We haven't known each other forever, but we know each other well. We met a few years ago. I remember my first panic attack like it was yesterday. What I thought was a stroke was actually the result of a few things related to you that I'd never felt before---numb and tingly limbs, pounding chest, joints so stiff they wouldn't move, hyperventilation, and the most paralyzing fear. You came and you went, but I knew after that I wouldn't ever be the same.
In my family, talking about you is kind of like talking about the weather. You exist as long as we exist. Just like we're predisposed to having a certain body type, my family is genetically coded to struggle with you at some point in our lives. And probably depression, too. My dad has known you on all levels, including being hit by you at your worst even when nothing at all feels wrong in life. My grandma is a constant worrier. My mom likely deals with you daily, but hides it well. My sister and I talk about you like a leaky kitchen faucet.
"How is it today?"
"It's annoying. I'm fine, but it sucks."
I used to be the lucky one. I was the one that escaped you to some degree. I've known my fair share of stress but wow, you are so much greater than that. Being "stressed out" on some level was normal for me, but it had yet to escape my mind and find a home in my body.
Now you manifest in me physically. And it hurts. It literally hurts. You make my heart beat like I just fell in love but with none of the same excitement. You make me wake up with a chest so tight I can't fully inhale. You make my stomach twist into knots. You make my heart burn, my mind race, my palms sweat. And the latest thing you did was make me sick with what I assumed was a virus or the flu. Fever, aches, weakness. It felt like never-ending fatigue. I had never felt so damn tired. You made my body so tense and wound up and in straight up over-drive that my immune system couldn't keep up. My body conked out on me.
You've show me raw. You've shown me real. You've shown me human. You've shown me hopelessness and sadness and a vulnerability that changed me at my core. And for that, I am thankful.
I'm working on finding the beauty in the bad. I need to understand the blessing that you are to me because frankly, I don't know how I'd get through you if I didn't embrace that perspective. (Reading this book helped). So while this may seem more like a hate letter, I assure you it isn't.
I appreciate that you challenge me. You ground me. You're the low to my high but you make those highs feel so precious. You keep me in this messy middle space and most importantly you make me love and appreciate the fragility of my heart and my emotions. I am not a super human. I am meant to fall down and get back up again. You remind me that I'm not God, that I need to stop, feel my feelings, accept hardship, breathe deeper, savor the slowness of life, and just be.
The most extraordinary thing you have taught me, you have forced me, is to be.
Because the only way I could breathe normally last week without it hurting my lungs at the top of my breathe was to pause. To let go. To stop being un-selfish when what I needed most was to be totally selfish. And you knew that.
You're one of the only things on Earth that makes me stop doing, and you use that to your advantage. I was able to think a lot when I was sitting on the couch all day. I'm working on listening more to my mind so things don't manifest into what they did last week. I'm working on knowing myself at my core, on accepting that life is bliss and beauty and fear and misery all rolled into one and that there's greatness and necessity in that balance. You and the universe have an interesting thing going on here.
Because of you, I'm consciously working not on being one thing or another, not on being more productive or organized or efficient or wise, but just being.
I couldn't be without you. And for that, I am grateful.
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Martin Johnsan says
Situational anxiety is also termed as a generalized anxiety disorder. Medically, there is no definite term to classify the situational anxiety disorder (SAD) from the other terms of the anxiety such as depression, tension, and anger.
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Anxiety and its impacts are not only associated with the irrationality of thoughts, feeling of loneliness or timely nervousness. However, anxiety is a broader term which is capable of impacting your bodily functions
Tara | Treble in the Kitchen says
I'm so sorry you have to deal with this, but I am happy you are taking this perspective AND that your family understands what you are going through. Hoping for many good days for you! 🙂
Ashley @ The Naked Food Life says
Such a raw and inspiring post! I have read every one of your posts the last few months, and although I have always admired your blog, I love the direction it has taken lately. Food is just one aspect of health, there is so much more to explore and I love your openness =)
Nicole Rosalyn says
My God, what a powerful post. And your writing is beautiful. This hit so close to home for me because I had my own struggle with anxiety as a young teen. At the time it felt terrifying and crippling. I felt like I was going crazy, that I would never feel like me again. It was only after I began to appreciate my anxiety, to see it as a kind of protective charm, that it stopped consuming my life. Because really, anxiety is there to protect us from harm, and yes, for some of us, it may be a bit of an overdose of protection, but at the end of the day, I am so thankful to my anxiety. It taught me to be strong, and finding ways to cope made me discover what kind of self-care I need and just taught me who I am as a person. I wouldn't be me without it. So glad you're dealing with it fearlessly and embracing it with open arms. Stay strong <3
Your post shows wisdom, Alexis. We aren't human doings. We are human BEINGS. Another great and very old book which I recently re-read is "Slowing Down To The Speed of Life" to add to your reading list. Thank you for being completely authentic and real on your blog. We love your recipes but we also love you in all of your humaness.
