“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal” – Albert Camus
Anxiety sucks. If you have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or “GAD” you know my pain. GAD is an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry, that is, apprehensive expectation about events or activities. Those of us that have it or love those that have it, know it can be so much worse than it even sounds.
The first attack I had, I was sitting in a movie theater with my husband 13 years ago. We were watching “The Day After Tomorrow”. I was enjoying the movie with my popcorn and coke, when all of a sudden my heart started to race and I felt like I couldn’t get a good breath. I dropped my popcorn and immediately went into full blown panic mode. I seriously thought I was dying! This started my twenty six trips and thousands of dollars that I am still paying to the Hospital. After having MANY test ran over the following two years I was diagnosed with GAD and Panic Disorder. If it wasn’t for my kids I don’t know that I would have cared to keep living, it was that bad. My life was hell.
I’m not going to bore you with everything that I went through, because I do want to get to the things that did actually help me, but I want you to understand that Anxiety comes in many different forms. I didn’t know that at first. I will say that it started out in the form of my heart racing and feeling like I couldn’t breathe. It then progressed into me being so dizzy on a regular basis that I couldn’t have a normal life. Then came the paralyzing FEAR. Mainly from all the symptoms I was dealing with, but then its was just fear of anything, and EVERYTHING. Then came me getting numb on one side of my body. Then the brain zaps(its a thing, google it). Then the bloating and stomach pain so intense that I could no longer keep down my food. I lost so much weight I looked sick. This list keeps going, but you get the picture. The fear was the worst part. There was a point in my life where I couldn’t walk to my mail box, yes I know its sound crazy, but I would start walking outside to get my mail and it was too much, I was scared to get too far from my house. The inside my house was my safe place, or maybe my prison. If I did go anywhere, I couldn’t go alone. My husband or my best friend would take me(I literally could not have made it through this with out them). I could no longer go and get groceries for my family. I would get tunnel vision, heart palpitations, and feel as if I was going to pass out when I just walked up to the check out line. I could go on and on about the nightmare that was my life. You see anxiety is a disability. It took my job, my peace, my security, my hope, it took precious memories I could have had with my family and friends. Anxiety took my life.
Now, lets talk about what worked for me. I know your shocked, but I am no doctor or medical professional. 🙂 So…this is just what helped me, and believe me I think I tried almost everything out there. I am in no way giving medical advice or saying this will be the cure for you…blah blah blah, you get it. Here is what helped me:
- Breathing! I know right?!? – Inhale the “good” for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, then exhale the “bad” for 4 seconds. It actually did help me!
- Face it! Welcome it! – Sounds terrible to someone who is dealing with these horrible symptoms, but this was the key for me. Let your body feel what your anxiety brings, and be okay with it. Do not try to run or try to escape it. STAY AND FEEL IT, It can not physical harm you. You will be okay! I got so mad at my anxiety, I was fed up. One day(took me way too long) I said, okay heart if your going to beat fast, I don’t care anymore. I welcomed all the awful feelings that anxiety brought to me. As I was sat at my sons school play I got sweaty hands, tunnel vision, and my heart was pounding. I felt like running. I FELT like doing what I normally did and leave as fast as I could. I didn’t let myself. Honestly, it was terrible and I thought I was going to die, but I didn’t. I wish I could say this was the only time that I had to do that, but it wasn’t. It took about a month straight of me constantly fighting my natural instincts, for me to see any results. It took everything in my power to stay and face it, but I did. I’m sure people around me noticed, but that was okay. I know my swaying from side to side and the abnormally amount of fidgeting like a crazy person drew attention to me. I still did it!! You have to face your fear or it WILL NOT go away.
- Don’t care about what others think – Seriously, don’t do it. I tried to hide my anxiety from everyone for a long time, because I was embarrassed about it. I thought other people would think I was crazy and weird. I came to the point where I said F-it, and quit caring what others said or thought. I feel like this is another HUGE step that helped me. In reality, when I opened up about it, everyone was very accepting of my situation. If I had to leave a movie or a party, guess what… they understood and encouraged me to do what I needed to do. This was a huge release for me. If I needed to go, I could and nobody would judge me, and even if they did… I didn’t care! The people that matter in you life will not judge you for leaving early or doing whatever it is you have to do for yourself to cope with what your feeling. If they do you don’t need them in your life anyway.
- Seek outside help if you need it – Find a good Doctor or a Therapist that will sit and talk with you. If you want to try medication, make sure they are really listening to what YOU want! I personally tried tons of different anxiety medications and some of them did help, but they also made me feel like a zombie. I didn’t like the way they made me feel, but I know others that love them. To each their own. Personally, I actually have anxiety about taking any kind of medication.. even Advil sometimes! I knew I needed to find the source of this and deal with it more naturally. I recommend speaking with a professional that you trust and doing research on natural ways to help anxiety, even if you decide on medication, there is so much out there that helps!
- Have a support person(or people) – As I stated before I really don’t know that I could have gotten through the hard times without someone. They helped me out so much! From doing my shopping during the weird times that I just couldn’t, to not getting mad when we had to leave a ball game(30 minutes after getting there) that we paid a lot of money for tickets just to get into. Going out to eat with me was risky because more than likely, I would leave and sit in the car before the food came out. The list goes on and on. If you are the support person, I know its hard to understand, but please just love them through this. They need you!! Online communities can be a good support as well, it helped me to know I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t crazy. Heck contact me! I am very passionate about helping others suffering with anxiety!
- Take better care of yourself – DRINK WATER, lots of water! Eat healthier foods, do not drink alcohol (as much), don’t smoke, go for that walk or run! Enjoy nature, it naturally calms you down and helps you clear your mind.
- Find your Passion – What makes you happy? Do something you enjoy and that is meaningful to you. Find new hobbies. I started painting(wasn’t great at it, but I liked it). Help other people, that way your not thinking about yourself or how you feel 24/7. Replace your negative thoughts with positive thoughts and actions, it is amazing what happens!
- Step out and do it – Even if your scared, just do it anyway. If you fail, oh well, who the hell cares! You tried. I don’t know how many times I was dancing around in my car, because I made it out of Walmart by myself. Sometimes I wasn’t so successful, but the trick is to keep making yourself try!
- Set goals for yourself – No matter how small they may seem to others. Once you face your fears with the small goals, set bigger ones. Remember, if you have bad days, that is okay and perfectly normal.
- Learn to live with your anxiety – I will never be anxiety free, its just now when I feel it, I know how to deal with it. For me it comes in waves, I feel it and then I let it go. Guess what? I can live a normal life now! I can go anywhere by myself, shop, go to concerts, stay at all my kids activities, just live my life, with out that heavy burden. Anxiety does not control me anymore. It is and will always be a part of me, but now I control my anxiety, it does not control me.
- Find a safe place to go to mentally – I’m sure you have heard this before somewhere, but really think about it and find somewhere you can go in your mind that makes you feel safe. When you feel an attack, go to that place mentally and “float” through the Panic Attack. I know its sounds a little silly but, it is calming.
- Don’t quit – NEVER EVER QUIT! Do not let that be an option. This is your life and you need to take it back. Its so hard… But possible. You can do this!!!!!!!