As everyone knows my world has been stressful on many fronts for quite some time. To compound things, I also have an anxiety disorder. The symptoms of anxiety are very debilitating. I have trouble breathing, my heart races, I feel shaky and my bowel starts to quiver. Some other symptoms I get include not being able to swallow and intrusive thoughts about scary or stressful situations. Some anxiety attacks take me by surprise. Others, there is definitely a connection to something going on or thoughts I am having.
The attacks that take me by surprise are the most frustrating. There are times I will be sitting and relaxing and all of a sudden I can’t breathe. I start trying to breathe deeply but I really can’t get my breath. I feel my heart race and then my jaw starts to ache because I am gritting my teeth and jaw. These attacks are the most frustrating because there is literally nothing I can do about them. Sometimes I can get it under control.
Another kind of anxiety attack happens when I am thinking about stressful things or issues. In these cases if I am not too far gone, I can get control of it by stopping the thoughts. I find that listening to music in these situations. It allows me to focus my thoughts on something else and to sing along to the music, which gives me a stress outlet. Music has always been very important to me. There is something about the sounds and the timbre of some voices that really speaks to me. Even as a child, my favourite times were when we listened to music. My mother would play Jim Croce, the Lettermen and Three Dog Night. As a teenager I moved on to Queen, Supertramp and Fleetwood Mac.
The other kind of anxiety attacks I get are in direct response to something that happens. Today, I read an email and something in it set me off. I probably over-reacted but that is the problem with anxiety. Before I know it I can’t breathe, I’m shaking and I start to cry. This makes me crazy because it happens at the most inopportune moments.
I have always had issues with anxiety. However, a full-blown disorder is something new. I developed this as a result of my colitis. The combination of being sick, living in chronic pain and the unpredictability of my ulcerative colitis along with my underlying issues conspired to give me a generalized anxiety disorder. I am grateful that it does not debilitate me completely. Although, given a choice there are times I would not leave the house for long periods of time. In some cases, anxiety can prevent people from meeting their potential.
In taking a cue from Airdrie from Talking to Air, I think it is critically important that we talk openly about how mental illness affects our lives. We must remove the stigma if we are to deal more effectively with mental illness.
So, my faithful readers, what do you think? Do you personally deal with anxiety? Do you know someone who does? Do you need help with your anxiety?