Even though I have written on how social media makes anxiety worse on my earlier blog post, I still struggle with turning off my social media accounts and taking a break each and every day. I want to challenge each of you to turn off the notifications on your phone, unplug from the world online, and take a break from the constant stream of everyone documenting their lives. Get outside, sit and relax at your home, enjoy a family dinner WITHOUT your phone, have a conversation with someone face-to-face while looking them in their eyes, etc.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious with your own life, then adding others’ lives with their constant posts, pictures, comments, etc. to your mind, whether good or bad, is flat out overwhelming and is bound to make your anxiety worse. There have been numerous studies done that show an association between social media use and depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. This online world of media lets you constantly compare and criticize both yourself and your life. Why put yourself in that position?
Take a break!
Until later this week my amazing readers,
Being an anxious person it is often even harder not to look back and obsessive over past mistakes when there is nothing you can do to change them. I challenge you this week to not dwell on your past. You have learned from the mistakes you have made, and there is no reason to hold yourself back by something you can’t go back and fix. Let it go!
Let me first say that I am not a medical professional, and I am not advising anyone who is on medicine to quit taking it. We are each different and handle our anxiety differently and that is okay. Some people need medicine, and there is nothing wrong with that AT ALL. In this post, I just want to share with you some ways I manage my anxiety without medicine.
That said, I have come up with 20 ways that I manage my anxiety without relying on medicine. I hope these help you manage your anxiety better whether on medicine or not.
1. Physical Exercise.
This one is huge people…get moving! You may not feel like it, but if you can just make yourself walk, run, swim, hit up the gym, etc. it will make you feel so much better. I notice that after I exercise my anxiety symptoms are all but gone. Exercise makes my body feel better, and in turn if my body feels better, then usually so does my mind. Also, nerd moment here… scientifically speaking when you exercise your body releases endorphins, and endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body that not only makes you happy but relaxes you.
2. Take time off of social media accounts.
Seriously people, turn off the notifications on your phone, unplug from the world online, and take a break. There have been numerous studies done that show an association between social media use and depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. This online world of media lets you constantly compare and criticize both yourself and your life. Why put yourself in that position? Take a break!
Breathe one deep breath in through your nose slowly, hold, and release through your mouth slowly. Repeat this as often as you need. On particularly anxious days, I can find myself doing this almost every hour. You may still feel anxiety, but when you’re breathing like this your body is not able to go into a full on panic attack. Your breathing fights your body and keeps it from being able to panic. Neat right?!
This is extremely important. Sleep is your body's time to recover and restore. Sleep deprivation can make even the most relaxed person stressed and overwhelmed, and if you suffer from anxiety it makes your anxiety even worse. Sleep lets your body recover from the day's activities, recharge and get ready for the next day. If you are not sleeping and letting your mind and body recover then you will feel run down and overwhelmed before your day even starts in the morning.
5. Find and read a good daily devotional that focuses on fear or anxiety.
This for me is one of my biggest aids in managing my anxiety. Every morning while I wait for my shower to get warm I read my devotional. It gives me a good start and a wonderful perspective on my upcoming day. Below are some of my two favorite authors and their devotionals.
6. Conversational Prayer
I pray throughout my entire day almost as though I am having a stop and go conversation with the big man. I pray, pray, pray. I pray for strength to be stronger than my anxiety, I pray for peace throughout my days, and I pray for God to give me the ability to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. If I am stressed about driving, I will pray on my drive until I get where I am going safely. If I am faced with deadlines and to-do lists miles long, I pray to not be overwhelmed and for God to help me prioritize and find peace. Praying also makes me feel not so alone, because I am carrying this other person, the big man, with me wherever I go. Talk yourself through it by talking to God.
Think of all the things you are thankful for, and focus on them and how grateful you are. When your mind is full of stressful thoughts, try to replace them with thankfulness. It may sound silly, but in my mind I literally list out the things that I am thankful for. I think of all the big things I am thankful for: my daughter, my husband, my family, my friends, my house, my job, food, clothes, car, health money, etc. I then continue all the way through the small things I enjoy everyday that I could easily take for granted: the hot water in my shower, the yummy cup of coffee I get every morning, the time to enjoy my new book, etc. After I go through this list I usually have a better mental perspective.
8. Talk to someone.
This is a big one, reach out to someone that you can pour your soul out and know they will not judge you and will still love you no matter what they hear. It may not always be someone who understands anxiety, but there is at least one person out there that you can talk with. Confiding in others is so important. It makes you feel better to put words to your thoughts, it makes you feel better to feel a little more validated in what you are feeling, and it makes your feel better to feel understood and not alone.
Find something that makes you laugh. Watch funny videos on YouTube if you have too. Whatever you have to do in order to get laughing, do it! Laughing releases a relaxant that diminishes the stress throughout your entire body.
10 . Plan and write a to-do list if your mind is on overdrive.
When you feel overwhelmed with life get out a piece of paper, or as I like to use a sticky note, and write down everything you need to get done. Plan out big pieces of your day ahead of time so you feel prepared. For example, one day I found myself stressing out about needing to go to the grocery store after school and needing to get home and unloaded before 4:00, so we could leave for a dinner. After the dinner I knew I had x, y, z to do before company came the next day, and I was stressed not being able to just get them done and off my plate beforehand. The simple reality was that I did not have time to do them before. I was stressing about something I had no control over. I was stressed because these things were not already done, and I was afraid I would forget them. I took out a sticky note and wrote down all the things that needed to be done and carried it with me in my purse. I felt better knowing I had an action plan to get them done and a specific reminder of everything I had to do. Plans and To-do lists are the bomb!
11. Snuggle your baby or your pets, if you have them.
This is the BEST therapy. Hold tight to those sweet little people or animals that love you unconditionally no matter what. It is therapeutic to hold someone who holds you back without words. Let them love you through your worst times. I sometimes grab both my dogs and throw them in the bed with me and my daughter during nap time, and just soak up the feeling of having us all together.
12. Read blogs, articles, and magazines about anxiety.
Find something to read that makes you understand that what you are dealing with is something that others are dealing with too. Find something to read that makes you realize you are not alone. Unfortunately, not a lot of people openly discuss the good, bad, and ugly of anxiety, and it leaves you feeling like there is something terribly wrong with you, and that you are the only one dealing with it. It is very isolating, scary, and upsetting to feel like there is something wrong with you that others don’t have to deal with. Instead of feeling that you are fighting something alone in your life I find that reading a blog, article, or magazine about anxiety reminds me that I am not alone and SO many people are dealing with this. Not only does it make you feel more normal, but I usually learn a few tips and tricks to help me.
13. Read books to give your mind a break.
Give your mind a break by escaping into a good book. I love reading book series and getting caught up in the characters lives. Books are a way for me to escape my reality and have a break. I enjoy living vicariously through the characters in my books.
14. Be aware of your triggers.
I know I wrote an entire blog post on this, but it is so important I have to mention it here again. Be aware of what triggers your anxiety. Set yourself up to be able to manage your anxiety by preparing ahead of time when you know you will encounter an unavoidable trigger (like driving, public speaking, traveling etc.). Also, know the triggers that make your anxiety worse. For example, I know that not having a plan for my day stresses me out, so I try to have a general outline of my day ahead of time.
