Side view of young bearded man getting beard haircut by hairdresser while sitting in chair at barbershop

Challenging the Unpredictability of My Anxiety

48
48

Tension. Tension in my limbs. Tension in my torso. Tension in my chest. Tension in my neck and shoulders. Unbearable tension, as if my body were bracing itself for imminent impact with some as yet unidentified threat.

The threat is a tidal wave of anxiety or rather, a series of waves, threatening to sweep me away and drag me under. I try to regulate my breathing, but my efforts are hampered by the feeling that my short in-breaths are met with dead, lead weight lungs in my chest, while the long out breath is met with an obstruction in my throat, beneath my Adam’s apple that stubbornly refuses to be moved.

And so I submit. I don’t fight it or wish it to be different. I simply sit with it. I acknowledge I can’t change the weather, and I accept it for what it is: a passing storm. I let it be, sure in the knowledge that sooner or later the sun will come out and I can get on with my day. And so it is.

Before long, I’m off in the car, having reached a momentous decision regarding a project I’ve been working on since September: my beard. By October, it had grown out as far as I had ever allowed, but with my trip to New York in mind, I had the Turkish barber trim it back, in the style of designer stubble, after he’d cut my hair.

Since then, I haven’t touched it. What to do? Santa had been kind enough to furnish me with a beard grooming kit, but I hadn’t a clue what to do with it.

Numerous YouTube tutorials later, I realized what was required was a little beyond my skill set. Alas, a steady hand and a sharp eye are not among my limited attributes.

Then I remembered the cafe-cum-barber shop I’d stumbled across a few weeks back, when making my way from a restaurant to the theater. I knew then the only sensible course of action was to entrust my face-fluff to the professionals.

The whole experience was strangely meditative — calming, relaxing, almost therapeutic. The barber assured me actually doing it was more so.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

It was good to have ventured out of my comfort zone and to have changed my routine, done something, gone somewhere different. Since my anxiety is entirely unpredictable, I might as well be too.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

48
48

RELATED VIDEOS

TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

14 Things People With Anxiety and Depression Wish Others Understood

4k
4k

For many, living with anxiety and depression can be debilitating. Often, friends and family members don’t understand the extent to which living with a mental illness negatively impacts relationships. We asked the Anxiety and Depression Association of America community to share what we wish friends and family understood.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I can’t control my anxiety. It just doesn’t go away. I can’t just snap out of it.” – Elissa M.

2. “Don’t sit on the sidelines when an anxious loved one needs help. Just like soldiers help a fallen comrade in combat, friends need to get off their tails and ‘man the troops’ to assist that person in his/her time of need.” – Jerre D.

3. “I am not weak, it takes every ounce of strength to hold it together. I’m not anxious or depressed because I am weak. I didn’t choose it.” – Janelle C.

4. “Sometimes I just need to remove myself from everything and everyone. It’s not personal.” – Sue B.

5. “My anxiety and depression make it hard to do even the most basic things sometimes.” – Denise F.

6. “I wish specifically family and friends would understand that anxiety and depression are disorders of the brain. The brain is a human organ just like any other, and disorders of the brain are not a choice. These debilitating illnesses affect a person’s confidence and productivity. These disorders are not a reflection of someone’s intelligence, moral character or work ethic.” – Sonya P.

7. “It’s not bad behavior or bad parenting — my 7-year-old has overwhelming anxiety. What you may think is a tantrum is her really just struggling to walk through the door or complete something.” – Christina C.

8. “I wish I could control my mood swings. It’s not you, it’s me.” – Jessica J.

9. “Anxiety and depression are a part of me. I am not ashamed. If you don’t understand this illness imagine how hard it is for me to understand. Every day is a balancing act of anxiety vs. depression, although in this battle they both win. I don’t want sympathy, just a little empathy.” – Amber W.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

10. “It’s not as easy to get out of it as people think. It tears you down.” – Bobbie M.

11. “While anxiety affects so much of my life, not everything I feel is due to my anxiety – sometimes I’m actually just a ‘normal person’ upset/angry. Please don’t dismiss the way I feel just because I have anxiety/depression.” – Stoni F.

12. “Understand I’m trying my hardest every day to fight the depression, but some days that depression cloud or monster wins the battle. I want to feel happy and not feel like a burden.” – Linda P.

13. “It invades every part of your life. Depression takes away the ability to enjoy things you used to be interested in and it actually drains you of energy, so much that you don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. Anxiety disorders can destroy a life.” – Leonard W.

14. “We aren’t weak or lazy, in fact it takes strength, courage and stamina to face the same demons every day.” – Frank C.

