***Trigger warning – talks about anxiety (see anxiety-related resources at the bottom of post). Contains swearing. ***
Anxiety. It’s like the little engine that could, right? Those who have dealt with it know this to be true. I’m not talking about anxiety that strikes when you’re about to do a presentation, or when you’re on a first date. I’m talking about the ever encompassing anxiety that takes over your mind and in turn, starts to take over your life. Anxiety like I’ve dealt with my entire life.
I’ve always had anxiety, even as a kid. It wasn’t until high school when things started getting out of hand. Once, during a band concert, I had a panic attack when I worked myself up so much that I literally thought I was going to projectile vomit all over the stage. After therapy and medication, in my mid-20s I felt like I was at a point where I could manage on my own. And I did. Until I got pregnant years later. The anxiety continued after the birth and during the postpartum period through present day. Enter round two of therapy (still going) and medication (still taking).
Anxiety can show itself in so many different ways, and it seems to be different for everyone. The first time around my anxiety showcased in the constant fear that I was going to projectile vomit everywhere. Seriously. Every. Single. Place. I. Would. Go. It was exhausting.
The second time around it manifested in jumping down this anxiety rabbit hole where I would just sit and worry about every detail of my life until I was so far down this hole that I wouldn’t be able to get out. It got to the point where I was so afraid of being anxious and so afraid of ‘spirling’ that I would work myself up to the point where it would get out of hand. Hence the spiral, or, rabbit hole. I would start to feel a panic attack coming on and I would fight so hard against it, which in reality only made it worse. And, because my anxiety manifested in a different way this time around, all of the coping mechanisms I learned previously I felt didn’t apply. I felt lost, clueless and helpless.
Enter my therapist. Through many sessions together, we figured out different coping mechanisms that I tried to implement throughout my journey. She taught me that when you are anxious, the part of your brain wired for stress and anxiety inhibits the logical part of your brain from working. This piece of knowledge was helping in learning how to snap my logical side back (hold ice cubes or splash yourself with freezing cold water. It forces your brain to focus on the cold and not on being anxious). It was a slow process, but I was starting to make progress and I was able to limit the amount of time I spent in the anxiety rabbit hole. But, if I got to the point where I would reach it, then I would again get stuck and not be able to climb out.
One session, I was telling her about this, and I kept using the words ‘what if, I should have, could have’ to describe what I had been feeling anxious about the previous week. Finally, she cut me off and said:
“But Laura, this is your anxiety talking. This is all your anxiety. Think of it like a monster spewing this crap at you. Or some tiny being.”
“So, basically like a little monster b*tch.”
I literally from that point on started thinking of anxiety as this little gremlin looking monster. It is short and round like a kickball with arms and legs. I also literally started calling it a little b*tch. The following week, I worked on focusing on this newly created ugly little b*tch monster in my head. At one point I was getting worked up about something, and I could feel myself spiraling towards the anxiety rabbit hole.
I thought of the little monster b*tch, and said (yes, probably out loud talking to myself – it happens):
“FINE, let’s just get it over with. Bring on the spiral. Bring on the panic attack”.
And you know what? I swear on anything and everything that the monster b*tch dissipated, I felt a HUGE weight lift off my shoulders, and whatever it was that I was freaking out about suddenly didn’t seem so big. That moment was such a huge step for me and made me realize that this little b*tch monster was not going to be able to take over my life anymore.
Does this mean I’m cured forever of anxiety? Absolutely not. I came to the conclusion long ago that I will likely deal with this for the rest of my life. And I accept that it will likely ebb and flow as it has. But, I have learned ways to cope. And I have become very in tune with myself, started living my life with more intention, and have come to learn specific triggers. On the opposite side of that, I have learned lots of ways to prevent my anxiety from getting too out of hand (exercise, good diet, sleep, yoga, guided meditation, acupuncture, decluttering/minimalism, paying it forward, gardening, being outside, photography, etc).
So what is the point of telling you all this? Many of the things I talk about and plan to talk about through The Mindful Mom Blographer blog are things I have found as ways to cope with my anxiety or help prevent spiraling. This is something I work on every single day because it is part of my life every single day. My hope is that these mechanisms can help others navigate through the anxiety trails. Even if it is just one thing. Even if it is just one person.
If you feel you are struggling with anxiety, and are looking forward resources to help, I would encourage you to check out the following: