From Our Readers I Killed My Anxiety Disorder With Kindness From Our Readers

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I’ve been considering my relationship with anxiety lately and while I would like more than anything to break up for good, it’s like the stalker I never wanted. My sister used to make me breathe into a paper bag as a child when my parents would leave us for a night out, which was almost never. I never wanted to be alone, because what if? When I would panic, my family was there for me. I called my brother one night when I was alone at my house and afraid to eat.

“Why?” He asked.

“I could choke and die and no one would be able to stop it!”

“Jess, stop watching ’30 Rock’ and eat your dinner,” he responded, and oddly it made me feel way better (hats off to Liz Lemon for throwing some humorous light onto that treacherous fear by the way).

Then a period of my life began when I was really, really happy and suddenly I could do things like pump my own gas, eat by myself, sleep at night without anyone in the house, start a random conversation with a stranger, not have to follow a specific routine that made me feel in control. I was doing things I never thought I would do. I didn’t feel co-dependent anymore. It took my lifetime (so far) of work, of learning to listen to the rational thoughts over the fearful thoughts, and a new habit of not thinking so much and just doing, to really change things around for me. I was free.

I hadn’t had a stomach virus in at least 15 years. It came at a time when my entire identity was in flux. I was shedding old beliefs and ways, trying on new, rediscovering myself. Stepping even further out of my comfort zone. My foundation was shaky. It was not an ideal time psychologically for someone like me to get sick. But I made it through and I felt I would be OK, I felt I would recover wholly on every level. About two weeks later my stomach felt like it was on fire, I felt nauseated, and this intense fear that I was sick again came over me and became the nail in the coffin of my progress in freedom from anxiety.

I recognized every signal that the anxiety was taking over and I was powerless to stop it. I didn’t want to, but I found myself avoiding the movie that I was watching when I originally got sick. I avoided the gas station I went to the night I got sick. I didn’t want to wear the same pajama pants I was wearing the night I got sick. I didn’t want to, but I stopped eating. I would go all day at work and not eat anything because I felt it was unacceptable to get sick at work. I felt guilty for it. I felt guilty for existing. And then I felt it was unacceptable to get sick at home. I could control my eating if I couldn’t control anything else. I felt like I was literally wasting away, and I didn’t want to, but it was happening anyway because the fear of “what if” outweighed any rational thought. I knew that I needed to eat and I wanted to eat. I knew all the coping techniques for anxiety and panic. They weren’t working. I was at the height of superstition and even the things I didn’t do or wear, because I associated them irrationally with getting sick, did not make me feel any better or any more in control.

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  1. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been going through the exact same thing. I have a weird fear of throwing up for some reason and I recently got a stomach bug. It was the first time I had thrown up in ten years! Since then I gave been getting anxiety attacks whenever I thought I would get sick (but was actually just gas or something) and I would avoid foods that I love because I thought they would upset my stomach. I too avoided the pajamas and clothes I wore while sick, I bleached everything i came in contact with, and am afraid that someone in my family might catch it or I reinfect myself. It’s taking over my life and I feel terrible for being so scared. I feel bad for even existing because I’m being stupid and irrational. I know I can’t control what will happen in my stomach so I try to control my environment and what I put in my body. It’s getting ridiculous and this post has given me hope and has been very inspiring. Thank you so much for your inspiring words! I’m glad I’m not alone, anxiety is a horrible thing to have and it takes over your life. You’re amazing. Thank you again.

  2. I haven’t had that level of anxiety in many years; your article really brought back some memories. It’s nice to know that other people share the same experiences, even though we feel so alone when we are actually going through them. Thank you for sharing your story! I think my anxiety decreased over the years because I did exactly what you are doing. Being aware and accepting of it, and knowing that it will pass, takes away it’s power over you.

  3. Anxiety is such a tough affliction because everyone has it but in different degrees and forms. A friend of mine has aptly named it ‘The Dread’, which I think sums up that awful gut gripping feeling many people experience towards money issues, self worth and other apocalyptic things that can upset our day to day lives. In my mind I think that anxiety is a reflection that we really really love our life and we don’t want anything bad to happen. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and have panic attacks about dying so often that I could time them to the minute. The thought of my lovely life ending would make me feel so much horror and sheer terror that I would lie awake barely able to breathe.
    I never really told anybody about it because it was a problem that came at night and for some reason all bad thoughts for me come as soon as the sun goes down. Friends had told me about self help books and no disrespect to the genre but I hate them. I don’t believe that wishing on a rainbow to win the lottery is going to solve all my problems. I finally came across a book called ‘The Antidote’ by Oliver Burkeman. It is as much a travel journal as a self help book and it is about acceptance. It is about musing about what is the utterly worst thing that could happen to you and then thinking logically about how probable that fear is. This book changed everything for me.
    Eventually my life will end, I don’t know when or where… I am hoping it will be saving a baby or something for the glory… but the only thing I can control in-between then and now is how I live my life. I choose to be grateful for everything I have; including the life I have been given. I mean it is a million to one chance that I was even going to be born! I also know that I want people to feel good about themselves when I am with them. I want to be kind.
    Being grateful and kind are the keys to my happiness. Everything else that comes in-between that is just an added bonus. When things go wrong in my life my gratefulness and fond memories for all the hilariously wonderful things I have seen and experienced help me get through it.
    Well done for facing your fears head on girl. Keep on working on it and treat yourself how you would treat your best friend. The world is a warmer place when you can let go and show compassion and consideration to everyone. Including yourself!

    • Gratitude and helping others is hugely beneficial in healing! Anxiety can definitely be hard to talk to people about for any number of reasons. I am happy to hear you have found healing and created a positive habit for dealing with hard times and resources to help you through. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you for telling your story. I had severe anxiety attacks for years. My trigger though was storms, which slowly and surely became ‘end of the world’ fears. I felt the same as you with being so tired and miserable that I wished to just be dead then to live that way. I ended up doing the same as you and worked with positive thinking and self love. Its working wonders. I barely blink now at thunderstorms. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Hugs!

    • That is so awesome that you’ve overcome your anxiety! Thank you for sharing! It’s an encouragement to know how far you’ve come! Hugs! :)

  5. Wow, i love this so much. I’ve been through almost the same, exact thing. Including the virus! Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to keep the mindset of happy, and self-acceptance, and I’ve never felt better.
    I have had doubts during the past few weeks of my method of trying to be accepting, and I thought that maybe I was lying to myself. This article helped me realize that I am not alone, and it was a great encouragement. Thank you.

    • I would definitely encourage you to stick with it, you aren’t lying to yourself by loving yourself. Sometimes the truth will feel like a lie because it contradicts what you’ve told yourself over and over in the past. I still have hard days sometimes with it myself. Be gentle with yourself, and know you will heal. You’re not alone and you are loved!

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