What would you add?

4k
4k
TOPICS
, Listicle
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

8 Ways My Friends Have Supported Me Through a Panic Attack

194
194

I consider myself to be extremely lucky that despite having to live with this constant, sometimes debilitating anxiety as part of my bipolar disorder I have friends who have and continue to support me. Although I have always known this and am reminded of it regularly in the little things like a text message to check how I am doing, or a slightly longer hug hello or goodbye, or a reassuring smile, I am also reminded of it in the bigger things they do to support me too.

Last night was one of these examples, and I want to share it so if you too have a friend who has anxiety and/or panic attacks you can use these ideas to support them. However, I have learned that everyone is different and may not respond to the same support.

Before I share the things these friends have done on more than one occasion to support me during a panic attack I want to add a little context, as if you have never experienced a panic attack yourself it is hard to imagine what it can feel like.

Panic attacks can come in all shapes and sizes and can vary person to person or situation to situation. They can be the more obvious type that include hyperventilating, feeling faint and sweaty or nauseous, but they can also take a more hidden form where the person may be distant and withdrawn and unable to engage or interact. Whatever form they take, they are just as scary and the person cannot just switch them off.

I have experienced both of the above types as well as times where the two have been mixed. Although I know certain situations can trigger them, they do not always occur in that situation and sometimes they can spring from nowhere unexpectedly.

Last night I experienced a mix of the two in a situation where I knew I would struggle. I could not prevent it, I could not switch it off or snap out of it. I had to ride it out, but the support of friends made that easier to do. So if you wish to support someone in a similar situation, here is what they did that worked for me:

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

1. If you know a situation is likely to be difficult for someone you care about do not try to convince them to avoid it. I wanted to go out last night. It was important that I went. I wanted to be there for the friend celebrating a new job. If I hadn’t have gone I would have hated myself more. Instead, my friends supported me by arranging to pick me up so I didn’t have to arrive on my own.

2. Help them spot triggers. They knew the trigger as well as I did, and although panic attacks cannot always be prevented, even just to know that someone else knows and understands can help.

3. Give them space but not too much. Last night I left the situation when I needed air. I needed a few moments alone to gather my thoughts. They gave me these few minutes, then came to check in with me. This was really important for me as I would not have been able to re-enter the situation again alone.

4. Take time. Encourage them to breathe, be with them, hold them tight. Often in the midst of a panic attack I tend to dissociate from where I am. A tight hug helps ground me and can help get my breathing back into sync.

5. Just be there and reassure them they are safe – don’t try to rationalize or play it down. It isn’t always rational, I know that, but that doesn’t mean I can stop it. It may start from one single thought and then spreads until I am questioning every single thing, replaying every single situation, imaging the worst about anything that could happen (multiple worst-case scenarios), remembering other things (unrelated) that worry me and doing the same with these things and worrying what people are thinking of me while doing all of these things. My friends don’t try to make me explain or repeatedly tell me it won’t happen.

6. Recognize it, but don’t draw attention to it. They can see it coming better than I can but are also discrete. When I shut off and withdraw, I need time. Last night they kept the conversation going, offering a distraction but also letting me know they recognized I was struggling. Again I often need grounding, so a tight grip on my hand or firm touch on my arm or leg reminds me they are there and I am not alone.

7. Don’t judge – this is the one I find most difficult as I constantly judge myself and condemn my own behavior, seeking to punish it later. Their acceptance lessens this for me because I know there is no need to explain to them, which would be hard because often I don’t even know.

8. Last one – know that they are not their illness, and don’t give up on them. Keep inviting them out.

So, there are my top tips based on what my friends have done for me during a panic attack. Having said that, there is no rule book, and I am truly blessed to have found two wonderful people who understand and accept and want to be my friend regardless. And although I have been able to describe this in some sort of understandable way here for this support group, it saddens me that I will never be able to find the words to explain to them how exactly perfect their support is and how much I completely value it.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Illlustration by Elisabetta Stoinich

194
194
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Quotes That Show What It's Really Like to Live With Anxiety

TOPICS
, Video
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

10 Lessons From the Dalai Lama's Teachings That Helped My Mental Health

112
112

I started reading the Dalai Lama’s teachings to reduce my anger and irritability (often due to my intrusive thoughts and anxiety.) His teachings really help me in my attempt to self heal and be a mentally healthier person. These are my takeaways from his teachings:

1. Stressing out about something inevitable or something that will never happen is useless.

I know it doesn’t solve anxiety, but it is good to remember this when anxiety starts setting in and makes us feel like everything is out of control.

