Yack-ity-yak, Anxiety is Back!

Recently I’ve noticed my general anxiety level has been steadily rising and I don’t know why. In spite of feeling reasonably good about myself, which is major progress, I seem to have backtracked anxiety wise. I’ve even had several panic attacks in recent weeks that have left me shaking and crying and cuddling my kitty.

Anxiety makes me feel like it’s all moving too fast😱

My habit of constantly second-guessing myself about every decision I make has come back to haunt me and I’m frustrated as I worked so hard to slaughter that beast. I’ve found some of the fears I had overcome have returned without warning or reason.

When my anxiety was at its worst about 5 years ago I developed a fear, first of taking turns or bends while driving, especially on highways. This fear then morphed into a full-blown fear of highway driving.

A few days ago I drove my new car, this likely added to the anxiety, to a nearby small town with a notoriously steep hill one must descend into town. I found myself growing more and more uncomfortable. The fear bubbled up with each curve on the way there and I couldn’t stop thinking of that steeply curved hill.

By the time the hill came along I was doing my best to breath deeply but wanting to hyperventilate, shaking badly and repeatedly picturing all the different ways I was going to die in a fiery crash or cause deadly accidents for which I’d be arrested and locked up in jail where I’d be beaten and berated as a murderer (yes, my mind is a fucked up place).

This is a great example of how anxiety grows and grows until it either becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy or one makes it through to panic another day. I tried all of the anxiety tricks I’ve collected over the years; deep breathing, listening to calming music, singing along with music I know well, leaning back in my seat and forcing myself to feel my body relax, checking my assumptions and reminding myself I’ve gone down this hill many times before and always survived, focusing my attention on rhythmically checking each mirror, my speed, and where the other cars near me are situated.

I think I did a fairly good job coping with the hill so I made sure to pat myself on the back for keeping myself as calm as possible in spite of my urge to either put my hazard lights on and drop my speed to 10km an hour, or abandon my car, walk the rest of the way down and have my car towed home.

I guess the point of this story is that it’s best to have a whole bunch of options to choose from when panicking. I tried a whole bunch of things and then found the final few that worked. Had I only one way of coping with my anxiety that situation in my car might have been a major problem.

So, collect as many tools as you can in order to combat both anxiety and depression. I hope I am able to keep more of these attacks from happening and I can keep my general anxiety at a low grade. I’ll be using many of the tools I mentioned earlier and many others to help me cope.

A number of my other blogs contain information about coping with anxiety, if you search the terms, anxiety and panic attacks they’ll all pop up for your perusal. In the future, I plan to start a page dedicated and frequently updated with ways of coping with anxiety.

*please note I am not a medical professional, I am just a person who’s been struggling with anxiety, depression and chronic pain for 13 years. The ideas for helping with anxiety in this article are just tricks I’ve picked up throughout my battle.

K

Ode to my Anxiety Monster

To me, anxiety is a monster and the monster is made up of an infinite mouth space filled with infinite steely, sharp teeth, all the better to gnaw me with, and infinite blood-shot eyes, all the better to follow me with.

The more relaxed and calm I am the further away the monster feels from me. Sometimes I might even forget the monster is around at all.

As soon as anxiety creeps in the mouth filled with sharp teeth and eyeballs begins to close in on me. The more panicked I become the tighter the space around me gets until soon I’m not just anxious about what’s worrying me I’m also anxious about the anxious monster.

Below is a drawing and a poem about what it’s like to feel trapped in the monster with the anxiety moving in closer and closer and closer…

Anxiety has its teeth in me
Stabbed in my back where u cant see
I’m alone but it’s with me
Despite my trys to set it free
I’m battered, beaten&broke down
In depression I may drown
Alone&useless but that’s me
Trapped inside my own body

Can you relate? Tell me what anxiety is to you? what does it look like? How does it feel?

K

Passion Practice 

Author Malcolm Gladwell posits to gain expertise at something one must put in roughly 10,000 hours of practice and study.

