Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dealing with Anxiety

I have always suffered from anxiety. I think that it’s just a part of who I am. My mother tells me that when I was born I came into this world crying hysterically with a big red spot between my eyes. She was worried and thought that it might be a red birth mark smack dab in the middle of my forehead. The doctor who delivered me assured her that it would go away and that it was just “nerves”. Sure enough it went away but the “nervousness” stayed with me and is a part of me to this day.

Growing up I used to get so nervous when the first day of school came around. I wouldn’t sleep the whole night before and get sick to my stomach the following morning. I was nervous... About what you ask? About making friends, about being accepted, about getting good grades, about seeing the boy I liked in school, if the back pack I had was cool enough, etc. etc. I guess these are normal things that a girl worries about but I took it to the next level making myself sick over it.

College came around and things got a bit better. I was able to relax a bit and began smoking. I didn’t smoke a lot, maybe 10 cigarettes a day. In my mind that helped me cope with my anxiety. Today I know that wasn’t true at all. After college I moved to Italy and that’s when it all came to a head. I began working and took out a loan for my first car. I was so proud of myself because I was making my own money, I accomplished my goal of living in Italy. The job wasn’t the best one ever but then again I had never worked before so it was my first experience. One evening I got into a huge fight with my ex boyfriend and we ended it. I moved to Italy with the intent of marrying him but things didn’t go as planned. After moving here I found out he had someone else… Needless to say, I was heartbroken. I felt betrayed, I felt made a fool of.
The morning after the fight I felt like I needed to get a hold of myself. I’m not one to fall into depression. I’m a fighter, I’ve always been a fighter. I pick myself up and keep walking with my head up high! I went to work and sat at my desk like every other day. I noticed that I was yawning more than usual. "I don’t feel tired, why am I yawning so much?", I said to myself.  My hands were freezing cold even though it was a warm September day and the AC in the office wasn’t working. I look down at them and I see my nails turning blue. I gasp for air and find that I am not able to breathe. I start shaking and a colleague of mine notices that my chest is covered in red blotches.  I run outside to get some air and I continue to panic feeling as thought I was about to die...my boss calls a relative of mine to pick me up from the office. My mom was in Italy at the time fortunately and as soon as I get home I start crying uncontrollably and I just couldn’t stop. My mom, who also suffers from anxiety, gave me a klonopin she had in her purse and I fell asleep on the bed.
The next morning I went to my family doctor who prescribed Xanax. He told me that I had experienced an anxiety attack. I took Xanax three times a day in the beginning then twice a day, then once a day, then half a dose a day, then a fourth a dose and so on for months and months. I carried it in my purse for over a year. I was so afraid to have another panic attack and not have it with me.  For me that was the worse feeling in the world. I could feel it coming. My hands would start to shake, my breath would get short, my chest would get blotchy and I couldn’t think of anything more terrible. And it wasn’t for any apparent reason either. There was really nothing that would trigger it.
This was about 10 years ago. I have never had another panic attack since. I don’t smoke anymore and I don’t carry Xanax in my purse anymore. I still experience anxiety though every once in a while. Since then I have changed jobs and have met an amazing man that has helped me so much.  I have never been to a therapist. I’m not against therapy and I think that it can help many people. Maybe I will go someday, but I think it’s important to get to know yourself better and to understand how your body and mind works.
I have discovered that for me an anxiety attack is like a wave. When it comes, acknowledge it and let it do its thing. It will go away, you won’t die. The wave just has to pass. If you fight it, it gets worse and you lose control. Something else that helps me is breathing with my stomach and not with my chest. Lay down and put your hand on your stomach. Breathe so that your hand rises and falls as you breathe. If you notice, that's how babies breathe when they're sleeping... By concentrating on this type of breathing, my body immediately relaxes and I feel every muscle in my body ease up. When I breathe through my chest during an anxiety attack, it feels as though the air doesn’t reach my lungs and I get short of breath. I know it’s all in my head and that’s another thing that relieves my anxiety a bit, knowing that my mind controls it all.
My brother got married this past April. He married in the States so I flew over for the wedding. I was the Best Lady at his wedding and I was honored that he chose me. I’m not going to lie…. I was very stressed out prior to this trip. I was going to see my family that I hadn't seen in years, I had to take time off work, and seeing my baby brother all grown up made me realize how time flies and how much people and circumstances change as the years go by.
Before leaving I bought Bach’s Rescue Remedy drops and had those in my purse for the whole trip. I was scared to have another panic attack. They are homeopathic and not prescription medication at all and it was probably just a placebo effect but I needed to have something with me in case “the wave” was coming to get me. The wedding came and went. It was a very emotional trip for me but in the end I had a wonderful time and I got to spend time with the people I love the most and don’t get to see very often.  
I know that anxiety will always be a part of my life because it is a part of who I am.  The things that help me deal with anxiety:
1)      Prayer – praying is the number one thing that calms my nerves. I know God listens to me and He’s there holding my hand during all my hardships.
 
2)      Positivity - Surrounding myself with positive people that don’t bring me down but that are there to love me, listen to me and comfort me during difficult times.  No negative people in my life are allowed!!
 