*Click here for my earlier post. https://www.anxious-but-fabulous.com/anxious-but-fabulous/five-things-you-can-do-to-manage-your-anxiety-before-it-hits-you-by-knowing-your-triggers-and-preparing-ahead-of-time
15. Eat healthy low sugar/low caffeine diets.
This is an easy one ladies and gentleman, sugar and caffeine are stimulants and make your anxiety worse. Watching my sugar and caffeine intake have been the difference of an anxiety free day and a day full of anxiety. Watch your caffeine and sugar intake people!
16. Get outside and soak up some vitamin D.
First off, let me say that it is scientifically proven that being outside in nature increases brain function. This is the easiest thing you can do, get your fanny outside. Take that walk outside for your break at work, step out on your porch and enjoy the sunshine, go for a walk, sunbathe. Do whatever you can to build in pockets of time outside. Side benefit is that Vitamin D is amazing for you too, and it is better absorbed from the sun itself.
17. Plan a dream trip.
I know this may sound silly, but I can have some serious fun with this one. Always wanted to go to Bora-Bora? Then google hotels, look-up excursions, check out plane tickets, etc. Plan the trip and let your mind stay busy with something positive and fun. Throw that trip and your findings into a bucket list journal.
18. Give yourself YOU time.
Make yourself take a break. What is that you enjoy doing by yourself? Do you like to read books, then read a book? Do you enjoy baths, then take a bath. Do you enjoy sitting in your PJ’s on a Saturday morning watching Friends re-runs, then do that. Build in at least 30 minutes every day that you get to do exactly what you want to do. Relax and relish in this pocket of time that is just for YOU.
19. Set goals so you can focus on something exciting.
Setting goals gives you something to focus on, keeps your going when you don’t feel like you can anymore, and keeps you stay excited about your futures. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation.
20. Go talk to a therapist or consider counseling.
If what you are doing is not working to manage your anxiety, get help! There is nothing wrong with this AT ALL. I remember when I would talk to my friends and family about my anxiety. I could see they didn’t understand it. It was so frustrating to feel so alone and misunderstood. Those who love me would tell me that I was normal, and that I would be okay. I remember thinking that of course they would say that, they love me and wouldn’t tell me I was totally going crazy. I needed to be validated by someone who did not know me and would be honest with me. I needed my therapist to tell me if what I was feeling was normal. I needed my therapist to tell me that I was going to be okay. Seek help if you need it!
I hope these tips help you, until next week my readers!
It is difficult when weeks are full of school, work, children, travel, sickness, and overall life,but I challenge you today to relax and find peace. Drink that cup of coffee slowly and in the peaceful morning time when you are alone, listen to the sweet feet and giggles as your house wakes up, take time to watch the sunrise or sunset, read that book you have wanted to read for so long, play on the floor with your children (laundry and cleaning can wait), explore somewhere new, make dinner together as a family...find someway to disconnect from your stresses of last week so you can recharge properly for this week coming up. Happy Sunday, everyone!
Anxiousness during hardship, and how anxiety makes hardships even more challenging. Sometimes it is okay to not be okay.
This past week was the most terrifying week of my entire life. This past week I was in a heightened state of stress and consumed with fear for my daughter, Eleanor. Eleanor “Elle” had pneumonia, a fever of 105 (with Tylenol and Motrin), was severely dehydrated (even after trying all day to hydrate her using water, juice, milk, sprite, popsicles, ice cubes, sippy cups, bottles, syringes…you name it we tried it), and she started to have a very hard time breathing. This week was so challenging to me emotionally, mentally, and even physically. I am the mommy to this sweet, precious, God given gift, and I couldn’t fix her and I felt out of control.
I remember dialing my phone calling the ER at 9:00 PM last Thursday night with panic in my heart that there was something very wrong with my baby. I had second guessed myself all day long with whether I needed to take her in to the hospital or not. Let me pause right here to say to all you parents out there…LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. I won’t ever second guess myself again. I will always ere on the side of caution when my gut says to take Elle to get help. I want to also say here that every single person will experience anxiety and stress in the sort of situation I found myself in, however, I do feel it is worse when it is someone already suffering from anxiety.
The whole day leading up to this terrifing call, I stressed because I didn’t have the answers in regards to what I was supposed to do. My mind went crazy with the worst possible scenarios while I tried to stay calm and find a solution to my baby’s problems. Did I need to take her in to the doctor? Did I need to take her back to the ER? I called her doctors office and they told me to watch her close, because she was borderline needing to go in for fluids and help. I asked myself a hundred different ways: How do you get a baby to drink fluids when she doesn't want too? How do you know what is wrong with her when she can’t tell you? How do you tell her you need her to try to take the medicine even though she doesn't want to? You can’t. You can't communicate these things, because she can’t understand you or talk back.
Thursday night around 8:55 PM I had just got off the phone with my husband who would be home in five minutes to help me take Elle in if we had too. Five minutes later I was no longer able to wait for Chris to get home before I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency that I needed to call the Emergency Room right then. Since we had taken Elle into the Emergency Room the day before, I hoped they could advise me on what I needed to do, and if they thought Elle needed to come back in.
When Chris walked in the house, I was already on the phone with a nurse from the day before who saw us in the Emergency Room. I explained to her that Elle was dehydrated and right at the bare minimum of wet diapers for the day, and I told her that she was refusing to drink anything even from a syringe. I went through the questions she asked letting her know that she still had a fever and diarrhea. I told her she was asleep in my arms, but the way she was breathing was worrisome, especially considering she had just had a breathing treatment. I told her I didn’t know if it was the pneumonia, or if it was something else. I asked her what she felt I should do.
As I spoke to the nurse I said, “I don’t want to over react, but my gut told me to call, and I just need to know what to do. Do you think I should bring her back in to you guys?” Instead of answering me, she told me to be quiet. Startled by her abruptness I stopped talking at once.
The nurse asked me, “Is that your daughter breathing in the background?”
I said, “Yes ma’am, it is.”
The nurse then told me something I was not expecting to hear.
The nurse said, “I don’t mean to panic you, but I can have an ambulance to your location and have her in the hospital in 40 minutes time, or you can get her here in that amount of time. I want you to stay calm and stay on the phone with me while you make the decision. What do you want to do?”
Stay calm, I thought to myself. In that moment I felt there was no way I could do that.
I found my voice and responded to the nurse, “What? Is she going to be okay? She is going to be okay, right? It’s that bad already? Please tell me she will be okay? I will be there in 40 minutes, please be ready for us.”
Every single part of my body and soul panicked. It was a God send that Chris was home, so I had someone to help share the responsibility of getting our baby to the hospital. At this point, we are both staring wide eyed at each other in complete shock and fear. I jumped out of bed and I threw on pants. I grabbed my old beat up glasses from high school, because they were the first thing my hands found to put on my face to help me see. I scooped Elle up and loaded us in the truck, and we are gone.
As we are driving down the road, I started shaking from head to toe and my teeth started chattering. I was in shock at the words the nurse had said. I was in shock that my baby was this sick. I was in shock that I was thrown into a life or death situation with my baby… my baby! I thought to myself, not my baby. God, please see us through this. You better keep her alive and healthy, she’s the most important thing I have in this entire world… she is my every thing. You can’t have given me someone this perfect to then take her away.
This was the longest 30 minute drive of my life, and I was beyond grateful to my husband who drove instead of me. In that moment, I worried if I would have been able to do it on my own. I know I would have, but it scared me thinking of my body’s physical reaction. I’m sure mommy mode would have kicked into high gear and we would have made it there if I had Elle on my own, but even now the anxiety of not knowing if I would have been able to do it on my own eats away at me. I need to be able to protect my baby no matter what, and that includes terrifying rides to the Emergency Room. I don’t like feeling that I was not in control enough to do my main job, which is being a mommy able to see my baby through anything.
I battled with myself the entire way to the hospital to stay calm for Elle’s sake. In that moment I was scared senseless and anxiety gripped me with visions of my worst nightmares. Anxiety often presents itself as what-if’s, and man did I have those that night. I tried to talk myself through the what-if’s as soon as they popped in my head.
No, she was not going to die. Yes, we will get her there in time. No, she will not stop breathing on our way there. Yes, she is going to overcome this. No, she will not be the tragic story of other parents. Yes, our God was going to see her healthy and healed soon. Back and forward my mind went as I shushed and talked to my baby who was practically limp in my arms.
I prayed and prayed on that drive. Lord, please keep these anxious negative thoughts from my mind, so that I can focus on getting my baby healthy. Lord take away all that is on my mind that I don’t need, so that I am free to be the best mom I can be. Please help me help her through this. Lord, please see Elle through this.
As we swung into the parking lot, I ran Elle inside the registration area. I waited not so patiently and got her signed in, and then we were whisked back to the nurse. The next four hours were extremely scary, frustrating, and emotional. They came in immediately to do another chest X-ray of Elle and found the pneumonia was now in both lungs, at which point the doctor told us we were being admitted and they would let us know if she would have to be flown out to a hospital with a Pediatric Unit. Respiratory Therapists came in and started doing breathing treatments on Elle, and there was a flow of nurses who tried desperately to get an IV in Elle, but with no success. At one point, the nurses told me that I needed to try to help calm Elle down as best as I could, because her heart-rate was in the 190’s due to stress and dehydration. My poor baby's heart.
Laying over Elle I sang every song I could think of, stroked her head, and tried to get her calmed down. I was terrified the entire time I sang. It took 3 hours for a nurse to tap a vein to get the fluids going that my baby desperately needed. Let me say here that I am not knocking any other doctors/nurses, because they all tried their hardest every step of the way. However, I can't begin to explain how frustrating it was waiting on something that I knew would make my baby feel better.
Once fluids got going they took us up to a room in ICU and we continued with breathing treatments, temperature checks, medicine, etc. All the while, I held my baby in my arms. I waited for the doctor to come in and tell us the game plan. I was overwhelmed with every scenario again. Would my baby really be okay? I was stressed out and snapping at my husband who was dealing with the stress of everything his own way. I prayed to be more understanding that he deals with things different than I do. I did now show my best side of myself to anyone but Elle and the medical staff throughout this time. It pains me looking back on how I reacted to Chris, but I was not okay and in that situation it was perfectly fine for me to NOT be okay.
Over the next day, we stayed in the ICU room not leaving our baby once, and finally her fever started breaking and the fluids started helping her. The breathing treatments were starting to help her too. The doctor came in and said she was still extremely sick, but that we could relax a little bit because they didn’t need to fly her out. Over the next two days that ICU room was our home and refuge for our sweet baby. When she had finally progressed past the point of needing to stay in the hospital I was terrified to take her home. What if she relapsed? What if something new developed? What if she got dehydrated again? What if, what if, what if? These are all normal fears for a parents, but they were extreme in my case and my anxiety did not help me.
Driving home I was thankful our sweet little girl got to come home, and I prayed and prayed that she would continue to improve and we would be clear of this forever. I set alarms every few hours to wake-up just to hear her breathing, and I worked hard to stay calm over the next few days. Every spike in fever stressed me out, every ragged breath I heard scared me, and every strange sound or mannerism was poured over. Eventually, I was able to calm myself down enough to feel we were through the worst of it.
In a lot of ways I reacted the way any parent would react, but in some ways my anxiety left my mind, body, and soul in an even more heightened state of stress. Thoughts are still plaguing me with the what-if’s of that night. I recognize this as my anxiety. I have had to consciously work through each worry, what-if, and stress. I have been praying, I have turned to others, I have read at night, and I have drank my calming teas (and wine). I face my fears head on and tell them they did not come to fruition, threfore, I will not worry anymore over them. I try, as I always do, to manage my anxiety. Anxiety is something that manifests in the worst of times, the best of times, and in the midst of the times. Anxiety does not exempt you based on what you are going through. It is something that one is ever 100% free of and that is okay. It is, however, something you can always work to manage and overcome.
Until next week readers,
Tomorrow is my daughters’ first birthday (sweetness), so I want to share a personal reflection of a time when I had to deal with anxiety in this first year of motherhood. One night shortly after I had our daughter, I was stricken with heart fluttering anxiety that left me shaking. I was not able to go to sleep, because I had just read an article about heart problems related to women after delivery. Terrified that I was now developing this problem, I didn’t want to close my eyes for fear that something would happen in the night, and I would no longer be with my new daughter and husband the next morning. Dramatic much? Yes, but that is also how I truly felt.
I was holding Eleanor in my arms, and as I watched her sleep, I fought for the control I needed to overcome the irrational anxiety I was feeling. I needed to sleep and relax my body, so that I could be the mother and wife I wanted to be. I did not want this perfect little human to feel any of my stress. I was exhausted after 30 hours of labor and a complicated C-section, and I was pooped trying to exclusively breast feed my baby who was eating around the clock like they do in those first few days.
I confided in my husband and asked him to help me somehow. I needed to not think about the heart problem, I needed to relax enough to go to sleep, and I needed to be able to stop the overwhelming feeling of fear I had as I laid in bed. I asked him to hold me, to talk me through it, to distract me, etc. Instead, he got frustrated that I wouldn’t go to sleep. Chris told me to just turn my brain off and that I was so sleep deprived that I was having anxiety and stress related to that. “Just close your eyes and you’ll be fine”, he said. Chris was dismissive of my fears and worries that night, and in that moment made me feel like there was something wrong with me, because I couldn’t turn off the thoughts and go to sleep.
That said, I laid there that night allowing myself to get more and more worked up and I wrote to him what I was feeling. I did this not so he would feel bad the next morning, but so that he would maybe understand me better and what I needed.
A quick goodnight kiss and a mumbled love you, is that all I get tonight? You did not have time to hold me, to tell me it was going to be okay, or to distract me with one of your jokes? I just needed you to make me feel safe. I just needed 5 minutes of you time. You knew I was having a really hard time tonight, and I needed you. I can’t do this on my own when I am dealing with anxiety like this. I got nothing from you, and you are the person I view as my protector. I have told you countless times over the years how sorry I am that you have to live with my anxiety. I know it effects you as much as it does me.
As hurt as I am that you won’t even comfort me, more than anything I am overwhelmed with shame that this is all in my head; and that there’s something wrong with me that makes you judge me as less than the woman I am. I am broken that I annoy you when I get like this, and there is nothing I can do right now that I am not already doing to get over these feelings. I have spent the last hour crying in an attempt to let it all out, calm down, and win a battle against my worry. I have read scripture and I have been praying.
I know you think that I can control my fear and anxiety since I do most days, but sometimes I can’t do it on my own. I can’t just feel and say “it will be fine” to the worry and fear. In this moment, right now laying next to you, I feel that this fear is valid and it is real. In this moment, it consumes me.
It breaks my heart that the person I count on the most is not able or willing to come love me through this right now. I know that is a lot of pressure to put on you, but you are always my rock and tonight I needed you. I feel let down, and at the same time I feel horrible that I expect this much from you. I feel guilt that I look less than I should in your eyes because of this horrible thing I live with. I am so sad that I am angry at you for making me feel alone and unsupported tonight, when I am scared and hurting. I am mad at myself that this anxiety is making me feel less towards you than I should tonight. I hate that anxiety is affecting us.
