I had a beautiful chat with a friend from home last night. And she asked me, you know, what do you do to deal when you’re having an anxiety attack? Well, first of all, I rarely have them these days. But what I use to do, in the early days, was freak the fuck out because I felt it coming on. And because I was so scared of it happening, I would actually, get this, send myself into the very thing I was trying to avoid. Essentially, I was so freaking scared of having a panic attack, that it led to, guess what? Me having an attack.
You see, as I said before, anxiety doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t. It’s irrational. It’s complicated. It is it’s own brand of disturbing. And so I was, in essence, perpetuating a cycle. I would try to stop the panic attack, through panicking, which led to the very thing, as I have already said, that I was trying to avoid in the first place.
What kind of madness is that?!
Today, when I feel like a panic attack is coming on, which is knock on wood, much rarer these days, I identify it right away. I say to myself, and sometimes even out loud so I can hear the thought, that, “Mandy, this is a panic attack, it won’t last forever. You’ve had thousands. You’ll be fine.” And then, I’ll often either sit down, and breathe and try to ground myself. Press my feet into the floor, feel my hands on my lap, or I’ll just continue whatever I’m doing and be present with that anxiety.
I don’t try to force it away. Because, that gives anxiety its edge. That gives anxiety its false strength over you. It’s not stronger than you. It can’t be. It’s not stronger than love. It’s not stronger than laughter and those are other things that make up who you are. You are never just an anxiety disorder. You aren’t. You are you. And perhaps you’re dealing with it, but so what? You have strengths, too.
So to anxiety, I just kind of say, welcome aboard. You’re here. Throw out a sarcastic, fucking great. And continue on. New things give me anxiety. But I don’t stop myself from doing them. For instance, I had always wanted to backpack Europe, so I did it. Did I have a panic attack at some point in every new city? Well, pretty much. But as I traveled more, I panicked less. When I started this new job in February, I had several panic attacks. But I kept coming to work. I don’t give anxiety the same power over me that I use to. I still feel it every day. Every single day. And let me be clear, you don’t get use to it. You accept it. That’s what you need to do. That’s just what you have to do, really. Just keep pressing forward.
The thing is, and this is a fact, anxiety cannot last forever. I keep saying this because it is so, so important. It’s impossible to have an anxiety attack forever. Feelings are fleeting. And that’s one of the most central and important lessons that I’ve learned. When you feel good, when you’re doing good, you pretty much forget how bad it actually can get. And that’s the days, when you know, you’re having a good day, or a month, or a year.
The attack will pass. You’ll be a little rattled, but you, my friend, you’ve got a life to live. And love to give. The less you fight it, the less you have to fight. I would not consider myself to be fighting anything anymore. I’m living, and one of my motto’s is this, “not afraid to live, not afraid to die.” It’s what I would say to myself in 2013. Like, nothing scares me. Besides bumble-bee’s. Which I know, save the bee’s. But they scare me. But other than that. Nothing else.
I’m going to live this life, and anxiety is, I now realize, going to live it with me. She’s going to be that third person in bed with me every-night. Riding side by side, my ride or die for, the rest of my life. But that’s okay. It is what it is. I’ve accepted that.
Sometimes, I look at it like a blessing. I am confident in who I am as a person. I love myself as a person. I feel like I have been given some insight into something, that many people will never actually understand. It’s made me, well, me.
The last thing I’ll say is this. Build up your resiliency when you’re feeling strong. Participate in yoga, meditation, seriously. Your brain has plasticity, and the more you practice feeling calm, and finding a sense of calm within yourself, the better apt you will be at living with whatever mental cold that’s bringing you down.
There’s so much hope. There really is. When I think of myself all of them years ago, which really wasn’t that long, and while I write this, tears are actually brimming my eyes. And if you are where I was, then know that my soul is spreading itself across the distance to let you know that you’re going to be okay, and that it really, really, really gets easier. It takes practice. It’s hard. But it gets easier.