Out of all the things I wanted to write about today, this wasn’t planned. But sometimes we just have to talk about this. In some way I’m hoping this will help me sleep tonight because, omg, it’s been on a rampage in my brain lately.
I wasn’t diagnosed with anxiety officially until last year, but looking back I can see I’ve had it for over two decades, and I could probably even chart its path of devastation over the course of my life. Over 40 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from anxiety, and there are tons more even younger and all over the world. There are even more who go undiagnosed, and in my opinion, not being aware of it is the most dangerous part.
Anxiety is like a plague, and there isn’t one sure fire way to stop it. It can disguise itself as anger, paranoia, insecurity, confusion, insomnia, jealousy, and essentially any other negative trait that leaves us flailing in life. It has the power to take a perfect day and fill it with dread and tears and arguing. In times when you are most vulnerable, it will give you an unwarranted mental slideshow of all the ways things can go badly with you or your friends or loved ones, or even your pets. It can take someone’s simple statement and warp it into a personal attack on you.
Anxiety is like that one person who responds, “Well, actually…” to everything you say, in that nagging, know-it-all voice.
I remember a few years back talking with a friend who said she wishes we could just get the word “anxiety” out of our vocabulary; that maybe without acknowledging it it won’t have any power over us. Maybe without it, in the back of our minds we wouldn’t hold ourselves back with the idea that maybe we shouldn’t because anxiety. Sometimes when I’m having an attack, I think about that and try. I haven’t had any luck yet, but I’ll let you know if I do.
Sometimes anxiety gives us room to breathe, coming in waves instead of full force. For a long time I had mine under control and I was thankful, but it likes to get me when I’m comfortable again. So here we are. I’ve had insomnia for a week now thanks to all this. After finishing this post I will be popping a Klonopin and going to bed, hoping to get some sleep so I can get work done tomorrow.
Don’t worry: I’m okay. This is tolerable and I’ll get through it, but I’ve found sharing is helpful for me so before I go I’d like to share with you some non-prescription things that have worked in taking the edge off for me.
Talking about it with a friend, loved one, or in a journal – or here.
I don’t know what it is about talking that helps. Maybe it’s sort of like sharing the load, like in the song Lean On Me. Having someone or something in your life who can listen and understand when you say you’re having trouble with anxiety is so important. If you don’t have that person, please never hesitate to reach out to me.
Deep (or simply being conscious of) breathing.
I never believed in this because, like, “ok, wow, you’re breathing – you do that all the time, how could this possibly help?” Well, I was in the ER once with a panic attack and they’d drugged me up and I was on the mend, preparing to get discharged, but one of the machines I was hooked to kept going off. The nurse came in and told me I need to practice deep breathing because, despite having calmed down, my breathing was still shallow and I was triggering the respiratory monitor.
Later, when I thought about it and made a conscious effort to focus on breathing, I realized I have actually gotten into a full habit of shallow breathing, so basically my breathing had been shallow 24/7 for a very long time. After learning that, I now practice breathing at a deeper (or, really, normal) rate, and I’ve found that I do feel more relaxed and calm doing this.
Weighted blankets (or people, if you don’t have one).
Oh man, the mainstream production of weighted blankets is so great, but I wouldn’t have understood the need for them a few years ago. I’ve found, and I don’t even remember how or why, that having weight on me really does help. I don’t have a weighted blanket, but usually when I’m having a bad time, I ask my kids or partner to simply lay on me and it’s like… I don’t even know the science or psychology behind it, but it helps me and it’s amazing.
Going outside and sitting alone (or with animals).
I guess this is about getting fresh air and sunlight, but sometimes when I feel overwhelmed in one way or another, removing myself from within four walls and physical things often aids in getting my mind to stop going all over the place. I am lucky enough to live out in the country so there’s a lot of space for me to get away, but I hope you have a place you can go to as well. Somehow my neighbor’s dog always knows when I’m struggling because he finds me every time I’m outside for this reason – I don’t know how, he lives half a mile away, but I’m not going to question it.
If you suffer from anxiety as well, as I know so many of us do, feel free to tell me about your experiences because everyone handles it differently. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? If you don’t suffer from anxiety, do you have any questions or comments or experiences with stress you’d like to talk about? I’d love for you to share your story if you feel comfortable. I wish all of you ease of mind tonight and beyond. We’re all in this together <3
Next post will be less of a mess, I promise!