Let’s Talk About Anxiety…
Let’s talk about anxiety. It’s currently 5:49 AM on Sunday. I try to sleep in on weekends but I can’t. I naturally wake up around 4-4:30 AM, even on weekends. Once awake, I simply can’t fall back asleep. It’s like my brain starts racing and I start thinking about all the things I need to be doing. Sometimes, I start replaying events that occurred in the days prior and convince myself that I either said something wrong to someone, acted like a fool, or that some other perceived wrong was committed. That’s exactly what happened today.
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How it Started
I woke up and started thinking about events from the day before. The day prior, I had attended a lovely baby shower for a good friend of mine and was feeling pretty good after being sick for the last month. It had been a minute since I’d left the house and seen other humans, besides the people I work with. My husband and I arrived (it was a Jack & Jill shower) and initially I was fine. People I hadn’t seen in MONTHS came up and gave huge hugs and told me how nice it was to see me. But then my anxiety decided to rear it’s ugly head.
The event was fully catered and there was tons of food and drinks. I have this thing where I don’t want to look like a mooch, so I take as little food as possible and still sit and wonder if people are questioning my choices.
No one was thinking this I’m sure, but my anxiety was like “ooooo, you’re really going to get a second glass of wine? I bet everyone is looking at you as you fill that glass”. I literally stopped at halfway so as not to look like a lush. Then, as my friend was opening her gifts, I started to second guess my gift choice and felt like I didn’t show up with something nice enough. As she opened ours I was convinced everyone was thinking, “wow, that’s it”? I got her a bottle warmer which was on her registry… One piddly thing, while others filled bags with toys, clothes and fun things. I feel like I failed and now everyone thinks I didn’t do right by her.
You should know that I never planned on only that one gift, I want to get her something once the baby is born. I remember how I felt AFTER the baby and it was nice to get gifts here and there to pick up my mood. But now I’m thinking I should have presented her (showered her, if you will) with more at the actual SHOWER.
Anxiety and I have a lengthy relationship but it seems like this past year has been especially challenging. After losing my job of almost 15 years over a year ago, my anxiety became more severe and intense. I even ended up in the ER with what I was convinced was colon cancer. Many tests and multiple doctor visits later, we figured out that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) brought on by anxiety. I had literally resolved myself to the fact that I was dying and all it ended up being was constipation. Thank you, stress and anxiety. I was happy to learn that it wasn’t cancer, obviously, but I was so frustrated with myself because I was in so much pain and discomfort ALL because I couldn’t get my head straight.
I’m sharing this, not because I have the answers, but because I know other people deal with anxiety too. Sometimes nice to know you’re not alone. I CLEARLY haven’t figured it all out but there are some things that have helped me identify what triggers my anxiety and how to cope when I’m having an attack.
I identified some of my triggers by writing down what is making me feel edgy as it is occurring. My primary triggers are social interactions that include more than 2 people, political conversations, finances, and things that cause sensory overload. Knowing these things trigger my anxiety, I try to avoid them but some things just can’t be avoided. For one thing, you can’t control other people and who wants to live in a bubble? That’s where anxiety management comes in.
Managing my Anxiety
The one thing I made clear to my doctor is that I didn’t want to be on any medication to manage my anxiety, so he recommended that I seek some sort of counseling. I tried an online counseling service for one month and while I did get some good advice, I found that I couldn’t really connect with my counselor and I also felt her advice was very similar to advice my mom had given me; why was I paying for that? In other words, it wasn’t new and/or helpful.
The counselor had recommended I sit and have a heart to heart with my husband about some things that he did that triggered me. I couldn’t do it because I was afraid it would start an argument, so I avoided it. Every week the counselor asked if I had talked to my husband and every week I had to say no. Just before my last appointment I realized I was having an anxiety attack about my upcoming meeting. I would have to yet again tell her I didn’t talk to him, so I ended up cancelling the service simply because I didn’t want to feel “judged”.
Another recommendation I received along the way was to start the day more calmly with meditation or exercise. Prepare lunches, outfits and bags the night before so I don’t have to rush around and inevitably forget something. SO obvious but SO helpful. On the train to work I like to watch YouTube videos or read blogs by creators who are calming. One of my absolute favorites is Girl & The Word. It’s a Christian Faith and Lifestyle blog by Anh Luu and I find her content to be calming and inspiring. I’m finding that exploring my spirituality has been a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Learning to trust something you can’t see is hard, but it’s also nice to know there’s something/someone out there watching over you. One of the main things that helped is what I call “mental sneezing”. When I feel my anxiety start to creep in, I stop what I’m doing, grab my notepad (or phone), and write down what’s making me feel anxious. Often that helps get the “crud” out of my head and helps me put things in better perspective.
I truly don’t know why I’ve become so anxious over the years. I am turning 46 on Tuesday and you would think that with age comes wisdom, but I’m convinced that with age comes anxiety. I’m still working through it and am trying different things to help improve my mental health.
I’m so happy that people are taking mental health more seriously these days. I know it the past it was very taboo to discuss it. I hope that by sharing my struggles it helps someone else. As I learn new ways to cope with anxiety, I want to share that with you. If I can help just one other person I will feel like I accomplished something.
Let me know if you have any tips for coping with stress, anxiety and/or depression. I think it would be great to have open dialogue and share what has worked and what hasn’t.
On that note, it’s time for me to go start laundry and clean up the kitchen. I hope you have a wonderful rest of the weekend (or week if you’re reading this later)!