I have been challenged with anxiety most of my life. It has taken on different forms over the years but during times when I did not have a handle on it, it has affected my life in many ways: feeling shy in social situations, passing up career opportunities, negative self talk, physical symptoms, panic attacks, crying sessions, emotional detachment, funny feeling in my gut, perceived racing heart beat, thinking I am having a heart attack, and many nights of restless or no sleep.
I want all of you to know this about me because I have really been there. I know what it is like to have anxiety and not be able to sleep. I am certainly not a sleep specialist or doctor or therapist of any kind, but I am a person who can relate to these challenges.
I know how debilitating being anxious and not being able to sleep really is. The anxiety alone is terrible. Then you compound that with not getting your sleep and it is very miserable. I know it. Been there. For two years from 2004 to 2006 I took a small dosage of Clonazapem just to be able to sleep at night. Without it, general anxiety and panic attacks ruled my night (it was during a time in my life where I was experiencing funny health symptoms and fears of financial insecurity because my husband was having difficulties with his law practice and we were dealing with raising an autistic child, baby, and my stepson etc.). I would keep it together very well during the day(caring for my two kids, being a girl scout leader and otherwise normal functioning human being) but then at night that anxiety monster would appear. I think it showed itself when I was tired or getting sleepy enough when my mind was beginning to slip into that sub-conscious state…I could even feel it coming on. The Clonazapem really helped. I would take that little pill and out I would go- blessed sleep! Ahh…. My Seattle area doctor was sure excited about this drug when he prescribed it for me. It was just supposed to be temporary to get me through this difficult time..
Well, I have always been a very healthy person and I did not like the fact that I was using a powerful drug (even if it was a low dosage) to enable me to sleep. So Memorial Weekend of 2007 (a little over three years ago now) I decided to just go cold turkey with the Clonazapem. I remember making the mistake of going online (ha!) and researching “withdrawal symptoms of Clonazapem”. Big mistake. Horror stories out there in cyberspace. Thankfully, aside from feeling a little out of it that first day or two I returned to work after the long weekend just fine. I haven’t looked back since.
Since that time period I have really worked on myself: reading inspirational and spiritual books, meditating, eating a healthy diet and working out, being a good mom to my two kids and a good teacher to my second graders every school year, going to Lifeworks of Jacksonville, taking up martial arts (at age 42), going to Tony Robbins’ Finding the Power Within seminar two years ago in Orlando, moving from Seattle to Jacksonville, Fl, beginning a new career as a teacher after being home and raising children for twelve years, and leaving an unhappy marriage of twenty years to find myself and get my life back. Yes, radical life changes.
And you know what? Life is all settled down now and I feel fantastic. I am healthy and fit, I live in paradise near the beach in sunny Florida, I am in love with and living with the most wonderful man on the planet, my kids are happy, my cats are happy, I am positively affecting the lives of little 7 and 8 year olds every year as a second grade teacher, I am reaching out and creating something special (I think) with the Warm Milk Journal to help others challenged with issues of anxiety and insomnia, and last but not least- I am sleeping soundly and wonderfully (without the use of any sleep aids) most nights (except when I am woken up by Mew my cat or my snoring partner John which we can talk about in future posts. Ha! ).
Why am I sharing all of this with you? I think it is important for you to know who I am and why I feel so passionate about The Warm Milk Journal and helping anyone who is not sleeping well at night. I have been there. I want you to know that you are not alone. You have a friend here: a hand to hold, a hug, a warm cup of milk : ) My heart truly goes out to each and every one of you.
The title of this post is: “Taming the anxiety monster”. So where does that leave us? I wish I could tell you that I am completely anxiety free. I am not. But I have certainly learned to manage it well. I will still experience it mildly: feeling a little unease in large group/social situations, not asserting myself in my work setting as much as I probably should, feeling overly sensitive at times (especially that time of the month), waking up at night feeling just a tad bit panicky…, after watching a movie or reading a story in the newspaper that is emotionally disturbing I will feel that anxiety monster coming on…
How do I manage the anxiety monster?
by being in the now, being thankful, loving myself, accepting myself and others, not being judgmental, reading inspirational books, meditating, yoga, walking, swimming, eating healthfully, being kind to myself and others, giving and helping others, working with my students, writing and reaching out to you, my Warm Milk Journal Readers, loving my friends, family, and partner, being aware of and canceling any negative thoughts or old tapes as soon as I notice them, being forgiving, lowering my expectations of myself and others and experiences so as not to feel disappointed, know that God loves me, pray, be mindful of all my blessings. write in my journal, center myself, speak my mind when I need to assert myself, not worry about what others think (for that is really not any of my business anyway), and basically choose love as my main life compass.
My anxiety monster: I decided to refer to this anxious phenomenon as my “anxiety monster” quite a few years ago now. It was always a bit puzzling to me. It is not like I am a crazy person or anything. I have always been friendly, likable, popular, and an”upright citizen” I suppose. It’s just that when I would feel this anxiety coming on, it is almost like a wave or tide of the ocean approaching and wanting to overcome me. It is …a flurry feeling in my gut, unease…fear…terror… do any of you experience this?
Now that I am centered, healthy, happy, fulfilled, and balanced in my life all the anxiety monster is to me these days is a tickling of the toes (like when you are walking on the shoreline and the tides of the ocean come and tickle and wet your feet). That is all it is. A tickle…hardly any threat for me anymore. Gone are the panic attacks and sleepless nights. Gone are the doubting myself and torturing myself for endless hours over and over again about something from my past, or some worry, fear of disapproval from others, etc- negative tapes? I sure had them- don’t now though : )
So, my dear Warm Milk Journal reader- we are on a journey, are we not? It is my wish for you to find peace within yourself- so that you not only sleep well at night (which is very important for your health and to function your best); but to also live the life of your dreams as well.
I truly believe that if we can work on being centered, healthy, authentic people living the lives we are supposed to live- then we will sleep well at night and we will be living the lives we are supposed to live. In doing that, we will most certainly improve this world of ours!
So this is the energy, the love, the driving force behind The Warm Milk Journal. I just wanted you to know.
Debra : )