I know in the morning I will regret sending this to you, because in some ways I know this will make you feel bad. I hope you know that you will never be viewed as any less of my hero, and that I will never doubt your love for me. I just want you to be able, for just one moment, to understand how I feel and know what I need. Next time, I need you to love me through this and not just ignore it. It will not just go away because it has been swept under a rug.
I will be working on myself and trying hard to be a better wife for you and mother to Eleanor. I know my anxiety has been much better these past few years. I’m afraid though that every now and then I may still have to deal with the intensity of my anxiety, and next time I want you to understand how it feels.
All my love forever and always.
Your imperfectly perfect wife,
Now let me say that Chris is ALWAYS my number one support and has seen me through the worst of times with a smile on his face and nothing but pure love/care for me in his heart; but that night he was exhausted himself and he was spent after helping care for a five day old baby girl. Chris could not be there for me, because he needed to sleep and rest. Looking back, I understand that he was not in a position to help me when he had nothing left to give. The next morning, Chris hung his head and apologized profusely and I held my head in shame that I had made him feel that bad. Chris has since then ALWAYS made it a point to not dismiss me, and he told me he did not not know how he made me feel when he dismissed my feelings until this note.
I am sure I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings, which is why today, I wanted to share a very personal aspect of my anxiety.
Until next week,
Medicine and Anxiety. The difficult decision I made to initially seek medication to help me combat my anxiety.
Blog Preface: I have not been on medicine in four years for my anxiety. I am fortunate to have learned to manage my anxiety extremely well without the need of medicine. However, that was not always the case. I do want to say that I encourage medicine only as a last resort... BUT if you need help get it people. At the onset of my anxiety, I had tried every homeopathic treatment I could find, taken every supplement and relaxing tea, attempted every exercise and breathing routine, modified my diet, etc. and nothing helped me...it was time for me to pick up that phone and seek help. I needed help with getting my happiness and life back.
There is nothing shameful with needing that little bit of help, and certainly nothing wrong with taking medicine if it gives you your life back. My first year living with complete overwhelming anxiety, I chose to take medicine in order to stabilize myself. Once the medicine began to really help, I used that time on medicine to teach myself ways to manage my anxiety. I used the medicine to give me the time I needed to have a game plan for when I felt I could wean myself from medicine and manage my anxiety independently. I would not have been able to learn these strategies otherwise, because I was not mentally able to plan and think ahead since it was a daily struggle to just survive.
At the onset of my anxiety, I was unable to be the person I not only needed to be, but wanted to be. I was overwhelmed with everything to the point that even small things would send me into stress mode. I was scared to drive, I was scared to be by myself, I didn't want to be left alone at my condo or Chris's house anymore, and I was terrified that my body and mind would betray me at any given moment. I was having panic attack after panic attack, I was becoming paranoid about all the dangers in the world, and I was not able to turn off the worry and overwhelming thoughts that had taken root in my mind. I remember feeling like a child again...unable to take care of myself and scared of what I didn't know.
I looked up and tried many a number of things to try to calm myself down and relieve stress over the course of those first two months of extreme anxiety. While some things helped a little bit, none actually made the difference that I needed them to make. This is more than likely due to the extent of my anxiety at that time. I will share with you all what I tried in the early days of my anxiety. These tips and products are things I still use to help me manage my anxiety today and I highly recommend them.
⦁ I was always an avid runner, so I made sure to exercise everyday. Keeping myself in motion takes some of the tension away from my body.
⦁ I tried meditation,massages, and yoga classes, but I could never relax enough to reap the benefits of any of them, as I was always too worried about needing to relax while trying them. How could I meditate and clear my mind when my mind was a continual circle of worry, fear, and scary thoughts?
⦁ I looked up vitamins that could help. I remember using Nature's Way B-Stress Formula in the morning and then taking melatonin at night. I think these two actually did help me relax and I recommend them. However, at the time I was so worried about anything else effecting my body and leaving me not in control, that I stopped taking them a few weeks into trying them. Chris said that those did seem to relax me marginally, and on the nights I took melatonin I did fall asleep easier.
⦁ I drank decaffeinated green tea and several Yogi Tea's. These teas are teas that I still drink almost every day. I have a good friend that swears by chamomile, but I am allergic to chamomile so I can't personally recommend that one, but I have heard it works really well.
I remember very clearly the day that I decided that none of the above things were going to help me the way I needed to be helped. I decided that I would need to seek professional help. I remember feeling ashamed and embarrassed that I could not overcome my anxiety by myself. I had made the decision to call the doctors' office on a Monday morning after having spent the weekend alone at my condo while Chris was working night shift. That weekend, I had not sleep more than a few hours. I had stayed in a heightened anxious state and felt like my body was in survival mode. Chris was at a loss as to what he could do to help me relax, sleep, and not be so scared to be by myself. It was hard on him to not be able to be there for me, and it was hard for me to feel like a burden. I knew he felt he needed to be with me constantly to protect me and make sure I was okay.
Monday morning I did a quick search on Google to find a local family doctor in the area, and before I lost my nerve I called. I remember rambling with the receptionist about why I needed an appointment. I tried telling her I just wanted to have a physical to make sure I was in good health, because I was too embarrassed to admit to a total stranger the real reason I needed an appointment. I remember her telling me that there were no appointments available for a new patient unless I was sick. I remember starting to cry on the phone out of embarrassment, and finally told her I thought I was having anxiety attacks and that I was scared all the time. I told her that I just needed to see a doctor to see if they could help me get back to normal.
That poor receptionist is all I can say, she sure got an ear full that day and way more than she was being paid to handle. The receptionist told me that it was going to be okay, and asked if I could make it to their office by 10:30 the next morning. I told her that I could and then set about my day already feeling better that someone was going to be able to fix me the next day. Little did I know that you don't just get "fixed" upon talking to a doctor like I had hoped. Triumphing over my anxiety was going to be a journey, and not a pleasant one.
The next morning I went to work and slipped off for a "sales meeting" at 10:00am. I was too embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I was going to the doctor for something related to a mental illness. At that time, I had never heard anything positive about people who suffer from mental illness. I battled with myself over the shame I felt with going to the doctor. I shakily got into my car and drove what was now the scary ten minute route to the doctors' office. I remember sitting in the office parking lot trying to talk myself into walking in the doors. I told myself that no one was going to judge me for being there, and no one except the doctors knew why I was there. Chris had offered to come with me, but I told him no. I didn't want him to have any other reason to view me as weaker than I knew I already was at the time. In my heart, I knew he wouldn't have loved me any different. However, at the time I wanted to shield him from the worst of me when I could.
I pushed open the office doors, averted eyes, didn't say good morning to anyone, walked to the front and wrote down my name, and sat down away from everyone. These aversions are all things that are highly uncharacteristic of the woman I used to be and now am again. I know this sounds egotistical, but I felt like everyone was staring at me. I felt like I had a huge sticker on my forehead that said, "Looking to judge a mentally ill person suffering from anxiety? She's right here."
Looking back, I don't think anyone was looking at me any different than they would a stranger that shared the same waiting room, but at the time I started sweating and my heart started to thump loudly in my ears. I was utterly convinced that every single person in there knew why I was there, and were silently judging me. Time ticked past 10:30 and I was thinking of just getting up and leaving when a nurse at the door called me back.
