Are you one of those people who tries to “get through” the holidays? What would it take for you to shift to “moving through” the holidays or “experiencing” the holidays rather than just trying to get through them? Although the difference in this wording is somewhat subtle, it can be significant as we shift from survival mode into a more holistic acceptance of the process of being present—mind, body, and soul—for the holidays.The glow of Christmas trees, menorahs, and Diwali candles, along with many other images and traditions from richly diverse cultures, light our way through the holidays each year. Along with the beauty of holiday decorations and celebrations, however, often comes a fair amount of stress. This could be financial stress or the stress of physical exhaustion from simply trying to keep up with all of the extra events. It could also be emotional stress due to an injury or illness, challenging family dynamics, or grief from the loss of a loved one. Pause for a moment and check in: On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your current stress level? Breathe. Look around you. Then, look within. Is there any crisis taking place in the current moment, or is the stress generating from within? Feel the soft rhythm of your inhale and exhale washing through you with grace.
When Anxiety Attacks is a graphic memoir about living with anxiety and finding help through a therapist. In this blog, Terian Koscik, author and illustrator, gives an inside look to her experience of drawing and writing about anxiety.
One of the hardest parts about living with anxiety is trying to explain what it’s like to friends and family who don’t experience it. To them, it makes no sense that someone who is usually capable of making clear, rational decisions would have fears and thoughts that are totally irrational. What they don’t realize is that anxious people are often perfectly aware of how irrational our thoughts are. This doesn’t make it any easier to ignore them, though. Dealing with anxiety, beginning to understand it after going to therapy for the first time, and trying to convey my new sense of understanding to others led me to want to create a comic book about the experience.
As a child, my anxieties appeared blatantly silly and irrational to outside observers. I would panic whenever the phone rang, worried about what would happen if we didn’t answer it before it went to voicemail. What if it was an extremely important call, and they needed to talk to us right then? Or what if they thought we didn’t care?
As adults, we have a lot more in our lives to worry and panic about, and the line between what is silly and what isn’t is harder to see, especially if one’s default state is to worry. After graduating from college, my best friend from high school moved in with me, and I was distraught when she didn’t seem as enthusiastic about living together as I was. I constantly thought about what I was doing wrong when she chose to spend her time alone instead of with me, and whether I was capable of making any friends at all. I ended up going to therapy to talk about these feelings. I gradually realized that my worries were based on a general fear of being alone rather than anyone’s specific actions, that I could address them directly by asking others for help, and that there was nothing wrong with me for feeling this way.
In my book “When Anxiety Attacks,” I used dramatically different color palettes to demonstrate the way that irrational anxious thinking separates one from their usual ability to consider facts and possibilities. Other people and possibilities other than the worst case scenario do not exist in this state of mind. This makes it difficult or impossible for well-meaning loved ones to get through to us when in this state. For example, if I felt lonely, someone might remind me that I have many friends and family to turn to for reassurance. However, my anxious thinking would find a way to ignore this advice. Wouldn’t my friends and family have more important things to do than listen to me complain? Did I even deserve their attention?
Through therapy I have found that as anxious people, the best we can do is remain open to facts and possibilities, and not judge ourselves too harshly for the tendency to worry. I hope that my book will help others reach this conclusion.
Terian Koscik has been a reader of comics, a creator of comics, and an anxious person for almost as long as she can remember. Most of her work is autobiographical in nature, and deals with finding humor in feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. She posts her work regularly at http://pineconedoesthings.tumblr.com/. Terian lives in Portland, Oregon with 4 humans and 2 rabbits.
Tweet in a drawing of your anxious self to @Singing_Dragon_ using the hashtag #AnxiousMe to enter the chance to win a copy of When Anxiety Attacks