Is It Anxiety? Tips and Tricks to Recognize Signs of Anxiety, and To Deal With Them

I have a fairly normal outlook on the world:
-someone’s late coming home …so he must be dead or kidnapped.
-that person didn’t smile at me …she hates me.
-the warning light came on in the car …it will blow up before the next stoplight.
-I feel somewhat sick …yes, Google, it must be cancer.

What? That’s normal, right?

It’s not?

Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash

This way of thinking has hounded me for most of my life. Not until it exhibited as severe depression from how other people treated me did I know …these thoughts may not be that normal. I also didn’t realize my worries had a name: anxiety. That realization didn’t come to me overnight. It didn’t come from a counselor, although uncovering and treating it did come because of counseling sessions. My learning about anxiety –my anxiety- came after talking with a neighbor.

“I felt like I should save up money for a trip,” I told the neighbor, back in June, “But then it got cancelled because of Coronavirus. So… I guess this means I’m going to get sick and will be hospitalized.” *Sigh*

Without skipping a beat, she responded, “No, that’s called anxiety.”

Initially, I felt shocked and surprised. I then felt denial, since anxiety was not a condition I’d ever considered. Anxiety was for other relatives of mine who had experienced panic attacks or hadn’t been able to sleep with the lights off. Anxiety couldn’t affect me…

Then, the puzzle pieces fit together -answers to my racing and irrational thoughts. I brought these concerns to my video counseling session; my counselor was not as surprised as I had been. I’m just glad she’s as smart and observant as she is.

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With her help, I learned that many of my panicky thinking is anxiety. I started making a list whenever I worried about a situation. I shared the list with my more-rational husband or a good friend. I learned which voice spoke: me or anxiety. Over time, I could see the differences.

After that, I learned to answer the worries:
-someone’s late coming home …so I’m anxious.
-that person didn’t smile at me …she’s having a bad day.
-the warning light came on in the car …and that light could be anything from needing an oil change to needing more coolant.
-I feel somewhat sick …it’s probably a cold.

Once I could recognize anxieties and stop the rising panic, I was able to formulate solutions. At the very least, I got better at delaying irrational actions and stress. Which, of course, does not mean the anxiety evaporated.

Sometimes, at times of high stress, my tips and tricks do not work. In times like that, I contact my counselor. Sometimes, she suggests anti-anxiety medications. Why? Because anxiety is like other mental illnesses in that I can’t always fight it on my own.

Armed with tricks, encouragement, professional advice, and help when I need it, I’ve found anxiety to be less formidable than before. I’ve found a freedom I didn’t know before. And it’s wonderful.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

©2020 Chel Owens

Fear is a Coward

Funny thing I notice about Fear. He’s big and bad and burly while he’s at home lurking in my what-ifs and what-mights. He pokes at my stomach until I’m nauseous. He pounds on my chest until I can’t breathe. He shakes me and rattles me until I’m dizzy. He yells at me until I’ve relived every negative event and conversation I’ve ever had. He laughs at me as I make up reasons why I can’t, I shouldn’t, I won’t. He looms over me as I cower in my corner of shame.

But then I do go. I do step out. I close my eyes and jump. The landing is not always soft and it’s not always smooth. But I never remember a time when Fear was there waiting for me. I jump. Fear flees. He hides out of sight while I dance, while I talk, while I collaborate – and all this with people who never turn out to be the bogeyman Fear led me to believe they were. And I don’t turn out to be the dunce Fear accuses me of being every day.

I accomplish and then I return home. Fear is hiding away, embarrassed to have been found out for the coward he is.

I go to bed. I’m sure Fear and I will meet again tomorrow, when he gets the nerve to come out again.

An Anxiety Adventure in a COVID-19 World

Every five minutes or so over the PA, they remind us that social distancing is encouraged and to only grab the items that you wish to buy. The process is slow as you wait for people to leave an aisle so that you can go down and pick your items.

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A COVID-19 world, where shelter in place orders and social isolation is the new normal, there is still one sure thing. You have to eat food, and therefore you have to go shopping. Yesterday, after about four weeks of isolating and not leaving my house, I went on an adventure! If only it were so simple.

Anxiety in the Worst of Times

I have probably talked ad nauseam about my anxiety of just staying indoors. The fear of the unknown. Of what tomorrow brings and if being an introvert is enough to get me through this social isolation. I was never a social butterfly, but I did leave my house. Writing in coffee shops have a certain ambiance that is so helpful when writing. The fantastic coffee helps as well. An introvert usually can be in a social situation without participation, but now we live in a world where social distancing and isolation are encouraged. Rightfully so, but I miss being in the world.

