DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. This post is not medical advice. It is of my own experiences and you should discuss anything you want to “try” with your doctor. Period.
For those who have followed along, you’ll know I have issues. Mainly anxiety issues, but issues. And here’s what I’ve learned:
First, let’s start with what people told me:
- You’re perfectly normal
- You’ve tried to handle too much for too long
- You’re not weaker than anyone else
- You’re faking it
- There’s nothing wrong with you
- Buck up or shut up
1-None of these are the exact wording of what I had been told, but that’s OK, because none of them are true. Let’s start with “normal” – No one really know what “normal” is, but when you can’t show up at work due to tunnel vision and vomiting, that’s not normal. No, I was not (and potentially am not) normal.
2-Just what is too much? I worked 32 hours a week and homeschooled my child. Yes, that’s a lot, but I didn’t cook and rarely cleaned. So just where was the too much part? Honestly, for me, it was the job itself, my own personal problems, and not having a set schedule. If my schedule had been set, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. I would have had a routine in my life. So no, I don’t think I tried to handle more than others have. I think it was something else entirely.
3-What about being weaker? Well now if any, that one, was true. I wasn’t weaker than anyone else, except that I succumbed to things allowing my anxiety to grow instead of having enough courage to face it. Maybe if I had just marched down to the poor excuse for a school and straightened them out for the third time in a row. Maybe if I had just found a way to switch his school. Or maybe, if I had simply told my dad that I wasn’t paying for any more of his stuff. See, I had originally planned on working long enough to pay off the storm shelter and recoup our savings. That turned into 2 years because by then, we needed more land, and it would take two years to build up enough credit to get a loan to get the land. Then it turned into infinity. Every time I paid off something, and I mean down to the week it was paid, I came home to a new truck, or a new trailer or something else I didn’t ask for or need. I then had to work another year to pay it off, and then it happened again. Finally I told my husband I wasn’t paying for any more stuff my dad bought. And I didn’t. But it was too late. I was already broken.
4-6 – I wasn’t faking it. Wish I were. Same goes for the next part. And the latter, if I could have, I would have.
But I’m better now, not perfect, but better.
I realized a few things:
- Anxiety is an emotion
- You can control your emotions
- Medication doesn’t and won’t help
- I push myself too hard
- I’m lazy
- I’m afraid
1-Anxiety is an emotion. Recognizing it is the hardest part. Not all emotions are easily recognized. You may not realize you’re depressed until your friends ask you what’s wrong. Why? Well, when you’re a baby and watching Sesame Street or you’re parents are teaching you smile=happy, tears=sad, there is no “this face=depressed” or “this face=anxiety”. For one, those emotions don’t have faces, and are thankfully rare enough that children don’t often ask what’s wrong with someone to learn. For example, if Mommy cries happy tears, little Bobby may ask what’s wrong. It is then that he learns that sometimes tears mean happy. But when Mommy mopes due to depression or cries due to anxiety, he assumes or isn’t answered truthfully because she doesn’t know herself. She thinks she’s tired, sick, worn out, etc.
So first of all, I had to teach myself what anxiety feels like. It wasn’t easy, and I still have trouble sometimes. Have you ever been angry about something permanently? Like a political issue or something horrible someone did? It can set you in a bad mood by smell, a song, a word someone says, and you may never realize you’re in a bad mood and getting short with people. Same goes for anxiety. That feeling snowballs in you and grows because, let’s face it, anxiety is a primal feeling. And primal feelings often feel good, at first at least. By the time it’s grown out of control, it’s too late.
2-Once I learned what it felt like, or how to recognize its imminent birth, I stopped it. I told myself to stop feeling that way. How? Ever made yourself calm down when you’re angry? Ever try to stop crying? Sometimes it doesn’t work, but with practice, it gets easier.
3-Medication did nothing to help me and everything to make matters worse. Period.
4-I expect perfection from myself. That’s bad. No one’s perfect.
5-Yet I’m lazy.
Now wait, how can you be both? Simple. I don’t want to do things, and when I’m forced to, I get anxiety, so I wind up doing anything but to keep from having the problem. This inevitably makes the problem worse, for the thing never gets done, causing the anxiety to grow. But by golly when I do do something, I DO it. And I don’t stop until it’s perfect. This is especially true with physical fitness. In fact, the only reason I’m not working out right now and am overweight is because I was killing myself eating 1200-1500 calories a day and working out 1-2 hours a day, 4-6 days a week. I was still at least 10-15 pounds overweight, and 2 sizes too big. Finally one day, my husband looked at me and said, “Stop. You’re killing yourself.” I wound up having iron deficiencies and had to stop. My levels still aren’t where they need to be, so I’m still not working out. Hopefully, in the future, I can control myself in my workouts. So like I said, I push myself too hard.
6-And finally, fear. I was afraid of things that hadn’t happened yet. One of my biggest fears is getting fired. Long story. But whenever a supervisor wanted to talk to me, I knew it was to fire me. They talked to me a lot at my last job, and it was never to fire me. But my fear made me react differently than best, and caused anxiety that didn’t need to be there.
So what can be drawn from this?
- Recognize what triggers your anxiety, not so you can avoid it, but so you know when to expect it.
- Learn to recognize the feeling
- Then stop the feeling. Say, “I don’t want to feel this way.”
- Stop analyzing. Stop trying to figure it out. You’re anxious. Big deal. Now make yourself stop being anxious just like you would make yourself stop crying or calm down.
- Understand that it takes time. A lot of time. When anxiety has infiltrated every aspect of your life from getting up in the morning to going to the bathroom to even checking the blooming mail, it’s going to take time. Do you cry when you answer the phone? How about when you have to write an e-mail to someone? No, of course not, but these are common anxiety sources for people. You will feel anxious 100X more in a day than sad or angry. So it’s going to take time.
- Stop being afraid. Are you afraid that you said the wrong thing in the e-mail? What’s the worst that could happen? Probably not life threatening. Usually the worst that could happen isn’t as bad as you think. For example, I’m having a launch party coming up. I have one relative coming. As far as my fears go, that’s all that’s going to come. So what? How is that any different than if I didn’t do it at all? It’s not what I hoped for, it’s not a good thing, but it’s not a bad thing. I got a review from someone that I thought would love my book but didn’t, and I haven’t heard back from any of the other reviewers. Therefore, in my mind, my book is a flop. So what? Well, yes, that could mean I will never recoup my investment. It may be so horrible that I don’t even finish the series. But my friends are still going to be my friends. I know that much. And my family will still love me. I will have pursued a dream to learn the outcome. Better than not ever trying and never knowing.
You can do this.