I had a revelation last week.
When I get depressed, I feel a hole in my heart, an emptiness. And when I feel anxious, I feel tingly – in a bad way – in the same place.
But one day last week, I was sitting on the balcony, minding my own business, when I noticed the absence of the hole and the tinglies.
I felt “full.” And it was awesome.
It was peace, it was serenity, it was contentment – things I apparently don’t usually feel, even when I’m doing well.
WHAT’S THE OPPOSITE OF ANGST?
Do you know this feeling? It’s the absence of dread, the absence of worry, the absence of depression, the absence of most everything.
It means I was living in the moment.
I’ve been paying more attention to the feelings I get in my chest since that day and have noticed that same feeling of fullness once or twice, albeit for brief moments.
That is the feeling I’ve been searching for all. My. Life.
And what’s more, I felt it in my gut, too.
I’ll admit, it felt strange – in the best way possible, but it was still strange. It’s rather foreign to me, this feeling of wholeness.
Most of the time, I feel a pang of tingliness in my chest, which I had never really realized before. I mean, I knew it was there sometimes (when it got really bad); I just hadn’t realized that it’s there almost all the time before, to some degree.
But I sure noticed its absence. It was glorious!
So, I’ve been trying to dissect that moment on the balcony in the hopes of recreating it more often. This is what I know so far:
- I was not under the influence of anything.
- It was warm out.
- I wasn’t listening to music like I usually do when I’m outside.
- I didn’t feel depressed or anxious.
- The feeling of wholeness just came over me. It was a sudden realization.
- I was alone.
- It was somewhat early in the morning (my favorite time of day).
- My brain wasn’t occupied with all the things I needed to do that day.
I wish I could remember more. I’m one of those people who needs to fully understand something in order to make sense out of it. I guess I’m not much on faith.
AN ADDITIONAL SIGN OF ANXIETY
Along with understanding how pervasive my anxiety has been over the last thirty-plus years, I have also realized how much physical pain it causes me.
I’ve had back problems for a good twenty-five years, and now I know why. Because I’ve been paying such close attention to my body in the last week, I am beginning to understand that I hold my body tight, especially in my neck, shoulders, and lower back.
Now, I knew that already. I’ve known it for a long time. But only now do I *get* the relationship between my anxiety and my aches and pains.
I can feel it now, actually. I can feel the tinglies in my chest, and starting a few minutes ago, I could feel how tight my back is. And it’s not *just* a body ache, it fucking hurts. I’ve been starting to notice some back pain after I realize that I’m anxious.
I do what I can to help with the pain. I’ve been through a rigorous physical therapy regimen, I sleep with a pillow between my knees to support the lower back, I put a supportive pillow behind my back on the couch, I try to keep my spine straight as much as possible. But it’s been so hard to relieve the pain and discomfort I’ve felt for so long, and now I understand why.
Sure, the PT, the pillows, and sitting up straight help, but I think the only way to avoid the pain in the first place is to be able to relax emotionally, kill the anxiety before it even starts.
I notice now how often my back hurts and how it affects my attitude and behaviors. For instance, since CeAnne suffers from MS and sometimes has trouble walking, I do a lot of little things for her – I run errands, I wander through the house and grab little things for her like meds, her jug of water, or whatever. But sometimes, I grumble about it. Loudly.
And now I realize it’s because when I am physically relaxed, I hate to have to tense my body up and do anything physical. Being physically relaxed is becoming more and more of a goal for me, a desired state.
It’s so hard for me to find a comfortable position to sit in, I just don’t want to get up once I find it. But realizing that my anxiety makes my back pain flare up, which gets in the way of a smooth day, gives me more incentive to do what I can to make it better.
You know that I’ve also tried meditation, listening to soothing music, paced breathing, yoga, and I often just close my eyes and breathe deeply. They all seem to help to some degree in the moment, but as soon as I’m finished, I can feel the tightness in my back and the tingling in my chest again.
This gives me extra motivation to take care of it on a regular basis. I’d like to make these things a regular part of my day, not only to curb my anxiety, but to help with my pain. And less pain = less crabbiness and more willingness to get up off my ass and do things.
All of this adds up to one thing: I need to get back into a routine to reduce my stress, both physical and emotional.
Here’s a list off the top of my head of things that might help:
- Paced breathing
- Finding physical comfort
- Being more mindful
- Staying in the moment
- Spending more time outside
- Using my therapy lamp regularly
Personally, I think meditation might be the most valuable thing I can do. It’s really about paying attention to your thoughts and your physical state.
Therefore, I am going to work on incorporating it and some of the other things on that list into a daily routine. If I feel better, I won’t need to take muscle relaxers or Xanax as often to relax. I’ll be able to do it naturally.
And that would be awesome, because that is all under my control. I can decide to meditate or not, do yoga or not, do anything on that list – or not. I just have to make it a priority and remember how much more content and whole I’ll feel (not to mention that, hopefully, my physical pain will decrease).
IN A NUTSHELL…
- Turns out I’ve had anxiety since high school.
- Depression and anxiety feel similar to me (in some respects).
- Sometimes, you only notice the absence of something.
- Feeling whole is elusive, but so worth the effort.
- Anxiety can totally lead to physical pain.
- Anxiety and depression can absolutely coexist.
- Pay more attention to the way your body feels. Is it trying to tell you something?
- Pain can really affect your quality of life. Never think someone else’s pain isn’t as “bad” as your pain; we all have it, and it all sucks.
- Wish me luck as I attempt to head off anxiety before it even starts!
- Routine, routine, routine!!!
Thanks for reading and celebrating my brief moment of peace with me. You rock!
Keep it Real, folks!