During late August to early September, I made the decision to learn more about my anxiety so that I can cope with it much better on a day-to-day basis, as well as work on ways to reduce the frequency of my anxiety attacks. At the time I was also getting some coaching from a Health and Wellness Coach, who suggested that I keep a journal of my anxiety attacks as a way of tracking them to better understand them. I created a whole post about this process that is the first part of this specific project, which you can read here. Today, I return to you with the results of my experiment! I will be talking about what I have learned about my anxiety and how I plan on moving forward with the information that I’ve accumulated.
** Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. I am simply one person who is reaching out and sharing their experiences and techniques that has helped them be able to move forward in life. Do not take anything that I say as medical advice as I am not a medical professional, and information provided here on BiblioNyan should not be construed as such. Thank you. **
The plan was a pretty simple one. As I mentioned, the best way for me to get a deeper comprehension of my anxiety disorder was to understand the triggers and processes that my mind and body go through when I’m engaged with a panic episode. In order to accomplish that I created a small journal specifically to track attacks, symptoms, length, intensity, and more.
I also created a set list of questions that I hoped to answer while journaling. These questions were created as a way to keep me focused on my goals and to help prevent further anxiety from the inevitable results. It also helped put into perspective the concerns I had in association with anxiety. For example, how many of these attacks are triggered by PTSD symptoms and are the attacks part of PTSD episodes rather than a stand-alone thing? How often do anxiety attacks lead to panic attacks?
You can see from the screen-shot of my journal, I initially kept the entries very brief, with red dots to mark the days where a panic attack was also triggered in the wake of feeling intense anxiety. Yet, the more than I journaled, the more beneficial it became for me to be as detailed as possible. I won’t show the super detailed events because I do feel a level of insecurity about my episodes, and I don’t want to make myself unbearably vulnerable here. I hope that is okay with you. But those minute details that I didn’t think of including at first really helped me recognise even the tiniest of elements that would later mutate into serious triggers. I’m glad I went with the choice to step out of my comfort zones and self-analyse these episodes in such a way.
After the first couple of weeks of journaling, I began to notice patterns. It blew my mind a little bit because I wasn’t expecting to see such patterns so soon. Some of the things that popped out was the fact that about 87-90% of the time, the attacks would occur in the evening, anywhere from 7pm upwards to 4am. My brain tends to be the most active and awake during this period, and it’s when I get the vast majority of my work done. I also just feel more energetic during this time period. So, after some thought, it doesn’t surprise me that night-time attacks were normal for me.
The second thing I noticed was that nearly every episode was caused by current stress-related triggers. For example, some of my earlier episodes were caused from the overwhelming emotional strain of dealing with my cat undergoing a very life-threatening surgical procedure. During the three to four days that he was in the hospital, I had an anxiety attack nearly twice a night. Another example was the closer I got to starting college, the more I would worry about succeeding, which would then in turn lead to full-blown panic attacks.
Thirdly, and this one was a huge relief for me, was discovering that my attacks were not caused by my PTSD or trauma from abuse, for the most part. I have spent the past four years working on processing and moving forward with that trauma, and it was sensationally motivating to see the rewards of that hard work paying off in this experiment. I know for a fact that the vast majority of my mental health struggles with paranoia and anxiety stemmed from that period of my life for a very long time. In a way, I am moving ahead and making positive progress, one step at a time.
Having done this for about a month and a half to two months, I can safely say that all of my initial findings were further corroborated. The pattern between attacks and current stresses continued, as did the time of day that they occurred. Some new findings did make an appearance, however, with a second set of triggers.
Recently, I have been thinking quite a bit about my future. From my break-up with Sir Betrothed (who will now be known as Sir Besty moving forward) to what I want to accomplish in school and to what I want to eventually do with my existence—all of these things have been weighing heavily on my mind. I’m a person who likes everything to be planned out just as much as I love impulsive and spontaneous jumps. These two things are like oil and water most of the time, and have been causing me significant amounts of stress, outside of the normal things for me (health and finances, etc.), which has then been triggering more anxiety and panic attacks. My fear has been wholeheartedly immobilising, on many, many levels.
At first, I was shocked by this development, but once again, the more that I thought about it, the more it made sense to me eventually. As someone who spent ten years being oppressed and having my life dictated with terrible scrutiny, freedom baffles me just as much as it terrifies me. Having someone always tell me what to do is slightly comforting because then the burden of failure of disappointment is very clear. Now that I don’t have that leash around my throat and I’m on my own, it feels wonderful and invigorating, yet very disconcerting and uncertain. I’m glad that journaling helped me admit and confront these issues because I doubt that I would have braved them any other way.
Well… now that I have done this experiment, what the bloody hell should I do next? That is something that has been plaguing me for a few days, and honestly, it’s going to be a work in progress until I can do some trial-and-error to see what helps me tackle or cope with my findings.
In the meantime, I have two things that I will be trying out. Firstly, whenever I start to feel scared or nervous about going to school and succeeding in school, I will turn to some beautiful blog posts on how to succeed in college. I think reading about other people who have similar problems or struggles talk about the methods and techniques that helped them overcome such challenges will be extremely inspirational and encouraging. Secondly, I will try my hardest to stop myself from spiralling with negativity and fear, and then I will sit down and make a list. It will be a pro list only, with zero cons on them. I will only focus on the good things that will come out of these journeys or adventures I am embarking on.
For example, whenever I feel like I’m too old to be in college and feel demotivated due to how much time I have lost being a victim of abuse, I will grab my favourite pen and write down ten reasons why going back to school now is much better than going back to school ten years ago. The same will be said if I ever feel discouraged with trying to become a published author.
This sounds like a good and simple plan in my head, and I will hope and remain optimistic that it will be useful when I actually apply it.
While I only planned on this experiment being a two-parter, I will create a part three where I will sit down and speak candidly with you about whether or not these two methods worked for me, as well as any new techniques that may pop up in the meantime. I’ll give myself another month and check in with you in December. As always, I promise to be completely blunt and honest.
If there is anything else that you would like to know about this experiment, if you have any questions or anything at all, please let me know in the comments section. I can answer your questions there or create a whole other post for it depending on the level of information to share. If you’d like to speak more privately, drop me an inquiry!
I hope this experiment will helps others who may be struggling with trying to get a handle on their own anxiety or panic disorders. It is definitely a frightening process, putting myself out there even if it’s only with myself (if that makes sense). Sometimes learning more about the things that haunt us can be far worse than not knowing. But I strongly believe it’s also the best way to tackle the negativity so that we can live our best lives, as my coach would say. If you want to try this out, go for it, and know that you will have my support and encouragement always.