Wednesday, November 1, 2017

7 WAYS TO OVERCOME FEAR


Hi everyone.  I'm really tired Alexandra and I have adult acne Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
<pauses>.
Everyone:"Hi Alexandra."

I equate anxiety with wet sand in my underwear that feeling you get when you're at the checkout counter buying something embarrassing like Gold Bond or Prep H with 20 people trailing behind you.  The cashier swipes your card - and even though you know you have money in your account, you still have a fear that a big, jarring DECLINED will pop up on the register. It's the same thing with anxiety, only that feeling can be relentless: you're essentially worrying (to an irrational extent) about the outcome of an event.  Most of the time anxiety is unfounded and not based in reality, etc etc.

I've barely kept my anxiety at bay over the last 5 years or so.  It has always lingered of course, but I've managed to stay afloat amid the rough seas of adulthood.  Then, earlier this year anxiety barged into my head like a disgruntled, naggy landlord who hadn't collected rent in awhile. She decided to make herself right at home - keeping me up until 3am by incessantly reminding me of low points in my past while simultaneously making promises of a bleak future devoid of happiness.  (Side note: I refer to my anxiety as a girl because as much as I wish my inner monologue sounded like Morgan Freeman, it's much more like Fran Drescher on nitrous.) 

Gradually the stress of work, family stuff and being alone at age 34 began to wreak havoc on my mind.  Night after night Fran kept me awake with taunting, incessant, dismal thoughts: "All your friends are dropping like flies - they're all where they're supposed to be: married and living in houses THAT THEY DON'T RENT with their children and monogrammed bathmats.  Picture this: you, age 85, sitting in a rocking chair on your front porch, alone. HAHAHA, you thought you were dozing off just now, didn't you - nice try.  Not so fast, let's think about that time you acted like a monkey at the keg party in the summer of '06."

I became exhausted and unfortunately didn't have the luxury of spending each day cowering beneath a blanket on my sofa as I gazed blankly out the window, clutching my cup of chamomile tea like the people in Zoloft commercials.  I had rent to pay, showers to take and people to pretend to be happy to see. So, I soldiered on and found myself becoming increasingly irritable and well...an enormous bitch.  I'm generally a very fake nice person.  I've always been able to pull out (that's what he said?) some humor from beneath the deep, dark trenches of anxiety - but I got to a point where, to put it simply: nothing was funny - not even the movie Borat, what the fuck.

"You look sad lately," my colleague said to me one morning.  I told her to eat a dick I'd been going through a rough time and in that moment I realized I needed to get help. I saw a doctor about my insomnia and started meeting with a mindfulness coach (only in San Francisco would such a person exist) twice a week. I developed a strong resolve not to crumble under the societal pressures that I'd always loathed.

I would be remiss if I didn't use my voice and this platform to share what I've learned about overcoming fear and anxiety in the last few months.  I know you or someone you know is battling this motherfucker called anxiety and we need to help and relate to each other, right?

1.  Ask for some xanax help. 
so wanted to bottle up my feelings, slap a fake smile on my face and pretend like things were hunky-fucking-dory, and that worked...until it didn't.  I am walking proof that "faking it til ya make it" is not effective when it comes to conquering your anxiety/depression. You have to put in the work every fucking day.  People for the most part are really nice, understanding and human too!  Talk to someone: a friend, a family member, a life coach or a therapist BUT WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T TALK TO YOUR UBER DRIVER NAMED KARL IN A KIA AT 4AM ON THE WAY HOME FROM A LATE NIGHT - THIS IS NOT EFFECTIVE, FOR FUCK'S SAKE.

2. Practice gratitude 
Part of the reason I'd become so anxious was because I was focusing on all the things I don't have that other people do, and this was exacerbated by social media, no doubt.  Now, each morning I try and remind myself of how lucky I am and if you're fortunate enough to be reading this on your phone, computer or iPad then chances are, you're lucky too.  Most of us were random lucky sperm - that's it.  It has been important for me to recognize that I could just as easily be a pigeon right now - waddling around the outskirts of bumblefuck Chicago pecking at vomit on the ground - but, I'm not and THANK GOD, LITERALLY. My boss recommended that I start making lists of all the things I'm grateful for, and in turn, I've became less distressed about what I don't have - like children, a hummingbird feeder, blue eyes, dignity or a tree house.


3. Do what you love
"So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality."  Jim Carrey said this during his commencement speech; a speech that practically changed my life.  I was approached by a producer in LA and given the opportunity to write a pilot based on Toe Pick a couple years ago.  As time went on I grew intimidated by the process which stifled me.  I let my need for acceptance and subsequent fear of rejection make me invisible.  So, I quit.  It was the opportunity of a lifetime and I let my fear take it away from me.  I'm pretty sure this will haunt me until the day I expire.

The other morning I did something I hadn't done in months: I flossed woke up and just started writing.  It made me feel awake and content.  Indulging in something that you love to do is like getting happy-drunk without the liver damage, rosacea and debilitating hangover.

4.  Practice mindfulness  
"There is a huge difference between a dog that is going to eat you in your mind and an actual dog that is going to eat you."  Jim Carrey also said this in his speech and good God, it resonated with me.  I've been spending a big part of my life worrying about the unknown. Now, when I have an unsettling thought I try to rewire my brain so I can acknowledge it and accept it as separate from who I am.  This makes me feel more in control because it forces me to remember that I am not my thoughts and IF YOU'RE READING THIS DR. REYNOLDS, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CORRECT ME IF I'M NOT FULLY GRASPING THIS CONCEPT DURING OUR NEXT SESSION ON THURSDAY AT 6PM, I PROMISE I WON'T BE LATE THIS TIME.

5. What you put in your body has a direct effect on your brain.
I struggle with this one, even though I know how blatantly true and important it is.  Eating dick ranch flavored Bugles dipped in fried Nutella on the reg can make you feel weird, lethargic and on edge.  Opt to down a head of lettuce or a clove of beets or whatever instead.  And instead of imbibing a double long island iced tea, choke down some good ol' H2O. Alcohol is to anxiety what Ike is to Tina Turner.

6. Practice self-soothing
Oftentimes, I'd chastise myself when I started feeling anxious.  "Chillll, Alexandra.  You're freaking out over nothing, Jesus!"  Now, when I'm feeling anxious, I try and soothe myself by saying, "You're having these unsettling thoughts and it's okay.  You're fine.  Your Jheri curl isn't acting up today and you made a clever pun last week.  Also, you have a 401K plan now, so that's comforting. You're doing better than you think you are."  I am 1 of 40,000,000 people in the US who is suffering from anxiety - there's no reason to treat myself like a damaged, irrational freak and the same goes for you.

7.  Find a dog and pet it.  Also, try and avoid binge-watching crime shows at night. 
a.) If dogs were a drug they would be Xanax.  I'm heading to the ASPCA on sunday to hang with some mutts and I'm looking forward to the effect this will have on my overall state-of-mind.
b.) If a crime show was a drug it would be speed or meth. I have no doubt that the amount of hours I've accrued watching horrific documentaries and crime shows has contributed to my distress. As much as I love that shit, I also know that watching Care Bears is better for me because I'm fragile and ugh, I'm going to throw up now.

I am a work in progress.  We all are.  I do know that I want to continue on this path to Benihana self-realization and one day look back and bask in the progress I've made.  Lastly, I want to leave you with the line from Jim Carrey's speech that meant a great deal to me and I hope you'll find the beauty in it too:

"You will only really have 2 choices in life: love and fear.  Choose love, and don't ever let fear turn you against your playful heart."

xo






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