Isn’t it weird how you wake up and at first, you’re just there. You’re calm. You’re alert but not really. You’re…..okay.
Then life starts to settle in.
I wondered this morning why life starts to settle in. Is it by a subconscious choice or is the slow decent natures way of easing you back to reality.
I surely wouldn’t CHOOSE to start to feel every ache and pain, every fretful thought or stressful fact in my life. Would I?
Through my panic and anxiety journey I have had moments of semi foggy clouded clarity.
Let’s take the following scenario as example.
We wake up. The first thing we notice is the sun trying to shine through the blinds. We hear birds singing and we feel warm. Content. Comfortable.
Time pops into our heads and we glance at the clock. We have 2 hours before we need to be there.
*The first sparkle of apprehension or anxiety*
We get up to use the restroom because goodness sakes, as soon as we are awake, our bladders demand it.
As we walk to the restroom, we feel a little light-headed. Head rush. It takes a few seconds to clear.
*Health analyzing begins the moment the head rush is detected.
– dehydration? Good chance.
– from being sick? Maybe.
**Another sparkle of mild worry
We lay back down.
The sun is still trying to get through the blinds, the birds are still singing, it’s still warm.
Do we continue to fret, or do we return to contentment?
The only thing that is different is the fact that we got up and felt a head rush.
If we hadn’t gotten up, or gotten up without an event, would we still be laying there content?
It’s not the first time we had this choice to make.
Having a good anxiety day, it’s low, the day is decent, we have a lurch of dizziness.
We automatically have that familiar drop in our stomach and the clouds of burden roll right in.
As we continue on, we get defiant. We get pushy.
No! Not today! I’ve had that exact same dizziness for a damned year. Today is NOTHING new! The clouds are old news too! That brick in my stomach….yeah, felt that too.
And then it dawns on us.
We made a split second “choice” to allow the extras to fill in the blanks. We felt dizzy and like the 365 days before, we automatically activated the anxiety or panic response because it has become a habit.
Same Event = Same Reaction
What if we mix it up?
So we felt dizzy.
The clouds roll in, the brick drops.
We launch a counter attack.
Dizzy. Again. Okay, I know when I have a moment of dizziness, I’m usually tightening my neck and hunching up my shoulders. Let me relax those.
There. Better.I know when I’m stressed I tense. Tensing my neck and shoulders so tight puts pressure on those nerves and veins. I just relaxed them and the dizziness is gone. I’m healthy, my tests and all if my numbers are good. I have a less than 1% chance of a major event based on those numbers so, I’m fine. The human body is an amazing machine. It will heal, it will grow and it will survive. I’m not drinking enough and I know that causes me these types of symptoms too so, I’m going to drink more today. I’m going to watch the tension in my neck and shoulders. I was fine a minute ago. I was happy. Nothing has changed. I’m safe. I’m healthy.
The anxiety and/or panic response filters away. The clouds part and the brick turns to dust, gently blowing away.
Our minds are a PMS-ing bitch when left unchecked.
In the height of my panic I was told I was choosing to escalate. My response was “F Off! No I am not!” I would NEVER CHOOSE to feel this way.
Well, no, not randomly. But being a victim of it doesn’t help either.
There are a million theory’s out there. Some developed by sufferers and some by those that have been educated and think they fully understand it.
I, like you, have read everything out there on an attempt to “cure” this vile affliction.
There is no “cure”. We can’t read something and decide that’s our ticket out of Crazytown because Crazytown has an evil villain for a Mayor. Us.
We know what we are afraid of. We know our threshold for insanity, pain and fear. We know our “on” buttons and we know how to twist each of those things to make ourselves miserable.
I know for a fact that if I decided to speculate further on my head rush from this morning, I will be in a full-blown health anxiety spiral within minutes.
The fact is, I have been fighting a cold and I am dehydrated. I have tension in my neck and stress over my day. Each of those separately provoke that symptom. I was fine yesterday, I’ll be fine later. I’ll drink more today and eat good things. My health is good, my risks are super low so why spend my time fretting which will provoke my health to change?!
Sure, I will carry on with low-level anxiety. I’ll take that over Defcon 5 any day.