A trip to the store should be one that is relaxing—getting food so that you can live. Not so much when my anxiety is out of control at this point in my life. I had to go out, and it was a solo trip because they advise it as the best way to limit the people. It was a sight I was not ready for at all. The entrance to the grocery store was fixated to restrict the people. There were lines set up by shopping carts and yellow tape that police carry herding people into the store. A security guard stands at the front making sure people have masks on. There were lines in which you have to follow to make the flow in the store better and efficient. It was out of an Orwell novel, but it is our new reality.

Every five minutes or so over the PA, they remind us that social distancing is encouraged and to only grab the items that you wish to buy. The process is slow as you wait for people to leave an aisle so that you can go down and pick your items. When you hear someone cough or sneeze (which I did because of my allergies), you get looked at like a social pariah.

I was overly anxious before even stepping in the door, and it was worse when I got in. I had to move fast, which is impossible now. It did not help that breathing in a mask is uncomfortable, but with glasses, you have to contend with the constant fogging when you breathe too hard. I almost passed out from the anxiety twice. Somehow I prevailed and got my supplies for the next four weeks. It was perhaps the worst experience so far since COVID-19 took over the world.

After putting away my groceries, I took the rest of the day off to recover. My anxiety was still through the roof until I finally laid my head down for the night. I feel better today, having put the experience behind me, but I know it is a matter of time when I will once again have to shop for food. Perhaps I can try the online shopping and pick up option and see if that helps. Who knows. I will put it far from my mind because it is a problem for another day. Stay strong in the fight.

Always Keep Fighting

James

You can visit the author site of James Edgar Skye here.

Purchase The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir here.

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A Weekend to Forget: A Lesson That Anxiety Can be Dangerous

I am not blaming everything on the virus. In truth, I am to blame for allowing fear, which I have talked about in the past, from taking over my life. Last week it culminated for the first time since 2019 that I had terrible stomach issues. The weekend I had to tone things down and change my diet (which included once again giving up coffee), and I had to de-stress my life.

I had no illusions or lofty expectations for my birthday last Friday. Some Chinese food and relaxing were on the agenda. My week was going okay. I was beginning my next semester as a graduate student, and I was ahead of schedule, which gave me a rare day off–and on my birthday no less! It seems anxiety and stress had a different idea.

Back in January 2017, I was in the midst of the worst two months of anxiety in my life. My levels of anxiety were so high every day that it was impossible to function, and most days, I failed. My doctor has tried unsuccessfully to take me off Ativan, and getting back on only made things worse. For the three weeks I was off benzodiazepines in December, I was on a rollercoaster of anxious thoughts, anxiety, isolation, and panic attacks.

The culmination was a week and a half in the hospital with bleeding ulcers (where I was literally bleeding in my stomach so much I was puking pints of blood), and I had to go through several blood transfusions and an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy three times. The first time I had a panic attack just before and passed out from the blood when they had to pull it prematurely. I spent two days in the ICU because of the loss of blood. It was the worst painful experience of my life. When I finally got the two endoscopies, first to fix the issues and then to see if it worked, my stomach was never the same for two years. I gave up meat entirely.

Afterward, when I went home, I realized that my anxiety can be a dangerous thing if left unchecked. I began to makes changes with adding meditation, and though I had issues over the next two years with what I could eat, and what made me hurl was an adventure. I got better at dealing with anxious thoughts, and panic attacks were not a weekly occurrence for the most part.

It was never perfect, but last summer, I was able to slowly reintroduce meat into my diet. It was good, and life was good. I wrote a 210,000-word novel and a 30K novella in just four months. No issues with my stomach. I took my daily dose of the neutralizing stomach acid medicine, and with the change from Ativan to Clonazepam last year, I was able to find some relative balance. Then COVID-19 happened.

I am not blaming everything on the virus. In truth, I am to blame for allowing fear, which I have talked about in the past, from taking over my life. Last week it culminated for the first time since 2019 that I had terrible stomach issues. The weekend I had to tone things down and change my diet (which included once again giving up coffee), and I had to de-stress my life. I walked away from social media and writing all weekend. I stayed in bed (which didn’t help my depression, but you can’t win every battle).

Monday, I felt a bit normal, and today I was able to eat. I am working not stressing out. Playing video games and writing helps. Also, not following every single article on COVID-19 really helped me. I am hopeful the upward trend continues. Less stress and more focusing on the positives. I am healthy and social distancing like I am supposed to, and I can only control what is in my orbit. Life indeed is too short to spend it obsessing if I will or won’t get sick. I am not going to go out and lick things, but social media takes a back seat. I will continue to do my part.