3)      Pets – My pets are the love of my life (all the heart eye emojis). They are the best klonopin and xanax and psychologist all rolled into one crazy puppy and one goofy kitten (my two goldfish help too :-)). They have helped me sooooo much words cannot even express how important they are to me!
 
4)      Belly breathing – when I feel anxiety coming I make sure to breathe with my stomach and that immediately releases my tension.
 
5)      Knowledge – knowing what an anxiety attack is and studying how it works and what you can do to stop it (or at least diminish it) is very important. Seeing it as a wave that has to pass really helps put it in perspective and makes me realize that I won’t die from a panic attack….it will eventually pass.
 
6)      Cooking – For me cooking is a hobby that I enjoy very much. I never really used to like cooking until recently and have been experimenting a lot in the kitchen. Find something that keeps you busy. I am also a bit obsessed with DIY and I love painting, refurbishing and decorating my home. It keeps my mind occupied and helps distract me from moments in which I could be suffering anxiety. This blog is also something I started doing as a hobby to help me cope with anxiety.
 
7)      Wine. :-) No need to elaborate!
 
       During the course of my life I have encountered so many people that suffer anxiety attacks. I never realized how common of a thing it was. I always felt like I was the only one that had it and was different because of it. I know today that is not the case. I've met people that seem so pulled together. Important business men and woman who seem like they have it all...they have confided in me that they too at one point or another in their lives suffered from anxiety attacks.
My mother used to tell me when I was a little girl,
"Worrying is like a rocking chair, it keeps you occupied but it doesn't take you anywhere."
My brother and I at his wedding this past April. I love him so...
 
 
 

5 comments:

  1. Cara amica questa sera, quando torna procione, ti leggero con piacere anche se mi rendo conto che la tematica trattata è molto seria. ti voglio bene buona giornata amica mia!

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  2. silvana queste sono parole che vanno dritte al punto!
    il metodo che tu spieghi sopra, il metodo con cui respirare, è proprio il metodo giusto per affrontare gli attacchi di panico e di ansia, anche io la penso come a te sui terapisti e sul conoscere noi stessi, anche se come sai e come ti ho raccontato per cause di forza maggiore ho dovuto farci affidamento.
    mi fa piacere sapere che ora riesci a tenere più sotto controllo queste situazioni per te 'apparentemente ingestibili' dico apparentemente perchè dopo tutto e tutto sommato riesci, guardando da occhio esterno, a gestirle bene e per il meglio.
    Però diciamo pure una cosa silvana si dice che uno ci nasce , ma io non lo penso, diciamo pure le cose come stanno che uno inizia ad avere questi malesseri dell'anima, chiamiamoli così, sai attacchi di panico di ansia e via discorrendo (io stessa durante la seconda gravidanza a causa di parenti di mio marito ci ho sofferto e stavo male di notte, avevo proprio degli attacchi di panico) insomma non è che uno inizia ad essere ansioso e ci nasce, sono gli avvenimenti della vita, sempre a causa di persone che non sono state gentili con noi, vedi il tuo ex! senti meno male che vi siete lasciati altrimenti ora chissà come stavi tribolando con un soggetto del genere!
    ti voglio bene buona notte a domani amica cara!

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  3. Oh, my dear...I could have written this post. I have never opened up about my depression/anxiety issues on my blog but I have never hesitated to share my ordeal with people or bloggers who have shared their experiences. Back when I first began to have anxiety and panic attacks there was nothing to read and no one to talk to. I felt alone and thought I was losing my mind. So...without writing a book, this is your post, I got psychiatric help and still take a very small amount of meds. I haven't had a panic attack in years...maybe 11? I was on a train and simply felt trapped---that's how my attacks felt...trapped, sometimes in my own home by my own mind.

    I so appreciate your tips. Keeping busy and active and facing fears keep us feeling independent and in control. You know how I love to cook and I also garden, read and so many things. One thing I learned (and yes, the breathing exercises are the best) is to distract ourselves. When I started to have the panic attack on the train I sat and read my train pass and then tried to memorize it!! Ha! Before I knew it I had stopped sweating and shaking and I arrived at my stop!!

    I'm sending a big hug to you. Thank you for opening up. I think you are a brave lady to have moved away from your family and to another country to boot. I'm grateful to have you as a new friend. Please email me anytime if you want to 'talk'.

    Jane xxxxx

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    1. Hi Jane, thank you for your comment. One thing I've noticed talking to people who have had panic attacks is that not all are the same. You felt trapped whereas I felt overcome by this wave of fear. The important thing is to realize that it will pass and to keep breathing. And I also find that keeping myself busy is important. Unfortunately Jane, sometimes life's problems are difficult to get through. I can only imagine how difficult it was for you losing your sister. When I read that post you wrote it really touched me and that's when I started following you. I wish you all the best and I'm glad to have met you, Silvana xoxo

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  4. Silvana first thank you for the follow, and for sharing your thoughts about your anxiety. I too have terrible anxiety and have to work on them daily. I enjoy your blog/site keep up the good work. Let me know how monetizing your site is working
    Thia

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