I Fought Anxiety (and I won!)

I really hate anxiety sometimes.

Last night, people started posting pictures of an ice skater I like with this girl who is supposedly his former skating partner and girlfriend. Naturally, everyone was having a giant hissy fit and freaking out. Completely overreacting considering it was just a picture and no one knows a thing.

I wasn’t upset. I really wasn’t. I was more concerned that other people were that upset. I found myself reading all over Twitter instead of just quickly checking my favorite hashtags like I’d planned. People were melodramatically announcing they were going into seclusion and never watching them skate again, crazy stuff like that.

So naturally, my anxiety decided that I must feel so much more upset than I do.

Last day of Nanowrimo, Anxiety whispers.

You’ve been feeling really good.

I told you something would happen to ruin it.

You’ll never make it through tomorrow.

See how awake you feel right now? That’s because you’re really upset.

You won’t sleep.

It’s really late. Why aren’t you sleeping?

See, you’re super upset about this.

Everyone’s going to laugh at you because you’re upset.

Just wait until people find out you let a random famous person dating a person you don’t want them to send you spiraling into a mental health crisis.

You’re never going to write all those words tomorrow.

And then when I woke up in the night for a few minutes:

See, you’re so upset you can’t even sleep through the night.

You’ll never fall back asleep.

You’re going to feel terrible in the morning.

You’re so stupid for liking these people so much.

You’ll never enjoy figure skating again.

And again when I woke up this morning:

Don’t feel good, do you? That’s anxiety. Remember anxiety, you hate it. You’re going to feel like that forever now. Or at least so long that it will mess up your life. Everyone’s going to think you’re stupid.

And you will never finish your novel for Nanowrimo. It’s all ruined. The fun is over. You’re a failure and you always wuss out.

I know all these things are a lie. I know it’s just Anxiety messing with my brain. I know it’s my own head spiraling and turning one tiny thing into a huge thing inside of my brain.

This morning I woke up with tingling and cold arms. Which tells me something else that Anxiety doesn’t want me to know: this is merely a poorly timed set of withdrawel symptoms. I lowered my dose last weekend. I was due a day or two of feeling crappy and/or anxious. It has nothing to do with my self worth or how much of a life I have.

It’s just Anxiety on a power trip, poking it’s ugly little head up when it spots a weakness, a crack in the wall I’m building.

But you can’t fool me, Anxiety. You can say all those things, you can make me feel sick and shaky and horrible, but I know you’re wrong. I am not a terrible person. I don’t choose to feel like this.

And I am going to write the hell out of today. When I see the numbers read 50,000 words I am going to remind you just how wrong you were.

Take that, Anxiety.

Update:

This was written first thing in the morning on November 30th. I never intended to post it, I just wanted to get some words out of my head so I could get back to my novel. I came across it when re-reading my Nanowrimo novel and was surprised by how coherent and strong my words were.

How could I not share this with the world?

Normally, I would have given myself a day off. But this was the very last day of Nanowrimo and I’d worked SO HARD. I wrote almost 25,000 words in the last three days. I think I had 8,000 I needed for the final day.

I did it. I fought though Anxiety and reached my goal.

And it was glorious.

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How I Cope on ‘Bad Days’

I didn’t have any orange days in February.

I started keeping a mood chart in the back of my planner three years ago and I love being able to look back at the entire year and see many good (and bad) days I’ve had. Anyway, this year orange is the color for an anxious day and February was completely devoid of orange. Instead it was filled with turquoise (for a ‘meh’ day) and blue (a happy day!).

Unfortunately the streak didn’t make it though March, but it was still a big deal!

I’ve been feeling disturbingly good mental health-wise the past few months. Disturbing because some days it just feels weird and suspicious. Unnatural even.

I wrote this on my personal insta a couple years ago and it still says it the best.

For the first time in, probably a decade, I feel like I’ve really got my life on track. I can finally focus on my physical health more. For so long I had to put my mental health at the front of the line because if I didn’t have good mental health, my physical health didn’t really matter. But now I’m at a point where I can focus on eating more nourishing foods and getting more movement.

I’m having fun.

