Friday, January 19, 2018

Growing Pains: 4 Things I Didn't Expect As My Panic Disorder Gets Better

I never thought there could be downsides to getting healthier, but as I work through my exposure therapy and keep on treating on with my Hashi's and anxiety, I've hit some unexpected bumps in the road:

- More energy can feel like more anxiety

I've been tired most of my adult life; physically unable to keep up with all the little things I want to do. I can't begin to describe the frustration, the sense of missing out and loss - but then, for a lot of you, I bet I don't have to.

So once I was diagnosed and began treatment for Hashimoto's, a massive vitamin D deficiency, and a bunch of hormonal stuff in 2014, I slowwwwwly began to improve. (Here's some interesting stuff about Hashi's and anxiety, btw.) I don't lie crying on the couch anymore because it's too hard to move. I can actually get up to fetch that thing I need without five minutes of mental preparation first. And sometimes - sometimes! - I actually want to move. I want to get up and dance around with Lily. I want to power walk through Universal. I want to stretch and feel the outside air on my face as I dash through a crowd, throw up my arms, and jump around laughing with friends.

This doesn't happen very often, mind you, but sometimes.

And sometimes, when that energy hits, it is incredibly inconvenient. When you're accustomed to a decade of working quietly at home, and when you LIKE that hermit routine, content in your non-moving ways, the sudden itch to run and laugh and see new things and just plain MOVE is frankly terrifying. Now throw in a panic disorder, where every increase in heart rate or minor jolt of adrenaline has always equaled an impending attack, and you've got a real pickle on your hands. A sweaty, wide-eyed, trying-hard-not-to-panic pickle.

I have more complications because of my sleep schedule, since you can't exactly go anywhere at 3AM to power walk off a sudden adrenaline buzz, so I've had one or two panic episodes triggered by a perfectly healthy desire to get up and go. The sensation is just so new, and as we panic peeps know, any new sensation is prime panic fodder.

Provided I have a good outlet, though, this occasional new energy is wonderful. I like getting that itch in my legs telling me I need to get up and stretch, or go walk on the treadmill desk for an hour. (Also, after having it packed away for two months in the garage, WOW DO I LOVE MY TREADMILL DESK.) But at the same time, I hate change. I hate being interrupted from my sedentary, cerebral routine. I hate having to reorder my life to incorporate... [gag]... exercise.  So yeah, thanks, Getting Healthy. How dare you.


- One Victory Doesn't Mean The War Is Over

I'm still learning to accept this one: just because I finally managed to do something hard doesn't mean I'll always be able to. It doesn't mean I'm cured. At least, not yet. It's a war, not a battle, and some days I'm going to feel stronger and braver than others. I still have to keep trying, of course, but after winning a few rounds it hurts that much more to fall back into being afraid of the queue for the Little Mermaid ride, as a purely random, snatched-from-the-air example. [whistles innocently]

There's also the fear that maybe you'll never feel that strong again; that it was a one-time fluke, that thing you did. And if you have to explain that no, you're NOT quite "normal" yet to friends or loved ones, despite the victories? Dang. So hard.


- You Start To Feel Like A Fraud

Anxiety is a slippery thing; there are many shades to it, many varying degrees and even definitions. I don't have social anxiety, which seems to be the most common; I have agoraphobia and general anxiety disorder. I panic in situations where I feel trapped, or sometimes I panic over nothing at all, if I haven't been to the chiropractor in a while.* [More on that below.] That means my experiences don't line up with a lot of yours. I don't (usually) obsessively worry about things I've said or awkward social encounters; instead I lie awake fretting over anything that involves travel, or elevators, or the middle seat in a theater, or traffic jams, or tunnels, or broken down theme park rides, or... you get the idea.

So already I feel a little like the outsider in the panic community, but on top of that, I'm getting better. I'm not on daily meds for it, I often like leaving the house now, and frankly if you met me IRL you'd probably never suspect I have anxiety. At my best times, when I'm riding high and haven't had to take a Xanax in 3 months, I start to wonder if it's even right for me to talk about anxiety. Like I'm not in the club anymore, or that I'll be seen as gloating over my progress, or worse, that I'll be seen as a fraud only claiming to have anxiety for sympathy. (Ug.)

I don't believe any of that, for the record, but these thoughts do start to swirl around when I feel stronger.


