Let's Talk Anxiety #withCheyenne
First off, I have to say one huge THANK YOU for the outpour of support and compassion that so many of you have shown in regards to my video, My Truth. Since turning the switch on with Cheyenne, I've felt this incredible camaraderie with all of you as you reach out asking questions about my experiences living with anxiety and sharing your own.
How do you know if you have anxiety?
So I only figured out that I had anxiety this past year when I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and depression. I've always had a VERY emotional temperament and growing up and going through middle school and high school, I think I really mistook normal "stress" about my grades, apply to college and normal "I'm going through the worst phase of my life, everyone sucks and puberty sucks" type of stuff. At that time in my life, I thought it was just being overly emotional to cry about a bad grade or feel this painful, tightness in my chest whenever I thought about how I was going to manage to finish all my homework, attend all my extracurriculars, balance a social life and manage a romantic relationship that at it's best was comforting, but at its worse, emotionally taxing. I thought it was normal to burst into these fits of tears and sob until I couldn't breathe. I guess that says a lot about my definition of #normal.
Four months ago, It became apparent that a lot of emotions and behaviors of mine that I had grown accustomed to chalking up as "normal" was far from just expressing daily wear and tear. I became obsessed with over-moisturizing my lips (LOL this actually sounds so hilarious to write out, but honestly your girl could not put down the Carmex). I was applying every 10 minutes or even more frequently depending on how anxious I was feeling. My heart was constantly racing and I felt insane because I was usually so relaxed and overly-happy-go-lucky. My mind was constantly jumping to the worst case scenario and I could find the downside of everything you threw at me. My mood? Oh, I was a monster - irritable with everyone and if ONE thing went wrong, I was tearing up. I was crying at things like forgetting to update the day of the week in an email and mental spiraling into "WOW I CANT TO ANYTHING RIGHT EVER". It was pretty fucking miserable.
As I've acquainted myself with my Anxiety, I've realized that there are different signs and there are different triggers, but some signs that anxiety may be the uninvited guest to the party are:
- Extreme worrying
- The feeling that everything is a huge inconvenience
- Self doubt
- Perfectionism and constant self-judgement. You're anticipating that you're going to mess up or fall short.
- Constant Fatigue
- Sleep problems and waking up with a racing heart and mind. You're stressed before you've even had a chance to get out of bed.
- Irrational fears
if i think i might have anxiety, what should i do?
If you think that you may have anxiety, I ask that you share this with someone. For some this might be easier said than done and I totally understand. I know that the only thing I could prioritize was the next minute, the next task, the next challenge to my increasingly fragile temperament. Anxiety, or as I think we should call it the big "A-hole" wants you to feel alone and convinces you that saying something about how badly you're feeling is just another chore of inconvenience. Eff that. If I can promise you one thing, it's that there is no better feeling than finally opening up to someone and letting them know that how you feel is affecting your daily life and how you interact with others and you might need help. I told my mom that I didn't think that the way that I felt was how people should feel. I was constantly scared of something and I couldn't shake this feeling of being on the brink of tears. Once I opened up to someone, I felt soooooo much relief. I wasn't alone anymore. I had someone in my corner who was going to support me and be the reminder that if I had the strength to be honest with one person, then I damn sure had the strength to be honest with another person. Now I had a support system.
After you share with someone else, seeking professional help would be the next step to consider. This is, in my opinion, one of the barriers to treating anxiety. Especially when it comes to finding a therapist and/or psychiatrist that you feel comfortable with. Trust me, I went through 3-4 before I found my beloved, Dr. K. We've been together for the past two years on and off again and it's probably one of my healthiest relationships. Seeking professional treatment is the the best way to make a move towards understanding more about your anxiety and learning what might trigger any of the symptoms you experience.
There are many different treatments for anxiety and a professional will help you find the right one for you:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This is the most common form of treatment and is also known as "Talk Therapy" where you meet with a therapist like my Dr.K and they help you build a toolbox of coping skills.
- Medication: You'll want to see a psychiatrist if you think medication might be the way to go. I'm currently on Lexapro, a SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) aka a pill that helps your serotonin (happy juice!) build up in your brain rather than go through the reuptake process where it's absorbed. Sometimes when you have anxiety, the parts of your brain that regulate mood and send messages using serotonin don't function properly so you need a little help. Medication has a stigma around it that I refuse to accept or participate in. As someone close to me said, "There's no reason to be ashamed of taking something that helps you function just like everyone else - you're not getting a boost, you're getting the help you need to wake up and feel human, not anxious" SHOUTOUT FARAH! If you think medication might be something you're interested in exploring, I'd ask for referrals from your therapist or use zocdoc.com which will help you find one that accepts your insurance and helps you book an appointment ASAP.
