An Internal Morning Dialogue of a High School Student Living With Anxiety and Depression

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Anxiety and depression can often go hand-in-hand. What a lot of (healthy) people often don’t realize is how much they aggravate each other. This is a glimpse of what every morning is like for me as I struggle with anxiety and depression.

*Scene: Lying in bed, immediately after waking up in the morning.*

It’s not like you have anything worth getting up for this morning,”

Anxiety: “Wait, you have stuff going on today! You have math class! You know, the one where everyone hates you and you always get terrible grades. You remember, right? That last test totally crashed your GPA. You don’t even have a chance of passing now.”

Me: “C’mon, homies, can you guys please at least let me get breakfast before you start with this again?

Anxiety: “But the freaking sky is falling today, you need to know!”

Depression: “I just thought you should know there’s no point in anything before you get up and have to put forth so much effort in getting ready because there’s really no reason for you to go through so much trouble.”

Me: “Guys, please… I, I, I need to get up. I can do this. Let me at least try, OK?”

Depression: “No, no really… you’ve done enough already. All you ever do is mess things up anyway. There’s no point in trying.”

Anxiety: “Guys? Did you hear me? The world is going to end! Everything is doomed!”

Depression: “Yeah, listen to that guy, he’s right… nothing ever works out well for you.”

Me: “No, no… I’m not listening to you guys. I had a hard time with that last test, but if I make it to class and study I’ll at least have a chance at passing… I’m going to class… I’m getting up now.”

Depression: “Do what you want… I just thought you should know. You’re horrible at this stuff. Your grades are always going to stink.”

Anxiety: “You’re going to fail out of this class. Next comes failing out of high school, which means you’ll never get into college, so you won’t be able to get a good job and you have no chance at a future.”

Me: “OK, OK, I heard you guys… but I have to try this one more time… I’m going to do it.”

*In class, later that day…*

Teacher: “x = negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac over 2a…”

Anxiety: What in the world are all those letters for? This is math class. It’s supposed to be numbers, not letters. I told you. Look. What is this world coming to?

Me: “I’m not sure what she’s talking about… I should raise my hand and ask her…”

Depression: “Dude… why? It’s not like you have any chance at understanding this better… There’s no point in trying. The only thing you’ll accomplish by putting your hand up is giving all those other kids another thing to use to laugh at you. You’re never going to have any friends or pass this class.”

Anxiety: “Your life is over.”

Me: “OK, OK… I’ll just look at the book when I get home… I don’t need anything else to deal with in this class…. I’m trying to find some friends…”

Depression: “Why’d you come anyway you idiot? You got up and spent all that time getting ready, never mind the waste of gas money driving over here. You’re a waste of everything, space, time, energy, money, oxygen…. You’re worthless.”

Anxiety: “Your life is so doomed. You never had a chance.”

Depression: “Why do you even bother trying? The world would be better off without you.”

Me: “I… I… I’m just…”

Anxiety: “Just doomed… You’re just doomed.”

Depression: “Don’t forget worthless.”

Me: “Can you guys please just give me a break already?”

Depression and anxiety (in sync): “Sure! You’ll just feel nothing for a couple hours. Complete emotional numbness. You can feel like an empty piece of skin.”

Me: “Not again… I don’t know why I keep trying… Maybe they’re right…”

This can be every moment of every day for me. It’s not a choice. There is help, but it can be hard to find, and when you’re having that much trouble already, it often can feel extremely overwhelming and hopeless.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re living with unmanaged anxiety and/or depression, I know it’s hard and I’m so sorry. But keep fighting and looking for help. I promise it is out there.

If you’re reading this because you know someone struggling with anxiety and/or depression, please encourage him or her to keep fighting and help them find the support they need. Without realizing it, you might just save a life.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. This is one individual’s experience.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share a conversation you’ve had that changed the way you think about disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When Anxiety Is the 'I Can't' Syndrome

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This is for those who are dealing with anxiety and emotional disorders, and still haven’t found their way of dealing it and with themselves.

Sometimes I feel like I’ll never be able to surpass my anxiety and fears. Whenever I’m going through one of my emotional turns, things tend to get complicated at all levels – as if all my life was based on an absolute Murphy’s Law which states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

The truth is that after 24 years of living I can’t seem to understand who I am and what I’m dealing with.