I went through the standards: weight 145, blood pressure 110/65, height 5'3, etc. and then I was seen to my room and left to wait some more. When the doctor finally came in she introduced herself to me and asked preliminary questions. Finally, she asked what had brought me in to see her. I told her what had been happening: I was scared to drive because I was having panic attacks, I did not want to be alone anywhere anymore, I was having difficulty breathing and catching my breath, sometimes I thought I was unable to swallow and had to have a bottle of water with me everywhere we went, I was scared to fall asleep at night because I was scared I wouldn't wake up, and I told her about the events going on in my life.
The doctor asked what I had tried, and I told her all the tips/products that I had used to try to help, and she took notes. The doctor asked if anything traumatic had happened recently. I told her no, I was just dealing with a lot of change at once.
The doctor asked me if I would trust her to help me and I answered her honestly that I wanted too, but that I didn't know if I could or not. You see part of my anxiety was always second guessing myself and my decisions, and oftentimes over analyzing everything. I liked to be in control of myself, and giving that control over to anyone made me feel scared. Also, I did not go to doctors often, so being asked to trust a doctor I had just met was hard for me to try to do.
The doctor told me just short term, until my life settled down, that she wanted me to be put on Lexapro in order to help my anxiety. I remember feeling equal parts relieved and upset. I was relieved that there may be something that could help me, and upset that after talking to me for ten minutes she already thought I needed medicine. The doctor then told me that she also wanted me to have Zynaex on hand too if a panic attack hit me while I was alone. These medicines, she assured me, would help me get my life on track.
I didn't want to need to take anything to manage my anxiety, but she told me that since I had tried so many different strategies that I was at the point that I needed medicine at least short term. I was terrified of the side effects that the medicine could have: mood swings, dizziness, nausea, suicidal thoughts, etc., but after talking with her I felt that I needed to try the medicine to see if it would help. I asked a million and one questions and more than likely drove her crazy with what-if scenarios, but I decided to trust her.
I went to the pharmacy and filled my prescriptions, and I had a panic attack on the way home worrying over if the medicine would help or make things worse. I was terrified to take anything that could alter my mood or my mind. Questions ran through my mind all the way home. What if it didn't help and I instead developed side effects worse than my anxiety? What if it did help, and then I could never go off of it?
When I made it home, I talked to Chris and told him my fears and doubts about being put on medicine. I also confided in him that I was equally hopeful this would help me get my life back. Chris told me to listen to my gut and reminded me that a doctor would not have prescribed me something that she didn't think I medically needed. Let me add here that Chris would have supported WHATEVER decision I made, however, instead of telling me what to do he was adamant that the decision had to be mine.
That night I remember crying as I readied myself to take my first Lexapro pill. I was so scared to take this medicine....the medicine itself was anxiety inducing. Why was I so terrified of taking a pill that could make me better? Gezzz, get it together, Ginger! I swallowed that first pill like it was vinegar, and I told Chris thirty minutes after swallowing that first pill that I thought I was allergic to the medicine. I told him it was already making my stomach hurt, I was nauseous, and I was dizzy.
My heart was pounding in my ears and I was having a hard time breathing. I attributed this all to the medicine, when in reality it was my anxiety. I was allowing fear to make me become a hypochondriac. I was now allowing the side effects to become real things by mentally telling myself they were happening. I knew somewhere deep down in the rational part of my brain that thirty minutes after taking the medicine it was not going to affect me that way. The doctor told me the medicine needed a week or two to build up in my system, and that I was not likely to notice any changes until a few days into taking it. However, the rational side of me was not present.
I didn't sleep that first night after I took the medicine except for when Chris held me and rubbed my back, and even then it was a fitful night sleep. Chris was so strong for me when I felt so weak. I was so glad to have him by my side helping me through my nightmare, but I also felt guilty that this all landed on his shoulders.
The next morning at work I was pacing by 7:30 AM waiting for the doctors office to open. I was in full fledged freak out mode that this medicine was causing me major side effects already, and I needed the doctor to validate that I was going to be okay. Mind you, I also had not slept which does a lot to your mind too. At 8:00 I had called the office and left a message. By 8:15 I had called again and had persistently asked for the doctor. The doctor finally called me back at 8:30 at which point I burst into tears telling her I was experiencing half of the side effects already.
The doctor told me that the medicine had not had a chance to build up in my system yet, so what I was experiencing was self inflicted symptoms. Yeah right; this HAD to be the medicine because it could not my fault again. I stopped taking the medicine the next day as I was too scared to take it. I was too scared that it was going to effect me some terrible way. I was too scared that it was going to make me feel out of control. I had finally decided to call my parents and tell them what was going on and get their help. Even though I felt I needed to be there for my family, I finally realized that I needed to let them be there for me too.
My mom was battling her cancer and working at the time and could not get off, but my dad decided to drive up the next day. Relief flooded through me and I felt myself hope. I had hope in the fact my dad was going to help me get through this. Dad told me we were going to go to the doctor together, and that I was going to be okay. I felt like I was relying on others to see me through the worst of my life when I should have fought my way through it myself. I was a grown woman...I should have been able to do that for myself.
Looking back, I was being taught a lesson during that time in my life. I was not made to handle life by myself. It was okay for Chris to be my support and my rock... it was okay for my dad to come down and protect me like I was a child again because I always would be his child... it was be okay to let others give me a life line.
My dad did drive down that next morning, and I did start taking the medicine again. My dad stayed with me for a week, so I was not alone while Chris was on nightshift and not alone starting my medicine again. It took me a few weeks, but the medicine started to make a difference. In those first few weeks, I was able to keep my head above water for the first time in a long time. I was able to sleep better, I drove short distances without being white knuckled and scared, and I was not as agitated/worked-up all the time. I knew I did not want to be on medicine long term, but I needed to be able to function before I could try to figure out how to manage my anxiety on my own. Medicine in the short term was something I needed, and long term I am blessed to have figured out ways to manage my anxiety so that I no longer need it.
Until next week my readers,
What do you do when anxiety, fear, and worry leave you nothing but scared of the world around you? You FIGHT. I was DETERMINED that anxiety was NOT going to rule my life forever.
My first anxiety attack that I had my car back in 2014, combined with my obliviousness to the symptoms of the daily anxiety I was living with, together left me living in a state of denial and constant stress. It was not healthy. It did not help that I was too proud for my own good and did not want to admit to anyone, let alone myself, that there was anything wrong with me. I did not want to admit that my mind betrayed me and even worse; that my mind had the ability to affect my body.
As I dealt with the increase of my anxiety, I was so ashamed of myself for what I viewed as a blaring weakness. Before anxiety took hold in my life, I remembered the times that friends had came to me after having experienced panic attacks and anxiety. My friends wanted someone to talk to and I was glad to be there. I didn’t understand it one bit, but as their friend I wanted to help them through whatever life threw their way. I didn’t know what to say to them to help. I didn’t have a clue what I could actually do, which was so frustrating. I am ashamed to put this into words…. but as one of my best friends was talking to me about her anxiety attacks, I was inwardly thinking that she was weak and just needed to get over it. I remember thinking to myself that she just needed to not worry. How hard could it be to just stop worrying? Stop obsessing over something that had not happened yet? Couldn’t she just move on, not think about it, and get over it?
