Health · Knitting

A Story About Mental Illness

Anxiety

There has been a lot of talk about this lately, which is good. We can share our struggles with one another and come to the realization we are not alone. Whether it be depression, an anxiety disorder, or OCD, etc., it’s all hard, very hard. Over the years, I have become intimate with all of these at one time or another. Actually at one time, all three were residing with me, anxiety though being my constant companion. That one time was after the birth of my second son and really when the anxiety started for the first time, which makes me think hormones might have played a part along with a list of stressors going on: caring for my first born son, a 1 1/2 year old, a new move, complications with a new baby, renovation of a new (old) house, and a husband gone a lot traveling. It was such a rough time in my life, there were days I didn’t think I could survive what I was experiencing. But I kept pushing forward, trying to manage it all the best way I could. You must seek help, don’t try to handle it all alone. When you try to do that, it will only exacerbate the situation. Get educated, learn exactly what you are dealing with, whether it be panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD, my diagnosis), social phobias, OCD, etc.

I’ve since learned there can be medical causes as well to an anxiety disorder, an imbalance of chemicals in the brain for example. I won’t go into all of that here because either you have a mental illness or you don’t, and I am writing to reach out to those of you who have had to deal with it as well or know someone close to you who has struggled. To let you know you’re not alone, you don’t have to be isolated in this. As you can tell, my main demon has been the anxiety. Others of you are fighting something else, like a bipolar disorder, manic depression, etc., all under the umbrella of mental illness. We are all in this together.

Another reason I wanted to write on this topic was to offer up some things I have done to try to manage the anxiety; what has worked and what hasn’t. Sometimes it’s trial and error,¬† trying to find a medicine that might help you. I tried several, in my experience I could never find one that truly gave me relief plus I didn’t like some of the side effects. (There might be some new ones on the market today that work better, I have not looked into this for some time). So I got off of the meds and focused more on deep breathing exercises, exercise, changing the way I think. I talked to counselors, friends, family. I know in my case, my thoughts would loop around and around (OCD), and I worried a lot about anything that might come up in my life. So, it’s all about stopping those thought patterns and cycles, making a conscious effort to catch them and doing or thinking something else to get your brain distracted. For me, doing some busy activity would help as well, like household chores, getting out of the house, playing music, singing, whatever you can come up with. And of course, knitting has always been very therapeutic for me. It causes me to relax, be more calm and just pretty much zone out.

Certain foods have played a big part in causing my anxiety as well. I have food sensitivities to processed sugars, caffeine, alcohol, and white flour. If I spend too much time on my phone or computer, my head and body tighten up, and I don’t sleep well. So it’s all about learning what your triggers are and trying to avoid those as much as you can, which I don’t always do so well.

There are days when depression will creep in, fatalistic thinking also joins the group and of course, I can always count on anxiety being right there, waiting for me. My bodily symptoms have improved a lot, seemingly coinciding with the onset of menopause. There again, a hormone thing. Who knows? That part of it is much better, it used to be when that would start happening, I would have a very hard time controlling it and it would spiral down to a place of great discomfort. It is hard to explain, and unless you’ve experienced it, hard for a lot of people to understand. Believe me, I’ve been on the receiving end of some strange looks when sharing my dilemma in the past. So you learn either to not talk about it or be very selective with whom you divulge. But there are caring, well-informed professionals who do want to talk to you. You have to want to do it for yourself.

I hope this has helped at least one person. That’s all I want. Hugs and kisses to you all. Hang in there, God will see you through the storm.