Anxiety – Lets talk…
I have openly talked about anxiety on more than one occasion in the past. I’ve done that because I want others to know that it is okay not to be okay. If you are suffering from anxiety, you are most certainly not alone.
I am blown away by the number of conversations I have with people who think walking around with a heavy chest and shaky hands is normal. Just part of the hustle and bustle they say.
The number of people who believe that we are all supposed to be just a little on edge because the world is a crazy place. You can never be too careful.
The number of people who think worrying is a part of life. If you don’t spend time worrying and conjuring up worst-case scenarios, you might miss something and be blindsided with chaos.
I am guilty of all of these things. It took me a long time to realize that the way I was feeling affected almost every area of my life. It wasn’t benefiting me or anyone else around me.
Especially not my family.
It took a long time for me to learn that what I was feeling was anxiety and that I didn’t have to ‘learn’ to live with the symptoms if I didn’t want to.
These are all things that I’ve shared in the past.
However, I want to make sure one thing is understood. There are people walking around who appear to have it all together and the perfect life but are carrying a heavy weight of anxiety.
Let me explain.
Personally, I have learned that I operate best in chaos. When things are going wrong all around me, I am really good at managing tasks and emotions.
For the last 15 years, I have worked in positions that require your head to be on a swivel and your mind open and ready to face some of the most unusual and tragic circumstances.
In the last ten years, I have lost several loved ones, had two pregnancies during extremely stressful times, and had to rebuild my entire life, literally from rock bottom.
Chaos is my safe zone. At least that’s how I feel sometimes.
This all sounds like a recipe for disaster, but for me, I felt capable of getting through it all. It was stressful, and I was worried, but I have been conditioned over the years to respond to chaos. Luckily, I have learned great tools and coping mechanisms to do so.
Where I struggle is when things are going well.
Over the last couple of years, my life keeps getting better and better, and even though one would think my mind should be in a great place because of my circumstances, it hasn’t always been the case. The better my life gets, and the happier I become, the more terrified I am.
Because according to my brain, when things are great, they eventually fall apart.
When I am over the moon happy or excited or having an all-around good day, week, or month, my anxiety is through the flipping roof.
Good things happen – I panic.
Life is great – I panic.
Smooth sailing – I panic.
I remember telling my therapist that I just couldn’t figure out why I was such a disaster. I love my life, and I could not be happier with what has transpired over the last few years.
I have the most beautiful family, and although we have some tough days, we have a joyful and comforting home, and we have a ton of fun.
What the hell is wrong with me. Why am I self-sabotaging my life when I don’t want it to change?
Here is why – my brain has become so used to bad things happening.
Bad things have happened a lot, and although I have found ways to cope and honor my grief when these things do happen, I have struggled to cope when something IS NOT going wrong.
My heart tells me I am happy, but my brain tells me not to get used to it because it will all come crashing down soon and probably sooner than later.
Finding ways to work through this anxiety has been one of the most significant struggles I have ever had. It is truly a work in progress, and it is a day to day commitment.
If you are wondering how long I have had anxiety to this extent, I will confidently say it has been since the death of my fiancé Nick. I can’t remember a time before that where I experienced anxiety to this level and frequency ever before. I am not surprised that anxiety was a secondary consequence to losing him and it is often overlooked in individuals who have suffered significant loss and trauma.
I am happy to report that I have never felt better than I do now.
In light of all of the suicides in my hometown over the last few months, I really wanted to touch on this. You often hear people say, “but their life was so perfect,”
“They had everything going for them.”
Although all of this may be true, having a beautiful happy life does not mean you are exempt from feeling anxiety and depression.
I wanted to share this because although I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience but my own, I know that it is so common for people to walk through life with this happy go lucky persona when they struggle deep down to get through their day.
We all know that even those who look like they have it all figured out may be carrying some of the darkest secrets.
My commitment is always to be honest and share these experiences so that others know that it’s normal, and there are ways to get help and feel better.
A couple of weeks ago, my family and I had to put down our sweet dog Kota. I had Kota for 12 years almost to the day. For anyone who knew her knew she was the most loyal and loving border collie you would ever meet. I know I am a bit biased, but she was a beautiful soul.
