Handing Anxiety and Panic Attacks- Not Just During A Crisis

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.

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My First Time Dining Out in a Year

So, I don’t dine out. The last time was a year ago when I moved to my new place (which by the way, I have been here for exactly a year.) We celebrated the move, but I felt anxious and on the edge of a panic attack. It sucked.

I decided no more dinner out, and I eat in when I am hungry or eat food here. I still go to coffee shops and breakfast at the place that I have been to forever, and the crowds are less when I decide to go.

Today I took a leap and considering that I have a ton of summer plans it is better to get it out of the way now before things are busy again in my life. So I went to dinner to celebrate some family leaving town that was here for a couple of weeks. I was okay at first, and it is always important that I get my water so it is there and its the first mental hurdle when I am out dining. It took longer than I would have liked but, it is not like I can control the waiting staff.

I took my Clonazepam at my regular time at 1pm, but I knew there was a chance I would need it sooner and halfway through dinner I needed it because I could feel the panic rising. I was able to calmly go to my car and take my dosage at 7:45pm which was sooner than the 9pm that I need, but it should last me until early morning which fine.

One issue that I have is a deep seeded fear that I will have a panic attack in the middle of a crowded place, and this was a very crowded restaurant. Crowds are just another issue to go along with my panic disorder issues. I usually eat in, or order take-out preferring the comforts of home. For the last year I have turned down dozens of dinner invites, and most of my limited amount of friends do not ask me to go places anymore.

I have created this world of fear of going out, but I have been feeling left out, and it is easy to blame my mental illness, but there come a time and place where you have to find the courage and figure out what the causes.

For so long now I have hidden in my safe places like coffee shops or the place where I always eat breakfast every three to four months with my best friend. Crowds scare me, and they used to not be that way. I used to go to concerts and hang out with friends. But that was 20 years old me and before I knew about depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. The knowing, and actually experiencing having a panic attack in the middle of a crowd I have some basis for that fear.

Tonight I just got by, and I was lucky everyone was a quick eater. I want to live again. I have plans after graduate school, and that means this summer I have to take the help that I was given and get my recovery moving forward with my panic disorder, because like is passing me by. I am going to be a published author this summer. Things are good, but I need to take this next step in the process. More to come as always.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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The Many Faces of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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When I ask people that what they think about what chronic anxiety is, they respond that it is just a person who is anxious all the time and they have trouble with dealing with their anxiety all the time.

That is part of anxiety, but what they fail to understand is that there are many faces of a person who deals with anxiety daily. One of the most common I see is the I’m okay on the outside face. This face is the one where we tell those that know we suffer that “I am okay, don’t worry about me” because they feel like a burden on the ones that they love. I wear this face it because I don’t want people to worry about me, I feel like I am not worth it.

Anxiety is all in the mind, but it has real physical features. Some that I have experienced is hyperventilating, the cramping of my hands, shortness of breath, and unable to keep still. The worse part is your mind is telling you things like your going to die because of this, and there is nothing you can do–I call this one my panic attack face. It is funny because people have seen this face and they don’t understand what is happening.

I don’t blame someone who has never had a panic attack when they say, “You just need to calm down.”

Thanks! That is the cure all! They mean well but I have had panic attacks last for hours at a time (and I have had anxiety non-stop for days and even weeks at a time.) It means not having a moment of peace and it the face I wear when lost in my anxiety is the I’m not doing well face. The problem is that is it not much different than my I’m okay face and it can be deceiving because people think that there is nothing at all going on and in the inside of my mind I am falling through space with no end.

I hate my anxiety more than depression. I could watch movies and lay in bed all day. Anxiety can cripple you and drain you of your energy. When I am out in the world, I have my I am doing my best with my social anxiety face. I consider this my brave face because it is so hard for me to function for long stretches of time with my anxiety. I try my best to be a better person when I am around people who always bring up the worst thoughts in my mind because you fear so much with anxiety.

The worst part are the thoughts of having panic attacks in public, which is the worst fear that I face daily.

One time long ago I had a bad panic attack in public it was the worst in my life. I honestly thought that it was it, that I was going to die. My mind raced with the idea that I was going to have a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, and my hands went numb. I couldn’t close a fist if wanted to, and the image of the ambulance and firetruck all around it still haunts me, and I fear that happening again.

