I have been fairly absent from the blog and even Instagram during the past 2 weeks, and although it would be fairly easy to jump back in a get on with my life I thought I’d talk about where I’ve been.
I’ve dealt with anxiety for years and it hit me pretty hard at the beginning of the month. Between the stress of moving (again), going back to school, knowing I’ll have to make new friends, and trying to keep my current life together I just sort of lost it.
I will say I have gotten much better at dealing with these feelings since I was a kid. I have memories of hiding in closets during large family gatherings and not leaving my bed for days at a time during college. My awareness of the shame, dread, and stress coming on helps me prepare to deal with it in a healthy way. But I can’t always do everything so WMF fell to the wayside as I attempted to keep my life going. Sometimes you just have to give yourself a break and I am not ashamed of that.
This time around I gave myself a few days to do very little other that go to work, eat, and do the dishes and then I really tried to find ways out of the dreaded anxiety spiral. That feeling where in any moment of silence your mind reminds you of every bad decisioun you’ve ever made; tricking you into thinking you have no real friends, your family barely tolerates you, and “trying” is futile. Yeah, it’s the worst and I was not about to sit there for weeks. So I fought back.
1. Finding Happiness Hormones
Even in my shame spiral I am still a logical person who understands where my anxiety comes from in my brain. When I was taking medication for my anxiety, it worked by stopping my brain from reabsorbing seratonin-a “happy” hormone. The longer the seratonin is allowed to hang out, the better you feel (if this is indeed your biological mechanism behind your anxiety-everyone is different). The medication did work for me so I’ve always thought that my brain just absorbs all my happy hormones before they have a chance to make me happy and calm.
All of this just means that if I can help create more happy hormones then maybe I can crawl out of the spiral all by myself.
I know what makes me happy when I’m felling like myself. I know I get goosebumps when listening to good music in my car and screaming the lyrics like I’m Christina Aguilera (spoiler, I am not). I know that listening to Norah Jones and cooking Cuban food makes me smile and think of my family. I know that being outside in the sunshine makes me feel 10x better than sitting inside and looking out a window. It is hard to do anything when your head tells you you’re not worth the time, but by doing one thing at a time I was able to fight back.
2. Breathe in and Breathe Out
Along with my anxiety comes a brain that doesn’t just stop moving because I want it to. Trying to meditate is a frustrating experience because I can focus on breathing all I want, but the back of my brain is still going. Should I vacuum tonight? What am I having for lunch? Do remember that time you kissed that guy you shouldn’t have? Why would he even like you? Did you make that work call before you left? Just a peak into my attempt. So meditation really isn’t for me.
Yoga, however, has worked some wonders. The action of trying to match an action to my breath does take every bit of my brain and I am FINALLY able to take a break and get some deep breathing into my day. And that deep breathing can make a world of difference.
3. Grocery Wars
I don’t know about y’all, but when I begin to get stressed I just want to sit around a eat terrible food. It’s not always junk-sometimes it’s wine and bread. But like a whole loaf of bread…not so great. I know it will only make me feel better for a few minutes and then I’ll feel even worse than before. But I do it anyway.
Our brains thrive on good nutrition. My junk food binges did nothing but pull me farther into my spiral. So every time I went to Kroger I forced myself to buy fruit. I’m lucky that it’s summertime and peaches literally taste like heaven, but I swear this worked more than I expected. There’s this double whammy of enjoying your food and knowing you made a good decision that just sort of cuts through the sadness and shame-at least for me.
4. Moving Through Pain
Through all of this I was supposed to have started my marathon training. Ha. Didn’t do so great with that as you can see.
But my logic brain was able to prevail. I know that exercise give you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t kill their husbands. Or in my case, happy people don’t dwell on the fact that they don’t have a husband. (Thanks Elle) Just like with the fruit, I didn’t just get a boost from the workout. The accomplishment of getting something done improved my self esteem. I did it. I got up and went to the gym and did some work and I can feel proud of that!
I hope my travels through this same spiral can help some of you escape yours as well. It is not easy, but I believe we can all do little things to help our brains work their best.
I would like to end this by saying that by no means do I believe anyone should try and handle their mental health issues on their own. When I fall, I am lucky enough to have a support system to help pick me back up. I have also sought medical help when I needed it. Home remedies are not for everyone and every person experiences their mental health in different ways. If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health disorder please utilize the resources below to find help.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – 1-888-333-2377
The National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
Anxiety and Depression Association of America – 240-485-1001
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance – 1-800-826-3632