Anxiety Blog 3

I’m starting to realize as I continue to recover from my anxiety disorder that things that used to give me horrible anxiety no longer even seem to affect me in some cases. 

I don’t like curveball’s, I never did. As long as I can remember, once I got something in my head, anything that got in the way of it was an obstacle. Growing up, that obstacle was crippling anxiety. It’s hard to describe. A lot of people think 3 steps ahead of what they’re presently doing, but in my case I can’t even think about doing other things before I do those three things I was already thinking about. This likely stems from a memory issue that has also been repaired through post secondary education.

There’s a difference between getting annoyed from an obstacle and having anxiety about it. To put it into perspective, there was a time my mother asked me to walk the dog. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to request since I walk the dog every day, but the timing was against me. I had thought 3 steps ahead, so now I had to rush those three things. As I rushed doing those things, I felt winded and dizzy from the panic attack that was now in full tilt. During the walk, the stress of the day already seemed to fall away even though it wasn’t even lunch time yet. The sun was shining, Chloe (my 16 y/o multipoo) was happy, and the tide at White Rock Beach was out. The serenity of nature is something that has been a large part of learning to deal with my anxiety. Often I’ll go out of my way to take a stroll through the park to ease my mind, sometimes listening to music that reminds me of simpler times, or the music that opens my mind.

Anxiety alone is a complex thing. I estimate that I have had anxiety issues with panic attacks since I was 6 years old. My earliest memory specifically was moving for the first time when my parents divorced, I kept everything packed in my closet. Unpacking and putting things away felt weird in the new house, and when I was asked to unpack, every item I retrieved from the closet to place somewhere in the room felt like a punch to the gut. As if unpacking was forever binding me to the spot, a slave to my space.

Alert and attentive, but anxiously uncomfortable
Alert and attentive, but anxiously uncomfortable

A form of anxiety that’s rather common, as it reaches those that don’t otherwise have the pleasure of experiencing anxiety, is test anxiety. It’s the big day of the final and you studied all night, barely getting any sleep. You walk into class and instantly are struck with fear. Desks are organized with tests for every seat, you sit in the back corner by the window for some natural sunlight, as if it will help you. As you gaze onto the paper, the first question doesn’t look familiar and you instantly panic, assuming you studied the wrong chapter. This is when people need to take a breathe and just read all the questions, go through it and note the questions you DO recognize. With every answer you feel progressively less confident in your test, knowing that you will fail. When you give the test to your teacher finally, (s)he looks up at you with a sinister grin, they know you failed just from looking at your answers. You grab your stuff as quietly as possible so as to not disturb the peace and quiet, and hurry out of the room. The worries of the test are over, you feel sweaty and tired, but you survived. That’s the feeling of surviving a panic attack, but a far more tame version.

As a writer, I get in ‘the zone’ similar to the ‘wired in’ term used in the successful film “The Social Network” about the origin of Facebook. This is the only thing I still get significant anxiety if it’s interrupted, fearing to lose the roll I was on, scared to lose my inspiration and end up playing video games instead. Usually this means I’m writing in my room with my stereo playing Blink-182, surrounded by the soft glow of my laptop, or sitting on a hill with notepad and pen in hand the old fashioned way. I require a bubble to be in this zone, and get anxious the second someone steps into it. I minimize what I was writing if they hover over my shoulder, because to me, none of my work is worth reading until it is finished. When asked what I’m doing on the spot, usually I’ll lie and say I’m just on Facebook, or doing nothing at all, revealing to the same person later that I was writing an article; proceed to show them the finished article no problem.

People think my anxiety is a social anxiety, a sign of a lack of confidence. People who hang out with me frequently know that is not the issue. The problem is I’m afraid of what people assume. People see what they see, they don’t live your life, so if they don’t see you do something and you don’t talk about it, then it didn’t happen to them at all.

