Pretty much everyone experiences a bit of anxiety now and then. That isn’t what having an anxiety disorder is like. So, I though I’d just share a bit of background on my version of hell.
It’s a bit like severe stage fright, only instead of just happening when I’m about to do some public speaking, it happens at various, and sometimes random, times of the day. Any day, and any time. And I can go for months, and for one marvelous period, years, without having an attack.
It is something that happens in response to perfectly normal, everyday things. I once went into a corner store to pick up two 2L bottles of pop; when I realized that, because of other things I was holding, I couldn’t actually carry them both at once, I had a panic attack. My heart rate skyrocketed, I got nauseous, my brain froze on ‘AHHHHHHHH’, I was sweating like I’d gone jogging, and I had to leave the store to go to a nearby friend’s house and cry in her bathroom for half an hour.
Random anxiety; so much excitement! It could happen during a conversation. It could happen when I’m logging into my emails and see an email from someone I don’t like. It does happen at work regularly. Basically, it can happen without much warning (though sometimes I’m paying attention and I can see the writing on the wall far enough ahead of time to limit the attack).
I won’t get into all of the symptoms, as they’re well documented, so instead I’ll just segue into some of the ways I’ve learned to deal with them. More or less. The one advantage of being older* is that I’ve had a long time to figure out how I tick. One thing though; this is what works for me. Don’t expect any or all of it to work for someone you know who’s got this disorder. Everyone has to find what works for them. Which sucks, but there you are.
- Routine. If I know, within reason, what to expect throughout my day, I can function really well; hell, I can thrive and even be inspired. Being free from worry is a paradise, tbh.
- Meds. Thanks to some really awesome doctors and the Canadian healthcare system, I’m able to afford drugs that keep me fairly calm. Nothing is perfect, and unusual stress still sends me into an attack. I also sometimes forget to take them. Sigh.
- Decision trees. When I have enough time before a serious change occurs, I can map out the pros and cons of my choices.
- Taoism. This will probably strike people as woo woo, but I can live with that. It taught me how to recognize patterns of behaviour in people and in society, which is really fucking invaluable to someone like me who gets extra anxious when unexpected things occur. Most of the worst shit in my life happened when I stopped paying attention, so I work on this a lot.
- Accepting that my anxiety is integral to who I am. I’m not broken, at least not any more than every other person. It’s just an aspect of me, and it has it’s pros and cons.
- Giving in to it. Sometimes it’s bad, and when it is, I’ll isolate myself to give my emotions a break from everything. I’ll avoid the internet, emails, everything that requires participation (except work, but I’m lucky in that my work is semi-solitary). I’ll take naps if I can and watch Godzilla movies. I can recoup and eventually get back into the world again, because I have that quiet zone and I’ve given myself permission to have it.
There are probably a lot of other things I do, but I can’t think of them right now. But these are a good start.
*I’m definitely older than at least 75% of tumblr users. Make of that what you will.