I Thought I Was 'Coping' With Anxiety by Fighting It

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It’s just another day and I have no freaking idea what’s going on with me yet again. I do know I have a million things to do and a family and house to run. I don’t have time to be anxious.

Now get up and get going! Paralyzed? What is this heavy weight surrounding my body? Why do I feel like I got zero sleep? Why are my thoughts consuming me? Why do these thoughts have to rush in so quickly that I can’t even pull one down to digest?

The dizziness starts. My muscles vibrate.

Am I going to vomit? It’s not even 7 a.m.?! Get up and get going! At least get a cup of coffee in before the first signs of panic set in. Wait! The irritable bowel syndrome is flaring up because that is what the anxiety has caused. Wow! If I could just get up and get dressed, then things will get better, right?

For so long, I thought I was coping. I thought I was effectively handling the anxiety, handling the constant barrage of daily effects anxiety causes. There was no way out. This is how I was wired. I had to deal, put on my big girl pants and kick anxiety in the ass, but constantly the spiraling would come back. The spiraling into the abyss of darkness taking over my body and soul would continue.

The anxiety has caused my once over-extroverted self into a lifeless, confused loner. I thought I was getting rid of the triggers, isolating myself more because of the pain and suffering every situation brought on. I felt the need to apologize to strangers for being so anxious when they had no clue. On the inside, even in the calmest of situations, I would tremble, tremble with fear that the panic was going to set in at any second. Waiting for the rush of stinging pain and tingles to overwhelm my entire body.

When would my heart start beating out of my chest? When would I no longer be able to catch my breathe? I knew it was only a matter of time. When would the anxiety fill me next? I was a ticking time bomb, pushing everything down, trying not to let the anxiety win and exhausted to no end in the daily fight with an invisible battle.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

The more I pushed it away, the worse it got. I thought I was dealing. I was doing everything holistically possible to find some sense of reprieve. You name it, I was trying it. After trying medication in the past and not having good outcomes, I knew I needed something different.

The anxiety won over me. The constant thoughts consumed every moment of every day. The physical effects the anxiety brought on could no longer be avoided. I thought, “Well, maybe the misery the medication provided was better than this awful reality?” But, instead I decided to fight. I decided to break this chain of continuous contention.

Now through therapy, I have found the root of my anxiety, the long lasting effects of conditioning and abandonment issues. I now have an insight of the turmoil. I will allow myself to explore the demons that have been eating my insides, causing this disorder. I will continue to allow self-compassion. I will continue to allow myself to feel the pain, instead of blocking it away and telling myself it isn’t real or to stop having a pity party.

I will allow myself to heal, no longer pretending to cope but actually cope. I am so glad I overcame the trials and tribulations of finding a good therapist to help me in my healing journey. I’m proud of myself for taking the time to allow myself to heal. I’m thankful for having more understanding of my personal journey. I’m proud of myself for finding self-worth and consistently working on my self-esteem.

I am better than I was yesterday and can only hope for a better tomorrow. I will have to work, work hard, but it will be worth it. I will continue to have my healthy mantras and focus on the good. I am awakening into a whole new being without any borders and am excited for what my future holds.

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The Faces of Depression and Anxiety: We Are Not Alone

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I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I’m not alone when I say I’m struggling. I’ve been struggling and the day came to finally do something about it.

Anxiety has had a presence in my life since I was a young girl. Unfortunate circumstances and stressful times dealt me a hand of heavy responsibility and crowded emotions. We all have a story, one that’s left us helpless and scrambling. However relevant it may be, that story isn’t the focus of this. The damage is done, and time ticks on. Life carries on. Here we are.

There I am, a young adolescent, moving through the drudgery of life. As I look over my shoulder, I build a defense so the past never repeats itself, a wall sturdy and strong. While I calculate my plans and analyze those in them, I steer clear of any opportunity to feel pain or hurt. I am being introduced to anxiety, although I won’t know it until my late 20s. It’s there from a young age, and grows as I grow.

Anxiety feeds me insecurities and fear. It gives me sweaty palms and a racing heart. It keeps sleep from me and wakes me with thoughts that don’t make sense, but they somehow do in the dark quiet of the night. It depletes relationships and group gatherings. It hinders my role as a wife and mother. It takes from me my confidence, all that was left of it anyway.

Depression introduced itself to me as a young adult. I’m maneuvering through my 20s, feeling like the world is my oyster (if only I could manage this anxiety better.) When my nerves get the best of me and my anxiety gouges me with fear, depression is there.

