Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Phobia Workshop Sketch

My Dad sent this to me and it's really cute!

However, this sketch has had me thinking about the stereotype of someone with an anxiety disorder. Most of the people I know with anxiety and panic are outgoing, empathic, bright people. They aren't actually afraid of things like driving, elevators or public speaking. Those are just the situations where they have experienced a panic attack before and conditioning has quickly set in. They're afraid that when panic shows up, it will be so intense that something catastrophic will occur like death or insanity. That's how intense these thoughts and sensations can be.

My husband once suggested that I write a post about all the things that don't create anxiety for me (or that are important enough to do anyways), so here are a few: I've given birth naturally three times - twice at home; I like to rock climb; I've run a marathon and completed a handful of triathlons (2 in open water); Riding on the back of a motorcycle is big fun to me; I like to get past small talk and really connect with people; I teach childbirth classes; I spent a year living on top of a mountain taking kids through caves, behind waterfalls and on long hikes; I can ask the hard questions and sit with other peoples pain; I've talked to my older girls about sex; I have attended about 20 births as a doula.

So, while this is really cute, it's important to remember that anxiety is just one piece of what makes you who you are. Or, as a friend says, "Anxiety is just the Side B to being a highly passionate, creative and empathic person. I wouldn't give one side up for the other."

I'd love to hear what defines you outside of your anxiety!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Musings on a cure

I've been thinking about Meredith's comment from a few weeks ago. She and I have talked back and forth about that stubborn, last little bit of anxiety that doesn't want to go away and looking for a cure that doesn't seem to exist.

I'm realizing and working on growing more comfortable with the fact that I may experience more anxiety than I would like to in my lifetime. This will probably be my challenge until I'm an old lady; that there may be no cure, but there is freedom in living a big life not run by fear and avoidance. There is also freedom in accepting all of our emotional states. Later in life, Dr. Claire Weekes was asked if she still experienced anxiety and panic and she responded, 'yes, but so what!'

My deep learning continues to be the lessons of showing up, experience and compassion. Every time I dread and anticipate an event - certain that I'll go crazy and make a fool of myself - and show up anyways, I get stronger. Every time I allow myself to feel anxious and not demand that it goes away, it feels a little more manageable. And, every time I am compassionate with myself when I do go down that anxiety rabbit hole and not make it such a big deal in my head, I worry less about having this thing forever.

So, a cure for anxiety and panic? Perhaps not. But freedom is certainly available in every choice we make.

*For further reading, check out Aimee's post on recovering from social anxiety.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Murals exhibit

Have you seen Brian Rea's new art exhibit called Murals? I don't think I knew there were so many different types of fears in the world! Rea has been writing down his own fears, and those of people around him, for the past 11 years. In this work of art, he's organized the more interesting ones into six categories: Physical, natural, supernatural, emotional, political, and random. It's quite a visual display and I love he's channeled fear into creativity - check it out!