Life Changes: Escalated Anxiety
Although millions of people experience anxiety and panic attacks, you might feel completely alone right now in your journey.
Unless someone has been there, they cannot fully understand how it feels.
I do understand.
Maybe you are experiencing anxiety for the first time in your life, and have not been able to “name” it yet.
Maybe you thought you were drinking too much caffeine, which caused the racing heart and lack of sleep. Sometimes others bring it to our attention before we recognize that we are acting or reacting differently.
Maybe you have escalated to a point where crying seems to come from out of the blue, without any control over the level of tears. Breathing becomes difficult.
You may feel that things from the past are haunting you or that trying to control future events is a preoccupation.
Many with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) might be managing these challenges on a daily basis. And to that point, a person does not have to be diagnosed with PTSD to experience anxiety and panic attacks.
Anxiety often coexists with depression (or another medical condition) and it can feel like a very dark place. Know there is light around you.
Start by trying to stabilize. I know that is not a simple thing to do.
When in the midst of an anxiety attack, try to find focus on taking deep mindful breaths. Believe that “you deserve to be peaceful and live peacefully.”
Hang on to that, while you ride the waves. Stay in a “safe feeling” place for you – possibly your bed or with a loved one.
Call your doctor and discuss what is going on with your situation.
I know you may be very good at hiding behind a mask where no one could ever tell you are just keeping the facade of control. Yet you know this feeling of “falling apart” isn’t getting any better.
You deserve more. Look at who else you need on your support team.
And who can you talk with who won’t tell you to “just snap out of it” or “be appreciative for what you have.”
There may be several reasons why you hear this from loved ones.
First, they may not be able to deal with seeing you hurting and not know what to say.
Secondly, they may not have had experience with anxiety and cannot understand that it is a medical condition.
Comments that lack compassion or understanding can cause more agitation and escalated anxiety.
We have already been judging ourselves harshly and now someone we love “seems” to be doing the same.
Yet in truth, other people truly don’t know what to say or do and feel helpless as well.
This can perpetuate the facade to say “Oh, I’m OK,” in order to comfort them. But what about healing you?
Anxiety can escalate into the same conditions that make you feel like you are having a heart attack.
Not knowing which you are experiencing, your doctor would advise you to go to the emergency room.
Anxiety and panic attacks can also be a sign of other conditions. I strongly encourage you to call your doctor immediately.
I also ask you to make a special plan just for you.
When you feel like you are frozen in panic or spiraling with anxiety, seek a trusted ally for support or to get you help.
Your condition does not mean that you will need to be hospitalized.
If you feel like you want to do harm to yourself or someone else, you are not in a safe place mentally. Call 911 immediately.
Keep yourself and others safe. Hospitalization can be the perfect safe place you need for the moment. Let others help you now.
Some people may question faith in God regarding why they hesitate to give up all burdens to Him or where He is during this time. Maybe you wonder about or hear these sentiments.
I know that God does not want me to judge myself harshly or experience any pain. I also know I have a human need for various levels of control in my life. Yet that’s my issue.
I recognize I need to keep boundaries from people, places and conversations that can trigger the process. I also have found comfort in being able to name triggers and deescalate their importance.
I mentioned before about making a special plan. Consider the following:
First, do what you can to become stabilized. Be kind in your head and heart, as this can take some time.
Give yourself permission to tell your doctor without any second thoughts.
Recognize that some anxiety medicines agitate versus assist and you’ll need to be vigilant with communicating as your doctor wants to help find the right “fit.”
Remember that mental health is key to your quality of life, including the importance for those around you.
Talk with your doctor when you recognize social anxiety is keeping you from activities or dealing with others.
Seek professional counseling. This may include your clergy, psychiatrist, psychologist or another appropriate medical professional in the field.
Talk with them about helping you make a plan and support team.
Think ahead. Figure out which people might be able to physically drive you to get medical attention (if needed) and try not to keep asking the same person to always assist you (unless they genuinely invite it).
Try to stop judging yourself and know that feeling vulnerable does not equate to losing your mental capacities and abilities.
Always offer love and compassion to the child within you.
Find a safe place, both physically and within your thoughts.
Do not feel guilty if the healing process means taking a sick day from work.
Know that every plan does not bring on a complete “sense of control.” Making it up as we go often works well. Be flexible with yourself.
May you find a peaceful heart and mind. May worry not be the constant focus of your thoughts. May you not miss out on life’s gifts and activities because of fear or fatigue. May you not judge or punish yourself throughout this challenging journey.
May you take one moment at a time, while remembering you are both loved and loveable.
I wish for peace to be felt within your body and between each of us.
I also recognize some people are unhealthy for us to be with.
Remember that mental health issues should not hold any stigma or lifelong “identity” for you.
I am deeply sorry for the losses you have experienced or anticipate. I pray for the healing of your troubled heart and mind.
And may you consider the possibility to be vulnerable enough in the future to use your personal experience to comfort another hurting person.
Langley is the author of the newly released book, “Life Changes…” Her column is published the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section.