Instead of acknowledging a sign of ignorance, us humans seem to wish to piece everything together ourselves without asking questions or talking about the subject matter. So something as simple as walking to the store can be blown out of proportion. If your boss doesn’t witness you doing your work, they will assume you are an insubordinate and lose faith in you until the results come in, in which case the boss takes credit because you were clearly on Facebook while helping customers, or because you had your phone out as (s)he passes by your cubicle. Teachers in college assume students aren’t paying attention when they use their laptops during a lecture. Girlfriends assume you’re mad at them if you’re having a bad day. Boyfriends assume you’re PMSing just because you’re having a bad day. Instead of assuming things like this, what is the harm in simply asking what’s the matter. That takes a significantly less amount of energy to do than creating your version of the story.

With a society that seems to be plagued with a constant sense of entitlement, it’s based upon these outlandish assumptions creating a jumbled world where people would rather come up with stories than listen to the real side of the story. We’re all guilty of assuming too much, even myself. I often catch myself assuming certain things, but better to catch myself before I let it take over and become truth in my brain. Maybe it’s because a lot of people are incapable of articulating their feelings, or thoughts without getting angry and into a heated argument. That’s how things were with me until I understood myself a little more. Maybe the first step is to look within.

Great quote, good color scheme
Great quote, good color scheme

Like I mentioned yesterday in my shout-out to Bell for another successful annual Let’s Talk event, spreading awareness about mental health is in a lot of cases more important than raising money for the cause. The more people know about it, the more we might be able to diagnose things before they consume too much of someone’s life. It took almost 20 years for me to conquer my anxiety and I still whimper to the effects on bad days. People suffering from any mental illness come with them their own set of ticks and social issues, but if society understands the difference between someone that’s bi-polar and someone that’s a paranoid schizophrenic less people will be outsiders, less people will face rejection, and we can create a more suitable environment for all of us.

This blog summed up in one photo
This blog summed up in one photo

Thank You, Bell

Another annual Bell Let’s Talk event has come and gone in 2014.

According to Bell, they set new records this year thanks to all the help on social media and through the natural art of texting. 109,451,718 tweets, texts, calls and shares on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2014 – Bell will donate a further $5,472,585.90 to Canadian mental health programs. Now you can feel good about any excessive texting you do, at least for one day. Parents of teens, don’t give your kids too much flack for their next bill, it’s going to a great cause!

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Since 2010, Bell has committed $62.5 million to mental health initiatives in Canada. Not only do they run a successful annual charity event, but even more importantly, they spread awareness of issues such as anxiety, depression, etc. Mental health awareness is an important thing to a society where teens kill themselves suffering from mental illness, but if people understood the issue more it might be prevented.

I have fallen prey to mental health issues, particularly the effects of heavy anxiety. It has been a long journey to where I am today, and it all started with my blog. I wrote two blogs about it, which you can find on my wordpress to those of you that aren’t aware, and I’ll be releasing more essay’s about the subject as time goes on, as it is a subject I like to study and learn as I cope with it, discovering ways to deal with it.

Our government has neglected the mental health sector in many ways, but it is thanks to charity events such as this that we can get money into these programs, into paying registered professionals to help those who need it. People who don’t have a mental illness have a hard time understanding what it means. When they hear you have one they think you’re crazy. That’s not a very healthy way of looking at it, in fact, looking at things from that angle is part of the problem. This year’s Bell Let’s Talk event successfully reached those people through their marketing and maybe by next years event, more people will understand what it means to have depression, anxiety,  bi-polar, or any one of the hundreds of other illnesses/disorders. Until then, Bell will be behind guiding the people toward conquering what plagues them.

Anxiety Blog 2

Anxiety in a Breakup

There’s a lot of emotions one goes through in a breakup. Amongst the tears and sighs, there’s a sense of heartbreak people often confuse for depression, though it is fair to say you’re depressed, there is a difference. However, people suffering from depression may be affected a lot more in instances like breaking up with someone. Some have even killed themselves from such an event. This blog is not is not about the depression aspect or hard feelings felt after a breakup, it is about the anxiety from multiple triggers in these events, and how to neutralize the anxiety from a first hand perspective, the millennial perspective.

