Up Close and Personal: Anxiety Mess and a Playlist

Finals brought a dreaded enemy back in full force. Over the past couple of days I had to deal with the paralyzing powers of anxiety again.

I still have anxiety off again on again over the months and since my particular brand is highly influenced by my hormone balance, well, you can guess when it is the worst.
However over the past couple of weeks with one final exam after the other and pressure basically not receeding over almost 4 weeks my psyche lost it on me. The days leading up to my oral exam were the worst. I was almost back to the old days where I couldn’t really study because my body was in a constant state of suppressed flight response. I was distressed, I was exhausted yet I couldn’t relax. Not for a second. As they days wore on the situation got worse. I started to feel the effects physically. My hands and knees were shaking, my stomach started to eat up itself again (even though my changed diet keeps me far away from foods and drinks that are distressing on my stomach, so it couldn’t have been that). I knew I had to do something.

I am really grateful that I am not dependent on heavy chemicals to reclaim my calm (or at least take the edge off) but it shocked my quite a bit that after doing so well for almost two years I had to go back to my relaxing teas and herbal meds.

One thing that I have learned though is that even though it was horrible while it lasted this anxiety episode has not completely thrown me off course. Today is the day after my exam and I feel a lot better already, still a little shaken, but I can relax now.
I took the week off of work (before hand) and I made a pact with myself to not do anything for my thesis and the term paper that is due at the end of March until monday when I will go back to work. So far it is working. I treated myself to a new haircut (long bob, think Essiebutton), read half a Tess Gerritsen novel, I napped, I caught up on YouTube vids (and am still in the process of very naughtily marathoning all of the Lily Pebbles vids available, she’s so lovely) and I am (a little awkwardly) blogging again. I am very determined to write a Sunday Round Up after I missed the last two, sorry about that, but other than that I am a little weary to put pressure (as positive as it might be) back into my life. There is so much I want to do and to write about but please understand that I am worried to overdo it at the moment. I will get back into the hang of things and I hope it won’t take me long.

As for that playlist: Something that has always helped me to take the edge off is music. Obviously music is something very personal and everybody has a different taste, but I thought I’d share with you what helps me everytime.

The the singer/songwriter (with band) that has brought tears of relieve to my eyes more times than I care to remember is Eric Fish and Friends. Eric is the frontman of my all time favorite band Subway to Sally. In response to going through a burn out episode in his life he started to sit down with his guitar and just make music again. In the beginning he mainly played covers of bands like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Seger, etc. but after a while he wrote his own songs too, and because music is more fun when you can share it with other people he started to play concerts with those songs. At first just him with guitar and harmonica and tons of candles on stage. Now the band has grown to 5 wonderful guys (3 guitars, 1 e-piano, 1 cello) who still sit on stage with a ton of candles. They play Eric’s original songs (the other guys contribute too  with beautiful results), with their German (sorry!) lyrics but also Irish folk and the covers of those bands that mean so much to them. Eric’s original songs are powerful and heartbreakingly beautiful in their straightforwardness. He writes about love and friendship but also about our society and the troubles he has with it. I share many of his opinions which helps obviously a lot with me loving his music. I have all of his albums and they are some of my most dearly loved things that I never want to be parted from. His music is like healing waters on my battered soul.
If you would like to check Eric Fish and Friends out there should be some videos on YouTube.

When I feel particularly hurt and lost and struggling Within Temptation help a lot. They are a Dutch gothic metal band and they have been with me for roughly 10 years now. They may be a little angsty at times, but jeez, when I feel angsty why not take the edge off with a band that sounds as angsty as I feel. Within Temptation can be very socially critical as well, so far they have mainly tackled topics like the abuse of religion and the destruction of nature, but they can also be very dream-like and gentle. Again you can find videos on YouTube and some samples on their page within-temptation.com.

If I need something to carry me through (like on the day of an exam, etc.) I opt for Manowar’s Gods of War album (cheesy as f*ck, I know) but there is something about the whole marching into battle kind of deal that helps me stay focused and march into my very own battle.

I would love to hear from you, what helps you to take the edge off and relax a little when you feel not so great
Sorry, this was a really long post, but yeah, another step on my journey to mental health, I guess. I hope you are feeling good at the moment or at least strong enough to face the day. We can do this, you are not alone!

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