advertisement

Anxiety Symptoms – Anxiety Schmanxiety

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, a little over two years ago I survived a catastrophic apartment fire. Though I have not been formally diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and refuse to label myself as such without that formal diagnosis, I recently studied the diagnostic criteria and found every one of them to be relevant to my present state of mind. I do not doubt that formal diagnosis will come in due time.
Therapy can be grueling sometimes. Anybody who tells you differently is either lying or trying to soften the blow. Regardless, they've done you a disservice, in my opinion. In order to reap the benefits of therapy, a commitment to work hard in partnership with your therapist is required. I've engaged in trauma therapy to help with my anxiety. My experience with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) trauma therapy is hard work that's paying off.
I've suffered from anxiety since I was a child, although I didn't get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder until my late-30s. The often visceral symptoms of anxiety are hard enough for an adult to describe, let alone a child. The episodes I had as a child were scary, and while I tried to explain what was happening to my parents, they simply didn't know enough back then to help me. And so, I began to suffer my anxiety in silence.
I've been on antianxiety medication since 2001 when I was first diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Out of some odd compulsion or perhaps, shame from having to take drugs to manage my mental illness, I weaned off my anxiety medications three times since I began. The first two times, it ended badly. The last time, it ended in disaster.
My anxiety is, thankfully, well managed right now. But six months ago, my anxiety was so bad that I couldn't escape the intrusive thoughts that taunted me to end it all. I had intrusive thoughts of suicide.
I've had acute panic and anxiety since I was a child; this was undiagnosed anxiety, of course. I remember waking up out of a sound sleep in the middle of a panic attack, although I didn't know that's what it was at the time. My parents said I was having bad dreams, which I'm sure made sense to them. Even as a child, I knew that I wasn't having bad dreams, although the symptoms felt like I was locked in some kind of nightmare.
There are oodles of books on self-care nowadays. Its importance to wellbeing is plastered all over social media, is fodder for talk shows and podcasts, and is touted by doctors and therapists (in my experience) as essential to curing what ails the mind and body. That being said, practicing self-care can be hard.
I recently experienced an unexpected anxiety trigger while watching a movie. This had never happened to me before. Granted, the movie was about the impending doom of planet Earth, but it was a "dramedy": a movie combining elements of drama and comedy.
I've been drinking an average of two cups of caffeinated coffee a day for decades. This is not a lot by some standards. I relished my first "cup of Joe" in the morning, appreciating the way it got me going. That second cup in the afternoon was the delicious pick-me-up I needed. I always knew that caffeine was a stimulant, but I never quite understood how caffeine affected my anxiety, if at all.
I was in my late 30s when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). As a child of the '60s born of immigrant parents who survived both the Great Depression and World War II—each of them with their own harrowing experiences—I was raised with a don't-complain-pull-up-your-bootstraps-and-get-on-with-it mentality. As such, I grew up feeling unworthy of my anxiety.