2. Dialogue is the way to solve conflict.

It is extremely important to talk about our mental illnesses in order to get help.

3. We need to find a way to respect everyone.

Try to find respect for the people who do not understand our illness, because negative thoughts hurt ourselves more than it hurts the people who misunderstand us.

4. Your wellness depends on the people around you.

As a person with a mental illness, you need to find a community, rather than staying isolated. We are interdependent.

5. The physical world has limits but our mental growth does not.

It is important to keep busy and grow as a person, through achievements to keep our minds healthy, even when our mind is sick.

6. Better education is the solution to everything.

This includes mental health awareness and mental illness.

7. Our similarities are greater than our differences.  

Mental illness does not discriminate regardless of age, race or class.

8. Compassion is important.

With the number of people who have different mental illnesses, it is important to have compassion for each other and understand you are not alone in your suffering.

9. When we focus on ourselves, our problems seem bigger, but when we focus on others, our problems seem smaller.

I know it’s wrong to say some people have it worse, but the Dalai Lama says it helps to focus on others. I think getting involved in helping our community can help us feel included and less isolated with our problems.

10. We are so much more than our mortal body.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

Our body and brain will fail us but we are so much more than them. It doesn’t mean we have to stop trying because we can still grow spiritually and through our actions.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Dalai Lama’s Facebook

112
112
TOPICS
, , Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What It's Like to Be Afraid of Talking on the Phone

5k
5k

I have touched on my fear of using telephones before, but would like to go into it in more detail. According to Wikipedia, “Telephone phobia (telephonophobia, telephobia, phone phobia) is reluctance or fear of making or taking phone calls, literally, ‘fear of telephones.’ It is considered to be a type of social phobia or social anxiety.

hate using the phone. I can count the number of people I can confidently talk to on the phone using just one hand. I much prefer text, email or Facebook messenger. Any of these are fine because then I have time to think about what to say, am not expected to reply right away and can delete anything I regret typing before I send it.

I cannot answer the phone when I don’t know whose calling. Many times our home phone has rung out unanswered while I stood over it, willing it to stop because I’m too scared to pick up. My mobile phone is a little easier because I have caller ID. If it’s a private number or an unknown number I won’t answer. But if it comes up with the name of the person calling I will more than likely pick up (though not always).

I will never leave a message on an answering machine. I feel silly talking to myself and usually mess up the message anyway. Either that or the machine cuts me off before I’m finished. As hypocritical as this may sound, I’d love for everyone who called me to leave a message when they rang. Then I’d know who they were and if a return phone call is warranted.

Making phone calls is just as bad. If it’s someone I know there is no issue, but if I have to make a call to a company or a place where I don’t know who is going to answer, I can’t do it.

As an example, a while back my husband asked me to find a gardener and call them to make a time for our jungle of a backyard to be mowed. I found a gardener and contact number, no problem. Then I spent the whole day getting worked up about actually picking up the phone and organizing the work to be done. This is what went through my head:

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

What if I have the wrong number? What if he doesn’t answer? Will I have to leave a message? What if I leave a message on a wrong number? What if I screw up the message and sound silly? What if I forget some important detail in the message and have to call again? What if he does answer and I freeze up and don’t know what to say? What if I pronounce his name wrong? What if I sound bad? What if he can’t come for a week? What if I double book something? What if he can’t do the job we need done? What if I have to call someone else? etc. etc.

You get the idea. Lots of “what if’s.” I got so worked up about making what should have been a simple phone call, my brain went into shut down mode and I started to panic. Eventually a friend made the call for me.

If I have to make an appointment to see the doctor or for some other thing, I would rather go to their office and make the appointment in person than pick up the phone. Which is only slightly less difficult because I don’t like crowds and I never know how busy a doctor’s office is going to be.

This is another issue that’s getting worse with time rather than better. I was always nervous to use the phone, but I could still do it. Now it’s becoming incredibly difficult. I am aware of how illogical this all sounds — but no amount of logic is helping when it comes to this issue. Phobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. I have an extreme fear when it comes to using the telephone.

I have since learned this phobia is more common than I thought, and there are many people who have to deal with this to varying extents. For other people facing this problem, I would say there are other forms of communication and that’s OK. If email or texting is better for you and the other person is happy with that, then that’s great. Sometimes though, you have no other choice but to pick up the phone. It’s scary. I get it. But when you do finally work up the courage and make that phone call, you get a small feeling of achievement after. Maybe next time it might be a little easier.

Follow this journey on The Nut Factory.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock

5k
5k
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.