wish I had been able to do is to not think about it all together but THAT is almost impossible for me at the present time.

Challenging myself is always fruitful but I am cognizant of the fact that it has to be well timed. If I am already feeling panicky before leaving the house I set myself up to fail. I know when I need to pull back and I am more interested in making long term progress than accomplishing something at the cost of my future attempts. The more I am able to do the more like myself I feel. I have glimpses of her sometimes and it brings tears to my eyes because it gives me hope that the fearless me is buried deep inside and like an archaeologist uncovering a fossil I am slowly but surely brushing away the sediment that obscures her.

This weekend we are going to a wedding. We also have plans to visit a friend. Both of these events cause me some form of social anxiety (which is different to my other anxiety but it contributes to it). Whenever I am in a situation where I meet lost of new people (like at the wedding) I am always anxious about my appearance and how I will come across to people. These social events are the ones that make me loathe my current weight, my fat rolls, grey hairs, the size of my breasts. There is an endless list of crap that all of a sudden matters to me because these social gatherings are everything I would rather not partake in. It makes me want to disappear. I don’t like being in a large crowd of people. Especially people who are interested in meeting my son for the first time, which means by default I have a lot of interactions coming my way. I know that it will all be all right but knowing that doesn’t mean that I won’t dread it. Or that I won’t want to hide out in a quiet corner for a while. Socializing drains me. I am much better suited for a quiet evening sitting around with a handful of friends. Nevertheless I am actually looking forward to the weekend, especially seeing my friend. It makes no sense I know!

If you’re reading this and you also suffer from anxiety, panic attacks or any other mental health issue please know that you aren’t alone. If you need someone to talk to please count on me as a friend.

 

-Abby

 

 

It’s a new year!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post here and it’s partly because I sometimes find it triggering to delve into my anxietyc(I have probably said this before). I don’t pretend it’s not there, I live with it so I address it pretty much daily but something about blogging about it makes me…anxious. Anyway, last year had a lot of ups and downs anxiety-wise but I made a lot of progress. Mental health is a journey (for me). I started saying yes to a lot more things and I am happier for it. I have learned that having anxiety in a different city is maybe a bit scarier but the panic attacks are no different than they are when I’m at home. Granted, sometimes the mere fact I’m far from home triggers my anxiety and panic attacks to astronomical levels but I always make it out ok.

I started off the year with a brand new planner and a lot of motivation to continue to build on the victories of last year. I haven’t kept a planner since I was in grad school, I had one last year but I used it more as a place to jot down lists than actually plan in advance. Chores and housework hardly seemed important enough to schedule but I am beginning to see the value in treating these tasks like I would any other appointment. When I write things down I tend to get them done and this has already proven valuable this past week.

I have never been this on top of the housework as I am right now and it feels great. I had began to realize that I had become codependent. I wanted none of that. It’s not fair to my husband and it’s not fair to me. I want to reclaim the independence I once had. So I am making changes. I used to go everywhere and do everything by myself. No place was too far or inconvenient. Now, I like the comfort of having my husband with me, and even though at first going out together made caring for our son easier it has gotten to the point where I have to admit that the idea of running errands alone terrifies me and that is something I refuse to be okay with. So I went out today and ran all the errands I needed to run and I am OKAY! I didn’t feel any anxiety (maybe just a bit) but I did it. And I will continue to do it. Some days I will try to talk myself out of it but that’s part of the process.

My son was so good during our outing, not that he generally isn’t but you never know when a two year old will have a bad day. So, we got home and I did the laundry, steam cleaned the floors (again!) and did a few other things that needed doing. I am so happy about the productive day I had that I am wide awake and sleep does not seem to be anywhere in sight.

This year I want to update this blog more often and I will share not just the good, but also the bad. Even though writing about my anxiety is sometimes difficult it always feels good in the end. I put it out there and it feels like I’ve let it all out. It’s a form of therapy.

When I am having a panic attack I feel like everything is on blast, everything is moving so fast, my heart, my thoughts about how I am dying, and nothing feels good. It’s awful but in those moments, which really are not as long as they feel, I have started to describe my symptoms out loud. It has helped to take a clinical approach to how I view what is happening to my body and I feel as though it starts to break down the panic attack until it’s nothing but jitters and a post adrenaline high.