Anxiety

Why is my heart beating so fast? The pain in my chest is radiating towards my shoulder and up my neck. The sensation of what seems like cold blood travels up to my face. I feel a terrible urge to run, as if in doing so I could leave the symptoms behind. The feeling of desperation is so intense I feel like I’m gonna pass out. Reality seems unreal, and I feel like I’m gonna lose my mind. Other than the glazed look in my eyes, I look fine. I’m not hurt, I’m not sick and I haven’t experienced something traumatic. Still, my body is in full flight or fight mode.

I’ve experienced this before. I’m aware that it’s not a heart attack and that my life is not in danger. I know what it is. Yet, that fact, doesn’t make me feel any less scared. I’m experiencing a panic attack. This one is the worse yet. I pace our living room floor in search of relief, repeating to myself that everything is okay. When the feeling loses intensity, I pause, but as soon as I stop moving it comes back with a vengeance. I continue walking around in circles until the early hours of the morning. Exhausted, I make my way to bed, and tell my husband what happened. He doesn’t make a fuss (which I’m so grateful for), but asks’ if I’m okay. I assure him I am, and fall asleep.

I’ve lived with anxiety since I was very young. I didn’t know it at the time. I just thought of myself as extremely nervous and shy. I always felt safest and relaxed when I was alone and either reading, or listening to music. My social skills were almost non existent, and because of this my teachers loved me and my family considered me a good girl. I was a quiet, attentive, and hard working student. Learning was an outlet for me. It didn’t require me to be social, athletic or popular.

I thought I’d left that part of me behind when I married. As if marriage had given me super powers! But marriage required me to gain a whole new set of skills I didn’t have and then some! This made for some very interesting and turbulent years in my life, a girl with bad communication skills, and an anxious disposition. Little did I know how much this, and what I carried from my childhood, was chipping away at my ability to remain in this reality.

I began to breakdown.

I use the term breakdown because that’s how each panic attack felt. I wasn’t dying, my heart was still beating, but my mind became lost and disoriented. I had to bring it back and assure it that everything was okay, because I wasn’t in a dangerous situation. I was running from psychological, not physical danger. My brain was trying to protect itself from what I was putting it through each day: mental torture.

When things are left unresolved they go around in your head day after day. They rob you of peace. Without peace to calm you, your body is always on high alert. That alert brings with it fear. When there are layers of unresolved issues it’s difficult to know what you’re trying to protect yourself from. So you never relax! Not even when things around you are fine. For all you know, danger could be around the next corner, and you’re always anticipating the next “punch” from a panic attack. I didn’t know what was setting them off, and that disconnection within me made things worse.

This past year, I began linking my panic attacks to memories; ones I thought I’d left buried in the past. The reality though, is that I had only been suppressing them, which required an incredible amount of energy on my part to do so. I now had to face each one of those painful memories if I wanted some peace in my life. Instead of denying and repressing them, I began to vent, either by writing or talking to someone I trusted. I also allowed myself to mourn. Pain signals something is damaged, and mourning allows you to comfort yourself and seek it from others if needed. If the memory brought up anger, I didn’t ¬†channel it towards myself anymore. Now I channeled it toward the person who hurt me, and let it go. I gave myself the needed consolation and encouragement, and then gave that memory a proper burial.

Doing this continues to help me rid myself of fear. Fear of being hurt again, not by others, but by my own self. Because every time I had a flashback I was putting myself through the experience all over again. My anxiety was always either high or higher. I didn’t think I had the strength to break the cycle because I was beyond exhausted!¬†It was like asking someone who just finished running a marathon to run another one! (And my family knows how much I dislike running!)

I’m not cured of anxiety. I may continue working on it for many years to come, or I may beat it sooner than I think! I don’t know. One thing I’m sure of; I’m not gonna worry about the amount of time it takes. It’s worth all the time and hard work I’m putting in to become whole again.

Love you guys ; )

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Afraid of the Dark

Who, at one point in their life, hasn’t been afraid of the dark? I still am depending on where I happen to be when lights go out. I don’t know if that’s the reason I dread winter. The nights drag on and on, and I find myself missing the daylight.

I’ve never been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, but for several years now, I’ve noticed a darker mood come over me when the fall begins. It’s a profound melancholy feeling. Like losing something you deeply love. For me it’s sunshine and everything that thrives under it. I understand why the seasons are necessary, but it still makes me sad.

My therapist wanted me to do some digging with regards to my overall dislike of winter (besides the freezing temperatures!). Was I dreading it because I associated it with a bad experience? At first I resisted exploring that area. I avoided it … much like I do the dark.

I don’t remember growing up feeling safe at night. When my parents were together night time represented arguments, and my dad drinking. I’m not saying this happened every night, but these are memories that stand out. When they separated we went to live with my grandma who had young children of her own. So all together there were eight of us kids and a teenage uncle or two who were in and out of the picture.

Nights during this time, were chaotic to say the least. Part of our culture involves scaring kids so they go to bed. And although we would eventually go to bed, we did so full of fear. When the adults were gone for the night it was sure chaos among us. The young adult male(s) left in charge of us would watch inappropriate movies, and sometimes invited friends who smelled of marijuana. One relative in particular, exposed us to pornography. We were being conditioned for his own selfish desires (but that’s another story).

As a child, this was difficult to process. I was reassured it was fine to see such things, but the secrecy it involved disturbed me. People can lie to children, but when they are asked to keep secrets, it does something to their spirit. These type of secrets isolate and bring with them a sense of shame and humiliation. I was always on high alert. As if remaining awake would protect me somehow! So night time didn’t represent rest for me.

Many other memories from this time period come up during the winter months. I haven’t shared the majority of them or how they make me feel with anyone. Just thinking of them makes me feel dirty. They can’t be washed off or covered over, but talking about it is bringing me some relief.

I’ve had different versions of this draft for a couple of weeks now, and the anxiety it’s brought up is sometimes through the roof. It’s a mess of emotions, but I’m getting through it. I look forward to my next appointment with my therapist. She’ll be happy to hear that I’m getting to the bottom of my dread of winter. I don’t think my dislike of freezing weather is ever gonna go away though!

That part of my life is over. I no longer need to keep on the watch as if to prevent something bad from happening to me. I need to let my body rest along with my mind. That’s what night time should represent. Rest. It’s a gift. Night is to us, what winter is to the earth. It’s a time to gather strength, whether it’s for the next day, or the next season.

Love you guys ; )