Coping with Anxiety

I just wanted to take a moment to discuss living with anxiety because I’ve been suffering from it a lot lately. I’ve lived with anxiety and depression all of my life, frankly – a by-product of a shit childhood. It ebbs and flows like the tide depending on what life brings but it is a constant. I joke that if most people’s baseline readings are a zero than mine is naturally a -20 and, while that sounds depressing in and of itself, I imagine it’s much like living with allergies or migraines. When “normal” people bemoan a headache, you just have to laugh because you’re used to spending days in the dark, trying not to breathe. That doesn’t make their headache any more or less painful to them. It’s just relative.

The depression I’ve gotten used to, for the most part. I take fish oil and get lots of sun, try to eat healthy and simply be aware of the quick downward spiral that can consume me. The anxiety, on the other hand, is crippling. Combined with an overwrought embarrassment factor (avoidant personality disorder), I have a hard time leaving the house. When it is at its worst, it mutates into an ugly form of OCD.  The OCD causes panic attacks. The panic attacks not only prevent me from sleeping but, when I can sleep, cause nightmares. And, as you can imagine, sleep-deprivation doesn’t exactly help my cause.

The anxiety has been tremendously bad lately for reasons not worth getting into. It has been so bad, in fact, that at 5:30 this morning the other half had to take apart the air conditioner because it was making a noise that was triggering anxiety. And, by triggering, I mean trouble breathing, rocking back and forth, and crying. I know, to people who don’t suffer from anxiety or OCD, that can sound ridiculous. Getting obsessed with a noise, however, or germs or safety is just a way for the brain to actually cope. It lends the ability to deal with, not just the overwhelming feelings, but what those overwhelming feelings cause, which is a fear response in the body (like a giant shot of adrenaline). Focusing on having to turn the lights on and off or avoiding stepping on cracks actually keeps both the mind and the body from shutting down like an over-heating machine. Which isn’t, of course, to say that it is necessarily healthy. Just an explanation.

There is a lot of my anxiety and OCD that I can deal with. Like I said, I’ve been dealing with it all of my life and, so, if I sleep better after having to repeatedly check if the stove is on or off, it’s not really hurting me or anyone else. However, needless to say, taking apart an AC unit in the middle of the night is unacceptable. This got me thinking a lot about coping mechanisms, specifically forcing myself to recognize and utilize the tools I have in my arsenal. And I wanted to share them with you, for anyone out there who might be suffering in silence and not know how to help themselves or someone they love.

Keeping Busy

There are different schools of thought out there about how best to cope but I prefer keeping busy and, to that end, I turn to art and crafts. Not only is creativity a means to release and express a lot of what you’re going through, it also is a great tool for getting out of your head. Simply making my mind focus on a challenge really redirects a lot of my anxiety.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who don’t consider themselves creatively talented but talent has little to do with it. It’s about enjoyment, spending time learning so that you aren’t sitting around thinking yourself into a feedback loop. Try learning to cook or paint or woodwork. And I highly recommend learning something you can do while sitting in front of the television at night. It will keep you busy and keep your anxious thoughts at bay right before bed.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the Buddhist concept, boiled down, of being constantly aware of yourself and what you’re doing. It’s about learning to actually focus on what you’re doing at the time instead of getting caught up in your head and your unhealthy thoughts. When I’m doing the dishes, I’m doing the dishes. I’m not worrying about bills or dinner or whether or not my dryer is about to die. I’m just doing the dishes. This doesn’t apply to just physical acts but mental as well. Instead of getting caught up in my anxiety, I recognize that I’m being anxious. It’s a simple concept that’s hard to apply but it really does help to ease my anxiety. Anxiety is often a manifestation of worry about events beyond our control. When you’re practicing mindfulness, you’re practicing releasing that worry because the present is what you’re focusing on.

