I have bipolar disorder, but I also have an anxiety disorder. I really dislike feeling anxious so there are various things that I do to fight it.
The first thing I do is try to see if there is anything to be anxious about. If there is then I see if I can resolve the situation the best I can. Of course, sometimes there is nothing to be anxious about or nothing I can do. I’m just anxious.
When I feel anxious, I often focus on my breathing and try to be mindful of that. For several minutes, I focus my thoughts on my breathing, and that can help some. My therapist taught me how to be mindful of my breathing and I was in a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Group that often discussed mindfulness. While I can be mindful of my breathing, I have difficult being mindful of my surroundings, which some people find helpful.
I see a therapist usually weekly. Sometimes, if I’m really struggling with anxiety, I go in twice a week, but that isn’t very often. Therapy is really helpful because the therapist helps me sort things out and because it is just good to talk to someone. It would probably be helpful if I shared with friends and family what I am anxious about, and sometimes I do and find it helpful. I am more comfortable sharing with my therapist although I’m getting better at sharing with friends and family.
Writing in my journal helps me a lot. It helps me get out what I’m anxious about and calm down.
Sometimes I take anti-anxiety medication. Once I took it every morning and afternoon for about six months with sleep medication at night. That started at a time when I was having problems at work and ended up quitting. I took it for a few months after I quit.
About two months ago, I stopped taking it altogether. Then I recently began working at another job and I haven’t had to take any medication for anxiety or sleep. I guess what I am saying is that anxiety, even prolonged anxiety, can get better if we hang in there and take care of ourselves. Sometimes I still get anxious but, right now, it is simply a natural response and not related to my anxiety disorder.
Two weeks ago, I was in an automobile accident, was hospitalized for two days, totaled my car and missed over a week of work at my new job. I thought I would be anxious but I haven’t been which is surprising. I think, at first, I just shut down. Then I was anxious about driving again but I went ahead and faced that fear and now I’m not so anxious. I was anxious about if my insurance would cover things (because the other driver who was at fault had no car insurance) so I called my insurance agent and got reassurance that they would cover me. I was anxious about coming back to work. In fact, my hands shook when I first tried to use my computer, but I moved forward and am learning how to use their computer system and my computers at work. It has been challenging but I have not had to take medication. (It really helped that I saw my therapist once after I got out of the hospital and then twice last week.)
I know that I will likely need to take medication again, but right now, seeing my therapist, journaling, focusing on my breath, and facing my fears head-on has worked.
I hope you find something that works for you!
Rev. Mary Alice Do, who has bipolar disorder, is a retired Disciples of Christ minister and has worked 16 years in the mental health community providing recovery information and advocacy. Read the rest of her posts for IBPF here, or watch her webinar on How Churches Can Promote Recovery. She also has a blog of her life story called Journey Towards Wellness.