So you drew the anxiety card in life. Now what? It might seem second nature to want to try and ignore it at all costs and pretend everything is fine. I’ve been there before and I can tell you if you are currently using this technique — ABORT MISSION. The simple fact is you can’t ignore your anxiety. Maybe you can for a minute, maybe even for a day or two, a week even — but it will come back. Over time it will fester and continue to get worse until you’re in a place where you feel like you can’t escape. If you live with anxiety or panic disorder in any capacity, you must tend to it and nurture it.
Think of it like this. I’m not a gardener but for some reason, this analogy works in my head. So you decide to grow a flower garden. After you plant your seeds you have to water them in order for them to bloom into the gorgeous flowers they were meant to be. They need this water to get the strength to break through the soil and out into the light and blossom. Once those flowers have matured and bloomed, the work for you doesn’t stop. You must continue to water the plants so they can continue to grow and thrive. If you don’t, they will wilt away and lose their beauty.
So how does any of this compare to your anxiety? Let’s take a look. When I was in the prime of struggling with my anxiety and panic attacks about 8 years ago my whole mindset was to do anything to ignore the problem. I thought if I was able to focus on other parts of my life enough I’d wake up one day and my anxiety would have disappeared into thin air and I’d be cured. I don’t know if I was in denial or if I just didn’t have the right resources, but I really in my heart of hearts thought this would be my road to recovery. After a solid year of waking up and not being miraculously fixed it dawned on me that I needed to change my outlook on the situation. With no luck from doctors, medications, or shrinks, I realized that the only person who could help me get better was me and I needed to figure out how I could I was going to accomplish this.
I searched the internet for someone or something who had experienced what I was going through and who maybe could shed some light on my situation. That’s when I found a man on YouTube who went by the name “I Love Panic Attacks.” I was instantly drawn to the witty name because it seemed so contradictory to what a person would feel towards a panic attack. I started binge-watching his videos and for the first time, I felt like someone understood what I was going through. He also explained everything from a totally new perspective. In short, let the anxiety happen. Don’t run from the symptoms when your heart starts racing and your palms start sweating. Stop, acknowledge the symptoms, and let it happen. This man explained that you have to have the mentality that whatever happens — it will be ok. This in a way helps your mind embrace the symptoms that normally throw you into a panic.
Prior to this, I had never thought about my panic attacks and anxiety in a positive light. I thought I was broken and couldn’t be fixed. Having someone tell me that I need to embrace what’s happening instead of running from it clicked. He also explained that your panic attacks aren’t trying to harm you, they’re trying to help you escape from something that your body perceives as a threat. I started looking at my mental health issues as a nice gesture from my mind instead of something negative, and I never felt as bad as I did prior to that again.
That isn’t to say I was cured completely. I think when you have anxiety, you have it for life. The severeness of it can change though, and you can go through long phases where you experience no symptoms at all. Other days you will have to work at it still. Your anxiety will start coming back, maybe because of a life event or for no reason at all, and you will have to keep working at it to get through the day. The good news is when you have the right tools to manage your anxiety, it will be much less difficult to deal with as opposed to when you were right in the middle of your anxiety storm with no way out.
Anxiety and mental health is a journey, and you can’t let one bad day make you feel like you’ve failed. I promise you haven’t. Just continue to water your metaphorical anxiety garden and you will continue to grow and blossom. Maintenance is the key to a happy and healthy life — anxiety and all!