I feel so wretched to know I thought these things. My own thoughts that I had towards my own friends’ anxiety was part of the reason I didn’t want to admit what was happening to me. I had found myself in exactly their shoes and I didn’t want someone thinking those things about me. At that time, I cared what people thought more than I cared about the changes that were taking place inside my mind. I remember telling my friend to just get over it…man is that the wrong thing to say now that I have anxiety.
Anxiety is not something you can just get over, because someone tells you too. In fact, someone telling you to just get over your anxiety feels like they are dismissing how hard it is to overcome what you are feeling. It is something you WISH you could “just get over”. I don’t know how many times I said to others that if I could JUST get over it, I would. If I could JUST stop worrying I would. If I could JUST turn the thoughts plaguing me off, I would. I just didn’t know how to get over it. I didn’t know how to stop worrying. I didn’t know how to manage the constant stream of thoughts that kept me scared and anxious all the time. In the beginning I didn’t even know where to start. Anxiety is something you must work hard towards every minute of everyday in order to be free of it, and it was certainly not just something you "just got over."
The month following my first anxiety attack was hard. Every time that I drove the path to Chris’s house I passed by the place, on the interstate, that I had my first anxiety attack. Over that month, I noticed that every time I got in the car to make that trip, I would worry if it would happen again. What if my legs started going numb and my heart started racing again? What if this time I actually lost my vision or passed out on my drive? What if I couldn’t get over because traffic was too dense? What if something happened to me and I died in a car crash?
I had done this drive so many times before it was hard to count, yet, now that my anxiety was taking root in my life, it was terrifying. The thoughts were scary and made even a simple drive to see the love of my life terrifying. What could I do, though, except to do it anyway? I learned to do a lot of things in fear when I didn’t think I could do them. Everyone’s anxiety manifests in different ways and I was fixing to find out that my anxiety for the next year was going to affect driving the most. In fact, this is still the one area my anxiety can occasionally still present itself (thankfully not short trips, but I really have to really psyche myself up to make longer trips by myself).
Back then, I spent a lot of my time driving. I had to drive to and from work, I had to drive for work, and I had to drive to see Chris. Driving became scary to me, not just because of the dangers on the road, but because this was when I was alone. When I was alone and in my car was when my first attack happened. This was when my mind was allowed to have full control without the distraction of others to keep my thoughts away from worry. I used to love having my alone time; I actually relished in it. When did I become so scared to be by myself? When did I doubt my ability to do something? Why wasn’t I just able to get over this? Gosh it was as frustrating as it was scary.
Aside from the fear I was facing simply being by myself, it didn’t help that Chris’s job in Law Enforcement often gave me details that fueled my anxiety with driving. It wasn’t his fault. Just like everyone does with their significant others, he would ask me how my day was and I would tell him; and then I would do the same with him. Everyday I asked him how his day was, and everyday he would say it was good. Chris would sometimes tell me about wrecks that had happened, deaths, or dangers out in the world that I didn’t already know. I found myself getting overwhelmed with negative things, scary possibilities I had not considered, and new dangers. I wanted to be there for him and listen to him like he listened to me, but it was filling my mind with images and details that fueled my fears, particularly of driving.
I did not tell him this until months later when I had a full on break down at which point he stopped telling me details of his work for my own good, which he still does to this day. It’s not that I don’t support his job, but I can’t hear or deal with some of the things he encounters. I am not him and he is not me, we were each uniquely made to handle certain things; and I was definitely not made to handle what he encounters in his job.
I slowly started to dread work as well. Since I was a Sales and Marketing Director I had a lot of meetings each day. I used to love getting to drive downtown and meet at the offices of my clients. It had been exciting to me. However, I started dreading driving to my clients. I didn’t want to be alone in my car, and I was constantly scared driving would bring on a panic attack. I was also dealing with new fears. How did I not see all the danger on the roads before? Instead of trying to deal with my fears head on, I instead started to find ways to avoid them. I started making my meetings and appointments at my company office and tried to minimize driving as much as was possible.
I was committed to not let this affect my job, so when I did have to drive, I found that if I could just talk to someone on the phone I could get through the drive easier. I had a sequence of people I tried calling first: mom, dad, sister, Chris, and then if none of them answered, I would call a college girlfriend that I hadn’t talked to in a while. I was clever in keeping my true intentions from them all as to why I was calling so much more often. I told them I was just checking in, I was missing them, I just wanted to see how their day was, and that I had read a text from them earlier and decided to call them back instead.
Talking to them was a way for me to try to keep my mind distracted and get me to my destination. Instead of confiding in them, I didn’t want them to know what was happening to me. They were six hours away from me, which meant that I could keep up the front that I was just as put together as I always had been. I didn’t want my family to know that I was changing, because I didn’t like who I was becoming. It was a daily battle every day to get from one place to the next place. It was starting to be a scary place out there…
Now on top of my already stressful job, my moms’ sickness, and planning my wedding from six hours away, I was looking for a new job for when Chris and I got married. Since Chris was assigned a County to work, I knew that the transition would be easier for me to just get a job out his way and move where he already lived. I still had five months until the wedding and I figured it would take every bit of that time to find a new job and get settled in.
I was wrong. One month after applying and interviewing with a company, I was offered a job and I was asked to start in three weeks. I mentally tried to go through my checklist of what would need to be done. I had to put in my two weeks notice, move out of my apartment and move in with Chris (no judgement), go to training in Texas (I was having a hard time driving at this point people….the idea of having to fly out there made me stiff with fear), and I had to find a way to start a new job with confidence.
Yes, I was thankful and knew I was blessed to have found a new job, especially as quickly as I did. No, I was not ready for anymore change at that moment. I remember trying to talk myself through this new change that was coming my way. I told myself that I had flown many times and love to travel. I remember thinking that for goodness sake Ginger, you have studied abroad by yourself many times and traveled all over the United States and the world get it together. What made me so scared this time? Why was I so worried about something that used to fuel my excitement?
I put a smile on my face and tried to think of the excitement and positive things that were going to come out of this. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking I would have loved to have more time at my old job and condo, I really loved the job I had and enjoyed the area I lived in. I worried that this new job might not be a good. That’s always the gamble though, right? I told myself to put my big girl pants on and get over the fears I was paralyzed by, it would be fine.
Unknowns and what-if’s plagued at my mind for the next week to the point that I wasn’t sleeping much. My daily runs were not helping me keep stress at bay, and I now began to stress over getting everything done. I was still terrified to drive anywhere and started to actively decline when people asked me to meet them somewhere. Driving to Chris now took a lot out of me. I would get into the slow lane of the interstate, drive 50 Mph in a 70 Mph zone, and by the time I made it to his house my mind was exhausted after having run through every fearful scenario that could have happened on my hour drive. I would literally be shaking by the time I got there.
I would lay awake at night going over everything from the most minuscule things I needed to do to the most important big picture things that needed to be done. I was obsessing over things that had not yet happened and playing out scenarios in my head at least three different ways. I wasted my days and nights going over things that most of the time never came to fruition. I was also dealing with extreme anger with myself. I did not want to be the person that was so scared and anxious, but there did not seem to be a thing I could do to NOT be that person.
The world was now a scary place to me. I never will forget the feeling of disappointment and shame that came with admitting that I was scared everywhere I went, especially when I used to be fearless. I was now seeing everything as a danger, not just when I was driving. I was having panic attack after panic attack. I started having them at my condo and at Chris’s house when he was working and I was there alone. I was terrified someone would break in. I would go through what I would do if that actually happened, and get so worked up that I was a mess. Granted Chris did not live in a safe area, but still the extent of my fears and worries were irrational. I was living, yes, but not really living a life that was fulfilling and happy. I felt that I was in a constant state of trying to survive. Every minute was a battle for me… would my mind win or would I?
