Like everyone else, sometimes I suffer from sense-of-humour failures, but it hadn’t happened to me in a while. Until today.
I was shown a cartoon, which I can’t replicate here without permission, but it’s the first cartoon you’ll find on this page, called ‘Anxietea’: Anxietea – Gemma Correll. It was sent to me, because I walk with general anxiety disorder (borderline panic disorder at times) and they thought I’d find the pun amusing. I can look at it now and say, “Yeah, it’s ok.” But this morning I fell arse over tit into several traps, which belie my 6-7 months mindfulness practice, to my shame.
We’ll start with the basics:
My Anxiety is Special/Different. While every sufferer has their own journey with anxiety, people who are have an anxiety disorder are all suffering from similar mental and physical symptoms. Mine isn’t special, however horrible the symptoms can be. In fact, it isn’t even mine – it’s just there. There are millions of people all over the world with exactly the same physical feelings.
My Anxiety trumps your ‘occasional anxious moments’. While it is true that symptoms associated with General Anxiety Disorder, and its associated pals tend to be worse than those who are anxious ‘in the moment’, it doesn’t make me more important or more deserving of attention. This is especially true in the current climate. Anyone experiencing mental anguish needs the attention of friends, family and practitioners.
I really fell into those two, and am a little embarrassed by it.
I basically saw the cartoon as a mockery of ‘my’ anxiety, of me, because my anxiety is special, and you obviously don’t understand it, or me!
As a result, I went into Crusade Mode, and attacked the cartoon.
One of the more slightly complicated things to remember about anxiety, is that:
- You don’t have anxiety, anxiety is present and you are mindfully aware of it (and hopefully allowing and accepting it, thereby reducing its negative effect on you); and
- You are not your anxiety. Do not turn into Anxiety Man/Woman. Do not let it define you. Acknowledge it simply, and let it roll on by.
I didn’t today, until I had time to reflect, and I could have ended up doing damage as a result.
- I stressed both myself out, and the person who brought the cartoon to my attention. This is dangerous to someone whose system is already flooded with norepinephrine and cortisol, as it can simply snowball your symptoms. Fortunately, I’m having a reasonably good week, and have been able to employ tools to note, accept and allow symptoms without them impacting me too adversely.
- I could have damaged relationships with my reaction. I can’t afford to let this happen. When you’re walking with anxiety, you need as many friends as possible, believe me!
Fortunately, maybe 30 minutes or so later, I realised my reaction and talked it out with the person, which released endorphins and generally made me feel better about myself. I have to thank Lesley from https://www.mindzone.ie/ for helping me with my internal monologue on this. Go check them out!
Now I’ll stop the self-flagellation here, as one other thing you are not supposed to be when anxiety is present, is to be too hard on yourself!
Note that as I am not a professional practitioner, I am reluctant to go into specifics on my toolset. What I use works for me, and I am not keen on others insisting I try theirs, as it will split my focus. With that said, I can reveal the following:
Tactical, to mid-term Relief and Remission:
- DARE by Barry McDonagh. Brilliant Book.
- Meditations in the Headspace and Calm apps (especially the former for anxiety, for developing neural changes)
- The content in Welcome to its Just a Feeling | It’s Just a Feeling. Many concepts here are similar to DARE, and it’s useful to read about the stories and symptoms of other walkers.
Strategies for long-term Remittance:
- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers (I’ve just started it, but it seems practical and may help me with my over-excitable amygdala)
- Gratitude journaling (I’ve literally just received a journal from Amazon – review may follow)
- Gratitude Masterclass and meditations in the Calm app – Gratitude is the new mindfulness buzzword, but over the past couple of weeks seems to have worked well for me… I will blog about gratitude soon, I think.
- Non-reactivity (well, I certainly failed that today!)
- Diet. Not going into specifics here, but there’s stuff in DARE and It’s Just a Feeling you can check out.
- Exercise. Walking mostly.
If you have anxiety present in your life, I wish you well on your walk.