It’s always scary when I start to feel this way because I know it won’t last. I could wake up tomorrow and have a bad day. I could have a series of Bad Days. With Anxiety and Depression there is just no way to know.

Over the years, I’ve developed a routine of sorts. When those Bad Days come (and they will), I know what to do. And that makes them just a little less terrible. For me, I know nothing but time will make that terrible feeling go away. I just have to survive each day at a time until it runs it’s course. Having a routine makes those days a little less scary and reminds me that it will end, just like it did the last time it happened.

Here is how I cope on the days when I wake up and know instantly that things are not all right:

  1. “Comfort” Shows.

I use television as a coping mechanism a lot of the time. I find the background noise comforting while I do other things. When I am anxious, the distraction becomes even more important.

I have two main shows that I use on Very Bad days: Psych and Castle. Both are light hearted shows that always make me smile, even when I don’t want to. They are well written (at least the early seasons) and the characters are like good friends that keep me company when I’m sad.

On days that are a little less bad, I have others I add into the mix: The Mentalist, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Elementary. You’ll notice these are all police procedurals. I find the predictable format reassuring and they all have clever and quirky characters that keep things from getting too serious. (I love Criminal Minds, but that one has to wait until I’m much more emotionally sound!)

  1. Comfort Foods.

When I’m a little anxious, I might eat a pint of Ben n Jerry’s to cheer myself up. But when I’m a lot anxious, I’m too nauseated and sick to eat. However, I also know that if I don’t keep something in my stomach I will only get sicker feeling as my blood sugar gets low.

So what do you grab when you’re nauseous? Ginger Ale and crackers. Sipping Ginger Ale (Canada Dry being my preferred brand) and nibbling on crackers doesn’t make me feel more sick and it keeps me from feeling worse because of not eating anything. There have been weeks where I drank nothing but Ginger Ale because it was a simple comfort to cling to and remind myself that things were going to be okay.

I even have a specific type of cracker for the occasion. My current ones are Tollhouse Foccacia crackers in Rosemary and Olive oil flavor. I buy them in bulk and always have a box on hand. Over time, I’ve come to associate these crackers with the comfort they provide. Not to mention they are delicious.

  1. Distraction.

This can be a tricky one. I need something complex enough to keep my brain engaged but also fairly simple. (TV isn’t enough, I need something to do with my hands.) Bad Days bring brain fog, which makes it hard to focus or concentrate, which is why reading doesn’t make the cut. I also shake, especially my hands, and find that I’m more clumsy and prone to dropping things.

Very basic knitting projects have made the list. One year I joked that you could tell the status of my mental health by how many dishcloths I had knitted. (I made a lot that year) The kind of project I usually find tedious and boring is all I can manage on Bad Days.

One year when a medication change left me really messed up for a couple months, I sorted buttons. My mom who is a professional seamstress, has always had huge jars of loose buttons. As a kid I remember playing with them. That year, I spent the better part of those two months sorting buttons by color and type, stringing like ones together on pieces of yarn. Was it a useful project? Eh, that’s debatable. But the act of sorting and organizing was a simple job that kept my mind occupied.

More recently I’ve added puzzles to the mix. I buy mostly 500 piece puzzles from the dollar store (and thrift shops too) that are small enough to assemble in the top of a copier box. That way I can sit on the couch while I do the puzzles. I buy colorful ones and sort the various colors into special puzzle sorting containers before I begin assembling the pieces. (Any small plastic container work just as well. I used them until I decided to treat myself to the “fancy” version.) For me, the sorting is just as enjoyable as actually putting the puzzle together.

Phone apps cycle in and out of this routine as well. I don’t like anything timed, nothing stressful. Solitaire is always a favorite. (I did grow up in the 90’s with a bulky desktop that only had solitaire and minesweeper on it after all.) Other puzzle games cycle in and out depending on the day.

Those are the three things that I primarily use as coping mechanisms on Bad Days. I’m sure other’s look different, especially people who don’t have the ability to stay home as much as possible when those terrible days come. In many ways I know I’m very blessed, although staying at home has it’s own disadvantages.

What do you do on those days that nothing is going to make the darkness better? How do you power through to the other side? I’d love to hear from each and every one of you.

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