The sentence “I don’t know.” is enough to make me break out in hives at times. As a person who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I find my comfort in the stability of a good plan, precise information, and the guarantee of something happening. It’s a rigid way to live but it’s been my reality my entire life. I’ve never really noticed this behavior until I started therapy and realized how my anxiety worked. It took a lot of learning to realize that all my behavior was learned and wired rather than something I was doing to myself or someone else. I no longer had to punish myself for being “too much” or “annoying” or the “chicken-shit”, I am now able to recognize that my flaws are moldable and things can be done that can further improve my interactions with myself and others. Anxiety was never my fault, but it is now my responsibility. The power is in my hands to change my ways and learn how to approach life not resenting my anxiety but using it as a part of my identity. I’ve been given the tools to take my power back and use it to my advantage instead of becoming stifled by my disorder.
I find myself approaching my mental health with a sense of curiosity. The use of “what and how” instead of the “why” has been coming up more frequently. What can I do differently to make this task manageable for my stress levels? What can I do to relax when my nervous system dysregulated? What are my “happy spots” and how can I use them to my advantage in hard times? What is my absolute mental limit before I need to ask for help from someone? Reframing the process into a learning experience versus how to eradicate my flaws eases the pressure of perfection. I don’t have to do all things perfect; I can continue life’s path of trial and error. What doesn’t work doesn’t have to be dissected, it can be learned from, and new processes can be created that can foster a better relationship with myself and my world around me.
It has been eye opening to lean into the curiosity instead of always being at war with myself. It hasn’t been an easy road but it’s a road I’m growing to appreciate because I am becoming in a way that I never have before.
My intention was to blog daily during the month of September and for 14 days I was successful. However, the preparation of the trip and the trip itself became consuming and I found myself more present in real life than I had been for awhile. Post trip, I found myself barreling Into the Unknown of my return to the office, getting Penny settled into a daycare situation, and the entire month of October being filled with activities. I still have a lot I want to post outside of the confines of a series and in the upcoming weeks and days I’m going to do my best to post that.
Thus far, I haven’t been successful in posting within the timeline of a series. However, I did feel growth throughout this series. I was able to post work 14 out of the 30 days in September, I was receiving more frequent feedback from WordPress due to the consistency of posting, and I had some family members reach out to say they were following along. I embarked on this as a way to get out of my head and prepare myself for November for National Novel Month. Being able to get out of my head was a great success as I did my best to stick to the schedule and write within the ideas I came up with. There’s still some kinks to work out for consistency in my writing but I’m proud of the ability to practice in a live way and learn in real time with all of you.
Thank you for following along and reading as I work out a writing schedule and most importantly share myself with all of you. I hope to continue to chronicle my journey and hopefully share something that can help somebody else.
It’s been a few months since I’ve written about the state of my mental health. A lot of instances of my reporting were the high points returning. I have seen a lot more highs lately versus lows but I have also come to terms with the normalcy of the lows that sometimes come my way. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder last year around this time and I am proud to say that I am feeling a ton better since then. This time last year I was desperate to find a way to be cured from my anxiety and never have to deal with it again. There had to be a way to completely shake this debilitating disorder and I was hellbent on finding on it. I hated feeling like I was a constant burden to myself and to my family and friends. Thankfully, I found a therapist that I could be comfortable with and began the bulk of the healing work that needed to be done. I use the term healing because I am a lot better off than I was last year. It is a blanket term to describe the progress I’ve made from my lowest to date to the empowerment I feel through therapy and the acceptance of my emotions that come and go.
Will I ever be fully healed? No, I will not. However, the acceptance that anxiety is a part of the human condition has been an incredible relief. I’ve had too many days and nights thinking I was somehow broken because I couldn’t walk two feet without feeling dizzy or feeling like I would die at any moment. The physical symptoms and intrusive thoughts were terrifying at first encounter but now I am able to name these things and realize that they are something I can handle when they come up, rather than fear the unknown. I am able to use the tools I’ve learned in therapy, the tools I’ve learned in the Dare Program and meditation with headspace and find ways to become grounded at my baseline again.
It’s been a tremendous road of ups and downs and I still have downs some days. Rejoining a world in a pandemic sometimes leaves me terrified but I now have a strength that I never had before. I have the strength that moods and feelings all pass like the metaphorically storm that they are and whatever comes my way will be handled. I am eternally grateful.
