Living with any type of anxiety disorder is one of the hardest things a person with mental illnesses can deal with; at least that’s how it is for me. There are many forms of anxiety disorders including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety/Phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Personally, I live and struggle with PTSD due to an abusive relationship that occurred 13 years ago. No matter how much I try to get past everything, I still have flashbacks, fears of anyone I don’t know (especially men), I have a hard time relaxing, I frighten very easily, I avoid anything new, I struggle to sleep, when I do sleep I have nightmares, and I have portions of the abusive time that are mostly a blackout. These are only some of the symptoms I deal with; it’s a huge battle that I fight every day. Sometimes I feel absurd because of how much my anxiety runs my life. I do the best that I can to continue to live my life, but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
One of my biggest difficulties is that I do not like having anyone behind me. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder to see if I’m ‘safe’, just so I have a moment to breathe. This makes running errands, such as grocery shopping, very strenuous. It doesn’t really matter where I am, as long as I’m outside of my house, this is a major issue. I wish I had eyes in the back of my head. Also, my therapist tells me that I behave certain ways in all types of relationships, such as giving without thinking of myself, because of the past abusive relationship. I even had over a year long period where I could not handle touching others. Now, I can shake hands with someone if necessary without having an anxiety attack, but it still terrifies me. If I know a person well enough, such as family or close friends, I am even able to hug them. This is a huge amount of progress.
Living with anxiety is about knowing your own boundaries; what helps you, and what makes things worse. Since I don’t like people behind me, my husband generally walks behind me in public, this helps me feel safe because I know he wouldn’t let anyone hurt me. Sometimes when we’re in public, he will hold onto my belt loop or vise versa, also helping me feel safe and comfortable. Benzodiazepines, such as Valium, are very useful, but I try to only take them when absolutely necessary. Everything I do, even just getting mail from the mailbox, has potential for an anxiety attack. I can’t just walk outside without thinking of all the possibilities. I look out the window first to see if anyone is coming, when the coast is clear I go as quickly as possible to the mailbox hoping that I can go unseen.
I am always trying to find new ways to help deal with my anxiety. Knowing my triggers and boundaries is a huge part of managing my anxiety. I do the best that I can every day and try not to let my anxiety run my life. That’s easier said than done, however; it’s easier for me because I have so much support from my loved ones. I control what I can and try to prepare myself for the rest. I have thought about getting a therapy dog. One that could sense when I’m having an anxiety or panic attack and help calm me down, or sense my nerves and stand watch to make me feel safer. Therapy dogs can do so much good; it’s something I want to look into for the future as another tool to manage my PTSD.