Thursday, April 26, 2012
On the back of the toilet door
Today, whilst visiting a bathroom in the city, I saw this sign on the back of the toilet door. It made me smile.
Not because I think anxiety is funny, nothing could be further from how I think, but it made me happy to see it being talked about. Anxiety is not often given the profile it deserves. So many people suffer in silence, many not knowing they actually have an anxiety disorder. I know a lady who has lived with anxiety for over fifty years not actually realising she had a problem. She thought that's just how she was. Now she's having treatment she is finally realising that life doesn't have to be lived in a permanent state of anxiousness.
The sentence "It's always there in your mind ... and you wait" describes it perfectly. Anxiety is your stalker. Sometimes you never see it hiding in the shadows, other times you catch a glimpse of it following you and then BANG, there it is right in front of you!
It was a bit like that for me this past weekend. We went away to Sydney to spend some time with dear friends. We've done this a few times before and every single time the stalker jumps out in front of me. The very first time we visited I had a major panic attack whilst on a sight seeing trip around the Manly area. I literally had to jump out of the car and run into a hospital to find a bathroom. This attack is always in my mind, hiding in the shadows, waiting.
For the most part of the last few years anxiety has not been bothering me too much. It just hangs around in the back of my mind, rarely coming to the front. Except when I revisit a place, time or experience when it has previously occurred. Then, out of the shadows it leaps and blocks my path.
In the past my anxiety would have paralysed me to the point where every waking thought would be about our trip and how I was going to manage. I would try and micro manage every aspect of the the travel and work myself into such a frenzy that I would have a panic attack just thinking about it.
Now, not so much. It is still stressful and I still panic and worry, but not incessantly. I've got a few little tricks up my sleeve that help me cope. Needless to say, I was okay for most of the time, except for the Saturday morning. I woke up tired and unsure of the day's plans - being organised and in control does help significantly. When the plans had been made and we were about to leave I could feel it coming on. That familiar feeling in my stomach and the sweaty palms. I tried breathing deep and thought diversion - no cigar. I went for my big guns - Imodium and half a Valium and within ten minutes I was okay. Now I know this is not the only way to manage anxiety, and it is probably not the way "experts" would recommend. However when I am in the grip of anxiety this works for me.
The fact this works will often stop me having an attack in the first place without the need to take anything. Just knowing I can "stop" my anxiety is enough. Sometimes deep breathing is all I need to do and other times just redirecting my thoughts will work. Other times, I need to call in my big guns. That is just how it is.
During my fifteen years of dealing with anxiety and panic attacks I have found the key to managing it so it doesn't paralyse me has been finding what works for me. Anxiety is so unique to each person. We all have our own triggers and our anxiety manifests in different ways, which is why something that works for me might not work for someone else. Finding that thing that gives you peace of mind helps to keep the anxiety hiding in the shadows. So far I've not found the holy grail to eliminating it from my life entirely, but for now I can manage.
Let's all keep talking about anxiety. Sometimes simply sharing your anxiety with someone else can be enough.