I believe I have my 10,000 in many aspects of curling. I believe I have roughly 10,000 hours accumulated in writing and reading but I feel I could do with another 50,000 hours of study before obtaining the expertise in literature and how to craft prose without sounding like a poseur. 

I was recently asked by someone trying to get a feel for how serious I am about art,”When did you last make art?,”  

I immediately replied, “last night before bed. I try to practice drawing and/or painting every day.”

I’ve been asked about this too with regards to writing and the answer is generally the same. I work hard to practice whatever I want to gain skill at every single day whenever possible because, for me, this is what keeps me moving closer to competence and , eventually, expertise. 

I find my confidence grows the more I practice. I try to vary my studies. I read a bizarrely broad range of books. I try writing in as many genres as possible. With art I experiment with as many different mediums and styles as I can.

Sure there is reading material I prefer but I try to mix it up in order to see what I might be missing. I am often surprised to find myself enjoying things I felt skeptical about at first.

There are also styles of writing I enjoy but I try everything from Haiku to science fiction. Again I am always surprised to find myself enjoying an unexpected new writing style. Art is also always surprising me. The more I learn, the more I grow to llove the practice.  

My wish is that everyone has a chance to work towards exploration, achievement, and advanced knowledge in whatever one finds a passion for, be it anything from plumbing to flower arranging.

Knowledge is power, skills are transferable and practice is a huge part of growing and learning and stoking the passion within us all.

K

Anxiety Cycle

I’m feeling paralyzed again. Mind can’t think and body feels like it’s vibrating. Chest is tight. Breathing seems hard to regulate. Too deep or too shallow, that’s me.

How many days now? Four I suppose. When will this cycle end?

Painted today and that helped for a while.🖌🎨

Tired of avoiding caffeine.  I like a good cup of coffee or 2 but I just can’t tolerate it when I feel this jangled.🍵🍵 Not even decaf.

This will pass. This will pass.This will pass. This will pass.This will pass. This will pass.This will pass. This will pass.This will pass. This will pass.This will pass. This will pass.This will pass. This will pass. 

Right?!

K

Facing Anxiety – Small steps are still steps

And anxiety takes over yet again and the more I fight it the harder it tugs. Sinking in quicksand. Will I ever find my feet? 👣

Would that I could wish it away but wishes like that just beg it to stay. Scanning thoughts to find the cause. Scanning because it’s not obvious. Trouble is, when I’m unsure, the more I scan the more I find to be anxious about.

Last night I couldn’t nail it down but it comes into sharp focus this morning. I am venturing out to watch my friends son curl and although I am excited I am also terrified.😨

I’m heading back to a place where many of my dreams came to be. Where many of my dreams came true. So much history. Unfortunately this is not a world I’ve been part of for years. Now I’m outside looking in.👀

My injuries keep me away and I live in fear of questions about what I’m doing now, where I’ve been. I thought I’d set the curling world on fire someday.♨ It’s hard to make disability leave sound hopeful. 

Back to this morning.🌞 I arrived and watched my friend’s son play and he had a great time and so did I. I did see people I knew but, of course, they were all gracious and kind and genuinely curious about what I was up to.❤

I’m glad I went today. It was scary but I feel good about it. I don’t know when or if I’ll be back on a more permanent basis but that’s OK. I don’t have to have it all figured out just yet. Small steps are still steps after all.👣

K

Finding a-MUSE-ment

Being creative doesn’t always come naturally and even if it does, from time to time, every artist finds themselves uninspired. A creative block, writers block, missing muse… call it what you will, if you feel this way it can be tough to snap out of. Here are a few tips for getting that creative mojo back!

Here’s a small sample of a piece I’ve been working on for weeks. I’m not always sure where it’s going but I’m learning from it and I know I can see it through to finished if I persist. 

Grind it Out – Keep drawing, keep writing, keep dancing, just keep at it. Keep grinding away and you’ll soon get back on track.

Try setting a timer and don’t stop grinding it out until time is up. It may feel as though nothing produced during this time will be of use but you’ll likely be surprised. Often I’ve been able to push through in this manner and I then find myself feeling re-energized and inspired.