- You Start To Question Who You Are

I've really tried to NOT be the anxiety blogger, you guys. I like to think you know me and John for a lot of things: for crafts and cosplay and Cake Wrecks and extravagant Harry Potter parties and STILL being into steampunk (fight me) and maybe some other thing I'd never have thought was memorable, but that stuck with you.

Still, when you live with a thing that defines your life, it's eventually going to feel like a part of you. Like it IS you. I mean, look, these anxiety shackles go with all my outfits now. They're comfortable. They're familiar. Almost everyone I know has never seen me not wearing them. They're ME.

Except, they're not me.

Maybe.

I hope.

I don't know.

Like I said, you start to question. Like, how much of my introversion is really agoraphobia? This foundational aspect of my personality: Jen, the introverted hermit - how much of that is built around my fears instead of my desires? I barely remember the person I used to be, even though it's "only" been ten years since my panic switched on overnight. If I wasn't afraid of anything, if my panic were completely gone tomorrow, would I be someone else entirely? Would I be some world-traveling public speaker? Would I want to be?

This is getting far too philosophical, but you get my point. When something foundational in your mental health shifts, everything shifts - at least a little. Luckily(?) the road to better mental health is a long and winding one; I should have plenty of time to figure it out as I go along.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, gang; whether you're battling anxiety or other long-term health issues. Tell me how you've changed as you get better. Tell me how it's changed YOU. And tell me if you ever see a steampunked treadmill desk, because I could really use some inspiration here. (Oof.) (And don't say "paint it gold and glue some gears on it." That's already Plan A. :D)


 
This post needs a picture, so I figure you can't go wrong with orange flowers.


*Now regarding the chiropractor thing: I have a messed up section in my upper back from the constant computer use, and it causes what I call "free-floating" panic. This kind of panic strikes fast, with no warning, and feels very different from a typical panic attack. I'll describe it below.

{TRIGGER WARNING AHEAD}

Instead of a typical panic attack, which builds to an all-consuming dread and a massive influx of adrenaline - which in turn sparks the galloping heart rate, light-headedness, etc - this "free-floating" panic seizes my upper body all in an instant, lightning fast, and makes it feel like I can't breathe. Obviously my heart rate goes up, because it's scary, but it's not the blinding terror of a typical panic attack, and I'm still able to think clearly. It feels more physical than mental, if that makes sense; like my chest and esophagus have been gripped by an invisible hand. Once I learned this "other" panic is connected to my posture, I devised a simple shoulder stretch (modified from one my doctor prescribed) that can stop it completely in about 10 seconds. (Those seconds still feel like a lifetime, of course, but I'll take it.) Even better, since I can stop the attack so quickly, I don't have nearly the amount of adrenaline shakes to deal with afterward.

If you'd like to try it, the stretch goes like this: sit up as straight as possible, inhale deeply, and try to touch your elbows together behind your back. Raise your chin, arch your back, and hold that scrunched-back position (while holding in your breath) for several seconds. Exhale, relax, and repeat. If possible, stand up and walk around while you're doing this to stay distracted. Distraction is key to prevent this from triggering a full-scale panic attack. (In the past this always led to a full attack for me, which is why it took me so long to realize they're different kinds of panic.)

Your mileage will vary, of course, but if you're on a computer a lot and have sudden panic definitely give that stretch a try - and if it helps,
get thee to a chiropractor. Once I start needing the stretch a few times a week I know it's time for my next visit, but happily I can last up to two months between adjustments now.

I hope some of you find that helpful! It was darn near life-saving for me when I first learned the posture-panic connection - from an Epbot commenter, no less - so I like to mention it as much as I can, just in case it helps someone else out there.



50 comments:

  1. My daughter told me today that I'm doing better than last summer. I don't know. I think she said that because she's hoping to go back to Canada's Wonderland (a Canadian amusement park) this coming summer. I have been able to start writing again this weekend so that is an improvement. So far I haven't noticed any change to me. I still struggle with general anxiety every day and have fleeting suicidal ideation. I think I'll need to wait until spring, when I'm not facing cold and snow, to see what I'm like.

    Or I could just say I don't know LOL

    I am very glad things are getting better for you!