Since I can remember, I’ve always felt this intense fear of almost everything, a profound sadness and/or nostalgia and melancholic feelings for anything that crosses my mind. People suffering from anxiety and emotional disorders have triggers, and I’m no exception. But no matter what I did, I could not make myself heard and understood. I tried to talk with people closest to me, like my mother and longtime boyfriend, but it didn’t work. Most of the time, I feel like no one can understand what I’m saying, and it often seems like others see me how they’d like me to be, not how I actually am. 

Recently I had been surpassing some tougher times with a major loss of my dear grandmother. I was considering moving back to my hometown and starting all over, close to my family and loved ones. It was something I wanted – or I thought I did – for a long time: to be able to live close to those I love, and take a chance on a completely new life, with a new job, new people and experiences. 

I started looking for a job, but because I couldn’t unplug my fear and anxiety, I ended up losing each opportunity just because “I can’t.” I wanted to fulfill an old dream of taking part on a specific collective work by a group of photographers I admired. I managed a way to be accepted into the project, and then I just froze and didn’t do it, because “I can’t.”  

I stopped going away for more than a week maximum, because I never knew if it would be the last time I saw someone. Just the thought of that prevents me from going places, because “I can’t.” 

And I can’t. I can’t sleep every night, and I can’t take all the meals without getting nauseated. And that’s all just because I can’t. Because my heart is jumping so hard every single time, I’m afraid it will unleash itself out of my body and disappear. Other times, disappearing is the most desirable thing I can get through my mind.

From my personal experience, other people feel like it’s always an excuse. It’s a way for weak people to keep themselves in a comfort zone instead of living. But let me tell you — I didn’t choose to be like this, and I don’t think anyone would if they actually knew what it is to live with intense anxiety every day of your life.

There is no simple way of explaining how we feel about everything, and how small we feel most of the time. But, we definitely want to be taken seriously, we want our friends and family to understand that sometimes we don’t know the reasons for our fears and insecurities. We really don’t know what it’s making us so depressed and angry. We want people to accept our differences, to accept that we might not be capable of being everything they think we should be, even when they say “it’s better for you.” I want help, yes. But mostly I want understanding. I don’t need others to go against me, telling me it’s all in my head. And believe me, I know it better than they do. I don’t need people to tell me a job, a hobby or something else would cure my insecurities and make me feel normal, but they forget to listen when I tell them the “I can’t” syndrome makes me anxious. Sometimes I can’t leave the house and accomplish things; Sometimes I can’t surpass pain and fear, like some other people do.

I love to read about other people’s experiences with anxiety. It’s a really important to raise awareness and knowledge about mental illness. It’s kind of inspiring to see people who found ways to overcome their emotional issues, but unfortunately I haven’t found a way of surpassing mine, and that’s a reality too. Not every story is motivational or inspiring, and mine is just confusing because “I can’t” figure myself out, so “I can’t” live in full. I’ve been trying to find some guidance by connecting with people like me. My reality is my own, and every story has its traces. But at the same time, I like to make myself believe that I’m not alone. So, I encourage everyone to share their story as well, just because that, at least, “we all can.”

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Photography taken by Mafalda Ar © All rights reserved.
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How Growing Up in Prince's Hometown Helped Me Face Anxiety and Depression

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Growing up in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, it was impossible to escape the magnitude of a living legend named Prince. He was seemingly everywhere and no where all at the same time. There were rumors he lived in a purple house on Lake Minnetonka. People often talked about seeing him in passing at retail stores, restaurants or at First Avenue, a club in Minneapolis. A friend of mine told me a story of him coming in to her high-end clothing store. She said he was almost magical in his movements, and he purchased clothes for his female friend. Her remark that stuck with me most was how quiet he was and how unassuming he seemed. I think most people around here talked frequently about how quiet he was but at the same time how charitable he was to the community. Many of us were proud that despite his massive amount of success he never really sold out to Hollywood. He stuck to his roots in Minnesota, and he always maintained a home and large music studio here.

As I grew older and attended the University of Minnesota, I heard of the late night dance parties at Paisley Park. Prince often hosted word-of-mouth live shows for fans. They were often last-minute, and they happened so frequently that often we just didn’t go because we assumed there would always be a next time. My friends who had the opportunity to go often commented about how kind and generous he was to his fans. The amazing thing he did was connect with people, and yet he remained completely allusive to the local media. It was wonderful to watch a man somehow be a legend and still stay one of the people.

