How My Anxiety Interfered With My Grief
My brother passed away last May, very unexpectedly, and I was devastated. He was the last of my family, the last person I could totally count on. For me, the first few months after such a loss are spent in shock and a numbness that is hard to explain. You are just trying to manage what needs to be done and, while you are sad and crying, the full impact hasn't really hit yet. It is perhaps, in a very bizarre way, the easiest time of your grieving process.
I have suffered, on and off, all of my life from an anxiety disorder. As the months passed after my brothers death, my anxiety got worse and worse. In the last four months or so, I have been battling my anxiety 24/7. For anyone out there with this disorder, you know what I mean. But for those who don't know much about it, you spend your entire day trying desperately not to feel anxious and in fear of having a panic attack.
It is exhausting , paralyzing and mind -numbing . I have been practicing Claire Weekes (the expert to many on anxiety) theories on controlling anxiety, which basically teaches you to not fear them and try to just ride through it. Fear is the root of anxiety so you have to learn not to be afraid of it. Easier said than done, believe me! Very effective, but it takes a long time to achieve.
During this time, I have also had to cut out anything that makes me nervous, when I can. I don't read the news, watch crime shows, do anything that I feel pressured to do, and on and on. You have to let your nerves heal. Of course there are things you can't avoid so you will always have some chance of becoming so anxious you have a panic attack.
What I didn't realize until very recently was that in battling my anxiety, and thus avoiding getting emotional about things, I had not let myself grieve properly. I was pushing away the sadness and despair I felt because I was afraid those feelings would undermine my attempts to get rid of my anxiety. I wasn't even aware that I was doing this, so it came as quite a shock when I recognized what was happening.
I wish I could say what it was that made me have that "aha" moment, but I don't remember...something I read that made that light bulb go on in my brain. I have rarely cried since he died (something I have done buckets of with other deaths and believe firmly in) and it kept me from grieving the way I needed to. One night, not long ago, I was watching a movie and I started crying and couldn't stop. It wasn't even a sad movie, it was just one of those scenes that are so touching it makes you weepy. But I was really crying over my brother and it felt cathartic. One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Smith:
Tears are the safety valve of the heart when too much pressure is laid upon it.
I have just begun to be able to cry again and be emotional about his passing in order to go down the grief road. Realizing this has made a huge difference in how I feel. I am still battling my anxiety, but I can now separate my grief from my anxiety. I can cry and not worry that it will give me a panic attack.
For anyone out there who is in the same position, I hope this gives you that "aha" moment, so that you can grieve the way you should. It's hard enough dealing with either of these things, but when your sorrow over your loved one is put on a back burner, it is even harder to deal with them. I'll leave you with another of my favorite quotes (I have many, many favorites) by Washington Irving:
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues...they are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.