I’m gonna be honest with you folks who read my blog, it’s not been a very good few weeks. Between my family planning/fertility challenges and my husband losing his job, I’ve been feeling off. Well, let me rephrase that, I’m in a constant state of anxiety.
Anxiety is my middle name. I’ve suffered from it since I can remember and it’s the reason why I turned to drugs and alcohol. It is at the very core of me, my Achilles heel if you will. I believe and what I’m told by all of the many anxiety specialists I have seen is that the anxiety disorder developed in childhood.
I’m not blaming my parents here and I don’t think they could have done any better given the tools they were given themselves. I’ve done a lot of work both in therapy and recovery to know that I cannot blame anything I do in adulthood on anyone else but me.
With that said, the anxiety was a direct result of being alone all the time as a child and having to take care of myself. I didn’t get a lot of emotional guidance or any guidance for that matter so I panicked about everything.
A simple bus ride home on the yellow school bus from the Fannie Farmer working, scary, obese, bus lady put me in a tizzy. I would panic about telling her where my bus stop was because I was afraid of her. She would end up dropping everyone else off and then yell at me for not telling her where my stop was.
I feared public speaking, socializing, dogs, you name it. Everything became so incredibly frightening. I had nowhere to go with these feelings because essentially I was a latch key kid and there was never anyone around. So the fears built up and the anxiety grew and at the age of 15 I just really needed a drink or a drug or something.
I think I consumed all of the tranquilizers, pot and alcohol on the East Coast in the late 80’s just to quell the anxiety and it worked for a while…until it didn’t anymore. I remember the day it stopped working too. I was in my 20’s and in a horrible marriage. I was getting off anti depressants and was trying to wean myself off of all the drugs I was taking so I could get pregnant (from a husband who was gay and didn’t have sex with me). I remember I also had the flu at the same time.
My anxiety was at an all time high and I couldn’t sleep for days. My husband had all but left the marriage and left me alone essentially. It was just like when I was a kid. I was left with these emotions and nowhere to go with them. It was then that I had a moment of clarity as we say in the program. I decided to get help and to get sober. I checked myself into rehab that day.
At the beginning of sobriety I was an anxious mess. The group I was in didn’t believe I was sober because I was on anti depressants so they made me get off them. It was my one crutch and I didn’t have that anymore. I barely survived my first year of sobriety being homeless, sleeping on couches, going through a divorce as well as looking for work because I was fired from my job.
My shoulders were permanently at my ears and I was on high alert 24 hours a day. I made it through that first year by the grace of God.
The anxiety lessened as I got my life back on track. I would have bouts of anxiety here or there with a new job or a new situation. I always barely got through the bouts and was in constant fear of another anxiety episode.
But the anxiety got better and better and now I only get it when “big” things are occurring. When I got married last year I was beyond anxious and now with all of the fertility problems, my husband’s out of work status and general unknowing I’ve been worried and fearful. I had to do something about it once and for all and I knew that a pill was not the answer. A pill would only mask the anxiety and if I took medication then when I stopped I would be exactly where I was when I started.
So, I went back to my therapist, an anxiety specialist and I’ve been listening to “The Power of Now” like it is going out of style. I’ve also been praying and meditating. It’s very hard to change anxiety brain patterns that you’ve had since childhood but they’re changing. It’s slow but there is a difference.
Here are two things I do every morning and every night that have been making a difference:
DEEP BREATHING – Try to take a maximum of 8 breaths per minute. Take 4 seconds in inhale, hold the breath for 2-3 seconds, and then take another 4 seconds to exhale. Focus on your breath pay attention to your inhale and exhale.
PRACTICE MUSCLE RELAXATION – Go through your body, one body part at a time, starting with your head and tense each muscle group then relax. It accomplishes two goals, by forcing you to concentrate on something other than your fear while simultaneously relaxing your muscles.
Most importantly, If I’ve learned one thing in recovery is to seek the spiritual solution. If I have a problem be it fear, marriage, money, job, etc. then it means I’m too far away from my higher power. The closer I get the more the problem disappears.
Now, with an anxiety ridden brain like mine, it takes a bit more to get to that place of spiritual tranquility when I’m full of anxiety, but it does happen, eventually. I have moments of peace and I’m working hard to get my brain to a place where it can be serene a lot faster when I’m anxious. If anything I’m a determined woman and I’m not giving up until I slay the anxiety dragon.