I used to think anxiety was fake, a figment of my imagination. After experiencing it off and on for most of my life, I’m beginning to finally admit that it is very real.
I still battle with the idea that anxiety is a weakness, that I let myself give in to its powers, but I’m discovering there is no cerebral switch I can use to restrict the flow of its crippling energy.
Yesterday I had a particularly bad episode in where a pinched nerve in my right arm mixed with an Iced Toddy from Spiderhouse sent me into a six hour-meltdown (I hate using the word “meltdown” out of fear of sounding like I went off the deep end and shaved my hair AND got married in Las Vegas, but let me tell you, THAT kind of meltdown would have been a lot more fun than what I experienced).
moral of the story: if you’re susceptible to anxiety DO NOT DRINK AN ICED TODDY FROM SPIDERHOUSE!
On four separate occasions I asked my boyfriend to drive me to the hospital because I was 110% convinced I was having a stroke, and if not a stroke, a heart attack. This sounds slightly comical to me now, but while going through it, I was certain I was either losing my mind OR about to die. Familiar to my anxieties, particularly ones after I drink an Iced Toddy at Spiderhouse (moral of the story: if you’re susceptible to anxiety DO NOT DRINK AN ICED TODDY FROM SPIDERHOUSE), my boyfriend, Geoff, tried talking me down from the proverbial ledge.
In fact, Geoff took me to get food, played card games with me so I’d stop fixating on the thought that my entire right side was numb and laid down next to me when I finally felt the attack subsiding. Yes, I’m extremely lucky to have someone who understands these moments and thankfully they are far and few in between. However, in my desperation to keep them at bay, I’m finding myself living a more “comfortable” life where I no longer take great risks.
Every day I find something new to worry about… and I hate it
I’ve gotten to where I don’t like flying or walking in nature where I fear a number of animals could attack me. Every day I find something new to worry about (this week it is farm-raised salmon), and I hate it. As I get older, I want to be more adventurous, not the other way around. But looking back on my life, my anxiety just keeps coming back in different manifestations: childhood/teenage years it was fear of abandonment, early twenties it was my career and late twenties it’s the mortality of myself and everyone I love (HOW IN GOD’S NAME WILL I EVER PRODUCE SPAWN?!)
Having utilized both anxiety pills and a therapist in my early twenties, I am not opposed to either that helps an individual get through a particularly challenging period in their life, but I’m also at an age where I want to tackle anxiety solo and without the help of pills. I recognize that I indeed have anxiety, so why can’t I form the will to stop it?
True there is no on and off switch, but I’m discovering that there are tools to help prevent anxiety attacks or minimize their impact:
2. I was kidding about drinking.
3. Eh, not really.
I don’t encourage anyone to get loaded, but if a nightcap helps you wind down, more power to you. If my Jewish grandmother just had one drink ONCE in her life, she would be a much more chill woman (however, it’s probably her anxiety that has kept her going for 86 years).
Even at 30 years of age, my lazy ass never ceases to
be amazed at how wonderful exercise feels for the head and body. However, don’t exercise DURING an anxiety attack – then your heart might EXPLODE!
5. Stepping away from the computer/tablet/phone.
It is not lost upon me that part of my anxiety may be due to the fact that I’m a writer, where I spend hours upon hours in my head, and spend a gross amount of time at the computer. In fact, I’m fairly certain my pinched nerve is due to this lifestyle.
6. Talk to a friend or family member.
That is what they’re there for. Don’t worry about burdening them or sounding like a spazz, they love you and want to help.
7. Get back to basics.
Read, play board games, clean the house, do SOMETHING that gets you out of your friggin’ head for a bit.
8. Take deep breaths.
Dude, it will help you from passing out during an attack.
9. Remember, you’re most likely not dying.
10. STAY AWAY FROM SPIDERHOUSE’S ICED TODDIES!!!
Reading back through this article as I proofread, I’m aware it makes me sound like a giant ball of looney, but I’ve shared it with you because if you suffer from anxiety too, you are most definitely not alone.
This article originally published in The Wander Issue of Citygram Austin Magazine [August 2013].
Click here to download the FREE mobile issue designed specifically for your iPhone or iPad in the App Store today.
Culture & Lifestyle Columnist
Lauren is a freelance writer and screenwriter from Austin, Texas.
She was born in Central NY during the Reagan administration and as a child enjoyed wearing suits and fantasized about being middle-aged Jewish men, most notably four out of the five Marx Brothers, Rod Serling and Woody Allen.
She co-wrote and co-produced the feature film Loves Her Gun. Her work has appeared in several outlets including The Guardian, and xoJane.
Photography: Chris Perez