I know that I was a very shy child and I did have anxious tendencies. There is a whole lot of childhood history there that contributed to that. Maybe, at some point, I might need to deal with that but I am not ready to do it yet. I had worked really hard through teenage years into adulthood to manage and overcome the irrational stuff. Then it all came rushing back on steroids during my trauma experience over a 3 year period.
At the peak of my trauma experience I was having up to nine panic attacks a day. That required meds and talk therapy to help. My GP was wonderful, really helping me through that acute period. I came off the meds as they were making me feel paranoid. I also sought the help of a hypnotherapist for the lingering panic attacks that continued to hit me for 18 months after the last trauma event. Hypnotherapy was a great help.
Rationalising that the threat was not actually there anymore was the biggest break through. It was such a relief to leave behind the “perpetual” threat space, both physically and mentally. Like many of you reading this, hypervigilance is my “F^&%ed – up” superpower and the sidekick anxiety is my constant companion. One psychologist said my PTSD was cured. We had a difference of opinion on that one (“cured” get on with your life). I think he arrived at that position because he just couldn’t do any more for me or he had no idea about what to do next. But isn’t all crappy news. If you have followed my story then you know I have made some real progress in healing from the trauma and PTS Injuries. I class the level of anxiety that I experience as an injury, and it is the one I struggle with on a daily basis.
It hits me over “nothing”
it hits me over “something”
it hits me here
it hits me there
it hits me almost anywhere
I feel like my own Dr Seuss verse!
What does anxiety feel like for me? This is such a difficult experience to describe. Even if you are speaking to others who deal with anxiety, the experience can be so different. Being able to describe what happens to me and how it feels was a big breakthrough. “Can you tell me how you feel when you are anxious? No but I can draw it.”
Anxiety impacts on particular areas of my body. I have an “anxious heart” and “a stone in my chest”. I can feel the “anxiety rising” . When I am particularly anxious, my day can be a complete write off and made worse if I am not able to speak about it. A simple question: How was your day? may well get an answer you don’t want to hear, so I just answer “fine”. Writing about anxiety actually helps me define what I am feeling. Getting it down on paper is a way of dealing with the situations that lead to higher levels of anxiety the impact it has on me. If I can see it, outside of me, then I am able to deal with it better the next time around – and so far so good. I see my GP regularly to keep on top of the health issues that developed as a result of the PTS. Apparently my Vitamin D levels were very low and that can have an impact on mood amongst other things, so I take supplements for that now. I have started using magnetic acupressure ear clips on various points on my ear during the day and this appears to he helpful with some of the physical symptoms of anxiety and pain management.
Having routines makes a big difference as well. Weekends are generally not too bad because the family is around at home and that brings its own level of positive energy. I have to gameplan my weekdays and week. Managing workload and intensity is a balancing act. PTS recovery is exactly that – recovery. I have had to relearn all of those planning and work strategies that I just used without even thinking much about them. Being busy and allowing time to work reasonable hours certainly helps with potential anxiety triggers with work. Travelling and public speaking, which were regular aspects of my work had to take a back seat for a few years, and I have only recently been able to do them again.
Socialising can be a bit tricky still, ” don’t leave my side “. I need to have a lot of information about the event and mainly about who will be there. I am grateful for a few good friends who are mindful of my challenges and they have been incredibly supportive. So I am working on letting some of the over-organising go as well.
Other tricks and tips that help manage the anxiety:
- Exercise everyday – heart rate raising and sweating exercise
- Being careful with the amount of coffee I drink
- Regular meal breaks
- Try to keep regular sleep patterns
- Vitamin D!! Supplements and sunlight!!
- Aiming to slow down and not overthink it
- Daily prayer and meditation
- “Breathing through it” techniques (that a friend here on #PTSDchat taught me)
Is it getting better? Yes, I do believe it is! I can still get blindsided by the triggers, because that’s what makes them triggers. But on balance it is a lot better and in the last month I have been able to get back into work activities and social life in a way I never thought possible again. The bonus is that I can see that the change is permanent and I can trust myself with some of this again as I am #workingthruit on #thisjourneyofdays.