Last weekend was a life lesson in the dangers of anxiety and anxious thoughts.

Always Keep Fighting

James

You can visit the author site of James Edgar Skye here.

Purchase The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir here.

Become a Patron of James Edgar Skye and be a part of his writing here: Become a Patron!

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Are we Too Connected to COVID-19? Is it Causing Anxiety?

Stressing yourself out will only end badly. There was some positive to yesterday’s excursion into the social media world. I saw some fantastic food that people are cooking. For me, I will be focused on school and writing for the rest of the week, staying away from the temptation to continue to stress myself out. Stay safe out there in this crazy world of isolation.

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There is so much information out there about COVID-19, and there is essentially national and local information that we need in this ever-changing world we are now living in. Is it possible, though, that we can be too caught up in the death tolls here in the United States and around the world that it is causing a global issue of anxiety? I have to say the answer is a resounding yes, and here is why.

I always come from a position of experience. I found myself lost yesterday on my iPad, looking up statistics, information, symptoms, and personal stories of the “novel” coronavirus. Yes, for some reason, all the articles seem to call it a novel virus. I will admit that it is probably to get me to read the article. Good Job there if I am honest. Or instead, for more honesty, I logged onto Facebook after promising myself that I wouldn’t and saw story after story about COVID-19.

I was inundated. I found with each article, whether accurate information or not, that my anxiety was growing with every second. I know better than to allow these stories to take over my life, and there are plenty of other things that I could spend my time on. I am editing my novella today to attempt to get it ready to publish. With my recent stomach issues, interestingly directly enough connected to the increase in stress in my life, I was in bed and could not help myself.

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My point is this, we are masters of our own world. I made the decision to keep reading. If you have to do what I did and absorb all the information that you can, perhaps do not do it on social media. Look for the positives as well. There are plenty of people that have recovered, bout that is less sexy than the worldwide growing death toll.

I know that with every new day, we learn new things about the coronavirus. I understand that the people in charge have not been doing all that they can to combat the virus. There is uncertainty in the world. I also know that pushing yourself too much into anxiety can be very hard on your body. In 2017, I ended up with bleeding ulcers directly connected to the mounting stress in my life. I had several panic attacks a day, and it took its toll quickly on my body, hospitalizing me for a week.

Stressing yourself out will only end badly. There was some positive to yesterday’s excursion into the social media world. I saw some fantastic food that people are cooking. For me, I will be focused on school and writing for the rest of the week, staying away from the temptation to continue to stress myself out. Stay safe out there in this crazy world of isolation.

If you need something to read, my memoir, The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir, is now available for purchase, or it is free if you have Amazon Kindle Unlimited; it is free. If you can, please purchase my book to learn about my experiences since my diagnosis. You can find the link below on my author’s page.

Always Keep Fighting

James

You can visit the author site of James Edgar Skye here.

Purchase The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir here.

Become a Patron of James Edgar Skye and be a part of his writing here: Become a Patron!

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Handing Anxiety and Panic Attacks- Not Just During A Crisis

My official diagnosis when it comes to anxiety is social anxiety and panic disorder. Right now, I am dealing with anxiety in several ways. I take a benzo, clonazepam, and I do other things that help me cope with my anxiety like breathing techniques, meditation, and writing. My ultimate de-stressor. I have not had a large number of panic attacks per week when things are good, but lately, I have dealt with them more.

Anxiety. If you have ever have increased anxiety at the best of times, it can worsen as we continue to live in a world of social isolation. Anxiety, for me, has always been a subject that I can write about from so many different angles. I have on this blog and also in my memoir.

My official diagnosis when it comes to anxiety is social anxiety and panic disorder. Right now, I am dealing with anxiety in several ways. I take a benzo, clonazepam, and I do other things that help me cope with my anxiety like breathing techniques, meditation, and writing. My ultimate de-stressor. I have not had a large number of panic attacks per week when things are good, but lately, I have dealt with them more.

It is less to do with the coronavirus and more about the stress of delays in my books and having to stop a significant book signing as a local bookstore. Add that to the weight of not knowing if agents are looking for authors. I need one because I am close to the end of editing my fantasy fiction novel. The uncertainty in life has made my anxiety more pronounced.

The Reality of Fear

If I could sum up all the fears associated with my own anxiety, those that are rational and irrational, it would be likened to drowning. Now I have never drowned, but when I was six, and at my hotel at Disneyland trip, I nearly drowned. I was saved by my sister.

