Anxiety. Do you have it? Do you know someone who has it? Have you often scoffed at the idea of anxiety or someone having an anxiety attack? Take a step back and do your research because "Anxiety Is Real".
Oh, I can remember as a child and adolescent growing up things that made me "nervous". I was a classical pianist and had to perform on the stage many times. And while sitting at my piano inside my house or at a lesson I was quite confident and very precise, I can also remember standing behind the curtain awaiting my turn to step out into the spotlight on stage and that's when it happened. My heart began to pound, my hands started shaking and I seriously thought I might throw up. My adrenaline pushed me through the event and a few minutes after I walked off of the stage my symptoms disappeared.
As I got older I also noticed that certain situations caused me discomfort. More discomfort than what the ordinary person experienced. Something that others considered to be insignificant was very significant to me and thinking about it amplified the event even more in my mind. I have come to realize that, but simply realizing you have anxiety does not fix it. Often times it only gets worse as time goes on.
Before my anxiety attacks began, I started having physical issues that I thought were sinus related. I woke up one morning with my ear aching and my jaw was so sore I could barely open it. I called a friend who is an ENT, made an appointment with him and that's when he introduced me to something I had no clue about; TMJ or TMD. He suggested I see a dental specialist who could treat me for it and that's what I did. I had a splint made to wear while I slept since I apparently clenched my teeth and was also given a medication that would help relax my jaw. As long as I did these things, I didn't have an episode. However, if I slacked off (feeling better), it would not be long before I had more problems. I also noticed in times of stress these symptoms became much worse. At this point I was not considering I might actually have an issue with anxiety.
Fast forward a few years. A lot of things took place; weddings, births, graduations, an elderly parent with failing health, children moving to other cities. And while previously I had been able to go, go, go and do, do, do, I found myself more frequently slipping into some anxiety moments. And I say this lightly but it has not been a "light" situation at all. Let me tell you what an anxiety attack feels like. You might not actually be "in" a stressful moment but perhaps been under stress the week before or maybe you have just been thinking about issues that cause you stress (things become much bigger in the mind of a person who suffers from anxiety). So, you are just sitting there and you feel the anxiety coming on. Your heart begins to race. Maybe you get unusually hot or cold. You start to feel a little shaky, unstable on your feet, perhaps. Your breathing becomes shallow and your chest gets tight. You might experience some dizziness. And then you go into real panic mode because this scares you. Even if it's happened before and you know what is happening. At this point it is difficult to get things under control without medication; or at least for me it is. And this is progress for me to be admitting this because I tried for a while to do so. And after coming out of an anxiety attack you feel a bit washed out. Like you have been running a race and you have no energy left; you just feel like collapsing.
Now that I had identified and come to terms with the fact that I had anxiety, what did I do about it? Well, admitting it was the first step. And that was a big one because face it, no one likes to think that they have a problem that they can't handle. Second was getting some help in the form of medication. This is the same medication that I use for my TMJ. (Hmmm...yes, my TMJ is caused by stress.). Thirdly, I have to talk more about things that are bothering me; get them off my chest and just verbalize them. These things together have helped me with my anxiety. Do I still have episodes? Absolutely. But I have come to realize that no matter how uncomfortable an anxiety attack may be, I can get through it.
So, the next time someone says they have anxiety, don't brush them off. Or make them seem like anxiety is not a real problem. Don't make them feel insignificant or weak for not being able to handle certain situations the way you do. Look at everyone as an individual. We are not all alike. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and that's OK. If you have anxiety I encourage you to not let this condition define you. Get up each day and make it count for GOOD!
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