When I have surges of panic, I’ve learned to stop and think.
Huh, I just had a blast of adrenaline. Weird. I’m not in danger. I’m healthy. I’m safe. I guess my system is still misfiring but it feels exactly like all of the other times. I’m ok!
It doesn’t mean I won’t ever have a setback. I walk around believing I will. I’m not tiptoeing around waiting for it, but those of us that have had panic and anxiety know we can have a relapse.
I say that like I’m not currently suffering. However, I am. I’m just trying to choose to push forward despite the choppy seas.
My symptoms come and go. I am not cured by any stretch. I still balance my tasks for my day to land myself at home when someone else will be there. I fret about being alone for very long. I’m not ready. I’m okay with working on it, but I am simply not there yet. My bedroom door stays open, my bathroom door stays unlocked. My day is planned with concern over how long I will be alone and a brief thoughts of “If I pass out in my driveway, how long would I be there before someone finds me”.
Again, they are choices that I make deep within the recesses of my mind, but they still bubble to the surface and are a cause for worry. I combat these just like I combat the worries over a health event.
“I am healthy so the worry about passing out in the driveway is silly. Its anxiety trying to fight with panic. I don’t need to get in the middle of it. Lets move on. I know I will be okay at home because I am fine every place I go. Having people at home or not at home doesn’t change it. I have seen my health tests. I have done the risk assessments and I have a 1% chance of having a major health event or sudden death. 1%! That is pretty awesome if you think about it. How many people would love to be able to say that?! So, enjoy it!”
I have to repeat this through my day, just like anyone else. I would LOVE to say I don’t. But, I do. I do because like anyone else, I am on the road to recovery and that road is full of potholes, pain and setbacks. It is also full of new roads, smooth surfaces and advances. Is just a matter of enjoying the right now.
While I move through my day, I try to thank God for the moments of contentment that I have. I thank Him for the moments of less intense anxiety or panic that I have. I try to show gratitude for allowing me to take a breath and be present in the moment, something I have never been good at.
I am a future worry wart. I fret about distance. I like to be prepared and if I worry now, then I wont be caught off guard.
Eventually, that gets you. It got me.
I have learned to be present in the moment as much as possible. I don’t have panic or anxiety this second, “Thank you God! Thank you for allowing me to be okay for this very second. I will happily take it and love it!”
Because I know that the next second may not be the same. People in recovery tend to say “One Day at a Time.”
I understand it now. I never did before. However, for me it works better if I do “One Moment at a Time.” A day is too overwhelming for me to try to take. Moment by moment is much more “do-able”.
As one who plans, frets and tries to predict the future, it has been a lesson in humility and patience. I am a fixer, a planner and an organizer.
Anxiety and Panic don’t care.
Once I decided that I would make the decision to live WITH these two, my life became much more reasonable. Much more comfortable. Much less chaotic.
I tried to stand up to them and demand that they take me right now. Early on I read that you should become defiant and try to make the panic and anxiety get as bad as it can get. Demand that it make you faint if you keep feeling like you will faint.
It didn’t do much to simmer things down. It did cause me to see that no, I wont faint, but it didn’t take the feelings of it away either.
I read that you should just sit back and let it do its thing. Let it well up and consume you. Dont fight it, just let it go.
It also didn’t simmer things down. It did cause me to see that it didn’t well as high or become as painful, but it didn’t take my symptoms away either.
I’ve investigated medication, detoxing, alternative medicines like mega dose vitamins, orthomolecular science and countless other things all in an attempt to rid myself of this wicked ailment.
I’ve investigated every known health condition that can provoke anxiety/panic, I have talked to doctors, taken test after test and come to the conclusion that it just is.
I have it because I have it. Nothing can take it away and nothing will change it.
I really beat myself up over not being able to take daily medication for it. Therapist, Psychiatrist, Doctor, Spouse and countless others have tried to reason with my irrational fear. It wasnt having it. So, I researched why we cant just test what brain chemical is having issues and address THAT one.
