hello my name is Ashli and i suffer from anxiety.
i feel bad to admit that i used to be someone who would hear a person say they “suffered from anxiety” and immediately think that statement felt slightly exaggerated. i’d think, no they have anxiety, they sometimes feel anxious…its a bit much to say you’re suffering though. as with most things, man did life creep in to teach me otherwise.
we all get that as life goes on, it becomes increasingly more eye opening and challenging while also more rewarding and beautiful. this year proves to be no different for me – obviously with the car accidents and other changes that ebb and flow as always. breakups, professional changes, personal trials – all are synonymous with growth however are all a bit trying in their own way. thus the onset of my beloved friend, anxiety.
the thing is, i’ve always felt or experienced anxious feelings or thoughts and assumed these were felt and experienced by everyone. i got to the root of their cause pretty easily and could know that really what i felt was fear, or shame, or maybe guilt, or sometimes even love. this always calmed me because i was able to relax the root of the evil and i truly believe this is how i stayed off of medicine, something that to this day remains very important to me.
it wasn’t until the past month that i began to understand what it meant to suffer from anxiety. you see, i’ve had anxiety attacks many times – i get overwhelmed, i pace, i obsess, and more but i’ve (slightly) mastered the art of overcoming these. being outside helps, laughing helps, talking on the phone ALWAYS helps, and in 30 mins to a couple hours tops, i can think a little bit more clearly and i feel like myself. it doesn’t really interrupt my life so much because i know how to fix it.
the past few weeks have been different in the sense that not only am i in a downward spiral in my mind, but i feel it physically too. daily, i feel incredible pain in my chest, shoulders, upper back. all day, i have to consistently remind myself to unclench my jaw and my hands, i have to tell myself to breathe deeply every hour if not more often. trust me when i say, physical pain caused by anxiety does NOT HELP anxiety at all, friends. nothing says “hey feel better” like realizing your leg muscles are so tense you haven’t moved in an hour. this is all very new to me.
what else is new to me is learning the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack. APPARENTLY they are not the same and i for sure had my first panic attack the other night. i felt so overwhelmed, i couldn’t stop crying, i knew what had triggered me but could not let it go. i really needed someone with me, someone to rub my back, and to just let me get through what i was feeling. my first call was to my ex (who i’m sure was hoping it was a booty call). i called him because he had calmed anxiety attacks i’d had in the past, knows me better than most people and gets where this is stemming from. he responded coldly that he didn’t feel like finding parking, even though i offered to pay for the uber and if i really feel that bad to just go to the hospital.
cool. not helpful.
i called my friend in LA knowing the late East/West Coast time difference wouldn’t affect her and she helped immensely, but wasn’t here. she knew all the right things to say, said comforting reassuring words and made me feel loved and heard. although, i still really needed someone next to me. i knew how much that would help.
my next call was to a guy i’ve seen off and on and he was out with his friends, uninterested and generally annoyed at my disrupting his evening. he hung up on me.
cool. not helpful.
my final call was to a friend in the city who immediately answered, obviously asleep, heard my sobs and my one request “can you please come over?” and was immediately in a car on the way to my place. 10 minutes later i had a hug, a backrub, a glass of water and 20 minutes later i was asleep on my couch. may seem like a waste of my friends time to come over in the middle of the night just to rub my back for a few minutes, give me a hug and watch me pass out on the couch, but you have no idea how much that helped. it not only made me feel comforted so i could FINALLY sleep, but it also showed me that the Beatles were surely right.
we get by with a little help from our friends.
ps. unrelated but this is my friend Malikah! we did a collab a while back, keep your eyes peeled for the post about it. 🙂
so what now. what do i do with this new onset of what’s looking to be more like chronic anxiety and the potential for another panic attack in the future? what happens if you ever feel this way?
for one, take care of yourself. make sure you’re sleeping! it makes such a difference! i’m pretty anti-medicine so i take melatonin when i can’t sleep and it knocks me out. with that, LAY OFF the coffee. this one is VERY difficult for me because i love coffee but trust me, if you feel anxious, the only thing worse is giving it a product that stimulates that feeling. no coffee sadly also means no alcohol, at least in my personal life. i’ve learned that when i feel anxiety really hittin hard, consuming a depressant just makes me…you guessed it…depressed. and nobody wins in that situation. so i’m taking a break from coffee and alcohol and making sure i eat clean until i feel more balanced.
again, being outside helps. idk if its the fresh air because i live in NYC for god sake but something about sun, wind, etc. makes me feel more calm. going for a walk and calling an old friend or your mom or prayer (if that’s your thing) could really do wonders if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
as for the panic and the chronic pain, i’m not sure what to do here but optimistic i’ll find the solution here in no time. i thankfully have an amazing therapist i get along with really well in the city that i’m hoping can help me get past this. with therapy, a healthier lifestyle, and turning to my beloved friends and family, i’m sure, in time, this will be nothing but a walk in the park.
in really good shoes 🙂