THE ANXIETY GUIDE
I was driving through country roads one night after band practice.
The night was going good even though I had been still very sick from the week before.
Sam was on the phone talking, and I was suppose to drive to the house I was co-watching.
As I got closer and closer to the house, I became quiet.
Anxiety was slowly creeping up on me.
I quickly snowballed and by the time I reached the house I was in a full blown panic attack.
I'm easily frightened in the dark, and staying at this place alone in the woods was really
starting to freak me out.
It also doesn't help that we binge watched Stranger Things a few nights before.
In short, I was in a panic, my friend Sarah came to spend the night in my place to look after the dogs,
and Sam and I were frustrated with each other.
With tears in my eyes I drove home.
I cried because I was tired of being in this same place again and again.
I wrote a blog post about love in the lieu of Valentines day and I talked about bringing what you have
into a relationship. (read blog by clicking here!)
his is what I have.
I have anxiety.
It does not just affect me, but it affects everyone around me.
I want to unpack a few things that will be helpful to others (including my loved ones)
and hopefully be encouraging to those with Anxiety.
The Anxiety Guide
This is not the end-all-be-all guide to Anxiety, but it gives you just a glimpse at how it
can affect someone, and what Anxiety truly is. I hope that if you are reading this and you have anxiety,
that you can relate to this and know you are not alone and things get better.
And if you are reading this and you know someone who has Anxiety, or you're close to me,
I hope this will help you be able to love on those people a little bit better and understand what is going on in their head.
“I have been telling myself that these feelings are new, but they aren't, I just didn't connect them before”
I went through a tragic loss of a dear friend in my freshman year of high School.
That week was a blur, and everything mixed together.
Every time I had to take a test, I could not grasp what I was reading.
My mind went into shock.
this was the first time I've experienced anxiety.
It started with tests.
My stomach would be tied in knots as the tests were handed out.
I sat there re-reading every question until I couldn't see through the tears that
were welling up in my eyes.
I felt sweaty.
I felt like everyone was looking at me.
I felt this urgency and I did not know why.
It moved on to classes.
Odd times of the day we would be learning and it would hit me.
I would be struck with anxious thoughts and started panicking.
I was a regular at the nurses office, and I am surprised I didn't get restricted from going
since I was always there.
Then it was people.
High School was were my Anxiety formed and ran freely in my life.
I did not hang out with many people,
I often canceled plans.
My weight kept fluctuating.
and so on.
I was talking with my friend Rachel at lunch once and I explained to her what I had been feeling.
She told me that it sounded like I was experiencing panic attacks.
I had never heard of these terms before, and it seemed to make sense.
She bought me a book called I don't want to be crazy by Samantha Schutz.
All of the quotes are from this book, and I would highly recommend to anyone.
Panic attacks were a daily occurrence for me.
They happened several times a day, and several days a week.
Sometimes they are small and sometimes they weren't.
A few years back,
I was at a leadership retreat with my church at Green Lake and we were packing up and getting ready to
Everyone was everywhere, zipping here and there to clean and pack.
The room started to spin.
I went silent.
I couldn't move.
My heart was racing.
What was going on with me.
everything was loud.
everything was blurry.
I started panicking.
My friend Maggie was holding me and tried to calm me down.
Everyone was loading the vans while I was there
having one of the worst panic attacks of my life.
I was hyperventilating so much my head was getting dizzy.
I cried, and cried and cried and cried.
Luckily, some of the leaders were trying to find the keys to the van
and ended up finding them right when I stopped panicking.
This is the messy and ugly parts of my life.
Anxiety shows itself in different forms now.
and I am still learning how to cope and overcome it.
I hope that through my transparency it will somehow help and equip others.
What is Anxiety?
“She says it's like a switch - a big red PANIC switch - gets flipped in my head and I can't turn it off.
She says we're going to figure out how to turn it off.”
While I was driving and panicking on the phone with Sam, we came to a
moment of frustration.
I wanted him to understand, and to know what to do when I was going through this.
He wanted to understand, and to know what to do when I was going through this.
We both wanted the same thing, but neither of us could grasp it.
I explain anxiety first in anatomical terms
because it's easy to dismiss anxious thoughts and the irrational mindset that
one can get stuck into.
