An Ongoing Discussion on Anxiety
I'm not here to complain and talk your ear off about anxiety disorder because I've used that angle in old blogs and as I read what I wrote back, I could hear a phantom violin playing in my ear.
I don't like the words anxiety and disorder because they are overused and have a lot of different connotations. I wish I had a better word to explain what it is but for now I have to stick with anxiety disorder. Please comment if you have a better term in mind.
What I've learned in the last ten years is that a person's anxiety disorder doesn't ever disappear completely. It's a constant learning process. It's like fitness—you train hard to gain muscle and lose fat but when you reach your fitness goal, you can't just stop training or else all of that muscle is going to disappear and the love-handles will return.
For anxiety disorder, there are bad days and there are good days.
I'll use me as an example: I can go a month without feeling anxious at all. I'll go to restaurants, I'll sit in the movie theatre and focus, I'll kill it at the gym and I think Wow, my anxiety is gone! I can do anything!
And then one day, I get a weird feeling on the bus into town and I suddenly feel unstable. When I'm nearing a panic attack, I am no longer grounded; as if the outline of my body is fuzzy—almost like an out-of-body experience. That just happens sometimes. It comes on suddenly, or it comes on because I'm thinking about it, but when it does, the positive mindset would plummet.
Some unhealthy thoughts I would get after an episode: Life isn't fair. I hate how my body works. Why does this have to happen? I just want to crawl into bed and cry.
These thoughts are a waste of time. Feeling sorry for myself is a waste of time! I have too much to enjoy in life to be moping around just because I felt a little weird for five minutes on a bus.
Back to my fitness analogy...
How many of you have said: "I wish I looked better. I wish I was thinner. I wish I was stronger. I want to go to the gym more" but you don't do anything to change the way you look and when you look at yourself in the mirror again you feel like shit because you're still unhappy with the way you look?
That was my attitude for years and years and the only step I had made toward a fitness goal was cutting out pictures of women in magazines with six-packs and pasting them on my vision board. But inside, I really believed "I'll never look like that."
Last year I started becoming proactive with my physical health by lifting weights and eating well; my main motivation was because I didn't want my boyfriend to think I was a slob, but then I got addicted to it. Now that I look and feel better, I have gained a huge amount of confidence knowing that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
Hello?! Look at Lady Gaga. She went to NYU's Tisch School of Arts, one of the best arts programs in the country, and dropped out at age 19 to pursue her dream. Her parents said she had one year to sign a record deal or she'd have to go back to university. Determined to be a star, she moved into a dirt-cheap apartment in NYC without her parents' financial support and signed a record deal with Def Jam within that year (those stupid assholes ended up dropping her). Lady Gaga... man, I could talk about her forever but I'll leave it there for now.
Never Stop Never Stopping.
My friend recently described her present anxiety condition as "Two steps forward, one step back." It certainly can feel like that at times, but it's important to not focus on the one step back. Focus on the steps forward.
My recent "two steps forward" was walking at my graduation ceremony in November and my "one step back" was feeling anxious at the movies the next day. After the movies, I decided that I needed to take more action because feeling sorry for myself wasn't helping me.
I had seen therapists on and off since my anxiety was "diagnosed" but I felt like all I was doing was sitting in a comfy chair beside a box of tissues complaining about life to a person who was paid to listen and tell me "It's okay".
I wanted more than "It's okay", I wanted a solution. I wanted to try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapy approach that would teach me how to correct my negative thoughts. I've been seeing a CBT therapist for about a month now and it's been helping immensely. I'm not saying my anxiety has disappeared, but it's been minimal and when it does act up, I've learned how to control it.
I will talk in more detail about CBT in my next anxiety-related post, so keep an eye out for that. Please comment below if you've had experience with CBT or are also interested in trying it. (You can use a pseudonym, like a Star Wars character or something.)