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  2. Honestly, I don’t think it’s bad if you’re the “anxiety blogger” more and more lately, I’ve been finding myself drawn to your posts about things like this. I still like to look at cosplay pictures and other geeky stuff occasionally, but these posts are doing it for me lately. And I totally get what you mean about being seen as a fraud. I think that way too... I keep my anxiety so internalized and private, so why would anyone believe I broke down in my car on the way to work the other night because my anxiety is currently manifesting itself as an obsession with my headlights?? Why would I think they would believe the incessant nail biting is anything other than a bad habit? All of that to say, thank you for being that blogger.

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    1. Sorry, don't know what happened there!

      Thank you so much for describing your other kind of physical panic and how you treat it! It sounds a lot like what happens to me out of the blue when I'm at my computer so I'll definitely give the stretch a try and consider seeing a chiropractor. I love all your posts but your anxiety posts are some of my favourites, even though we have different kinds of anxiety I feel less alone when you talk about yours. So thank you Jen <33333

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  4. If your panic were completely gone tomorrow, I think you'll still be you. Because you are so much more than your anxiety. And as hard as it can be to see beyond it, maybe it's a little easier for the rest of us to see. So while I can't speak for anyone else here, I do see the Harry Potter love, the crafts (I've tried a couple!), the cosplay, and the awesome pictures of your cats. If (when!!!) the anxiety goes away, you'll still be the person with the courage to share her struggles with the world, who's inspired so many, and I'd be willing to bet that you'll always be a person who's changed more than a few lives in a very wonderful way.

    And as a committed introvert, I can say that's probably not you (nor is it me) either. There's a whole lot more.

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  5. I guess getting significantly better than you're used to is kinda like getting a serious upgrade of your craft kit. There will be some kinks to work out and take a while to get comfortable with, but you'll be able to do things you never could before and things that took a full day before can be done in an hour because LOOK at this new function!
    You have no obligation to go back to how you were "before". No one is the same as they were 10 years ago so don't even compare that. It's probable that you would be different had you never had these problems, true, but different doesn't necessarily mean better. These new functions don't mean that you need to "get back", they are just new tools for you to use for whatever you want in your life now.

    I was diagnosed and started on medication for my ADD just a couple years ago. Had I had those meds while still in school things might have been different, but in stead of dwelling on that I enjoy how the new function I get benefits me now, and it's AMAZING!
    You are not defined by your issues but you have learned to live with them. Gaining back abilities is like gaining a superpower, it's yours to use as much or as little as you want to. There's nothing wrong with keeping routines you made to deal with the issues if you like them, you just have the opportunity now to change them if you want to.

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  6. For me you are just awesome Jen and John, who have provided much joy in my life.
    Plus my boobs thank you (Jen, not so much John) every time I put on a bra nowadays!
    As a certain wise barkeep once opined, shared joy is doubled and shared pain is halved (or something to that effect, apologies to Spider Robinson). You are also responsible for the 8 foot tall T-Rex in my storage unit at present. Glad you are finding ways of handling your issues, and thank you for sharing them!

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  7. I can understand not wanting to be the anxiety blogger, but thats why we love you guys. You are just regular people. So many blogs give off a persona of perfect people in a perfect life. And thats impossible to live up to. Everyone struggles with something its so inspiring to see someone doing things they love even when its hard. Because of you i went to the movie theater for the first time in ten years and i went alone which was an all out first. I was super nervous, theaters give me major anxiety, but i sat there and thought about the victories you've had recently and it gave me strength. And i made it through the whole movie and its the first time ive done anything that made me proud in years. So thank you for being human and sharing your journey with us all.

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  8. Interestingly, I'm dealing with a little bit of the "impostor syndrome" in reverse of what you're feeling. I've just recently started dealing with anxiety (nothing diagnosed, but the attacks are pretty textbook). I was with some friends and anxiety came up and I nervously admitted I'd been having episodes. The friends had been dealing with it for several years and had diagnoses, meds, etc. And I suddenly felt like I was saying it for attention or an "oh, me, too!" kind of thing, and I almost had an attack from the pent-up social anxiety of it (I haven't pegged the trigger for my more random attacks, but I do have episodes of social anxiety mixed in). I'm mostly working on self-treatment (I was a psych major, so I mostly know what's up and how to treat it, and I know my personal threshold for seeking professional help if self-treatment isn't working), so part of me asks "do you really have anxiety, then? It's only been a few months, and they've had it for years, and blah blah blah--" sometimes it takes a lot of mental gymnastics to remind myself that even if it's new --and even if it disappeared tomorrow-- it's still a real issue that needs real treatment and is no less an issue than it is for people with "real" anxiety who've had or for years. That just because it's a new problem doesn't mean I'm a fraud. Either way, it's a weird side-effect of anxiety, isn't it?