After my break up I felt all of the above things and more. I was in a really low state for quite some time. The anxiety within me was more victimizing than the breakup itself however. It was hard to even contemplate getting back into the swing of things. Not only dating, but living a new routine, or my old routine. I was once again limited to my setting in White Rock, and I felt like I had no one. Especially considering the timing when I was already trying to come back from a slump, only to fall deeper into the slump with heartbreak. I stopped talking to people as much, I hid away as much as possible. I once again had issues trusting people with anything. I’d always worry about running into the now ex-girlfriend. I didn’t want to leave the house for fear that I’d see her. I was worrying about what she might say or do, or if her friends would get involved. I had asked her to leave me alone before only to be threatened by her and her new boyfriend. Since they’re theater crew, they must love drama. But then, today I ran into her. I was walking to the Skytrain after my midterm and she was coming up the hill as I was going down. She looked just as miserable as I was before, and for some reason that lifted a lot of anxiety of my shoulders. I believe it’s because nothing happened and now my fear of being harassed more by her is gone, or it could be that I finally understand the breakup took a toll on her as well. But whatever it is, when I ran into her today, I was already in a better place. I didn’t avoid her, or run away because I already fixed my anxiety about the situation, and this is how:

Step One:

Accept that situations were beyond my control.

This was a really hard one to accomplish for me. I’ve always tried to put myself in situations that I was in control of, but the reality of it is, when you really think about it. We don’t control much. In fact, out of everything that happens in our lives, we control very little. We don’t control genetics, or where we’re brought up, but we also don’t control who we run into (in my case, I couldn’t control if I ran into my ex or not) or who we meet that help take the pain away. However, we DO chose to keep those that take our pain away, or at least you should, I highly recommend it. The first step to ending my breakup anxiety was easily realizing I can’t do anything about it.

Step Two:

DISTRACTIONS

Being distracted is usually a bad thing. We distract ourselves from essay’s, work, etc. But if you have anxiety after a breakup, distractions can work wonders. My distractions were meeting new people, hanging out with friends, playing video games on my days off, and doing good deeds for others. Sometimes the best way to make yourself feel better, is to make someone else feel better. Maybe distract yourself with more structure in your life. Stick to a schedule, focus on what mattes most. Distractions are a nice way to repel negativity.

Step Three:

Write about how you feel.

I’m not sure if this works for everyone. Maybe some people don’t write ever, but it’s something I do on a daily basis. With the last blog, for example, I found simply writing my insight down helped get a lot of the breakup anxiety out of me, then I started writing more things down on the side like a journal my counselor wants me to keep. Writing about anxiety in my experience definitely helps neutralize it.

Step Four:

Remain true to who you are.

Lots of people after breakup will try and become someone else as a defense mechanism, don’t do that. It won’t help eliminate the anxiety you have, and has potential to create even more. There’s a reason someone appreciated you for who you were, and there will be people in the future appreciating you for who you are. If you decide to change, change in ways that might be productive. Change to being more mature, change to being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, be more accepting. Don’t turn into a disrespectful jerk who just wants to go out and have fun. And if you do, at least avoid alcohol, it’s a depressant after all.

Pretend to be happy if you need to.

I read somewhere that pretending to be happy is very likely to make you happier. It attracts positive energy, and negative energy is repelled. In my experience this is true because when I am down, people tend to try and lower me even more, but when I am up, everyone else is too.

My example: the last time I was down I was threatened with a gun, a knife, and mace all within two weeks.

It might be worth it to give it a shot since nobody likes to be threatened. Faking a smile could be your best weapon.

Step Five: 

Finding love in the right places.

Think about where you went wrong in your last relationship and learn from it. Also learn from how the ex might have changed throughout the relationship as their true colors started to show. Separate what you like and want to see in a person to date from negative things you wish your ex didn’t start doing. Only then should you allow yourself to see other people. You don’t want anxiety from a last relationship transferring over and causing issues with a new one. Be mature, and responsible, and think about what you need rather than what you want. Don’t break any hearts just because you don’t know what you’re doing. Be patient, and keep your chin up. All the good things you wish to see in a future spouse are in somebody out there, and they’re waiting for you.