White Noise

Sleep has always been an issue with me. I’m a night owl and an insomniac and, as you can imagine, anxiety doesn’t help the issue. Melatonin supplements have done wonders but, since my obsessive behavior often manifests itself in obsession with sound, I have to have a very controlled environment in which to sleep. That just isn’t usually possible. Thus, I’ve taken to utilizing white noise. White noise works to drown out traffic, the hum of electronics, etc. You turn it on and it sounds distracting at first but after ten minutes you actually forget it’s there and, let me tell you, the best sleep I’ve ever gotten. There are tons of white noise machines for purchase but, since I sleep in the same room as my computer, I just use this website.

Help Yourself

A lot of people have a lot of different coping mechanism, a lot of which can cause extreme embarrassment. Don’t be embarrassed. Recognize that some behaviors – such as obsessive washing – can actually be really detrimental and work on those. But also recognize that if it’s a choice between being a shut-in or utilizing your coping mechanism to try new things, trying new things is more important. I hate being around people and negatively, subconsciously tend to obsess about my fingers while in public. If I have a hangnail while I’m on the bus, it can actually lead to a panic attack. That’s the outward manifestation of my inner turmoil. So, I carry fingernail clippers everywhere. It might make people uncomfortable but it’s more important to me that I’m comfortable in a situation that causes extreme duress. Do I want to carry them around everywhere? No. Will I always have to? No. But does carrying them around actually help me face my anxiety? Absolutely.

In a similar vein, I’m actually going to start carrying around my crochet. Crochet is a great tool when it comes to coping with my anxiety and, while walking around the produce section crocheting away might be the silliest thing in the world to everyone else, if it allows me to shop without the act of shopping ruining my day, I’m all for it.

This post isn’t going to help everyone. It might not help anyone but me. However, I think it’s really important to talk about mental health issues so that we are not alone. So that society starts to recognize the legitimacy of them. So that we don’t feel like freaks.  There are so many people out there who don’t believe mental illness exists and I’ve often struggled with how to explain it to them. The truth is, you can’t. Don’t worry about it. It’s their problem, not your own. Spend less time worrying about them and more time helping yourself because, for those of us who suffer, we understand that sometimes just getting through the day is the greatest achievement of all. You’re a superhero. Be proud.

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “Coping with Anxiety

  1. Big hugs and thanks for sharing this. I’ve also found that crocheting and having little achieveable projects is a great help with managing depression and insomnia on a day to day basis. A very inspiring post – I’m going to try carrying my mini projects around with me 🙂

    • "Gilbert quotes an Iraqi Jew, Eli Timan, living in London: “The difference is that we got on with our life, worked hard and progressed so that today there is not a single Jewish refugee from Arab lands.” Those who suggest that this model be copied elsewhere will of course be condemned as heartless bigots."That's why Shlaim doesn't like the book.

  2. Good post. I have no idea what you go through, but I can understand how crochet can help. I do it on my lunch break at work and it really calms me down, very zen!

    I’m just in the middle of reading Mark William’s book on Mindfulness, it’s very good.

  3. Hi there. Thank you for following me.

    I have problems with anxiety too, though it’s not as extreme as some of the things you mention in your post. But I feel you. When I’m walking down the street (i live in a city full of people who stare – it’s culturally acceptable here) sometimes my heart starts to race and it takes all the self control I have not to break into a sprint and head for home. I don’t know where the sudden fear comes from. That’s just an example. Everybody is a freak in one way or another. Normal is boring wouldn’t you say? 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I might not suffer the same issues as you but your post helped me understand and be even more compassionate to what you and others go through.

    Cheers and best to you always.

    • So many people misunderstand mental health issues and that I could lend some understanding of the subject is a great compliment. That you would strive to be compassionate towards people who have those issues is a real testament to your character, as well. The world needs more people like you.

      • I work in HR at a non-profit agency that assists people who are chronically homeless with psychiatric disability. Before that job, I really didn’t understand all the places mental illness could take an individual. But I do now and posts like your reinforce what I’ve learned, especially when I’m loosing focus on why we do what we do. Again, thank you for sharing and I’m even more impressed that you can identify your triggers and you’re actively working on the things that can help you. Again, my best to you.

