Hijacked by anxiety

hijacked by anxiety.

why we sometimes fasely think we hate ourselves.

As of late, I have found myself slowly accumulating angst; anxiety that goes far above and beyond my daily battle with the beast. I know now, that I’ve been suffering more as of late because of the times we are living in. A fact that never dawned on me at the beginning of the outbreak. I now know that I was hijacked by anxiety.

This deluge of bonus dread snuck up on me like some sort of stealthy ninja; it was so slick that I really didn’t see it coming. However, in retrospect, having generalized anxiety disorder, I feel like I should have known better.

regardless of what I should or should not have seen coming, the fact remains that I did not. So, I simply had to deal with its fallout; move through it and not hate myself for it.

I really can’t find evidence to say; “yes, I should hate myself.”

Although I tell myself not to hate myself and not to fall for mental illnesses powers of destruction; my anxiety hijacks my sense of reasoning, thereby turning my brain into the wild west. The main player is, of course, anxiety; with guest appearances from my depressive disorder and my old arch-nemesis, PTSD.

Once I caught myself being overtaken by my own mental health conditions and accepted it; I couldn’t help but think about how others were coping. There must be millions of others out there living in their own sea of fear and uncertainty.

Hijacked by anxiety

Likewise, there must be just as many individuals on every continent hating themselves for the way they are feeling. But, when you look at the neuroscience behind what’s making us hate ourselves, it clearly shows that we have little reason to believe that we are the awful people our minds make us out to be. Now, more then ever, we are being hijacked by anxiety on an epic scale.

Want to hear people talk about their own mental wellness journey? Check out The Depression Files

Even though science can clearly show that what I am going through is preception based on emotions and not necessarily that of reality; the neurological processes responsible, make this “I hate me” phenomenon look and feel real. Thus, this “false reality” is in fact, at least in my mind’s eye, real.

Despite what the science says, my own, real experience with self-loathing seems to be synonymous with low mood and a heavy sense of dread.

Thankfully, I have come to understand the difference between what makes me, me and what makes up the symptoms of my angst. In other words, I try not to let symptoms of a mental illness define who I am.

Personally, I prefer to call myself a worst-case scenario thinker.

Although I do have these feelings, I acknowledge them and try putting it in context. For example, Is what I am feeling natural given the current circumstances?(heightened anxiety) Absolutely! Moreover, is it appropriate to hate me because of world events that are beyond my control? No, there is no logical connection between the two; therefore, it’s the anxiety highjack at work. I really can’t find any tangible evidence to say; “yes, I should hate myself.” Here’s why.

our brains on anxiety.

A more in depth look at anxiety and the brain

Our brains are amazing! This malleable mass that sits between our ears is responsible for making us who we are. It’s so perplexing to me that this lump of grey matter, weighing just three pounds, is responsible for driving our temperament, how we interact with others and the wider world around us.

Sadly though, it’s susceptible to corruption; both by other regions of the brain and by external influences. There can be many reasons for this; however, anxiety and or anxiety disorders are a great example of how we can be hijacked by anxiety.

How anxiety disorder effects our brains.

Now, with all that said, let’s use my generalized anxiety disorder as an example. Simply stated, my angst is exacerbated over anything and everything and it never shuts off. Therefore, The results of this turn me into a clinical worry wort a fact that I find very disheartening at times. So, personally, I feel better when I refer to myself as a worst-case scenario thinker.

for those of us with anxiety disorders, this response is literally running the show.

So just how exactly does anxiety work? What gives GAD so much power in the first place. Anxiety is thought to come from our old brain or limbic system; more specifically, there are two almond-shaped structures in the brain the help with emotional regulation. Its main job is to modulate emotions like; anger, fear, sadness and, you guessed it, anxiety.

This cluster of nerve cells lurking near the base of our brains is the main driver of our fight, flight or freeze response; basically throwing us in survival mode. This is a very useful function when facing the prospect of being eaten. This prehistoric alarm system has helped get humanity where it is today. However, in a busy modern world, most of the fear we experience is not immediately life-threatening. With that said, our every busy lifestyle and exposure to tragic news twenty-four-seven keeps us on constant alert.