Anxiety can cripple you, increase your heart rate, make it hard to breathe and make your thoughts irrational. I have thought during one of the worst panic attacks of my life that I was going to die–a very absurd idea. From what I know, you can’t die from a panic attack or anxiety. But the fear associated with it is genuine. Fear is an interesting thing because when you are in a panic attack, the fears in our lives are exponentially increased.

The fear is real at the moment, but eventually, when you can refocus, the fears become something you can change. It comes down to recognizing triggers in my experience. An example, late at night after I take my Seroquel, it can feel as if my body is shutting down, that is its job. But the fear sets in at times because anxiety and panic attacks do not let you know when it is coming. It is always at the most inopportune time, it is not? At times I hyperventilate, making the fear of not breathing seem extremely real when the reality is I am causing the increase with my irrational thinking. 

What Can You Do? Well I have a few Ideas

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Handing anxiety is not a one size fits all method. It comes down to what works for you. I have some ideas that will work. A thought journal after an increase in anxiety or panic attack, or even during if that is possible, can help you pinpoint your fears and triggers and come up with strategies to combat.

Tracking your mood several times a day in a notebook with the time, the level of anxiety with a simple scare of 1-10, and maybe a thought or two can also be effective in knowing when your anxiety is at its peak. Mine peaks around three in the afternoon and at times late at night right before bed. We are in a technological age and so CBT books or working with your therapist on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a great option. I find music is the great equalizer alongside writing.

Unpresidented Times

We are now living in unprecedented times when whole countries and states are in lockdown. The fears we now live in are a reality that we have to face when it comes to anxious feelings. With so many of us now sequestered at home, there are bound to be anxious fears about what is going on in the world.

I wish I had all the answers, but I am only the sum of my experiences with panic attacks and anxiety. One thing you can do above all else when looking for how-to solutions to handle anxiety. You can educate yourself. We have information at our fingertips and researching the technical stuff is important, but read the blogs of others. There might be something I have not talked about that could help you. Above all, anxiety is natural, and though it may feel like forever to many, it can be something that can be controlled. I have whole other posts about benzodiazepines that I will be writing in the future. These medications, if taken long term, can cause severe effects with anxiety and panic attacks. That is a post for another day with said, stay safe out there, The Bipolar Writer is thinking of you.

Always Keep Fighting

James

You can visit the author site of James Edgar Skye here.

Purchase The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir here.

Become a Patron of James Edgar Skye and be a part of his writing here: Become a Patron!

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“You Can Talk to Us”: Social Anxiety at Work

Social anxiety presents itself in a variety of forms for different people and can be perceived by others in a lot of negative ways. Last week I got called out by a coworker for rarely speaking to the employees on the first floor.

My desk is in the basement along with 3 other workspaces that occupy two part-time employees and one is there twice a week. Most days I am downstairs by myself.

The fridge and microwave are on the first floor so when I arrive in the morning I put my lunch away and come back up a few hours later to get it. In those few moments I am upstairs I try not to make eye contact or speak with anyone else.

bts-v-shy-02
What I look like walking down the hallway at work.

Last week I was walking back to the basement after heating up my lunch when my coworker said, “you know you can talk to us.”

I was dumbfounded. I felt exposed as if she pulled back the curtain to see socially anxious little me hugging my favorite teddy bear.

My anxiety has always told me that nobody wants to talk to me or cares what I have to say. It has made me believe that it is best for me to keep to myself so I don’t bother others.

My response was, “Oh, I can? I thought you were all really busy most of the time.”

She said they aren’t then we proceeded to casually chat for a few minutes.

Over the years, I have shut myself off socially at work.

At my last job I kept to myself except for talking to my supervisor. Most of my other coworkers weren’t friendly so I didn’t speak to them unless necessary.

Nobody has called me out on my social anxiety (except my therapist) so it has become a normal way of living for me. It has definitely given me some perspective on how others view me at work. Something to certainly think about.

Do you have social anxiety? If so, how do you cope with it at work/school?

Also what is your current coping method when you’re struggling with your mental illness?

As you can see from the featured image, my current coping mechanism is BTS. Whether it’s watching their incredible dancing in their music videos or reading along with the translated lyrics, BTS makes me happy in all ways. It also helps that they are all super cute. (If you’re a fellow Army, I love Jin, V and RM most.)

What warms my heart is their lyrics in “Love Yourself” that say, “even the scars that were formed from my mistakes are my very own constellations.” These words are powerful for me because of my history with self-harm.

