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anx·i·e·ty  noun:  a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
pan·ic at·tack noun:  a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety.
Everyone has anxious moments.  Some people have quite a few.  Others live with anxiety on a daily basis.  When it’s really bad it flares into full blown panic attacks.  I know this because I am one of those people.  It isn’t easy to explain.  It’s often embarrassing.  What causes anxiety might change from day to day, it can come out of nowhere.  It feels like a prison and like your mind is at war.  And as the definition says, it can be completely disabling.  It tears you down bit by bit.  It can hit anyone at anytime.
I was reading CNN the other day when a title sort of grabbed my attention.  It was called Living With Anxiety, Searching For Joy by Kat Kinsman who is the managing editor of CNN Eatocracy.
The article starts of with a wonderful quote from the story “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Truman Capote.

The blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re sad, that’s all. But the mean reds are horrible. You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is. … What I’ve found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany’s. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there.”

The description “mean reds” seemed perfect.  The need to find the tool that can help you find calmness inside the raging storm.  Now, I must admit for me, a trip to Tiffany’s probably wouldn’t be the solution. However, it aptly shows that everyone has their own triggers, and their own methods to find the ground again.

The article captivated me from the first sentence to the last.  Ms. Kinsman also suffers from acute anxiety while managing to hold down a very stressful job.  And that’s the crux, anxiety most often doesn’t make sense, sometimes even to the person experiencing it.  But it’s no less real, or devastating.

I realized as soon as I started reading that I really couldn’t add anything if I wanted to.  She could have been writing about any of us who have experienced similar things.  I strongly suggest that you read the article whether anxiety is a part of your life personally, of someone you know or of someone you may know in the future.  She has done an amazing job, in my opinion, of creating a window into a life with anxiety.

Anxiety hurts. It’s the precise inverse of joy and blots out pleasure at its whim, leaving a dull, faded outline of the happiness that was supposed to happen. It’s also as sneaky as hell.”  Kit Kinsman

Sneaky is also one of the things that adds to the anxiety.  After I had my first panic attack, I was anxious that it might happen again, in public, or when I was out with my small children, or anytime for that matter.  I was worried about being foolish, putting my children in danger and none of it came to pass.

It’s sneaky in other ways.  Just like Ms. Kinsman says,

For me, there is neither rhyme nor reason as to when it will strike. I can board a plane to vacation solo in a strange city, hold forth on live TV at a moment’s notice or speak onstage in front of a crowd of hundreds without many mussed feathers. The notion of leaving the house to get half-and-half for coffee flings me dead into the eye of a panic attack.

Sometimes it is the smallest most inconsequential things that turn the world upside down.  And one of the toughest things is realizing completely how “silly” the anxiety and fear is.  Ever had someone tell you “There, there, don’t cry, you’re fine!” And do your tears immediately stop, even if you realize they’re right?  Anxiety is the same.  It seems like it’s a simple flip of the switch to turn on… but not to turn off, even when you realize there is nothing to be anxious about.  Sometimes that can even make it worse because you add on the guilt trip, the I’m hopeless self talk starts going through your already overwhelmed brain.

As she goes on to say, anxiety simply isn’t rational or  the same for everyone.

…Generalized Anxiety Disorder (300.02 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the single most common mental health diagnosis) is … free-floating fear that metastasizes until it’s all-consuming and often debilitating. For me, it’s physically painful, from stomach, head and muscle aches to exhaustion from chronic insomnia to raw thumb skin that I’ve picked at until it bled — and kept picking some more.”

For me too.

But even when we’re most anxious, at some point we pull ourselves up enough to at least try to “to tame this yowling beast” and if we can’t do that “then at least to clip its claws”.

She says, I’m sick to death of feeling ashamed for this illness, am just plain worn out from the physical fight and angry that I’ve let it thieve so much life and time with my loved ones. I’ve got a new therapist who is teaching me to wrangle upset where it arises, and not damning myself when I fail to do so.”

Yet here is a woman who holds a very responsible, stressful position, completes her duties with grace, skill and balance… and she can be brought to her knees simply because she needs half and half for her coffee.  Been there.  The point is, we get up again.  We hang onto the fact that we know that as debilitating as it is right this moment, that we’ve had clear, happy, joyous moments too, and we’ll have them again.  This too shall pass.  When you’re in the throes of anxiety or a panic attack, it never seems soon enough.

Just like Kit Kinsman, “I’m willing myself to believe that joy begets more joy — or at least a measure of calm.”

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If you suffer from anxiety or know someone who does, be kind and be patient. There is help.  It does get better.  It is OK! You may never understand what the other person is really going through but I hope Kit Kinsman’s article helps you be patient with yourself and with others and that you to can find the joy that’s always been there patiently waiting.  The good days are definitely worth it.

Some resources that you might find helpful: **



** Rise Like Air is not responsible for content on other sites.  These resources are not meant to take the place of professional help.  If you are in crisis please call your local hotline.

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