This is one of my fav posts, and your timing is so impeccable.
I cannot thank you enough for this.
I have suffered from anxiety for over a decade and it's definitely one of those things that's difficult to express to those who don't truly understand it, when you suffer from it to an extreme degree where it becomes something you analyze often.
I agree that it is important to listen to your body and figure out what you need to do, based on the messages that the anxiety is trying to transmit..
It's not easy, but it is that friend that does want the very best for you, like you mention.
While I fight it in certain situations, you bring up a good point that it serves to showcase our fragility and humanness. It's like a full-stop to showing that you're not in control and that God is...the universe is. There's deep significance to that, since we're here for a reason, and it's not up to us to decide everything. Our anxiety, like our intuition, is a guiding force leading us to our higher purpose..
A really good post. I hope you post more articles about anxiety.
I wasn't sure if this was a guest post and when it was signed 'Love, Alexis' at the end, that was such a nice surprise, since I never would have thought you suffered from anxiety. It goes to show that we can feel such intensity and yet others might not realize we suffer this way.
Thanks again for sharing.
Thank you so much Beth. I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't guess I deal with anxiety, but like you mentioned, it's not always easy to pick up on. This space is my creative outlet. It's meant to be a happy experience for people, so I don't talk about my personal issues much. I think something that sets me apart is that I'm not afraid to be honest and real about all things in life, including how hard life is for me sometimes. It's true that it's not up to us to decide everything. We are who we are and it's all about the perspective we have on everyday situations. Sending love your way!
Fellow anxiety sufferer here, been struggling off and on for half my life and I'm 31 now. I know it may creep back up now and then but it took me years to get to the point where I started LISTENING to it instead of just trying to self-medicate or distract myself and make it go away. It's kind of like Julia Cameron says about anger--it's our friend, though not a nice one. But it's powerful and it's always telling us something, whether it's big like we need to get a toxic person out of our life, or something small like we simply need to sleep more or hydrate more. Doesn't change the fact that it sucks, but you're right, it's one of those things that just makes life what it is and there's good and bad, but ultimately beauty in all of it 🙂
I love that perspective. I was reading "The Universe Has Your Back" and it talks about how we resist our darkness and live in fear that causes panic. It was so interesting to think about us resisting our dark side but it makes total sense that we can't embrace the light until we accept the dark.
This post really resonated with me. I have never been able to think of my anxiety something that makes me whole, and I appreciate so much that you were able to open up a perspective of embrace and acceptance to your issues with anxiety. This post has definitely made me think differently about the lows that come with life, so thank you for allowing an insight to your mindset on anxiety and the struggles/strengths that come with it.
If it made you think differently, I did something right 🙂
This was so beautifully written, Alexis. Thank you so much for your vulnerability and willingness to let us in to your world to help others!! Love it so hard.
Thank you love!
Amber @ Bloom Nutrition Therapy says
I remember my first panic attack. It happened while I was driving and then after, it happened EVERY time I was driving. For years, I was forced to take the "back roads" instead of the interstate because that's where they would happen. I didn't know they were panic attacks for a very long time, and then my Aunt suggested that's what it could be, because she, too, suffered from them. After learning how to take better care of myself and some exposure exercises, attacks are fewer these days. But it seems they're always there lurking in the back of my mind. I like your perspective of them being a reminder to need to slow down and listen, be more selfish with taking care of ourselves. Panic attacks are obviously a physiological response to something the body and mind can't process or handle, and we should honor that.
Wow. I cannot imagine. Anxiety is such a life-altering thing. Cheers to honoring the mind and body!
What a beautiful writing Alexis! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Love this post and your positive spin on it! I also think it's awesome that your family is so open with eachother about it. I have anxiety and so does my grandma, but I don't think the rest of my family knows she or I struggle with it as much as we do. Thanks for sharing this with us!
This is so, SO beautifully written. I often find myself at a loss for words when discussing and/or trying to explain anxiety, but you've done it so eloquently - THANK YOU for being so real and all the best to you on your journey!
Thank you for reading lady!
This was so moving!! As someone who also struggles with anxiety it was so nice to hear it as a positive. You're right- I truly wouldn't be the same grateful person without it! Thank you!!
