16. Anxiety Crutches

1.png

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a crutch is “a source or means of support or assistance that is relied on heavily or excessively.” As someone with anxiety, I have had my fair share of crutches, from relying on family to take care of me to always carrying a few Clonazepam in my purse. When you are anxious, all you want to do is not feel anxious. You might go exercise or anxiously try to distract your brain by watching TV all day. Sometimes it will work, but when it doesn’t, the search to bury the anxiety becomes a source of anxiety itself.

This thought came about after watching one of my favourite Youtubers talk about how she deals with travel anxiety. She made a 20 minute video dealing with this topic since she also suffered from anxiety. In the video, she gives some solid advice about how she deals with travel anxiety. This included bringing books to read on the plane for distraction and downloading some relaxation apps. It was all good advice, but I couldn’t get through the whole video because I actually got more anxious watching it.

It made me reflect on why I felt this way. It is healing and helpful to have a list of strategies to deal with your anxiety. However, can these anxiety-combating strategies become a crutch sometimes? I remember that a part of my treatment for anxiety was to slowly face my fears. I think it is good, and even necessary to use these crutches initially to face the anxiety, but it is important to think of ways to slowly diminish your reliance on them slowly. I know it is hard, and I still carry a few Clonazepam in my purse. What are your thoughts?

Advertisements

15. I Am Obsessed With Happiness

1.png

I am obsessed with happiness.

Learning about it. Living it. Figuring it out.

I know it is probably a fruitless endeavour, but I can’t stop. I just find it too interesting to stop. Many people probably never even think about why they are here or wonder what is the meaning of life? I am not one of those people. Although, I wish I was sometimes.

Recently, I was reading the Instagram posting of a celebrity who talked about how he felt he hasn’t been happy since he was 10 years old. This idea really got me thinking. Is true happiness the kind we can only find when we were children? When we were carefree without a single worry in the world. When we greeted everything new with excitement and sense of wonder. If we don’t find that form of childish happiness again, is our life unhappy?

I guess it is easy to romanticize our childhood joy because we can never replicate it again. I’d like to think every time we get the thrill of a new experience, like visiting a new country, we get to almost replicate that joy again in a small way. However, this time around we might actually be able to realize how precious it is and to savour the moment.

But I don’t really like thinking that we have reached our peak of happiness when we were 5 years old or something. I think we still experience happiness. It is just a different type of happiness and there shouldn’t be a measure of which type of happiness is the best. I mean, being happy is usually a good thing.

14. Choose To Be Kind

1.png

In my last blogpost, I talked about how I think it is more important to be kind than right. I wanted to expand on that idea is this blogpost. I find that as we get older, our viewpoints and personality become more distinct and solidified. For example, we know where we stand with certain issues and how far we can be pushed into a corner before we will say something. It is all a part of growing up and helps us feel more confident and well-adjusted as an adult. However, I find that as our opinions get stronger, sometimes our tolerance for other opinions lessens. We like being right. We want to feel good about ourselves and who we are. Sometimes, it is easy to dislike or criticize those that think differently from us without any consideration of someone’s feelings.

Over the years, I have learned that it is much better to seek to understand before you make judgement. Of course, everyone gets upset in the heat of the situation. However, if you try to step and look at a situation from afar, you’ll realize that it might not be as polarizing as you think. If you try to understand that person’s actions in light of their background and personality, you might be able to dial back your anger at least a little bit. Even if you don’t agree with them, you might at least be able to understand where their thinking might be coming from. I also find that many preconceptions are easily cleared up through communication and understanding. I know there will be times where being kind won’t work, and that is ok, because we are all human. However, I find that choosing to be kind, not only often helps a difficult situation, but also makes me happier too because it creates more harmony around me.

