Having anxiety, depression or any type of mental health struggles can make it very hard to get through the day or to even drag yourself out of bed some days. Lately I’ve noticed my anxiety trying to be the boss and making it difficult for me to even focus or do simple tasks without constantly worrying and stressing over everything. I know it’s completely normal to have days or sometimes even a week like this here and there; but the hard part of having anxiety (and/or depression/illness….) is to not let it take complete control of your life. Ha! Easier said than done some days, right?
When I was a kid, my cousin and I had an accident which required a trip to the ER. I remember laying on the operating bed and I kept getting these constant tight and repetitive sensations in my chest. It felt like I had to yawn – but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get it out. It was trapped. All I can remember was screaming at everyone who was standing over me trying their best to hold me down and keep me still so the doctor could stitch my head.
I kept screaming at them, ‘I need to yawn, I need to yawn.’ Pleading with them to ‘just let me sit up to get ‘it’ (yawn) out. My mom told me afterwards that it took about 6 or more adults to hold me down in order to get the stitches in. I remember just being so scared to be in there in the first place plus – bleeding and in pain and then having these strange yawn ‘things’ but unable to release them. All to find out years later – it was my first anxiety attack.
It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I got a new doctor and I explained to her that I was still experiencing this nagging yawning thing in my chest that I’ve had since a young kid. Some days it was easier to get them and others not so easy. Without missing a beat, she says, ‘you have anxiety.’ That quick! It was like an immediate sense of relief came over me when she said that because it had all finally made sense.
What is Anxiety?
I still have anxiety and panic attacks. I have no problem talking openly about it most days, but I also do a good job (sometimes) hiding it. I’ve learned to live with it all these years and I’ve also had to teach myself how to try to control it when I know it’s starting to get control of me. There isn’t an easy fix for it – at least I haven’t found one yet! I’m pretty sure (based on who I am), that I’ll always have it; but at least now I know what my triggers are, what I’m capable of doing when that moment hits and what will or won’t help when I’m having an attack.
Anxiety doesn’t just make public appearances. I have been woken up dozens of time having attacks. Fast asleep then: ‘BOOM!’ I’ll sit up and try to breath it out and when that doesn’t work, I get out of bed, walk around a little bit and try to calm down whatever is going on in my head. Then once I’m back in bed, it’s a matter of trying not to think about it because then I’ll just have more attacks and then it’ll wake my husband up and then he’ll wonder what’s going on and repeat, repeat!! Seriously!! Our brains are quite a force. Just because we’re sleeping, doesn’t mean that our problems and go away. Of course getting sleep and rest is definitely crucial for our health, but it goes to show that in order to take control of our illnesses, we need to be in control. If we’re not trying to work through our anxious thoughts during the day, then we just end up taking them to bed and it just continues.
When I was really sick last year, I honestly didn’t think I’d ever get out of bed or do anything for myself again. It was pretty scary for all of us here. With my illness; stress and anxiety makes my daily pain and uncontrollable muscle spasms worse and my illness starts to take my body right back over. Not good for someone who has already suffered for years with anxiety. Now I’ve been diagnosed with a horrible illness that literally takes my body over and I have to remind my brain to remain calm in order to help stabilize my spasms and pain?! Ok.
I’ve always believed in the power of prayer and I consider myself to be a pretty positive person. I mean, I love my life and I’m extremely thankful and blessed every day. Even during my really bad days last year, I would remind myself that there were other people who were going through way worse than me. I’d try so hard to muster up all the courage I could and would put on a brave and calm face for my family.
Retrain Your Brain?!
Last March I’d had enough. Not that I hadn’t had enough before. I needed to dig deeper and try harder to find something that would help. (Despite of what that horrible Neurologist told me just months prior.) ‘You’ll never get better, in fact as you get older, you’ll get worse and you’ll always be in pain, ……’ Thanks lady. Just what I waited months for to hear.
I remember one day I watched a Netflix documentary called ‘Heal‘, and it really woke something up inside of me. It wasn’t until I watched this film AND finally decided to read the book my sister-in-law gave me: ‘You Can Heal Your Life,’ by Louise Hay, that I realized I wasn’t really taking the best care of my mental health that I thought I was. Nothing else was helping me get better. I went to specialist after specialist, I was house bound for months, I missed out on watching my boys’s hockey games and going to their school events and I really wanted my life back. I knew I had to work extra hard and start putting these new ‘practices’ to work so I could heal.
Click below for a great article about resetting your mind from Psychology Today.
One really important thing I had learned from the film and the book is that we use our subconscious brain 95% of the time and that we can re-train our brain?!
I joined a couple of social media support groups with other people who share my illness and there was always this one man on there who’d end his conversations with ‘PTA.’ Positive Thoughts Always.’ I thought I’d been doing that but turned out I wasn’t doing it consistently enough. Like every single thought needed to be controlled. How exhausting. I had to/still have to filter out the bad/negative/unwanted thoughts and things that come in to my mind and focus on only allowing in positive and wanted and good thoughts – and it was hard. It’s still really hard. You need to start by having an open mind and heart and really focus on allowing what you want your brain to hold on to and what kind of thoughts you will have. The power of positivity is amazing.
It took a lot of work to get started and there were days where I would just lay in bed and cry all day as I made myself work through and get rid of certain things that I was holding onto or suppressing/ignoring in my mind for faaaaaarrrrr too long. And why was I holding onto them?? They weren’t serving any purpose. I mean, I could really use the extra brain storage to remember more important things! 😉
This wasn’t a quick fix type of solution but it really helped me to get my life back. It’s now become a complete lifestyle change that I chose to do (along with other important things) and I still choose to every day in order to live my best life with my illness but without my illness being my life. Turns out our bodies don’t work that well without our brain – who knew(!), and we need to take just as much care of our mental health as we do our physical health.
Start Your Healing
This has been a part of my own personal experience with anxiety and illness and what has worked to help me get to a good place where I am right now. People will always have a lot of suggestions on how to help and what has worked for them or s0-and-so. Remember, they are (usually) coming from a good place because they care for you and just want to help you get better.
But it’s up to you on when and how you will help yourself to heal. A million people may be going through the same thing but can look and live completely different from one another; and who are we to judge? My wish for you if you’re suffering with mental health, is that you feel comfortable reaching out to someone and having the confidence to ask for and receiving help. The receiving part for me was hard. But that’s part of the healing process. Sometimes we have to push our pride aside. If you’re lucky enough to have someone offer you help, please take it. Mental health is exhausting enough & if you allow someone to drive you to appointments or have them fold your clothes (even if it is completely opposite how you do it) – just accept the help. This does not by any means say that you’re weak or incapable of doing things for yourself. Focus on your own healing and don’t worry what others might think or say…..easier said than done I know.
With so many great services and resources available here in Canada, I hope you find something that works best for you. Remember to give it time to work. Make an appointment with your family doctor or a health expert and seek professional advice from them.
I would love to hear what you do or have done to help with your anxiety/mental health/illness. Please don’t be afraid to reach out and remember to also check in on those you know who may be suffering as well. Mental health is nothing to take lightly and is nothing to be ashamed of.
Positive thoughts and prayers always. 💜 🙏