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all rights reserved
According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older; that's 18.1% of the population every year.
That means, almost 1 in 5 people has some type of anxiety disorder. That also means, it is highly likely that someone you know has anxiety disorders.
However, only 36.9% of those suffering from anxiety disorders receive treatments.
I was one of the 63.1%, until about 18 months ago, when things turned really "panicky" and I scared myself to death. "I need help, now."
Since then I've been trying to help myself get better. There are many panic moments and set-backs. But overall I am making progress and I want to share my personal experience in hope of helping someone who is also sitting in the dark.
It is important to talk about it. Please remember that. It was extremely hard for me to open up because a). I am an introvert; b). I was ashamed of being mentally unwell.
It was uncomfortable and awkward to open up to my counselor for the first time. You are practically telling a stranger about your childhood, your adult life, and your struggles, hoping that they'll understand and offer help.
However, the more you talk about it to a professional, to a trusted friend or to a close family member, the better you understand yourself and the causes of your anxiety. At the very least, it is a way to let out your frustration, fear, and doubts, which takes some of your burden off.
At first, I would visit my counselor once a week. Now I see her every three or four weeks. I also talk to a couple close friends on a regular basis. Talking to people makes me feel supported and less alone.
Reading and Writing
Everyone has their own ways to calm their mind down. To me, reading and writing has helped me tremendously. Writing helps me visualize my thoughts and (hopefully) understand them. Reading helps me broaden my mind and stays grounded. I don't necessarily read one book a week or write every day; but I try to read and write as much as I can. Even if I just read two pages or write five lines a day, I am keeping the rhythm going.
This is my weak spot, compared to talking, reading and writing. I really have to make myself exercise: yoga, barre, rock climbing, hiking, or just walk in the park. Movements make you feel better. Feeling your heart beats makes you feel alive. Hydrating after all the sweats makes you feel refreshed.
The body carries the mind and the mind guides the body. The health of the mind is highly associated to the health of the body, and vice versa. Until a couple of infections and injuries happened in the last 12 months, I had been neglecting my physical health for a long time. Now that I am 30 and have an anxious mind, I am finally paying attention to my body and trying to make it healthier.
My newest experiment to regulate my anxiety. First of all, if anyone tells you that meditation is just sitting there and relaxing, don't believe it. Meditation is hard, even harder for people who have a busy mind.
The meditation I am learning to practice is called mindfulness meditation. Be aware of your current status, try not to review the past and worry about the future, pay attention to your breath, feel where your heart is, and stay present (right where you are) for even just 5 seconds...
Recently I had a full-day silent retreat (aka guided meditation) that included sit meditation, yoga meditation, body scan, breathing, walk meditation, eating meditation (slow and mindful eating), and visualizing meditation (picture the mountain and person you are fond of). By experimenting different types of meditations, I was able to tell that yoga and visualizing meditations work better for me. By staying silent for a day, I was able to focus on the sensations and thoughts that came up to me. At the end of the retreat, we were invited to share what we learnt. And what I learned is: all is not lost.
All is not lost
Anxiety has changed my perspectives of life. When I didn't know exactly what my problems were, I tended to "wait it out", thinking my "bad feelings" would just go away. When those "bad feelings" kept coming back and eventually gave me panic attacks, I finally realized my "bad feelings" were not just bad feelings. They are my anxieties. My mind is unwell. It cannot recover itself like it used to anymore.
When my mind is in very bad shape, it would try to persuade me that "it will not get better anymore", "this is all your fault", "you'll just be sad for the rest of your life"... As stupid and irrational as it sounds, it's what my mind does when it senses fear, insecurity and uncertainty. I would watch myself going into a dark room, trapped and terrified, wanted to call for help but not able to. It is the worst feeling to me.
However, I am proud of myself for trying everything I can to get better. During the visualization meditation, when I was looking at this unmovable mountain in my head, I remembered that I once was a person who understood her fear but was not afraid of it, a person who fought for everything that was important to her, a person who was strong and resilient, and a person who knew the power of love very well.
Mental health is vital. Mental diseases are monstrous and destructive. They silently consume our minds and laugh at us when we feel defeated and helpless. Yet, we are still here. Because deep down, we know that there are reasons for us to fight back. There are adventures for us to take. There are duties for us to fulfill. And there are people, including ourselves, to love.
Remember, all is Not Lost.