Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.
This week, we hear from artist Jasmine Torres, a married mom of two kids and a non-demanding beta fish.
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When I think about my relationship with anxiety, I would have to say that it was something I didn’t want to acknowledge. However, I can say that anxiety has always been part of my life. I never wanted to address how I was feeling, despite the clear need to. The emotional baggage of my traumatic upbringing would create anxiety in anyone. Yet, admitting that I had anxiety from my perspective was a sign of weakness.
I had to be tough! I couldn’t cry! I was on my own, there was no parental safety net. There was no comfort, no security in my childhood.
I needed to be independent and in control. I promised myself that I wouldn’t let them see me cry. Then as fate would have it, when I was 30-weeks pregnant, I was hit by a boat. I was completely vulnerable and left at the mercy of others. Needless to say, it was prime-time for my anxiety to show its ugly face. I was in pain and scared of everything. I went into control mode.
My physical recovery superseded my emotional recovery and for a long time I swallowed my pride and let people help me. Once I was able to, I focused my energy to creating this idealistic familial life, the one that I felt I was deprived of. In my mind, I thought it would be the cure to my feelings of anxiety if I could create a second chance at life.
It begins slowly and then escalates quickly if not addressed.
Some common symptoms include:
• Rhythmic foot and/or finger tapping
• Silent or fast talking
• Shifty eyes; nervously looking around to assess the room
• Irregular breathing; mostly waiting to exhale
• Increased heart rate or palpitations
• Stomach cramping
At its worst it can escalate to:
• Closed eyes or head down
• Labored breathing or hyperventilation
• Weakness in legs
• Talking becomes faster and erratic
• Body rocking and crying begins sometimes. Just acknowledging the feelings of sadness calms my nerves.
Doubt, fear, paranoia, sadness and insecurity are par for the course. My attempts to control those feelings have often been addressed with periods of overt confidence, fearlessness, and self-destructive and/or idealistic behaviors. When my attempts to control my feelings become too overwhelming or are not producing the desired results, I can shut down. My thoughts can become scattered or erratic. I can’t think objectively and I can become obsessively worried about the worst possible outcome. I am guilty of overthinking.
I wake up tense. I am in pain and I am upset. I am mad at the world for the feelings that I have and cannot control. When my anxiety is at its worst and I cannot find a way to cope, I can spiral into a depression. I imagine the worst and see no way out. I hide my feelings with isolated crying. Sometimes, screaming helps. It releases the accumulated stress. I get so confined in my own body and mind that the physical release is an explosion, like a volcano I can’t get out of quick enough.
My go-to coping mechanism is avoidance and distraction whenever possible. I make a concerted effort to surround myself with all-things-positive. As that may not always be feasible, I find that when anxious, addressing how I feel about what is happening versus thinking about what may happen is helpful. I find that sharing my feelings out loud or in text with someone I trust helps in weeding out the excessive thoughts.
I am learning to acknowledge and address my own anxiety in a healthy way. Now, I want to bring light to a subject that I think is overlooked in children and how it can manifest into much greater issues in their life. That feeling or instinct of “fight or flight” is an important survival skill that should not be underestimated. If we don’t teach ourselves how to deal with anxiety, we will be missing out an essential survival skill. My anxiety has given me strength in times of weakness or ambiguity. It has also given me weakness and uncertainty in times when I needed to be strong. The trick is to learn how sway its powers over you to your benefit and not to your detriment.