About a month ago, I wrote about my long/ continuous journey dealing with eating disorders… I wanted to follow up with readers, my close friends, co-workers and other loved ones to address why my journey to recovery is a winding road with tons of U-turns and roadblocks.
It was recently brought to my attention by someone that I work closely with on a daily basis and that I care deeply about that, “I am an f-ing conundrum…” Yes, you heard correctly. If you can imagine, I was quite taken aback by his comment and this is what has prompted me to write about what makes me the way I am.
I have been told many times that I am hard to figure out, that I am a “weird bird…” (which I find hilarious). Truth be told, I do have odd personality traits and I do from time to time react without fully seeing the big picture. There is a method to my ‘madness’ though—like I said earlier, my recovery has been a long road which has brought with it lots of challenges that I deal with on a daily basis; one of them being chronic anxiety.
Let me start by clarifying something. When I refer to my “anxiety,” I am not simply talking about my fears or my reactions to stressful situations. I am not talking about the kind of anxiousness that everyone experiences throughout their life. I am talking about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)- a mental condition that affects nearly every aspect of my life in one way or another.
I was diagnosed with this DSM IV classified anxiety disorder when I had my anorexic/ bulimic relapse while in college. The anxieties surrounding eating and weight were on my mind constantly but I noticed that something changed… I was nervous, afraid and stressed out about EVERYTHING.
I know this might seem like I am exaggerating but let me tell you, my anxiety was controlling my life. The major lifestyle change that prompted me to seek the help of a Psychiatrist was developing obsessive/ compulsive tendencies.
These rituals and obsessions would send me into a nervous whirlwind where I could not leave my house for hours… checking then double checking locks, burners, and cleaning my apartment until my hands developed open wounds. Oh, and the panic attacks!! Don’t get me started on those… absolutely horrible and beyond scary.
My diagnosis was over 5 years ago-- I am a working professional now, taking medication on a daily basis to keep my symptoms on the DL… but from time to time you will see glimpses of my anxiety disorder. This is why I am writing an open letter—an open letter to those who do not quite get me or don’t know how to deal with my random, overly sensitive behaviors.
I try to hide my struggles but I know you see it. You see it because you care. And because you care, you often try to help. You tell me to take a deep breath. You tell me to calm down or to stop worrying.
You try very hard to diffuse the situation. But it has never worked…
I am writing this letter because I want to be fair to you. I want you to understand what my anxiety is and what it feels like, because I want you to know I am not ignoring your advice. I know my emotions can be hard for you to deal with and our relationship is not an easy one. And for this reason, I feel like I owe you an explanation.
Anxiety feels like an ocean. When the waves of anxiety hit, I struggle to keep my head above the water. It is an overwhelming moment that makes me gasp for breath. The water is dark and heavy. And the more I struggle the faster the water rises.
The words “calm down” force me to struggle against my anxiety. Again, the water rises a little bit more.
It should be obvious, but please remember: if I could stop my anxiety, I would have done so by now. These emotions are not a choice, or something I have invited openly into my life. I am not a victim, but I am certainly not a willing participant. Please stop telling me to calm down. Please stop using phrases that imply I should be able to control my anxiety.
I know you want to help me—you wouldn’t be reading this letter if you didn’t—and I love you for that. But you need to stop trying to help me rationalize the feelings that I have spent my entire early adulthood trying to comprehend. Irrational emotions and fears cannot be understood. Listen to me, but do not offer “easy” solutions. Most importantly, know that you don’t have to fix me or make my anxiety go away. I want you to be my friend, not my therapist. I will never put those kinds of expectations on you.
I wish you did not have to deal with this. Ironically, you seem to feel the same way about me. So this is a learning process for the both of us. I promise to keep trying new ways to cope with my anxiety. In return, I simply ask you to keep being my friend. Friendships like ours are often what keep my head above the water. And that means everything to me.
Move Your Body and Relieve Your Mind of Stress with Asanas (Body Postures):
These yoga poses can help achieve a happy and healthy mind and body. Asanas helps release tension and negativity from your system. Here are my top four favorite poses I use when I start feeling anxious.
Mediation, keeping faith and smiling are also very important in the reduction of stress through yoga practice. Mediation, in my opinion, is the best form of reassurance and support to keep you anxiety-free-- it fills you with positive energy and also helps still the mind.
Moreover, make a conscious effort to smile a little more each day. Showing those pearly whites will instill confidence, calmness and positivity instantly. Try it out right now!! :)
Yogis: Want some product ideas for kickstarting an anxiety/ stress-free yoga practice?
Check out some of my favorite products below!
|Brittany Epley is a recovering overachiever, a single mother to a Beagle puppy named Dixie-Rose and a spiritual gangster wannabe. She graduated in 2012 from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies) where she majored in Psychology and Biology and minored in English. Brittany recently moved back to her hometown of Richmond, VA where she is currently realizing that life and being a responsible adult is the craziest thing there is—and she is learning (aka struggling) to go with the flow.|