Anxious about Anxiety

I’m going to talk about anxiety and my feeling towards writing about it so I feel compelled to announce a trigger warning because I’ll probably need it too.

This is a topic I really want to talk about. I want to write about my experiences and share them and maybe help someone feel better about their mental health. But I always stop myself from posting or even finishing off the post because of the anxiety I feel towards the words.

I have at least 5 posts that I’ve started and not finished or totally finished and not posted. For me the hardest part is finishing them. I just get triggered when I’m writing. I tend to write about anxiety when I’m feeling it strongly as a way of therapy, to get my feelings and emotions out of my mind. Yet sometimes this has a way of making the thoughts real and concrete which in itself brings about a sense of dread and uncontrollable panic. So I try and focus more on ways of coping and helping my mental health rather than triggering it. I write about self care, meditation and being out in nature as those are the treatments to the issues not the issues themselves.

Reliving past traumas and negative experiences can be so beneficial to dealing with them and moving past them. However when something is so fresh and the trauma hasn’t really settled, for me it’s not always a good thing to finish these posts because the words written come from a darker place which in itself causes unsettling feelings.

I am a total advocate for talking about mental health, and I can chat freely about my anxiety to an extent, however writing about my journey with anxiety and depression is somewhat more difficult.

I started this post with a calm mind. I keep having to remind myself that I am okay and not experiencing what I am currently discussing. This to me shows that I still have a way to go with dealing and potentially moving on from anxiety. However I am a much less anxious person than I was as a teenager and in my early to mid twenties. I have learnt the tools I need to be less highly strung, more easy going and slightly more relaxed. But there are still attributes of a anxious person in me, maybe they will never completely go but I am breaking some walls down.

So why am I writing about posts I haven’t posted? Well I want to. I want to share my thoughts and feelings about mental health and my experiences. As unnerving as it can be, it’s important. Writing about the anxiety I feel towards the anxiety I feel (???) is therapy surely?! I’d like to get to a place where I am totally comfortable discussing my journey and the pivotal moments in my life that birthed an anxious being. But it feels too raw almost, even though some events happened twenty years ago.

I pride myself on being very self aware and self analytical, sometimes to fault but mostly I deem it beneficial. I have done a lot of work on myself and through working with therapists I have pin pointed some of the most influential events in my life that triggered me to become an anxious person. I think this is significant in treating anxiety. Finding out root causes and the potential PTSD related problems that many people with anxiety may have. Anxiety can provoke very irrational thoughts about very real situations, so surely there must be an element of past trauma that causes the mind to infer an anxious response.

My advice to anyone that suffers from anxiety (if they haven’t already) would be to look back on their life experiences to potentially determine a source. And this isn’t always simple. The brain can block out traumatic events as a fight or flight response, so recalling memories might feel impossible. For me it was like a penny had dropped or a light bulb moment when I first married my past trauma and my mental health issues together.

I must note here that when I use the word ‘trauma’ I’m referring to my own negative experiences that impacted on my life. Trauma doesn’t have to mean a near death experience or a life threatening event. The word is subjective to ones own experience, if that makes sense.

Realising when my issues had manifested themselves, wasn’t at first positive. I remember speaking to a therapist (the first appointment I ever had) and crying my eyes out. I was explaining how I felt in that moment, then she asked ‘do you know where this comes from?’ It took me a few minutes of sniffing and wiping away the tears, to say anything. And when I started talking I realised maybe I had known all along because the words kept coming. I had explained 2 situations which happened many years previous in perfect detail. I relived those events that I had never spoken about and it was hard. But I do remember feeling a sense of relief not straightaway but after awhile. It was almost like closing a chapter that I wasn’t really aware of.

Understanding the root causes helps me develop coping mechanisms or strategies that in turn make it easier to spot my triggers. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I can fully face the situations that cause me utter discomfort but I am definitely gaining confidence as I get older to expose myself a bit more.

I remember visiting a therapist at university as my anxiety was really high at one point due to an upcoming event that totally brought me back to a childhood trauma. She asked if I’d tried exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is designed to expose the ‘patient’ to the root cause of their anxieties in order to confront it and work towards eradicating that as a trigger. I said no. The idea of exposure therapy at that point totally wasn’t in my mind as a beneficial treatment. She encouraged me to try putting myself in situations that made me most uncomfortable in order to gain a positive outcome to move past the anxiety. This wasn’t gonna happen. I had the attitude of ‘if I know this causes me stress and anxiety why put myself in that situation?’ And to this day I still have that avoidance mindset to an extent. I am improving on that slowly but if the situation doesn’t call for it then I’m not going to purposefully try and find it. And that comes down to context. If the root issue is not something that is faced or tackled daily then my life won’t be improved by facing the issue without needing to. I understand for the longer term this is probably not the best advice but rather than tackling the issue head on, I make little steps in the right direction that improve my feelings towards the main cause, then maybe eventually the situation that causes most anxiety won’t feel so big and undesirable.

I realise as I’m writing this my palms are getting sweatier and my heart rate is increasing, a classic response when I write about anxiety. My mind is almost put back to those situations. I relive them as I write about them. So I am reminding myself that I am not back there, I am safe and a more confident person. My anxiety does not control me as it used to. I have worked on myself and I am proud of that. I’m not perfect and I will still feel anxious but I know my strategies and I’m aware of my triggers.

And breathe!

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