Anxiety in my early years
When I was a teenager in high school my anxiety was going thru the roof. I was having panic attacks, almost daily. These attacks consisted of my heart racing out of my chest, not being able to breathe, and a feeling of complete panic. At that point, after experiencing anxiety since I was in the 4th grade, I didn’t understand what was happening to me. All I remember is thinking that I was going to die, most likely from a heart attack.
After the school nurse suggested I see someone, my mom brought me to a doctor in Boston. I had lots of tests on my heart. The diagnosis was a malformed mitral valve that was causing a murmur. Of course my anxiety took that diagnosis as “Yup, just what I thought, I’m going to die of a heart attack!” And of course, it got worse.
However, they told me they didn’t think that was the reason for my symptoms. Because there was no diagnosis given for my symptoms, I was basically told nothing was wrong with me and that it was in my head. So, I was still left to wonder what was happening to me.
Even though my panic attacks continued, I somehow managed to get thru them. However, I made a lot of people angry for canceling plans, or just avoiding them all together. This was the only way I knew to hide my symptoms, because remember, it was in my head. So, I made up lots of excuses and was a pro at avoiding people.
Anxiety and Depression
While figuring out that I was having panic attacks in my mid 20’s I was also becoming depressed and suicidal, and wanted more than anything for it all to stop. I was also experiencing complete shut downs in addition to the racing heart and lack of breath.
One day, when my kids were young, we were getting ready to go out for a fun day. The anxiety just came over me and I just stood there while they were heading out the door. When my husband asked me what was wrong, I couldn’t answer him, because I didn’t know. I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t move and just stood there looking at them. After trying so hard to pull myself together and move, I just couldn’t do anything. It was like I was paralyzed. Needless to say, they were very angry and ended up going without me.
After they left I sat down on the kitchen floor with a bottle of vodka and just drank and cried. I wasn’t even a drinker but just wanted the feelings to stop. And I would have done anything to make that happen. So, I sat there for what seemed like hours and thought about how I could make it stop. That’s when realized that I had to take things into my own hands, and talk to someone, soon. BTW, I never told anyone about this.
Using the yellow pages, yup that’s how long ago this was, I found a therapist that specialized in anxiety disorders. I met with this woman for quite a while before I even told my husband. All I wanted was for someone to believe me and tell me I wasn’t crazy. Then I could finally explain it to someone else.
Learning words for my anxious feelings
One of the first things I learned is that I had absolutely no vocabulary for my feelings. When the therapist asked me to describe how I was feeling, the only words I knew were sad and mad. Honestly, I thought everything I felt was one of the two.
To teach me about different feelings and which ones I could relate to, she introduced me to a list of feeling words. I slowly realized that “mad” could be frustrated, irritable, or resentful, and “sad” could be anxious, hurt, or depressed. There was a long list and I learned to identify what I was actually feeling and why, and then how to deal with it.
This was huge for me! So huge in fact that my panic attacks slowed down considerably. I think it was a combination of learning to deal with my feelings, and learning that I wasn’t going to die from a heart attack!
The feeling words chart
So, I made a list I want to share with you. This chart of feeling words was born from learning to identify how I’m feeling and what I could do to overcome those feelings in a positive way. I also added some blank spaces so you can fill in your own feelings and solutions. Use this chart when you don’t understand your feelings or when you’re feeling anxious and don’t know what to do with those feelings.
For some other ideas for overcoming anxiety read my post, How to deal with anxiety. In this post I share a frequent issue for me and how I get passed it and refocused.
PLEASE! Call someone if you need help with anxiety or depression. You are not alone and there is help out there. Here is a website that can answer any questions you may have about anxiety and treatment options. They also have a hotline that you can call and ask questions with a live person. PsychGuides.com
IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HURT YOURSELF THEN CALL 911
To print your own chart click here Feeling Words and How to use them
As another option check out Feeling Words From A-Z. It’s written for help with children but you will learn a lot from this list.
Finally, here is great book from Amazon that walks you through all the different symptoms of anxiety and depression and how to overcome them.
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My hope is that hearing my story helps even one person. If it does it’s worth putting it all out there.