Do you find that at certain times you worry more about what people think of you? I’m sure it is a general human condition that from time to time we all experience this, as social beings, but if you suffer from any kind of anxiety disorder, then this can at times become debilitating. Believe me, I speak from experience, so I extend compassion to anyone else who may be suffering from something similar. There aren’t necessarily any ‘quick fixes’, but sometimes it just helps to know that you are not alone – and I can assure you that you are not. At times, our own thoughts and feelings can be so acute, so overwhelming and so difficult to ignore or get on top of, and this impacts upon our neurological responses, and on our behaviour in any given situation. Sometimes we even tell ourselves that we are being ‘ridiculous’, paranoid even, but it doesn’t make the struggle any less real. I find that I resort to self-protective behaviours such as avoidance, isolation, just keeping myself to myself as much as possible. Because there’s enough going on inside of an anxious person than to have to deal with the external world as well. Yet, it is often the case that individuals like myself, and perhaps like you if you can relate to any of this, have so much going on inside of them that they find difficult to regulate, precisely because at some point or another, and most likely during childhood and adolescence while our coping mechanisms were still forming, the external world caused some sort of damage. And so our adult lives have that stressful edge to them, and the smallest of things can send our nervous system into overdrive as our bodies try to determine whether the best response would be to fight, take to flight, or flee the situation. And that’s not our faults if our developing brains have been damaged or are over or underactive in certain ways. People don’t realise how incredibly tough it can be to live in such a way. But that’s not to say there is no hope – there is plenty of hope, so if you are struggling please don’t feel too disheartened. This comes with the proviso, however that it is going to take hard work and practice, and getting ‘back to basics’ on a daily basis – something that I need to work on as well. The basics are calming our nervous system, investing our time in ‘breath work’, in relaxation, calming techniques, observing the world around us using our senses in an intentional way so as to ground ourselves, and working on redressing the negative and fearful thought patterns that our brains have become stuck in. This can be done – simply look up neuroplasticity for inspiration that your brain can change as we create and strengthen new neural connections. It is not easy, my friend, I know…anxiety sometimes feels like a monster we have to fight, but we can and will win if we keep on going; panic attacks are exhausting, and PTSD / C-PTSD can be frightening, confusing, disorienting and painful on so many levels – but we will overcome. If you are struggling today, know that there is hope, for a better, brighter, calmer future….and even a calmer today – maybe not free from stress, anxiety or worry, but as you take time to work on things you may just find that you cope better than you did yesterday. Whatever your situation, and however trapped you might feel, find a place to get away from it all, even if that means going for a walk by yourself before going home from work for example, and begin or continue your training of ‘rewiring’ your body, brain and nervous system. It will take effort and commitment but don’t we owe it to ourselves, regardless of what other people might think? What other people think or might be thinking about us isn’t nearly as important as our health and wellbeing – so let’s get training – like any muscle in the body, we need to keep exercising our minds in order to be mentally healthy, even if that means we start training as if we were an athlete in recovery from a major injury – it might feel that way to you just now but it can get better if you put in the work and build up your support mechanisms. One step at a time, we will get stronger, so take care, walk slowly, breathe a little more deeply, and fill your mind with kind thoughts towards yourself and others. x
Yep, this post is real time, happening right now. I’ve written a lot about mental health and my experiences of anxiety so hopefully writing as it happens will encourage and help someone out there somehow.
What is happening right now? In case you’re wondering how I am typing while experiencing an episode of anxiety, I can touch type and have done for years and therefore it is very natural in terms of ‘muscle memory’ and also somewhat ‘soothing’ in a way to help me through this.
I have been having difficulty with my breathing, those ‘icky’ anxious feelings rising up in my chest, struggling to not ‘zone out’ as dizziness takes over and my head lolls back and forth. Feelings of being trapped, unable to control my body’s responses and do simple things, upset, trying to regain control.
This is clearly not one of my worse ‘episodes’. During those I wouldn’t be able to communicate with you at all or sit and write, but hopefully it illustrates to those who don’t understand anxiety, particularly the clinical Generalised Anxiety Disorder that you might see someone in your life with this condition seemingly ‘functioning’ but actually this ‘invisible illness’ can be hurting them pretty bad at that moment. For those of you who do experience anxiety and wonder if you’re crazy or if you are making it up somehow in your head because you can still ‘do stuff’ ….be encouraged that you may still be functioning, maybe somewhat on ‘autopilot’ even though you are moving through life and getting on with things, that doesn’t negate your heightened state of distress, and the difficult thing is it is not easy to see.
When things have been really bad for me during an anxiety or panic attack or dissociation from PTSD and related symptoms, I struggle to walk, talk and write as words get jumbled and my spelling gets all mixed up. I feel dizzy, distressed and have been physically sick before, both at work and on the way to work, I’ve had to be held by people to be able to walk, I’ve hyperventilated and felt like my mind was going to explode, suffering as if with a nightmare even while awake, with intrusive thoughts and an inability to tolerate multiple conversations, sounds, lights, sensory input of any kind.
Why am I telling you this? Because I am a fighter, and I believe you are too. Even as I am currently, as I write and possibly as you read this, going through an episode of anxiety right now, as my body rocks itself back and forth as I type in an automatic effort to ‘self soothe’, I am reaching out to you. Once upon a time I would be floored, I would be immobile and unable to get control of my distress, and maybe that’s the situation you’re in with anxiety or related conditions in your season of life right now.
But keep practicing, on the good days as well as the bad, strengthen your coping techniques, get so strong so that instead of panic, helplessness, fear and despair and your nervous system, mind and body going ‘haywire’, you will have trained your system’s automatic response to be one that finds a way to get control of your symptoms rather than them controlling you. You will get up, you will keep fighting, you will get a handle on the fight, flight, freeze responses, and like me, the overwhelming feelings of maybe being dizzy, disoriented, confused, overwhelmed, upset, distressed, having palpitations, feeling perhaps like you’ll be sick, being sick, feeling like you might collapse, faint, have a heart attack, maybe even die….you will conquer them….so don’t give up hope, we’re in it together…I can’t believe how far I have come sometime, but I am determined to get so strong that I can help other people, and I know that same fight and resilience is in you too my friend. Never give up. You are capable of amazing things, even with your condition, and even as the symptoms happen in real time. Be blessed. x
Time to go and get a handle on this stuff, first step, breath work to regulate nervous system with deep breathing. Here goes….