Apartment Stories: Anxiety

Anxiety is a rather constant companion of mine. It use to be an every wakeful moment companion, a not let me sleep companion, and then it also use to bring its close cousin panic attack to the party. Thankfully, those days are behind me (for the most part), and anxiety only usually shows up occasionally, for small doses of time. Then this past week happened.

This past week –  last Sunday night and not stopping until about Friday evening, was rather brutal. Anxiety was with me more often than not. Doug, got sick last Sunday night, Monday we got our apartment sprayed for cockroaches. Those seem like insignificant things in the grand scheme of things – and they are…now. At the time it was anything but.

See, I have a phobia of throwing up. And Doug was throwing up. Was I there for him and taking care of him when he was sick – of course. Did I lose it thoroughly afterwards to my anxiety? Yes. Did I have a panic attack? No. Years ago I would have. So small steps in the right direction.

Then the spraying of the apartment. I had a sick boyfriend sleeping finally, and a piece of paper saying that I didn’t have to leave the apartment. Turns out the paper I had was wrong and we did have to leave – for 6 hours. Packed up sick boyfriend and we all went to my grandmother’s. Oh, and did I mention I was working from home that day too?

The next 48 hours were spent with me worried – irrationally worried – that I was going to get sick. Was I? No. Even writing that sentence makes me a little anxious because I’m afraid I’m jinxing myself. Doug had night shifts later in the week, and I slept over at my parent’s place after finding another cockroach after the spray and losing it. Because, hey, I hadn’t really been sleeping well. You can’t really sleep if you can’t really stop shaking.

The big triggers for me from this week that set me off were the throwing up and the change of my routine. Everything in the kitchen was in the living room and dining room, the stuff from the bathroom was in the hall and the bedroom. The apartment was in disarray, and I felt like I was in disarray already. Small drops of water as it were, that easily turn into a flood.

Now reading all of this from my calm mental and relaxed state – I know that I sound irrational. And that’s because it is. Anxiety is irrational. A switch gets flipped, a light goes off and all of a sudden your flight or fight response is triggered for no rational reason. And it can (as it did in this case) go on for days. It can be terrifying when you can’t easily calm down, and there’s no rational way to explain why you can’t.

So how did I calm myself?

As the week when on it started getting a little less on its own. I helped it along by meditating a lot. Meditating slows down your wayward thoughts, makes you breathe deeper, forces you to calm down slowly. I use the app Insight Timer. A friend of mine recommended it and it’s wonderful. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of meditations all for free. It’s fantastic.

I walked. Doug and I (when he’s not on night shift) taken 30-60 min walks around the neighbourhood. The exercise is light, but it gets you moving, gets your endorphins running, and by going with Doug it gave me someone to talk when my brain started running away with me again.

I also purposefully made this weekend my “reset weekend”. Doug and I put the kitchen and bathroom back together because a) it had to happen and b) it made me feel so much better. Friday night I went to bed at 9:30 and slept for about 9 hours. I woke up feeling refreshed. Saturday I made my day of rest – I cooked myself French toast for breakfast, I read, I relaxed. Sunday, was (is) more productive as we cleaned the apartment, and I sat down at my laptop to work. But even so, Sunday (today) is being approached with a relaxed productivity. Things need to get done, but there’s no racing around. It’s almost like nesting or puttering.

So here’s what I’ve been reminded of this weekend. Life happens, and it’s okay to fall apart after you’ve handled the important things (like taking care of a sick boyfriend), and it’s also okay to take the time to reset yourself. We’re not machines, and sometimes we don’t function like we think we should. And that’s all okay. We just have to take care of ourselves, ask for help when we need it, and most importantly try to remain positive that the irrational cloud that’s hanging over us from time to time isn’t a permanent fixture in the skyline.

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No More Same Old, Same Old

One of the big things that I added to my life’s to do list when I was going through my major anxiety time period was to not box myself in with the same routine over and over again (because it’s really easy to do that since routine makes you feel safe) but to keep trying and doing new things, and having new experiences.

In light of this promise to myself (and lets face it some days I succeed at it and some days I don’t) these are some of the things that I’ve done:

1. Flown to North Carolina for a friend’s wedding. This was the first trip that I went on out of country with friends and no “adults” for all that I was 26 and an adult. Talk about having a FINALLY moment.

2. Road tripped with my sister to Montreal to see comedian Danny Bhoy, who was hilarious.

3. Went to New York City for the first time to see one of my favourite comedians Russell Howard, and to see the city. Russell Howard was totally worth the drive, but I didn’t really like New York City.

4. Went to London, England and Wales, with a friend of mine and had a completely amazing time. I didn’t want to leave, and I want to go back.

4. Started playing some fantasy hockey and and fantasy football. I came second in my fantasy hockey league last year, and I’m determined to come in first this year. This is the first year I’ve played fantasy football, and I’m doing pretty good so far too.

5. Reconnected with some old friends who have become some of my core people. We’re actually driving to Niagara-on-the-Lake this weekend to shop and hit up some wineries.

6. Reading more, (hopefully) blogging more, being more conscientious of having “me time” so that I can chill and refocus myself and have that inner zen going on.

Things that I want to implement/get better at doing consistently in the future:

1. Exercise. I’m going to attempt to quit my gym membership tomorrow because I haven’t gone since February…maybe January…and it’s expensive. But the plan is that once I quit I sign up for a zumba pass at this place where my friend goes, because it’s fun, and maybe yoga too. (Once again for that inner zen business). It’ll also be cheaper than my gym membership. Yay saving money!

2. Writing more. I feel better after I write. I use to keep journals all the time, but I’ve gotten away from it the last couple of years. I find that journalling allows me to get all of the noise, thoughts, worries etc out of my head and onto paper where they just don’t seem as big or terrifying. I find that writing is something that just simply brings me joy and I’m all about finding the joy in life and holding onto it.

3. Keep trying new things, having fun experiences and finding the joy. I’m going to a pre-season hockey game next week with my friend Jason, I have tickets to see Cirque du Soleil in October with some of my family, and 4 of my favourite romance authors have books coming out in the next 2 months which means staying up late to read 🙂

The point is, I’m realizing, is to find things that I like to do and do them – not get caught up in my own head worrying about everything or being afraid of something. I’ve also realized that if I’m afraid to do something it probably means I should give it a go (within reason, obviously) because as the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood says, “no one got anywhere by being scared all the time.”