I have been called "nervous" since I was a child. I would venture to say that large doses of caffeine and chocolate probably did not help my "nervousness". As a small child, I would drink a coke and eat a bag of Hershey's chocolates and literally run in circles at family functions. We still laugh at these memories.
But somewhere along the way my laughter died and my torment began. My hyperactivity, zest for life, "energizer bunny" nature as a child was a mix of excitement and anxiety. But as I entered my teenage years, my excitement dwindled and my social anxiety reigned. The terror of living with a constant negative dialogue in your head is a lot for any young person. But I found my ways to manage this until adulthood.
By my 20s my worry had spread to lots of subject. It was like an invasive weed that overtakes a beautiful garden. At this point no flowers could bloom, because all that filled my mind was worry weeds. I had hit my bottom. The good thing about bottoms is there is no way to go but up. So began my journey of climbing my way out of my anxious mind.
Anxiety can manifest in many forms (these are just a few of mine- welcome to my world of untold possibilities that never occur - lol):
Fear of Bridges - (I feared driving off of them then I feared having the thoughts of driving off them. Like it was a magic ball foretelling my future actions. Well guess what I never drove off of a bridge.)
Body Sensation Focused Anxiety
Health issues (I feared having cancer). And guess what I never had that one either.
Others driving (When in the passenger seat I feared having accidents). And another one that never happened.
What others thought of me (I often feared dislike, disgust, or disinterest). Well guess what the facts are most people like me.
Mistakes - (I feared any mistake small or big would end in some unforeseen catastrophe, so I would scenario bend to plan for these catastrophes that never occurred.) - (I also feared the learning process because I could not attain perfection at all times.)
Relationships - (I feared people that I loved leaving and staying).
Treatment for Anxiety (just a few of the approaches I have utilized):
Medication (In my early twenties)
Medication managed my depression associated with anxiety in my 20s. My nervous system and serotonin levels were most likely so imbalanced from years of mental health stress, so medication helped to balance me biologically. It was essential to getting my body functioning properly in order to begin managing my mental health.
Talk therapy was essential for normalizing my anxiety and teaching me about my irrational thinking. It gave me a handle on this debilitating false alarm in my body. It normalized what was occurring within me.
This was introduced to me during my talk therapy to help me realize how my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors were all connected.
EMDR treated the trauma that was driving my anxiety and the result was a decrease in my anxiety and a decrease in my body of my current anxiety triggers.
DBT/Mindfulness added another layer of skills. I learned to use this with clients but as part of the training I had to practice the skills myself. Mind-blowing! I am a behaviorist so I love behavioral approaches.
ERP provided a framework for understanding facing my fears and stopping negative coping patterns that trigger my fears.
Needless to say, it's been a journey -- one of self discovery and chipping away at this internal foe. Ultimately it has been and continues to be worth the work.
Now, I feel free. My freedom from reacting to these false alarms embedded in my body came with a mix of skills from ERP, DBT, Mindfulness, EMDR, and IMTT.
False Alarms (ERP) + Acting Opposite (DBT) = Moving Through my Anxiety
I still have to monitor the gaps my mind wants to fall into. These false alarms, I laugh about, even when they warn me that a car will hit me when I am riding my bike. I call my laughter "living on the edge" because that is what it feels like. I am opposing my fear and treating it like static in my mind.
Honestly, if there is hope for me, there is hope for many. I am about as hard-headed and difficult as they come. Hope and believing in approaches takes leaps of faith, mentally. And anyone with anxiety knows how hard that leap is.
Anxiety literally sucks the joy out of you. We don't want the anxiety but we are terrified to let it go. Ironically, it is the only way through it and back to a place of joy, laughter, and zest for life.
Back to My Joy, Laughter, and Zest for Life
I still love large amounts of chocolate, and caffeine in the form of coffee. These simple pleasures bring me back to a time when life was filled with excitement. A perfect holiday started with my coke and chocolates, my nervous excitement, a Cajun meal, and a day full of laughter.
This is just my journey through the torment of anxiety. Therapy provides a place where you can find your way back to your joy, your laughter, and your zest for life.