I figured out that I had the capacity to gain control over my anxiety after all.
After a couple months of my anxiety getting steadily worse, I remembered that I still had the same tools I used before for getting it back under control again.
It’s a multi-step process. But it all comes down to employing a few specific tactics.
The first is controlling the things I expose myself to. If I’m freaked out about my husband’s cancer, then I need to be reading survivor stories. Reading accounts of widows, while moving and guaranteed to leave me sobbing, actually isn’t that helpful. Who would have guessed?
I need to manage who I expose myself to as well. Some people just aren’t helpful when you feel like you’re in a crisis situation. Talking to them can make you feel worse and feel like you have more reasons to be afraid. There’s nothing wrong with stepping back from people who operate in hysteria mode if you find it contagious. It doesn’t mean you don’t like them, they’re just not good for you in some circumstances.
I had to take some concrete steps to get out of my funk and panic mode. I finally made an appointment with a therapist. I realized I had to eat better and start exercising again. In turn, taking better care of myself makes me less afraid of what will happen to me if my husband dies and I become less able to care for myself. If I take better care of myself now, that scenario is less likely or may be delayed.
Finally I had to really grasp that worrying about what-ifs won’t prevent them from happening, but they will prolong my suffering by making me feel it prematurely.
That’s the kind of thing you always hear–that worrying about tomorrow robs you of today–but it’s easy to slip back into old patterns of anxiety.
The truth is that there’s no magic pill that makes my anxiety go away forever. Even if you find medication that helps (as I have) that doesn’t mean you can just stop there. Managing anxiety requires vigilance and effort. You can’t just assume that it will go away on its own. Sometimes you face new challenges that will test the work that you’ve already done.
You have two choices: give into it and feel worse or empower yourself to keep fighting. For a while, I forgot how powerful I can be when I fight–especially when what I’m fighting is my own mind.