I’ve shared before about my experiences of living with depression and anxiety. I would say that depression occurs more often, but the last few weeks have had my anxiety all riled up. This is in part why I have been absent from the blog (hence the crickets). One of the challenges of anxiety is having lots of excess energy that refuses to be used for anything productive.
How anxiety has manifested for me
Tired but wired.
Elevated heart rate.
Increased muscle tension.
Excessive, repetitive worrying.
Difficulty sleeping through the night.
I would say three things have played major roles in setting this little bout off: coming off a pain medication, allergies, and the anniversary of something less than pleasant.
For years I have used pain meds to manage my fibromyalgia, even before I knew that’s what was causing all of my pain. I have had varied levels of dependence on them, but even going off of them slowly is hard. The happy, soothing chemicals the meds triggered the release of are hard to come by in other ways. I have been on an anti-anxiety/depression medication for the last year, which is keeping me from going completely bananas.
Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Almost as soon as I got back from England, allergies got triggered. I was sneezing, sniffling, coughing, and my head was pounding. Any type of non-drowsy medication exacerbates my anxiety, so I rely on a neti pot (for flushing my nasal passages) and an antihistamine that makes me drowsy at night. Over-the-counter acetaminophen was the strongest stuff I had to deal with the headache, and after building up a tolerance to even prescription pain meds, that wasn’t all that helpful.
Almost exactly a year ago, I went through a common but still disheartening experience. I did my best to process it but I’m still working out how much of my anxiety now is an echo from then.
As I am constantly learning and re-learning, the key to showing up in life while feeling anxious is to make healing the anxiety the number one priority. No stiffer upper lip or just getting on with it. That may work to some degree, but it isn’t the best way to deal. If you want to be productive, you need to feel good, and to feel good you need to get yourself in the right head space.
How I’ve Been Coping
Learning from people I admire: I have a few people on the web who’s blogs/vlogs/Tweets/etc. always make me feel a little bit better. When I can’t conjure a single positive thought, I hit up their sites.
EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique involves tapping on acupressure points while talking about what’s bugging you. I have found relief with this, and am attending the virtual World Conference that started May 7. If you want more information on EFT, this is a great free resource.
Movement: While I could use more of this, getting in a few heart-pumping sessions a week has helped. I bounce on a mini-trampoline, play with my three-year-old nephew, take walks, jump on the treadmill. High energy music sparks my brain to release endorphins, increasing that positive effect of exercise.
Cutting myself major slack: This is so hard, as I never feel like I’m doing enough, but letting myself have a couple of sick days when my allergies were at their worst or when I had a migraine was essential to feeling better.
“A misty morning does not always signal a cloud day”: I got this from a cheesy inspirational calendar years ago, and I remind myself of it whenever I’m having a morning funk that seems like it will never lift. Even on really hard days, I almost always feel somewhat better by late afternoon/early evening.
Acknowledging support: I have a place I hang out that is amazing at offering unconditional support, where I feel comfortable saying exactly how I feel. I also feel supported when I read about others’ experience with the mental illness, like The Bloggess, Angela and Charlie at Productive Flourishing, Hayley Lau, and Heather Armstrong. It may be more acceptable and understood nowadays, but the more it is talked about the better.
Each day I’ve been feeling a little bit better, and my anxiety is less generalized and more specific. For example, I have a handful of book reviews begging to be written and posted, and as much as I want to get on that, I’m having writing anxiety. What if I can’t think of anything to say? What if what I say isn’t good enough? What if I only think I have something valuable to add to the writing/reading community? Sometimes just giving voice to these concerns is enough. I tell those doubts that the authors I review will be grateful for even a few sentences, so it’s okay if my words aren’t perfect.
Resistance is everyone’s nemesis, and when anxiety jumps on the resistance train it is that much harder of a battle. Not an impossible one, but one that requires unique tactics and a mindful approach. So I won’t vow to start posting at least once a week or commit to reviewing books on a regular basis. I hope to be consistent but I don’t want the pressure of promises I’m not sure I can keep.
I share my experience because I am comfortable doing so and hope it may help someone else. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments, but I salute you whether you choose to share your own struggles or not.