This Might Hurt…

Writing Through Anxiety Blog Series #3

Do you know how a doctor usually says, “this might hurt,” before piercing a needle into your skin? You brace yourself for physical pain. Our brains process the forewarning by telling our bodies that there will be a period when we must experience physical pain before the healing begins. Why don’t we give ourselves this warning when dealing with mental health? After all, deciding to make a change for your mental health leads you through a physical, emotional, and spiritual transformation. This transformation will require some pain. Why? Well, simply put, you are growing. You are breaking a cycle. 

If you are unhappy, stressed out, burnt out, unfilled, disgusted, full of anxiety, whatever it is, you must first decide to remove the mask. Removing the guise will make you feel very vulnerable. It’s hidden your truth for so long that now without the facade, you essentially feel naked, and boy, it is scary! 

Thankfully, we are a generation of consciousness. And that’s a good thing! It allows us to say, “I refuse to live like this anymore.” It’s effortless to slip the mask back on. I believe this is what our brains want us to do. I always tell my students, “our brains want to be lazy.” Brains thrive on routines and repetitions because they don’t have to work. However, once you declare that you will no longer live this way, you must begin implementing all the tools you have gathered to foster change. Unfortunately, when it comes to mental health, no one tells you that this change will be physically uncomfortable as it is emotionally and spiritually. But I encourage you to remind yourself that the pain you are going through is growing pains and that no transformation ever happens without pain. 

The minute you start changing is when the pain comes. We have done everything to avoid pain; we don’t like the uncomfortable. We are essentially in survival mode and have reshaped ourselves to prevent or lessen the pain. No one welcomes pain. I get it. But let’s look at it through a different lens. What happens if we move past the numbing and coping we’ve relied on all these years? What if we lean into our pain? We no longer consciously or unconsciously avoid it. Let’s give it the attention it needs. Anxiety in our bodies is like sounding an alarm to get our attention. 

You see, anxiety or panic pain comes in many physical reactions. This past month, I have gone through the following trials of discomfort/pain:  

  • Heat spreads from my chest through my limbs (and this isn’t a hot flash or warmth, it’s like searing burning moving through your veins). 
  • Hands around my throat, squeezing tightly. 
  • Tremors, more like a violent twitch, of my arms, hands, or legs.
  • Vibration or a constant annoying buzzing throughout my whole body.
  • Electric shocks/jolts.
  • Tired/fatigued muscles.
  • My heart thumps against my chest wall or pounds in my ears. 
  • Sour stomach or nausea. 
  • My eyes dart around the room, and I cannot move them smoothly from one thing to the next. 

After several days (and eventually weeks of these relentless symptoms) and with the help of my support circle, I decided to take FMLA and use the time to lean into the pain and heal. Yes, the meds are assisting me, but I am not allowing them to be the solution. They are merely an assistant. It doesn’t mean that they are numbing the anxiety. They prevent me from tipping over the precipice into sheer panic. When I am in that state of panic, there is no fighting. For me, it’s simply fleeing or freezing. And by freezing, I mean curling up into myself as tightly as possible, crying because I’m freaking out, and unaware of any thoughts other than getting my body as small and tightly wound as possible. Thankfully, my husband is strong enough to wrap himself around me and be that gentle reminder to breathe because I have a habit of holding my breath. 

After a panic episode subsides, it leaves my body feeling like I’m hungover. I’m tired to the bone, and my spirit is weary. These panic episodes have scared me to the point of going to the ER twice in my lifetime. And all they ever did was sedate me. Feeling like I was losing all control, and this fear of being torn away from my family or waking up locked away somewhere only raised my blood pressure. But once I was in the safety of my home, I slept. Upon waking up, I vowed to find a way to recognize the pain in my body and find the tools needed to avoid further panic episodes. 

If after a panic or intense anxiety attack, you may need to nap. You may need to cry. You will most likely be exhausted from breaking deep cycles of masking. Be kind to yourself. Be confident, knowing and feeling that you are doing the work many refuse to do. After all, people with anxiety are some of the strongest and most resilient people in the world. We do everything we need to (take care of family, hold down careers, etc.) while carrying 100lbs of worry/fear on our backs. Begin putting these statements on repeat: I am strong. I will find peace. Peace begins with me. 

Action Steps: 

  1. Identify how your body responds to anxiety. Write down specifically where you feel the tension. Does it start with an increased heart rate? Does it start with tension in your shoulders? Does it start in the upper stomach/solar plexus area? Take note of where it begins.
  2. Gather your tools. Hopefully, you have your support circle identified. Let them in by telling them you are looking for ways to heal your anxiety. Accept their suggestions graciously, even if you don’t use them. Research different breathing techniques and meditations and try them out to see what works for you. Find a therapist if you don’t have one. There are plenty of online therapists available 24/7. I personally use a therapist from Better Help. It’s convenient and in the comfort of my home. Find time to take a walk every day. If it’s cold and rainy outside, do some yoga. All these tools and more will help you through the pain. 

Next week, we’ll discuss how to put your tools to work and begin the healing process. 

Let’s keep the dialogue going. If you are comfortable, please leave me your story and experience with anxiety/panic attacks. Remember, we heal in community, not in isolation. My mission is to help others openly discuss their anxiety/panic and talking openly and honestly is the first step.

Disclaimer: This is by no means therapy or professional advice. This blog series is my narrative, my journey, that I am sharing with you in hopes of encouraging you to begin healing your anxiety.

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Writer. Teacher. Water, tea, & dark chocolate sustain me. I have an addiction to journals and pens. I love hiking and spending as much time as possible with family and friends. "If you are not failing, you're not trying."

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