Vaping & Anxiety – My Experience

I want to preface this blog post with this, the choice to use vaping as a tool for my anxiety was a personal choice and one that I made for myself. I am not saying that vaping is the answer to all my problems or that it is any better than smoking. Instead, I will explain how vaping has helped curb some of my anxiety, especially at night.

Back in May, my anxiety was at an all-time high. I was looking for ideas on how to get through some of my night-time anxiety. A fellow blogger and mental health advocate talked about how she used non-nicotine vaping as a way to help her anxiety. She explained that there are so many types of vape pens out there, and some have nicotine, and others have none. It was a personal choice for her to use one without nicotine, and it was helping her anxiety immensely.

I talked to a friend about it, and she told me about one that she uses that is also helpful. As I have expressed on this blog, I quit smoking several years ago, and I used smoking as a coping mechanism to combat anxiety. It really sucked, and I have only seen my anxiety increase since I decided to quit smoking. It was the right decision, but I knew eventually there was a possibility I would go back to smoking.

I did my research, and I found some vape pens that have no nicotine and some that just a bit of nicotine–and I decided on a pen that had some and I bought it hoping for the best. So far, my experience has been a good one, and during some of my panic attacks at night, using my vape pen has helped me get through some tough nights. I do use it throughout the day, which is also helpful. I have seen a curb in my anxiety since about June of this year.

I am not saying for you to go out and get a vape pen means you will no longer have anxiety. With the pressures of graduate school, writing my book, and my freelance work it helps to have something to turn to when my anxiety spirals. It is not a cure-all, and I am working on reducing anxiety and depression with working on my sleep. Vaping is just something I have found that works for me, and I am always honest here on my blog about my experiences. If you go down that route, do some research, and make a decision for yourself. Stay strong in the fight.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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A Thank You to Those Who Became Patrons

Become a Patron!https://c6.patreon.com/becomePatronButton.bundle.js

It has been a long process trying to get people to become Patreons, I don’t have significant things yet to add to my tiers and while I am offering some great things it has not produced as I would have liked so far. Still, I have six people that have become Patrons of my work, and that means the world to me!

One of the things that come with every tier is a special shoutout here on my blog. So a special Thank you to the following people for joining me on my writing journey:

  1. Connie
  2. Hayley
  3. Katrina
  4. Kevin
  5. Neal
  6. David

Always Keep Fighting

James

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When panic attacks, this is how I regain control

My anxiety has this charming habit where it can completely derail my life when it’s in the mood, but, today I wanted to share some pretty neat ways that I calm the Anxiety Monster when it throws a tantrum.

They definitely don’t completely rid me of my panic, but, they do help me regain control over my mind, and that really speeds up the process of recovering from crippling anxiety to being able to get on with my life – because that doesn’t wait for us when our mental illnesses are having a go at us.

These are pretty effective for run-of-the-mill stress, and if you’re a pro-Worrier like me, then these are (I hope) really helpful.

If you decide to try any of these, even when you’re just feeling a little stressed, I would love to know if it helped!

The Can-and-Can’t Controllables

When faced with an immediate and triggering situation, I make lists with two columns: “Things I Cannot Control” and “Things I Can Control”

The root of all stress (a certain trigger for my anxiety) is our perception of control over a the outcome of a situation. We often don’t realize how significant our abject horror is at the fact that we can’t control everything, and how much it can exacerbate our already-prone-to-panic minds.

Today, my panic attacks were triggered by the sudden news that I have to find a new apartment in 2 weeks, so my list looked kind of this:

Things I Cannot Control

  • The price of property
  • The fact that I have to move

Things I Can Control

  • Where I will live
  • How much information I have about my options

I know it seems slightly silly, but when you have a full list of things you CAN control, highlighted with colorful lines and exclamation points reminding you to only focus on those, you also have a list of stuff on the “can’t control” list that you now recognize have no business being worried about, because – well, you can’t control them.

List of stuff you’re allowed to worry about

This is a habitual reminder. Before you label this as way-too-obvious, it’s very powerful for someone with heavy control issues like me. I am a firm believer that we can engrain stuff into our brains and make them part of our lifestyles, and this list is an attempt at just that. It lists the things in the world, my life, and my character that I am responsible for, and is stuck up next to mirror, so that every morning I read the following:

“Stuff I’m Responsible for/Can Control

  • My choices and actions
  • My attitudes and priorities
  • With whom, where, and on what I spend my time, money, labour, and resources

If the thing you’re worrying about is not on THIS list, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!”

