Archives for June, 2012
Is it ever possible to happily embrace your anxiety disorder? I think about this question often. I mean, we tend to frame our disorders with war-based terminology: I'm battling agoraphobia. John is struggling with panic disorder lately. Casey struggles from social anxiety disorder and gains ground every time he makes a telephone call. Amy is fighting her PTSD in an attempt to resume a normal life after fighting in Iraq. This kind of semantic habit isn't limited to anxiety disorders, of course. We use war-based metaphors for so many illnesses: depression, the common cold, cancer...the list goes on for miles. Miles upon which an infantry of other illnesses can march. So, how can we ever embrace anxiety -- or any other illness, for that matter -- when we view the illness as the enemy?
I always thought that everyone could hear his or her own heartbeat. Day in, and day out...ka-boom, ka-boom, ka-boom. Why did I always assume this? Well, I can definitely hear mine. Oh, and I can feel it, too. If I sit still for a moment and focus on the left side of my chest, I can feel my heart drumming against my sternum. Can you? And every once in awhile, my heartbeat does what I've always referred to as "the flips" -- a tiny second or two of transgressions. A quick double beat followed by a moment of silence. Or, a moment of silence followed by a quick double beat. It happens more often when I'm nervous. A few years ago, I began asking friends and family members if they experience this strange phenomena. (By this time, I'd already learned to never Google my symptoms lest I interpret the calcium deposit in my earlobe as cancer. Thanks, internet.) Most of the folks in my informal survey didn't have any solid answers for me. They said they couldn't feel their heart. They said that they don't hear it beat. They said they've never felt any abnormalities -- or normalities, for that matter. They simply moved through the days of their lives completely unaware of the thick blood-pumping muscle that keeps them alive.
(Note: this is the third post in a short three-part series about my upcoming nuptials.) Not exactly the best talent to brag about, eh? Sigh. At least I recognize it for what it is. I guess that's the first step toward undoing this bad habit...but, admittedly, I've been stuck on this first step for quite a long time now: The first step to dealing with Catastrophizing is to recognize when you’re doing it. The sooner you do this, the quicker you’ll be able to start focusing on stopping it. It may be helpful to start recording your negative thoughts to yourself on a pad of paper or little journal (or your PDA or such) that you carry with you at all times. [Source] Or recording them on my blog...an entire laundry list of them, all related to my wedding, all related to a single day in time! So, here I am, trying to both acknowledge the above Things That Can Go Wrong and transform them into Things That Can-But-Probably-Won't Go Wrong...but my mind isn't having it.
(Note: this is the second post in a short three-part series about my upcoming nuptials.) Only a few days left, and I'm still ruminating about everything that could go wrong on the big day. Let's see how many of my worries I could formulate into a list or two: THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG: CEREMONY It will rain all over my outdoor wedding. It'll be so humid that I'll feel sick and unable to breathe. I'll get panicky during the ceremony, feel the need to sit down, but be unable to. I'll trip while walking down the aisle. Some crucial part of my dress will snap off. I'll cry and find myself unable to stop. I'll pass out at the altar. I'll throw up at the altar. Everyone will be looking at me when I throw up and then pass out at the altar. MORE THINGS THAT CAN GO WRONG: RECEPTION
(Note: this is the first post in a short three-part series about my upcoming nuptials.) I'm getting married in eight days. (Ahhhh! I'm getting married in EIGHT DAYS!) Am I excited? Of course. Am I nervous? YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES. (And I know that was an incomplete sentence and poor grammar to boot. But when we get nervous, proper writing convention gets gently nudged aside.) I mean, there's an entire laundry list of Things That Can Go Wrong...especially when my wedding is not only outdoors, but also practically in the woods and about 15 miles away from civilization. As a panicker, all three of the above factors generally scare the crap out of me.
(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.) If you missed the first two parts of this story, let me catch you up: I, recovering agoraphobe, felt uber-confident the other day and decided to go to the mall. Why? Well, because of Rule #7: It [panic] is an opportunity for progress. Remember that the whole point of practice is to learn how to cope with fear -- without avoiding it. So this is an opportunity to make progress. Predictably, I panicked while in line to return a bra to Victoria's Secret. I wouldn't exactly call the experience pleasurable, but once the panic subsided after my retreat to a mall bench, I'd realized that my panic attack wasn't a setback -- it was progress. It's all in the way we frame things.
(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.) After deciding I hated the bra I'd ordered from the Victoria's Secret website, I decided to return it. In person. At the Victoria's Secret store. Which is at the mall. The mall. An agoraphobe's nightmare. I mean, the word "agoraphobia" itself means "fear of the marketplace" and a shopping mall is the marketplace of all marketplaces. There's people. Stores. Very few places to sit down. A lot of open space. A lot of stimulation. Why did I decide to brave the trip? It was because of Rule #7: It [panic] is an opportunity for progress. Remember that the whole point of practice is to learn how to cope with fear -- without avoiding it. So this is an opportunity to make progress. I walked into the mall feeling confident. Panic disorder is a tricky beast: some days, running down the street to the local deli borders on impossible. But on other days, inexplicably, the world doesn't seem quite as frightening. Is it chemicals? Is it hormones? Does it have something to do with my diet? No idea. I don't have those answers. But I can certainly tell you that panic comes in waves -- and when the tide is low, I swim.
(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.) Every woman deserves a good bra. Yes, I'm making a public blog post that begins with a bra-related anecdote. No, I'm not ashamed. Really. We all wear them. And if I can spill my mental health foibles to you, dear internet-land, then I can comfortably tell you a story that begins with an undergarment, thank-you-very-much. Moving on. I ordered a bra from the Victoria's Secret website. I'm a bargain-hunter, but their most recent catalog included a voucher for $10 off any online order. "Offer not valid in stores," the voucher said. "Perfect," replied my agoraphobic side. I wouldn't have to leave the house. A few days later, my bra arrived. But it wasn't my bra. It was pink (ughhhhh, I'm not a pink person) and it didn't really look like the purple-y one I'd added to my electronic cart and ordered a few days prior. So, feeling a bit ballsy, I decided to test myself by going to the mall and returning it to my local Victoria's Secret store.
(Note: this post is part of a series about navigating my way through the 10 Rules for Coping with Panic, which is a nifty little list I keep in my wallet. To read the introduction to this series, check out this post: Coping with Panic: Why I Can’t, and Why I Can.) Well, we're halfway through the list now. And, in theory, we're halfway through a panic attack. We've reached the point in the list of 10 Rules where panic begins to subside. Here's Rule #6: Notice when it fades. Notice that once you stop adding to it with frightening thoughts, the fear starts to fade by itself. WHY IS THIS SO DIFFICULT? Think about the last time you panicked. How did you get through the situation? Did you focus on the uncomfortable sensations, or did you grab your phone and start texting your symptoms away? Did you sit and wait it out, or did you run off to find a Sudoku book for distraction? Did you pay attention to the dizziness and the lightheadedness, or did you turn on the television so you could focus on something else?