Why I’m Writing about Anxiety

I recently posted about helping a loved one through a time of serious anxiety and depression.

A time that took me a way down that same road of anxiety, though not to the same degree.

And though my loved one is doing a lot better, I feel compelled to write about it, and to write about ways to reduce anxiety in a series of posts.

Why?

Because I know he’s not the only one going through these things.

A few days ago, I talked to a friend I hadn’t seen for a while. Her husband and teenage son both had Covid several months earlier, and she began telling me about the problems her son has been having …

Serious depression, the inability to focus on classes, hopelessness, anxiety.

I shared with her about the difficulties my loved one had in the months after “recovering” from Covid, that although he didn’t have official long Covid — no physical symptoms — his emotions and mental state were a wreck and he couldn’t function.

And then, just yesterday, I ran into an acquaintance whose husband had been in the hospital with a serious bout of Covid.

Although it’s been nearly a year since his “recovery” — he hasn’t returned to work. The woman told me she might have to reenter the workforce in order to support their family … because her husband is just not in a state where he can.

While you read this, you might have dealt with Covid, and perhaps you know others who have as well …

And maybe none of them have suffered post-Covid difficulties such as anxiety or depression.

But I think these after-effects of anxiety and depression are more common than some of us realize …

And than some of us may care to talk about aloud.

One post I read when researching the issue makes this statement:

Anxiety is considered one of the longer-term symptoms of Post-COVID syndrome (PCS), aka Long-COVID — a recently identified diagnosis.

Research shows that between 23% and 26% of people have mental health challenges (including anxiety) after recovering from the disease, particularly females.

Some studies place that figure higher, hovering closer to the 50% mark.

Psych Central

I spoke with two guys, months back, who both admitted to going through a weird (albeit brief) stretch of depression and anxiety just after getting hit with Covid.

So, it is happening, even if the reasons behind it are not yet known or understood.

And if you’ve been able to get by so far without coming down with Covid, please try to stay safe. Please take precautions.

This is not a political thing. It is a sickness that is affecting people the world over, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, or anything else.

And many people are dealing with long-term side effects that are not only physical.

If you or someone you love is suffering in some way, I can’t stress enough the importance of self-care — whatever that means for you and them.

Sometimes it means meditation, and sometimes other mindfulness practices. Sometimes it means just finding a good distraction, and other times it means getting more rest or getting some exercise or spending time in nature.

Do what you need to find healing and regain your health.

And know that you’re not alone.

Sometimes it just helps to know that you’re not the only one going through it …

That it’s not “just” you.

It’s not.

So hang in there. Don’t give up.

There is hope and there is healing. When my loved one was in the middle of his struggles with anxiety and depression, like I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Even after he was pulling out of it, I worried that something would bring him right back down.

I still worry about it sometimes.

But today, he’s okay. Today, there is peace.

And I hope that, today, you find your space of peace as well.

Finding Peace in an Unexpected Storm

Is this the eye of the storm?

A brief respite before all hell seems to break loose once more?

I have no way of knowing, but at least there’s peace for the moment.

This storm came unexpectedly, although with all the uncertainty around, I might have expected it.

I might have realized that I would be one of those engulfed in the waves of uncertainty. But I held my breath and I thought that perhaps it would pass me by.

It didn’t.

I place a high value on peace, perhaps too much value.

I can’t help it. With a very unsettling and uncertain childhood, peace was hard to come by and so I search it out these days.

And if I cannot find peace, life grows hard for me as a highly sensitive person, perhaps more than most.

I have a hard time finding ways to deal with the lack of peace.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here is how this storm happened.

The year 2020 was a challenge for everyone, and a lot of people had it far worse than I.

I faced job loss and a resultant change in finances, yet I and those I love escaped from the immediate health concerns that so many others dealt with.

Perhaps I took it for granted.

I know I took it for granted.

Assumed my age or my position in life or my faith or something would have brought me and all those I know through unscathed.

The next year, 2021, passed much the same way. A hit in finances due to another job loss, but otherwise, we were okay.

Then in the first month of 2022, it hit.

Covid.

I was pretty sick for several days and the brain fog, the exhaustion, lasted longer.

But I expected that.

What I did not expect was for one of my close loved ones to end up with a strange form of long covid that affected not only his body but his mind.

He was hit with anxiety and depression

The worst stretches are something out of a shadow dream.

He could focus on nothing but the fears in his mind, the anxiety that welled up so strongly that when he wasn’t overwhelmed by it, he was overwhelmed by sadness.

During some stretches, all he could say was I’m scared and I’m sad.

Other times, he would enumerate the fears, the thoughts that overwhelmed him more clearly, and I tried so hard to reason with him but reasoning didn’t help.

And then I was the one who was scared and sad …

Because what do you do when someone you love so much has lost their center and has nothing to hold on to?

When they are the ones drowning in a raging sea, seeking the eye of the storm and unable to find even the smallest break in the wind in the rain?

I confess that some days I envisioned myself dealing with it forever …

A lifetime of helping this loved one through the struggle.

I saw the wisdom of the advice to take it one day at a time because anything else could be a reason to lose hope.

In fact, it was that very fear of the future that was making my loved one lose hope and be so overwhelmed with anxiety.

Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels.com

Facing Anxiety or Helping Someone with It?

Maybe you are the one with anxiety …

Or maybe you’re the one safe place for the person struggling with it and finding yourself overwhelmed with their difficulties.

What is your safe place?

Now before I talk about some of the things that helped me while I was in the middle of the storm, things that might help you find your peace or balance, let me iterate that I am not a doctor or a scientist.

I’ve never studied the brain or the synapses between the mind and the parts of the body.

I do not know what makes some things overfire and flare up and cause such grief and anxiety.

