I am fucking proud of myself.

I got off of work at 1pm. I drove home, changed, and walked right back out the door to head to the city my new girl lives in. She doesn’t get off of work until 6pm, but traffic is so bad if I leave anywhere after 2pm, I’ll be sitting for over an hour. So, I made it to the nearest Starbucks in about 30 minutes with minimal traffic.

Once at Starbucks, I ordered a venti decaf white peppermint mocha. Man, that’s a mouthful. I went to bathroom while they prepared it and when I came out, I grabbed my drink and headed for one of the couches. There were not many people in here at this time.

I started by going through my work email and responding to them. I checked my personal email as well. Then, I moved to my blog- the one you are currently on. I wrote 3 articles about topics that are at least somewhat emotionally charged. I went to the bathroom once more.

When I came back, I started to get the familiar unwelcome shortness of breath feeling. I thought that maybe my coffee was caffeinated after all. I tried to stay a little while longer, but eventually I had to pack up my things, pee one more time, and nervously head out the door. I still had about an hour to kill, though.

I walked to my car and breathed a small sigh of relief as I sat down. The simple thing of not being around other people is already enough to take a huge weight off. I drove to a nearby parking lot of a shopping center and parked. I pulled up some YouTube videos and wrote in my journal. I also talked to myself trying to rationalize the situation in my brain.

I was not able to completely shake that anxious, heavy feeling in my chest- even once I got to her apartment. It died down a little bit, but it was still very much present. I was nervous to drive home. Having a panic attack while on the road is a huge fear of mine.

Anyway, it did finally come time for me to drive home. I got in my car and drove away. It’s a 30 minute drive of nothing but highway. I got about 5 minutes in before I felt that feeling again. I started biting my nails and I hiked my left leg up on the seat- my go to position when I feel anxious in the car. Then, I decided to try and focus on my breathing.

I counted about 4-5 counts inhaling and 8-10 counts exhaling to counteract my hyperventilation. It was working. Then the feeling came back. I tried again to really focus on my breathing and the road. I felt myself calm down a little bit and I was able to get home quickly and safely with a lot less panic than if I had not focused so much on this breathing pattern.

This is big for me. I am rarely able to focus enough on my breathing to actually slow it down, but I did it. Practice makes better, I guess. I’m just proud that I made it home alright.

I’m in bed now. It’s late. I have work tomorrow. My roommates are both out of town and sleeping alone in this house makes me nervous. My neighborhood is not exactly the safest, but that’s Atlanta for you. My doors are all locked and I left one living room light on. We also have all 3 of our cars in the driveway, so it looks like their are plenty of people here. I’ve done this before, I think I can do it again.

Goodnight, all.

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An Unfamiliar Feeling…

The girl I have been talking to just asked me if I have anxiety. For the first time EVER, I was hesitant to say yes.

I have always been very open about my mental health struggles with my friends and close family. Even if strangers ask, I am also very open because it’s nice to tell your story and bond with other people about similar issues. I’ve collected many preventative and coping skills this way.

So, when she asked me if I had anxiety, I was surprised at the feeling I got. I felt a little bit of embarrassment. I felt a little bit of shame. I felt a little bit exposed. However, I responded with a calm “yes” because I wasn’t going to hide something that is such a big part of my life. Eventually, it would have come up anyway.

I also explained to her that it doesn’t keep me from living my life. It makes living life more difficult, but it doesn’t keep me inside [anymore]. When I was much younger, I refused to leave the house for any reason other than to go to school. Now, I feel the same hesitancy, but I push through and do it anyway.

I think I felt a certain type of way about her asking because I have been going to therapy for over 2 months now. To me, therapy feels like taking medication that hides the symptoms, but it doesn’t cure the actual problem- it just helps you understand and deal with it. I guess I felt that because I was dealing with the problem (and its very visible symptoms), she didn’t need to be aware of its actual existence.

I think it’ll be fine. She did respond with a positive message after I said yes, so I don’t think I have anything to worry about.

Do any of you guys feel embarrassed or hesitant about informing possible romantic partners about your mental health struggles?

Mapping Out My Mental Process: Anxiety

My last therapy session was a great one. I made a small change that will have big impacts in my life, I think.

When I walk into therapy, my therapist always has a plan, but he asks me if there is anything I would like to talk about or discuss first. Normally, I give him a quick rundown of my week and if anything out of the ordinary happened, I let him know.

This particular day he told me he had a plan, but if there was anything I wanted to bring forward first, I could do so. I said that I did have something to say: “We talked about my “what if” questions serving no purpose last session and since then I have decided to remove them from my brain.”

Obviously, it’s not an overnight thing, but it was a step towards something. My therapist stops me, though, and says that that’s a big step to just completely remove them. My brain, moving very quickly, comes up with something brilliant: “Well, then how about we don’t remove them, we only modify them.”

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner.

When I am having a panic attack or just anxious thoughts, my mind goes through a very long list of highly unlikely “what if” questions/situations that I must earlier prepare for with coping or preventative skills. However, when the actual panic attack is happening, I toss everything I’ve ever practiced out the window because I am in survival mode.

Many times, it’s not the original source of my anxiety that causes me to fall into a panic- it’s the “what if” questions. The hypothetical scenarios that I create in my head are so much worse than what is actually happening. If I could find it within myself to start modifying those to less extreme “what ifs”, then I might not always go off the deep end.

Anyway, that is what I discovered last session. What are some eye-opening revelations you all have had in therapy or while talking with friends/family?