His music was a soundtrack to my childhood. I grew up as a kid of the 1980s. It was the peak of his career. I remember the entire state being so proud of him. Everyone wore purple. When “Purple Rain” came out, everyone had a story of the film production. I had family that lived near Lake Minnetonka where much of it was shot. There were always talk about where certain scenes of the film were filmed. There was never a period of time in my life where a Prince story or sighting wasn’t present.

prince performing
onstage during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 19, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

When I was a teenager, I started my now lifetime battle with anxiety and depression. Most of my high school years I was plagued by fear and paranoia of not fitting in. I constantly felt like people didn’t like me or were purposely leaving me out. It was a tough time, and it was prior to ever receiving a clinical diagnosis. As soon as we got driver’s licenses, I will never forget making a mixed tape of all Prince’s best music. We would drive with the windows open with “Let’s Go Crazy” blaring in the background. It was his music that could truly make me lose myself and forget about the doubt and anxiety I was struggling with.

His music had a way of getting in to my soul — partly because, as a resident of a place he lived, I knew about his mystique. He was this huge world star, and yet this humble and quite strange man who just lived among us. Having him in the community taught me that no matter what you are, you are never bigger than your hometown. He also taught me that living authentically was better than wearing a mask.

As I struggled through my 20s and even in my 30s, his music was still very dear to my heart. I could be in the absolute worst mood or having a major anxiety attack and his song would come on the radio and I would be lost in the music. He has this innate ability to make me feel like it didn’t matter who I was as long as I was me.

Yesterday I was just leaving physical therapy with my son. It was a normal weekly appointment, and my husband’s text was very cryptic: “Have you been listening/watching  the news?” to which I replied, “No.” He responded, “There was an emergency at Paisley Park. They think it’s Prince.” I didn’t have time to respond because by now I was driving. I quickly flipped through the radio stations to find any outlet talking about it. In a flurry, nearly every station was breaking the news, and as it broke, my heart shattered.

Prince wasn’t just an artist or musician t0 Minnesotans. Prince was our neighbor and part of our community. He gave back generously, gave children growing up in the city hope, and he went out of his way for his most supportive fans to consistently give them free access to his studio to watch him play. The world lost an icon but our state lost one of our biggest prides and joys. He influenced everyone from the media, to the sports teams, to local theater and music. He put First Avenue on the map.

Last night I flipped on the TV and saw the coverage of Downtown Minneapolis. The blocks right outside of First Avenue were filled with people shoulder to shoulder dancing and singing his music. It appeared the crowd had grown blocks thick over the day. It was truly an amazing sight to witness. I wish I could have been there singing along to the music.

Prince was one of us. He was a boy who grew up just like we all do here. In the middle of nowhere, with cold winters and muggy summers. It’s a small metropolitan area with its own art and culture — that Prince developed and sculpted. Our city will forever be changed, and his music and art has influenced nearly every resident here. The world lost a star yesterday, but we lost the man who changed us all at our very core and made us realize that even Minneapolis can be a cool place to live. Rest in Peace, Prince. The city of Minneapolis and the greater state of Minnesota truly mourns your passing, and your mark to our culture and city will never be forgotten.

Follow this journey on Without a Crystal Ball.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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4 Jedi Mind(fulness) Tricks to Help an Anxious Child

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The Force is what gives a Jedi his power,” says Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker. “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

My favorite movies of all time come from the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Growing up, I often played with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader action figures, pretending I too was a Jedi Knight. It’s not surprising when I entered seventh grade and faced adversity I turned to the power of the Force.

Middle school hurt. Social intimidation, academic challenges and parental pressures all set against the backdrop of swirling hormones and my personal penchant for worry. Around age 12, my anxiety really took flight and started to knock the wind right out of me — literally. The smallest challenges sparked internal firestorms of thoughts that manifested in stomachaches, crying, and often shortness of breath. My parents tried to cleave me from the throes of panic with consistent love and reassurance, but to no avail. As I grew, so too did their feelings of helplessness. Not wanting them (or me) to suffer any further, I enacted a plan. I asked myself what a Jedi would do in this situation. The answer was obvious: use the Force to build a protective shield.

