My Anxiety Story

My first panic attack happened in a Blockbuster about 14 or 15 years ago. I was high-school age and trying to spend a gift card I’d won in a library reading program. I hadn’t been in there before and new places made me nervous, but I’d planned exactly what I was looking for and my mom and sister were with me so it was going to be fine. Then the DVD wasn’t there. And I can’t make up my mind what to do, my mom wants me to hurry up because we’re running late, my sister says just make a decision already, and suddenly I can’t breath so I grab a DVD march up to the counter, and get out. Then my family asks why I was rude to the cashier and seem so angry.

It didn’t feel like anger. My heart was racing, hands shaking, breathing shallow. I felt hot all over and my skin seemed too small. But other than embarrassing, I didn’t know what it was. And then it happened again months later in a Hobby Lobby. I’d worked up the courage to ask about a price that seemed too high, which lead to a confrontation with the manager and the realization that I was the one who’d read the sign wrong. Again the tightness in my chest, the shallow breathing, the shaking, and too-warm feeling. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

College didn’t make things any better. After I spent most of my first quarter hiding or in tears, I found myself in the Dewey Decimal 155.2 (Individual Psychology) section of a library’s bookshelves. Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Won’t Stop Talking* and Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You* were literal life-changers. I recommend them to people more often than any other non-fiction book except the Bible. I finally understood why so many things that other people treated as normal seemed overwhelming to me. But they still didn’t explain everything.

  • *please note that these are affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you, I’ll receive a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.

Realizing I Had Anxiety

I’m not sure exactly when I began to suspect I was dealing with an anxiety disorder. In June of 2013 I wrote on this blog, “I’m not very good at letting go of my anxiety.” But I was still thinking of it more in the sense of “I worry too much” rather than “a psychologist would say I have anxiety.” I started feeling guilty for thinking of myself as anxious, especially when people who knew they had anxiety started following my blog and I realized mine didn’t seem as bad as theirs. Maybe I was just a wimp who was overeating to normal, everyday worries. Read more

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Personality Type Myth-Busting: Are All Introverts Quiet?

I think most people would tell you that one of the defining traits of introverts is that they are quiet. It’s even the name of one of the most popular introvert books — Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This also happens to be the book that first got me started on studying and embracing introversion, and it’s still one of my favorite books.

But in the midst of this “quiet revolution” that’s pushing for greater acceptance of introversion, we might get the idea that all introverts are characterized by being soft-spoken people who rarely talk. However, that’s not entirely accurate and that’s not what really what Susan Cain meant when she named her book Quiet.

Confusing Introversion and Shyness

One of the most common mistakes regarding introversion is to assume it’s the same thing as shyness. But introversion is simply a description of how about 50% of the population’s brains are “hardwired.” It’s a preference for the inner world and a need to recharge in solitude. Shyness, on the other hand, is related to social anxiety. Read more

Mental Illness and Musicals

The theater where my sister and I hold season tickets is getting the touring Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen for its 2019/2020 season. Pretty exciting, right? Actually, I’m excited about the entire upcoming season. It’s packed full of musicals, and they’re all such good titles that I can’t say there’s one that I’m least exited to see.

I can, however, tell you that Dear Evan Hansen is one I’m most excited about. Two years ago, this musical was nominated for nine Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt. And it more than earned those accolades with brilliant scrip, music, characters, and acting all coming together to tell a story that contributes to an important conversation about mental illness. Read more

It’s Amazing What Breathing Can Do

One of the things I’ve discovered in learning how to better handle my anxiety is that breathing helps.

I was kind of hoping when I started counseling I’d learn about a semi-magical secret trick to avoiding panic attacks and working through anxiety. And what did I find? Deep breathing. Turns out that it’s important to breath when you’re panicking. Who knew?

Just to be clear, I’m talking about things that help in the moment when you’re starting to feel anxious — not about long-term work on managing anxiety and re-training your mind. That’s a slightly different topic, which I’ve talked about in posts like “Exchanging Your Foundation Stones” and “Making Some New Paths In Our Minds.”