There are several kinds of anxiety, but the most common being:
Social Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Though there are so many, I will be writing mainly about generalized anxiety for time
nd resource sake.
Your brain is a very complex and complicated organ.
When your brain senses you are in danger,
It releases a hormone that awakens your body's nervous system.
This hormone is sent to the adrenal glands that are located on your kidneys.
The adrenal gland releases a hormone called, "Adrenaline".
I am sure you are familiar with that.
This triggers your body's "Fight or Flight" response.
This adrenaline is released to open the air passage ways in your body
so your muscles can get the oxygen that they need to either fight or flight.
Blood gets redirected and starts pumping to major organs like the lungs and heart.
It also noticeably increases strength and awareness in times of danger.
Knowing this, you can imagine that someone who is experiencing anxiety
is undergoing an unnecessary chemical change,
Although they are in no danger, their brain thinks that they are.
The phrase, "I'm going to die if.." Is very real.
Their brain is literally telling them that they are in eminent danger.
At first, this is not their control to feel this way.
Their body is reacting to a stress stimuli.
However, one does not need to stay in this state.
and it is up to the person with anxiety to decide whether they are going to sit
or try to rationalize with their brain.
Words for those with Anxiety
“I am in a house. I am in one room and my anxiety is in another. It's close. I can feel it. I can go to it. but I won't.”
If you are reading this and you have anxiety, or you have similar
experiences, I hope you can find peace in these words:
You are not your anxiety.
You are more than anxiety limits you to do.
You are only going to get better if you detach yourself from it.
It's important. Just do it.
Take one thing at a time. Slow your mind down by breathing.
When you get anxious and think about cancelling those plans,
or not taking that route, or whatever.
It starts when you choose to not let your anxiety be the best of you.
Have a conversation with your brain and continue to tell it the truth.
Again, your self worth is not defined by anxiety.
You are a real person.
With a real heart,
and real dreams and real love.
Keep reminding yourself that.
Sorry, but you can't always do this by yourself.
There is no shame in seeing a therapist, and if necessary, taking medication.
If this is going to help you, do it.
You cannot stop a hurricane from approaching.
But you can prepare for it.
ou can shelter yourself so you do not get caught in the storm.
Words for those who are caring for someone with Anxiety
“I am fearful of romantic dinners, huge crowds, dusk - of normal things - afraid to be loved, the one thing I want most. Maybe it's because I don't think I deserve it because I am not that perfect little girl that I was supposed to be, well manicured and well groomed, because I have nervous breakdowns, and take pills,
and keep moving on.”
This is first to my friends, family, and Sam.
You do not know how lost I would be with out you.
Thank you for loving me, despite being weird sometimes.
I am not my anxiety, and it has and will take years
to continue to understand that.
Here are 4 ways that you can help be present to a person with anxiety.
Don't shrug it off
If they are getting anxious about something, don't act like it isn't happening.
not addressing the problem only makes it worse.
Be present to them in those moments,
but be a gentle anchor to reality.
Simply ask what you can do.
Sometimes I just need to hug someone and cry.
Sometimes I need my space.
If you aren't sure what to do, just ask because it's better than
What they're feeling is real
If they say they're dying, don't negatively combat them.
You know what I'm talking about.
Like I said before, that's not what their brain is telling them.
If you want to be helpful, do not agree with their irrationality,
but keep reassuring them it's going to be okay.
A hug can go a long way
In the story I told earlier of me having a panic attack at the retreat,
the best thing Maggie did for me was hug me.
There wasn't anything she could have told me in that moment.
Or anything she could have done.
But just holding me was enough to help me through that scary moment
where I was not in control.
A hug goes a long way.
To close, I just wanted to say two things:
To those with Anxiety -
You are not your anxiety.
You cannot control what is happening to you,
but you can help yourself in those moments.
Don't just take it.
Seek help, have a moment of courage to just simply push through
and do something that makes you anxious.
You aren't going to die, I promise.
Everything will be okay.
To those who have loved ones with anxiety
You're not responsible for their anxiety.
You cannot take away the things that they are going through.
You will not have all the right things to say or do.
Just be present.
Encourage them to do the things that will help them.
You are not in control.
Thanks for loving them.