So I built one — an impenetrable emotional force shield. If I were anxious about an exam, I pushed the worry deep inside until I couldn’t feel it. If I didn’t get asked to a dance, I wasn’t hurt because it bounced off my shield and I felt nothing. By my first year of high school I had perfected the practice and became a full-fledged emotional stoic. When my parents asked how I was doing, I would say, “Fine. Fine. Nothing new.”

I believed my own words until the plan started to fall apart, and in the end was nothing short of an epic fail.

Instead of wielding the Force, I numbed it, particularly the dark side. Here’s the thing: numbing my dark emotions had unforeseen consequences… it also numbed the light. Research confirms that in squashing worry, sadness, anger and fear, we also push out joy, gratitude, meaning and purpose. In choosing not to feel, I became a veritable robot with a ticking time bomb inside.

That bomb went off at age 25. Mired in a messy relationship, I hit rock bottom. Panic attacks, anxiety and fear were untethered and came roaring back. I sought therapy, and with this blessing the trajectory of my life changed. I learned to focus inward, and for the first time in years I allowed all of my feelings — light and dark — to surface without judgment. In doing so, I finally unearthed the true secret of the Jedi: mindfulness.

You see, Luke Skywalker is a beacon of strength and a guardian of peace and justice not because he always feels happy and good. In fact, like all of us, Luke experiences fear, anger, worry and even moments of hate. And though these emotions can be overwhelming, through his Jedi training, Luke learns to sit with his discomfort. He allows his emotions to surface and pass. In practicing mindfulness, Luke’s emotions are stripped of their designations. Instead of “dark” and “light” or “good” and “bad,” emotions simply become what they were always meant to be: communication tools.

By the time Luke reaches the final battle with his father, Darth Vader, in “Return of the Jedi,” he is a master of mindfulness. When anger or worry spark within him, he closes his eyes and feels his emotion, allows it to surface, listens to the message it brings, and then makes a decision on how to proceed based on that information.

My first attempt at Jedi training was based on an unsophisticated understanding of the Force. With a different perspective and years of mindfulness practice, I feel confident in passing on some more effective Jedi lessons to our children. If you have an anxious child (and especially if they love Star Wars), try these techniques.

4 Jedi Mind(fulness) Tricks to Help an Anxious Child:

1. Define the “Force.”

In the Star Wars’ movies, it becomes clear very quickly that the Force is an awesome power that everyone wants. But what exactly is the Force? When I work with kids, I provide them with my interpretation. The Force is the power we get from any emotion whether it comes from the light side or the dark side. From love, joy and surprise to anger, sadness and worry, nothing is “good” or “bad.” These emotions are only messengers, and all are part of the Force.

Very plainly, The Force = The Power of Emotions.

Try this: Ask your child if he or she would like to go through Jedi training. Tell your son or daughter that their mission will be to decode the secret messages being sent by the Force (e.g., their worried thoughts, their angry feelings).

2. Wave hello to the Dark Side.

If your child feels anxious, the way around the discomfort is straight through it. We must teach our children not to deny, avoid or squash parts of their emotional experience. Long-term avoidance of emotions can actually spark and perpetuate depression, anxiety and substance abuse. When we choose not to face our worry, we are left much like Darth Vader, enslaved by our pain.

The alternative to avoidance is acknowledgement. I understand helping your child acknowledge his or her anxious feelings instead of shutting them down is not an easy choice. Sometimes it’s easier to just say, “Don’t worry so much. Please trust me, it’ll be fine.”

As a parent myself, I completely understand this path. Sometimes we don’t have the emotional bandwidth to support a child’s chronic worry, especially when it seems our love and reassurance are not having a positive effect. Anxious emotions are often big emotions that can be uncomfortable for the entire family.

All that said, when you parent an anxious child, you seek one thing above almost anything else for your child: inner peace. Toward this goal, acknowledgement is the stepping stone.

Try this: Next time your children worry, tell them they are Jedi Knight and Jedis acknowledge the Force (an emotion) when they feel it. They can wave hello to their worry and say, “Hey, worry. I see you’re back. I’m a Jedi. I understand you’re trying to tell me something.”

3. Lean into the Dark Side.

Leaning into the dark side takes training because, at first, it can feel messy and uncomfortable. Leaning in means allowing your child the space to physically feel where the Force or worry is flowing on the inside. Allowing discomfort to pass gets us a step closer to decoding the message from our emotion.

Anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system, and as such, feelings of worry are often felt in such places as the stomach, chest and throat. Breathing with visualization can calm the nervous system and begin to kick a child’s logical brain back into gear.