13. Gossiping at Work

1.png

This week, I ended up having lunch with some coworkers that I have known for a few years. I mean, we are not close friends or anything, but we have gotten to know each other over the years. I know how many kids they have, what they like to eat, and their personalities. However, it is only when you get to talk to them privately that your learn about their truer self. So I was sitting with them having lunch and chatting and they started talking about other coworkers. They were complaining about how one coworker always got her way. I sat there just listening and thinking about how I felt about people who gossiped about others at work. Does it make me think less of them as a coworker? Are they trustworthy? Are they just venting? Is it alright if it is not malicious gossip?

I try to not to gossip at work because I feel that it disrupts harmony in the workplace. However, my husband will tell me that I am living in a cloud because gossip runs a workplace. I guess, we are all human, and we can’t help gossiping sometimes. Perhaps, it is not gossip sometimes, maybe we are just logically dissecting a situation with zero emotions involved. Yeah, right? I know. The reason I am so into this topic is because I can’t figure out why I like people less if they gossip a lot at work. Maybe it is because I don’t like the thought of people spreading rumours behind someone’s back. I figure if you really have beef with someone, you should just talk to them. Obviously, I understand that is easier said than done. Plus, there are obvious benefits to gossiping like figuring out which people are more similar to you, and staying in the loop with work coming and goings.

I think ultimately how much someone gossips lets you understand them a little better. Maybe they gossip negatively about others to make themselves feel better. I have no idea what their background is to just simply judge them base on this one action. For whatever reason, instead of thinking of them negatively, maybe I should l think it allows me to understand what makes tick, what they expect from a coworker, and how they choose to operate as a person. Most importantly, it always better to be kind then right.

12. Relationships and Anxiety

1

After writing last week’s post about how others deal with my anxiety, it got me thinking about how I deal with others after being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Most relationships will change and evolve as we age. However, I find that as someone with anxiety, these relationship changes can become accelerated because you really get to see someone’s “true colours” when you fall ill. You also get to fully understand how deep that relationship really is. Who are the people that come to visit you at the hospital? Who will be there no matter what? Who do you feel comfortable talking to about your mental illness?

I remember when I was really sick at the hospital, the thought of having to deal with people was the last thing on my mind. However, I knew I couldn’t just disappear off the face of the earth without any sort of explanation. So I dealt with it the best I could at that time. Now that I am feeling better, I can look back at it all and reflect on how that hospital stay was a catalyst for a slight shift in all my relationships. It added another dimension and layer to my understanding of that person and how I will interact with them in the future.

For example, my parent’s way of dealing with my anxiety was to feed me and take care of my necessities. They were not that interested in hearing about all my thoughts and feelings or the nitty-gritty details about my mental illness. At first, I felt a bit of resentment about that, but now I understand that is their way if dealing with it the best way they knew how. We can’t expect everyone to cater to our expectations of them because that would be unrealistic and unfair and take away what is unique about them. Every relationship in our life fulfills us, teaches us something, and helps us grow. I have learned to appreciate that over the years.

11. Am I That Fragile?

1.png

Since mental illness is considered a chronic condition, there is no cure. Treatment is all about managing the symptoms and creating a sense of balance. It is different for everyone but treatment could include exercise, medication, talk therapy and even blogging. For me, I find that balance can be quite difficult to achieve because it is dependent on so many factors, like if I have eaten well that day or if I had a super busy day at work. It is definitely a challenge I face everyday.

One factor that I find really difficult to deal with is how others react to me. As someone with anxiety, I find I will often be worried about what others think of me. Even though I feel more comfortable around family members, I find that because my family is important to me, their comments affect me even more. My uncle and me have always had an up and down relationship. After an argument many years back where he was very frank about some of my choices in my life, we kind of stopped talking authentically to each other. We tended to hover around topics that would be considered small talk. We even avoided spending one-and-one time each other as much as possible. Lately, I found out that he avoided travelling to come visit me because he felt he would stress me out. My family members reassured me it was probably not me causing this issue, his own anxiety probably prevented him for travelling, but it got me thinking. Should I be avoiding people that make me anxious or confront them?

