Thursday, November 14, 2013

Living With Anxiety

I've been wanting to write this post for awhile but I haven't had much anxiety lately, so I haven't felt like I could truly write this post. This week, things changed and I remembered how much I detest having an anxiety disorder. This post is about to get a little bit heavy and a whole lot of real. Are you ready?

I don't remember ever being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but I know that I've always had it. As a child it was tough and I did weird things like only eat mashed potatoes for an entire school year. Literally THE only thing I would eat. I also had a tendency to slurp instead of swallow my spit when I'm talking. It's an OCD tick. Some crazy family things happened when I was 6 and I wasn't allowed to talk about it. That's when I truly remember being anxious.

Anyone remember Picnik? #bestphotoedits

It mostly went away after 1st grade. Things weren't as rough on us, we were close as a family and I don't remember being anxious during that time. In high school, it came back. This time, it was in the form of panic attacks. I had a few friends who devised ways of calming me down - tried and true tricks that I took to my college roommates to help me if I needed it.

After moving back home from Ohio there was a ton of stuff going on. I could write all about it today, but that would make this post light years long. Someday, maybe I will share it with you. Let's just break it down to this: My parents were separated. My dad had 30 days to move out of his house and in the last week he went to rehab. My house had been on fire a few months earlier. My boyfriend at the time was going through a 19 year old crisis and couldn't handle being in a relationship.

On top of all of that I changed my birth control to Yaz. I was already anxious and trying to remain calm and get through things, but Yaz gave me way too much hormones. I started having at minimum 10 panic attacks a day while at work - I worked alone at a yogurt shop while the other employees were in school. 10 panic attacks a day. Could you imagine?

I can't even imagine now and it was just 4 years ago.

I started going to a counselor and I learned some pretty fantastic anxiety management, which I am going to share below. I switched back to my old birth control and then it would happen like before - sometimes I would have a panic attack, but for the most part I could manage it. Plus with my new toolbox of solutions, I was having less panic attacks because I was preventing them.

At this time I also went to an internist to find out why I was unable to gain weight. Besides a verdict of being a freak of nature, they told me that I do have heart palpitations. They could not / still can not decide if it is caused by my panic attacks or causes my panic attacks.

Now, I rarely have panic attacks. The other day, I spent the morning going through all of the stuff that was packed in boxes back in 2009 - when my dad was moving out of our house. I had letters from my dad, from my ex and inspirational messages from my friends. I didn't realize that it was all affecting me until Iman went to leave for work and I just felt weird. Then I couldn't stop feeling like crying, and now I'm writing this. I'm starting to feel better. I hope this makes sense and wasn't too jumbled...

My Tried and True Ways To Prevent a Full-Blown Panic Attack

1. Confront your Feelings. 
This is really difficult for me. I don't like to feel angry, I think it's a waste of time. If I don't feel my anger though, I end up having a panic attack for no reason much, much later.

2. Try the tapping method
EFT (Emotional Freedom Tapping) is AMAZING. My therapist started me doing this and, whenever I feel a panic attack start, I start tapping. I've taught it to a few friends and it helps them too. Find out more here. 

3. Color
Coloring is cathartic. Not only is it creative for children to do it, but it is a way to focus your mind on your task in front of you. You can scribble hard and get out the frustration you feel, or you can let the smooth strokes calm you. 

4. Eat food regularly
This might not be a problem for everyone, but I'm borderline hypoglycemic so when I don't eat and my blood sugar is low, my heart starts to pound, triggering a panic attack.

5. Watch my favorite movie
I cannot tell you how many times I watched Love Actually or A Lot Like Love in the dorms freshman year. Almost every single night. 

6. Focus my attention
For me, I have two different types of panic attacks - ones that concern my heart pounding and shortness of breath and almost passing out; and ones that concern my absolute inability to move. These are usually caused by being scared of something and paralyzed in fear. Nevermind if it is something silly like people walking into the room that I don't know. I will literally freeze and almost cry. My best friends have learned that if they grab my face and talk to me and get me to focus on them, I will begin to "thaw." 

My panic attacks and anxiety disorder is most likely different from others. We are all unique in our disorders. Obsessive Compuslive Disorder runs in my family. It is what keeps my brain turning and the panic starting. Many people don't realize that OCD is an anxiety disorder. I am diagnosed with a general anxiety disorder, however. I have OCD tendencies and it is a lack of control that will lead to my panic attacks.

Many people have an anxiety disorder and many more have one that is unnoticed. Mental Health Awareness is important to me because it doesn't just affect people who are mentally disabled, but it affects those like me - who's brains just work a little bit differently. I encourage you not to be scared of us or write us off as trying to get attention.