Try this: Obi-Wan instructs Luke to close his eyes and, “Stretch out with your feelings”; Yoda says, “Allow the force to flow through you.” When your son or daughter worries, have them close their eyes and ask them where they are feeling the worry or the Force flowing inside of their body.

Now, ask your children to breathe into the place in their body where they feel the Force. While they take a deep breath, ask them to imagine what the Force actually looks like. What color is it? What consistency is it? Maybe it looks like a dark cloud. Once they have the visual, ask them to breathe the Force out.

To support your child during this process, you can use phrases like, “I am here, and you are completely safe, my young Jedi. This feeling will pass.”

4. Put the Light Saber down.

Our range of feelings (light and dark) creates our emotional consciousness and gives power to the Force. Within this consciousness lie encoded messages. The problem is we usually miss the communication being sent by our emotions such as anger and worry because we are too busy reacting. Swift reactions cover up messages.

Darth Vader tries to provoke these reactions in his son, Luke. Vader says, “So you have a twin sister? If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will.” Luke feels very angry and even as a full Jedi Knight trained in the art of mindfulness, he does not pause to acknowledge or lean in to his anger. Instead, he reacts right away and begins to battle his father.

When Luke regains his composure, he realizes his anger is communicating he wants to love and protect his family, including his father. Luke then decides the best way to teach his father about the light side is to show him compassion. So he turns his light saber off and tosses it aside.

Now, this last step may seem way too esoteric for your child to grasp, but I’ve worked with children for years. Even at a very young age, they are incredibly sophisticated. If we communicate in their language, they get it.

Try this: Let’s teach kids their worry is trying to send them a message, but the message is encoded. As a Jedi, the way to get to the secret message is to be mindful when we feel worried. This means understanding worry has a purpose, acknowledging it, leaning into it and then making a logical decision on how to proceed.

On this quest toward training the next generation of Jedi, may the Force be with all of us.

More from this author at GoZen!

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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The 3 Words I Finally Said 32 Years After My First Anxiety Attack

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I’m never quite sure when it’s going to happen. You would think after all these years, I would have some kind of warning sign before it starts. The situations are different. The settings and people change, but the feeling is always the same.

I was probably 8 years old when I first realized it was there. My older brothers were watching the original “Friday the 13th” movie. I snuck downstairs and watched from the steps. I didn’t quite understand it was fiction. I started having thoughts about someone doing that to me — killing me. Later that night, I woke up in a cold sweat. It seemed to start from inside. My stomach was in knots, my pulse was racing and I found it hard to breathe. I tried to call out for my mom and dad, but I found it difficult to move any part of my body. I was paralyzed with fear.

I had no idea at age 8 I was having my first anxiety attack.

Anxiety has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Earthquakes were my first major trigger. I used to lie in bed going over my escape plan in case one hit during the night. I was told they sound like a train before the shaking starts. Any noise I heard made me activate my plan.

The rational part of my brain knew there was not an earthquake, but my fear and anxiety always won out.

As I got older, the anxiety became more debilitating. Car crashes, planes veering off runways, home invasions, my parents dying, mass shootings — anything that provokes fear in people, I perseverated on.

Social anxiety, general anxiety, test anxiety, compulsive behaviors, fear, worry, apprehension, nervousness. I’m not sure which one came first. Daily tasks are challenging because I view them through a lens of worry. It takes me longer to get things done. I process more. Spend extra time going over plans — verbalizing them out loud so I don’t miss anything. Repeating myself often, because for some reason, I find comfort in hearing things more than once.

Then it happened. I was finally able to say the three words that seem so difficult to say.

I need help.

I was 40 years old.

I knew she had to ask all the questions. Go over the list of signs and symptoms and check the boxes I answered “yes” to. My eyes traveled down the page and I noticed that most of the “yes” boxes were marked with an X.

I know anxiety has always been something I live with, but sitting in my doctor’s office that day was the first time I saw it on a piece of paper. The first time I realized maybe it has taken over my life.

After she completed the questions, she looked up and asked me to describe what it feels like — how it impacts my life. I found myself stumbling. I couldn’t answer why I have anxiety. I wanted to shout at her, “Have you seen my fingernails?” There’s nothing left of them. Sometimes the energy in my body is so intense the only way I can relieve it — even the smallest amount — is to pick and chew my nails until there is nothing left.