I Need to Call My Therapist

Today was the peak of my anxious December. Each day I have been getting more and more anxious, little things add up to become huge issues in my head.

A week ago I was nearly in tears because I was overwhelmed by anxiety. I often feel like I need to have a perfectly spotless house. When I’m tired or just want to relax, I sometimes ignore that and keep on cleaning. It becomes too much for me to handle so I crack.

Today I was experiencing a lot of anxiety that I don’t know where it was coming from. I was angry at everyone and everything for no reason. I could feel my muscles tense from the anxiety so I thought I would go to the gym to release it. Sadly it only helped a little bit. I walked back into my house and the stress fell back on to my shoulders.

Anxiety is the freaking worst. For me it is worrying about everything. Anxiety is stress piled up so high on my mind that I cannot see the top. It is being unable to act because I am frozen with anxiety.

On Monday I am calling my therapist to make an appointment. I need to hash out the worries and blockades in my brain that are holding me back.

How has your mental health been? If you struggle with anxiety, are you managing it ok?

Social Anxiety and Me

Starting a new job can be challenging for anyone but when mental illness is tossed into the mix, things can be even more difficult.

I am about to start the fourth week at my new job which involves doing marketing for a local charity. Of course during my first week I was nervous, you never know what your coworkers will be like after they aren’t obligated to be polite anymore.

Positive to Anxious

Everybody was very nice during my first week. I got to chat with a lot of people my age which was really great. I didn’t talk to many of my coworkers at my previous job so I had a lot of culture shock which is odd to say about a new work environment.

Week 2 was not as easy as week 1. I had become suffocated by my anxiety, unable to speak to anyone unless they started the conversation. Even then I would try to end the conversation or leave the room entirely to find a space to be by myself which is hard. I used to have my own office but now I share a workspace with 3 other people.

When I did get time alone, I was spinning in my chair, pacing the floors trying to get my head to relax. One day I had to hold my coffee cup with both hands to drink because I was shaking so badly. I asked myself, “Megan, what the hell?! It’s just a new job, how is your anxiety this bad?”

Here Comes the Depression!

That Friday as I walked out the door of the building into the chilly evening, my anxiety plummeted into depression. All weekend I had no interest in anything, I was completely numb. I kept myself busy by constantly cleaning and cooking so I wouldn’t fall pray to my usual answer to depression: laying in bed for hours.

My boyfriend kept thinking I was upset with him or that he had done something wrong. This is the first time he has truly seen my depression first hand since we moved in together. I had to explain that it wasn’t his fault, that it was the new job.

To help I asked if we could watch a “Harry Potter” movie together. I chose the fourth movie, “The Goblet of Fire” which is my favorite one! We got out our toy wands and he put on my special Harry glasses which made the experience so much more fun.

My Therapist Saves the Day

Thankfully I met with my therapist the next day to talk everything out. I explained my fear that nobody would want to talk with me even if I initiated the conversation and that I was too nervous to make the first move.

She reassured me as always that they all just met me and that in time maybe I will make a friend or two. That would be pretty cool to have a new friend!

Her positive words and encouragement helped me get through my 3 days of work last week. I was able to speak to people and even begin conversations with my coworkers!

So progress? We shall see what this week brings, I never seem to know what my future has in store for me.

Have you had a similar experience? How to do deal with social anxiety?

I’m sorry this is so terribly long!!

TLDR: New job makes me anxious so I talked to my therapist. Last week was better than expected.

Searching for Balance

Sorry I haven’t been so active here on the Bipolar Writer as I normally am. My life has been so out of whack that I can’t seem to find balance.

I have been coping with this imbalance by binge eating/overeating on a regular basis. Once I open my mouth, I have no idea when I will reach my limit. For the past three days I have felt incredibly bloated because of it which, of course, makes me feel depressed and critical of myself.

Each day I get angry with myself, saying, “Why can’t you just stop, Megan!? You’re not hungry, why are you eating again?”

The stresses of life have been chipping away at my mental health. I get home from work and am immediately overwhelmed by everything that I have to do. The daily chores get done but I feel like I can never get to the random tasks like pulling weeds outside or finally organizing my closet.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to work full time and keep my house the way I want to. Because I go nonstop after I get home from work, I feel like I don’t get to enjoy any Megan time. I want to be able to write again, go to the gym, do yoga with my cats and not worry that I have chores to do.

My anxiety kicks into gear when I start thinking about this sort of stuff.

How do you find balance in life? If you have achieved balance, do you have any good tips?