So there’s this thing that happens to me sometimes on days when I have improv rehearsal. It starts out as excitement but somehow shapeshifts into that monster we all know as the classic anxiety attack. It begins with a single thought, then snowballs into more, exaggerated and negative thoughts about all the possible things I convince myself are going to happen or are (unrealistically) true.
“I have improv today, that will be fun.”
“Well now that I said that, I probably just jinxed it.”
“What if I say something that makes everyone uncomfortable and they just stare at me like I’m a crazy person?”
“What if they all find out that I’m not actually funny?”
“I’m a fraud, I am the unfunniest person in the world, why am I even doing improv, everyone is going to find me out, I’m not good at anything, everybody hates me, I’m no good to anyone, why can’t it just be tomorrow already, how much time do I have left, KAREN, HAND ME MY RUM!”
Or something like that.
I basically end up talking myself off a ledge, hyperventilating and pacing around my apartment until it’s time to go to rehearsal. Most of the time, I am able to calm myself down and replace those spiraling thoughts with new, positive ones so that I can go to rehearsal and actually enjoy myself. However, every now and then, I do the unthinkable:
I stay home.
And guess what? That’s okay.
If you are prone to anxiety attacks, you probably also feel the same way I often do about the inconceivable idea of staying home from something: guilty.
Well, I’m here to tell you to CUT THAT OUT, KAREN.
Anxiety is a real illness and, like all illnesses, requires care and attentiveness to improve your overall health. However, we often shove our anxiety deep down and suck it up to go to that rehearsal or get-together or what-have-you.
If you have anxiety attacks frequently, you know how painful that is, not just mentally but physically as well. You get massive lumps in your throat, you fight back tears, your head hurts, or maybe you do what I do and compulsively pick at scabs on your skin. (No? Is that just me? Oh…) In any case, if you are suffering from an anxiety attack, you shouldn’t feel guilty about choosing to stay home to attend to it; to calm your mind and spirit back to health.
Here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t feel guilty about choosing to stay home to treat your anxiety attack.
1) You Don’t Want to Smother Your Bacon
So you swallow your anxiety, letting it sit in your throat like a massive lump, and decide to go to whatever event or gathering it is. How do you expect that’s going to go over? When you pretend everything is fine and force a smile, you are not being your truest self; you are merely keeping the storm at bay. Your focus ends up primarily in your head, as it’s taking everything you got to keep your emotions in check.
As a result, your bacon (i.e. your honest-to-goodness, beautiful, and pure self) doesn’t get to shine.
You may convince yourself that it would be “mean” or unkind to others if you decide to stay home. But the reality is that you would actually be doing them an injustice by going and not really being YOU (i.e. embracing your bacon). In fact, people can often pick up on your negative vibes, which either brings them right down with you or may lead them to believe you are upset with them.
So which is really the “unkind” choice here?
2) Just Like With Any Illness, You Need to Take Care of Your Body
If you need sleep, tissues, and NyQuil to help you overcome a bad cold or the flu, you need to properly care for your anxiety attacks as well. Whether it’s through meditating, journaling, or sleep, you need to help your body through your anxiety attack. If that means staying home, then so be it. Take care of yourself.
3) It Will Become Easier to Overcome Attacks
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. The more often you take the time to calm yourself through your anxiety attacks, the better you will get at it. It will become easier to identify your triggers and the methods that best help you work through an attack. As a result, you will be able to make more commitments without suffering from as many or as severe anxiety attacks leading up to them. But in order to do that, you need to overcome that feeling of guilt about choosing to stay home, if you know that’s what you need.