A few weeks ago, I made a comment in one of my posts about my anxiety and I received a few comments so I thought I would take a moment to write more about my experience and how I view my anxiety now.
This past weekend was the Rhinebeck Crafts Festival, and it was my first year being a participating artist. There were moments leading up to weekend when I felt lightheaded, tired, sweaty, and even at times like my chest was being crushed. Thoughts went through my head telling me I should back out, that I'm not good enough, I was way in over my head and unprepared for what was to come. The worst possible scenarios played through my head, and the overall feeling was I was going to die. This is sounds very dramatic, but it is what my experience feels like....a debilitating sense of dread.
Twenty years ago, I did not know I was having anxiety attacks, and I would try to ignore the mental sensations. But here's the thing...if the mind is trying to tell you something and you don't listen....the body is going to make sure you start to pay attention. For me, I started getting sick and was diagnosed with IBS. It got to the point where I could barely leave the house except to go to work. After a series of tests turned up nothing, my doc at the time suggested it may be anxiety. I was desperate and sought out the help of a therapist. I started to understand getting sick was a symptom of the anxiety, and as soon as I started to notice and pay attention, the IBS symptoms went away....the anxiety didn't, but getting sick started to wane.
This is not a quick journey, and I don't believe my anxiety will ever go away. I had an "ah-ha" moment one day while I was beating myself up about still getting anxiety attacks. Then it dawned on me....the anxiety will never go away, BUT I am now aware of the anxiety. This awareness has made me start to view my anxiety as a gift. This past weekend, each time my anxiety reared its ugly head, it immediately snapped me back into the present moment and took me out of the fantasy dread scenarios I was subconsciously playing out. I was able to calmly tell myself to stop, reflect, and bring myself back to the task at hand.
So yes, I have anxiety, but I don't see it as a bad thing anymore. I feel it's good to share my story since many are struggling with it. I used not say anything when I felt an attack coming on or was in the midst of one, but if I were to hold it inside, it would fester. Sometimes vocalizing what I'm going through, even to myself in the mirror, takes some of the power it has away. Some people want to offer suggestions or words of encouragement. For me, it is not necessary, as I am aware of what's going on, and don't feel any shame in expressing what's going on. Having someone to listen is enough. Now I see it as a part of the way I process challenges in my day-to-day life.
That's a bit more about journey with anxiety...if you are struggling, get help, there are ways to turn it into your superpower as I'm trying to do.