Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Finding My Chill, Part Two: Falling on Sidewalks

Wow, I meant to write this series in a much shorter timespan, but here we are two months later and I'm just now getting to Part Two.  I guess you could say I've found my Chill a little too much ;)  Here's the intro to this series:

After Alexander was born, I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for a couple of years, to the point where it was interfering with my daily life - my choices, my actions, my future plans.  I did talk with my doctor about it, got some medication to have "in my pocket" which made me feel better, but tried to change small things in my lifestyle before jumping on the daily medication bandwagon.  I didn't want to reach that point, and luckily my anxiety wasn't severe enough to warrant it.  I've slowly been able to mostly overcome it, thanks be to God, in baby steps with small lessons learned along the way.  So this is a tale of my journey to finding my chill again.  (Should I include a disclaimer about how mental health issues are a real struggle, as much as any physical health issue, and anyone who finds themselves feeling depressed or anxious should consult a doctor, which I am not?  Or do you all already know that?  You do.  Great!  Moving on...)

Part Two: Falling on Sidewalks

I slowly  began to realize that there were certain situations or conditions that made the anxiety worse.  These things may sound weird to you, but they were my "triggers" and included things like:

long drives
driving at night
tight pants
too much sugar
too much caffeine
being in traffic
public transportation
being stuck
being in the middle of nowhere
extreme heat or cold


I also realized that if I went somewhere, I always needed to have a bottle of water and my phone with me or I got really nervous.  If I was anywhere where I could get a drink if needed, or make a phone call, I was fine.  So if I headed into a restaurant or church, I was ok knowing I could always find some water or make an emergency phone call.  But if I went on a walk or drive, I had to have those two things.  Looking at that list, a lot of my triggers had to do with being in a car, and I think that's because the big panic attack that landed me in the hospital happened in the car.  This is what made sense to me.  If I had a panic attack while wearing tight pants, then tight pants became a trigger.  If I felt really anxious while watching a movie, then watching movies became a trigger.

Y'all my trigger list got very long, very quickly in the beginning.


While it was really helpful to be able to identify the cause of my worries, I knew I couldn't avoid a long list of situations for the rest of my life.  I was gonna be stuck in traffic at some point.  I would have to drive a kid at night to a basketball game.  So while I knew that identifying and avoiding these situations was all well and good in the beginning of the healing process, I needed to be able to move on from that point.

Then it happened.

I fell while running on a sidewalk, again. 

 It hurt, and I cried from the blood and scrapes on my knee and hands.  Phil picked me up in the car and brought me home where I got cleaned up and rested.  A few days later, I felt well enough physically to run again but mentally I was scared.  I had fallen twice now in my adult life and both times had been while running outside on a sidewalk.  Running outdoors was creeping it's way over to my trigger list and I didn't want that to happen!  Running was always my form of stress release.  It helped take away anxiety, and I couldn't let it become the source of anxiety.  I started running outside, but with Phil by my side for a couple of days and then knew I had to break out on my own again before he became a crutch.  The ol' get back on the horse goal.  I was scared and mad at myself for being scared.  But I did it.  Do you want to know how I did it?

I told myself that I've run on sidewalks a million times, and even though I've ONLY fallen while running on sidewalks, that doesn't mean I will ALWAYS fall while running on sidewalks.

It was such an AHA moment for the rest of my triggers!  

I had been focusing on the exception to the rule instead of the general rule.  Just because I was wearing tight pants when I had a panic attack doesn't mean I will have a panic attack every time I wear tight pants.  It was a very simple but freeing coping mechanism.  And I used it (still do!) often.  This mindset of seeing the bigger peaceful picture, and not the one traumatic moment, helped me remove a bunch of items from my trigger list and made the majority of my day feel "back to normal" instead of full of anxiety.

Here's the thing about anxiety, it's all so individualistic.  So while being able to talk myself through a situation works for me, others might not agree.  You could tell me that keeping your dog with you helps reduce your anxiety, and I would think it would cause me some extra stress, but that's ok.  There's no right or wrong answers in general, just right and wrong answers for you.  Figuring out your needs in your timeline is all part of the process.

Next up is Part Three: The Dos and Donts of My Daily Life

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