First came the depression when I was a child. Then came the bipolar diagnosis when I was in my early twenties. Then came the borderline diagnosis a few years after that. Now, lately anyway, my main problem is anxiety. Anxiety is newer to me than depression or mania are. I don’t think I had much of it back before Edward & I got together because my life was such a wreck that I had very little to lose. Not much to lose kind of means you have no reason to be anxious but there are lots of reasons to be depressed. That’s how it has worked for me anyway. I still haven’t worked out how to cope with the anxiety in the optimal way. Not that I’ve gotten highly skilled at managing depressive episodes when they happen either yet. But still.
I’ve been trying what feels like everything to get my anxiety under control but I’ve found little relief. My psychiatrist & I have tried a handful of new medications, one after another, adding them to my current cocktail of meds. But all of them have had side effects I couldn’t handle or did nothing at all.
So, I figured, maybe medication wasn’t the answer this time. I started exercising almost everyday. I stayed hydrated. I started therapy again. I stretched. I got outside. I learned to breath deeply, horizontally, into my diaphragm. I talked to myself – saying reassuring things out loud when no one else was around to hear except the dogs.
It’s not making much difference most of the time. I’m frustrated with being anxious when there is no reason to be, exhausted from it, body always tense as if I’m in flight or fight mode, but I’ll keep trying. Anyone have any other ideas? I know I should give meditation more of a shot than I have.
I’ve done housework & artist work today. I’ve talked to people on the phone. I still have some housework to finish but I think I am going to go to the store, buy some yarn & knitting needles then spend the rest of the afternoon trying to make a ridiculously oversized scarf in August in Alabama while finishing up an audiobook I’ve been working on for way too long. Maybe knitting will be the answer? You never know.
When I started writing this post, the anxiety was intense. Now, I’m feeling, though still a bit anxious, something close to “myself” again. Now, in this moment, when I’ve just gotten off the phone with my best friend (she also has bipolar & is one of the most emotionally intelligent people I know) and I have a pleasant afternoon ahead of me. Or maybe it’s just that the 1mg of Klonopin I took earlier this morning has kicked in. Or maybe writing is helping. Or maybe it’s all a very tangled web of things, maybe there isn’t one solution, maybe it requires a menagerie of actions and lifestyle modifications and trying to think in healthier ways. Maybe this is just another step in my constant state of being a work-in-progress person, maybe learning to handle this intense anxiety when it arises, learning to self-soothe, is part of what will make me more whole. Maybe this is a part of my healing process.
What are some ways, fellow folks with intense anxiety struggles, that you manage? I’d appreciate your tips, tricks, strategies or just any feedback you have on dealing with intense anxiety.
(Photographs in post from my “Bipolar Series,” taken forever ago.)