I must admit I talk about my anxiety so that others can understand my illness. It relieves me the stress of having to hide it and having to explain anxiety-induced behaviours. I also discuss what others can do and say to help my anxiety. Basically, I teach others how to deal with me and my illness. Ironically though, I also feel insulted when people feel like they have to walk on eggshells when they are around me. It makes me feel useless and even more fragile. I want to tell them that I actually can handle some stress and that with treatment, I am able to live a relatively healthy life. To find balance between these two streams of thought isn’t easy for me sometimes. On one hand, I want people to understand me, but on the other hand, I don’t wanted to be treated like a fragile creature. How do you find the balance?

10. Shared Perspectives

1.png

This week, I was thinking about how much blogging has helped me. Other than being a place where I can express my thoughts and worries, I have also felt less alone reading and connecting with others who also have mental illness on this platform. Recently, I just read Fractured Faith Blog’s post entitled, “Swallow Your Pride. Swallow The Pill.” It made me think about how similar many mental illness patient’s journeys can be. I had actually written a similar post entitled, “Sometimes it Truly is a Bitter Pill to Swallow” just a few months ago. Even though our journeys might not be identical, but the general trajectory may be similar and there might be certain experiences that feel exactly the same. By reading and commenting on each other posts, we can all help each other in our recovery. We feel less alone, find new perspectives, and support each other. Even though social media and the Internet can often be portrayed in a negative light, it can also be a powerful place, and a positive one at that.

So what did I come away with after reading Fractured Faith’s blogpost? I think the one overriding thought I connected to was his discussion about using medication as a crutch. My thoughts about medication have truly evolved over the years. Initially, I couldn’t wait to get off medication. At that time, I thought that if I could get off medication, I would consider myself healed. I guess, it was also my drive for perfection that made me want to quit. This is a character trait that many people with anxiety disorders seem to have to deal with. After several episodes of depression though, I have realized that medication can be crutch, but it can also be a tool to manage my anxiety and depression. Today, I no longer beg my doctor to taper me off my medication. Instead, I understand that it can be a part of my treatment plan which allows me to live a relatively healthy life. If you look up the word “healthy” in a dictionary, it doesn’t only mean physical health, but also mental health. Everyone has the right to attain a healthy life and you should not be ashamed to take medication if it makes you healthier.

9. Vacation Anxiety: How I Deal With It?

1.png

I was initially going to write this post before I left on my vacation, but you probably guessed, I got anxious just thinking about this topic. I used to not be able to sleep for days before a trip due to anxiety. I do enjoy travelling, but I hated the anxiety that came with it. My sister and I were talking about how it would be great to just snap our fingers and end up somewhere else in the world. It would be great not to be anxious about forgetting to pack my passport or more important, my anxiety medication. Furthermore, I find sitting for hours on a plane with my own thoughts very anxiety-inducing. I try to distract myself with reading magazines and watching videos, but not being able to walk around freely and do whatever I want felt very restricting. So what has helped me battle travel anxiety?

Plan, But Don’t Over Plan

As someone with anxiety, I tend to over plan many things. For example, if I have an oral presentation, even if it is a few lines, I will practice it hundreds of times. Instead of writing notes, I will also write down every word I will say on an index card, so that I won’t make a mistake. Of course, I think if you are travelling to a new place, it is nice to have a general idea of places you want to go and learn how to roughly use their transportation systems. However, I find if I over plan, I get even more anxious. It makes me feel like I have this schedule that I have to follow and that there isn’t any wriggle room for maybe days I just feel a bit overwhelmed and want to take a break. I find that having a more flexible plan also allows me to condition myself and practice dealing with random and sudden situations during my vacation.

