The Ebb and Flow of Anxiety Disorders

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Coping with Anxiety | Coping with Agoraphobia | Anxiety Disorder | Techniques for Coping with Anxiety

I live in a kind of limbo that is infused with a sense of dread. Every time things start to get really good, especially in terms of my anxiety, I find myself just waiting for the other shoe to drop. The worst part is that it inevitably does, because that’s just the ebb and flow of an anxiety disorder – something small can trigger an entire down-slide.

It’s hard, and it’s debilitating to lose that confidence in yourself, the confidence that you had only moments, hours, days, ago. It’s such a sudden shift from being proud and energetic, to being a person that just can’t seem to gather enough energy to care about things outside herself. It scares me every single time – because I really don’t see myself as this selfish person, and yet that’s what I become once the anxiety sets in.

This past week I was out sick with a mom cold. The cold part meant that I was out with a sore throat, running nose, body aches, and a literal week-long headache that has yet to subside completely. The mom part meant that I was still working my full-time job (just very fortunately from the comfort of my own home), was still being a mommy to my 2 year old (also VERY fortunately with an amazing partner who was willing to cut me some slack and pick up the slack at the same time), and was still trying to get/keep the house semi-clean (because I’m insane like that). Needless to say, with major work deadlines and home responsibilities I was stressed enough – add in my cold and headache and I was, hell still am, a bit of a mess.

Whenever I’m not in control of my body is when I’m at my weakest, and I think that the biggest trigger for me this past week was when it was time to grab my son from daycare and I was having some serious trouble talking myself into leaving the house. I haven’t had that issue in a while, and every time it resurfaces it scares the shit out of me. I couldn’t pawn the responsibility off on anyone else because anyone who could have potentially picked him up was busy – so I pep talked myself (aka – mentally screamed at myself to get my goddamn shit together), got in the car, and picked up my son.

As soon as I saw him at daycare, my throat stopped closing, my anxiety subsided, and I was able to mom. Its not the first time this has happened, that my kid has been the perfect distraction and counterbalance, keeping my darkness at bay, but this time the scare beforehand seems to have been enough to put me into a bit of a tail spin. Today I’ve found myself reluctant to leave the house, and I’ve found myself strategizing and planning for the inevitable moment when I’ll be alone again with my son. My mind races and goes over all the ‘what if’ statements – what if I’m sick and not able to take care of him? What If my husband can’t get home fast enough and I have a panic attack with my kid there? All of these questions are weighing on me, and they’re really messing with the usual happy-go-lucky thing I’ve got going for myself.

Its in moments like these that I really need to take a break and work on me time. I need to take a step back, I need to stop the tail spin before it warps out of control, and I need to find my happy place (figurative, not literal… literal would be a vat of fudge brownie cookie dough ice cream). Its literally my job at this moment to catch myself before I fall, and turn things around.

So, in an attempt to do this, I did the following.

Talk it out

First and foremost I go and speak to my husband. I bring up my fears and my insecurities to him, because I know that if I sit and stew, those what ifs will spiral, they will make less and less sense, and they will bother me more and more. He’ll usually help me walk through my worst-case scenarios, and help me come to the realization that these scenarios really aren’t so scary, that they’re manageable. Next he’ll reassure and remind me that I’m not dealing with any of this on my own – if I find myself in need of help, its there for me.

Hobby Horse – Distraction

I’ll try to distract myself with a hobby that I enjoy. I’ll turn on one of my favourite films (yes, probably one I’ve seen over a hundred times), and I’ll work on a new crochet or sowing project, or as is the case today – I’ll write it out in this blog. I’ve found that some of the best distractions are actually tactile activities that are simple and not overwhelming. Colour by number is an amazing one – you have to concentrate on colouring the painting, but you’re not stressing about it because the concept is stupid simple – you’re literally colouring by number. At the end of the activity chances are I’ve calmed down, haven’t had time for spiraling thoughts, and I’ve completed something that makes me proud of myself – which is always a nice ego-endorphin boost.

Rest

Bed. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, wrong with going to bed and relaxing. Its good to rest, especially if, like me, the anxiety has been induced as a result of overworking yourself. It may very well be my body’s way of telling me to slow down. One thing to remember about resting and relaxing in bed though, is not to overdo it, especially if you have an anxiety disorder or depression. Don’t use your need to recuperate and relax as an excuse to give up. Don’t spend the entire day in bed being unproductive and wallowing. God knows that’s all I want to do tomorrow, but I know how much harder it will be to get out of bed the next day, and the day after that, if I start on this pattern. So, I’m resting tonight, but the next morning I’m going to venture out of the house, even if it’s just to the park that’s within walking distance of my porch.

Tools that Help

Sometimes just using the power of your own persuasion isn’t enough, that’s where anxiety aids come in – like weighted blankets and aromatherapy. I have an amazing weighted blanket that seems to really help in terms of calming me down. It’s a tactile thing, it envelopes you and applies slight pressure on your limbs, helping you feel grounded. It was a gift from my husband a few months back, and honestly – I sleep with it every night. Even when I’m not anxious, I’ve found that it really helps me sleep through the night, where I was hardly ever able to reach REM sleep, let alone sleep through until morning. (Note when choosing a weighted blanket, they recommend you pick one thats 10% of your body weight, when in doubt go a lbs up).

Aromatherapy is also something new that I’m trying. I’m rather sensitive to strong smells, they tend to make me nauseous and give me headaches, but I did find a nice relaxation essential oil blend from Woolzies recently and I’ve tried it once or twice. I simply add 3 drops to my essential oil diffuser and let it run – made my house smell fantastic and was rather relaxing!

Combining a few such items – like the essential oils, my weighted blanket, and some relaxing music help to create a generally calm environment. If I’m enjoying my surroundings and am able to relax, then its substantially easier to navigate those negative and scared thoughts that start to creep in.

I know that this isn’t the first time that I’ve had a bad day, realistically its not the last time that I’ll have a bad day, but what’s important is how I handle them. My husband always reminds me that I’ve done this a million times, and I’m stronger for it. Its only recently that I’ve started believing him. I guess I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m still in here, and tomorrow is a new day, and that this is an ongoing battle that I am winning.

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I'm not just a parent with an Anxiety Disorder, I'm a really damn good Mom. Or so I keep telling myself daily. Join me as I try to figure out what works on this wild ride of coping and parenting.

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