Updated: May 21
I saw your blurb in the Washington Post and your website and would like to commend your courage in putting yourself out in the open so to speak. Anxiety is at near epidemic levels for a variety of reasons and most people are absolutely unaware how to cope with it and are prone to self-medication.
The first thing I urge people to understand about self-medication is that alcohol and nicotine are both anxiolytic which means that they reduce anxiety. That's a dangerous trap for those who suffer from anxiety. Pharmaceuticals are expensive, require a prescription and often have unpredictable and undesirable side effects. Alcohol and cigarettes are available at almost every corner gas station in America and have very predictable effects. They will reduce your anxiety while also damaging your health and well-being, especially if used excessively. Anyone who suffers from anxiety should be wary of alcohol and nicotine dependency and try to find alternative anxiety relief.
You mention hiking, which is a great one. Most types of exercise will reduce anxiety but when you're having one of those days where you don't want to get out of bed because you've been battling insomnia for a few nights in a row, exercise is not very appealing.
Vicious cycles The second thing to understand about anxiety is that it usually occurs in a vicious cycle with depression and anger. After suffering from prolonged anxiety fatigue, you fall into a depression during which time you dwell on the negative aspects of your life and childhood in particular that have left you in this exhausted state. I've heard some really horrible stories of childhood abuse from former girlfriends, three of whom were professionally diagnosed with PTSD. That abuse has long lasting effects and can be difficult to compartmentalize, especially when you're living with its effects daily.
The other crucial thing to remember is that you will seek out relationships with other people who suffer from anxiety. It's a common dependency and those relationships will tend to be unstable and often abusive. The vicious cycle continues and spurs a tendency to withdraw and isolate oneself. It's absolutely essential to maintain a social life and a support group like this one while being cautious about romantic liaisons. Hypersexuality is also another common dependency for anxiety because sex is another temporary anxiety relief valve at least until the complications of an unstable and/or abusive relationship set in. Exercise is another healthy alternative for reducing sexual anxiety but you should always be cautious about the tendency to become obsessive over any particular outlet.
Finally, beware of the symptoms of OCD. Most anxiety sufferers have their OCD rituals, whether it be excessive cleaning, eating disorders, various types of hoarding or a litany of other compulsive behaviors. I describe OCD behaviors as an attempt to put some order on the internal chaos that we all experience. I've seen some victims who become excessively religious in an attempt to pray away the anxiety and that may work for some people but it can also be a form of denial. My best advice is to keep a balance in your life. Having a routine is helpful though not always appealing. Breakfast is a particularly important meal to set your chemical balance. Beware of too much caffeine because it may increase your anxiety. Sometimes with anxiety, we have a tendency to want to share it by creating a little chaos, especially in our personal relationships.
Thanks again for sharing and offering support. You have my permission to reprint any parts of this message on your website or social media. I saw your Facebook page and am in a private group of friends on FB where we often discuss our individual anxieties and find solace. We took the group private because trolls inevitably show up in public settings sowing their anxiety on others. I spend a lot of time in the group and not much time elsewhere on FB because it is anxiety inducing.