I have anxiety issues. This is not something I normally talk about to anybody. Most of my friends and family don’t know it. I try to hide it as best I can but sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I can’t control it. My heart pounds, my mind stops normal function and goes on a whirlwind tour of chaotic thought, and my fight or flight response kicks in and all I can think about is running away from everything and everyone.
I’ve been dealing with this issue for years. Since I was a kid, in fact. And over the years I have tried many ways to deal with it. I’ve seen a therapist, been on several different medications, tried meditation, yoga, and a number of other ways to ease anxiety. What worked only worked so much. Most, however, didn’t help. I have learned ways of coping when I get hit with an anxiety attack such as deep breathing and trying to focus my mind on what could have triggered it instead of letting it gallop off with my mind.
Many times panic attacks hit me while I’m trying to sleep. It almost seems like my mind sends out an invitation to every worry, fear, and concern I have and throws a panic party. Over the years I have developed an excellent coping mechanism for the sleep time panic. I tell myself stories. Taking myself out of my own mind and into a fantasy world seems to be the best way to fight off the panic. In the morning, I feel refreshed and a lot of times I know what the panic trigger is and am able to deal with it.
When I first started telling myself stories, I was about 10 or 11 and many of the stories really just involved me inserting myself as a character into one of my favorite television shows. I would come up with wild adventures using the cast and background of popular television shows at the time. I can’t tell you how many times I helped Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote solve a mystery or Jim Rockford of Rockford Files hunt down the bad guy. I had many comedic misadventures with Natalie and Tootie of Facts of Life. Though my stories were original, my characters weren’t. I had a wildly active imagination and it didn’t take long before my stories evolved from shows I watched to my own characters and background.
I would begin my stories by closing my eyes and gazing into the dark. An idea would hit me and I would begin spinning the tale. It wouldn’t take long before I could picture what I was telling myself. Action would play out across the stage of my imagination. Fantastic dragons would bellow and blow out fire, monsters would lurk in the woods, and ghosts would haunt old houses. It was never a dull moment in my world. I could be anything, a brave knight, an even braver princess, a motorist with a broke down car wandering down dark roads looking for help and finding monsters instead.
Many of these stories have gone on to become short stories I’ve worked on or at least story ideas I’ve jotted down in my writing notebook. And though many of my stories really have no ending, as I tend to fall asleep before I can finish the story, my overactive imagination and working anxiety coping skill has generated many wonderful ideas for future stories.
Some days, when work is going bad or when I am having a disagreement with a friend or loved one, I know the day will end on a good note at least when I place my head on my pillow and begin to unwind a tale that no one else knows about. Yet.