Yes, this is a picture of my unmade bed. It is imperfect, like me, and a perfect representation of my day yesterday. Yesterday was a spectacularly awful day, at least most of it. I essentially stayed in bed until about 2 p.m, when I left to eat some breakfast. Immediately after finishing my bacon and eggs, I returned to bed where I spent a few hours “lying down” but not really sleeping. I finally got out of bed around 6:00 p.m. to have dinner and then go see a movie.
Why do I share this with you? Well, I have learned a lot about myself over the past few days, in relation to my mental health and mental illness (bipolar disorder) in particular. Some of what I learned I already knew but just confirmed, and some was a bit of an epiphany. Nothing groundbreaking but something that is new to me and I thought I would share.
Why I Couldn’t Get Out of Bed
The reason I couldn’t get out of bed was because I was too anxious. I was experiencing severe chest pain and was paralyzed by my fear and racing thoughts. My fears generally always center around a common theme: fear of the future, fear of the unknown and a fear that I am going to screw up my own future. Instead of facing these thoughts head-on, I try my best to avoid them by literally doing nothing. Netflix sometimes helps but sometimes I can’t even watch an episode of Friends without experiencing anxiety. My anxiety consumes me so thoroughly that I can’t do anything because I worry that I won’t be able to focus on my worrying. So weird, right? Unfortunately, as the day progressed yesterday and I continued to do nothing, I felt worse and worse. Even when I went to the movie (Star Wars if you were wondering) I didn’t feel better. The film couldn’t distract me. It was only when I came home and had a little talk with my boyfriend that I found a technique to calm down and feel a little more positive about the world.
How I Temporarily Cure My Anxiety
What was the magic thing that took away my anxiety? It was simple – engaging my brain in something productive that contributed positively towards my future. In this case, it was working on finishing a book that I am reading as a professional development activity for work. As soon as I took out my notebook and started reading, occasionally jotting down notes, my chest pain started to reduce and my fears slowly disappeared. After a few minutes, I was able to focus on the task at hand instead of imagining all of the things that might go wrong in my life. I think it was only when I took control of the situation and felt like I was doing something that I felt better. So basically, I had to push myself to break past that barrier of the fear of doing something, and actually just do it. I know it is easier said than done. But seriously it made me feel 100% better. I highly recommend it because it will help you become an active contributor to your future and your life, rather than a passive participant.
The next time that I go to therapy, I am definitely going to talk about this experience. I need to figure out why I was in this rut and concrete steps to avoid it or get out of it beyond my own little experiments. I have some theories as to why I was so anxious.
I Was Anxious Because I Was Overstimulated
I am an inherently social person and love to spend time with friends. However, I can really only do it in small doses or else I feel the need to retreat and be alone for a long time to make up for it. Parties just exacerbate this feeling. The night before yesterday was New Year’s Eve and we had a small party at our apartment. I had spent all of December 31 cooking and cleaning in preparation and then spent about 5 hours chatting with various friends. It was constantly go-go-go and I think my body and brain just crashed afterwards.
I Was Anxious Because My Vacation Was Too Long
This might sound crazy but I really do think it was true. I feel better about my work when I feel connected to it and feel like I am making progress. As much as I love a break, when I have a long one I just feel like my work is moving farther away from me and I start forgetting about all the positive accomplishments and focus on my flaws that I am not working on. I start to feel lazy and worthless. I also spend the entire vacation obsessively counting down the hours and days until my vacation is over. It’s not that I don’t like my job – I love it actually. But my anxiety has always manifested in worrying that something will go wrong, so sometimes the break provides a buffer from reality and a temporary oasis where I can’t screw anything up because I am not doing anything. So it is this weird vicious cycle. I truly think if I had a shorter break, I would still feel refreshed but I would be less anxious because I could get right back into the thick of things after just a few days off. I wouldn’t be left to stew in my anxieties for as long and I wouldn’t allow my fears to grow to the size of an elephant.
I Was Anxious Because Of Feelings of Negative Self-Worth
I talked a bit about this before, but I think the key to taking away my anxiety was actually doing something. I spent the whole day talking down to myself and saying terrible things about my character and my personality. The longer I stayed in bed, the more I hated myself and the more I beat myself up for being useless. It was only when I took action and challenged those assumptions that I felt better. By reading my book, I was proving myself wrong about myself. I was showing myself a different side of me, a positive side. I was taking a fear of mine, the fear of being stupid, and challenging that by expanding my knowledge and growing as a person.
So, these are just some of my thoughts on my recent feelings of anxiety. I want to know – what makes you anxious? And what helps you improve and reduce feelings of anxiety? I ask because I want to know and for selfish reasons – it could help me! But it could also help my readers. Please share in the comments below!