a young woman's experience with anxiety

Posts tagged ‘obsessive thoughts’

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.

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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

Aside

tip for obsessive thoughts.

Imageone way to effectively deal with obsessive, persistent thoughts is to just let them be there; notice them without engaging them.

let me just say that that is one of the hardest things in the world to do.

despite doing pretty well lately, i had a not so great day today. the kinda day where you wake up and you just don’t feel so great.

anyway, so i had a moment where i was just so fed up with my mind going back and forth, i was ready to freak out from sheer aggravation. but, in the midst of my frustration, i got distracted by a funny moment on “roseanne” (i love that show. yes, i watch re-runs. lol). i ended up watching the whole scene, then the whole episode, then i finally just sat back and gave into the entire marathon that was on.

i just chose to enjoy the show despite my mind doing its whirring and swirling and its other typical crap. i realized that worrying is not the solution…it hasn’t helped in the past and it’s not going to help now.

so, i just pictured my mind as a conveyor belt. with all types of packages filled with worries and scary thoughts, all traveling down the belt. and instead of picking up a package and opening it, i acknowledge it and i just let it keep on going down the belt. you’re essentially just sitting there, letting the thoughts be there without figuring them out.

worries were darting in and out, especially during commercials, but i just stuck to the plan. if you try this technique, don’t be surprised if your worries multiply at first. practice, practice, practice, my friend. in time it will get easier.

for more tips or refreshers on how to deal with anxiety, this link helped me out today.

be well <3,

anxietyflower