For a long time, I was very much against the idea of meditation. I didn’t see a purpose for it. I thought that I would immediately fall asleep having someone speak in a calm soft voice to me and be instantly bored. However, when I was in the height of my mental health struggles, I was desperate to try anything to find some sort of relief. I tried a few different apps on my phone as a means to relax and get away from social media. I finally found Headspace and was able to get exactly what I needed to help quell my anxiety and assist with the sleeping issues that comes with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Headspace has a detailed meditation library that offers meditation courses, single, live and SOS meditations for your in the moment needs or daily use. Headspace also provides focus/sleep music playlists, focus/sleep soundscapes, sleepcasts, and short videos that are labeled as advice of all kinds to help assist your needs and better your mental health. In my experience, I found the guided meditations the most helpful. I used a variety of meditations centered around calming my body down and breathwork to help my racing mind throughout the day. Some of my favorite guided mediations are Alone Time, the WFH series, Taking a Break, and the Self-Love meditation. Each of these were able to be applied to my exact needs and help me gather my thoughts and feel more grounded throughout the day instead of fixated on worries and the constant need for the control of every thought and sensation that would feel like it would race through my body. All of these meditations are offered by different meditation coaches each providing their own calming cadence and structure to the meditation. I also used sleep mediations to help me fall asleep faster at night. The relaxing voice of the founder Andy Puddicome was able to calm my nerves nightly and get me into a comfortable sleep cycle.
As someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, I would reccommend this app to anyone who’s looking for a way to calm their bodies and mind. I’ve learned that once both are connected and quieted, it makes life’s daily functions a lot easier and your ability to sleep a lot better.
The concept of radical acceptance felt like conceding when I was initially told by my therapist that would be the game changer for healing. How could I accept debilitating anxiety? How could I accept the disruption my mental health was causing to myself, my wife, and family? The idea was a very confusing concept for me when she suggested it. Wasn’t the whole point of therapy for me to continue to fight this battle I was in? The thought of abandoning control and just accepting things for what they were in each moment felt so foreign. I entered therapy with the mindset that I needed to be saved and fixed. I was inherently broken in some way. How could just letting things be do anything? I had a lot of questions that were slowly answered over the course of each session we’ve had.
I fought the concept initially. I am a fixer by nature so none of this made sense. While they continued to explain this to me further they also recommended Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of A Buddha by Dr. Tara Branch. The first few chapters into the book gave me a lot of anxiety. The author made this all seem too easy to do. Was I missing something? Was there some sort of skill set I wasn’t mastering? The shame and fear grew larger. The idea that accepting all of the parts of myself that I found inconvenient or wrong or “too much” would make all of the heaviness of anxiety and mental turmoil go away felt counterproductive. I was in therapy to rid myself of this, not embrace what it did to me. However, once I stopped obsessing over doing everything the therapist and the book told me to do in a perfect way, the change happened on its own.
Action took the lead and I stopped myself from overthinking every step that I was given. I told myself that it’s time to stop beating myself up for being anxious about things not everyone may be anxious about, it’s time to stop labeling myself the resident “chicken shit” of any room I walk into, it’s time to experience big emotions and fully even when it makes me feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. It’s time to accept that I am a human with complex emotions and thoughts just like anyone else. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to mold myself to fit the needs and wants of other people. Life as a people-pleaser will give you that fate but everyday I try and make the conscious choice to allow myself the full spectrum of the human condition with condemning myself for it.
Is Radical Acceptance easy to do? Absolutely not. It is the hardest thing I’ve been challenged to do in therapy but it has been the most helpful. I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life living in the shame of my mental health, shouldering the burden, and not giving myself the freedom to be me even when it was hard. It’s a process that I still struggle with because of my learned patterns in my 32 years on earth. The journey for acceptance will be never ending, it’ll always be a new challenge to endure and push myself into but I am determined to love myself with the same reckless abandon that I love others with. It’s so needed and deserved.
To anyone who struggles with anxiety like I do, I see you and I feel for you. But, know that you are not alone in any way. Everything you think is annoying or inconvenient isn’t nearly as bad as your mind makes it out to be. I challenge anyone with anxiety to try for acceptance. As much as you may want to control your situation because it feels like its spiraling, I promise you there is a freedom in the ability to let go and face things as they come. There’s a freedom in being present and not allowing your anxiety to be your sole focus. You deserve to be your whole self, without the label of good or bad and just being.