Depression hovers over me like a fog, fog that has the potential to develop into thick, dense, rain clouds. Showers pour over me without knowledge of why it is so dark. I search for light, and when I find it, the clouds eventually follow. This feeling is foreign, yet familiar, reminding me of darker times as a child. I want to run from that feeling as fast as I can, but it always catches up.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

Depression feeds me anxiety and irrational thoughts. It engulfs me in a feeling of being overwhelmed. It gives me sadness and loneliness. It keeps me isolated and unproductive. It takes me away from my family, both physically and emotionally. It provides me a dark hole to hide away in, in pain and achy from stagnation. It places me in the dark, gives me back to the light, only to return again, again and again to take me away.

I’m tired of leaving. I’m tired of missing out on life, because “I just can’t.” I’m exhausted.

I see myself suppressing the anxiety and depression. Everyone else sees my smiling face. My mask I wear it so well. I see myself running on a hamster wheel, trying to keep going. Trying to keep my mind busy from the thoughts that attack me time and time again. Everyone else sees a woman who is accomplished and can do it all. The pressure is suffocating.

I see myself running the rat race and beating myself up when I fail. I see my abilities and potential flying out the window, landing on the opportunities that pass me by. There’s no way I could attempt anything more than I’m doing, which feels like absolutely nothing. I see myself rationalizing the feelings and dismissing them as if they’ll soon be gone with each passing circumstance.

After I finish school, I’ll be fine. After we move, I’ll feel better. After this, after that, everything will be OK. But it’s not.

And I’m not alone.

I finally hit bottom, sitting at the edge of my bed alone with my thoughts of failure as a mother and failure as a wife. I pick up the phone and call my doctor. I walk into her office sweating, on the verge of tears. I sit down with a racing heart and blood pressure so high, you’d think I had just taken five shots of espresso. I sit in her gaze, crying and asking for help as she compassionately asks me the hard questions.

She confirms I am a therapist.

“Yes, an intern,” I affirm.

“Wow,” she replies.

“You should feel so proud of yourself for taking this step,” as she writes my prescription.

I am proud. In this moment, I am more of a helpless child, but proud I am. As long as it’s taken me to get here, it’s not because I think I am exempt. It’s not because I don’t think it can happen to me. It’s not because I am embarrassed. I needed to have a moment of clarity, a moment of realization that I can’t actually “handle” this or “manage” this on my own.

It was an emotional bottom that no one sent me into, not my kids, not my husband, not family or friends. It is no one’s fault. It was my depression and anxiety. They ganged up on me and attacked me all at once. I thank them for that. If it weren’t for that bottom, then I wouldn’t have made the gigantic step I did.

And I’m not alone.

I’ll never be alone in this struggle. I do not stand alone. I stand with a brave and courageous legion, who fight for their lives every day by using therapeutic interventions and medicine. Now we stand together to fight the stigma.

We are not alone.

Depression and anxiety does not discriminate. Every gender, every race, every size and culture suffers from these debilitating disorders. It’s OK because we aren’t alone. We have each other, to rid the shame and embarrassment from our minds and the stigma from our society. I am not ashamed. We are not ashamed, and you don’t have to be ashamed.

Because you are not alone.

A photo grid of multiple women's headshots
It is my gratitude and honor to include the beautiful faces of women I call friends, who also battle anxiety and/or depression. We are not alone.

Please find my courageous fellow writers’ and bloggers’ social media links below:

Alison Tedford at Sparkly Shoes and Sweat Drops
Bianca Jamotte LeRoux at Real Mommy Confessions
Jorrie Varney at Close to Classy
Christine Suhan at Feelings and Faith
Susanne Lewis Kerns at The Dusty Parachute
Mary Katherine at Mom Babble
Emily Krawczyk at The Laughing Lesbian
Kimberly Zapata at Sunshine Spoils Milk
Bonnie Guy at Unrestrained Laughter
Sara Farrell Baker at No Purple Walls
Ashford Evans at Biscuits and Crazy
Denise Scott Geelhart at Adventures of a Jayhawk Mommy
Eran Suds at Good Mother Project
Kathryn Leehane at Foxy Wine Pocket
Jill Eitnier Silvius Dinos, Daydreams and Lollipops
Gina Marie at Stage Too
Alyce Kominetsky at One Word at a Time
Jenny Ball Tufford at The Happy Hausfrau
Shannon Parry Johnson at Joy in the Works
Jennifer Bly at The Deliberate Mom
Mary McLaurine at Sassy Lassie
Chelsea Nelson at Mommy Makes
Steena Hammer at The Angrivated Mom
Elizabeth Broadbent at Manic Pixie Dream Mama
Kristen Flerl Eleveld at The Plucky Procrastinator
Rachel Bledsoe at The Misfits of a Mountain Mama
Jessica McNeill Azar at Herd Management
Glynis Ratcliff at The Joy of Cooking (for Little Assholes)
Sam Wassel at Between the Monkey Bars
Kristi Rieger Campbell at Finding Ninee

This post originally appeared on Appetite for Honesty.

