How to Use Writing to Cope with Anxiety and PTSS
I suffer from PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and anxiety, which makes even small tasks difficult. It is a challenge to live ‘normally’ and do ‘normal’ things. I often felt ignored and misunderstood but one area where I can shine is in writing!
I can pour my thoughts and feelings out and feel safe. One of the key things about dealing with anxiety is the need to feel safe and secure. For most individuals, they are dealing with anxiety to cope with situations in which they were violated physically, emotionally or mentally. This is the same for me.
Agoraphobia – Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.
With agoraphobia, you fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line or being in a crowd. The anxiety is caused by fear that there’s no easy way to escape or seek help if intense anxiety develops. Most people who have agoraphobia develop it after having one or more panic attacks, causing them to fear another attack and avoid the place where it occurred.
People with agoraphobia often have a hard time feeling safe in any public place, especially where crowds gather. You may feel that you need a companion, such as a relative or friend, to go with you to public places. The fears can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home. (Courtesy – mayoclinic.org)
Of my situation, I am agoraphobic and this places additional stress on me when I cannot fully explain to others and they cannot fully grasp my circumstances or understand it.
Most people cannot grasp the crippling fear that surrounds sufferers of PTSS and anxiety. They feel the sufferer must get on and ignore it. But that is not easy to actually do.
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Imagine the following:
- Waking up at night feeling paralysed.
- Dreading a simple task, like walking to the shops.
- Inability to have a ‘normal’ job.
- Sounds or words can trigger a panic attack.
- Fear of being rejected.
- Fear of being told to ‘get over it’.
- Increased anxiety that can lead to panic attacks.
I could add many more items to that list but dealing with anxiety is not something people chose to have to go through. It is not by choice!
Writing can be an effective coping mechanism in the following ways:
- Journaling/diary writing
People who suffer from any form of anxiety can use a journal or diary to record their feelings and thoughts about various situations. This can help the individual cope with their feelings that they may not be able to talk about. For mild anxiety journaling may be enough to deal with the stress involved, for more severe types, journaling can be used to show progress and/or other problems that the anxiety is causing.
It can prove to be an effective form of analysis for a health care professional.
- Writing personal letters
In some cases, people are told to write letters (but not send them) to people in their lives. The people may be family, friends or even an abuser whose trauma is still affecting them. This helps the individual express their feelings in a controlled way and also to deal with them because they are being expressed in a healthy way.
- Short stories
Some people take to writing to give themselves a sense of control and to achieve a goal for themselves. These stories may or may not ever be published but they, again, show the healthy expression of emotions.
Some anxiety sufferers, myself included, may take to writing longer full-length novels and using writing as their therapy. Writing a novel takes a period of time (I will not quantify that because it will differ between individuals) and it can make one feel a sense of routine – which adds to the feeling of security. These novels may or may not be published by they have their use.
What many people do not grasp is that sufferers of anxiety and PTSS crave a sense of order and stability because they have been in uncontrolled situations and do not want that again. They do not want pity, judgement or to be ignored – they want security!
Definition: Panic attack
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.
Many people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes, and the problem goes away, perhaps when a stressful situation ends. But if you’ve had recurrent, unexpected panic attacks and spent long periods in constant fear of another attack, you may have a condition called panic disorder. (Courtesy – mayoclinic.org)
How do I cope?
I avoid leaving my house. I only leave when I am absolutely certain of where I am going, for how long and with whom. I also make sure I have been to the place before and know how to get away if an unsafe situation arises. This creates a huge feeling of loneliness and sadness because I am not free to go where I please. On some days, even walking to my gate can cause a panic attack.
So, I turn to writing – I use all four of the above techniques. I do a lot of writing! It makes me feel safe and for me, that is the biggest priority right now. If I do not feel safe I do not perform at my best and I cannot give of my best because I am scared and on high alert (also called hypervigilance).
I create courses, products and e-books to help people express their emotions and experiences in a safe and secure way. Being able to express oneself and feel safe is a true gift for an anxiety sufferer – as I am also one I understand the value of these services!
In 2018, I got my drivers license, had my first speaking event and started going to functions again. There were times when I was so afraid I felt physically ill but I have also found fun and joy again. Each time I go out is a step in a new positive pathway.