Those of us struggling with chronic anxiety, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety are ordinary people. We have trouble living healthy lives, and for so many of us, we do live normal lives even with our crippling anxiety. So if a friend, family member, or significant other tries to talk about their anxiety you should listen. It might be just what gets them through their anxiety that day. Stay strong in the fight.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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A Letter to Myself and my Blog on my Birthday

I wrote a letter to myself at this time last year, you can find it here. A birthday, my birthday April 10, is something special to me because there was a time in my life where I did not want to be a part of this world. I once believed that I would perish before the age of thirty. Yet, things changed. I found myself in mental illness life and a place within the mental illness community. So here is a letter to myself and my blog on my birthday.

I ask too much of the followers of this blog and apologize for that, but as it is my birthday I ask that you read this post and what is to come, then please click on my Patreon account button below and please join me on my writing journey.

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A Letter to The Bipolar Writer and my Blog

We continue our journey, James towards the future and ending the stigma of mental health.

A year and half of creating a place where others like you can be safe and share their mental illness stories. You created a community with an already amazing mental health community. Through the ups and downs, with the amazing contributor writers and followers, we have hit amazing numbers for such a young blog.

Since your last birthday a year ago there were so many goals and achievements that became a reality. You did the impossible, and you got your Bachelor’s of Arts in Creative Writing and English. It was never easy. You lost your grandfather during this time, and you had to watch as he slowly withered away from cancer. There were the depression cycles, dealing with social anxiety, and the week you spent in the hospital with bleeding ulcers. It was an amazing achievement just to graduate–summa cum laude.

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Then you continued to surprise by finishing your memoir at the beginning of the year. Now you are working towards saving to get a copy editor so that you can put the final touches so that it will be the best way to help end the stigma–your life goal. You are so close to that goal.

You have become so strong, and at times you have no idea where it comes from but you find it. In October of last year, you began a different journey to become a graduate student. It has been amazing so far even if it keeps you extremely busy most weeks. In your story concept class, you began to create the novel that has been years in the making, and now it is becoming a reality. You started to write a novella and there are the screenplays that you are hoping to sell one day soon. Your writing life is coming together.

You have come an even longer way in your mental health.

Mental health. Some days you forget that above all else you have to work on your own mental health.

You feel responsible for every person that becomes a follower or contributor that is a part of this great thing you have done. That this blog is your responsibility to help end the stigma. You forget reality. Your in this life with so many amazing other people, a community.

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There will always be tough days. Depression. Insomnia. Social anxiety. Panic attacks. Mental illness will always be a part of my life. Now I have a real opportunity to make even better leaps in my mental health. Just a few weeks ago you were struggling mightily with your social anxiety. Things have changed in the past few weeks and it gives you hope for the future.

That is where the rest of this birthday blog post will be headed, to the future. I want to work on my social anxiety. I want to travel more and do the things that I always have on my list but always go by the wayside. Life is funny sometimes. You never really know what the future holds. Three years ago if you told me I would be sharing my every thought with the mental illness community. I would have laughed. Yet, here I am writing.

Thank you James for another great year.

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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My First Clonazepam Update

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I wanted to talk more about my recent anxiety medication change. I am no longer on Ativan (which in itself a major positive thing.)

I started Clonazepam on Tuesday the 26th of March and that first day was very different. I took the early morning dosage and while I had some morning anxiety once the medication hit my system I could tell things were much different.

Here is a typical day on Ativan. I take 1mg in the morning. By noon-1pm I am already having major anxiety. I have to wait until about 5pm to take another 1m or 2mg based on the anxiety level. That will last me until about 9pm where I would have to take 1-2mg in hopes my anxiety still doesn’t spiral. In a typical week, I would have 3-4 panic attacks (as of recently) and i was a struggle every moment.

Taking clonazepam three times a day (it lasts about 6-8 each 1mg pill) has made my anxiety very manageable. I had one small panic attack when I forgot to take my evening dose. Other than that my social has been manageable. I feel better and more confident. It is a small sample size and I have a few weeks to go to see major differences, but this could be what I needed to finally be in a place to work out the triggers of my social anxiety.

I am going to stay positive.

Always Keep Fighting

James

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