Tunnel vision. That is what I had. Pounding heart. A ringing in my ear, that sounded like a fire alarm. All the while, I am holding my newborn baby. I was experiencing my first anxiety attack.
If you have ever been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or panic these are all too familiar to you. I’ll take a chance here, and say you knew what I was experiencing before I told you right? And now you are likely examining how that makes you feel, right?
For some folks, myself included, just the mere mention of stress, depression, and anxiety can bring on a world of hurt to the most disciplined person. Because it is a trigger. It sparks that little emotion in us that tell us to flee. To run far away because our “monsters” will soon catch up to us and drag us back into the dark.
Living like this is no way to live. Being afraid of everything. From leaving the house to engaging in regular conversation and believing that anything could trigger you to panic. I am here today to tell you are not alone. More than 1 in 20 people in America have reported feeling depressed and/or having anxiety, ages 12 and older. That’s roughly 5% of the American population.
How it all began
My story began right after the birth of my first baby. She cried a lot. My husband worked nights and I lived at least an hour away from my own mama. I thought, at the time, I had no one to confide in. That no one could feel like this in the presence of a beautiful little baby like mine. I thought there was something wrong with me.
Had I known that postpartum depression is found in roughly 600,000 new moms, I might have looked for help sooner. But the fear of being told I was an unfit mom was enough for me to stay hidden behind dark circles around my eyes and messy clothing. For at least 6 months, I suffered in silence. Then one day, I decided enough was enough. I needed help. Although I was guessing that the only help I would get would either temporary or, they would just take my sweet girl.
What I found, surprised me. I didn’t know that what I felt was normal. I was not alone. And there was help.
My Dr started me on Zoloft that day, ultimately saving me. Going into my second birth, I was better prepared. I knew the warning signs and about the purple period (find more on that by clicking the link here) that my nurses warned me about endlessly. I knew that I wouldn’t be laughed at and ridiculed for needing help.While I didn’t need any help with my son, thankfully. The fact that knowing help was right around the corner may have helped.
Fast forward to about 6 months after my son was born. It was winter time. My husband and I had gotten into a little spat. But my mind must have exacerbated it just a little. Because suddenly, as I held my helpless little boy, the walls started closing in on me. My chest felt like someone large and heavy was standing on me. Everything turned dark. And there was that ringing sound. This was my first experience with panic.
That night was one of the longest I have ever had. Suddenly, my life was not my own. I was out of control and spinning, I couldn’t walk or breathe. I just laid there, on the floor near my son’s bed praying he would stay asleep.
Let’s look at a few facts quickly:
Soon after the first panic episode, they started happening more frequently. I would be stricken with sudden uncontrollable fear at the most inopportune times. Once at the grocery store, and another time I was driving. It was enough to make me never want to leave my house.
The many doctors that I had seen either wanted to dope me up with drugs that would make me zombie mom, Or they did not take me seriously. I was being treated like I was an addict. One doctor said and I quote “ you are fine. Your blood pressure is not elevated and if you were in any sort of distress it would be up. And did you know the next town over has a serious heroin problem?”
The fact is, I know I am not the only one who has experienced this level of humiliation. Millions of people (men and women alike) do not receive the critical help they need for fear of this exact thing happening.
I am sick of seeing my fellow humans being treated like this. So, not too long ago, I decided it was time to look for more organic ways to help cope with depression and anxiety. I wanted something that gave us instant gratification. Something that didn’t make us zombies. Something that we can implement whenever the need arises.
The information I will provide for you below is not a replacement for ACTUAL MEDICAL ADVISE!
Meant to work in conjunction with Dr orders. I am by no means a medical professional, I just used these to help me manage my health.
The definitive guide to finding your calm when your mind is a hot mess.
- Find the root of the problem:
This means to find out what is your trigger, what is the thing that made your mind go haywire? Identifying your trigger is half the battle.
- Find the quiet
Finding the quiet is sometimes difficult. If you have kids, step outside and sit down. I find being outside to help leaps and bounds when I feel anxiety creeping up on me. (more on this in a bit)
- Make a call
Sometimes we need someone to talk us down, tell us that we are not as crazy as we seem to think. If you have someone to confide in, this is a great way to get all your problems (or a large majority of them) off of your chest.
- Find a professional
Cognitive behavioral therapy should not be overlooked. This has helped me immensely. My best advice is to find someone who clicks with you. I went through 3 different providers before I found my perfect match. What I loved so much about therapy what the fact of never feeling judged. Feeling judged is and has been a big factor in my anxiety. And once you are comfortable with your therapist, your words and feelings just start to flow. I have left every one of my appointments feeling just a little bit lighter than when I went in.
- Go for a walk.
It is amazing how connecting with nature helps to find balance amidst an anxious mind.I wish I could explain to you how walking through a thick patch of trees opens your eyes to how small your problems are. I happen to live in the woods and have access to nature all around me. If you do not have that opportunity, any sort of exercise will help. The idea here is to get moving. Are you a member of a local YMCA? Do you live near a local park? How about your neighborhood? Find somewhere to just go walk. I promise even if you do not find instant gratification, taking a walk does a lot to calm the messy mind.
Find a hobby
A hobby is anything that brings you a bit of joy that is not part of your daily routine. Do you love photography? How about drawing? There have been recent studies that suggest coloring help calm the mind and quiet the chaos. Why do you think that children love coloring so much?
- Write a letter
Writing down on paper and then reading it can help you find what you are really feeling. The letter doesn’t have to be a letter either. It can be a list or brain map. The idea is to write down all the negative feelings and words you are feeling and doing a brain dump. If a letter isn’t your thing, what about a journal? A blog? The very first blog I had was part of my cognitive therapy. My therapist suggested that I open myself up to others and use my blog as an outlet. You can have it be public and share your story with others who feel like they are alone in this.
- Take a nap
Depression and anxiety are linked to inadequate sleep. Now you have an excuse to go take a nap.
- Put on your favorite song
Music has shown to be a powerful tool. Use it. Do you have a song that makes you get up and shake your rump? Make a playlist on Spotify, or browse Pandora. Pandora has a wealth of playlists for everything under the sun. I am currently listening to a playlist on there under the theme Focus. Mostly instrumental but very calming.
- Make some tea
Silly I know, but warm chamomile tea is proven to help relax your body to get your mind to calm down. Chamomile tea, not your thing? Any will work, but make sure it is caffeine free, as a jolt of energy is counterproductive to your cause of finding inner peace.
What do I do now?
The common theme here is to change your routine! If you change just one thing in your present mind, that is a start. But remember, living through the anxiety and depression is a DAILY commitment. You have to make the effort to try to make yourself better. Your body and mind are yours alone. I suggest starting small and working up to doing all of these things. What works best for me (going outside and walking among the forest) may not be what works best for you.
As I have told you, I too am burdened with these ailments. I suspect that I always will be. Now that I know how to manage my feelings, I am more prepared for what life has to throw at me.Therefore, I am here for you. If you need someone to talk to, go ahead and reach out. So, share these tips if there is someone you know that is struggling. Remember, it takes a village to make things happen and that holds true for the depressed and anxious souls all over the world. One person can make the difference. Make that person you.
Until next time…