She took a fall down our stairs the evening before my son’s second birthday. I thought she was okay, but it turns out she had many complications from the fall, and the prognosis was grim. I had to make that incredibly hard decision that so many of us have to make with our fur babies, and we had to say goodbye.
That day I looked at Scott, and I said, “I have been doing so well, now this.” In a way, I felt like all of the hard work I had put in to help my anxiety and mindset was all out the window because yet again when things were going great, shit happened.
I told myself I would not let this take me off track. I would honor my grief, but I would also honor myself and all that I have done to care for myself. I continued to do what I have been doing consistently, and today as I write this blog, I feel amazing.
I miss Kota to pieces every single day. When I think of her and have moments of sadness, I welcome it. I allow myself to feel whatever I am feeling, and then I either work through it at that moment, or I commit to scheduling a time to work through it later.
Let’s face it, working through it when it comes isn’t always an option, and I know this first hand.
We have a family of four kids: two pre-teen girls, an adventurous two-year-old boy, and a three-month-old baby girl. I am a student about to start a master’s degree with two final exams coming up, and I run a business with clients who need me to be 100% present with them.
I am not complaining even a little bit; I am just sharing so you can have a bit of perspective, our life is not easy, and it’s busy. Luckily Scott can take pat leave, but when he’s not on pat leave, he is working shift work, which adds to the beautiful chaos.
I have learned that I have to commit to my self-care for me to show up as the Mother I want to be.
If I want to show up as a spouse in the way I want to, I have to commit to my self-care.
If I want to show up for my clients, I have to commit to my self-care. If I want to get through my studies without overwhelming stress resulting in complete and utter meltdowns, I have to commit to my self-care.
This is where we fall short in our society, and everyone is so busy being busy. We settle for these debilitating feelings, and we mask them with booze, Netflix, and mindless scrolling.
Ask yourself this, is it working? Do you feel at peace? Are you happy? Like really happy? Do you sometimes feel like a bit of a robot going through the motions?
I did, and when I chose to commit to my self-care, NO MATTER WHAT, my life changed almost immediately.
I want to share some of what helped me, but please remember, we are all different, and what works for one might not work for someone else.
Please take some of these things into consideration, though, because I am telling you wholeheartedly, they have changed my life.
Ask Scott. I will give you his phone number if you want it.
He has seen it firsthand, and our household is a million times better because of it. We have always been a loving home, but there were many more difficult days before than there are now.
I know someone reading this will say, BUT my life couldn’t get any worse, and I have experienced things that others haven’t, and none of this will work because my circumstances are like no other, and nothing will ever change that.
I hear you. All of our stories are unique. I’ve been in a place where I thought nothing would ever help me, and I speak to people almost daily who are also experiencing some of the most unfathomable painful seasons.
But here is what I know:
We are not meant to suffer. We just aren’t.
Also, there is no shame in medication, but it doesn’t have to be the only option, and I want you to know that.
These suggestions might not work for you, but they also might. If there was a way for you to wake up in the morning and feel a sense of calmness and peace, would you try it?
What is the worst that can happen? You still feel the same way you do now?
These things won’t make you feel worse, but they might make you feel better. Someday it will be easier than others, but if you commit to doing things a little differently in hopes of feeling better, you might surprise yourself.
Keep in mind, I am not a doctor, and I cannot prescribe you with any professional techniques or solutions, but I can share with you what has worked for me, and you can take it or leave it.
CUT OUT Social media and the news– This is on the top of the list for a reason. I think it is one of the leading causes of many of our problems. I know you are likely reading this blog on a social media account, and I know that can seem almost hypocritical, but what I mean by social media is the mindless scrolling.
If you want to subscribe to a blog, a Facebook page, or an Instagram account that brings you joy, motivation, feelings of love, and empowerment, by all means, continue that.
On the flip side, if you are mindlessly scrolling and coming away feeling anxious, depressed, stressed, or inadequate, you need to cut it out of your life.
I don’t have email or social media on my phone anymore, and the only time I catch the news is if I am in the car, and I hear it on the radio. Even then, I limit my exposure to it.
When I use social media, it is intentional, and I am using it for the sole purpose of sharing something that I think might be helpful or might put a smile on someone’s face.
