Friday, July 5, 2013

Anxious? Here's what I know about you...

Got anxiety?

Panic attacks?

Maybe a little OCD sprinkled in for good measure?

Yep, me too.

These are things I've struggled with for most of my life, but I didn't quite know what they were until about a decade ago. (For a little background on where I'm coming from, read this post.) For the last several years, most of my "issues" have remained manageable and mostly under control, but only because I've learned alot about myself and how to treat this crazy, wonderful brain that God has given me.

If you struggle with some combination of these problems like I do, here are some things I know about you:
First, you're NOT CRAZY. I repeat,  YOU ARE NOT CRAZY.

(Best thing I ever heard during the worst of it - "Crazy people don't wonder if they're crazy." WORD.)

You are, however, pretty smart. You're probably creative and imaginative. You're empathetic, and truly care about other people. You might be a little bit of an introvert, and spend alot of time in your own head. And sometimes, you might feel very alone. But I'm here to tell you that you are not alone. The world isn't ending. And it's going to be ok.

I wanted to take a minute to share some strategies that have worked for me over the years to help me conquer these issues in my own life. (Note: thus far, I have not managed my problems with any prescription medication, though I'm certainly not opposed to it when needed.) 

1. Get out of your head! Spending too much time in my cerebral universe can be exhausting, so I find that getting physical brings me enormous relief. Going for a run, dancing, snagging my hubby for some lovin', or just getting outside and MOVING makes a world of difference. Plus, exercise gives you all sorts of happy neurochemicals that can really lift the mood.

2. Be careful what you put in your head. I have to be extremely cautious about what I watch, read, and see. Your brain has an entrance, but NO EXIT, so you better put a filter on what you allow in there. Plenty of my past panic attacks have been triggered by something I saw on TV or in a movie. Now, I don't even own a TV, and I'm VERY careful about what kind of media I ingest. I have to conciously choose to invest my time in positive media, and not give any quarter to the negative, scary, or disturbing.

3. Focus on the positive, but in a tangible way. It's much easier said than done to "just stop worrying about it" - HA! But what you CAN do is redirect your focus onto the things in your life that you love and are thankful for in a way that's a little more concrete. Write out a list of things and people you're thankful for, or draw it in a picture, or put it in a song. Create something beautiful. Or just call your mom and say, "Hey mom, I love you!" Vocalizing your thankfullness for other people is always a good idea.

4. Don't give your thoughts/fears too much credit. You're not the king of everything. Just because you think it, doesn't mean it must be so. As a worry-wort, sometimes I feel like if I can just think of every possible worst-case-scenario, then maybe, since I've thought of it, it can't take me by surprise. But just because I've thought of it, doesn't mean it's going to happen. When thoughts and fears that freak you out come your way, acknowledge them, but then try to let them float on by, as if they're passing you by like a drifting log in a river. You're on the shore. You don't need to wade in and gather up every passing stick and strap it to your back, you know?? Your thoughts and feelings are just that: thoughts and feelings. They do not dictate reality.

5. Realize that you can struggle with issues like these and still have faith. I have chronic anxiety. And I love Jesus. These are not mutually exclusive concepts. Which might be very obvious to you, but during the worst of my stuggles, I was told on multiple occasions by a variety of religious folk that "if I just had enough faith" I would be cured. Fixed. Healed. Which is, frankly, absolute bollox. God is not my personal genie or vending machine, doling out good things I think I deserve on command. And Jesus never promised an easy, flawless, perfectly-healed life. He does, however, promise grace, love, hope and peace. And I can have all of those things with an anxiety disorder. Or cancer. Or HIV. Or whatever. Now I'm not saying that the Bible tells us to live in fear, because it doesn't. But the Bible does say that in this world there will be troubles and pain, but that Jesus has conquered the world. John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

If this post has struck a chord with you, please know that more than anything, you are not alone. You are among friends, and good company at that! Do you have some strategies that have worked for you? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Hey there! Found you via the FTL launch team! Loved this post. (And your birth story--I have a little boy who will be two next month. I am about the exact opposite of a natural, hippie Momma, but I can definitely appreciate a good natural birth story!). I just blogged about my anxiety and depression this past week, so I was particularly appreciated your words on the subject. I do take medication, but I take a small dose (half of what my doctor prescribed) and I try to fill in the gaps with management strategies. The ones you posted are great ideas!