Just Calm Down

“Just calm down.”

This is the wrong thing to tell somebody suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Believe me, if there were any way to calm down I would have done it by now. I admit there is a lot I haven’t tried that has been suggested to me, including marijuana, meditation and music. But I’m skeptical that those things will work as my anxiety feels so ingrained and intractable.

My rational mind tells me there’s no need to be nervous about things. I try my hardest to listen to it, but anxiety overwhelms me anyway. I know I’m being irrational. I know I need to calm down. But I can’t do it. It’s like driving a car and losing control of the brakes.

The drugs I’ve been taking so far have not helped much though the jury is out on Seroquel, which I just started taking at a very low dose and which studies have shown helps with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). (The dose – 12.5 mg – may be too low to be effective but 25 mg made me feel sedated.)

I’ve been getting electroshock treatments (ECT), and my psychiatrist is adamant about continuing them though I recently cut back against his advice from biweekly to every three weeks.

ECT may have helped with my depression and my general functioning has improved since I began getting the treatments, which is why my psychiatrist wants to continue them. But ECT is not known for having much effect on anxiety, which I find comes back soon after a treatment. I suffer more from anxiety than from depression so ECT doesn’t feel like much of a solution to my problems. And a neurologist I recently saw says it kills brain cells.

I hired a private yoga teacher in the fall but found myself so anxious during our sessions that I ended them. I haven’t tried yoga since though I do swim 30 minutes a day in our pool and feel calmest in the water.

It all convinces me that whatever I have is definitely a disease or disorder and not a personality flaw. If it were a matter of personality or character I could just buckle up and calm down at whim. But it doesn’t feel like it’s up to me.

So I keep trying to breath deeply. For the moment I am trying to write the anxiety out, which is at least as effective as any of the drugs I’ve tried.

But I don’t feel like I’ve found a solution to dealing with all these fears that paralyze me and ruin my days and which I never experienced until three years ago.

And meanwhile, no one tells me to “just calm down” more than I do.

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Do you have a practice that keeps you calm? Share by commenting below!

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                                                                                      Photo © Martinmmark

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About Jennifer

A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Time, Jennifer is the award-winning author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life and pens the MidAge Mom blog.

She’s profiled exceptional women from the Middle East to Latin America. Widely published, her essays have been included in two anthologies.

Jennifer is also a frequent radio and TV guest. Full Bio

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In Beyond One, Jennifer chronicles her leap from one child to two, describing the enormous impact the second child has on a woman’s body, marriage, family life, friendships and work.

"Hull is the kind of woman many moms long to be friends with. . ." -The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Credits

The Wall Street Journal, Time, The Atlantic Monthly, CNN.com, MS., Parenting, Real Simple, Salon.com, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Working Mother, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, American Way, Brain, Child, The Christian Science Monitor, and more.