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CollegeHumor's New Video 'What Social Anxiety Feels Like' Perfectly Describes Life With Anxiety

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For those living with anxiety, it’s not uncommon to feel like your anxiety follows you everywhere. But what if your anxiety physically followed you everywhere?

A new CollegeHumor video, “What Social Anxiety Feels Like,” perfectly captures social anxiety by showing a girl named Katie’s anxiety physically following her around at a party.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, approximately 18 percent of American adults live with some form of anxiety.

The video, which has been viewed over a million times since it was published last week, highlights the challenges people with social anxiety face. Anxious Katie, the physical representation of Katie’s anxiety, mimics the internal monologue of people with anxiety, questioning everything Katie says and does while at the party.

“He doesn’t want to be cornered by you, and what would you even say? It would be so awkward,” Anxious Katie asks when Katie tries to mingle, interjecting every time Katie makes an effort to be social.

If you live with social anxiety, this might sound all too familiar.

You can watch the full video below.

 

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4 Books to Add to Your Library If You Have an Anxious Child

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Childhood is perceived by many as a carefree time in one’s life, but the bottom line is, children have many more worries than meets the eye. The plethora of anxieties can take over and make everyday life challenging for a child and those in his or life.

In some cases, the anxiety and resulting behavior is a sign of an already existing anxiety disorder, or if left unchecked, becomes a diagnosed anxiety disorder in adulthood. Our duty as adults to children is to focus on prevention, early intervention and healthy coping strategies. A great way to do is through books!

There are many children’s books out there about anxiety and mental health. Reading them with children has threefold benefits: anxiety support, literacy practice and healthy engagement between adults and children. Here are just a few books you can add to your library if you have an anxious child in your life!

1. “Walter and the No-Need-To-Worry Suit” by Rachel Bright

In this lighthearted picture book, the main character, Walter, is a worrier. When Walter learns he has been entered into events in the Woollybottom Sports and Funday, his worries spiral out of control. Fortunately for Walter, his best friend Winnie is there for him. By making it a team effort, Winnie and the Woollybottom animal community come up with a solution to ease Walter’s worrying. Bright’s book is a colorfully illustrated text that helps children take a lighter look at and approach to their worries. Walter’s story is suitable for families with children, ages 3 and older.

2. “When My Worries Get Too Big! A Relaxation Book for People Who Live With Anxiety” by Kari Dunn Buron

Published by the Autism Asperger Publishing Company, Buron’s book presents a similar self-rating for practice children to use. The little boy in the book, whose worries clearly get too big, explains his anxiety using a number scale. At 1, he is OK. At 5, he is angry and losing control. This book invites children to explore their own feelings and provides strategies for self-calming, including drawing pictures of things that upset them and calm them down. Buron’s book is easy to read and engages children, parents and teachers in the journey to ease anxiety. The book is appropriate for families and education professionals with children ages 4 and up.

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3. “Don’t Panic, Annika!” by Juliet Clare Bell

If you are an adult who has ever experienced panic attacks, then you know it is one of the most distressing and exhausting things to  experience. Now consider a child having panic attacks. The thought alone is distressing. In Bell’s book, the main character is a girl named Annika. Annika’s anxiety is omnipresent in her daily life. She panics regularly, such as when she cannot find her favorite toy or when her coat zipper gets stuck. To help her calm herself in a crisis, Annika’s family teaches her how to self-soothe. When Annika is alone and locked into her house, she uses her calming techniques while she waits to be rescued. In the end, Annika conquers her anxiety and the panic subsides. This entertaining story teaches children simple techniques to ease their own anxiety and panic symptoms. Bell’s book is suitable for families with children ages 3 and older.

4. “Billy Monster’s Daymare” by Alan Durant

One of the most common fears among children is monsters: Monsters under the bed. Monsters hiding in the closet. Monsters lurking in the shadows. The anxiety about monsters can reach a level where some children no longer feel comfortable sleeping in their own bedrooms and seek a safe haven by sleeping in their parents’ bedrooms regularly.

Durant’s book turns the table by presenting the common childhood phobia in reverse. The main character, Billy, is a young monster afraid of children, and just a child may imagine monsters in the closet or behind the curtains, Billy imagines children hiding in these places. Billy ultimately receives comfort and reassurance from his dad that many people and creatures feel the same way. The book contains pictures of monsters but the reassuring part for children is in seeing the monsters are friendly and live regular lives, just like humans do. Durant’s book is appropriate for families with children ages 4 and up.

