Reblog: When the Phoenix Combusts

Hey friends! I will have a few extra guest bloggers this month. I had a good response via Twitter when I was looking for some guest bloggers this month, so why not just feature more amazing people! 

Here we have Melissa. To be honest I think she was one of the first people to follow me on Twitter. We have been social media friends since I started this journey. She is someone you want in your corner! She is also someone who speaks from the heart, and opens herself up to you. As I have mentioned many times being vulnerable shows so much strength and it also brings people together. 

Melissa originally posted this article on her site. It is so relative to what I talk about a lot, so I asked her if we could post it here as well. You can find more of what she blogs about here.

Show her some love by also following her on Twitter !

We are all in this mental warzone together. The more we share the stronger our community becomes! 

Send Melissa all the good vibes you can!! 


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When the Phoenix Combusts

April 11, 2018

Melissa Howard Grantham

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I've had a rough few days. Not outwardly, but inwardly. Yes, there was the usual chaos of weekend busyness and deadlines to meet, but that wasn't the cause of my distress. I've simply been at war with my mind for three days now. Three days of extreme ups and downs, with no obvious trigger. 
 
When I first started this blog, I gave it the title of "Tales of a Phoenix" because one of my goals is to show (through my own experiences) that we can always rise from the ashes from obstacles life throws at us.  When I was deciding what to call this post, it came to mind how the metaphor translates so well into my anxiety disorder.  When one of my episodes begin, there is a sort of fire in my belly and chest, suffocating me until I feel I'm going to burst into flames.  And more often than I'd like to admit, the explosion happens in the form of a full-on panic attack, which manifests itself physically through a rapid heart rate, dizziness, labored breathing, and tummy trouble; and mentally in feeling I am going to lose everything I love, or even my life, and I become completely unhinged.  After the fall from it, I'm physically drained for about two days.
 
Fortunately, this current episode hasn't resulted in a full panic attack.  But that doesn't mean it hasn't been exhausting, left me feeling isolated, or made me feel like I'm driving people I care about away with my "out of character" behavior. When I'm in my "normal" state, I'm pretty easy-going, level thinking, and, well, rather fun to be around (at least that's the impression I get from my friends haha).  Some of the social awkwardness and anxiety is always there, but I can better keep myself from playing into those thoughts or emotions.  But then there's days like these.  So, let's take a walk into the dark side of my brain, shall we?
 
Anxiousness from Overstimulation
 
These are the anxiety episodes that appear suddenly with no obvious trigger.  Often times they seem to happen when I'm trying to multitask, such as I was Saturday night--I was trying to cook dinner, get the kids to pick up their things and get in the bath; and while all this is going on, my mind is also thinking about that part of my novel I'm stuck on, unanswered messages, etc.  Next thing you know, I'm shaken and nervous. I'll often reach out to people in my inner circle to talk me down, but can't always reach anyone.  So I'm just there, trying to breathe and not let the kids notice I'm spinning.  My husband comes home and can spot it from my body language and my inability to answer any kind of question he may ask.  Once this phase passes, I'm tired, but functioning normally fairly quickly.
 
The Unanswered Message Trap
 
Man, this one is embarrassing. This
 
 
 is a circumstance where having a vivid imagination does NOT do me any good.  We've all been there on some level-you've been having texts or DM conversations with someone on a regular basis.  It can be anyone-your significant other, a friend, a colleague.  You send a message, one that clearly hints for a response, and you get nothing.  "Ok, I guess they're busy," you think to yourself.  But then hours go by, or a day (bonus cruel points if there's a read receipt). You wonder what you may have done/said wrong.  Sound familiar?  Well, take that on a normal day, then multiply the thoughts around it by about a million, and that's me when I'm in anxiety mode.  I start to second guess the message, regret even sending it, wonder what I did wrong, etc.  I start thinking things like, "am I being too clingy of a friend and pushing them away," or "did I seem to over-excited, and now they've lost interest in the writing project?" Then there's my favorite self-loathing question- "Is the friendship/creative chemistry/love I thought I have with this person all in my head?" I make it all about me! And 99.9999% of the time, it has nothing to do with me at all. I eventually get a response (and there's usually an apology for the delay), and I'm reassured...and also pretty ashamed that I thought the worst in not just myself, but also in my friends.
 
I'm Weak, I'm Not Good Enough, or I Don't Deserve X
 
This is where the anxiety and depression disorders tend to merge.  No matter what the actual trigger to an anxiety episode is, memory response can bring up almost anything that you've had anxiety about in the past.  Everything from times where I've made mistakes, hurt people, to even the memory of my sexual assault nearly 20 years ago can make it's way back to the surface of my mind.  I'll start replaying failures in my head, feeling like I'll never "get it together."
 
I'll get anxiety about having anxiety.  I feel like I don't have control over anything, and that I will always be at war in my mind.  That my mental illness is a weakness, that I'm weak in general, and that I will crumble and lose my job, my family, my dreams.  That someone like me doesn't deserve the love and success she has or is trying to achieve.  I feel broken, shattered.  "Why keep writing the book?  You'll never get published."  "Why blog?  No one reads it." "You know Eric could do better."  This is a very lonely and helpless place.
 
How I Cope
 
Since there are many types of anxiety episodes that I go thru, I have many different ways of coping.  With the full-on attacks, I need comfort-something that Eric has gotten very good at providing.  He will get me a cool rag for my forehead, hold my tight if needed, tell me all the good things I have, and pray over me.  I pray, too.  I pray for God to take the bad thoughts away, to calm my body and let me sleep.  I try to focus on my breathing.
 
I reach out.  Isolation is my enemy when anxious.  I am fortunate to have people in my life who understand what I'm going through, and can talk me down from the cliff.  My dear friend, Nathan, did just that this morning.  He listened, he gave me comfort, and teased me a bit in the way he knows will make me laugh and not take myself too seriously.
 
I also try and meditate.  Some days this is easier that others.  I put on soft music and focus on my breathing.  Or I write. Or I lie on the couch and gaze at my Matt Forster painting and daydream.  And sometimes, I just have to blast some Tori Amos and sing at the top of my lungs ("Little Earthquakes" is a good song for that).
 
All of these things work together to keep me going.  Even when I feel like all is lost (or that I've complete "lost it") I still manage to rise from the ashes, like the Phoenix, and start again. 
 
 
****If you are suffering from depression and/or anxiety, you are not alone.  If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, PLEASE reach out.  Here are some resources:
 
In the US-National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
 
In Canada- visit suicideprevention.ca to find a local crisis center, or call 911 if you are at immediate risk of self-harm
 
In the UK- visit www.nhs.uk to find a local crisis center, or call 999 or 112 if you are at immediate risk of self-harm
 
**above photo: "Transition" my Matt Forster

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