I have had two or three (more? it is sometimes hard to pin down) anxiety attacks in my life, but more often it’s a slow simmer punctuated with acute pangs. I have not made any secret of my emotional issues. I try to be transparent about that because I know lots of people are suffering and try to hide it. We are taught we are supposed to hide it. Big boys don’t cry, after all, and never let them see you sweat. When we hide it, however, we are not just hiding it from others, we are hiding it from ourselves. I spent almost 40 years of my life pretending I could handle it. I did not want to be stigmatized by therapy or medication. It almost killed me.
This week I have talked to lots of people, as I often do, who are hurting. Several are dealing with life and death issues, their own lives or those of people they love.
That’s why I think I am going to pass on some simple advice.
First, if you are in a moment of anxiety (from the Mayo Clinic):
Sit quietly. Look around you and notice:
5 things you can see: Your hands, the sky, a plant on your colleague’s desk
4 things you can physically feel: Your feet on the ground, a ball, your friend’s hand
3 things you can hear: The wind blowing, children’s laughter, your breath
2 things you can smell: Fresh-cut grass, coffee, soap
1 thing you can taste: A mint, gum, the fresh air
This exercise helps you shift your focus to your surroundings in the present moment and away from what is causing you to feel anxious. It can help interrupt unhealthy thought patterns.
That’s in the moment. I seriously recommend finding a good therapist, it might take trying a few to find one that is right for you, and talk to your doctor about medication. There are coping strategies that can keep you from getting into that state in the first place, making it less severe when you do, and getting out of it more quickly.
If it feels like it is getting too much, talk to someone.
We often associate suicide with depression, but anxiety can make people want to escape through any means necessary.
If you feel like you might go to extremes to escape go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 800-273-8255.
Get help. You don’t have to suffer alone.