With apologies to Ms. Benatar, this is my test to see if I can post video.
I’m not going to go into too much gory detail about my anxiety problem, diagnosed by the DSM VIII-whatever as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. But, I guess I should talk about it a little to get a sort of baseline.
I have had it off and on all my life, but it came into sort of full chronic glory in about 2011 or so. Its like, think of something that makes you really anxious or nervous, like speaking in front of a large group of people, or taking a really big test, or singing/performing in front of an audience, and having that feeling all the time. For really, no reason most of the time. You can’t settle down. And then when something comes up that might really make you a bit nervous, it overwhelms you so much on top of the anxiety that you already have that it makes you avoid things so as not to just go off the deep end.
Mine has started to manifest itself in social ways. Much of this might be due to the fact that since my hearing has gotten significantly worse over the past decade, social interaction is seriously HARD WORK. And rife with miscommunications. I used to be much more outgoing than I am now. I avoid social situations more than I would like, and sometimes my communication can be really clipped and direct just out of communication efficiency, but that can be off-putting and I get that.
I don’t think any one thing happened in 2011, just that around then, my life became a lot less manageable. I realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew, in that I could not keep track of all the things for family and pseudo family anymore. I had three kids, two step kids, a husband, two dogs, a quadriplegic family member I cared for, it became too much. I knew it was too much, but here I was and I can’t throw any of these people overboard. So, I settle the best I can, try to delegate, try to let some things go that are low priority (my house, my career, my extended family all to some extent) and just hold on and do the best I can. My children are getting older and more independent, and I have gotten better at adapting over the years. But I’ve also gotten sicker, older, and my own needs have gotten greater as far as what I need to do to take care of myself. So, I maintain this constant level of hyper-vigilance and anxiety. It never goes totally away.
I’ll be at the park on a sunny day with my kids. They are enjoying themselves, I have nothing pressing to do. Things are ok, but I always feel like something is wrong, I need to be somewhere else, doing something else, the other shoe will drop at any moment. It keeps me from enjoying the moment.
I constantly feel stuck in my house, stuck in my town. The thing is, its not a bad place to be stuck. Its actually a really nice place to be stuck. There is no reason for it to feel like this. The flip side of that is that I also feel like I’m going to be homeless in a matter of weeks, like one thing will cause everything to unravel. Things can be going really well and I know intellectually that they are going really well, but my physical body is feeling wired, like something is wrong just on the horizon, all the time.
I can tell that this feeling is physical, not mental, if that makes sense. Like, intellectually and mentally, I’m good. But my body is still acting like its just about to go into a war zone. So it is a hyper-reactive physical response that my body has gotten stuck in. Like it trained itself to have this reaction and got stuck there. In that way, taking medication made a lot of sense.
So, medications worked to a degree. But not all the time, and I was getting worse lab work and kidney pain when I took a high enough dose to really chill me out. I tried different ones, but some caused nausea or constant sleep. It was also costing me a lot of money and time and frustration, so I sort of ditched the medication side of the effort.
So, I’ve tried other things, meditation, cognitive behavior therapy, etc. And each of these has its place. Meditation never made sense to me until I read the book “10% Happier” by Dan Harris. That book helped me understand and appreciate mediation a lot more than I had. But I still knew that I was not going to go to a meditation retreat and sit for 5 days and do nothing like he did. I can barely do it for ten minutes. It is definitely a tool in the tool box that can cause some temporary relaxation, but it doesn’t interest or inspire me that much.
I learned a lot of CBT techniques in my 20s, and they were helpful. But it feels like now if I go to any kind of talk therapy, I’m just talking and paying someone to say supportive things to me. I’m not making any breakthroughs. My husband lets me talk to him and says supportive things to me for free, and he doesn’t need me to completely educate him on deafblind/disability stuff where I almost feel like I should be paid for helping them deal with their issues on disability. So there is where that is. I think it can be really hard to find a good therapist, and I just don’t want to put forth the effort, lets be honest. That isn’t where I want to exert my energy.
Exercise has been one of the main things that has helped the physical symptoms of anxiety for me. But, I can’t just get on the treadmill. I have to be engages and in the zone. It has to be a challenge where I am using my mind and body to work towards a new skill or goal.
Skating is not the easiest thing to do at my age and disability. People told me I should swim competitively. I tried for a while at hoity toity gym, and I’m not bad at it, but it doesn’t excite me like skating. I still do it for exercise sometimes.
The only other thing I have found that helps is to sort of get out of my own head as much as possible. Like, doing random acts of kindness for others and thinking of myself as a tool to help others. For a time I was trying to do an act of kindness every day, but it got rather contrived. As a disabled person, I know when someone is trying to push help on me just to make themselves feel better or be a “helpful hero.” and I didn’t want to do that to anyone. So, instead, I try to look for opportunities to help when it is genuinely needed, ask first and let the other person direct what they want. So, it is not something where I’m like every day paying for the guy behind me in the coffee line and putting it on Facebook for likes and all that. Its more of a mental state of trying to see what positive vibes I can put out in the world. Just switching my mentality outward instead of inward can help my anxiety and make me bolder.
In terms of skating, I found the adult skating community (and even lots of the super talented kid skaters) to be really supportive because it is such a difficult and unique endeavor. As an adult, you have to be doing it for the love of it, or it would be too frustrating. I enjoyed this vibe, and hope to find that again and maybe turn my mentality outward there, eventually, too.