Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Adventures in Anxiety

I haven't had much to say lately, on my blog or otherwise.

I've been sifting through some rather weighty issues in my life, and there just hasn't been a lot of oomph left over for blogging, as much as I miss it, and as much as I really do want and intend to get back to it.

The fact is, it's difficult to blog when you have generalized anxiety disorder.

After all, I can't be blogging if all of my animals are going to get inexplicably sick at the same time (despite the lack of proof that they're ailing,) that the house is going to fall apart and we won't have the money to fix it, that I'll lose my job and REALLY not have any money to fix it, that meteors are going to fall and destroy us all, etc. etc. etc.  There really is no rhyme or reason to anxiety...  it just happens.  It flits from topic to topic to topic until I am completely exhausted and there just isn't enough of me left over to deal with things.

I do try to keep my blog solely about my pets, but in some ways, it is also about ME, one of the two caretakers of those pets.  So, that is where I am right now.

I'm learning some good coping strategies...  I KNOW some good coping strategies, it's just a matter of learning to "turn down the volume" of the worries enough to employ one of the coping strategies.

Coping Strategy Number 1:  Live in the moment.  And this is one that I've learned from my animals.  When I start to have out of control anxiety, it is always thinking about the future.  Because you know, the present isn't all that bad.  I enjoy my life, when I am not worrying about things in the future that I have no business worrying about (I mean, c'mon.  Meteors?)

Argos, living in the moment.
So, it's time to do some lolling on the couch, with or without my tongue hanging out, enjoying my rest and relaxation time WITHOUT worrying about meteors, or financial disaster, or whatever the worry of the moment is.  This doesn't mean bad things won't happen, but I don't have to spend as much of my precious energy worrying about things that I have no control over AND may never even happen.

Coping Strategy Number 2:  Surround yourself with supportive people.  And this is where I've made some mistakes.  My go-to reaction to the avalanche of worries that life and my brain dump on me is to hide, preferably in a deep, dark cave, where no one can find me.  I find myself avoiding people:  friends, acquaintances, even those in the blogosphere.  Not because any of these people wouldn't want to be supportive of me, but because it's just me, shutting down.  My tendency is to want to focus 100% on whatever I'm worrying about.  People are a distraction from that tendency, so I avoid them.

And that is exactly why I am going to stop doing that right now.  I need to be surrounded by supportive people.  Not necessarily holding my hands and whispering "Poor Melanie" in my ear, but to keep me focused on the here and now.  To force me to think about other things.

Coping Strategy Number Three:  Avoid triggers.  This is a tricky one, because it is possible to take it too far.  I am not interested in burying my head in the sand and pretending that nothing is wrong or can go wrong.  But there are certain things that I KNOW set off my worry avalanche completely unnecessarily, and I am slowly teaching myself to stay away from them.  My two triggers, completely unrelated to one another are:  negative, critical people, and sugar.  Negative, critical people are easy to stay away from, once you know who they are.  The sugar... well...  that's another story, and probably for a different blog.  Nevertheless, I am slowly learning that neither one of these triggers is worth it.

Coping Strategy Number Four:  Have confidence.  One of the "features" of my anxiety is the fear that something bad will happen AND IT WILL BE MY FAULT.  Our house will burn down... not because of bad luck, faulty wiring, or a lightning strike, but that I left the iron plugged in.  The cat can't just be sick, it has to be because I fed her the wrong food, that I left something out for her to get into.  I won't just lose my job because the economy is rotten, it will be because I did something so huge and so horrible that I will never be able to work again.  The list goes on and on.  I haven't found a way to blame myself for the coming meteor strike yet, but I'm working on it.

Charlotte does not have self-doubt.  She is the queen.
A little bit of self-confidence goes a long way.  I don't mean arrogance, or completely disbelieving that I can do anything to negatively impact the world around me...  that would be stupid.  But confidence that I can most likely get through most days without causing catastrophe.  That my mistakes are no worse than anyone else's, and that I can relax and stop scrutinizing every single thing I say or do, trying to do damage control before the damage is even done.

Coping Strategy Number Five:  Get more rest.  I fight with anxiety a lot, and probably will my entire life.  But it REALLY rushes in when I am tired, and worn down and less able to think clearly.  I don't get enough rest as a general rule; I don't think that many of us do.  I am trying to take steps to slow down.  To make sure that I get sleep at night, and that I spend some time relaxing instead of constantly finding chores to do.

Annie is so relaxed that she oozes.
Coping Strategy Number Six:  Focus outward, not inward.  One way that I can shed some of my anxiety is to help someone else who really needs my help.  To focus on their needs instead of my own. Which is why I have a new litter of foster kittens.  (Oh yes, I had to bring them in somehow.)

This can backfire sometimes...  when you take on too much, and are so busy taking care of everyone else that you fail to take care of yourself.  But sometimes it does nudge me just enough to get me back on track.

Clark and Amelia
Lewis and Nellie.  (Lewis, front, Nellie, back.)
Nellie, alone.
There are four foster kittens.  Lewis and Clark, Nellie and Amelia.  All explorers.  All precious sweethearts that love to snuggle with me.  They will all climb on top of me if I sit on the floor with them, and Lewis and Clark like to snuggle into my hair.  They purr with pleasure if I pay the slightest bit of attention to them...  a really nice litter of kittens.

But.  Back to me.  So now my readers know where I am.  I don't necessarily care for being so honest in such a public forum, but I've finally decided that if I'm going to be able to learn to cope, then I need to learn to talk about this issue.  I need to learn to be honest about it and how it affects me.


  1. Good for you to be brave and take hold of your life. It's a long row to hoe but the alternative is not to be thought of. My hubby is bipolar with anxiety issues also, so I sympathize with you, 100%. I just recently blogged about my struggles with depression. I think bloggers must be especially smart, and also have alternative mental health.
    Thanks for being you.

  2. I really like your coping strategies. I'll have to try them. My doctor says my insomnia is due to GAD. I also sympathize with you - and I especially understand not wanting to publicly announce it. I also turn inward the more upset/anxious/whatever I get. It's very hard to do anything other than that, especially when you feel like you'll just be complaining about every single thing. It's very admirable that you came forward to honestly talk about it.

  3. I admire your courage to open up. Being one who also becomes paralyzed with overwhelming anxiety (and depression) and being a mental health counselor, I can say that your coping strategies are spot on. I particularly like number four and hope that you can find new and amazing ways to be kind to you. There is only one of you, you are precious and deserve to be valued and cherished, especially by you. Owning your value and wonderfulness can make the other coping strategies easier. I'm glad that in this moment, you are opening up and allowing others to love on you, just as you are.

  4. Not only do you have the courage to speak up, but you explain things clearly, with a sense of humour too.
    Your coping strategies sound good, and apply to most of us, GAD or not.
    I would not have thought of sugar as a trigger. That intrigues me.
    Reading your post reminds me of the great support My cats bring me. They help a lot.
    Thank you for that sincere post

  5. Melanie, I think your coping strategies are brilliant. You obviously are tuned in to what makes you tick. I am anxiety on legs, so can identify with a lot of what you worry about. With me, living on a hill, it's aeroplanes crashing rather than meteors! I commend you for being so honest. Keep on Keeping on. love Caro xox

  6. You seem to have a good perspective and some good strategies. I also struggle with anxiety and it's one of those things that can somehow get out of hand without me even realizing it. Sometimes I only realize how anxious I am when I see how much I antsy I am making the dog (I pace... she paces with me, haha).

  7. Most important thing is to be positive and stay positive. We live in hard times and everyone is facing anxiety from time to time. But we must work on our self a lot.