For those of us with anxiety disorders, this response is literally running the show. We are often in this fight, flight or freeze mode for no discernable reason.

“When it comes our brains, our emtional centre seems to take precedent over logic and reasoning.”

While it may seem like there is no seemingly real reason for your anxiety to be ablaze inside your head, I can assure you there is and it’s rooted in our neurobiology. Here, let me explain. Have you ever noticed that the more anxious you are, the less you seem to be able to think clearly? Does it feel like you’re fumbling around in a fog, full of forgetfulness? Maybe you felt like your memory has gone on vacation or your concentration has checkout? That’s because all this is really happening…For real!

Mental symptoms of anxiety

While it may seem like it, trust me, you are not losing your mind. I know, I know, it feels like we are; sometimes we even feel like we are going to die. Of course, the good news is that we are definitely not going crazy and so far, at least in my experience, I haven’t died yet. All of these feelings are anxiety-driven. They also include that self-hatred feeling.

I would encourage you to challenge this notion by looking at it with your logical brain.

Ok, so what’s really going on when all this occurs? Essentially, the amygdala highjacks the part of the brain that is responsible for your personality, your ability to reason and to make good decisions. This area is known as the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain sits just behind your forehead, cool eh?

Higjacked by anxiety

So, why the heck does the amygdala do this? Well, simply put, it senses danger, real or imaginary. And in sensing this danger, it overrides and dictates all priority to your survival. in other words, it doesn’t need you to think or rationalize. It feels like you need to flee or fight.

Sadly, this emotionally driven dominance over the frontal lobe of the brain seems to be “always-on” in people with anxiety disorders and wreaks havoc in their daily lives. Imagine, living in a blanket of brain fog, not having full ability to concentrate; man, it’s hard work trying to keep up.

Lastly, it’s tough trying to wrestle with this I hate me notion; no matter how untrue it is. Just remember that in all probability, you were hijacked by anxiety. I would encourage you to challenge this notion by looking at it with your logical brain; if you can find little evidence of this, then it likely isn’t the truth.

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I Thought I’d be Cured By Now

Cured by now

Somehow, I underestimated the speed of my recovery.

When I first started this blog, The Road To Mental Wellness, I was certain that I would beat mental illness. Not only was I sure that I would get to the end of my wellness journey, I anticipated that I would be cured by now.

One might say “How can one predict a swift recovery when battling a mental health condition?” That’s a great question. It would turn out I grossly underestimated its strength. When I knew this battle lay at my feet, I was relived in a sense because I was no stranger to being debilitated by a psychiatric disorder.

Really, I should have known at its onset that this was no ordinary roadblock in life. Considering I am battling not one but three mental illnesses, a monumental fight that will force me to go the distance.

never run off entangled in a mental mess without figuring out a plan to free yourself.

My forecast, was indeed short sighted, it was predicted on my previous dances with anxiety. When I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, I systematically kicked its ass. I beat it by applying the same tools and principles I’m using today. So why am I not seeing progress?

How to treat anxiety

So what are these tools and principles? Well, in short, I do whatever it takes to get better. But John, what do you mean? Well, let’s go back to when my anxiety was winning and I was off work the first time.

While you’re here check out more posts here

I work with persons with sever mental disabilities and behavioral difficulties, sound stressful right? It is a unique environment, one that easily cultivates an anxiety disorder. I love my job but unfortunately so did my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). To add more complication to the matter, I was also a volunteer firefighter. Essential dealing with death and destruction at every turn.

Whatever it takes means that you make yourself vulnerable enough to seek out the help you need, to finally do the right thing for you.

And, as we all know, work is but one dimension of life. My personal life suffered from my ailment and inevitably, it also played a roll in my decline. I ended up in this negative, anxiety and environmentally driven feedback loop that accumulated to the degree where something had to give. It morphed into a mental health emergency. I knew I something had to give and let me tell ya, I wasn’t about to give up my life. So faced with the prospect of ending it all, I parted ways with my life and walked off the job and right into stress leave. I also made drastic changes to my personal life.

