Have you ever come across something that you just automatically relate to? It could be a photograph or a meme that you just look at and think “wow that’s me￼!”. The picture above is definitely one that I can relate to.￼
I have had anxiety my entire life. The word anxiety and even the word depression has become so mainstream that I feel like so many people say that they have it but living with it isn’t as simple as just waking up and feeling sad. It’s a very consistent feeling of wanting to take on the world but not having the energy to do so. Even as I sit here and write this, I would love nothing more than to be able to post every week but there are some weeks where even something as simple as writing a post is a challenge. This is something that I enjoy. This is something I truly love to do and something I feel as though I’m really good at. Anxiety is wanting to post, it’s having a lot to say but not having the energy to get it out.
For many years, many people have suffered within their minds silently. I hope if this blog can do one thing it’s to encourage people to talk about it. To bring anxiety and depression out of the shadows and speak. A￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼nxiety is horrible, there have been many times I could be having a panic attack and nobody would even know because it’s an inward thing. It feels like I’m malfunctioning and I can’t process my own thoughts. It feels like I’m running out of breath and living in a self imposed hell. Many people who do not have anxiety, think it’s as simple as saying “just stop thinking that way” or “just think positively”. What they don’t realize is it doesn’t always work like this. Thinking positively does not always equal the end of an anxiety attack.￼
I liken myself to a total oxymoron, I am one of the most social butterflies you’ll ever want to meet and yet I have social anxiety. I refuse to go somewhere alone whether it be to the grocery store or a doctors appointment. ￼I constantly feel the urge to say something along the lines of : “do you hate me?” or “are you mad at me?” and my favorite one: “I’m sorry.” It isn’t because I don’t trust people in any way, it’s because my brain is literally telling me that all the time. I apologize for things, even things I have no control over because my brain is telling me I should be sorry.￼
I feel like society in general has a huge misconception of anxiety and depression. You can be confident and have anxiety. You can smile and make jokes yet have depression. Sometimes the people that have everything in the world going for them are the ones that feel nothing. It’s important to check on your family and friends, and to remember that kindness goes a long way.
￼￼￼￼￼For the people who suffer, having depression and anxiety is really scary. You literally push everyone away simply because you’re afraid of getting hurt by having them getting sick of you and leave. Yet, that’s when you need caring people the most. You’re sad most of the time and don’t even know why. It’s a vicious cycle that eats you alive. I can tell you from experience, the right people always stay. When I am in the throes of a panic attack my husband is usually the first person to take me in to his arms and hold me until I feel OK enough to either sleep or move on with my day.￼￼￼
As someone with a mild to moderate social anxiety disorder I will never get tired of hearing my loved ones say:
“I’m here for you”
“I love you”
“I care for you”
“I value you as a person”
“Your opinions matter”
“I’ll go with you if it’s too scary”
“Your feelings are valid”
This is especially true when I’m feeling anxious. Talking about anxiety is not attention seeking. It is bringing into the light a very dark part of the human mind. Sometimes our own worst enemies are not those who surround us but rather our own minds within us.￼￼
While I have had my share of the classic and stereotypical anxiety attacks, it’s important to note there are different types of anxiety attacks. They aren’t always hyperventilating and rocking back and forth but are also :
• Random bursts of irritability
• Obsessive behavior
• Zoning out
Keep this in mind when ￼looking for signs with your loved ones. The best thing that somebody could do for someone during an anxiety attack is to speak words of comfort and genuinely be there for that person in their time of need. Anxiety suffers often feel like a burden to those around us. We do not mean to be difficult or have these bouts of sadness or irritability or crippling fear. It is often the part of us we hate the most and wish we could change with every fiber of our being. ￼￼￼￼
￼Through the years I’ve learned that there are things that can make my anxiety worse:
• Irregular sleep-When I’m not getting enough sleep its a breeding ground for anxiety attacks although it’s a little counterintuitive considering most of the time I get irregular sleep is when I wake up in the middle of the night from an anxiety attack. Trying to keep a consistent schedule of going to bed and waking up has helped cut down on some of these more crippling anxiety bouts ￼￼but it doesn’t stop them completely.
