So. I wasn’t planning on getting heavy this early on in my blogging journey, but this is a topic that’s really important to me. I’ve suffered from anxiety my entire life. I didn’t know what it was until I was 24. As a child, they diagnosed me with allergies, as a teenager–IBS. It wasn’t until the night I had my first full-blown panic attack that I started connecting all of the pieces.
Honestly, terrible as that experience was, It was FREEING! Everything I’d been feeling my whole life started to make sense. The more I learned about anxiety the better I felt. Why? Because it meant that I could finally DO SOMETHING about it! So here I am, telling my anxiety story. If I can make just ONE person feel less alone, getting this vulnerable will be worth it.
**Before we go any further…I’m not a doctor. I’m not a mental health professional. This blog post is not medical advice, it’s purely my experience and my wish to help connect with others who’ve struggled with anxiety the way I have. If you need it, please talk to a qualified physician or healthcare provider about medical treatment.**
Living with anxiety
As a child, my anxiety just felt like nerves and nausea. I was constantly feeling “chokey.” It usually happened when my mom would leave town, I had to go to school, a new babysitter came over…you get the idea. As a teenager, I would get full-on SICK. I missed so much school. School was never my thing, to begin with. I mean, can you think of a more anxiety-inducing environment than high school?! The people, the judgement, the expectations, the emotions…every single thing about high school still sounds like a nightmare.
Then I met my husband-to-be. When we first got married, I found a new type of stress. Marrying a diabetic was more than I bargained for. It wasn’t just the day-to-day tasks of managing a chronic illness: let’s talk about medical expenses. He’s expensive! Not to mention I had to learn what seemed like a whole new language of prescription names and medical terms. I felt so much pressure to stay on top of everything! His life literally depended on it.
On top of being newly married, we moved out of my parents’ house while raising a toddler. Forget a honeymoon phase, these were some of my darkest days. One night while on my period, I took some cold medicine, washed it down with a Diet Coke and went to bed. Bad idea. I woke up TERRIFIED! My heart was racing, I was singing nursery rhymes, I felt like I was losing my mind and couldn’t catch reality.
I now know to stay hydrated, especially when on my period. Caffeine is a trigger for me. And to this day–almost 10 years later–I haven’t touched cold medicine. The panic didn’t end that night in the ER, though. This episode opened up the floodgates.
I continued to panic almost every night for an entire year. I would throw up, I would hit my husband, I couldn’t gain control. ANYTHING could send me over the edge. During this time, I opened my salon. My attacks were starting to affect my work. I would tell my clients: “If I freak out, please act like nothing’s happening. If you look at me weirdly, it’ll get worse.” I never did have a full-on panic attack in front of a client, but I did go lay in the hall or hide in the bathroom a time or two. I even quietly cried through a few highlight appointments. I knew I couldn’t go on this way.
FINALLY. I talked to my doctor about how I was feeling. Luckily, the first medication we tried worked. I’m still on it. It isn’t a daily medication, but “as needed.” Some days I need it more than others. Now that I can control the attacks, I can focus on managing my day-to-day anxiety.
What does Anxiety feel like?
- Like you have a million things to do but you can’t focus on a single task
- Paralyzing, both mentally and physically
- Tense muscles. There are times when my anxiety is so bad my fingers hurt
- Extreme worrying
This list could really go on and on. And while most people experience similar symptoms, anxiety feels different for everyone. Everyone has different triggers and experiences. But in talking openly with others, I find that we often share many symptoms.
Sometimes my anxiety feels like a wave. I can feel it coming and I have two choices: fight it or hop on for the ride. Sometimes it’s better to hop on and ride it out, letting that freak flag fly and getting it all out. Other times, I fight it–and this fight can last for days. It’s exhausting. I become mean to the people I love. My work suffers. I’ll stop showering or at least shaving and washing my hair. I don’t eat much. I don’t sleep. I’m a real beauty queen. I start to wonder if my mind belongs to me. If I will lose my mind. I legitimately fear that I’ll end up in a home and I just pray my family visits. Then I crash. Drink a ton of water. I come out of it.
So let’s talk about coping mechanisms: the anxiety fighters that help get me through. Here’s what I’ve found works for me…
Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety
- Drinking water (so important to stay hydrated)
- Chewing gum or having a mint (helps shift my focus somewhere else)
- Watching familiar movies (I have certain favorites lol, Baby Mama is a go-to)
- Standing barefoot on the earth (grounding brings me out of my head and back to my body)
- Sunshine (always a mood booster)
- Warm bath (feels like a warm hug)
- Making a list (helps me see that what I’m worried about is more manageable than I thought)
Everyone experiences anxiety. Yours might not feel the same as mine, but it’s something all people share. I’d love to hear about how you’ve dealt with anxiety in your life. What does it feel like to you? What coping mechanisms do you use? As always, this is a SAFE, JUDGEMENT-FREE ZONE. Let’s share our stories.