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The Multi Facets of Anxiety

For the first time on Medium, I was challenged by a fellow writer/reader for an article I published about having anxiety. In this article, I offered 4 tools, which I use on the daily basis, to help myself and others, in completing tasks in which I typically struggle.

This is the article in question:

At first, I was taken (slightly) aback, when I read Varun Choraria’s article, stating that he couldn’t “buy in” to the pieces of advice I had offered. After I read his blog, and then read it again, I came to a conclusion:

Anxiety is Not a “Once Size Fits All” mental challenge.

I don’t like to always refer to Anxiety as an illness, as I don’t believe it makes me “ill”. At least, not in the sense that I see it as a sickness. It is more of a challenge to me, and after this past year, I struggle with the term as feeling “ill”. Others may have different opions of this, and I highly respect this, but this is how I look at it, as an individual.

There are so many layers and levels of Anxiety and Depression, that it is inconceivable that anyone can tell you EXACTLY how to “fix” it. Some people seek professional help, some do yoga or meditation and others medicate. Whatever helps you to take on your challenges, I will always encourage your methods and tools.

I am no expert, but I have had multiple experiences that someone who doesn’t struggle with mental health issues could never comprehend.

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I have had problems pulling myself out of bed to face the world. I have had melt downs in the middle of stores-because the noise, voices and people were simply too much to handle. I have been trapped in closets and elevators in my life, that have caused crippling claustrophobia to the point where I now panic in small quarters.

I have feared the past, present and future, all at once, and have been so overwhelmed by the voice overs in my head, that I have become paralyzed.

I have also been in conflicts, where the only recourse I have had, is to stare blankly off into space, or turn and run and hide.

To me, THAT, is what Anxiety looks like.

It will always look differently, from one person to the next, depending heavily on experiences, trauma in your past, how you handle conflict resolution, and what type of personality you have been raised to have.

Anxiety is relative and reliant on so many variables and facets of your life, that it can be triggered by countless situations or struggles.

If your anxiety, for example, doesn’t allow you to partake in social situations, you may know a different tool to help you participate, than what someone like me can provide.

The article I wrote, offering 4 different strategies to cope, are the ways that I have been able to move past my owns struggles, and in sharing them, my mission was to help anyone who wants to take them as their own. These are also tools that I learned over time, reading, and research that have been effective for ME.

This past year, I hit rock bottom, as far as my struggles with my “friend” anxiety are concerned.

In January, within 17 hours of each other, the man I share my life with, and myself were BOTH diagnosed with cancer.

He had to undergo major surgery, which would take a month of recovery. My surgery was much less invasive, but it was also a lengthy recovery. I was still in recovery while he went into the hospital.

Once he was home, I worried more about how he felt, than I did for my own well being. This led me to a downward spiral of a “gift basket” of mental health issues.

I THOUGHT I WAS FINE.

On a day while he was resting, and doing great, I decided to go out on a shopping trip for some food and some organizers for my pantry. My mission was to “get shit done” while we recovered. Why? ’Cause that’s how I deal with tough situations. I take it out on exterior projects and stay focused.

Long story short, I went to Walmart and had a melt down. I was carrying a basket of food items and some labels for my new sorting bins, standing in aisle 7 looking for varieties of soups. A lady came and stood beside me — a little too closely. (It was no fault of hers).

I panicked. I put down the basket, in the middle of the floor, and ran out of the sliding doors, as the greeter yelled, “Have a nice day”. I found my way back to my car, through the blur of tears and mascara and sat in my car for a very long time. Passers by saw me leaning on my steering wheel, resting my head and sobbing.

I turned the ignition on in my car, and started driving, not knowing where to go. In the end, I parked in front of my doctor’s office and went inside. He wrote me note to stay home for the next 2 weeks and handed me a prescription. One medication to help me sleep, and one to help me cope.

I took the “cope” one in my car, before I made my way home.

When I got home, my guy was happily watching reruns on TV and I told him what the past two hours had looked like.

“Oh, so you’re going crazy now. I told you, you need more sleep”, was his response.

He doesn’t HAVE anxiety or depression. He doesn’t understand, and honestly I don’t want him to.

I don’t want him to see that scared, emotional little girl inside of me, who’s name is anxiety. I don’t want him to meet that small voice of depression. I know, I could MAKE him accept that part of me, and he would (eventually) but I would rather see him KNOW that I can get up and go to work, and function. I would rather he KNOW that I can be reliable and not wishy-washy when it comes to social events and responsibilities.

I know what it’s like when the voices inside you, the voices of anxiety, tell you you aren’t skinny enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough. I have felt not “good enough” or strong enough or young enough- not because of others, but because of my “mental challenges”. Those voices are because of my mechanics, not because of others. My inner struggles are because of MY experiences and my life with anxiety. I have learned how to “cope’ with them on my own.

Some people struggle with “situational anxiety” and many others struggle with “functional anxiety”. Some people only become anxious when they are pushed, others may experience it as soon as they open their eyes in the morning. There are so many facets and faces of mental illness, that it has become an epidemic that can’t be diagnosed as ONE illness. It’s much like trying to treat everyone with ONE type of cancer treatment, whether it’s ravaging their brain, stomach or blood. It is a futile effort unless it’s managed by your OWN feelings, experiences and symptoms.

I no longer take any medications, by my own choice, and have learned coping strategies on my own:

  1. Don’t Think — Just Do It — I tend to overthink before I act on challenges. I no longer do that. I TRY to trust myself, and just get shit done.
  2. I Set a Time Allotment — I tell myself how long a task will take, and make it relative to the 24 hours I have been blessed with in the day.
  3. I ask myself HOW instead of WHY — This helps me every time. It changes my perspective. How will I meet this deadline? Vs Why do I need to meet this deadline?
  4. I BREATHE. I am thankful that I have been given the gift of life, even with it’s struggles and allow myself room, and time to take deep breaths.
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So, in response to Varun Choraria, I totally understand what you are saying, that YOU needed to “befriend” your anxiety in order to achieve your successes. You needed to BE different and stay productive. I am so glad that you have found your TOOLS in order to do so.

My comfort zone is keeping a handle on my challenges and pushing through them. My comfort zone is finding success in little things, in order to get to the grand successes that I strive for. My success is celebrating every little task I can complete, in order to level up to the next.

THIS is my success — whether it is making money, or achieving my dream. I need to be able to get out of bed in the morning, in order to do either.