The Anxiety of Change
The only thing that never changes in life, is that there will ALWAYS be change. Whether it be a change of relationship status, becoming a parent, losing a loved one, or buying a house, changes in life are absolutely inevitable.
When you have anxiety, depression or any other mental health challenges, change is a very scary and daunting struggle. Anxiety ridden people only find solace in what is comfortable and familiar to them. Making plans may be easy, but following through can be completely overwhelming, especially if those plans include changing the way you are living.
I am currently under the dark umbrella of anxiety-because I am house shopping. I have looked at over 30 homes for sale, and up until recently have not found one that I can see as a HOME. The search has been, in many ways, exciting, yet making the CHANGE to live somewhere else, looms over my head like a dark rain cloud. I want to take the plunge and play in the rain, but my anxiety is holding me back and making me physically ill. My fiance has been by my side, thankfully, through my search, and makes it slightly easier- but still, I am in FULL BLOWN anxiety mode.
Last year, I made some serious life changes, to better myself and my mental health. I left a toxic relationship, found a temporary space to call home, and have found my comfort zone there. It has taken me about 6 months to become at peace in our home. With the lease end coming up, I am now in panic mode to find a long term, owned home. YIKES! It is the most money I have ever spent on anything in my life, and the only time I have ever been challenged with the legalities, the realtors, and the process. I can tell you, I haven’t been sleeping well with this whole ordeal. I am unfocused, stressed out, anxious, and I can’t seem to function.
It’s not the process-it’s the CHANGE.
There was a time when I was more adaptable. I changed cities and jobs, and lived on my own, no problem, 7 years ago. In those 7 years, I bought two different houses with my ex and I adapted well, without mental health triggers. So, what changed?
Toxic Relationships and the Courage to Change
The relationship with my ex changed, or rather, I CHANGED. Over the past 5 years or so, I became more in tune with my happiness and my own personal well being. I knew that the relationship I was in was not a good fit, and as much as I tried to force it, it never made me content or happy. I always felt stressed out and rattled.
When I was faced with the decision to leave, anxiety took over, and I found it easier to stay, than to find the strength to leave. When I FINALLY found my way out the door, I was overwhelmed with unknowns. I managed to make things happen, like finding a place to live, and learning to do many things for myself, but the CHANGE was unnerving. I spent a lot of time hiding alone, staring blankly at the wall.
There is a vicious circle with Anxiety and change. Living in a relationship that is not a good fit can make your mental health go haywire. The person you share your life with feeds the flames of anxiety, and you may or may not even be aware of it. They might tell you that you can’t make it on your own, or they may make your life hell while you fight to find ways out. Your self esteem is knocked out of you, and you fight to keep your head in the game, to make changes to live more happily.
Yet, it’s a CHANGE. And what does CHANGE do? It triggers Anxiety. It is a slippery slope of emotional battles that you can’t always win. Something always has to give, in order for you to function at a “normal” level.
Changes of Life and How I Manage the Mental Struggles
There are a few tools that I have been using, in order to function through my challenges.
I give myself a time out, when everything just feels too heavy. I know my own emotional limits, from experience, and KNOW when I need to just walk away from it all, and breathe without thought.
I reach out to friends and family who understand me. When they ask me how I am doing, I am honest with them and tell them I am struggling. Too often people with mental health will deny that anything is bothering them. We don’t like to burden others with our struggles. We will say, “I’m fine” rather than spill our guts, in order to make other people’s lives easier. I have learned over the years that most friends and family don’t pack the weight around that you are carrying, and often they can give you solid advice, that could help you come out of your darkness.
I change my focus. Today, I am at my office, doing my job. I am writing this story on my lunch break, and ignoring my emails. I offered on a house and the seller countered. I countered, and they counter offered again. I have put in my final offer and now I wait. It is KILLING me waiting for the final decision to be made, so I need to change focus. Dwelling on the whole process only makes my brain go crazy, so I change the tracks of my crazy train to something else. Sometimes this is very effective, other times I “half ass” my way through my work and hope for the best.
I would love to do other things, like work out or find a hobby to keep me from obsessing over changes and transitions, but my routine is established. In and of itself, my routine needs to change. I know I need to be more active. I am very aware that staying at home and hiding when changes are coming, is not always the healthiest choice. It is a work in progress.
My job hasn’t changed, so I can take on its many day to day requirements. My life with my fiance is changing on a slow and steady pace, but for the better, and I can handle that too, It’s this impending BIG change of moving to a new address and finding the perfect home for us that has me reeling and looking for a dark corner to hide in. IT JUST SEEMS SO DAMN HARD.
For most people, the search for a new house is exciting and fun. For people with anxiety, it is enough to derail us and throw us way off track. It is just not our “comfort zone.’
I recall, 13 years ago, when my mother in law passed away. I had never been diagnosed or assessed with mental health struggles at that point, and it sent me into this crazy tailspin of panic and grief. She and I were extremely close, as if she was my own mom. We had lots of warning that her cancer would take her, and I spent endless hours with her in palliative care. I tried to mentally prepare myself for a life without her, until I fooled my inner emotions that I was “ready”. I have never recovered from that loss. I miss her every damn day, and her loss can still make my anxious self go dark. her leaving had a major impact on my life and my comfort. I have learned to deal with the grief, but not the sadness. The change of a life without her in it was definitely the first TRIGGER I have ever felt, with anxiety and depression.
People with anxiety like things the way they are. They don’t embrace change and unknowns well. Think of the friends you have that cancel attending events at the last minute, or who make plans and then change them without notice. Chances are they have anxiety. I am guilty of doing this, although I try really hard to “power through” now. Plans and expectations are CHANGES in our daily routine. Typically plans entail other, or new people, new places, and unknowns. Anxious people are not adaptable to any of those. We like to know what is happening. We like to feel comfortable in our environments, and we need to know what is going to happen next. THAT is our comfort zone.
We feel judged, or we feel awkward, or we feel over sensitized in new environments. CHANGE means something new or different. CHANGE means that we may or may not be losing control of our comfort zones, and that is a hurdle for the anxious mind.
Learning to Embrace Change
How do we reach out of our comfort and embrace change?
That is the million dollar question.
In all honesty, I cope best if I know all of the details prior to a change, or if I know exactly what to expect. I ask a lot of questions to minimize surprises, and I search for one thing, (Something) that I can use as a comfort item.
An example, is being invited to a party. I would first ask, “Who’s going?” so I would be aware of the type of people I will mingle with. I ask about the house, or place where we will meet. “I have never been to your house before. Do you stay in the kitchen or do you have a room in the basement?” I try to mentally visualize what kind of environment I will be going into. I offer to bring something, and ask what others are bringing. I try to get as much detail as I can, before I go. I don’t feel badly about asking too many questions. In order for me to be less anxious, I need to know what I am getting myself into.
Alternatively, I will just jump in with both feet and not stress the details. Typically, this is when anxiety takes over after I return home. I have gone way out of the comfort of my life before, and although I am amazed that I did it, I still come home feeling slightly off. I do find, however, that it is easier to deal with post event anxiety, that pre-event panic.
I have yet to learn how to embrace change or discomfort, but I am working on learning to cope mentally.
One thing that everyone needs to know, when they have anxiety.
We are not alone. There are so many people in our world who suffer with mental health challenges. Even though, when things go dark, and we can’t find comfort in the changes we make, there are so many other people who struggle the same. Take comfort in knowing that you are NOT the only one who feels the tightening weight of the discomfort of change.
Reach out and talk about it.
Remember that change is inevitable and you may need to learn tools to help you with changes.
Know that you are capable of expanding on your comfort.
You’ve got this.