I love lists – maybe a bit too much. My psychology textbook says people with over controlling, A Type tendencies (like me) are more prone to illness, and even Coronary Heart Disease (yikes).

But, even though I’m trying to lighten up on the whole totally-mortified-at-the-chaotic-consequences-of-losing-total-control thing, I also think my list-making is a way of making affirmations and it’s necessary step to regaining control over my mind when anxiety pushes it off the rails.

Maybe lists and being obsessed with what I can control can be detrimental if overdone, but, in the case of using these controllable vs. uncontrollable lists as a GPS for my brain when Generalized Anxiety throws it into the wild, I think it’s a helpful habit.

If you don’t make lists, are there any other ways that help you regain control over your mind when panic strikes? If so, I’d love to hear them!

– Steph

I’m not “too sensitive.” I’m mentally ill.

It hurts when people erase us – our struggles, our scars, our victories, our invisible battles, a part of our lives that shapes us and our paths in ways others will never comprehend.

It hurts when people erase our mental illnesses.

gabriel-762937-unsplashIt’s like being told that everything must be your fault, a result of your flaws and weaknesses and choices; that it’s inconceivable that there is an invisible destiny carved into our bones by genetics and external factors of trauma or tragedy, leaving us learning every day the forever-evolving face of our mental illness and how best to get through the new day.

How many of us have at some point been told that we can be a little “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or “too involved” ? How many of us have felt that we’re being told that our pain, our exhaustion, our hopelessness, our control over our minds slipping through our finger tips, are our fault? Our choice, even?

For me, I’ve heard it countless times.

“You need to toughen up.” “You’re too soft for this world.” “You can’t be so sensitive and expect to be treated right.” “You shouldn’t let things affect you this much.”

And in my head, with internal hot tears of anger and hurt at the erasure of my pain, of the war I have battled without complaint or surrender for as long as I can remember, all I can think when I hear that is, “thank you! So! Much! I am cured, of my depression, of my anxiety, and finally, presented with the easy to make and simple choice of “tough” or “sensitive,” I can continue my life with contentment and joy, never again to be pestered by the whisperings of my own mind! Bless you, kind sir!”

miguel-bruna-503098-unsplashI’m a little angry about it, I guess. And I should be. Because, when I’m at rock bottom, at my wits end, my life falling apart, my mind urging me to figuratively hit “quit without saving” on my existence, when I’m crying in the shower and in the elevator and in the moments no one is watching, when my hands are shaking as I desperately count the pills from my doctor and the consequences of absence from work, from relationships, from the world, are knocking on my door demanding that I attend to responsibilities even though I can barely attend to myself –

You telling me I need to “toughen up” and not be “so sensitive,” is erasing my mental illness, and you’re erasing the victories I win every single day with them, and you’re erasing the fact that mental illness is ugly, real, and that I am so so much tougher than you could ever imagine, because I face their hideous faces every morning.

It’s not that we’re “too” anything. It’s called mental illness.

Mine are called Depression and Anxiety. Whatever yours are called, kudos to you for fighting quietly or loudly or neatly or messily. However you win your battles, even on the days you lose, you’re not too sensitive or emotional or self involved or at fault. None of it is your fault. Call it what it is, and don’t let people who don’t understand convince you to agree with the shady voice in your head that tries to convince you it’s all on you, because it’s not, and I hope this is your daily reminder of that.

–  Steph

Anxiety doesn’t want your advice about stress management, and neither do I.

Please stop responding to my anxiety with, “stress isn’t good for you, you know.” 

I know. 

I do know, because I can’t tell you how much money has been spent on profesional help and medication, or even the physical illnesses that never seem to end, as the distress my body experiences is a result of my anxiety. 

“You’re really stressed out, you really need to learn how to calm down.” 

I would be rich enough to afford therapy more often if I had a cent for every time I’ve heard that in my life. I’m nervous, jumpy, and always clouded with an agitated sense of urgency; I worry a lot, and make small things seem big. Before exams, I’m panicking, and when something goes wrong, I freak out. I have split ends, I bite my nails, I’m not good at relaxing, and I have a generalized anxiety disorder. 

For those of us who struggle with anxiety, it’s a mixture of intense frustration and hurt when someone throws used, dusty, fridge-magnet wisdom about stress at us when we express our anxiety, because it’s insulting to tell us our disorder is the same as feeling under pressure. 

Don’t get me wrong, stress is quite literally a killer (disclaimer, don’t read that if you’re anxious about health…) It’s a mental health concern that is a modern pandemic, and it’s a valid and serious problem for many people. But it is not the same as anxiety, and it hurts us deeply when you treat them as interchangeable terms for a biological response to demands.