I decided then that I refused to live that way. I refused to live like that for myself and I refused to rob Chris of the woman that he asked to marry him. I was not going to rob myself of the life that I planned for myself that was full of love, happiness, adventure, and travel. I was not going to rob my mom and family of me when they needed me to be there for them. I was going to have to get some sort of help. I had to do this for me, for my future husband, and for the future I envisioned for myself. I was beginning to feel broken and scared but I was DETERMINED to see beauty and hope in the world again. I couldn't rely on Chris to be the only thing to pull me through as he was as helpless as I had been with my friends who suffered from anxiety. Chris was always there for me, but didn't know what to do to actually help. I didn't know how to get better on my own, so I knew I needed someones' medical help. Anxiety was NOT going to rule my life forever. It was devastating to me to admit that I needed to seek help and it was also humiliating and humbling.
Stay tuned for next weeks blog….I will be diving right in to doctors, therapies, medicine, and the overwhelming fear that maybe nothing was going to work.
Until then my readers,
Five things you can do to manage your anxiety before it hits you by knowing your triggers and preparing ahead of time.
Throughout my journey I have learned that a key to managing my anxiety is knowing what things and events trigger my anxiety. Knowing what will bring about my anxiety helps me to face it directly and feel somewhat in control. Why would I want to control my anxiety and what good would it do? I remember talking to my doctor about the very same thing. He explained it this way, " If you are faced one-on-one with an aggressive dog that has a history of biting people, what do you do? Do you run away and fear that it is chasing you and will catch up? Do you fear that it is going to bite you in the side, back, leg, arm, etc. while you're running away, or do you face it directly and control if and when it bites and minimize the damage?" When my doctor put it this way it was an easy answer. I would rather have some control and face it straight on than live scared and wondering when it may strike me and how bad it would be. This is true for anxiety. How do I prepare myself once I know that something has a high chance of making me anxious so that my anxiety is manageable?
I cut back on my caffeine Friday so that I was not stimulated any more than I had to be to make it through my day. This is a HUGE thing that works well for me. Watch your caffeine people…this has sometimes been the difference of low grade anxiety or high grade anxiety for me. Rarely have I had a regular cup of coffee now in almost 2 years. I drink only decaf most of the time. No, it may not do much for me in ways of kick starting my day but it allows me to still enjoy the practice of starting my day off in the morning the way I always had. Decaf coffee allows me to enjoy the peaceful moment that a cup of coffee brings me in the afternoon. Think about it this way, caffeine can make you feel jittery and anxious even without the added worry and stress that someone already has when suffering from daily anxiety. Adding any caffeine to your body will only make it worse and can sometimes lead you to having a full on anxiety attack. For those that will be making the switch from regular to decaf coffee... Folders Decaf Coffee is my favorite.
I made sure that I went on a walk and did stretching to calm my body down as much as I could. Most of the time I would recommend a more vigorous exercise to manage and reduce anxiety like going for a run, doing yoga, or hitting up the gym for at least 30 minutes. However, I am still healing from complications from my cesarean delivery of my baby girl almost a year ago (more about that at a later time). In addition to walking and stretching, I started to do my deep breathing technique to calm myself prior to posting my blog. I took one breath in through my nose (usually 5 seconds) and then out through my mouth very slowly (usually 10 seconds). I did this several times throughout the day. Since anxiety is physical as much as it mental, doing breathing therapy is a way to make your body relax even if your mind can't.
I worked hard on getting myself excited about this blog and what it could do for myself and others. I could not allow myself to relish in self-doubt, what if’s, and fear. This was going to be a positive addition to my life. I psyched myself up. Again, your mind is powerful! Yes, I was scared about the reception I was going to get, but no it did not mean that this would not be GREAT for both myself and my readers.
I worried that I wouldn't have anyone read my blog. Would it even matter if I didn’t have a lot of readers? I told myself that the answer to that was no. Even if all my blog did was reach just one person, that in and of itself was enough reason to post my blog. I talked to a few people whose opinions I value and I told them about my blog idea. They LOVED it and I allowed their love and excitement to boost my own. Turning to those who love me and will honestly support me is another thing I do to help myself through my anxiety. All I had to do was allow their confidence and love to flow through me.... this is a BIG one people... reach out to others and allow them to help you through your worries and fears. Allowing others to help you, anxious or not, is just as important as helping others. I have found that if I lack something in myself that I can turn to others and allow them to help me find the strength I need for myself.
By the end of Friday, I was no longer having to WORK to be excited…. I was genuinely excited. My anxious flutters were now excited flutters. Even with my newfound excitement and preparedness, immediately after I posted my first blog, I worried about my decision. I was plagued with doubt and worry. I found myself going through the same questions I had gone through a million times before making my decision to go through with my blog. Was it worth sharing my stories and experiences with all you readers when I knew that I could easily be judged as equally as I could be supported? What if people that know me saw me as less than they did before? What if people that have never met me look down on me when we do cross paths in the future?
How did I find peace in the midst of such thoughts?
As I have done countless times with my anxiety, I found myself praying. On my drive home, I prayed to have peace with my decision to share such a personal journey. It was already done and I needed to be okay with the decision I had already thought long and hard about. While praying I knew that this was WORTH it and it was IMPORTANT.
Prayer gave me peace on Friday. Praying to have peace and telling God my worries is the single most important thing that I do from my top five list of ways to head off anxiety through preparation. I simply take my fears, worries, and stresses to God and ask him to tell me if I am doing what he wants me to do. I pray for him to give me peace. If I get an overwhelming sense of peace when I go to him then I take that to mean that yes, I am doing what he wants me to do. On Friday’s drive I got my answer. God wanted to use me and he approved of what I was doing. I know not everyone is religious, but finding closeness in God has been a huge factor in bringing me to the other side of my anxiety.
Through prayer on Friday afternoon, I found myself confident and sure of my decision again. I was reminded that I am not here writing my story for the people who are going to read this and think less of me. I am here for the people that will read this and know that they are not alone. I am here for others who are impacted by anxiety, whether it be themselves or someone in their lives. I am here for people to know their thoughts have been the thoughts of others, and that they can and will get through this. I am here to share what has helped me. I am here for people to be validated that they are going to be okay....they are not crazy. I am here because I have the strength to write openly about something not commonly talked about. I am here to do something good with the most challenging, scary, and fearful aspect in my life.
However, I have not always turned to God throughout this journey. In fact, in the beginning I didn’t want to lean on him at all. I didn’t think I needed him to help me through this phase of my life. How horrible is that to admit? In my mind, God had never thrown something at me that I couldn’t handle. God had made me self reliant, so then why would he then make me dependent? Inwardly I was so angry. I was angry that he had allowed me to turn into someone I hardly recognized. Where was the woman I used to be? How could he have let my mind and body betray me? What about the future that I had planned out so carefully for myself?
When my anxiety first started to manifest I was no longer the free spirited, driven, confident, fearless woman that I knew. How could a God that loved me so much allow me to fall into being anxious, fearful, and worried all the time? It had to be his fault; HE had failed ME. I was mad because God had allowed me to turn into someone I really didn't like. God had allowed me to become WEAK, which was a characteristic that at the time I despised in others. I am ashamed to admit that now. I didn’t know it at the time, but now that I look back God used this challenging time to make me an improved version of myself. In the years I struggled to keep my head above water, I learned a lot. I was stronger than I thought I could be and I certainly wasn't weak. I learned to overcome my fears. I understood others better and I was a more compassionate person because of what I had gone through. God taught me to overcome anxiety and he used my experiences to show me how strong I was.