• Watching & reading a lot of negative news-many people see my refusal to speak about what’s going on in the world today or my views on politics as me burying my head in the sand. This is not the case. As an empathetic anxiety sufferer, I tend to feel things so deeply that when I watch and read a lot of what’s going on in the world today my anxiety is that much worse. Protecting myself as well as my mental health is not ignorant. Nobody has to live in my skin or yours so therefore nobody has the right to tell me or you what we should and should not focus on.￼￼
• Too much caffeine consumption– nothing gets me going in the morning quite like a cup of coffee￼. Consequently nothing else gets my heart racing faster or keeps me up most at night than a cup of coffee. ￼ I used to drink 2 cups of coffee a day before work￼, now I limit my consumption to 1 cup a day and only between the hours of 6 and 8 AM. Drinking coffee in the afternoon for someone with anxiety is a sure way to make sure you’re up all night worrying about absolutely everything you have no control over. Caffeine in general is a mind stimulant I feel my most anxious while wide awake from coffee. ￼￼￼
• Eating too much sugar-Let me begin by saying I really love ice cream but I only have it once a week and only on Saturdays because too much sugar when you live with anxiety is always a bad thing. Very similar to caffeine, sugar not only gives me a temporary sense of energy but it also stimulates my mind to be more anxious. I have found that my worst panic attacks come after a birthday party when I indulge in a slice of cake or maybe two.￼￼
• Saying yes to too many things-The part of me that is the social butterfly loves having things to do on the weekends. Being active helps me to focus my energy on other things other than my anxiety and allows my brain to focus on something other than tormenting me. However, when I have a series of weeks where there is much to do and no time to relax and recharge my batteries I feel as though my anxiety becomes overbearing. For someone with anxiety, we need our time to regroup just as much as we need people around us. Taking on too many social events or tasks can really make someone with anxiety feel bogged down and trapped. I’ve learned over the last five years to say no to things. Self care is just as important as caring and being there for others. Remembering that I can’t pour from an empty cup reminds me to take time for myself doing things that I enjoy.￼￼￼￼￼￼
• Dealing with stress & conflict– stress and conflict is especially difficult for anxiety suffers. Already in our minds we wonder if we are a burden or if we are liked however when dealing with stress and conflict this can make matters worse. For me I have always been more passive aggressive in my confrontations with others. This is because I do not like direct confrontation. It is the quickest way to rattle me and send me into a panic attack. This doesn’t mean I don’t know how to assert myself. It just means I would rather say my piece and allow people to simply disagree with me rather than fight me. Meditation and writing are ways that I manage my stress and my feelings when they get too much and too intense for me to feel. I tend to avoid people and things that are overly negative and leave me feeling emotionally depleted. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼It’s not a knock against anyone in particular but rather it’s me protecting myself. ￼ I’ve learned to pay attention to how I feel when interacting with certain people and if I do not feel positive or good after speaking with them I tend to limit my time and interaction with them for the good of my own stress levels.￼
• Too much social media-When speaking of limiting your time and interaction with people and things that may or may not make you feel good, I find that limiting time on social media is an important part ￼of my emotional well-being. I have a whole post in which I discuss how damaging being exposed to everyone else’s so-called “perfect life” can be. You can read about it in my post about my social media hiatus I took. I tend to keep a limit on the time I allow myself to be on social media I used to find myself checking Facebook very often and now I find I very rarely use it at all. I check in about once a week, see what my notifications are and log off. There are other social media outlets that are much harder for me to stay away from, namely Twitter and Instagram. However, making sure I do not spend all of my free time on these apps have helped me to be less exposed to the negativity often found on these platforms. ￼￼￼￼That is not to say there is no good that comes from social media, I have met a lot of wonderful genuine people through these platforms however I have also been exposed to the other side where people who are judgmental and out right cruel to those who do not think as they do are waiting in the shadows to attack you for everything and anything you may post.￼
• Consuming alcohol-Sure, going out and having a few drinks with friends is fine and fun but it can also be extremely counterproductive for someone living with anxiety, such as myself. Alcohol is a depressant and depressants for anxiety suffers are never a good thing. I found as I’ve gotten older I don’t really enjoy the feeling of being drunk or in any way impaired. ￼ anxiety already makes you worry about things you have absolutely no control over, alcohol inhibits that control you feel of any situation which often makes matters worse, at least for me.￼ limiting my alcohol consumption to once a month or once every two months has helped me tremendously in managing my anxiety. ￼
• Stop isolating myself – while time away from social groups and obligations are a good thing￼, too much isolation is a bad thing. One of the worst case scenarios for any anxiety suffer is to be left alone with their thoughts for too long. Being married to my best friend has helped me, we see our friends a healthy amount of times a month but we also take time for us both to recharge our batteries. However, living with each other allows us to be alone but not completely isolated. ￼Having Tom to talk to one on one￼, gives me that relaxed feeling without being isolated. Most of the time we order takeout and watch ‘I Love Lucy’ re-runs, we can laugh and talk with each other but also find comfort in saying nothing at all and just snuggling on the couch.￼￼
Having anxiety is not easy to live with. Every day is different and brings new obstacles which you must face often silently with a brave face. I am very lucky that my anxiety does not completely debilitate me and my ability to function each day. While not for everyone, my faith in God and prayer has enabled me to get through whatever negativity my mind tries to throw at me. If you do feel completely crippled by your anxiety, please do not be ashamed to talk about it with a doctor or a professional. If you feel like your ability to enjoy life is impaired, please know that you are not alone and your feelings are valid but it is also your right to a beautiful life and talking to a medical professional may help you do that.
If you or anyone you know suffers from anxiety, please know that talking about it it’s OK. If you’d like to leave a comment below please do so I do enjoy hearing from each and everyone of you and do my best to respond to each and every one of your comments and feedback.