Coping with constant anxiety

When one has a brain injury, there's a host of emotional and mental symptoms that accompany the everyday physical struggles.

After I was injured, I started experiencing problems catching my breath. My heart would be racing and it felt like someone was standing on my chest. From my previous work as a counsellor, I recognized I was exhibiting signs of anxiety. Just to make sure, I checked with my therapist and physician. Sure enough, that was what I had and I was placed on medication, which helped decrease my symptoms. 

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Now it's been over two years since my injury and I continue to battle anxiety. People assume because I was assaulted that my anxiety stems from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). This is partially true. However, brain injury damaged the flow of what was once a highly functional and resilient system.

I don't become anxious walking by myself. In fact, I frequently walk by the location where I was assaulted and it doesn't bother me at all. I wasn't anxious when I faced my attacker in court a couple of months ago. Yet I become anxious when I make phone calls, attend appointments, go shopping or out for a walk. There are times I am shocked about what situations get me nervous and anxious. 

Since my injury, I find it extremely difficult to leave my house. As for why I'm like this, there is no logic to it at all. It just is. I find it extremely difficult to leave my house. I can't blame COVID for this although it hasn't helped. This is extremely frustrating because I never used to be in avoidance like I am now. And when I try to explain what's going on with me, my mind goes blank and the words don't come out right. 

Ugh. OK, move on.

I've even thought about smoking marijuana to cope with my anxiety. OK, I lied. I've been clean from cigarettes and wine for one month, so I'm not going to start up another addictive habit. I've gained so much weight already, I don't need to gain more.

Managing anxiety is a fine balancing act that includes being mindful of stress accessing professional and personal supports, adequate sleep, diet and exercise. There is no medication in existence that will take anxiety away completely. The dosage could be increased, but the down side is you turn into a zombie. Given our current situation, this may be a good idea. 

Hmmm.... Just kidding.

I'm not going to pretend that I do everything I need to do all the time. I forget. I get tired. And sometimes I feel downright helpless and I have a pity party by myself. It's not a good place to be so I don't wallow in my sorrow for very long. 

Even without a brain injury, our paths can become bumpy and life seemingly becomes unmanageable. Don't let it take over your life. Think positive! Talk to yourself and tell whatever or whoever is making you miserable to take a hike. Don't give in to the negative messages playing in your head. I often talk to myself and fill myself up with affirmations. And I've learned not to care when people stare at me when I talk out loud in public.

Naturally, I wish aspects about my life were different. It's good to have goals but there are things that can't be helped. It is what it is. This is not about giving up, but giving ourselves space and a reality check about what is realistic and achievable. Especially now with what is going on in the world, we don't have energy to spare if the intent is not for the good. 

Me and everyone else in the world are trying to cope and survive the best we can. It's normal not to feel normal these days. Let's not be so hard on ourselves and others.

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