‘When I have an anxiety or panic attack, I leave reality. I get lost in my mind. It gets overloaded.’

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Anyone else out there suffer from anxiety? Duh, everyone has felt anxious in some way, shape, or form. Remember trying to give a book report in front of the class when you were in school? Oh yeah. That might’ve made you anxious.

The most common signs of anxiety are shaking hands, heart palpitations, and sweating. Some people are energized by this feeling. I count them among the lucky, and I won’t lie, I envy them a little.

However, others are completely paralyzed by this feeling. People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) tend to have more symptoms that are less obvious.

GAD symptoms include:

  • Worry very much about everyday things
  • Trouble controlling their worries or feelings of nervousness
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Feel restless and have trouble relaxing
  • Have a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feel easily tired or tired all the time
  • Have headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches
  • Have a hard time swallowing
  • Tremble or twitch
  • Be irritable or feel “on edge”
  • Sweat a lot, feel light-headed or out of breath
  • Have to go to the bathroom a lot
    (source: National Institute of Mental Health)

As you can see, this disorder gets in the way of living day to day life. My big ones on this list include being easily startled, feeling tired, forgetting how to swallow (yes, really!), and peeing all the damn time.

The toilet and I are more than uncomfortable acquaintances. We’re family. Even on the days where I don’t drink a lot of water, I get the urge to pee when I’m in an uncomfortable situation.

I always have to find the bathroom at a club or house party, one for panic, and two to pee! One of the times I forgot how to swallow was while eating pretzels a few weeks ago. Imagine chewing up all your food and then nothing happens. It was so uncomfortable.

I literally had to concentrate and reteach myself something that is an autonomic behavior. Something I literally should not think about stops because I have anxiety. Think about that.

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Anxiety is more than being worried

When I have an anxiety or panic attack, I leave reality. My thoughts and entire being are pulled back to a traumatic event or simply to nowhere at all. I get lost in my mind. You know how computers have the Blue Screen of Death? That’s what happens with my brain.

It gets overloaded then freezes. It’s like T’Challa (rest Chadwick Boseman’s beautiful soul) once said, “I never freeze.” Then he immediately freezes. Ol’ ‘Challa and I have that in common.

But being trapped in anxiety or panic is the opposite of ideal. Even the Black Panther has to overcome and push through his fear. How does one bring herself back to the present and unfreeze? What’s my trick?

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What’s my secret?

I have a mini-fridge full of frozen water bottles. If I start panicking or am just overly anxious for some unknown reason, I get a water bottle or have my dad get me one. I press it against the back of my neck and rub it along my throat, and it snaps me out of it immediately.

A lot of people use this to come back from dissociation as well. When people dissociate, they go to a mental space created as a defense mechanism. It’s very hard to snap out of until the perceived danger is gone.

I do have prescribed medication for anxiety. It’s called Klonopin and was prescribed to take as needed. From what I’ve read about Klonopin, it can be habit-forming, so I try to use other methods. Addiction on top of anxiety does not sound like a good combination to me.

I take the Klonopin if it’s a full-on meltdown, where I’m in danger of hurting myself or someone else. Thankfully, that’s not often, so I go to iced water bottles instead. A lot of medications dealing with anxiety are habit-forming (Valium, Xanax, and more). I have lost friends from overdosing or accidentally taking fake Xanax. I’m not too comfortable with taking either, so I try to find other methods.

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*PLEASE let me be clear. You should always listen to your healthcare professional. This is my personal experience, and it is in no way do I suggest you stop taking your prescribed medication. Do what is best for YOU.*

Once I am back in reality, I go through my usual routines of breathing, grounding, and flexing and unflexing all of my muscles individually. It’s probably TMI, but that includes Kegels! I’m in my thirties, I have to keep my pelvic floor strong! I had found out that even if you don’t bear children, those muscles weaken over time, too.

My breathing routine is simple. I inhale slowly, for about seven seconds. Then I blow it out like I’m blowing out a candle for another seven seconds. Actively concentrating on breathing helps make the heart palpitations subside as well as keeps my mind focused on an activity.

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My go-to grounding technique is counting things. For example, my desk is white, it has 2 yellow highlighters, 2 orange highlighters, 2 pink highlighters, and 2 orange highlighters. It also has 4 legs and a potted sunflower plant that has three blooms.

It also has a beautiful painting of a turtle by my friend Bethany. It’s one of my most prized possessions. There are many things to observe on my desk, but I say them all out loud. And yes, I do muscle flexing as stated above.

Although I’m not completely cured, meaning that the shakes continue, I feel more in control. For me, an anxiety or panic attack is a loss of control. Getting back that control through forcing myself into the present, then continuing with self-care makes me feel both strong and able. Anxiety typically takes away both of those positive feelings.

How do you handle your anxiety? I am always looking for new ways to manage anxiety. It’s one of those things that everyone has to deal with eventually. There’s nothing like having multiple solutions to a problem, I’m sure you agree.

This article was submitted by Iris Findlay to Positive Outlooks. If you wish to submit an essay (reflections on life), personal story (inspirational or humorous) or something that you witnessed that inspired you, please go HERE.

About the author:
Iris Findlay is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. She received a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Texas at San Antonio and was awarded for her writing during her service. Writing a novel had been her dream since she learned to read. She lives and blogs from her home in Orlando, FL., and can also be found surrounded by books and dancing badly, alone in her living room. Visit her blog at Noire Memoir. Also, follow her Facebook and Instagram page.

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