It was not always as easy as praying, breathing, exercising, and talking myself through my anxiety. I did not always know that turning my anxiety into positivity and excitement would help me stay focused on the good instead of the bad. I did not always know that thankfulness over even the smallest things would add the right perspective to help me counter my anxiety. I did not always know that facing and not running from my fears would be better in the long run. These were a few of the things I learned as I desperately searched out ways to help me through the worst of my anxiety.
Do you have tips and tricks to head anxiety off before it even starts? Is so, I would love to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment here or on my Anxious but Fabulous Blog Facebook page www.facebook.com/anxiousbutfabulous/.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ blog on what to do you do when anxiety, fear, and worry leave you nothing but scared of the world around you. Next weeks' blog will be a difficult one for me to write, but I look forward to continuing to help others and connect with all you out there.
Until then all you awesome readers, thank you for reading and for your support!
What is it like finding out you are living with anxiety? My first anxiety attack happened out of nowhere.
Let me preface this post by saying that it has taken a lot for me to overcome my fears and manage my anxiety to the point that I am at now. I have been humbled, I have been brought down to my lowest point, I have been scared…..I have also been strong, resilient, and proud of myself and who I am now that I have seen myself through the worst of my anxiety.
It has taken me until these past few years to be able to now look back and feel thankful for the hardest time in my life and know I am better for having gone through it. It has also taken me these last few years to be thankful that I had the chance to learn so much about myself and overcome something that was truly the most challenging thing I have faced thus far in my life.
I remember the first time I realized that there was something wrong with me and I couldn’t control what was happening to my body. It was 2014 and I was driving one morning the hour long trip from my then fiancée, but now my husbands’ house. I did this a lot since getting to see him mid-week was great, when I could manage it, since we lived an hour away from each other. I would often stay the night during the week to have every extra moment I could with him even if it meant leaving at the crack of dawn to get home for work the next morning.
It was 5:15 AM in the morning and I was making my typical drive up I-95 from Rocky Mount, North Carolina to Cary, North Carolina. I remember thinking about our wedding coming up in 5 months and everything there was to do. I was going through a mental check list of things to be done and things that had already been done. I remember going through my checklist for my work day (at the time I was a Marketing and Sales Director of a Hotel company in Cary- a high stress but high reward job).
I remember thinking about how crappy (man is that an understatement) it was being 6 hours away from my parents, specifically my mom, who had just been diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. I had a lot on my mind and on my plate, but at the time I had never not been able to handle everything life threw at me gracefully; so I just kept going through my thoughts not paying any mind to them. I was a tad overconfident and proud of the fact that I could always handle anything thrown my way, and in fact this was something I treasured about my personality, that I could handle what others’ struggled with.
I was halfway through the drive when my heart started racing, my ears started ringing, my legs went numb, and I felt like I could pass out. Terrified I called Chris, my then fiancée and now husband, and told him that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I told him I felt like I could be having a heart attack. Not just a figure of speech people…I legitimately thought I was having an actual heart attack. I was shaking and terrified and didn’t know what was happening, let alone what to do. I told him I needed him to help me someway. I was alone and afraid. I had never had problems before with anxiety, or more accurately, I had never noticed that my intense, passionate, high strung, high achieving, worrisome, analytical, fearless, perfectionist personality had a tendency for anxiety all my life. I had never noticed it as anxiety before since it had never dramatically effected my life until this moment.
Chris is my polar opposite. He is calm, stable, and peaceful for every part of me that is over-excited, passionate, and intense. Chris told me that I was probably just having a caffeine high and it had more than likely just effected me differently since I was more sleep deprived. Chris said that it was also early, and I hadn’t eaten anything. Although I had only had a half cup of coffee that morning, I was eager to accept his excuse and tried to calm myself down. I remember thinking that had to be what was going on, right?
I sat in my car for 15 minutes on the side of the road under an exit sign and listened to my heart pound in my ears. I googled my symptoms, which only made me think there was something horrible wrong with me. I then called my mom and dad, waking both of them up, and explained what had happened. I quickly offered Chris’s excuse about it being low food intake and caffeine, and my dad told me that was more than likely right and for me to just head on home and that I would be okay.
I got into the slow lane and trudged my way the last 30 minutes to my condo. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right and that I had somehow lost control of my body. At the time, I didn’t think it could possibly be anxiety (the thought never crossed my mind). I thought maybe my sugar had dropped and/or I was having a physical health problem…never that there was a weakness of my mind. That didn’t happen to 23 year old successful, independent women, who had their crap together.
I got home a little bit after six and committed myself to go take a shower, eat breakfast, and head to work in my normal routine. I was fine…FINE…I just kept telling myself that. Although my job was high pressure and high stress, I really loved what I did and I was fortunate to have a wonderful boss. I walked into work to speak with my boss, who I had a great relationship with (she was my boss but also like my adoptive mother). Immediately she told me I looked pale and asked what was wrong. I told her I wasn’t sure if there was something wrong with me, but like I did with my parents, I explained what had happened that morning. My boss looked at me and told me that I probably was just stressed and needed some down time, and with everything going on it was natural to need a breather.
I went about my day but decided I would at least try her advice to relax, so I called the local massage parlor and got an appointment for that night. I was convinced by the end of the work day that the morning events weren’t nearly as bad as I remembered and once again I convinced myself it was a combination of stress and an imbalance of caffeine, sleep, and food. I went that night for my massage and tried to let myself relax under the ladies hands.
I kept telling myself to relax and unwind because I needed this, but instead of relaxing I got tenser so much so that that I couldn’t relax. I remember asking myself, “What is wrong with me that I can’t relax getting a massage? Why can’t I just relax like everyone else?” By the time I left the massage parlor, I told myself that everyone got wound tight sometimes, I was no different, and that it would pass with time. I didn’t piece together then but when I left my palms were sweaty, my heart was pounding faster than usual, and I was worried about the next day and what would happen. I didn’t know then, but this was the anxiety that I had been living with for most of my life. At the time, I was oblivious.
Little did I know I was fixing to hit my lowest of lows in the months to come, question what I knew about myself, have to trust and relay on others A LOT more than I wanted to, and wonder if I was ever going to be okay again. Of course now, 4 years later, I have learned to grow strong through my anxiety, learned myself through and through (even though I didn’t love some of what I saw), and I became not just “okay” but back to being my fabulous old self but improved.
In the coming posts, I plan to walk through my journey from this first panic attack mentioned above that I had while driving, to the months and years that followed which were tremendously challenging.
These post are difficult for me to write. It is hard to be so open and raw about my life with all you reading. However, I remember praying and saying that if God would see me through this and help me just be to be okay again (which he did and then some) that I would share what I went through. Many times throughout this journey I wondered if I was crazy and if anyone else was going through what I was going through. The answer is most certainly a big old YES but in the moment it doesn’t feel that way. In the moment I felt alone, scared, misunderstood, and less than I actually was. No one talks about this subject openly with others, which is shame because it can do so much good to just talk and feel understood. I feel as though this is my calling. To share and chronicle how scary and hard my journey was when I discovered that was indeed living with anxiety.
Stay tuned for next weeks post.
Hey all you awesome people reading my blog. I'm Ginger and this blog chronicles how I live my life fabulously with anxiety.