I have anxiety. The clinical kind. The kind that some people think makes me a 'dramatic worrier looking for a diagnosis'. The kind that makes those without mental illness and mood disorders question it's legitimacy. But, that's ok. Sometimes the symptoms of this disorder are external, and I mean even beyond the borders of my skin. I'm certain that dealing with naysayers and Judgy McJudgdersons are 'external' symptoms of which that everyone who has a disorder that is mostly invisible can relate. And, to be certain, I'm not facing a catastrophic prognosis or looking death in the eye.
My disorder is a daily nagging that on good days is a dull whisper of tension and on bad days has confined me to the couch, curled up in the fetal position or locked up in my car, driving around aimlessly until my gas tank's on E. For me I've found simple strategies that help me temper the nervous beast and regain control, and I've found them in the areas of my life that feel the most personal - writing and yoga ... and my furry soul-mate. These aren't health tips, or a cure. These are simply things I do to get myself through the day feeling confident and productive.
Uncurl the circles
Worry means you allow your mind to settle on troubles or potentially negative outcomes. My experience with clinical or chronic anxiety is that there's worry even when things are great; perhaps there's even worry because things are great. There's an infinite number of negative outcomes and I feel often powerless to change them even if I know that's not true. I'm actually pretty logical. I see the silliness of my mind. Truly, if I thought about it long enough, my mind simply starts to go in circles. Writing makes it linear. Much of my writing is only for me and if people read it, that's fine. But, I'm not really looking for a prize. I'm getting what I need from the process. There is energy moving forward, instead of in circles.I keep writing left to right. I don't give a damn about editing as I go.
Turn nervous, invisible energy into something positively tangible
Yoga makes anxiety visible. I can see the foe. I can give the anxious energy space to fill and postures to make. I wear it down. When I'm active, anxiety becomes less powerful. Finding a productive outlet for pent up nervous energy takes the edge off and tips the odds in my favor against my personal demon, worry. I think that's why I'm so in love with my yoga practice. There's no finish line, only process. Movement and breath. And, the movement doesn't need a goal. It's productive without being finite or graded.
My anxiety tends to pin me as the bad guy, or the 'let-down'. I worry about not being able to accomplish something to the point that I never actually try - and guess what, I subsequently don't accomplish it. Then I worry about the outcome of failure. See how this goes? I'm spinning.
While it's hard, and often I fail, once I've slowed the circle-thoughts and I've started to waste away the pent up energy, I begin the process of forgiving myself. My self-talk dictates so much of my mood and confidence. I always think, "What would I say to a friend?" Why can't I be my own best friend? Well, I can, and I'm learning.
Who's the soul that teaches me the most about forgiveness and love? I'm supposed to say my husband. And, that's true. He is my rock and my lifelong confidant. But, I want to answer honestly. It's my dog, Niko. His constant love and companionship is a reminder that I am more than a ball of nerves. I'm a best friend. I'm a pack leader. I am someone that has someone who needs her. I am someone worthy of unconditional love, regardless of what I accomplish in this life.
I must implore everyone who also has their own struggles with anxiety or a related disorder to always stay in touch with their doctor and the protocol laid out for them. We're so fortunate to have mental health professionals that really care and are always making great strides in understanding the mysteries of our brain. But, I also would encourage my friends to do additional exploration. Find the place where you are calm. Seek a positive outlet. Take up a hobby that starts to make sense of the map your thoughts have drawn. Empower yourself and offer empathy to others who are sailing in the same ship. I hope it moves us all forward.