I couldn’t come up with a complete thought — one that made sense after it left my mouth. How do I explain these suffocating thoughts and feelings that occupy so much of my life?

I finally just told her that my anxiety is debilitating — I’m scared. I hate it and I’m not sure it will ever leave me.

She tried to reassure me that with the right treatment plan, I can gain control over this. Control. Isn’t that what anxiety is? Trying to control situations I am afraid of. Control. Something I try to do too much — too often.

Maybe the right treatment plan is to control less.

I know I worry about doesn’t makes sense. Irrational, illogical, emotional, crazy. Those words describe the thoughts in my head.

Sometimes I just wish I could hit the pause button.

I know I need to be reassured constantly. There are many times I want to apologize to the people in my life. Tell them that I’m sorry I need to be told over and over again that it is going to be OK.

I can imagine living with me is difficult, and I’m sure loving me is even harder.

I know what I say and do sometimes is irrational, but it is very real to me.

Sometimes it is just downright exhausting and my body screams relax, but I can’t sleep.

I’m not sure if it will ever leave me. If I will wake up one day and be free of the pressure — the weight. What I do know is that there are days when it doesn’t take over.

I find on those days there is one common theme. I choose to live with hope. My heart wins out.

When I lead with my heart, I find that my body slows down. It’s easier to breathe. My thoughts are clear, my smile is genuine, and my life feels full.

I have learned over the years that my journey can and will be filled with hope. I do not have to let anxiety define who I am.

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How to Deal With Concert Anxiety

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tara thompson with the author
Here we are with Tara Thompson, who opened for Jennifer Nettles. She’s amazing and so funny! And moments after this picture was taken, she signed my purse.

Chad and I just returned from a much needed weekend away. We came back refreshed and rejuvenated… or “rejuveshed.”

We had tickets to a Jennifer Nettles concert in Evansville, Indiana. She was headlining a concert of all women country performers. Chad bought tickets as a late Valentines Day gift.

I was anxious leading up to the concert, even though our tickets were on the lower level, because of my agoraphobia. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a fear of large open spaces. Large theaters, stadiums and auditoriums can send me into a full scale panic attack. As I’ve worked to overcome this, things have gotten nominally better, but the anxiety still remains at times.

I just wanted to enjoy the whole experience and I didn’t want to let Chad down. We didn’t have ear plugs, and we were to be seated close to the front of the stage. My fear of loud noises was also something I worried about.

But you know what? For the first time I can remember, I had absolutely zero anxiety, from the time I entered the venue to the end of the concert.

Zero.

Even when they changed the lighting after the intermission… zero.

I couldn’t have been more excited about being able to enjoy an entire concert in a large arena without a lick of anxiety. To freely enjoy myself and the beauty of the music around me. With the love of my life by my side.

So today, I thought I’d give you some tips on enjoying a concert in a big venue if you have agoraphobia or any other anxiety disorder.

1. Nap, nap, nap: If at all possible a few hours before the concert, take a nap. One of my anxiety triggers is doing too much or too much going on at once. If I haven’t had sufficient rest during a long day and have a high-energy night, I’m more likely to go into a panic attack. I found that with a nap lasting at least an hour this weekend on the night of
the concert, I was able to enjoy myself without panicking.

2. If you aren’t familiar with the artist or band, do some research and play
some songs online before going to the concert. I find that if I don’t do this and don’t know the songs, the instruments can overwhelm the singer and I can’t hear the lyrics. When I can’t hear the lyrics and it’s just loud music with a heavy bass and drums, I get frustrated and can’t enjoy the performance.

3. I’ve used this tip as far back as I can remember: Chew some gum and have
something with you to occupy your hands, like a purse. Chewing gum can help calm your nerves and having something to do with your hands can help to ground you and take your mind off what is going on around you.

4. If you are able to, go to the venue before the event (like a few days before) and try and sit down in the seat you’ll have. Now, if you are extremely agoraphobic, you may need to try to do this as soon as you buy tickets for the event. Call the venue where the concert will be and ask if you can visit when the venue is empty. In living with agoraphobia, I’ve learned that venue managers can be extremely understanding and want to give their guests the most comfortable experience possible.

So there you have it. Having multi-faceted concert anxiety can be embarrassing and frustrating, but I hope you found these tips helpful. Remember you are never alone. Cheers!

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. This advice is based on individual’s experiences.

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