As I sit on my patio on a sunny yet crisp winter day , trying to think of something to paint, calmed by glimpses of the ocean and the sluggish Sunday traffic, All I find is a creative void, dead ends and trife ideas.
Indecision cannons shoot recklessly across my brain, rising anxiety, unsure whether to blog, paint, make cards, or my go to -clean and re arrange furniture. Partially I am ‘moderately’ anxious from the week of a car accident significantly damaging my car of no fault of my own and changes in my medical treatments. Trying to practice balance, mindfulness and resting the world everyone keeps telling me I need.
Then suddenly I receive a distressing phone call and as I hang up I am suddenly prompted to write as my gut is turned upside down like ghastly winds inside my stomach; my heart pounding, like it’s literally going to pop out of its socket, so So close to a Panic attack; on the verge of rupture, a potential spiralling into chaos , confusion and distress. My usual conveyer belt experience of daily anxiety now forces me to run as the Belt is moving at such speed I just can’t keep up.
All I know is that I must firstly and quickly put on my life vest and find my compass in what seems like a deep dark rip in the ocean of fear I find myself in.
Gasping for breath , My distant logical mind tells me if I delay too long the rip will quiet happily toss me into an irrational and disturbed state of acute fear and anxiety, so far far into the horizon.
My wise mind I somehow extract repeatedly whispers, ‘drop the anchor’, or in psychology field decompress or ground. How I am meant to do this while irritating alarm bells shoot across my neural brain pathways and I run breathlessly, I don’t know, other than I have been on this belt and in this ocean before.
‘Dropping an anchor’, is a metaphor for common grounding and stabilising anxiety reduction technique .
I have been in these chaotic waters many many times I tell myself; in an effort to calm and decompress.
So the afternoon I planned for creative activities took a serious u turn and suddenly I am summoned to find courage and strength to ride some ghastly waves ahead.
Unpleasantness surrounds me and all I want to do is run and hide. But I must fight or else I will drown.
I discard my creative satchel and frantically search for my safety toolbox. I place every single tool in my belt and slowly or so slowly I avoid a panic attack and able to reduce my anxiety but only slightly. Yet at a manageable level not what I would call pleasant or comfortable but tolerable.
Emotions and thoughts fill my brain that seems to want to crack and I know all I can do is ride the unpleasant waves toward the shoreline and trust that somehow I will reach it, taking some hope that I had achieved this before.
I have spent many years experimenting, identifying and developing tools to dearouse the elevated states my anxiety would take me to, yet when struck with acute anxiety I still felt like a helpless fearful child.
Life is unpredictable, difficult and challenging and for us anxious beings this is at odds with our vision of order, control, consistency and certainty . In order to survive we must learn to accept this and do our best to stay afloat when shit hits the fan and splatters all over your face.
Uniquely we can only find what works best for ourselves and with commitment be willing to utilise when we find ourselves anxious or faced with a crisis.
So what is your anchor or compass and have you taken it for a test drive or multiple as I have.
I say multiple as when I first started to explore the concept of ‘dropping the anchor ‘ many times I failed which only led me to complete panic, distress, sadness and grief. It has been years of repeated practice that I have become more skilled and aware of how to navigate unexpected and unpleasant experiences and emotions, yet by no means an expert.
And let me confess I had tried to use many maladaptive unhelpful ways like alcohol, overexercising, medication . I still continue to learn and sharpen my tools and more recently with my total change of lifecourse, show willingness to add required new ones.
We must fight hard and be brave when life strikes us hard with a curve ball or several, as much as we may want to retreat and bunker deep beneath the earth. And sometimes we will fail and sometimes we will succeed. We can only try and do our best each time and believe we can only get better.
So be brave or pretend to if you have to and find a helpful life vest, anchor and compass. Keep them close to you as invariably at some time you will need them. Tell urself “I’ve got this”, “this too shall pass”, whether you believe it or not.