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.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

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

Why a Mental Illness is a Big Deal

I’ve been depressing for awhile now -as in, dealing with Depression. I’ve also entertained its close friend, Anxiety; plus a few hangers-on like Disassociation, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Social Phobias. I didn’t even know those existed till they walked off with some of my mental furniture.

Once I’m back to staring at the cracked ceiling of an empty apartment, I wonder why mental illness is such a BIG DEAL. Why does it always have the ability to kick my butt this badly every time?

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Because, Mental Illness is a BIG deal.

Yesterday, I witnessed a boy who collapsed into a hysterical fit when his mother said they had to ride in the elevator. A perfectly healthy friend had to reschedule her doctor’s appointment for “a better day.” Another friend told how she could not sleep in the same room as her baby, since the baby’s normal breathing patterns kept her up all night.

Minor issues become major. Small things are big. Mole hills are mountains!

So, now what? Treats? Bed? Movie marathon? I wish. Those things cost money! We need practicality before the rest of our sanity escapes out the window, and takes the rest of the chocolate with it.

Knowing that a mental illness blows things out of proportion is empowering. How? When one of my kids starts melting down, I KNOW to back off and get him a snack. When fear and anxiety cloud my horizon, I KNOW to get outside for a walk. When my friend says she needs to talk, I KNOW to drop everything and listen.

Am I freaking out? Don’t have a mental couch to collapse on? I take a break. I breathe. I run a meditative exercise. Try it; re-focus with what works for you. Then, try the basics: sleep, food, love, happiness.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

On the flip side, stop doing the little things that make it worse: staying up, eating crap, avoiding affection, and wallowing in sadness.

Sounds easy, right? It really is. The trick is to not make it difficult. “Just go get in the shower,” I tell myself. “Just get in there and sit -you don’t even have to wash yet.” Or, “Wrap up in a blanket and hang out on the porch. You don’t have to get dressed.”

See? Believe me, I’m in the camp of making a simple thing much more complicated. I also know how BIG I feel once I get past the little, white lies of my mental illness.

 

©2020 Chel Owens

Postpartum Depression: Why Mental Health Surveys Suck

I had a baby recently. It’s been a while since I popped one out, so all the hospital stuff was new to me and my postpartum short-term memory.

One BIG thing I noticed was the addition of questions regarding mental health. I not only filled out two questionnaires, I also verbally answered a survey the nurse gave. My obstetrician went over concerns at discharge. Then, two weeks later, the pediatrician’s office (read: at the appointment for the baby) included a typed survey in their New Patient paperwork.

Wonderful, I thought. But, also, Not really helpful.

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Why?

For anyone who’s fighting the Mental Illness Fight, you know that a simple, typed questionnaire is not sufficient. Theirs included questions like:

How often do you feel hopeless?

Have you cried uncontrollably in the last week?

Have you ever had thoughts of hurting yourself?

Great questions, yes? They’re almost as good as the responses you can choose from: Not very often, Often, Sometimes, No more than usual.

That final phrase is the one I chose most, and one that keeps flitting through my mind: No more than usual.

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No, nurses-doctor-pediatrician, I am not experiencing Postpartum Depression. It’s regular, run-of-the-mill Depression for me. Just hand me the baby, and we’ll (hopefully) make it through. Don’t worry -it’s no more than usual…

What’s the solution, then? Should the clinics not bother? Pretend these things don’t exist?

No, of course not.

When I first went to my obstetrician’s office, I saw a few papers taped to the back of the bathroom door. One encouraged women who felt they were in an abusive relationship to get help, and had tear-off phone numbers. Another paper discussed which contraceptives were most effective. The final flier caught my eye first: a bright, informative piece explaining that Postpartum Depression included things like anxiety or OCD or physical ailments as well, and to talk to your doctor if they cropped up.

At the time I saw that paper, I felt touched. I felt like dropping my urine protein test right away and giving the whole office staff a hug for including that information.

Since birthing and experiencing ‘usual’ symptoms, however, I’ve felt each nurse and doctor needs a short lecture. I’d begin with, “Make eye contact with your patient and ask them ‘yes-or-no’ questions.” Like:

Did you feel hopeless in the last week?

Did you cry?

Did you feel like hurting yourself?

Instead of Often, Usual, Never, etc., try a scale from 0-10. Or, try sitting and LISTENING sincerely to the woman’s responses.

Another helpful tip would be to explain what might happen if the answers are alarming. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t need the staff committing me to a psych ward because they don’t understand. I mean, maybe I just need a hug and a nap.

And medication.

The point is that mental health surveys are a good step in the right direction. With a little tweaking and lot more human interaction, they could even be helpful.

Let’s try it, and help those of us trying to fight mental illness. We might just ‘usual’ly beat it.

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©2019 Chelsea Owens

Photo Credit:
Liv Bruce
Zach Lucero
Jenna Norman
Kelly Sikkema

My Healing Journey

At the beginning of the year my number one goal was for me to work on healing myself from the inside out. I had put my own inner healing on hold for a long time. I had pushed down the most painful memories of my childhood in hopes I would never have to think about them again. Over these last eight months more and more old wounds have been resurfacing. Old wounds that I forgot were even there were resurfacing. This was finally my time to work on healing myself.

 

I grew up in an abusive household facing abuse from my mother on a daily basis. I suffered from this abuse from a very young age up until my early adulthood. I suffered from physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. The most damaging towards me was the psychological abuse.

 

Growing up I always knew there was something “off” about my mom because of the way she treated me. I was the oldest child and I guess my mom figured she could take out all her aggression on me. My brother was extremely lucky because my mom treated him completely opposite of how she treated me.

 

A month ago I read a book about healing from Narcissistic abuse. It opened up my eyes to what narcissistic abuse is all about and it confirmed for me that it was the abuse I suffered from growing up. It confirmed my theory that my mom was a narcissist and the symptoms & actions described fit my mom perfectly.

 

My entire life I could never fully be myself. My mom was the one who called all of the shots during my childhood. It didn’t matter what I wanted to do, if she didn’t like it then I couldn’t do it. It was like my mom was trying to live out her life through me. I wanted to play piano and my mom hated that, she threw away my piano books because she didn’t want me to play it. I wanted to do gymnastics, but she told me no & convinced me that I was never good enough to do it in the first place. She hated me having friends and never let me hang out with my friends. This occurred throughout my entire childhood.

 

She terrorized me, manipulated me, and controlled me my entire life. This book opened up my eyes to how abusive a narcissist can be and how evil they can be.

My mom caused me immense pain growing up. She told me things no child or person should ever have to hear especially from your own mother. I was screamed at so many times. She told me lies like that she didn’t want me born, she wished she aborted me when she had the chance, no one in my family likes me, I’m a burden, I have no friends, I’m fat, I’m not pretty, and I’m not good enough. She RARELY told me she loved me & meant it.

 

Now that I’ve reached adulthood and have started my own healing, I feel like I’m starting to find myself all over again. My mom never let me express who I was so I was always fitting into the mold she wanted. I finally feel like I’m starting to find my own identity and who I truly am as a person.

 

At first I felt like I was going through an identity crisis because I didn’t know who I was as a person at first. It’s forced me to dig deep inwards to get in touch with my true authentic self. I’m still learning who I truly am on a daily basis. I’m starting to finally feel free again since I no longer have to conform to what she had led me to believe my entire life.