Monday, September 3, 2012

In the Mix Monday - Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

You and I have been intimately together for many years now, you've been there for my worst, in fact, this may be hard for you to hear, but in large part you contributed to some of my darkest days. You cleverly spun an itty-bitty concern into a full-blown panic that has consumed me.

You tricked me into thinking that mole hills were mountains. You'd turn a simple thought into something much more, setting it on repeat in my mind. If you say any word over and over again it sounds weird. That's just plain fact. Ask any child. Do that enough with a fear-thought and it not only sounds weird, oddly, it sounds true. Clever, anxiety, very clever.

You intrusively whispered, like the wind rustling the leaves at night, that danger was all around, wolves just beyond the border of the trees, bats threatening to rain down on me, falsely leading me to believe there was something out there, when really, it was just you and me.

Oh and the "games" we'd play, the exhausting repetition and paranoia you called games, promising me that if I did it one more time, I'd be safe. One more time and the fear would disappear, one more time and one more time and one more time. I get it now. This may have been amusing for you, but for me it's become exhausting. I see that the what ifs, the worry, the fear, you anxiety, are diminishing my life, my relationships and my sense of self. I can't imagine that is your true intention being as close as we are, but I have to say, as the captain of this ship it just isn't going to work out between us anymore, you're being let go.

I'd like to say it's me and not you, when in fact it is both of us, equally contributing to the fear cycle. Round and round we go, back and forth, up and down, then down some more. I know how deeply complicit I have been in all of this. I take responsibility for allowing you to stick around, for not having the stones to cut the tether sooner. 

To be honest, even writing this to you has me on edge. What will you do?  Will you barge back in, try to take over, demand that there is something to worry about, something wrong with me. Who will read this? What will they say? What will they think? What will happen? But here's the thing, honesty and the truth, are more important, more valuable than the stories we've told each other over the years. The truth is my guide, trust is my light and you, old friend, well, it's time we parted ways.

It's hard for me to say good bye too. I understand. There have been times of uncertainty when I've clung to you like a splintered log in a roiling sea. But it really is the best thing for us both. I've had to painfully dig those splinters out and fresh ones aren't welcome. I see that clearly now with every fiber of my being.

Your usual cocktail of fear, worry, doubt, distrust, unworthiness and shame is no longer part of my diet. I'd like you to meet my new dining companions or more accurately, life companions: strength, certainty, trust, pride, integrity and respect. I realized they'd been with me all along, quietly waiting for me to recognize them, but somehow they'd gone unnoticed, veiled by a cloak of...yes, anxiety! You! So sneaky.

Being together isn't living, it is a form of self-imposed suffering and I deserve better than that. Yes I do. I declare that whatever time I have remaining in this glorious gift of a life be better spent than dwelling in a maelstrom of fear, distress, dread and doubt. I am here to shine my light, to love, to share my goodness and I can't do that if we're together.

"Dude, you're harshing my mellow." I say that because it's true and to bring levity to this serious subject. After years of analyzing, reanalyzing and hyper analyzing my every thought I feel I am no longer served by that method. Humor, seeing the bright spots in this brief and precious life feels more resonant to who I really am, not an underling of anxiety.

I can hear you now groveling, promising things will be different this time, empty words. Feeding me streams of stories, trying to find the one that will hook me, pull me in flailing with what ifs. I hear you, but I'm just not listening anymore.

We've long been in this together and with a farewell of warmth and kindness its time for you to be on your way. In fact, as hard as it may be and as close as you and I have been, I actually have to insist you pack your bags and go peacefully. Anxiety, I let you go.


“Letting go is accepting God’s renewal in my life.” -Unknown via TDL

Anxiety Disorders Briefly:

"Anxiety is a state characterized by a displeasing feeling of fear and concern. The root meaning of the word anxiety is "to vex or trouble"; in either presence or absence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness, and dread. Anxiety is considered to be a normal reaction to a stressor. It may help an individual to deal with a demanding situation by prompting them to cope with it. However, when anxiety becomes overwhelming, it may fall under the classification of an anxiety disorder." (Wikipedia)

I liked the above definition because it speaks to the very real and very primal physiological reaction our bodies have to perceived danger: fight, flight or freeze. I've read this line countless times, but for those inclined toward anxiety it seems to be especially true: As with our ancestors being chased by a jungle animal the body has a special mechanism to deal with this kind of stressor. A hormonal switch is turned on and we go into a "fight, flight or freeze" mode meaning we ramp up for an attack. In modern day we very rarely encounter this severe of a threat where we need to engage fight, flight or freeze. We have tools to deal with ordinary everyday modern day circumstances, but the fight, flight or freeze reaction can override all other responses for those of us with anxiety and then we get stuck there and we find ourselves with wracked in a state of anxiety.

