Anxiety can definitely be a mind-killer for me. It’s been a problem for a long time. I start thinking about something that makes me anxious, and then I keep thinking about it, and every time I think about it, the consequences get worse, the challenge gets harder to face. Once it starts, it can become all-consuming, eating up first minutes, then hours of my time. It crawls inside my head and takes up residence like a terrible little monster, one I don’t have the right weapons to fight.
It feels awful, too. My heart feels like it is pounding, out of rhythm, kind of like I’m about to be sick. I actually feel like I’m about to be sick at times. I have nervous energy, but don’t know what to do with it, and I find it hard to focus on anything except the anxiety that is currently occupying my thoughts. If I remember right, this is like something like what a few of my fellow Menninger patients called the Thought Monster – a thought that is so unpleasant and yet so persistent that it can control the way you think.
It’s really hard to do, at least for me, but one of the best solutions to try and avoid this kind of anxiety is to just avoid it. Don’t think about it, distract yourself from it with some other activity. Usually, you try to do this with something you enjoy – for me, the best way tends to be talking to or meeting with a friend, but if none of them are available, it can be something like reading, watching a funny TV show or movie, going for a swim, or even a relaxation exercise. Distracting yourself takes your mind off the anxiety, and make the physical symptoms and sensations subside.
I wish I could rewire that part of my brain, the part that takes anxiety so hard. Especially recently, it has made parts of several days very unpleasant, and feeling like I’m about to be sick this often has almost made me actually sick on a couple of occasions. It also tends to make me not want to exercise, because when I feel awful I have trouble working up the will to exercise – which, in turn, makes me feel worse.
I don’t want to get rid of my anxiety altogether; it can be a useful tool. It has pushed me to finish a number of projects – in recent years, mostly writing papers – that I would otherwise have probably put off too long. I just want to keep it from taking over my mind and making me feel so awful so much of the time. It can really impede my progress in my treatment, and every obstacle I can get out of the way, the better.
I’m actually writing this particular entry because of the online game SuperBetter – a game that, supposedly, will help to increase mental, physical, social, and emotional resilience, all things I could use more of in my struggle against depression. Journaling – or blogging – about something in my brain a I wish I could rewire is one of the ‘quests’ of the game. I was planning on doing something like this anyway, but this made it a bit easier – which, I suppose, is one of the things the game is helping me to work towards.