  5. I am really sorry things are so rough. Perhaps (probably?) you have already done so but may I suggest you get evaluated by a doctor and perhaps also one that specializes in anxiety? I only speak up because I spent the last year feeling increasingly anxious and depressed, and blamed it on grad school stress. I finally had a checkup – a parathyroid gland had mutated leading to high calcium and a hormone imbalance, common symptoms of which are stress, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. I had it fixed and suddenly felt much better. I am so very sorry your childhood was rough. I just want to mention you could still have a medical problem making you feel worse and easily miss it because you expect to feel bad. I sure did for a long while, and am really lucky my doctor ran some tests instead of assuming it was just stress from school. Hope things improve for you.

    • I’ve, of course, been evaluated by any number of shrinks over the course of my life but I’ve never actually talk to a physician or a specialist about it. I don’t have health insurance, unfortunately, but perhaps next time I see my GP I’ll talk to him about it. Thanks for passing along the information, really! I’d never even considered that it might actually be a physical problem.

      • Yeah, people sometimes forget that anxiety involves a physical rush of chemicals and hormones and things. So if you have an imbalance somewhere or an ailing gland, it can cause you to feel anxious by producing those chemicals.

  6. I love what you’ve written about mindfulness. I’ve seen the word plenty of times and never really examined it. Reading what you’ve written has made me really consider the practice of being in the moment. It can help reduce a large amount of necessary stress.

    • I know a lot of people are scared off by Eastern thought but I think mindfulness is so important. I’m rubbish at enjoying the moment & not worrying about the future and it’s just a very simple concept that has made me much happier in the long run.

  7. I’m so glad I just read this post. I suffer with depression and anxiety as well; in different ways and it manifests itself differently with me, but it is there nonetheless. I’m proud of you for sharing so freely. Some of your coping mechanisms have really helped me. Thanks.

    • Thanks! I’m really glad that some of my coping tools have helped you out. That’s why I think it’s so important to talk about; because all of us have little tricks we use on a daily basis that can genuinely help another person. And, of course, also because so many of us suffer in silence for fear of ridicule from the general populace. It’s a disease like any other and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

      Thanks, also, for the tips about the medication. I’ve tried everything under the sun and, unfortunately, the only medication that really works for me is $250 a month. I will definitely keep searching, however!

      • OK – add accreditation to the long list of crap I don’t consider worthwhile.This Southern Association of Bozos and Buffoons wants to strip the entire Unii#rsvty&e8217;s accreditation over a flare up between the President and the board?Man, it’s a good thing these ying yangs spend their lives in academia. Could you imagine if some organization stopped trading in the stock of a public company every time there was a dispute between a CEO and the board.

  8. One more note, medication can really help. I was suffering for awhile by debilitating anxiety whenever I fell asleep. As soon as I would start to snore, I would wake myself up, and after awhile I was getting anxiety from the thought of anxiety. I went days with no sleep. I had been on Prozac before, so I refilled the perscription, and it got rid of the anxiety for me. I take the generic form, and at Walmart it costs only $10 for a 90 day supply. Pretty affordable. My perscription was also written by my general practitioner, so it was affordable. I have no insurance as well, so I can understand your dilemma. Anyway, it is worthwhile looking into medication. It can be a lifesaver. (Another note, Effexor XR was also VERY effective, but it is a NIGHTMARE to get off of. Prozac, or Fluoxetine in generic form, is very smooth on and smooth off. AT least it was for me.) I have also had luck in the past with St. John’s Wort and Kava Kava.

  9. Thank you for your beautifully honest post. I really appreciate this and have already shared it with friends. ❤

  10. You are not the only one with those issues. I never considered taking my crocheting with me everywhere! Great idea! I on the other hand also with the anxiety and depression have ADHD, lately it has been my downfall on even starting a new project. :/
    Thank you for sharing and being an inspiration to other struggling with similar issues.

  11. Pingback: Linky Goodness - Needlework, Crochet x 2, Quilting, and ScrapbookingAncora Crafts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s