Calm The F*ck Down: My Life with Anxiety
Hey guys, I’m getting real again today.
Everyone has something they worry about. E-ver-y-one. But have you ever had that little nagging worry last an unusually long time? Have you ever been worried without really knowing why? You just have this general feeling of unease and tension and have no idea what caused it?
Anxiety, my friends. She’s a bitch.
It turns out that I have lived with anxiety issues my entire life. I just thought I knew more than everyone. Nope. Anxiety.
As a child, I was a worrier. I would constantly stew over things and worry about everyone’s level of happiness. If my parents were fighting or my brother got into like, real trouble (which he did quite a bit), I felt like the whole world stopped turning.
It was worse as I got older and more pressures from friends and school and after-school activities came into play. Am I popular enough? Am I thin enough? Why are my grades so bad? All these pressures would sit with me constantly, weighing heavily on my mind, and being so overwhelming that it felt like I couldn’t deal with any of them.
This is all pretty normal for a teenaged girl but what was weird is that even as I grew up and my confidence grew, these pressures were still so present in my mind.
When I was in my third and fourth year of University, there would be month-long stretches where I would have an anxiety attack every. single. day.
If any of you have been unlucky enough to experience an anxiety attack, you know that it is sooooo physically and emotionally taxing. And on top of that there was the anxiety of knowing that an anxiety attack could happen at any moment.
Finally, about 7 years ago, I went to see a therapist. I mostly talked about my family and boyfriend and school and all the things that pissed me off. She gave me a few tips but after a few sessions, I just stopped going. I just thought life sucked and then was getting better. I never knew what was the cause.
Slowly, the anxiety went away. It would return during high stress periods of my life but then drift away again when I regained control of whatever was so chaotic.
Then, after Baby Girl was born my hormones took my anxiety to a whole new level.
Everyone has heard of Post-Partum Depression and that shit is real and it’s scary. But it can also manifest as Post-Partum Anxiety.
Did you know that 15-20% of new moms experience Postpartum Anxiety?
As a new mom you are already plagued with the scary thoughts of everything that could ever happen to your child. You feel their lifetime of scrapes and bruises and broken bones in those first few months as you anticipate everything that could ever go wrong with your child.
What’s not normal is not being able to sleep until 3AM because you need to plan an escape route in the event of a violent home invasion. Yeah…
We are nice people. We live in a nice neighbourhood. The possibility of a violent home invasion is pretty slim for us. And yet, it kept me up at night. I’m still a little glad that I know what I would do in this very unlikely scenario but it probably wasn’t necessary to figure out at 3AM. Thank God I can laugh about it now.
I would also have the worst thoughts. They usually started with “What If..”
Sometimes they were little worries of what kind of mom I was going to be or how my child would grow up. But sometimes, especially at night, in the seconds before falling asleep, they would turn violent and horrific. I never was the one to harm my family in these little scenarios but that is often the case with PPA. Mine were always external factors I couldn’t control like a car crashing through Baby Girl’s window or her kidnapped or hit by a car. Think I have a control issue? I should ask my therapist about that…
The thoughts were so awful that I never even told Husband what they were. But he knew I had them. I would wake him up and ask him to cuddle me or hold my hand and distract me. I know that it annoyed him sometimes to be constantly woken up but he always did it, and he never complained.
Thankfully, I knew enough to recognize that it was probably hormones and that I needed help. At first, I just asked Husband. Could he take over some of the projects that were stressing me out? Could he give me a break a little more often? He did, but he urged me to get back in touch with my therapist.
So, I started going back to her more regularly. I told her I thought I had an issue with anxiety. She said “Yeah, you did last time too.”
Huh?! I had no idea. I just thought life was being shitty and I needed to talk to someone. Had I stuck it out a few more sessions with my therapist, maybe I would have realized that the root of my issue was not my shitty life (which looking back, really wasn’t all that shitty).
Since then I have gone back and examined my life and seen all the countless ways that anxiety has plagued me over the years. I have seen evidence of it throughout my existence and now even see it in others.
Great. So we have anxiety. So what’s the cure?
Fuck if I know.
There is no cure for anxiety. Some people who have really bad anxiety go on meds. I have never had to do that yet and hope that I won’t. You know what helps me?*
1. Calming the F*ck Down.
Most of the time, I can feel the tension inside me build and I just have to take a deep breath (or several) and tell myself to breathe. Whatever is stressing me out, whatever is weighing me down will not get fixed in a minute (if it did, I would have done it already). Stress is a huge anxiety trigger for me and a lot of the time, I can to talk myself out of being anxious. Now, trust me, I am not being cavalier about this. This is much harder than it sounds and will not work for everyone. And in times when it’s really bad, this does not work.
This means yoga, a hot bath, tea, a night out with friends, bitching about my problems, a coffee break or realizing that your issue(s) is not the end of the world. I need regular me time to help my anxiety from building. Time off to focus on myself and keeping myself relaxed and balanced as a preventative measure to keep the anxiety from building. There are a lot of people with more severe anxiety who would need actual treatment. If you are one of those people, I urge you to seek help.
3. Get help.
You don’t have to be alone in this! You are not just being dramatic! There is relief out there. GO TALK TO SOMEONE! If you feel like you are losing your mind or are thinking some dangerous thoughts, immediately call someone to look after your kids, and get out of the house. Find a local therapist or counsellor and talk to someone. It will make you instantly feel less crazy and less anxious.
Fun Facts about Anxiety:
“An anxiety disorder causes unexpected or unhelpful anxiety that seriously impacts our lives, including how we think, feel, and act.”- Source, The Canadian Mental Health Association
- Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
- Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem. Source, The Canadian Mental Health Association
OK, so now that it’s all on the table, have you ever suffered from anxiety? How do you deal? How did you get over it?
Thanks for listening, kids. I really wanted to talk about this and just feel better already!
* I am in no way a licensed therapist and my suggestions should be taken only as what has worked for me. If you are suffering from anxiety or any other emotional or mental health issue, I urge you to speak to someone. There are so many resources out there if you need help. Find a friend and ask for help.