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  9. Also I unfortunately can’t talk myself out of my anxiety. Because I have OCD, thinking about it and trying to convince myself only makes it worse. So I have to try and do it despite the feelings but they are often too strong for me. Makes me feel like a coward but apparently I’m not...

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  10. I sometimes - once a month if I’m lucky - get the adrenaline panic attack (at least that’s what I think it is) but while I know I should walk it off, I am paralysed. At once itching with energy and unable to move. I’m hoping this new med I was prescribed will help me in those times. I’m a little different from you it sounds becuase once I’m out of the house I’m usually ok but the effort of overcoming my lethargy and anxiety to get out often seems insurmountable even though getting out could really help me on bad days.
    I also find sometimes that arousal is often mistaken for anxiety in my head - leading me to avoid it entirely :(
    I understand that tiredness and longing to do things, fulfill dreams and hobbies, but being unable to becuase of lethargy and anxiety. It’s so heartbreaking. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to actually achieve something. A good day is if I’m not in bed all day and have done something even as simple as read a book or plugged in my 3ds to charge but sometimes it’s really hard to feel achievement for such little things when I’ve spent years longing for more - I wish I could get back to the capability of my teenage years.

    I completely understand the feeling of will I get back to that great high time again? In my down weeks I despair of getting back to it, and when I’m in it - all up and happy - I fear the return of the down. I also often feel a fraud with my assistance dog because I don’t have social anxiety or agoraphobia, so I compare myself to those who do and wonder if I deserve my Charlie. But on good days I can remember that he helps me in other ways.
    I’ve just met a guy online who might end up being a boyfriend. I hate how guys have to look past my conditions to consider if I’m worth dating anyway. This latest guy says he doesn’t see it that way, that everything is just a part of my so he likes getting to know all of me. But I still wish this condition wasn’t a part of me. I remember when it wasn’t. I’m so much better than when I first got ill but I wonder, 12 years down the road if I’ll be pulling myself out of it for the rest of my life. :(

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  12. Hey just because you suddenly get to have more spoons doesn't mean you aren't still worrying about how to use what you've got. And it doesn't mean you won't lose a few or gain a few more. It isn't a club. It's just the human race.

    I'm glad you're having more energy and that you're feeling better. It's encouraging to know that it can happen. Even when it does come with complications.

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  13. I relate deeply to your fourth point. I think for me it's tied up with when I first started having real issues with my depression and anxiety - while I was still in school things were structured enough that I was ok, but once I moved in with my now-husband, I couldn't handle it. So I often find myself wondering where I would be if I didn't have anxiety and depression - would I be settled in my career by now? What could I have accomplished in the last five years if I was """normal"""? I'm still working on coming to terms with who I am with these conditions and recognizing that even though things don't look as I imagined them, I still have plenty to be proud of.

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  14. Thanks for sharing this, Jen! The title of this post made me smile; growing pains is the perfect term. Recovery seems like it should be an upward line on a chart, but it often feels more like a slowly turning wheel.

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  15. This may just be me, but to me, brass is steampunk, and steampunk is brass. Take from that what you will. I can envision something very beautiful, but I cannot describe it in any other than disjointed form, because I am losing my words (anyone who is actually losing their words will understand what I mean). It's a shame, because what I can see but not say is very steampunky and lovely. And brass.

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  16. First thank you every time you share the ups and downs it reminds me everyone deals with stuff and they are not all making a living as professional speakers who are over it. I get the hermit thing, funny thing is I also need a certain amount of human contact or I go even crazier, it is a strange balance sort of like building a floating mixed drink.
    As for the steampunk treadmill desk, maybe wrap the legs in foam for covering pipes carved to look like colored glass.

