The Pain of Living with Anxiety
Anxiety is truly physical. It truly "hurts" the entire body when our security feels threatened.
Case in Point: Last week, I was traveling from North Texas to Oklahoma City to catch a plane heading back home. The drive from the Texas town to Oklahoma City is about 150 miles.
Over the past few weeks, I've done this routine several times to visit an important client. As I left the North Texas town on Hwy. 44, I could see some very "dark sky" in the northern sky just ahead. This being August, I expected to confront a popup storm or two, but nothing serious or consistent. Wrong!
As I drove northbound, the sky became blue, then purple, then green, and then black. And then the heavens opened. Sky-to-ground lightning, heavy winds, and torrential rain came pouring down at a rate of 3 inches per hour. Visibility was reduced to one-car length. I could see only half of a white dotted line on the road. The only other cars on the highway were pulled over, and due to poor visibility, it was difficult not to avoid hitting them from behind.
My body was filled with "anxiety" from head to toe. I could feel "pain" and "pressure" and "sweat" in the forehead, in my arms, in my chest, and even into my legs.
It was very real. Anxiety really does "attack."
Positive self-talk works
I kept doing a lot of self-talking: "I will be fine, I will keep going slow, it cannot storm this hard, for this long, forever."
The rain kept pelting my car windows. The winds kept blowing my rental car around. It was difficult to see and difficult to steer. The rain wouldn't let up. If anything, it seemed to become more intense, harder, and less likely to let up.
"I will be safe. I will not die here. I will get there."
It went on like this for 70 miles without a single break in the intensity of the storm. It was too intense and too dangerous to get off at any exit. The exits were too invisible, too flooded, and too elusive.
"I will be fine. I can do it."
I had to keep going for two reasons: 1) I have to make the plane in Oklahoma City; 2) It would be even more dangerous to try to stop. Finally, as I approached Oklahoma City, the torrential rains softened to just a hard rain, and visibility was restored to about a quarter-mile.
Seemed like heaven! I made it! Safe and sound inside the Oklahoma City airport! Now I had only to think about the turbulent flight still ahead of me.
I learned two things:
- Anxiety really does hurt.
- The adversity made me even stronger, and now lesser situations seem exactly that: lesser!
My battle plan
I've been at war with anxiety disorder for several years. Right now, I might be winning. I will keep fighting the good fight and hope that I can keep it going. Right now my battle plan against anxiety is:
- Taking it on! I'm traveling, thinking positive, and gaining confidence with every trip - every week.
- Vitamins and light dosages of anti anxiety meds, as needed.
- Taking a free-ride approach from "worry" more than normal.
- Honest, open, two-way discussion with friends and working associates. Finding out SO MANY have anxiety problems of their own!
- Drinking lots of water! It really helps!
"Free ride approach" from worry
I'm also trying not to worry about all the usual things like bad weather for air travel and things I can't control. I've realized that the "worry" is usually much worse than the event. Overall, I've simply made a choice to try and live completely in the present moment, not to worry about the past or the future, only "right now."
It's difficult, but it seems to be working for me.
Keep Fighting the Good Fight,