World Mental Health Day – Living with Anxiety

Posted on October 10, 2016

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I live with chronic hormone-related anxiety. This means that I can several weeks of being absolutely trigger-free and then I can have a few weeks of living in panic.

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Living with anxiety can feel like this – the glass keeps you from experiencing the the world

So what does living with anxiety feel like (to me)? I get very physical symptoms – heart racing, bile rising in my stomach and my body feels tense overall – imagine feeling like you have run 10 miles all the time. In yoga class, I fall out of the easiest poses! The psycho-emotional symptoms include the need to cry, pressure of speech or lethargic/stuttering speech, inability to sit in one spot and a lack of concentration. This can make me forget things! Knowing my family history of dementia makes this a very scary experience. I have had two accidents – both in garages – both in the week of my period. Coincidence? Not really. Being accident-prone is related to hormonal changes.

But what does that mean for me? A few weeks ago, I wore my favourite outfit with one of my favouritest necklaces. I sat on the subway to go to work. I was content. And then it came hurtling towards me – “Did you put off the stove?” I tell myself, “Yes, I did. I can see myself in my head doing that.” “What if you didn’t?” I literally have to hug myself so I don’t turn back to check.

On other days, I can’t manage to do that, and I have to turn back. I made Sid drive back from downtown Toronto to Etobicoke to check if my hair iron was on. It wasn’t. But if I hadn’t checked, I would have been on pins and needles for the entire afternoon.

Sometimes the anxiety is around how I come across to other people. I could go to a party or a meeting and speak to a few people. Once I leave, it comes charging, “You made an ass out of yourself back there. What were you talking about!” To give you an example, Sid and I played badminton with two people I hadn’t met before. At the end, I spoke to one of them. I talked about brain health and the importance of physical exercise that raises the heart rate – the reason I started playing a sport again. He seemed genuinely interested. But when I sat in the car to go home, it took seed in me – “What the fuck were you talking about? Who’s interested in knowing that!” I have to thank my stars that Sid was with me and I told him about the thought. He assured me that there is nothing stupid about that conversation.

Of late, I feel like I am doing better – I feel like I am having an out-0f-body experience. This means that I am able to be rational and understand that the feeling shaking my core isn’t me – it isn’t who I am. That feeling gives me comfort. I know for millions of people, that state still eludes them.

I wanted to list down all the things that help me. This list is mainly for me because I know one day I might need to look at it again.

Exercise – when I work out 3 to 5 days a week, my menstrual cycle is more regular and my anxiety phase is limited to a few days. I am not sure if the intensity decreases, but the phase is definitely shorter.

Spirituality – I find that when I pray or meditate on a regular basis, I feel more able to be rational and dispel unwanted thoughts. I am even able to cope with failure much better.

Mindfulness – When I take time to do things consciously, I am able to have visual memories in my head that assure me that I didn’t forget to do something. This has been crucial in minimizing the forgetting as well. I am less accident prone too!

Taking time – I am usually on time. In my anxious phase, my body is literally slower. I need more time to do everything. I either have to budget more time, or be okay with being late or inform others that I would be late. Knowing that I am in that phase, is very helpful in organizing my work.

Positive people – For a long time, I kept it from Sid – this ridiculous barrage in my head. One day, I broke down and told him all my thoughts. The comfort I received was immense. I don’t tell just anybody. But I have started being more open about what is going on with me.

Self-esteem – In my non-anxiety phase, I work twice as hard to keep my confidence high. I pray more, and write more to bulk up for the dip.

Taking a break from social media – I find taking long-ish breaks from social media very comforting. More and more people are addicted to it, me included. It’s like a cleanse. So if you cannot find my account, don’t wonder, know that I am taking time out to care for myself.

Giving back – I find my work and volunteering with my time and money gives me immense satisfaction. Just hearing someone say, “Thank you for listening,” works better than a 4-hour spa treatment!

Learning to say no – I have learned the importance of taking a step back and not being over zealous. I am going to take a break from my volunteering from November to January to enjoy some me-time. My passion for dementia makes me say yes to almost everything. It was hard, but saying no has helped me feel a lot more settled.

Homeopathy and acupuncture – I work with a homeopathic doctor (and friend) experienced in women’s health issues to keep my hormones in check. I also go to acupuncture treatments 2-4 times a month. Both of these help in regulating my hormones and levels of serotonin.

Doing things I love – photography, blogging, reading – all help in feeling joy. I have realized that being part of the rat race isn’t going to help me. Being grounded, content and loved is more important than awards and money. Realizing and accepting this has reduced the pressure I put on myself.

On World Mental Health Day, I wanted to “come out” of the closet of shame and darkness.

Please note: Not everyone living with anxiety will have the same experience. Depression and anxiety may need a lot more management than what I have described here.

Special thanks to my friend Bev for writing her post on Living with Bipolar which gave me the strength to complete mine! 

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Posted in: self awareness