To all those out there who haven’t suffered from anxiety: When I try to talk about how anxiety is causing me distress and hindering me in something, understand that it was challenging for me to begin talking about my anxiety to begin with. To be met with invalidation and ignorance in the form of, “wow, man, you’re quite the stress-ball! You should try-makes me cry when I go home and begin my nighttime routine of sedatives and countless other steps in my precarious mental health regimen that allows me to make it through another day. 

So, when someone says, “I’m feeling anxious about-“ or, “Yeah, I know it’s fine, I’m just having anxiety over -“ here are some options to substitute anything along the lines of “don’t stress,”: 

“Would you like to talk about why you’re feeling anxious, or are you not sure?” 

“What are you anxious about? Here are all the reasons why those worries are irrational to help you realize that too.” 

“List all your ‘what if-‘ scenarios and lets debunk them as you go.” 

I’m tired of defending my mental illness, and I’m tired of trying to convince people to legitimize my suffering. I shouldn’t have to prove that my “stressed out personality” is more serious than that and that I need space, support and respect when I’m not ok.

It’s the small things that make people feel like they can open up about their mental health challenges, and not unintentionally invalidating anxiety is a great way to let the people you care about know that you see them, you hear them, and that they don’t have to struggle alone. 

And for my fellow anxiety-sufferers: I know it’s not our job to educate the world, but when it comes to the people directly in our space, we need to care enough about ourselves to speak up when presented with situations like having your anxiety invalidated by people who think that saying, “just calm down, it’s not that big of a deal” is good advice. Next time, say it – say, “Thanks, but, although it’s something I don’t like talking about, I have an anxiety disorder, and it’s a little more challenging to work around it than that.”

I promise that people aren’t as unsupportive of your mental health as you think. They just don’t know, and they often don’t understand. Being open about our challenges – to whatever degree we feel comfortable, but at least a little bit – is part of breaking apart that crafty stigma that makes our issues even more difficult, and it’s part of raising awareness for how the world needs to get on board with us even when we aren’t on board with ourselves. A society that normalizes talking about, validating and helping with mental illness is one we need.

I know it’s scary to think about admitting to mental health struggles (at least for me, anyway, it’s the stuff of nightmares), but on the occasions I actually found the courage to voice why I missed the meeting, lecture, event or phone call (because I was having panic attacks and I can’t always afford medication), it was met with support, empathy, and a response that actually massively eased the weight of my anxiety.

So next time, take the leap!

Compared to My Siblings

The frustration inside of me bubbles to the surface with a sharp bite. My parents treat us differently. I know this because I have ears and eyes and use them like most humans. It’s not hard to pick up my father handing my sibling a wound up wad of cash to “help her out.” Or when my parents show more interest in my sibling’s career choice (it’s within the medical profession), while I try to become a content writer I hear, “that’s interesting.” What I want is someone to say, “Good for you! Follow your heart! Money doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy.”

See what I just did here? Over and over and over in my head, I weigh out the differences between my siblings and me. How we compare, who is thinner, who is stronger, who makes more money, which takes more handouts, who dresses better. Then I replay my own scenario, instead of hearing a monotone response or something equally lackluster, I envision the message I want to. I want them to say I’m talented, smart, courageous – something! Anything that makes me feel approved or praised.

I have a generalized anxiety disorder. Maybe I should have mentioned that sooner or if you are like me then you may have picked up on my battering thought process. It’s something we anxious people like to do. I’m insecure, I want someone to randomly ask me, “So, how is that writing career going?”  Then I could tell them I’m taking significant steps towards my first paying gig! Instead, I haven’t brought it up because I feel their response wouldn’t hold a candle to the thrill that I already feel inside.

Therapy has helped me with this area, even if the frustration and comparing still surface, sometimes unexpectedly. The answers I seek are already in my complex heart. It’s time for me to put myself on the pedestal and know that if I am seeking approval from others or I dream about praise, these things are already sewn into my soul. I know I want people to say I’m doing a good job, so therefore I already feel that I am. I’m going to have a party for myself that celebrates big steps and small steps. I’m going to do this today! Starbucks here I come! Make it a Verde.

Yes, I do feel like Stuart Smiley, but you know — gosh darn it I’m worth it. I may tease, but this is no laughing matter. You are worth it, and you don’t need other people to tell you this. In case you do though, I just said it, so I will repeat it. You are worth it!

 

Brought to you by Fingers to Sky: Soul Searching. Writing. Gardening