Anxiety Is Hard To Talk About

One of the biggest problems I have come across since I was diagnosed with an anxiety problem is that it is something people don’t understand. And when we don’t understand things, we will either 1) seek more information or 2) go with whatever assumptions come to mind and think they are facts. Everyone experiences anxiety in their lives, but a lot of people are able to cope easily and move on. Unless you have the kind of anxiety that terrorizes your existence, though, it is hard to understand, and even harder to explain.

Anxiety is like a fear response internally. Your body is perceiving some sort of threat, whether or not that threat actually exists. Here lies the toughest part: how do you explain the anxiety when there is no clear reason for it? On the weekend I was in a book store with my boyfriend, and I started to feel really anxious. My stomach was in knots, I felt sick, and I was worried I might faint. I was then thinking about how embarrassing that would be if I had a full-blown panic attack, in a book store of all places. I have never had this happen while shopping, and I don’t know why it happened this time. There was no threat to me. And yet, I was bombarded with physical symptoms I couldn’t get rid of.

This brought up another issue for me. My boyfriend knows I have an anxiety problem, but even then, I was worried if I told him I was feeling really anxious while we were in a completely safe location, he would think I’m crazy. And really, this fear of sounding crazy makes my fears worse. I have anxiety at work, but no one there knows about it because I’m afraid of being judged unfairly. Part of me is also worried I could get fired if I’m deemed “unfit for service”.

Well, I’ve started going to group therapy for my anxiety. That is such a difficult step for me because I feel like admitting I have an anxiety problem makes me “weak”. I’m not a weak person, I am just struggling to control a legitimate mental illness, and I have to remind myself that it’s okay to ask for help when I need it. I want to share some of the things I’ve learned so far, and hope that it might help others.

1. Meditate. If you’ve never done it before, look on youtube for guided meditation videos. I quite enjoyed this one, which uses the chakra method of visualization, which can be used when you’re feeling anxious at any time to help keep you calm.

2. Talk about it. Hiding you anxiety will only make it worse. Understand that this isn’t something you can just ignore, and it isn’t going to just go away on it’s own. Talk to someone you trust, or talk to a counselor. It can help you clear up what’s going on in your body, and a counselor can teach you ways to handle your anxiety in a healthy way.

3. Pay attention to your breathing and thought patterns. When I’m having anxiety, two things happen at the same time. I stop breathing regularly, and my brain starts going crazy over negative thoughts and it turns into a mental death spiral. Notice this, realize it is happening, and combat your views. And remember to breeeeathe! I can’t stress that enough. When I was panicking in the book store, I tried to calm myself down by taking several deep breaths.

4. Don’t try to push the feelings away. Feel them, acknowledge they are there, and then tell them that they aren’t a threat to you. Acceptance is the first step to recovery, followed by controlling your thought patterns, and then taking helpful action.

5. All those things google tells you do to have less anxiety. These include things like do cardio exercise, eat healthy, avoid alcohol, processed sugar, caffeine, etc. etc. The list goes on. Do your research, and find what aspects of it work for you.

6. Appreciate the day! One of the things that makes my anxiety better is looking around outside and noticing things like how beautiful a day it is outside. That’s a beautiful tree. I like how the falling snow glitters in the sun. It sounds really silly, but it can markedly improve your attitude and keep you optimistic.

One of the things I learned from group therapy, though, is that you need to believe you will get better. These are hard times, but it will get easier if you commit to a life of less stress and have a plan for recovery. It won’t be instant, so don’t expect to wake up tomorrow completely healed. But you can get better. You are in control of your anxiety. It is all a matter of how you look at things, especially the ones you can’t change.

My big “aha!” moment today was when the counselor asked the group if our thoughts are harmful to us. All of us were saying yes, here’s all the things they’ve caused, it’s controlling and ruining my life. But then she said, are the thoughts hurting you, or is it the reaction you have to the thoughts that is hurting you? I realized that although my panic attacks are controlling my life, it is the fear I carry with me all the time about when the next attack will happen that is really hurting me. She then said that I need to start with baby steps. Now I just need to figure out what those baby steps should be for me.

Hope some of this helps!

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About janinerussell

The transition to adulthood; reflecting on the past to create a better future.

17 responses to “Anxiety Is Hard To Talk About”

  1. saiditomyself says :

    This reminds me quite a bit of how my friend described her anxiety issues, but she is not as far along in the process of getting help as you are. It’s always encouraging to read about another person’s road. My bipolar disorder has afforded me similar types of feelings and experiences. Best wishes.

  2. mindfulmod says :

    It is a difficult thing to discuss unless of course, the person you are conversing with experiences out of control anxiety themselves. It is invisible to those who have never gone through it themselves and almost impossible for them to truly understand. For me, I had seen a therapist for over 10 years in hopes of helping with my anxiety and being able to express myself verbally to her did help but even then I’d leave with a sense of “even she just didn’t get it, me, whatever… I guess what helps me the most in keeping the anxiety under control is knowing that if I should panic in public or where ever it will pass and the world won’t come to an end (although true panic attacks make you think it might). Another thing is I’m far less concerned with how other people perceive me which cuts down on my anxiety a whole, whole lot. I really enjoyed this post and best wishes with your future writing endeavors and congratulations on being F.P.!

  3. borderlinely says :

    What you just described is a classic panic attack and the strategies you just mentioned are the most workable ones. I myself am an extremely anxious person and sometimes i just cant help it. I am still working on my anxiety. Lets see how good i do.