Practice Every Day – In order to succeed the only way to improve is with practice, practice, practice. If you want to write spend some time each day either reading or writing or both. 

You needn’t stick to your main project and its research, any sort of practice helps. Play with writing prompts for both fiction and non. Try reading a wide and unusual array of books. Even try subjects you think you’ve no interest in. You never know what may strike your fancy and inspire you to new find unique new ideas and initiatives. 

Try Something Different– If you write try painting. If you paint try dancing. If you choreograph try poetry. Switching from one creative medium to try out another doesn’t mean abandoning your art of choice. On the contrary, by trying another medium you expand your horizons and will likely find inspiration to take back to your choice medium… who knows, you might even find another choice medium.

Give Yourself a Break – That’s right folks… you heard it here first. NOBODY is ON all the time. Honestly; I garuntee even the most successful folks out there falter from time to time because they’re human and so are you. 

It’s OK to rest and recharge. We all feel uninspired from time to time and that’s OK. It’s OK as long as we keep picking back up and trying again and again. 

As an artist (holy-pretentious-sentence-stater-Bat Man!), I have often felt like I’ve reached the end of my creative life and I’ll never find my muse again. Fortunately my muse isn’t as mellow dramatic as I and has never failed to return and gift me with another idea, another spark, and that’s all it takes before I’m off and running with another project.

There’s always more creativity left to find, the trick is to persist. So keep kicking down doors until you find where your muse is hiding and take back your mojo!

K

A Few of my Favourite Things

Here is a random list of things I’ve discovered make a difference to my well-being both physically and mentally. Some items have been recommended by medical professionals, some by friends and family, some from personal research, and good old trial and error. 

No one item on this list is a cure, and put together these items don’t add up to a cure, but for me, these things make life more pleasurable, more engaging, more passionate, and provide me with a sense of some control over my symptoms.

– Yoga style stretch and strength sessions, even if only a few short poses at a time are a great help and often provide some modicum of pain relief. 

As a past athlete and sports instructor I know many stretch and strength exercises and how to modify them for more or less intensity. I tend to follow what feels good and brings comfort.

I’ve been through countless rounds of physio and physical rehab programs and I draw on past advice from these great professionals all the time as well.

– I make room in my life to be creative whenever the mood strikes. I have notebooks by my bed and in almost every room in the house. This way if a poem or story or art piece idea comes to mind I can sketch it out right away so I don’t forget.

I also keep torn scraps paper and napkins with ideas tucked away carfefully the way some people collect random pebbles or argyle socks. One never knows when the muse will come along to help snap all the pieces into place. 

– I employ distraction methods to help cope with physical pain as well as mental pain. 

One of my favourite techniques for coping with physical pain is what I call double distraction. I find a TV program or movie where exacting attention is not required to follow the general plot. I then use reference photos from magazines to work on drawing human figures and faces as these are very difficult subjects for me. 

I find focusing on two items at once leaves less time and brain capacity to notice uncomfortable physical sensations. 

– I modified things around the house to make it easier to cope with physical restrictions.

For instance, in my kitchen, I cleared out an easy to reach cupboard and filled it with my most commonly used pots and pans. This way I’m not awkwardly squatting down to rummage in a low cupboard to find what I need.

– I make creative pursuits a priority. As I spend a great deal of time shuttling from Dr to Dr I often feel as though I have no other purpose. I tend to find this rather stressful and depressing. 

Making art, writing, listening to music make me feel a part of things, useful, so I have a studio set up at home where I can work as often as the mood and energy strikes. 

– I try to get out of the house a few times a week for more than just errands and Dr’s appointments. There is a great art studio in Bowness in NW Calgary where I love to go called Grasby Art Studio http://www.grasbyartstudio.com. I attend both group lessons and open studio time as often as I can. It is a lovely privilege to attend such a nurturing and energetic place. 

These are just a few ideas that work for me to feed and comfort my mind, body, and soul. If anything is helpful or can be modified to be helpful for others this blog is serving its purpose.

Also, if you’d like to share techniques working for you please don’t hesitate to comment.

K