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How a ‘Safe Word’ Can Help When You're Overwhelmed With Anxiety

I have bipolar 1 disorder and sometimes I can get so anxious that I don’t know how to speak. I lose a sense of reality and can’t breathe. I am near panic, but still maintaining enough control to stay standing and appear “normal.” My spouse might not even realize I’m struggling.

That is when I use my safe word. My safe word is to help me in horrible moments of anxiety where I can’t form a sentence to state how much I am struggling. It’s when I need to signal my spouse and let them know I am immensely suffering. It can be in a public place like a grocery store, where I need an exit plan immediately. I just tell my partner “bananas” and he will know what to do. He will know to lead me out of the store in a timely manner and get me to my safe place.

The safe word can also be used in extremely emotional or deep conversations. Sometimes, a conversation can get heated, or in such depth that it can be overwhelming. Sometimes, my body just needs to shut down and focus on my breathing. The manic side of me wants to keep talking about everything and dig deep into the depths of conversation, but my anxiety can have different plans. It’s important to slow down sometimes, and stating “bananas” while in a conversation puts an automatic pause on everything. It allows me to focus on my breathing again and not feel guilty about stopping the conversation.

Sometimes, even in an argument with my spouse, I need to use the safe word. Things can get out of hand when I’m manic because I have a very loud personality. It can be a lot to handle as a spouse, and sometimes things can escalate. Calling “bananas” helps ground us to let us know I am struggling and not myself, and can lose control at times.

Mania and anxiety are scary, and sometimes, the safe word is all I need to hit the reset button and start out refreshed.

Photo by Michael Afonso on Unsplash

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