If you’ve followed along with me through this blog or via social media, it’s no secret that I struggle with anxiety. Actually, struggle might be too light a word for what I truly experience in the middle of a hellacious anxiety attack. I suffer from Severe Anxiety Disorder, and it is one mean son of a bitch.
A while back, I asked you, my dear followers, to let me know if there was anything specific you’d appreciate hearing from me about on the blog. One thing I was directly asked about was my anxiety and how I deal. I’m so honored and happy to share my own coping mechanisms with you, but more than anything, to be able to let you know that I get it and I am with you and you always have a safe space with me.
Anxiety is nothing to be taken lightly. It’s not simply feeling uncomfortable in a particular situation or circumstance. It is gut wrenching, it is terrifying, it is maddening. Anxiety is heavy and dark, like a cloak you can’t unwrap yourself from. Anxiety is the inability to feel anything but fear in the moment – it freezes you alone, afraid, shaking, sick. Sometimes it brings on waves of tears and sobbing. Other times it manifests itself in anger. I’ve even had multiple instances when my anxiety and stress manifested itself through flu like symptoms. Needless to say, it fucking sucks.
I do see a doctor about my anxiety and depression, and I do take medication for it. The meds do help. They truly do. But I have also found some other ways to deal with my anxiety that help to bring rest to my weary soul and healing to my body.
Last week, I was just coming off of a terribly heavy, anxiety ridden time and I was finished. I was so exhausted, emotionally and physically. I was completely empty. So Shawn and myself came up with a plan for me to take some time to rest and recover. I took a full week off of my regular kettle bell routine. This is important because I can become obsessive about exercise and I was pushing my body way too far. I turned off my alarm clock and slept in until Shawn left for work and Nora woke up. I took advantage of her nap times and slept, every day. I sent the scale with Shawn to take to work so that I couldn’t step on it, as I was beginning to obsess over my weight as well.
I revisited my belief and practice of listening to my body, trusting what it needed and giving it that. I took long, hot showers and breathed in the fresh eucalyptus. I gave myself facials. I painted my nails. I played with my cat. I enjoyed my favorite essential oils. I watched movies and snuggled on the couch with my daughter.
I cried. A lot. I allowed myself to fully feel the awfulness of my anxiety demons so that I could detox from them. I took time to prepare new meals, giving myself permission once again to be creative in the kitchen. I talked with my friends. I cried with my friends. I allowed my husband to help me with everything. (This is not an easy thing for me to do.)
I drank lots of hot tea, I soaked in my delicious yoga practice. I didn’t make any plans. I didn’t formulate any structures for my life. I just breathed. I just napped. I just laughed and cooked and watched tv. I painted my nails. I stayed in bed for my morning coffee.
That week of rest and recovery is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I was able to reset. I was able to clear my mind of clutter and bullshit and fear. Not permanently, of course, but for the first time in a very, very long time. And while this past week (election week) hasn’t exactly been a week of joy and sunshine, I found that strength in myself that had gotten lost in that storm of anxiety before. Strength for myself, strength for my family and friends, and most importantly, strength for everyone else.
Mental illness is no damn joke. Anxiety and depression are demons that don’t always go away. But, we can always find a way to cope. And we always have each other. So while I don’t always take a full week to recover, I do make certain to implement those practices as often as possible. It’s so incredibly important that we find the quiet space inside, inhale and exhale deeply, and learn what it is that our bodies need, what it is that our souls need, and do those things. If you need to introvert, do it. If you need to cry and scream, do it. If you need to sleep and sleep and sleep, DO IT.
Unfortunately, there is no exact recipe for coping. But there are always ways to heal; always ways to recover. When you figure out what those things are, you’ll find you can take each day as it comes. Or each hour, or each minute, however you need to take it. I fully understand the hopelessness. I understand the darkness. I understand the unrelenting torture of it all. I have also slowly, but surely, begun to understand the ways of rising above it, of not being defeated.
Hope does exist. Healing can come. This, I promise you.
I love you very much.