Today I just got off a one week cruise to Alaska, beyond being possibly the most beautiful place I've seen (I know I say that a lot but hey, it might be true this time) I learnt something about my anxiety.
I always try to 'prevent’ my anxiety attacks and my low days. So, when I have them, there is always this sense of failure. Like I failed to prevent them from happening, I should have taken better care of myself or I shouldn't have put myself in that position. Which obviously in turn makes the attacks worse or makes me more depressed. It's a vicious cycle, one which I assumed would be broken when I just stop having them. I know I'm as shocked as you they haven't stopped yet.
But something happened on this trip. I had an anxiety attack, mild at first, then a little less mild and I told myself it's ok. It's ok to feel this way, accept that you feel it, don't try to explain why it is, just accept that it is. Once I accepted I was having an anxiety attack I thought about how I could calm myself down, what tools did I have to help myself right there.
Perhaps a year ago I would have hid in a toilet, passed out or just cried for a while until I was so tired I fell asleep. This time I took some deep breaths and I went on a bar crawl. Ok ok there's a few steps in between. I went for a walk, which on a cruise ship in Alaska is a beautiful thing. Then I sat for a while and smiled at people, there's something about smiling for others that makes you want to smile for yourself. And finally a few hours later when I was invited by a stranger on a cruise organised bar crawl I went, I had a great time and eventually I realised I wasn't pretending I was truly happy again.
So here's what I realised. The trick isn't necessarily prevention, though I suppose that is the reasonable route A. The trick was showing myself some love and understanding, accepting the illness and not letting it run my life. Understanding that nothing is permanent, everything changes, how I feel now is not how I will feel in an hour.
I'm calling it progress.
So here's the view that changed my perspective: