There’s something you should know about me.
There, I said it.
And I didn't die!
How about that?!
I don’t have anxiety about anything right this second; I’m actually doing pretty well at the moment and have been for the past few months. Oh, but when the attacks came, man oh man; it was Hell. I live with this fear that it’s going to happen again and that I’m always just a thought or smell or sound away from being completely and utterly helpless for days on end; the same way I was a few years ago.
The last time that it was really bad, I think it was about 2 weeks that I laid in bed; tired, depressed, nervous, feeling guilty, unmotivated, you name it. I couldn't move. I could barely breathe.
I knew I needed to do something. It took a while, but I finally gathered up enough energy and courage to go to the doctor. Once I did that, I was able to start figuring out not how to get rid of it, but how to manage it.
Between several visits with the doctor and several visits with my pastor, together we came up with things that I can do to help manage my anxiety. I know it will never go away, but doing these things helps.
Here they are, in no particular order, seven thing I do to help manage my anxiety:
- Find a distraction – Many times, if I feel an anxiety attack coming on, I can usually stop it before it starts by finding something else to do. I’ll use my phone to play checkers or solitaire, take a walk down the hall at work or around the block at home. Some simple task to get my mind off of whatever is giving me anxiety.
- Breathe – When I start having an attack, my breathing gets shallow and my heart starts pounding. I can usually keep my composure enough to tell myself to breathe more regularly. I take a deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds, then let it out. This also serves as a distraction, so double the effectiveness…I guess.
- Communicate with my spouse – This is that thing that saved me. Who would have thought that communication would help so much? When I am in the middle of these things, I tend to let my mind go crazy and I start remembering things that I've done in the past and this overwhelming guilt starts setting in. By simply talking to Chantel about it and letting her know what’s going on, the guilt is lifted and I start calming down. Most times, all she needs to say is, “It’s ok, I love you, I forgive you.” I can do this because after this happening over and over, she’s still here and I know she’s not going anywhere.
- Pray – So often, all that I could do was cry out, “God, help me.” I had no other words. Nothing else would come out. So many things would be swirling around in my head that I couldn't think straight. I found Bible verses about worry and anxiety and I would just pray that I would believe the words that I was reading. I do now, 100%.
- Take medicine – Yes, I take medicine every day to help ease the pressure and the anxiety about possibly having another anxiety attack. It took a while to get the dosage just right, but I am doing ok now. Even with the medicine, I still sometimes have anxiety attacks; it just depends on the situation.
- Watch what I eat – Stay away from artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are from the devil himself as far as I’m concerned. Any time I eat or drink something with an artificial sweetener, especially aspartame, my body completely freaks out and there’s nothing I can do about it but wait for it to pass.
- Forgive myself – It felt like I got punched in the stomach when my pastor told me this. I never thought about it before, but self-forgiveness is the sole reason I had such awful feelings of guilt and regret. I could ask God to forgive me all I wanted, but I wasn't able to accept it because I wasn't forgiving myself. I knew in my head that God would forgive me of my sins, but I would still beat myself up about it. Doing this isn't accepting God’s grace and forgiveness, it’s just the opposite.
Many people are fighting the same battle and have no idea what to do about it or how to deal with it. They are also afraid to talk about it. My hope and prayer is that this can find its way to someone that it could possibly help.
If it’s you, I want you to know that you are not alone. Ask for help. I did.