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  17. Waving from in front of you. You wont recognise this you in a few years hence. I still hate change and it unsettles me and I am still anxious (my daughter is getting her first cat this morning and I am struggling to stay calm, I am going to collect it with her and I am also struggling not to list all the things that could go wrong and what I think she should do to acclimatise her). Just had to drive 3 different cars in short succession! That really wound me up but I was 40 before I got over my anxiety enough to pass my driving test. Still dont like driving but I can do it. I lower my eyes from the horizon and concentrate on the next few steps whenever I feel anxiety coming in and this time of year I just withdraw. Its been probably the best winter ever and even though I say I am a hermit and don't enjoy socialising both my daughter (the other one) and her partner say I seem to cope very well, my response is, its a strain. (I am 54 and it is). You are doing great. I get the worry that the improvement wont be sustained, but it most likely will and as you become more familiar with it, it becomes more normal, it will be other things you worry about (c'est la vie) and you will forget most of the time that you ever worried about these things. Good job on the shoulder stretches too. A heads up about menopause, it feels terribly like panic attacks to me. Nearly over for me now though, but just know in a few years time if you start to get unexplained panic attacks, it might be menopause, THAT really freaked me out when it started. Onward and upward.

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  18. Please see your doctor specifically about your back issue. Ask about physical therapy as a possible solution. The advantages of PT are that the therapists primary goal is to get you to a point where you no longer need to see them, their work is backed by actual science, and they’re much better at realizing when you may have a more serious issue that needs escalation.

    If your doctor is recommending chiropracticy, find a new doctor.

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    1. Ha, well, I know some folks consider ALL chiropractic a sham, and I get that. I know there are bad ones out there, same as there are bad naturopaths and any form of alternative medicine "miracle cures" and whatnot. To be honest I went in extremely skeptical, but I'd run out of options. That chiro treatment gave me my first panic relief in a long stretch of near-constant panic, though, and I see a definite connection when I stay away too long and then go in again. (Believe me, I keep trying to quit all together, but the panic comes back.)

      I know I won't change your mind, and hey, that's OK. I'd been to every Western doctor: cardiologists, kidney specialists, regular MDs, and their solutions were Toprol and Prozac. No one found the posture connection 'til the chiropractor. No one found my massive D deficiency or hormone imbalances 'til I went to a Naturopath - another "sham" doctor. So obviously I'm pretty open to alternative medicine. When you're sick and desperate and tired of being told nothing's wrong when something obviously is, you learn to try any and everything. I'm just glad I found a few things that helped. If that disappoints some of you, uh... sorry? :D


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    2. I'll say your shoulder stretch sounds very similar to a PT exercise I was given except mine is on a foam roller. I lay on a foam roller, head at the top, butt at the bottom, roller is along my spine. Then I make slow "snow angels" with my arms for about a minute or two. At about 10 and 2 o'clock, you feel a "good" stretch on the front of the chest stretching the pecs and pulling the shoulders back. The foam roller is simply to raise the body off the floor so that the arms can have room to go lower. It sounds a lot like what you described except horizontal.

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  19. Jen, thank you for ALL you put out on the internet. The wide range of tone and subject matter in your posts enhance eachother. (Didn't phrase that quite right) The "darker?" posts are cheerier in the context of all your projects, adventures and triumphs, and all your "cheerier?" posts have more gravitas in the context of the "darker?" posts. ( I especially love your Dollar Store craft posts--they resound with the hammerstrokes of victory in my mind...) Fun at Disneyworld, staggering anxiety, steampunk candy shop, lethargy and fear, and cosplay and despair and cats.... I find that maintaining this broadness of vision is itself a help against the difficult moods, and make all of it easier to see as Just Life Being Lived. I imagine too that the very same set of skills that help you deal with illness will help you deal with health. You know how to triumph, so you will just keep on triumphing, whatever it is you are triumphing over. You keep doing you. I'll keep cheering.

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    1. "Just Life Being Lived" - ahh, I love that. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    2. "You keep doing you." I like that. Yes, please keep doing you, Jen. You're so good at articulating your various ups and downs: not everyone can do that, and I believe you are helping far more people than you know, in so many ways, all the time.

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  20. As if I needed another reason to like you more (hm, sharing anxiety problems is an odd way to like someone, eh? Connect is probably a better word).

    I relate to this post SO HARD, as I always feel like an outside because my anxiety doesn't manifest the same as other people. (And I swear every time I talk about my anxiety with other people it turns into a social anxiety discussion. Nothing at all against people who have that, as their anxieties are just as valid, but there seems to be this weird thinking that anxiety only means social anxiety and the hide-under-the-table-hyperventilating anxiety.) It's nice to hear someone else has that same issue. I hate that you have it, though. :(

    Also, you are #writinggoals. Seriously.

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  21. Jen,
    As always your honesty and willingness to share vulnerabilities with 'the abyss' aka, the internet, have been a bright spot for so many (myself incl.) and I'd just like to say thanks for being that bright spot of positivity for ua all. In return I'd like to offer you some positivity.

    This post reminds me of 'Into the Woods', by Stephen Sondheim. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend his fairy tale guide to surviving the journey through the woods, which as any fairy tale, could also be metaphorically describing our own journeys. If you've already seen it, I hope you liked it and that it helps you through your journey.

    Glad to hear you're doing better. Best wishes for continued progress.

    P.S. As for your treadmill desk, I've always thought it looked more like an Ops console on a Federation starship. :) Live long and prosper, Jen and John.


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  22. I have an interesting set as far as anxiety goes. I have agoraphobia as well, but that is combined with generalized anxiety, OCD, and severe social anxiety (to the point where it was diagnosed as a social phobia). Now, don’t get me wrong, I love being with and having friends. I love having genuine connections with people. This issue is, I never, ever feel like I am good enough for them. I suffer from intermittent imposter syndrome in which I feel like everyone is just pretending to like me or tolerate me and they really don’t want me around. It becomes especially enhanced when I am not invited to things, but most of the time I don’t even go if I am because I’m too anxious and afraid! I am constantly overthinking everything and every situation. I am terrified of being too much, saying the wrong thing, or just not being what people want. I have been abandoned multiple times in my life by people I considered close friends. I just feel so alone in this world most of the time. Like I exist outside everyone and am just observing life as it happens. I can see it, I can care, but I can’t put myself into a life or share a connection with someone without disappointing them or getting hurt. It leaves me in a constant state of discomfort, conflict, anxiety, and sadness.
    What I guess I’m trying to say is, you’re not alone. And you and every feeling you have are valid. In this community of anxiety and other mental disorders, it is beautiful to see steps toward recovery. It gives us joy and hope as well as the happiness at the success of others. And this community offers a shoulder to lean on when it cracks down again, because recovery is never linear. There are always ups and downs. That’s what a lot of people don’t understand. They think that once you’re better, that’s it. Well, that’s never really how it goes. But finding a community of like-minded people fosters that care and understanding that goes beyond words. It offers comfort, support, and acceptance. I don’t know what I would do without people I could connect with. That’s part of the reason reading this blog is so special for me. It shows me that I’m not alone, and there are others like me; others that understand. It also shows that things can get better. Even if they aren’t right now, there is always hope. And until we can get there ourselves, knowing there are those who understand and have our backs is the most important thing.
    Your blog has gotten me through a lot of tough times in my life. I feel like you are almost friend, though we’ve never met. I just enjoy reading about your life, progress, geekery, and funny or touching stories. You speak to me and many others in an open, caring, and understanding way which so many of us need right now. You are a beautiful voice of hope and positivity in this crazy world. A world that could use more people like you.
    Congratulations on your amazing progress. Never downplay how far you’ve come by thinking other people have it worse or you don’t belong. You belong where you feel you make connections. You belong where you have friends and are accepted. You belong. You are entitled to you feelings, bad AND GOOD! It’s the good that we all strive for in the long run. The fact that you are able to experience that more and more is uplifting and wonderful. Let yourself revel in that, and recognize how far you’ve come. You have strength freedom that you have never had before, or at least not for a very long time. And that, that is amazing.
    - Julia

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    1. You're an incredible soul, Julia; we may be friends who haven't met yet, but I can see it all through your writing. Sending you virtual hugs, and the hope you see yourself - really see yourself - for the thoughtful, generous, caring friend you are. <3

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  23. I think you're really brave to share your experiences, tbh it helps those of us that deal with our own issues! I really wish you all the best in this and other things!
    I have had anxiety for the last 10 or so years, mostly general anxiety (this general feeling that something horrible is going to happen any minute now) that gets worse by stress (so of course i had to start doing a PhD, very smart!) but also some social anxiety. I have learned to manage it, mainly by recognising that now this is the anxiety speaking, and by some stress management strategies, and in the last couple of years by doing tons of sports (this is not to say this is something that works for most people but def works for me). I have also experienced downsides of these strategies, especially with the sports: now i'm mostly ok day to day, but if i have to take more than one day of sports (like when i hurt my leg) i get *super* anxious, which is really inconvenient. Also, knowing what i can do without attacks is good, but also a bit sad: e.g. can't work certain jobs because it would be anxiety every day.

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  24. Thank you for the well-timed post! I'd been have the fraud feelings, too. I did work out that it was alright to be feeling not so anxious and stressed all the time, though. I've even made the step of discussing my current therapies with my psych the morning I'd read your post (as I said, well-timed - I already had an appointment booked). My psych has also agreed that I'm doing better, and has left it up to me to dictate when I'll see her next, and if I see my GP to reduce/come off my meds.

    I then followed up my appointment by going to my first ever concert (I'd always been worried that I'll not cope with the crowds and noise - even worse with it being a Foo Fighters concert). I found the whole thing exhilarating rather than intimidating, and am only kicking myself that I'd never taken the opportunity to go to a concert earlier. It did help that my friend and I found the Chill Out zone, and spent half the evening there rather than in our seats, after I'd spent time checking how easily I could get out of my seat, and trying not to freak out about being so high up in the stands.

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    1. Yay! I'm so glad! I remember how happy I was - am - over being able to see movies and theater shows again. There's something wonderful in that particular victory, something about being surrounded by people and feeling like you're one of them, getting to see something you love together. Nothing better.

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  25. Having diagnosed social and generalized anxiety, I can really relate to feeling like a fraud. Some days, I can spend time with my best friend--someone who, like John, understands and is able to pull me out of my anxiety--and do daring things like try a new restaurant or go on a day trip hours away and not come home until midnight. Some days, I can't leave the house because I'm panicked about things that panic me (not including those for fear of triggers!). Through therapy, I'm learning that I'm still ME when anxiety takes over. None of that negates who I am. Nor do good days negate who I am when I am panicking and overwhelmed. Little by little, pushing myself out of the comfort zone (in part, thanks to you and your honesty surrounding your anxiety) helps me realize I'm not tethered to the anxiety. While I'll always have it, the good days are better and more frequent than ever before. As you said, it's a war, not a single battle. The better we arm ourselves, the stronger we become in the fight.

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  26. So I'm an extrovert with no anxiety issues and read your blog every week. I certainly don't think of you as the "anxiety blogger". I relate to the crafts and cosplay but I don' skip the heavy stuff. Reading about your struggles reminds me to treat others kindly and remember that not everyone functions like I do...essentially you help me be less judgy and more conscious of others.

    Plus I'm certain one day I'll win the art-give away :)

    -B

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    1. Thanks, B! I love that we're a good mix here, all flavors and styles and personality types of geekdom. Keeps it interesting. Makes us stronger. <3

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  27. Tried to post the other day but looks like it didn't work- I'd really recommend seeing a physiotherapist for your back issue! I don't like to be telling people how to deal with their personal health issues but after YEARS of continually seeing a massage therapist for what sounds like similar back/posture issues as you have and it only ever being a bandaid fix, a physiotherapist helped me get to the root of the problem (weak mid traps, NOT a stiff neck like I always thought). Still nice to go for a massage for a "tune up" every once in a while but physio is where it's at for anything musculoskeletal :)

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  28. It can be such a weird thing trying to separate mental, emotional or physical dysfunctions from who you are as a person. Is your personality static and ingrained in you or is it a result of what has happened to you? (Probably both, right?) Someone once said to me that if things started going better for me circumstantially maybe I wouldn't be so introverted. This struck as me as odd and made me wonder if things changing around me would really alter my personality on a fundamental level. Also it made me wonder if there was something objectively wrong with being introverted. After some deliberations I concluded that neither of these are correct. We are always shaped by what we live through but that can be for the better, even when it is difficult. Especially when we can come out the other side (or even part way out the other side) and tell people that there is hope! You give so much encouragement to people because you share the difficult stuff and the fun and wonderful stuff. Thank you for the hours of entertainment and the solidarity of knowing other people out there sometimes have to sludge through the same muck as I do. Or different muck. The point is we all have have challenges and you inspire me. So again- thanks :)

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  29. Hello! Long time reader, very occasional commenter here...
    And today's comment is anxiety-related. As in "I had a panic attack today, the second ever and definitely worse than the first, and I don't know how it would have gone if I hadn't read those more serious articles." So thank you, a lot.

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    1. Oof, I'm so sorry about the attack, but happy Epbot could help - at least a little! Sending you virtual hugs.

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  30. I just wanted to say that I love you and how sharing you are about everything. I feel like I know you and I count you as a friend. I thrill with you on every victory and cry with you on every defeat. I guess that's a bit creepy stalkery but you help me make sense of my life's ups & downs like any physical friend does. Even if all the sharing is one sided.