Different people who struggle with anxiety find different ways of managing it (EFT tapping, grounding techniques, deep breathing, etc). For me, grounding and breathing seem to work best, which I find interesting since I’ve been doing both for years through my yoga practice. I just needed to start using those tools more effectively in the rest of my life, not just for 15-45 minutes every morning.

It’s amazing what a difference focusing on the present moment, grounding yourself in the physical world, and forcing yourself to breath deep can make. And I’m assuming this would help whether you’re dealing with every-day anxieties or with having more long-term anxiety. The techniques seem almost too simple, but they work and if you’re starting to feel panicky the last thing you need is to try and remember some complicated method of calming down.

You don’t need to figure everything out, or get cured of anxiety, or conquer whatever mountain you’re climbing before you can start to feel better. Sometimes, all we need is to stop, breath, and tune-in to the present moment. To give ourselves permission to feel however it is we’re feeling rather than keep burying it or pressing on through.

Hopefully, taking the time to ground yourself and just breath will help cultivate a sense of peace. But if not, don’t beat yourself up over it. Treat yourself with the same kindness I’m sure you’d show someone you love who’s struggling. Self-care isn’t selfish — it’s essential (another thing I’m learning that now seems like it should have been obvious).

I’m not sure who needed this post (other than me), but I hope you’ll take some time for yourself today. Breath, tune-in, and take care of yourself. Be well my dear readers 🙂

It's Amazing What Breathing Can Do | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: johnhain via Pixabay

 

Featured image credit: Jill Wellington via Pixabay

How Can A Shy Introvert Struggling With Social Anxiety Learn To Handle Leadership Roles?

I’ve never considered myself much of a leader. I like to stay out of the spotlight and play a supportive role. Part of it’s shyness/anxiety, part of it’s a normal trait of my INFJ personality type. Recently, though, I’ve found myself accidentally winding up in leadership roles.

For many introverts, especially if you’re shy and/or struggling with anxiety, this probably sounds like a recipe for a full-blown panic attack. But it’s actually going pretty well, and maybe you’ll find some of the things I’m learning encouraging if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

It All Started With Dancing

I joined the dance team at my Messianic church several years ago, and within a year most of the dance team moved on to other things and there was just three of us left. New people quickly joined, but I suddenly found myself one of the most experienced dancers in the group. I had to keep learning quickly if I wanted to help teach, so it ended up making me a better dancer.

Then our dance leader started leaving me in charge when she had to be gone for a weekend. She even when to Alaska for a few weeks and turned keys, music files, instruction DVDs, and choice of what to dance each week over to me. I thought I’d spend most of the time panicking, but I didn’t and things went pretty well. I discovered I actually can handle being put in charge of something where I have to work with other people. Read more

Introverts Need People Too: A Closer Look At Introversion and Social Anxiety

A lot of introvert-themed posts that you see around this time of year are things like “An Introverts Guide To Surviving the Holidays” or “How Not to Run In Terror From Your Extrovert Relatives.” That last one’s not an actual article, but it’s pretty close to some I’ve seen.

Often, writers of articles like this assume introverts don’t like people, that they’re always overwhelmed in social situations, and that they hate parties. But being on-edge in social situations, panicking when you have to interact with people, and going out of your way to avoid places where people gather aren’t actually signs of introversion. Those things are more a part of social anxiety.

Definition Conundrums

Part of the reason for this confusion is that people don’t understand what being an introvert actually means. For example, (despite numerous complaints and petitions) if you Google “introvert definition” the first thing that comes up is “a shy, reticent person.” Only if you expand the Google result to see translations, word origin, and other definitions do you finally get something a little closer to the correct result: “a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.”

Introverts Need People Too: A Closer Look At Introversion and Social Anxiety | LikeAnAnchor.com

Being an introvert doesn’t make you socially awkward. It doesn’t mean you hate people. Being an introvert means that you’re born with a trait that gives you a preference for the internal world. It also means you re-charge better in quiet, low-stimulation environments (usually alone, but not always). Introverts might avoid parties, but if so they do it because they’d rather be somewhere else (like at home reading or hanging our with a small group of friends), not because they’re inherently shy or scared of interacting with others. Read more