Where to begin? What a week I have had… My anxiety levels have literally been through the roof! Honestly, it is at times like this where I am reminded as to why I chose to self medicate and numb myself in the first place. For so long I numbed myself with pain meds and now that I am no longer taking them my body and mind are becoming active and alive again. I am having to deal with my emotions and mental ill health for the first time as a sober adult. It has been difficult but if my experience can open the eyes of others, or make someone feel a little less alone then it is worth while communicating and connecting.
Mental health is very much subjective and personal to the individual but for a little more insight I will detail what anxiety feels like for me. I find that my mind is continuously racing with a voice in my head that seemingly gets louder and louder overpowering rational thought, catastrophising every eventuality. Breathing becomes difficult in that it feels as though there just isn’t any air going in. My stomach is in knots and my knees become weak as though they are about to give way beneath me. Sometimes I get the sudden urge that I need to use the toilet. Putting pen to paper I realise that what I am describing is very much akin to a panic attack. It’s like my mind and body are constantly in ‘fight or flight’ mode and I just can’t seem to get out of it. I would really like this post to be interactive and so please do tell me, what does anxiety feel like for you?
I have attended counselling sessions based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and been through twelve weeks of DBT training so I try my best to draw on all that I have learnt. For example recognising when ’emotional mind’ is in play and also learning to focus and bring it back to ‘the breath’. Thinking about it, I realise that I have to break this thought pattern and vicious cycle. This is no easy task, the mind is such a powerful tool. Although it is argued that if you can think yourself into a difficult or challenging mindset then you too have all the faculties to think yourself out of it and solve the problem. As to how far I agree with this I am not sure. When you are in the grips of anxiety or a panic attack it is just so overwhelming and bloody hard!
Of course I have also done my own research and know there are other things that can help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. For me I start off really simple, even with the most basic of tasks such as getting out of bed and tidying the bed clothes. Taking all of my medication on time and as prescribed is another really important one. Brushing my teeth, taking a shower and getting dressed ready for the day ahead. Feeding myself with good nourishing foods and exercising is a good one even if it just means going for a walk, getting some fresh air and soaking up some vitamin d. Reaching out to family members and close friends making them aware of what I’m going through. This also serves to ensure that I am not isolating myself too much. In the evening I have developed a ritual whereby I take a shower, put on clean pyjamas, meditate and start to unwind ready for a good night’s sleep. If I don’t get enough rest I just cannot function, simple fact.
Having suffered with symptoms of mental health for what would seem like a lifetime, I now know what I have to do look after myself. However, my anxiety has been so bad this week that I really have had to pull out all of the skills that I have developed in order to function and simply get through the day. One of the things that I have really relied upon has been meditation and mindfulness. I’m not a morning person but I set my alarm an hour earlier than usual so that I have time to meditate in the morning. I have also made an effort to do this in the evening too. Although I have suffered with anxious feelings for the duration I strongly believe that if I hadn’t taken the time to meditate then it would have been a whole lot worse.
Another thing that I have been doing is having a cold shower. I’ll be honest with you in that I take my normal shower with warm water, washing my hair and so on. But then for the last few minutes I turn the temperature right down to freezing and just embrace the cold. At first it took my breath away, so much so that I actually burst out laughing! But then with time your body acclimatises and it becomes quite soothing. The science behind it in simple terms is that after you get over that initial freezing feeling you get a rush of endorphins. Given how I was feeling, this rush of feel good chemicals was very much welcome and so I am now making it a habit to take cold showers every day.
I refuse to allow my anxiety to get in the way and stop me from doing things. Despite how I am feeling, this week I have really pushed myself and made myself do things I really did not want to do. I refuse to allow anxiety to get the better of me and so I purposefully put myself in certain social situations and settings. I fear that if I don’t push myself to go ahead with these social engagements then I run the risk of becoming a recluse! That might sound a bit extreme but the levels of anxiety and panic that I have endured this week, I could quite easily have shut the door on the world and not gone outside.
However, I realise that I need to be kind to myself and sometimes give myself a break. A few times this week I found myself doing things and then later thinking that I needn’t have essentially forced myself to do that. It’s just so hard to find the right balance between pushing yourself to an appropriate level and then actually looking at a situation and thinking that was too much. I’m trying so hard to be balanced and listen to my mind and what my body is telling me. But when you’re thoughts are irrational it’s difficult to know what’s the best thing to do.
I’m going to draw it to a close for today as once more my entry is getting pretty lengthy but at least now you know where my head is at. I do realise that I am not unique and that there are so many of you out there who suffer with symptoms of anxiety and depression in varying degrees. Always curious and forever intrigued I would love to hear your thoughts on my posts and page. Please do say hello and drop me a line, I would love to hear from you!