I don’t know why something like Covid could cause someone to somehow flip a switch in their mind and make it so difficult for them to be able to process or move out of fear or hopelessness.

I wish I knew where those invisible links are between mind and body and spirit or soul, how the connections work and how to strengthen them when they are weak …

How to speak hope into someone’s very soul when they are finding it hard to cling to anything but sorrow.

What I’m trying to say is, I really hope some of these things work for you. Above all, I really hope that you do find hope, peace, and the ability to focus on something other than the anxiety that threatens to overwhelm you.

Here are some ways to find peace in the midst of a storm:

  • Mindfulness
  • Exercise
  • Time in nature
  • The love of a pet
  • An entertaining distraction
  • A good night’s rest
  • Meditation
  • Natural forms of medication
  • Volunteering and helping someone else
  • Prayer and other faith practices
  • Journaling
  • Learning a new skill (such as an instrument)

For now, these are just points, but I will be writing separate blog posts on each of them, as I have a few stories to share with you of ways they helped me.

One last suggestion, please get help in whatever way works for you.

It might be counseling or prescribed medication or a combination of them along with several natural methods …

But do get the help you need!

The world needs you and it needs you as whole as you can be.

None of us will ever be completely whole.

Those people who look the strongest are in some ways possibly the most broken.

But you have something beautiful to show the world …

So don’t lose sight of that even when the clouds don’t let up and the rain seems like it will go on forever.

There is a rainbow. There is sunshine. There is grass glistening with the rain that has passed and the scent of petrichor on the rain-washed air.

There is hope.

The HSP Trigger of Pressure

I get more frustrated then I should as a highly sensitive person when my forward movement is interrupted in some way. For example, when I am walking down a busy sidewalk and someone is walking more slowly than usual … usually because they are texting or doing something on their phone, and then they stop altogether and I have to go around them.

It irks me terribly.

I have wondered why it bothers me so much. As a highly sensitive person, I should be able to understand that the person is doing something that is engaging them completely. It’s not like it interrupts my entire day by having to slow down a few steps or maneuver my way around them.

HSPs and Checkout Counters

Perhaps part of the reason it bothers me so much is that I am a highly sensitive person. I am hyper-aware of the people around me and what is going on. One of the absolute worst things in my semi-regular schedule is standing in line at a checkout counter.

I dislike this scenario so much I usually avoid shopping in grocery stores until I absolutely have to, which means that my cart is generally absolutely full every time I go shopping. This means that it takes me a while, as quickly as I try to move, to get all the groceries onto the conveyor belt and then to bag them afterward. That part is not difficult.

The difficult part is the people waiting behind me.

I hate making people wait. It is a trigger for me and I will suddenly become very short-tempered and anxious because of this. I frequently take my children shopping with me and one of my kids often helps to begin bagging the groceries while I wait to pay. This child is invariably never even halfway done by the time I’m done paying; by then there are usually two or three or more people in line behind me.

I try to keep my anxiety low while I briskly takeover in bagging things, more often than not putting some fragile or bruise-able items underneath some heavy item just to get it done and get out of the shop.

The Trigger of Making People Wait

I still don’t know why this dislike of making people wait is so much a trigger for me. I’ve tried to think back to my own childhood and wondered if there is a reason for it.

I know that I do tend to move relatively slow naturally, though as a mother I have learned to pick up the pace and can move swiftly and efficiently and can multitask with the best of them. Still, it doesn’t come naturally to me.

I have memories of trying to help my mother in some task or another. She has always been a fast-paced and constantly working individual. (It is my father who I’ve recently recognized as the highly sensitive person from whom I likely got my nature.)

I remember more often than once offering to help my mom or even stepping in to help with something like peeling potatoes for dinner or washing the dishes and her always verbally pushing me aside with the words, “I can do it more quickly,” and then her taking over.

Unfortunately and to my chagrin, I have used the same words with my own children although I am aware of how damaging even a benign phrase like that can be. Although I have tried not to, it has come out at least once that I can remember when one of my children offered to do the dishes. I only hope that the humor and the gentleness came across as well, rather than a spirit of haste and rush that invariably says you’re not good enough … or at least that’s how I took it when my mother pushed past me to get something done.

Trying to Figure Out the Source of the Anxiety

But I really don’t know if this unhealthy dynamic between my mother and myself is what has made me so anxious about making other people wait and slowing other people down. Or if it’s just part of my highly sensitive nature and high levels of perception regarding the people around me.

There have been times that those in the line behind me have waited for a few minutes and then moved on;I always feel so terrible as if I have ruined their entire day.

At the same time, many times in my life, I have been stuck behind someone who moves very slowly, possibly because they are writing a check or paying by cash or using coupons. Instead of feeling frustrated and angry, I put myself in their shoes. I often try to do something to displace the tension by smiling at the person or the cashier or trying to say something general to distract the others who are also waiting in line.

It is so strange, I feel, that although I generally respond with understanding and empathy in situations like this, I still have the deep fear of inconveniencing others in the very same situations when the tables are turned.

Do I not have enough faith in other people?

Is it my own experience or my fears that are in play when I am triggered?

I really don’t know. But perhaps the questions and the awareness themselves are steps toward healing and growing out of the triggers and anxiety.

Meanwhile, I avoid grocery shopping with all four of my children, especially on summer afternoons because I have experienced meltdowns and know to stay away from those environments.

  • As a highly sensitive person, what are some environments that you know trigger you or make it difficult for you?
  • What have you done to avoid them or process them?
  • Do you find that you are slowly improving or are some things generally just difficult for you no matter how many times you experience them?

I’d love to hear from you as to how you deal with pressure points and anxieties you face.