If you haven’t yet, check out Social Dilemma on Netflix if you need more reasons to question your social media usage.
Vitamins – I have been religiously taking my vitamins for almost all of 2020. I am not going to share all of the ones I am taking because I believe we are all different in what we need, but I take what was recommended to me by a naturopath.
I would highly recommend you consider taking some of the ones that typically help with stress and anxiety.
They have been an enormous contributor postpartum and for my life in general. They don’t start working overnight, so if you start taking them, you must be committed and allow them to start working before you give up.
Less coffee– I know coffee increases anxiety, end of story. If I want to feel better, I must stop doing the things that don’t help me feel better. I am not entirely off coffee, but my caffeine intake each day is nothing more than one or one and a half cups of coffee.
Writing – for any of you who know me or who are aware of my story, you are also well aware that writing is what I attribute to my survival.
Writing undoubtedly saved my life, and journaling each day is one of the things I have committed to NO MATTER WHAT.
It brings me so much peace, clarity, and it allows my brain to slow down. I write with a pen to paper, and it is one of the most healing and productive things I do for anxiety, stress, and grief.
Exercise – again, I don’t need to get into the facts on how activity decreases stress and anxiety. We all know this.
Don’t we all know this by now? If you knew me six or seven years ago, you would be surprised that exercise is something I don’t do more of. Exercise used to be my number one priority, and I spent more hours in the gym than I did doing anything else.
Life has changed, and I am not ashamed of my body. In fact, I couldn’t be more proud of what it has endured and accomplished over the last few years, however, with that said, it’s tired, a little broken, and it needs self-care.
I am working on postpartum issues and have to be careful with what exercises I do now, but walking every night is a priority in our household. We do it as a family, and we absolutely love it.
I look forward to it, and although there are days we don’t get out, I can say we have done well in 2020. No matter how exhausted I am at the end of the day, I drag everyone out that door, and I think we all feel better because of it.
Meditation – I almost feel like a bit of a fraud writing about this one. I will have to go back to some of my older blogs to see how many times I may have said that meditation will not help me, and I won’t even dare try because it will make me feel worse.
If I ever shared this opinion with anyone who tried to convince me to try meditating, I sincerely apologize.
This may seem like I am exaggerating, but meditation has completely changed my life, and I think if I had to choose one thing that has helped me the most with my anxiety, it is this practice and the commitment to this practice.
I resisted meditation for years and years, and I think the main reason was that I was scared to allow myself to be still. I also thought you had to sit and not think, and I knew there was no way I would be able to do that.
There was no way I wanted to sit with my thoughts because my thoughts scared the shit out of me.
Here is what I learned; you don’t have to be a meditation expert to get the benefits out of meditation.
I use guided meditations to help remind me of a particular philosophy I believe in to help validate my faith and focus on breathwork. If you have not tried meditating and you have been resistant to it like I have for all of these years, please give it a try.
All you need is five or ten minutes, a comfy spot to sit or lie down, and some headphones. I have been meditating almost every day, twice a day.
If I can find the time, so can you.
I wrote an article on Feb 7, 2020, after having a panic attack. I remember the feeling that night vividly, and I have had quite a few panic attacks since 2016. They are terrifying. I wrote that article to share some of what I have learned about anxiety. I still agree with all of it except for this:
I used to say I am not the almighty controller of this Universe and I wrote that in the last blog that I wrote in February. I have learned, though, I have a lot more control than I think, and I haven’t tapped into it until now. I committed to these practices, and they have changed every area of my life for the better.
A few times, I have missed a couple of days, and I instantly notice it, and so does my family. When I feel better, everyone is better, and as far as I am concerned, that is motivation enough for me.
I know everyone is different but please know, our lives are a work in progress, and you MUST be committed to feeling better if you want to feel better.
If you are struggling with anxiety, I see you, and I want to remind you there is no shame. I believe there are reasons many of us have anxiety, and it is not because something is wrong with us. Please don’t ever let anyone make you think that, and equally, don’t let anyone make you believe that you have to live with it forever.
For more information on anxiety symptoms and risk factors, you can check out this link here. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-c
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