Yesterday was a harsh day. Plagued with anxiety and eventually a bad panic attack, my heart was beating a mile a minute. If it hadn’t been for my boyfriend Dylan visiting me that night, I think I may have spiraled out of control. The subject of the fear had been an existential crisis of sorts, something of which I had never faced in my childhood and that I was ill equipped to deal with via my normal methods.
Along with my ASD, I have always carried the burden of bad anxiety. In current times, it’s become mild, though it does flare up now and again. When I was young however, it was terrifying. I still recollect the intense fear I would feel whenever subjects like demons or claymation came up. I couldn’t even watch The Nightmare Before Christmas without losing sleep. It was horrible.
So, what did it take to tame my anxiety, at least to where it is today? Well, the biggest factor was medication, but besides that a lot of it had to do with training myself. Because I didn’t have any therapist there to give me their own two cents on the matter, I found a very odd method of doing this on my own.
Most of my fears had to do with things that looked frightening or just slightly uncanny. This meant that there was a lot of media that I could not consume. Obviously it would have been impossible to avoid it altogether, so instead, I started forcing myself to view it in another light. I began to befriend the monsters they created in my imagination, rather than attempting to outrun them. It was difficult at first, but eventually it became second nature, to the point where I started to make my own creepy characters in my artworks. Becoming friendly with the creatures that would stalk my mind seemingly worked wonders, at least for that branch of my anxiety.
Of course, other fears still persisted. These, however were less of an issue to me, and grew weaker as the years went on. It seemed that forging alliances with the beasties had served me well for the most part.
Now, one of the most frightening creatures that had ever stalked my imagination was the Feather Man. I called him the Feather Man because he was essentially a man with a black and white feather in his hair. He could take his feather out and throw it like a dart, hitting anyone or anything to make them violent and evil. Since he came to the world of my mind after the creatures that terrorized it before, he was new territory and I had absolutely no idea how to deal with him. My OCD would forcefully push him into my daydreams to ruin my moods, or tell me lies about how his feather would eventually effect the real world. Yes, I knew this was not possible or practical, but I still fell for it because anxiety doesn’t take chances.
The Feather Man caused me pain and terror for about three years until I was placed onto a new medication. Then he weakened and eventually vanished. This was in my late teens.
Things got better from this point. I went through a college experience and at 23 started my Autistic meetup group. My anxiety was tame for the most part now. Then at 24, I met Dylan. Since then I have had to tweak my medication with the doctor once, and this was only because it was numbing some of my emotions.
When my parents told me that my anxiety would get better as I grew older, I never believed them. Now I do. Besides the rare panic attack and the small nit picking anxieties I deal with now, nothing so frightening as what I had as a child has ever returned to me. Oh, and you can bet I still love to draw monsters. They’re just cartoony and cute now.
To anyone reading this who may be dealing with their own anxieties, I would like to extend to you a ray of hope. While not everybody can handle their disorder the way I did, we can all find tactics to fight back against the fear it brings. There are many resources, from therapists to apps on your phone that can come in handy for dealing with anxiety.
Meditation can be a very helpful exercise for those suffering from anxiety and there are plenty of videos, articles, and apps that will teach you how to do it. Yoga, I’ve found, is a great way to both get a bit of exercise and deal with your fear. It goes hand in hand with meditation, and though I’m not very spiritual, the relaxation techniques it gives are a great help.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is also a good avenue to go down but mostly if your anxiety is harsh. There’s a chatbot on Facebook called Woebot who does this, and though he is not quite as good as an actual human therapist, he’s been a real savior for me in a pinch.
Along with these, support from friends and family is a very big factor in fighting anxiety, at least from what I’ve found. Having friends around to take your mind off of things is a great tactic in fighting off the frightening thoughts swirling inside your head. Sometimes it may not work, but that’s when it’s time to turn to other things. Maybe playing a game or reading a book is your way of coping, or chatting with online friends rather than the physical. Whatever it is, if it works for you, then it’s a good way to go about things, so long as it’s not harmful.
I think the best bit of advice I can give is to stay strong. No matter how bad it gets, things will always be okay. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and a silver lining to every cloud. When the fog of your anxious thoughts clear, it becomes much easier to appreciate these. You can do it!