So, I’ve struggled with anxiety lifelong, in hindsight. As a teenager and young adult, I didn’t recognize it for what it was; in fact, despite a degree in psychology, I didn’t recognize my anxiety until it was exacerbated by trauma in my mid- and late-20s. I was prescribed an SSRI for several years and chose to discontinue in spring 2015 (what a wild ride that was).
So, in the last three years since d/cing my SSRI, I have realized the many ways that anxiety presents itself. For instance, I don’t suffer from low self-esteem, but, man, am I ever hard on myself. I am constantly expecting to be reprimanded or corrected at work and have rather unrealistic expectations for myself hence the being super hard on myself. The hypervigilance is part anxiety and part trauma – some left over PTSD, methinks. Though I’ve done the work on my trauma and believe that it is as resolved as it’s going to get, there’s some residue which is to be expected.
Back to the anxiety. I stress over unrealistic, uncontrollable things and, at times, spend too much mental energy on others. As mentioned, I feel as though I could be and will be reprimanded/addressed at work at any time despite not having done anything that requires reprimanding/addressing. I constantly feel like I’m inadequate at my job despite evidence to the exact opposite. Nothing I do feels good enough… for me. I obsess over minor things, I worry what people think/will think, I worry about being wrong or looking like a fool, I worry.
Though I’m pretty good at masking it (or I think I am, at least), I’m pretty consistently anxious it’s just that the level of anxiety ranges from mild discomfort to holy-hell-I-want-to-run-home-and-never-show-my-face-again to not being sure I can get out of bed in the morning and face the world (though I have to since my dog needs her walks).
I have forgotten what life without moderate to severe anxiety looks like.
As a result, I have developed wonderful coping skills for my anxiety, but most of all, I refuse to let it control me. My father has suffered from anxiety as well and he taught me to never let it get control of me because it would be a battle to ever regain control. I’ve taken that to heart, so it’s just not an option to give into my anxiety which makes for some pretty uncomfortable, exhausting occasions.
My main coping mechanism is exercise be it walking my dog, running, cycling, strength training, boxing, or whatever I feel like doing at the time. A lot of self-care and alone time, firm boundaries around my time (ie. I don’t make social plans on work nights as I have a taxing career and need that time to recharge), healthy relationships, healthy sleep hygiene, healthy nutrition, counselling as needed, journalling, listening to music, regular massage, etc.
Though these coping mechanisms don’t take away the anxiety, they do reduce it to a manageable level thereby making life so very much more enjoyable.