You truly don't understand how helpful this is! I had a big breakdown on Saturday. I can't explain why my fears built, but when I got home, I started sobbing. My husband held me and let me cry, comforted me, and I was laughing when I had finally calmed down. He's incredible. But I know it won't be my last "attack." My anxiety stems from fears that may or may not sound crazy to others, but they're real to me all the same. I've always been a worrier, but I too have developed worse anxiety over the last few years. Thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart (that knows that racing feeling very well). I love your blog.
I'm the same way. It's hard to put into words the WHY behind it all. Aren't good hubbies just the best?! Thanks for reading, Kori 🙂 XO
So poignantly written, Alexis. You're truly one of the most genuine bloggers on the interwebs, and I appreciate your vulnerability so much. Anxiety is no stranger to many of us....that's for sure. I've made a few lifestyle changes recently that have helped me tremendously. I sleep in instead of exercising before work, I leisurely walk to my office instead of drive (luckily, my office is only a 15-20 minute walk), and I recently started taking Ashwagandha (in the pill form) before bed. All of these things have helped me chill the f*** out. Much love!
I love that you walk to work! Interesting about Ashwagandha...gotta look into that. Listening to yoga music on Pandora has been my jam lately 🙂
Everything about this hits home! You are not alone in your anxiety and it is amazing to hear someone else growing from their challenges!
Catherine @ A Cup of Catherine says
This is beautiful, Alexis! I can relate on many levels.
I'm going to check out that book you linked to - as much as I've grown this last year in truly accepting my anxiety/depression, I still have a ways to go in accepting my darker side. <3
It has taught me a lot of things about looking at experiences and emotions in another light. Highly recommend.
Sarah @ Bucket List Tummy says
Girl, you are right on with this post. I have struggled with anxiety on and off for years, and it's that rapid heart beat, pit in the stomach, something gnawing at you that you just can't get to. Thanks for sharing and being vulnerable - I need to check out that book!
Of course! Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Lizzie Streit says
Awesome post. I can relate, and I appreciate how really this was! Thank you! - Lizzie
Thank you for sharing this. Mental illness is so difficult to deal with. One of the best things I've ever done for myself was to get myself on some anti-depressants and some just-in-case-of-a-panic-attack meds!
I just started a really low dose (took me about a decade to try) and it has been life changing!! All I can discribe it as that- I feel like I had been carrying a REALLY heavy invisible backpack and with the medicine I got to set it down 🙂
I'm so glad to hear it helped 🙂 gotta get me some of that!
It's so tough. I'm glad you're finding something that works!!
I know exactly where you're coming from because I suffered from anxiety since I was a small child and this is something that runs in my family as well. I've tried everything to manage it in terms of therapy, nutrition/exercise which have all been somewhat helpful. I've always been reluctant to take medication to treat my anxiety, but having 2 babies in two years I felt I owed to my family to conquer anxiety. Medication has been the only thing that has made a big difference in my anxiety levels. I really enjoyed reading this post and agree with your sentiment that the ups and downs of life always have something to teach us.
Ugh, that is so tough. I hear amazing things about certain meds--def something I'm looking into 🙂
Thanks for speaking the truth! It helps to know you're not alone! <3 xx
It's like you've been living in my head for the last 2.5 months! Your words resonate so clearly with me. I had my first experience with panic attacks and painful, physical anxiety (at age 35), in the beginning of May, and I've never been so scared in my life. But over the last couple of months I've been working so hard to find the positive in the experience, and it's like you've summed up everything I've been thinking in this post. I've been such a fan of you and your blog for the last 3 years and this really just put my fan girl level over the edge 🙂 I can't thank you enough for sharing so openly and honestly. Knowing I'm not the only person in the world to experience something like this is so powerful in keeping my from going down a negative path in my head. One of the most amazing outcomes of this extremely painful experience is that I finally realized how much time and energy and mental brain power I was wasting constantly dieting, obsessing about food, binging, trying to lose weight, etc. and am now balls to the wall into intuitive eating and loving every minute of it!
Hahaha fan girl level over the edge--you're hilarious!!! This topic doesn't get talked about enough and after my recent anxiety bout I was like ok, enough of this. Imma write about it!! Keep on keepin' on 😉
I love this post...and you! Beautifully written :).
emily vardy says
It's a nice switch up to think of how anxiety has helped you grow rather than how it brings you down!
Right? It's so interesting to look at things that seem 100% detrimental and challenge yourself to see the good.
I agree! It's nice to see it from a more positive perspective!
This is beautifully written and very helpful to hear as someone who also struggles. Thank you for sharing!
You're so welcome!
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog says
Happy to hear exactly how anxiety made you grow. You go, girl!
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog