a young woman's experience with anxiety

Posts tagged ‘agoraphobia’

a new normal?

i helped set up a party this weekend and something happened that made me think.

the event was held in a huge building with very long floors — it reminds me of a giant warehouse with multiple levels. tammy, one of the women who was also helping out, was in traffic and needed directions to the building. she called terri, the coordinator, for directions and they hung up.

10 minutes later, tammy calls again. she’s on our floor now and can’t find our room. she is very worked up–almost unreasonably so. the first thing she says is, “i’m about to turn around and go home if i can’t find this room!” she’s totally serious and even starts bickering with terri, who is trying her best to give her further directions. i don’t know tammy very well but the whole exchange surprises me.

a few minutes later, tammy enters the room. she’s visibly bothered, uncomfortable and tense.  “i was getting ready to take the elevator and go home,” she announces. “i really don’t like to not know where i’m going.”

* * *

tammy had endured traffic as she traveled from her suburb to the city and was all dressed up for this halloween party. yet she was totally ready to go home because she could not find the room we were in. and even though she bickered with terri on the phone, i knew she wasn’t angry. she was a little annoyed — and very anxious. and it was a weird experience for me to see that happening in someone else (part of me wishes i could go back and help her work through the anxiety). her tension did taper off once she found the room, but i wondered…

…could she imagine feeling that way all the time? could she imagine not being able to relax even though she found the room? she really was handling being lost very well, so how would she handle feeling that way most of the time? would she adapt to it, like people with anxiety disorders do? would she just get used to feeling wired? of existing in a fuzzy bubble? what would she have done if she wasn’t able to come down from her panicky feelings?

i remembered being that scared once upon a time: when i had my first panic attack. it was unfamiliar, uncomfortable, weird and i didn’t like how it made me feel. but then, as i went from feeling anxious only sometimes to most of the time, it became my new normal. i just became used to existing in this uncomfortable state. thinking about it that way actually blows my mind. it made me remember that…i wasn’t born feeling this way–i lived a life without this feeling, once upon a time. it sucks to know that this went from being an occasional discomfort to an almost daily discomfort. and it sucks that the only way to the other side of such a primal discomfort is to sit with it and know it can’t hurt you.

it does make you a stronger and more empathetic person, that’s good.

but still…i wish this wasn’t my normal. i wish this wasn’t the norm for so many people. 

learning how to cope with life.

156c2eedc13c388a4c336b007a4d27e6

over the past 12 years, beginning in puberty, i’ve dealt with every type of anxiety symptom imaginable — obsessive thoughts, panic attacks, various stomach problems and the list goes on. but it doesn’t matter how it manifests — the problem is the anxiety behind it.

i only knew how to cope with the world by getting anxious about it. i felt like if i controlled everything around me, freaked out about stuff, worried my ass off…then i could avoid the pain that’s in life. now, of course, i didn’t choose to have this reaction – it’s just my natural inclination. but, obviously, life didn’t just stop because of how i reacted to it.

there’s ups, downs, complexities and mean people regardless of how i feel about it. and i’ve tried to do it my way for awhile, and how’s that worked out for me? not great!

so, i’ve had to learn how to cope with life as the crazy mess it is. uncertain, no guarantees, mistakes, heartbreak. then there’s good stuff too… babies, the feel of the ocean, laughter, hugs, good food, good music, friendships …it’s all a mess. and i am not exempt from it.

here are some important coping skills i’ve learned recently:

1.) acceptance is a common thread throughout several books i’ve read and was a common topic of my many therapy sessions. acceptance of my situation, my emotions and myself — this has really helped me tremendously.

2.) living in the moment is also a necessary life tool. living in “What If”-land never did me any good. living in the moment, sure i made mistakes and things didn’t always run smoothly, but i was much happier. it’s still very much a challenge for me but i’m trying.

3.) we can only control ourselves – not other people. worrying about what someone else is doing or thinking is a sorry waste of time. they’re going to think whatever they want whether you worry or not.

these are new life skills so patience is number one. it’s truly like learning how to walk. it’s gonna take awhile for you to get your footing. 

by the way, back in September, i made a post on tips from Dr. Claire Weekes. you should really check it out if you haven’t.

a whole bunch of posts are coming your way, gang!

wishing you the best,

anxietyflower

Dr. Claire Weekes: Anxiety Angel

Dr. Claire Weekes has been my “anxiety angel” since I discovered her in 2009, when I was facing all sorts of issues — really hard life stuff as well as emotional issues. Her book, “Hope and Help for Your Nerves,” is an older but unpretentious and refreshingly simple (simple doesn’t mean easy, though) way to deal with anxiety and depression. Here are some nuggets from the book! She was a brilliant lady. ❤

Dos and Don’ts

1. Do not run away from fear. Analyze it and see it as no more then physical feelings. Feelings are not facts, do not be bluffed.

2. Accept all strange sensations connected with your illness. Do not
fight them. Float past them. Recognize that they are temporary.

3. Let there be no self-pity.

4. Settle your problems as quickly as you can, if not with action, then by glimpsing and accepting a new point of view.

5. Waste no time on “What might have been” and “If only…”

6. Face sorrow and know that time will bring relief.

7. Be occupied. Do not lie in bed brooding. Be occupied calmly , not feverishly trying to forget yourself.

8. Remember that the strength in a muscle may depend on the confidence with which it is used.

9. Accept your obsessions and be prepared to live with them
temporarily. Do not fight them by trying to push them away. Let time do
that.

10. Remember your recovery does not necessarily depend “entirely on
you” as so many ppeople are so ready to tell you. You may need help.
Accept it willingly, without shame.

11. Do not measure your progress day by day. Don’t count the months,
years you have been ill and despair at the thought of them. Once you
are on the right road to recovery, recovery is inevitable, however
protracted your illness may have been.

12. Remember withdrawal is your jailer. Recovery lies on the other side of panic. Recovery lies in places you fear.

13. Do not be discouraged if you cannot make decisions while you are ill. When you are well, decisions will be more easily made.

14. Never accept total defeat. It is never too late to give yourself another chance.

15. Practice don’t test.

16. Face. Accept. Float. Let time pass.

If you do this, you WILL recover.