Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My so called "Inner Demons"

I wish I did not have it. But it's there. Like I petulent child, I must give it notice. I could question myself all the time how this panic/anxiety attack came to be. But it's no use. It is already there and I must learn to accept that I have it. Accepting it and learning how to manage it is the only way to make it pass without so much stress. Fighting it means questioning it, pondering over it. It's like fighting the mind. But the more I do, it only gets worse. I am better at it now. With the help of a supportive husband, family, friends and teachers I am able to cope. I like to refer to it as PA's so I don't have to spell out the word and sometimes my PA's happen for no reason at all. And sometimes they do. They could be triggered by the things I see on t.v, or hearing something tragic. My mind automatically puts myself in the place of another: "what if it were me and it happened to the people I loved?" My mind would exaggeratedly identify with it to that point that I wouldn't be able to bear it. I shake my head to snap out of it or splash my face with really cold water to catch myself.
They used to ask me what it was that I am anxious or stressed about?.. I honestly cannot give them an answer because when I tell them I am not anxious or stressed at that moment about anything they would not understand. They would analyze every angle of it and tell me that it is all in the mind and that I should fight it. Indeed, our mind is a powerful thing. But to control its thoughts is not easy for all of us. I would rather have somebody on the same boat as me and we share each others experiences and "how- to-manage- guides." It would make me feel better to know that I am not alone in this. If not the same condition, then somebody who just understands and accepts it for what it is. But how would one understand if they have never had it? I am thankful that my husband is not affected by this and how he (and even my baby brother Boo) is willing to remind me of the things I need to do to manage them.
I don't know why these attacks happen. But I know when it is about to happen. It starts when my my mind starts turning inwards. I, all of a sudden start to feel and hear my own heartbeat amplified! I start to feel that I am maybe palpitating. I start to get dizzy; then my hands get clammy; and then I feel that my breath was short. I know that a PA is about to happen or is already happening. Also, when my body feels the slightest uncomfortable sensation also causes a PA to happen. The irony of it all is that, these sensations that I go through have happened in the past and my body just forgot because I was very unaware of them. It was easy to ignore back then because there were just more important things to do or to think about. Now, even if I keep telling myself that this has happened before, my mind doesn't seem to listen. The sensations feel like they were new and that they overwhelm me a lot.
The moment I start feeling this, I know a PA is starting. So just like my asthma attacks, when I know it is just about to happen I take my medicine. As for my PA I start managing "them" with natural ways that were taught to me. I find that it works.

These are the things I do now to help manage my so called "inner demons." I find that it also helps in keeping them at bay.

As soon as I realize I am having a PA:

1.) I splash my face with cold water.
2.) I rub my right elbow
3.) I tap my chest
4.) I self instruct. I tell myself that this is only temporary and it shall pass. You are not the only going through this. There are many out there with the same condition as you.
5.) I have an inner conversation with myself by giving myself affirmations, and force myself to notice other things besides myself.
6.) I remember to breathe. I do my nadishodana or alternate nostril breathing. It is a yogic breathing exercise to help calm my mind and body. When you focus on breath you control the mind.
7.) I pray to the Lord our God. I offer all my suffering to him.
8.) I breathe into a paper bag when I'm out of the house.
9.) I put my feet up against the wall. A pose called Viparita Karani. I do this if I feel a PA start to happen even at home, it brings a new calmness.

Keeping my PA's at bay:

1.) I watch feel good movies. Movies about romance and comedy. I do not indulge myself in thriller or horror movies anymore like I used to. Movies that don't have too much weighty content, but have light plots. Too much fluff, would just make me think too much. =)
2.) I try to stay away from being too full after eating. It feels like I have a hard time breathing and feel like my heart is over working.
3.) I stay away from all caffeine. That means, all coffees, dark chocolates and green teas. I allow myself a little chocolate from time to time but not as much and not as often like before.
4.) I try to stay away from being alone for a long time. I used to enjoy it a lot. But now, it helps to have people around to distract you from the "petty on-goings" of the mind.
5.) I try to keep busy by doing productive and fruitful things like practicing yoga, attending yoga workshops for continuous learning and new discoveries, playing golf, writing/blogging, shopping at bazaars, and doing household errands.
6.) I travel with my husband from time to time to experience new things and new places. Taking time out from my usual routine gives me something to look forward too.
7.) I stay away from places that have too many people. Like during weekends in a mall. The different kinds of energy from people could be quite overpowering and tiring. Avoiding small claustrophobic places helps too. But when on an airplane, I keep calm by keeping good thoughts, and do deep, mindful breathing. Sometimes when it's too much to handle at that moment, I take an antihistamine like Benadryl to calm me down.
8.) Reading self-help books and articles.

Writing about this means my acceptance. After experiencing this ordeal, I couldn't do much because I was afraid to trigger it (I still am sometimes). But my left brain is telling me that life goes on in spite of this . You cannot make this PA hinder you from living your life. In a way, I see this as some sort of blessing in disguise by God. It made me realize how important it is to make of today and that life is too short to be scared and unhappy all the time. The past is over and the future does not exist. It is also because of this that my spirituality has become stronger. I feel that this has brought me closer to our Lord God.

Moving on even if it means moving in baby steps. I will go as far as to what my mind and body can handle and see where it takes me, and then stop when it feels too much. After all, there is always tomorrow again.

P.S With regards to reading self-help materials, I stumbled on an article found on Good Housekeeping magazine which I would like to share. It was a topic on Worry Warts. Here are some of their helpful tips on keeping your fears, worries and anxieties at bay:

1. Mindfulness meditation. Focusing on observing your breathing without trying to control it. Imagine your worries floating down a stream on a piece of wood so slowly you can hardly see it moving. Don't try to influence it, just watch it gently drift. Visualization short-circuits the cognitive treadmill of worry.

2. Act unconcerned. Pretending that you are not worried can help make it so.

3. Focus on the day- to- day.

4. Don't catastrophize worry. Everyone worries. It's not the cause but it's your confidence on how to handle a certain situation that counts.

5. Practice problem solving. Make an effort to seek solutions when things seem hopeless.

6. Busy your brain. Distract yourself. As the saying goes, An idle mind is the devil's workshop. Watch feel good shows, movies, news and monitor the bad, negative, horrific ones. Watching too much bad news and such excacerbates worry.

7. Accept the possibility and get on with your life and mean it. The goal is to proceed to problem solving.

8. Spend time with a friend. If it helps, talking to someone with the same experience makes you feel better knowing that you are not alone.

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