  4. countrymouselove says :

    I love number 6!! This one helps me not think about what would give me anxiety .. walking to a car that randomly doesn’t start in a city i do not live in or have many connections in turn a short, people-observing walk into a run in panic so I don’t show i’m about to dry-heave my stomach out of my body.

    Stumbled across your blog on freshly press and I am Impressed! will be a regular follower and love your approach to blogging!

    • janinerussell says :

      So far I haven’t heard of anyone else who has the dry-heave problem like I have! I’m so glad you mentioned it. It has happened several times, and it so confusing to me. I just don’t get it because I never actually vomit… And I’m glad I now know it is because of anxiety. Just learning that it is my anxiety doing that to me has helped me better handle it.

      • countrymouselove says :

        oh if I’m stressed out enough, I do in in the middle of sentences while telling my best friend what’s going on.
        breath breath breath! “its really not that bad” has become a mantra for me. The worst part about the dry heaving is when it’s bad and ya pull muscles as if ya’ve been up all night drinking and puking.. only nothing comes out.
        my boyfriend suffers from it far less than I do, but at least we both understand. 🙂 sounds like your doing a lot to better it for yourself. thanks for the post

  5. Jessica LeAnn says :

    I have to remind myself often that this won’t go away if I ignore it. I often try to push it out of my head because it’s fear itself that I fear. “When will I have another attack?” I almost didn’t read this post because I hate being reminded. I’m currently in week 2 of coming off of medication for GAD and so far, so good. Reading this helps to remind me that I can’t get over something by pretending it doesn’t exist. Congrats on being freshly pressed & great post!

  6. uditadailymusings says :

    Reblogged this on A Room of One's Own… and commented:
    It’s sad that most of us tend to internalize anxiety rather than talk about it. A lot depends on the kind of social relationships one makes.

  7. marcelino guerrero says :

    When it strikes it’s hard to break…it has a cruel way of tormenting the mind by directing thoughts in a circle.

  8. Pretentiously Modest says :

    Thank you for this post.
    I also have generalised anxiety disorder (I was diagnosed with it 8 years ago, but it started even earlier as OCD) and therapy has made me feel much, much better. But people don’t understand and that’s what bothers me. Many of them don’t even bother trying to find out and some of them even say: “Oh, everybody has that. I have it too.” It makes me feel worthless, like I’m some sort of brat, that’s what their ignorance does.
    The advice you gave are great, I do the same thing and it really does work. I mean, whatever the illness is (anxiety or flu) you can’t just rely on doctors, you have to do some things yourself. And it’s very important patients understand that.

  9. tjpinkston says :

    I suffered from panic attacks for years (still have one now and then) and this repeats almost everything I was told by counselors. I might add “Close Your Eyes (unless you’re driving)” while you’re breeeathing..

    The fear of telling someone, such as your boyfriend is probably the most difficult to overcome. But, the best way to handle that is to just do it and try not to worry about what he will think. Break the circle of being afraid to share your anxiety.

  10. tjpinkston says :

    Reblogged this on Jewel Ammons and commented:
    I suffered from panic attacks for years (still have one now and then) and this repeats almost everything I was told by counselors. I might add “Close Your Eyes (unless you’re driving)” while you’re breeeathing..

    The fear of telling someone, such as a boyfriend/girlfriend is probably the most difficult to overcome. But, the best way to handle that is to just do it and try not to worry about what he/she will think. Break the circle of being afraid to share your anxiety.

  11. citymomco says :

    Fear of having a panic attack can be just as crippling as having the attack. Yoga and breath work help – learning the correct way to breathe is a really simple yet powerful and effective tool to help with anxiety. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but embrace your anxiety. Don’t be ashamed of it. The more you try and control your anxiety, the more it controls you. It only gives the anxiety more ‘power’ over you. Make sense? Thanks for sharing.

  12. Sarah says :

    Hey I suffer from social anxiety and it really puts a damper on life when you are afraid to go anywhere where you have to talk to people. I really like your ideas for helping the anxiety. I just recently decided I’m not going to let this control my life and that is something that helps me deal with it too. Telling myself I won’t let this affect my life anymore. I really like your blog!!

  13. cwat8768 says :

    This was a wonderful post, thank you for sharing! I have had issues with anxiety since I was a kid, however things have gotten worse in the past few years. We recently moved into a new house that have many “extroverted” type people. They are always out, looking around at what everybody else is doing. They are not doing anything wrong, HOWEVER for me, I am an introvert, and I love to stay home and recharge my batteries. I want to go out and do my own thing without the neighbors watching my every move.

    It starts throwing me into this panic where I feel trapped and closed in. OR everyone is watching us. Most people do not understand what we go through because it is easy for them to deal with it.

    I was seeing a therapist, but I did not click and feel that connection. We were working on using the Cognitive Behavior method. It has been a nice start. If something sets me off, I write it down, take deep breaths, thinking “Is this really a big deal?” I have thought about a group setting. Have not found anything in my city yet. I am also scared to show up and not know anyone.

    Thank you for sharing!

  14. subtle dancer says :

    Thank you for writing about anxiety in such a genuine way. I have panic disorder and towards the end of last semester it got really bad to the point where I became agoraphobic, afraid to leave my house because I would inevitably have a panic attack. Then I started having them when I stayed home and I couldn’t escape them. The best thing I’ve learned through my experience with therapy and the healing process so far is to be patient and kind with yourself. Every time I had a panic attack I would be extremely disappointed in myself for not being able to control my mind. But I’ve learned that a little patience and kindness go a long way.

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