- Self Care: This is definitely crucial. Taking care of yourself is so so important. This means maybe putting down the dranky drank because alcohol is a depressant. At my worst, I was imbibing embarrassing amounts of alcohol in the hopes of numbing myself from the pain and feeling of being crazy, but the anxiety said "oh hell no, you can't run from me!" and I would have crazy AF episodes where I would explode on my boyfriend about something that he'd done that really bothered me and I held inside or I would drink to the point of blacking out. No bueno. Alcohol makes anxiety so much worse to manage and do we really need one MORE thing to make us kick us while we're down? Exercise helps a lot too, despite being the most irritating thing to be told when you're anxious. I think I was near to punching the next person who told me to work out - the thought of physical activity may seem daunting but it really does help. Go for a walk if the gym is too much. Dance in your apartment blasting your favorite music. Anything that moves your body and reminds you that YOURE ALIVEEEEE. They also say cutting caffeine helps but...yea I'm not cutting coffee out #sorry!
How do you deal with those bad anxious days that everyone has. What do you do when you think you can’t do it anymore and want to just hide away?
Despite treatment, there will always be days that are harder to manage than others and remembering that is super important. Anxious days where you want to hide away don't mean that you've failed or the anxiety as won. It simply means its time to check in with yourself and see what might be causing the stressor that day. For me, my ex-boyfriend triggers me because it's still fresh and the feelings I have run deep. When I start feeling the tightness in my chest, I find a quiet place and take deep breaths, listen to music, center myself and affirm that this is just one moment and I'm human and I'm going to be ok. If you feel like hiding away, hide away god dang it! Self care cannot be more important. Don't push yourself to be ok when you're not because that's more self harm that you don't need. When I’m at work and can’t really just dip out, I find a private workspace and run through some of my rituals like listening to my “I got this” playlist or I’ll go to the bathroom and call my mom to just hear a little soothing reminder that today is just one bad day. If you work and you have anxiety, find a place in your space where you feel safe or just take a walk! I opened up to a close coworker so I'd have someone to open up to and that's also been such a huge help.
I suffer from anxiety and sometimes it affects my confidence at work? How do you remain confident at work when dealing with the twin evils of imposter syndrome and anxiety?
I know exactly how you feel. I went through my first six months of my job feeling like I was going to get fired every fucking moment and if I made a mistake? Oh, that called for tears in the bathroom with a phone call to my mom screaming about how I was giving up and coming home to Maryland. Work may seem like a challenge with anxiety and I can definitely attest that it doesn't help your confidence levels, but what I use to cope with the dual evils of anxiety and imposter disorder is personify both of them. Anxiety is that shitty coworker you have to learn to work with and Imposter Disorder is a misogynistic male colleague that I DAMN SURE AIN'T LETTING PASS ME UP FOR A PROMOTION. I sound crazy but as soon as you personify them they become more real and easier to battle and overcome. Anxiety is something that you live with and it can be managed but won't disappear no matter how much you wish they would so you learn to cope. Imposter disorder wants you to think you're not good enough. It wants you to think that you're not worth the opportunity you've been given so what are you going to do? You're going to put on some #BOSSBITCH music, you're going to dress for success in your most #GIRLBOSS lewk and you're going to hold your head high. You deserve everything you've worked for, honey and if you wouldn't let some idiotic male with outdated opinions tell you shit, you sure as helllll ain't taking it from imposter syndrome.
Do you have any advice for people with social anxiety that feel the need to be in a relationship 24/7 since barely having friends?
Babe, you'll never feel good with someone else until you feel good alone. My advice is seek treatment for yourself and put yourself first. This takes strength. I was in three relationships over the past ten-ish years with little time to focus on me and what I needed. Sometimes I think that if I hadn't thrown myself into these relationships where I could distract my mind with caring about another, I might have realized that maybe all the trouble in my relationships wasn't coming from the men, but it was partially because I needed help and I needed to care about myself first. When you're in a relationship, you put so much energy into someone else and if you have anxiety, its easy to hide behind that and prioritize them.
We've been taught that not being in a relationship should be something women should fear. Lol. They are actually our biggest gift. Take that time and be selfish. Relationships take work and if you need to address something within you, your energy and work need to be turned inwards. I'm not saying relationships are off limits because a support system is important in any form, but if you're putting yourself in relationships that aren't benefiting you or are consuming your energy to the point where you're not looking inward and seeking treatment for your anxiety, then it might be time to evaluate.
Remember, you're never alone though. You're #withCheyenne.
Thank you to those that sent in questions and I hope you find this post helpful! If there's anything you'd like to share or if you have a question about anxiety, my door is always open. Drop a line in the comments below or fill out a form and I'll be sure to get back to you.