Anxiety Isn't Rational {& How to Cope}

Have you ever had a panic attack in the middle of a major city while riding a Segway? No? Seriously just me? Well, I'm here to tell you it's pretty much the worst. Back in October the husband I went on vacation to Washington D.C., and the only thing that was super important to me was to get to see all of the monuments. A bike tour was out of the question because I am a terrible bike rider, so naturally we booked a Segway tour. I'm not sure why I thought that riding a Segway would be the easiest thing ever, but I did. I 100% did. Fast forward to the last day of our trip, and I am pumped. I am so excited about this tour. And then I step foot on the Segway. Oh. This is not easy. Why didn't anyone warn me that this is not easy? As we make practice circles in the parking lot, my anxiety is starting to stir. This is not going to be good, I think. And I was correct. Right out the gate the tour has us going down a very steep incline, during which I lose control of the Segway and nearly fly into oncoming traffic. I wish I was exaggerating, but it required our (wonderful, so sweet) tour guide throwing out his arm to stop my Segway and keep me from straight up dying in a tragic Segway accident.

Cue the panic attack. But, unlike any panic attack I've ever had before, I'm stuck going approximately 4 miles an hour, weaving through Washington D.C. traffic. It was so great. At one point I asked Jeremy if we could just ditch the Segways and catch a cab home because oh my God, I cannot do this. So here I am, in front of 6 people I've never met before, having a panic attack about riding a stupid Segway. And I am so mad. I'm so mad that this part of the trip that I was so looking forward to is now ruined. I'm so mad that I'm basically missing all the monuments because I need to use each stop as an opportunity to breathe into an imaginary bag and do every coping mechanism I've got. I'm so mad that I have an anxiety disorder that turns things that most people can laugh off into a catastrophe. I wish I could say this was the first time I'd ever been mad that I struggle with anxiety, but it wasn't. And it won't be the last. {Here's a photo of us at our final stop, when my panic attack had finally abated, for your viewing pleasure.}

You see, anxiety doesn't care. The lack of serotonin production in your brain doesn't care that you so desperately don't want this to be a big deal. It doesn't care about breathing exercises or visualizations or even about Zoloft sometimes. It wrecks and destroys without a second thought, taking whatever prisoners it can. Anxiety is not rational. And if you've never had a panic attack, I know this is hard to understand. I previously wrote a blog more geared towards people who don't have any experience with anxiety, but this time I want to talk to my comrades in arms. The ones that are in the trenches right next to me, dodging triggers like they're grenades.

Friend, you are not crazy. Do you hear me? What the enemy wants more than anything in the world is to trap you in your anxiety. To make you believe you are straight up bonkers. That you aren't worthy of love. That you're a burden to those around you. I want to make sure you know you are not alone. When the tightness begins to creep up into your chest and the sense of dread settles into your mind, you are not alone. When you're using every ounce of energy you can muster to fight off yet another panic attack about nothing, you're not alone. When you can't leave the house or your bed, when you overanalyze or pick the skin around your fingers or have a manic episode, you are not alone. Anxiety's best tool is isolating us. Making us embarrassed and therefore silent. And in the silence, it suffocates us. In the dark corners of our mind we're struggling to breathe, unwilling to tell anyone we're drowning for fear of judgment or that they just won't understand or they'll think we're crazy.

Well, I say enough. Enough hiding, enough pretending, enough not talking about it. I may not love being part of the 18% of the American population that suffers from an anxiety disorder, but I'm definitely done being quiet about it. If we want people to learn to understand, to remove the stigma, then y'all, we have to start talking. I'm not saying this is easy, writing this very post gave me an anxiety flare up. Talking about the hard things isn't easy, and anxiety makes it even harder. So, if you're someone who struggles with this stuff, I want to encourage you to step out of the shadows. Maybe not every day, not in some big show, just step out with me. If you've never told anyone that you struggle, find a safe person to share with. If you're a little further into the processing, start talking to your friends about it, share about what it's really like and how they can help you. I've had to explain how Xanax works for someone who has anxiety to friends before because they thought it made you feel high - because that's what culture has taught people. Not that when used for what it was created, Xanax makes us feel normal. You can't expect people to know what they haven't been told. And what culture and mainstream media are telling people about mental illness is largely crap. So if you make it that far and feel like you're supposed to continue to use your voice, then use it however you see fit. I personally believe everyone has an author inside of them, and that every story is beautiful. Find a platform and get your story out there. Keep pushing against the stigma. We're the only ones that can do it.

And because I can't ever leave something without a tiny bit of advice, I wanted to share the anxiety coping skills that I've learned through therapy and research that really work for me. You can find these skills anywhere, but I always feel like there's something a little more helpful when I get information from a trusted source. And hopefully, you trust me. I put this into a little graphic that you can save on your phone and reference whenever a trigger hits or you're walking into a stressful situation or when you just feel off.

Blake Guichet