There are other contributing factors, causes, etc. and this is by no means meant to be comprehensive or diagnostic. I'm just speaking from my experience and for a long time I was afraid to talk about it, mostly because of the insidious nature of anxiety...if I talked about it, read about, thought about it, I would find myself in an anxious state. And that can still happen, but I am on a healing journey, I owe it to myself, the people I love and the planet.

This Women to Women article provides an overview about women and anxiety.
Research from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that the female brain may be more sensitive to stress hormones and less able to adapt to high levels of them.

Increased anxiety can also be caused by hormonal imbalances, certain medications and other factors such as dietary deficiencies, our feminine cycle and stress. 

 That being said, having Anxiety doesn't mean there is anything wrong with us. In fact one of the contributing factors to anxiety is this very erroneous belief, picked upsomewhere along the way. It is up to us, along with the help of professionals as needed, to get help, change mistaken beliefs, be open to renewal and heal.

What has helped me manage anxiety:
Exercise: cardio and yoga (Yoga: Elena Brower)
Meditation or wordlessness (Sally Kempton & Martha Beck are amazing!)
Whole foods diet especially avoiding/limiting sugar and refined flours
Connecting with trusted friends and family
Being disciplined about getting alot of sleep
Being involved in activities that inspire: creative projects, etc.
Educating myself about anxiety and being proactive about making certain changes and being open.
Being outside, sunshine, movement, greenery.
Positive affirmations, self talk, hugs and reminding myself that I am loved and I love myself.

Times when I need to be particularly aware and empowered:

Seasonal changes
When I am tired
When my diet hasn't been ideal
Visiting family/trigger places & faces
Change - even super-great things!
Stress. Stress is real and not to be underestimated.

The book Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Revised Edition): Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing has been an incredibly valuable resource in helping me discern what is body, mind, spirit and how to unite the three. I highly recommend it along with
Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Creating a Legacy of Physical and Emotional Health also by Christiane Northrup- especially if you have "mommy issues" and/or have daughters of your own and want to impart upon them strength, confidence and courage. 

None of this is intended to diagnose or treat. Please take responsibility for your health and consult a trusted health care practitioner as necessary.

Please share anything you think might be helpful below or share your story.

In love, light and trust,

                                                             Source: via tabitha on Pinterest

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  1. This is great. I have suffered from anxiety for many years and also use exercise as a way to cope. I will have to look into those books.

    1. Exercise has helped me tremendously - not in an obsessive way, but taking care of the body to soothe the mind.
      Thanks for reading!

  2. This is so very brave, and informative, and then more brave.

    {Thank you for sharing so very much of your heart right here.}

    1. Thank you for the support- it means so much!

  3. Wow, I really needed this today! I've too have suffered a long time from anxiety -- and it's been rearing its ugly head big time lately. I'm going to check out the Women's Bodies book you recommend. I also think it would be helpful to me to pause and write down the things that trigger my anxiety and what actions help me handle it. I think I have a lot of coping mechanisms that I forget about, and sometimes I overlook the power of prevention. Thank you so much for sharing on such a real and powerful topic!

    1. I am so glad you found this helpful- writing down triggers, the way you feel and figuring out what will best help you manage anxiety is such a tremendous and courageous task, but one that you are truly worthy of undertaking so that you may heal.
      Best wishes.

  4. Did you write this post for me? THANK YOU!!!!!!!! xoxo

    Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer... From Dream To Reality!

    1. I absolutely wrote it for you, and me and all the women who experience this! Best wishes <3

  5. This post is so great. I struggle with anxiety too and I have never been able to put it into words like this. It is so nice to have something like this to show people so they can understand what I'm feeling and why I can just not worry. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This is really awesome, Deirdre. Major kudos to you for writing it - thank you.


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