Have a wonderful day!
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  1. Ohh anxiety, you're a sneaky little biotch. Looking back on childhood, it seems like I started to show my OCD during my parents' financial crisis and then got progressively worse through my teens. The counting, the touching objects a certain amount of times, the feeling of some impending doom holding you hostage unless these actions are taken. It sucked. I now trade off between ticks/compulsive actions. I no longer feel the need to touch every chair in the kitchen before bedtime and flick light switches a million times before I have to "do it right." I have never had any counseling or other treatment besides my own stubborn "I'll fix this" or alternate to a less annoying habit. For the past year it's been how I set things down and taking "shake before opening" way too seriously. I could go on and on. I tell myself to stop, I take off my glasses so I can't see what the imaginary problem was (if I can't see it, it's not there). But most of the time I tell myself that my fears are illogical and that I should just set the damn water bottle down and stop shaking it.
    Of course this is worse during hormonal flux. I can't manage to load the dishwasher when I'm on my period. It gets too frustrating and I hate it. I had no idea that you were on Yaz! The doctor put me on it for my first pill Rx and it was a disaster. It turned me into a crying sadsack that wouldn't have cared if she were to walk into traffic on accident. My mother yelled at my gyno for this and I was switched to the non-big name pill, lowest dose. That was sooo much better.

  2. Ack!! I think most of my ticks are okay now. I just compulsively tap or scratch the front part of my forehead when I'm trying not to have a panic attack. It's annoying and I tell myself to stop. I hate when you're telling yourself to stop and it literally isn't working. One time I said OK for about 2 minutes and the whole time I was trying to make myself stop. People don't understand things like that happen. I hope they can someday. I also hope that I can overcome all of them. Yaz is so crazy! It has way too many hormones for people with anxiety disorders. I actually like progestrine only forms of birth control for people with anxiety disorders. Changing your estrogen dose messes too much with you, I've found.

  3. Hi Raewyn,
    Wow, thanks for sharing this! I too suffer from anxiety, but I don't remember having it as a child. It came out once I started taking Yaz. All my health issues were brought out because of that birth control! I was diagnosed with a hyper thyroid and with that came anxiety, panic attacks with fast heart palpitation's, weight loss, and unable to gain weight, fatigue, and the list goes on! I know exactly how you feel and what your going through. It's so hard to control. I use the tapping a lot. But I'm subtle with it so I don't freak people out so if I'm sitting in a chair for a long time and I start feeling anxious I start tapping my foot.
    Arts and crafts does calm me, and people make fun of me for watching "50 First Dates" like a hundred times a week. lol
    I think my OCD is subtle though and only comes out when I clean, when I order food (nothing can touch) and sometimes in my arts and crafts. My fiance might say differently

    I never seen a counselor about it though. I do hope you feel better these next few days, and I'm so glad to find someone who knows the feeling of anxiety.

    xoxo, Jess

  4. It is just crazy how Yaz did that to so many of us! It's frustrating because they have the lawsuits for the blood clots, but can we start a lawsuit for our other issues??

    That is crazy that you got diagnosed with hyper thyroid! They tested me for it and I didn't have it - even though I had all of those symptoms! I can gain weight now, but I wonder if maybe they just missed the diagnosis. Hmm, maybe I should go back to an internist.

    I'm glad you use the tapping, too! The only people I've found who use it are the people I've told. Today I am feeling much better, thank you so so much!!

  5. People don't realize that OCD doesn't mean being an organized neat-freak. It's certain ticks with certain people so it's hard to diagnose at first. Mix that in with general anxiety and you're looking at an unhealthy lifestyle if you don't do something about it. I'm taking anxiety medication, but it still doesn't prevent me from being the weirdo I am with my OCD. And I still can't go to the gym or almost have a mental breakdown when I'm at the airport. I dread Monday

  6. Agreed, It's so frustrating that people don't understand the true meaning of OCD. I haven't tried anxiety medicine yet, because I hate taking medicine in general. I hope Monday's okay. You can text me the whole time!!

  7. I, too, suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. I believe all of my problems stem from my childhood. I am also Bipolar. I am not medicated. It has taken me many, many years to learn how to control my mind so I don't end up curled in a corner of my house, in a fetal position, paralyzed and unable to breathe. Do I still have problems? Oh yes I do! I also have a two and a half year old running around, so I have to be on my toes constantly and that can also induce a panic attack for me.

    I totally get what you are saying. I, too, had many years of deep and dark places, but you will come out on the other side, every time. I have learned down to the twitch in my eye when I am getting ready to have an attack and I am able to control them usually. Thank you so much for sharing this with us all. :)

  8. Oh, those two year olds keep you on your toes!!

    Thank you for sharing your story of strength. I love that the blogging community is so supportive of each other, even when we're out there bearing our souls. Thank you again for your support!!

  9. You are the first person I have ever heard who likes the tapping thing. To be its just to odd. Focus attention on something else is key though.

  10. So true. Some people think that checking your door locks 5 times means you have OCD. But it's much worse. My boyfriend asks me why I perform certain ticks and it's difficult to explain to someone without anxiety.

    I've been told (by a friend) to get meds for it but I manage fine without any prescription. One friend suggested that I get a medical marijuana card (her Rx for anxiety) odd option for my non-smoker self. But hey everyone has a different way to deal.

  11. haha I'm the same way. Iman sometimes doesn't understand why I do the things I do. I don't like to medicate either, I haven't tried it. I just would rather try everything else I can think of first.

  12. haha, well have you tried tapping on the points?


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