I found that it’s all a big fat guess. We THINK serotonin levels do this or that. Hmmmm…..thats not good enough for a freak like me. I need a sure-fire way to determine what exactly is off. I refuse to take a medication that may or may not be correct. I’ve had to many reactions to do anything otherwise. The reactions also tell me that my body doesn’t really care for that crap. It is fighting what is supposed to be helping it, which to me, is a clear sign that I shouldnt push it. Thankfully, Doctor agreed because he has note after note about adverse reactions to medications over the years. He isn’t comfortable with handing out this or that medication for fear the next reaction will be a doozie.
So, I have eliminated a lot of processed sugar from my diet. (VERY hard to do considering it is in just about everything we eat!), I have worked to avoid long lists of ingredients in what I consume. (Again, almost impossible. I have stood in a grocery store and wondered what in the hell I can eat here….its all chemically enhanced.)
I have stopped drinking pop, stopped eating late and stopped eating out-ish. (I still get hungry or lazy and fold. I am human.)
I try to take time for me. I spend time in the bath and work to put away the phone so I can just “Be” and thank God for the moments I have had. I lightly reflect on a year ago when things were so overwhelming and I tell Him how grateful I am that my life has moved past that, acknowledging that there may be times I return.
My life has been changed by this and I think it is important to note the good things too. We get so bogged down in the day-to-day life of crap that we forget there are some positives happening as well.
Weight loss from eating better and less, being able to be in the moment much more, feeling better about my appearance and being able to dress better. My eating habits have netted me a 50+ pound weight loss. Being closer to spouse. When someone sticks with you, even though at times they seem to be a huge jerk, they stayed there, you cherish them. I have a new-found love. Deeper and more appreciative. I remind myself to let things go. In the grand scheme of things, a perceived “slight” from someone really doesn’t matter. Maybe they had a bad day. Maybe they are having their own issues, maybe it had nothing to do with me….or maybe it did but until they wish to address it, it’s not my deal. I try to live my life with the least amount of negative impact that I can. I try to be thankful, appreciative, grateful, helpful and honest. I try to curb meanness, spiteful behavior/thoughts and really try to promote peaceful resolutions. Winning situations for everyone. Even Director.
I’ve approached that situation differently. Director is the same. My response is not. Director is rude, I don’t care. I am polite and helpful. Director excludes people and talks about people, I walk over to those very people and embrace them. We all have worth. All of us. Even Director. My focus is finding those things that I liked about you at a time when I didn’t know who you really were, and using them to get through my interactions with you. They are there, they are just hidden beneath reality of who you actually are. I can sort through that while keeping an eye on the bad things, but not allowing them to overshadow the good. What else can I do?!
So listen, we all get stuck down in the trenches. We all slip back into the hole of hell. Every last one of us! But, we know we don’t have to stay there. Maybe we will sit in the hole for a day or two. Maybe even a week or weeks. But eventually we will remember how to get out of it. Eventually we will make that effort.
I’m about in the middle. There are days I can see the top, there are days I swear there is a new bottom. But, the important thing is to keep moving. Keep trying and keep reaching for the edges. I mean after all, we have shown ourselves that we can sit, stew and endure the most awful pain known to mankind, why not also show ourselves that we can pull our feet out of that sticky mud and climb to the top?
Your goal for today?
When you have an episode….
- Have you felt this way before. The answer is usually yes.
- Since you HAVE felt this way before, then you know its your new normal. Youre okay.
- Since it is your new normal, there is nothing to worry about. Keep going.
- Remind yourself of your tests, your doctor’s advice, your own advice and keep going.
- Try to remember a time before you had panic/anxiety. Remember going about your days unaware of anything happening within your body? Remember walking around being okay….and keep going.
The more you try to remember what it was like BEFORE you had panic and anxiety, the more you can remind yourself that the sensations you’re feeling are either a part of your new normal or part of a normal functioning body.
I have always exercised. I havent since becoming bogged down in my new normal. It scares me. So, when I run up some stairs, my heart beats fast, my heart beats hard, I feel out of breath and a little weak.
I have to remind myself that I felt that way before when I stopped exercising for a long time. It was usually my clue that I needed to get back to it. It is something I have felt before and I need to keep going.
So, I do.
The more we remind ourselves that we have felt X or Y or Z before, the more confidence we regain and the more we remember automatically.