Go With Someone Who Understands Your Mental Illness

Hiding my mental illness is one of the most difficult, if not shameful things, I have had to do over the years. More often than not, there is no choice but to tell someone after a while.  I think this will happen especially during a trip because going to a new place will inevitably elevate a person’s anxiety. It may seem like a crutch to depend on someone who knows how to deal with your anxiety on a trip. However, I just don’t find going on a trip to be the best place to test the limits of how you deal with your anxiety. I would like to think going on a vacation should be a fun experience. I went on this trip with my sister and I felt so much more relaxed because I knew I could tell her when I was having a bit of anxiety and what I needed.

Attempt to Go With the Flow

I know, I know. This is way easier said then done. However, going on a trip is the best time to practice this a little bit. Even if you booked everything and planned out all your travel routes, everyone gets lost on trips and things never quite completely turn out as you planned. I think it is better to go into a trip with the mentality that things will not always go according to plan. Of course, this will not always work. Yet, I find that if I go in expecting uncertainly then when it happens, I find I am more prepared to deal with it. Moreover, it is good to have game plan prepared for dealing with this uncertainty. That way, you can pull it out and run through it when you need to. For me, I usually tell myself to just stop and take a breath and then try to breakdown the options.

What are your tips for travelling with an anxiety disorder?

8. What is a Fulfilling Life?

1

Personally, I find the whole concept of living each day to the fullness super stressful. First of all, what does that mean? For an logical overachiever like me, most of the time I am just confused about how to excel at this concept. Does it mean you have to be happy every second of the day? Does it mean you have to find some joy in each day? What if it is just a mundane and boring day, am I still living my “best life?” Maybe it is like a math equation. Fulfillment is calculated, not by the average happiness of the day, but by the overall average of happiness in the year.

Let’s face it. Even in a job that you enjoy, there is no way that you can find it fulfilling everyday. I find that the five day work week can get super monotonous. You get up at the same time, you brush your teeth, and then try to rush out the door to make it to work on time. I mean, there are some jobs where there is more variety. In my case, I wouldn’t say my job is like the movie, Groundhog Day, where everyday just repeats itself. However, there is still a sense of routine in my line of work. There will be tasks that I deal with everyday even though it might be with different people and situations.

For someone with anxiety, routine is extremely helpful for me. However, do I find it always fulfilling? Not necessarily. I really love most aspects of my job, but I don’t enjoy it at all times. Even the things I love to do can get boring and monotonous over time. Moreover, since you are being paid, you have to do it even though you are not “feeling it” that day. Obviously, I understand if there was no time schedule, maybe nothing will get done though. So how do I get fulfillment when I don’t feel like working that day? I have no answer to this except that I keep plugging along and most days I feel content at work, and even fulfilled. Sometimes, I wonder though, if it would be better to be self-employed and have more than one job. I mean, as people, we are multi-faceted and have different hobbies and interests. Why can’t our jobs be like that too?

7. Does Fun + Stress = Happy?

1.png

Last week could be summed it in a few words: pure fun and exhaustion. Why is that often the “funnest” things can also be the most tiring? What would you choose? Doing something that is great fun and great stress or something that is great fun and no stress. The obvious choice would be do something that is fun and not stressful. However, somehow doing something that is fun and stressful usually gives me more satisfaction overall. For example, this event I planned ran for three days, and I was just physically and mentally exhausted at the end, but I just felt so happy that completed it! For me, that feeling of satisfaction is worth the stress and anxiety I endured. “Coasting” along in life is fun, but finally finding that place where you feel happy and fulfilled is even more fun.

Last week also made me think about “being busy.” Since I have anxiety, I often try to balance work with rest. Usually on days off, I will focus on “me time.” I like to spend hours by myself, not talking to anyone. For some people, this may sound absolutely horrifying, but silence really always my brain to relax and reset. I am a complete lover of my own company. For me, this last week, has felt the complete opposite. Every day felt like “go, go, go.” I didn’t have a minute at work to even let my brain chill out. It felt like it was constantly “buzzing.” Weirdly though, my brain was so occupied with just completing the task at hand, that I had no time to ruminate over my anxiety as much. That is perhaps why my doctor insists that I don’t take time off work because it can sometimes help my anxiety.