Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Be gone with you anxiety!

I have been meaning to write a post for a while now, especially since I have such good news to share.

Rheumatoid Arthritis has caused difficulties in my life, but anxiety has definitely been more limiting for me. I have had an anxiety disorder for about fifteen years and in a way I have "flares" of anxiety just like I do with RA. At times I may not experience any anxiety, other times I may be in a constant state of panic.

When my anxiety is high, I tend to limit activities outside of the house, at one point not even going to the grocery store. I also limit the amount of people in my life, not because I don't want them to know about the anxiety but because I do not want to disappoint them when my anxiety gets in the way of something. Because of this, my life is extremely focused around our home and I am very emotionally dependent on my husband.

Over the last year, I began to get anxious when Rommel would have an event for work, which happens A LOT. He has been so wonderful about getting out of events and trying to spend more time at home. I have also been working on becoming more comfortable with him being away because I know that it is completely unfair for him to feel guilty for being at work or out with his friends.

But the one thing I have really been dreading is a business trip and we both knew that there would come a time when he could not get out of one. He had mentioned a short trip in the beginning of December and I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to make some progress. So I made an appointment to work with a hypnotist that I have seen in the past.

I felt pretty good that I would have a few sessions done before his trip. Little did I know that the night before my first session Rommel would tell me he suddenly had a trip scheduled the next week. I felt like a bomb had gone off in my head and a millions of questions began popping up, none of them positive. I kept telling myself that this was a good thing, the challenge I needed, but I was completely terrified.

I went to my session and we worked on how I could calm down when I did get anxious. I felt pretty good when we were done and expected to make an appointment for the next week while Rommel would be out of town. But she told me to wait the normal two weeks because she was confident that I would not have any problems, plus I could call her as much as I needed too.

As his trip grew closer, I definitely felt more of a sense of calm than I normally would, which was already an improvement. The day he was due to fly out was definitely the most difficult though. I distracted myself with work and kept reminding myself to take deep breaths. But inside I really, really wanted to beg Rommel to not to go.

I woke up around four the first morning he was gone and my heart began to race. My first thought was "oh god, here we go" and I wanted to call Rommel. But then I reminded myself that he was sleeping comfortably in his hotel room. As the anxiety grew inside me, I told myself that the anxiety would not hurt me, which is not a way I have looked at it before. And instead of suffering through panic attack after panic attack like I have in the past, I fell back to sleep.

I woke up later that morning and the first thing to go through my mind was that song at the end of every Dora the Explorer - "We did it, we did it, we did it, hooray!" (I obviously watched a lot of cartoons with my nephews.)

The rest of the time went pretty quickly and I made it through all the little bumps that came up. I was expecting him home late the last day, but he called me from the airport early in the morning because his office needed him to come in. And when I hung up that phone, I let out a long breath knowing that I held made it.

I floated through the rest of the day, not just proud of myself but also excited for the future. Because the truth is that I cut so many things out of my life that I used to enjoy and avoided things that had the possibility of bringing joy to my life. It was easier to limit my experiences than to find joy in something and have the anxiety ruin it. Plus the fear of having an anxiety attack has kind of worn me down and I grew pretty comfortable in my little bubble. But coming through such a big anxiety-producing situation unscathed, I feel like dipping my toes in the water or maybe even cannonball in.

And even knowing that there will be more bumps, I am really looking forward to what the future holds. I am making a list of all the things I want to go out and do that I would not have been willing to do a couple of weeks ago. There is even a concert in December that would be amazing to go to, which might be pushing it a little since even the mall causes me anxiety. But concerts used to be one of my favorite things to do and maybe they will be again.

I also know that I need to reach out to more people. I love Rommel dearly, but becoming so dependent on him is part of the reason I get so anxious without him around. So I also have found a couple of book clubs that are meeting in December. I figure that they would be a good place to start since I spend a HUGE amount of time reading.

Here's to finding joy in new experiences!

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