Anxiety?

GENERALIZED ANXIETY?

Is the constant stress you are feeling generalized anxiety?

Mental illness, sometimes it plays by its own rules; making you feel dreadful in a moment and inexplicably sad in the next. I don’t know about you but I think it’s fair to call it mother nature’s roller coaster. While it can feel this way at times, there are ways to combat its impact. Exercise being one of the best ones.

Anyone with a mental health condition can tell you all about certain emotional experiences, such as dread or fear but what about the impact mental illness has on us that we may be less aware of? Or even worse, no awareness what’s so ever?

So, what do I mean when I say less aware? Well, lets use my own life’s experience as an example. Rather disappointingly, I find myself almost chronically worried that I have done something to make people upset with me. This sad way to live isn’t new to me. However, relating it to mental illness is.

Like what you are reading? Try, Anxiety in the New Age

Generalized anxiety disorder, a mental illness that makes one ruminate and worry over anything and everything is the likely culprit. Whist I have always known that GAD made me a worst-case scenario thinker, I never thought that it would make me obsess over making everyone around me upset. But honestly, when I think about it, it makes sense. It is after all, a form of obsessive worry which; obsessive worry can be driven by an anxiety disorder.

Why DO I suspect that it is part of my anxiety disorder?

To start with, it was the frequency in which I was feeling worried. Sadly, I was worried over each and ever interaction. No matter who it was or in what way we were interacting. From social media to meeting in person, the chronic feeling that somehow I was making someone upset with me was and still is overwhelming.

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If that weren’t enough, I would and still do, build an entire mythical future in my head as to why I “Thought” my friends and family were made at me. adding layers. “Maybe I message them too often, do I not talk to them enough?” My biggest fear? Well, that the person I’m communicating with doesn’t really like me and thus I am seen as a bother.

GENERALIZED ANXIETY?

As time went on, I began to notice that I became anxious interacting with, not one person, but everyone; the everyone part is key here becasue:

  1. It was everyone. Best friends, family, co-workers, firefighter colleagues etc.
  2. And it was constant. In fact, it was so prevalent that It began to scream at me like a giant electronic billboard. “NO ONE LIKES YOU, YOU’RE BOTHERING EVERYONE!”

Generalized anxiety was the culprit?

To reach an ultimate conclusion on the cause, I had to use mindfulness to bring myself into the here and now. By doing this, I was able to let the logic centres of my brain and ask the right questions:

  1. Is it really possible that everyone you interact with dislikes you? Similarly, can everyone you know view you as an inconvenience? Of course not.
  2. So, since it’s not very likely that no one wants to interact with you, what’s really going on? Does it this feeling lay within you?
  3. If, so, what’s going on?

Want to hear people tell their stories? Go to The Depression Files Podcast.

Since I had been diagnosed with GAD years ago, I rightfully concluded that I generalized anxiety was the culprit. With that said, having a diagnosis made it easier for me to conclude but you don’t have to be.

So, if you recognize similarities, perhaps what I have laid out here can help you uncover some underlying mental health condition you did know you had. Through the process of mindfulness, you can quell the emotions and negative self-talk and clear your mind so you can discern what’s really going on and move towards healing.

Note: If you think you may have a mental health disorder, contact your doctor, psychiatrist or a psychologist; they are all able to diagnose you and thereby help move you forward.

Checkout the book I helped to write:

Lemonade Stand: Vol. III 

Created by Josh Rivedal and Kathleen Myre, Lemonade Stand: Vol. III is a compilation of 20 stories from those who have served in the emergency services and the military.  In it, the authors talk about their battles with PTSD, a debilitating and for many, a life-long mental illness.  So, if you are from the military or emergency service’s, perhaps this book can help you combat the feelings of isolation and fear that frequently comes with post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes, just knowing that there are others out there, just like you, can provide you with the strength and courage to speak up and or get the help you need. The intention of this book is to help with that…. You’re not alone.

Also, Lemonade Stand: Vol III was written to help combat the stigma that often accompanies mental illness, best of all, it attempts to give all you served their countries and communities a voice… Which is amazing!

Pre order today

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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