By using books they can relate to, anxious children have a wellness tool in their resource box reminding and reassuring them it’s OK to feel what they feel. They are also reminded they are loved and supported by the people in their lives and that anxiety can be conquered. Wellness is possible. If you don’t believe me, then in the words of the Reading Rainbow theme song, “Take a look, it’s in a book!” Wishing all the wonderful children out there happy reading!

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When Anxiety Feels Like a Flimsy Umbrella in a Rainstorm

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Sometimes when I get out of work, look outside, and see that’s it’s raining, I think to myself “It’s a good thing I brought an umbrella!” Then I get outside, open it up, and start to walk. I feel protected. I feel safe. Nothing can go wrong. I’m so smart. Look at all these people who didn’t check the weather. Good thing I’m ahead of the game. And then the wind blows or the rain gets a little heavier and my umbrella starts to wobble, flips inside out, and ultimately becomes completely useless. That’s what anxiety is.

Anxiety is sneaky and unexpected and honestly? A nuisance. Sometimes people tell me to calm down or take a deep breath. Do you know how helpful that is? It’s the same as the stranger on the street who tells me I “should really get a new umbrella.” Thanks for the advice, but that’s really not what I need to hear right now.

How is anxiety sneaky and unexpected? You don’t buy an umbrella with the hope that it’s going to be too flimsy. I don’t wake up in the morning hoping to have an anxiety attack. I don’t go around and seek out certain words or situations I know will give me anxiety. Sometimes the rain gets a little too heavy. Sometimes life is a little too hard.

People might think that anxiety isn’t the umbrella, anxiety is the heavy rain I never could have predicted. It’s the wind that likes to start a fight. But that’s not anxiety. That’s life. There are days that start off good. I don’t have to shake away my thoughts or focus hard on something to ease the tension in my soul. It’s a rain that my umbrella can handle. But sometimes when my car is first in the line and I’m at a red light, I wonder what would happen if the light fell. There are times when I’m home and I hear a noise outside and immediately think someone is breaking in. Sometimes I’m walking through the city and see the crowd of people and I’m simply overwhelmed by how many people exist. I don’t plan for these thoughts, fears and what ifs to happen. I have as much control over them as I do the weather.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

When these thoughts might occur to other people, they have a stronger umbrella to protect them. They have a raincoat and boots to keep them dry. I’m wearing sandals and a white dress and my umbrella just ripped.

Anxiety is having days when that umbrella is enough, so why get rid of it? Anxiety is wishing I could buy a new one but the umbrella store is closed. Anxiety makes you get a little wet in the rain.

It’s hard to walk around and see the people who are dry and smiling. It makes you want to yell or cry or both. But there’s more than one flimsy umbrella out there. That doesn’t make it OK, but it makes it a little easier to know that you aren’t the only one struggling with the storm. And when you have anxiety, a little easier can be more than enough.

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When I Overheard a Friend Calling My Anxiety Dramatic

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“I’m so sick of everything being such drama with her! Just get over it!

I was sitting in a lecture room prepared  for the session. I’d done all the prep work two days before to calm my anxiety as much as possible. My leg was still  shaking my leg in class. Then, a surprise mock test was given out.

To many, this might feel shocking or unexpected, but for those with anxiety, it’s like being punched in the face.

The anxiety that follows can be debilitating, especially if you’re fighting off a panic attack and trying to remain as calm and “normal” as you can — only to then hear a friend of all people say, “Ugh, I’m so sick of everything being such a drama with her! Just get over it.”

The whole world you’d built up with trust and understanding suddenly comes crashing down. The safety you thought you had with that friend disappears, and you’re back to feeling alone and isolated once again.

Everyone’s a stranger.

The reminder of how little people understand, even those close to you, hits you like a train, and the heavy weight of the burden you carry becomes obvious yet again. You feel like someone in a world parallel to theirs; you can talk and interact but you’re reminded you’re different, the rules of their world are entirely different to yours, and they’ll never truly understand what it’s like living on your side.

It’s hard to tell which pain is worse, the pain and guilt from “burdening” others with your problem or that no one understands. Believe it or not, it’s not fun for us either.

We’re sick of the drama that comes with anxiety. We hate how unexpected it is and how quickly it takes control. No one wants to struggle, and we don’t want to be a burden, so when a friend becomes “sick of us,” we remember everyone’s a stranger and it’s easier to stay like that because then fewer people get hurt.

“Just get over it.”

The phrase that makes you realize people don’t understand you. Even those closest to you feel like strangers who may never see the world you live in the way you do, and it makes life hard, and it makes you push people away. 

But despite all this, there are people in your world who understand. There are people who can help. The difficulty is just finding them in the sea of strangers you wade through every day.

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