Before I had anxiety, I never understood it.
How could someone get that upset over nothing?
How could going to places make people want to cry and leave?
How could someone be scared of the grocery store?
It didn’t make sense to me then, but I totally understand it now.
I actually developed anxiety while I was taking Paxil and Ambien (and know now that it’s a pretty common side effect for both of those). During tapering and withdrawal, it became a million times worse.
The years I was on Paxil and a few years afterwards, while I was still in withdrawal, I got a horrible squeezing, panicky feeling every time I was in a crowded place or I worried about some event or conversation coming up. I didn’t understand what it was at the time.
I also experienced panic attacks. For about a six month period approximately 8 months after I was completely off Paxil, I started having horrific panic attacks around four o’clock every morning. EVERY DAMN MORNING. I woke up pouring sweat and feeling like something was going to attack me. My heart raced. I didn’t know where I was. I craved ice water AND the really fun part …. had dry heaves. The attack lasted about thirty minutes, so I sipped my ice water, my husband held my hand, I cried … and we waited it out. The attacks shortened in duration over time and eventually stopped, but for a while I was afraid they never would.
Anxiety manifests itself in different ways for different people. Common symptoms are (I marked the ones I had with a *) :
- trembling *
- muscle twitches
- a feeling of dread *
- rapid heart beat *
- rapid breathing *
- weakness *
- just a weird (unspecific) feeling *
- tingling (especially in the hands and feet)
- a squeezing feeling (like being hugged really hard) *
- panic *
- being nervous *
- nausea *
I never understood how awful it could be until I experienced it myself. It’s like you want to run away from yourself, but you feel trapped, because you know you can’t run away from it. You’re stuck. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide.
The typical approach to anxiety is either “fight or flight”. People try to fight it by taking medications, using distractions (crutches) to get through it or they simply avoid places, people or things that cause them to feel anxious. The other (often used, but not successful) approach is to flee the situation or place … convinced that just getting away from it will cure the feeling.
I used both of these approaches, but neither of them helped.
Then my anxiety savior taught me how to overcome it for good.
Stop fighting it. Stop running from it.
I know. I know. I thought it was a crazy idea too.
I was blessed to be a part of an online community of people who were also adversely affected by antidepressants and one dear stranger/friend reached out to me when my anxiety was at its worst.
He writes a site called That Anxiety Guy.
He taught me how to just let the anxiety happen. How to pack it up, take it with me and not to let it stop me from doing the things I needed and wanted to do.
It isn’t easy and it does take a lot of practice, which is exactly what I called going to public places where I knew I would feel uneasy … my “anxiety practice”, but it does work. In fact, I believe it’s the only way to really overcome anxiety in the long term.
The most important aspect is learning to be uncomfortable.
We live in a society where we shun being in uncomfortable situations or try to fix anything that feels strange to us … instantly. We’ve lost the ability to just feel … well … uncomfortable. We want to feel better right away … NOW!
But I’m here to tell you that uncomfortable will not kill you. I promise it won’t.
You won’t like it … in fact, you will probably hate it, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
If you have anxiety (or know someone who does), the first step in overcoming it is learning how to be uncomfortable. Don’t fight it. Don’t run from it.
Don’t try to stop your heart from racing. Don’t run from the place or situation. Don’t distract yourself with loud music or podcasts.
Just pack that feeling up and take it with you.
Be uncomfortable. Then do it again and again and again … until you teach your mind and body that THAT situation is nothing to be anxious about.
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