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    1. Not stalkery at all, and thank you for saying so, Dianna! Fwiw, we're totally friends. We just haven't met yet. <3 (And hey, if you ever come to WDW or Uni, I'll buy you an ice cream.)

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  31. I get the upper body panic attack quite regularly, and yes it usually happens because of my crappy posture and being on the computer too much. I find is I do my shoulder stretch while walking around my room it helps infinitely more than just doing them while I'm still sitting. Maybe it can help yours more too :)

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    1. Agreed; if it's on the stronger side I do have to stand up and walk around, since the movement really helps. Glad I'm not the only one, though I'm sorry you're in the same boat!

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  32. OMG you've just massively cleared something up for me. I'd been struggling with anxiety, but had got a hold on it last year. Then I started having the physical symptoms of anxiety without the mental, particularly restless legs and that 'antsyness' at night. It's just clicked that that was energy, something I've not felt in years!

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    1. I'm so glad! It really is hard to separate the two, especially at first.

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  33. "I've really tried to NOT be the anxiety blogger, you guys. I like to think you know me and John for a lot of things: for crafts and cosplay and Cake Wrecks and extravagant Harry Potter parties and STILL being into steampunk (fight me) and maybe some other thing I'd never have thought was memorable, but that stuck with you." I think of you and John as the bloggers with a wonderful, quirky, snarky sense of humor, who aren't afraid to be nerds and who relish some of my favorite fandoms. And sometimes I envy you for being able to make a living while being at home (Introverts Unite! Separately!).

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  34. I don't know that I've ever thanked you properly for your honesty and your bravery and how well you share both your joy and your sadness with us all. It helps. It makes me smile and, by reading comments, I know it helps other smile. It also helps us feel not-alone. You are not an "anxiety blogger" but instead a "blogger who writes about anxiety in a very personal way among other topics - also in very personal and honest ways." It looks like semantics but it is truth. I hope you feel that truth as much as we do. Even if there are bad days where you forget to remember sometimes.

    Speaking even more specifically in my case, I appreciate point three there so very much. I know I have anxiety. Of some sort. I have been diagnosed in a vague sort of way and given prescription medication (just as much for depression as anxiety, really). Yet I constantly feel like I'm trotting out excuses instead of reality when I mention it, when it prevents me from doing something, or (more frequently) when doing something is far more work than it should be. Am I a fraud? Am I not "anxious enough" or "depressed enough" to bother mentioning it?

    And, of course, that makes it all the worse because then it turns into a sort of warped Anxiety Imposter Syndrome.

    So thank you so much for being brave and having words to share with all of us on these things. I adore you.

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  35. I've never once thought of you as "the anxiety blogger," but I do love how open you've been with the positives and negatives of your struggle. It's really inspiring to see that someone I admire so much for all the OTHER cool stuff you do can still have very honest and real struggles.

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  36. While I don't battle like you do, several members of my family does. The sheer act of calming the anxiety down can and will make you question things. But like depression, it lies about the CORE of YOU. That will evolve as you age - that is a given. You develop new craft skills so your interests move in different directions. All good. All scary.But the core of you has not changed - it may be held hostage by medical reasons, but it is still there. So embrace the sudden need to walk - okay maybe not at 3am because the cops thinks that is odd, but walk. It does not diminish all the creative things you do. Sometimes walking and muttering can clear a creative road block. And remember that you have Jen's Army on this battle march with you. And we like you, quirks and all, otherwise we would move on to another blog. But you, Will Wheaton and The Bloggess have helped thousands to better understand anxiety and depression in ourselves and our family. Thank you.

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  37. I want to comment on this one so much. I read your blog all the time and even though I don't like all the same things you do, I am fascinated by your crafts and DIY's and Disney and steampunk. I also read your "anxiety" posts because I learn so much from them. I don't think of myself as having anxiety attacks, but there are things that make me feel that way...down escalators, crowds, heights so I can relate in my own small way..and what you write helps me so much. Thanks for being you and for being honest.

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  38. I love all your posts, variety is wonderful and your openness makes me love this blog even more. As someone who is new to anxiety, I find it comforting to hear other's experiences. Mine was triggered when my son was born with Dwarfism, a life long disability with more medical concerns than I ever realized. Regular exercise really helps me keep my anxiety under control especially since my trigger is unavoidable.

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