Being fully aware that I was teetering on the edge, I knew that if I were to survive this ever present demon that I would need a plan. If there’s a lesson for you in my own mental wellness journey, its never run off entangled in a mental mess without figuring out a plan to free yourself.

Whatever it takes means that you make yourself vulnerable enough to seek out the help you need, to finally do the right thing for you. In my case, I sought the help of a psychiatrist for medication and when he offered up referrals for counseling and a mood group I said yes! I read extensively about the mental health benefits of clean eating and exercise so guess what? I said yes to that too.

Benefits of a good diet and exercise on mental health

By saying yes, I turned away from the path of this mental health emergency toward the road to mental wellness. It was a six months journey but nonetheless I did recover. After this, I went back to work and did really well for a long time.

come hell or high water I will get there.

Cured by now

Sadly, despite all the progress, I was never able to completely eradicate the beast within. That said, I was winning the battles with all my new coping tools. I managed but started to realize that my amour was wearing thin. Near the end, I knew that I was badly damaged and needed help.

When I came face to face with my last traumatic incident I relented, fell to my knees and crawled my way out of my workplace. The only thing I knew is that I had finally fallen victim to post traumatic stress disorder. At least, that was what I suspected.

My suspicions were proven to be true as I was officially diagnosed with PTSD by a psychologist. So, there I was and still am fighting the biggest mental battle of my life. Still off work and will little progress made I have to look at it and say no wonder this is a longer fight.

When you read through the literature on PTSD you see the word debilitating a lot, indeed that’s true. Comparing the two mental health conditions and the two paths to healing is foolish of me. Does this mean that this time I won,t make my way back? Of course not. This round, it’s a much higher mountain to climb but come hell or high water I will get there, I will win.

Please note: that if you think you may have PTSD, please contact your health care provider and talk to them. I highly recommend you request a referral to your mental health services.

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You may also enjoy: PTSD: The Impact Of Stigma On Firefighters

IS THIS THINKING NORMAL

Is This Thinking Normal

Thinking back, I can’t remember a time when I felt what “normal” is supposed to feel like. But then again, What is normal? This tends to be a frequently asked question. Maybe its an individual’s experience that is their own sense of normality.

If this is the case, then how I feel inside, the heavy dread of anxiety lying to me with such frequency that I am forced to be on high alert for the next critical incident to manifest itself right in front of me – a disaster that in all probability will never materialize.
Even at its weakest, the angst of nothing still shouts at me in the distance, planting false statements in my head and convincing me that what I am hearing is the truth.

So, is this normal? What I have been going through all these years feels inescapable so it must be. Whatever it is, normal abnormal or otherwise, I long and I strive for at least entended periods of peace.

I used to mistake my anxiety and say I am a “worst-case scenario thinker.” I also held the belief that this made me a better firefighter, boy, was I taken for a ride. See, it can be difficult to differentiate the chatter that is mental illness from your authentic self; as a result, we end up assimilating the anxious talk into who we are. In other words, we believe it to be normal.

There’s no doubt that my years as a firefighter had benefited from my generalized anxiety disorder‘s thought patterns. The fire service has a way of creating a different mindset that is conditioned to see the potential for disaster and take steps to minimize that potential.

My worst-case scenario thought process coupled with this harm reduction approach that is ingrained in the minds of every firefighter, made my focus on the girls and guys of the department. I helped develop better accountability programs for equipment care. All in the name of safety.

Unfortunately, my inability to understand that my mental health condition was doing the majority of the talking, I ended up being completely lead by the powers of this anxiety, so much, so that I’m sure it guided me down the road of PTSD. It was at this juncture that I was so overwhelmed, so consumed with fear that I couldn’t even walk through the doors of the station. shortly thereafter, I walked away from one of my few true loves in life.

Are you in a similar boat? If so, ask yourself is this normal? Does it produce feelings of stress and angst on a near-constant basis, is it impacting my everyday living? Like me, maybe you’re being ruled by mental illness.



if you are suffering from PTSD or another mental illness, please reach out. I thank you for your service and you are still worthy and mean something. I believe in you!

If you are struggling please go here: Crisis Services Canada


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