Coping with my Generalized Anxiety Disorder
I remember the first time I had an anxiety attack the way someone remembers the first time they got really, really drunk. It happened fast, it was a blur, but the pain is still very vivid. Also, like the person who had one too many jäger bombs, I lost control.
As a matter of fact…control? What is that?
Anxiety is natural emotion that a human being experiences in life. It is characterized by butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, worried thoughts and sometimes some physical tension. This type of anxiety usually subsides after the stressor that caused it is removed.
A person that suffers from an anxious disorder doesn’t know subsiding. They don’t know what it feels like to be at ease during even the simplest situations. Their minds are factories for unnerving thoughts to which their bodies become prisoners. They wake up on edge and attempt to sleep as most they can on the same edge that carried them throughout the day. Knots in the stomach, sweaty palms and tension are light summer breezes in comparison. And when things within become unbearable enough, they implode, surrendering to an attack.
Although over 40 million Americans over age 18 are plagued by anxiety disorders, a sufferer always feels alone.
It wasn’t until a doctor said the words ANTIDEPRESSANT that I felt the urge to want to step outside of myself and think about change. As a sufferer of Generalized Anxiety, I can tell you that there’s nothing harder than to think of ways to shake yourself straight. I was told that because of my family history of anxiety and depression, what I was feeling was normal. I was told that although it feels like it, it’s not something that I’m doing to myself, it’s just something that’s happening to me. Hearing that for the first time moved mountains in me. I didn’t need to learn how to stop it, I just needed to learn how to control it. Controlling it sounded great, but pills were not an option, so I decided to search for my own symptom “cures.” What resulted were a bunch of adopted behaviors and practices, some of which continue to work for me.
Prayer in the morning and before bed
Bikram Yoga at least once a week
Breathing exercises when tension springs
Recording anxious moments in a journal or calendar
My “cures” have not only helped me cope so that I’m able to function day to day, but more importantly, they’ve made me more aware of myself. Managing my stress and becoming familiar with the triggers of my distress have allowed me to separate my emotions from my anxiety. I’m learning to accept feelings of sadness and anger without letting them suck me into portals of no return. Some days are better than others, but reminding myself that I’m not abnormal and I will get through each moment has made life less of an uphill battle.
This is an ode to awareness, because being attentive of my thought traffic has helped me direct it. Living with anxiety is an ongoing battle, but learning to deny its permission to take over your life is a challenge I’ve accepted and urge anyone to try. What is a great life if not a life full of trials and triumphs? If you should allow anything to conquer your mind, let it be yourself.
Art by Zero