While reaching out people to have guest posts wrote for my blog, I will admit I was surprised when a man reached out to write for me. I know that men can have anxiety just like women, but I just assumed they never wanted to talk about. When Jim sent me this post, I was blown away at how honest he was. I applaud him for having he courage to speak out for men, as well as women. Read his story below, it’s truly touching.It was a late Saturday afternoon in May of 2014. I was so scared…probably more scared than I’ve ever been in my life. As my wife was driving me to the hospital, I kept thinking, “This is how I die.” I kept telling her “I love you,” because if I did die – I wanted that to be the last thing I said to her.
Just a few minutes before our panicked drive to the emergency room, we’d been enjoying a quiet dinner after an incredibly stressful week. At the end of the dinner it happened…my heart started racing, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I got incredibly dizzy. I was absolutely convinced I was having a heart attack – not really out of the realm of possibility because of my age (almost 50) and my family history of heart disease.
After hours of tests and exams, the doctor said that I hadn’t had a heart attack. He said “I’m not sure what happened, but you didn’t have a heart attack. My best guess is that you had an anxiety attack.” This was my first major anxiety attack, but not the last. Anxiety continued to plague me in one way or another for nearly the next two years.
I believe I’ve got my anxiety under control now – it pops up now and again, but less frequently. I’ve also learned how to manage it when it does hit. Some very simple things help me to keep it under control and to lessen its impact on me:
Work to live, don’t live to work – I’ve always been very career-oriented, but I’ve learned to realize that it comes with a cost. A lot of my anxiety centered around things in my work environment that I couldn’t control or change. I ended up leaving the job I was in, but also made a decision that I wasn’t going to let work issues rule my life. My focus now is on my family, on enjoying life and on pursuing my passions of travel and photography.
Be in the present – It’s been said that anxiety is caused by living in the future, and depression comes from living in the past. There were times when I found myself so focused on what was going to happen in the future, or the items I had on my to-do list, that I was missing life as it went by. Granted, my mind still wanders to thoughts of the future – but I keep bringing myself back to the here and now, and am learning daily to experience and enjoy life to the fullest while it’s happening.
Meditation – Learning how to meditate has been a great help in overcoming my anxiety. It helps keep me in the present and lessens my worry about the future or what might or could happen.
Exercise – Numerous studies show that exercise provides both physical and mental health benefits. I used to be a fairly serious runner but stopped running when my anxiety began. I got back into it about 6 months ago, and now run 3-4 days a week. You don’t have to be a runner, though – even getting out for a 10-15 minute brisk walk every day will help.
Get a good therapist – A good therapist won’t heal you – but can help guide you to look inside your own mind and show you how to approach life differently. Therapy can be a painful process, because sometimes you have to unlearn old habits and challenge what you’ve always assumed.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not completely cured of anxiety…but I can say it’s gotten a lot better in the last year or so. Whatever mental health challenges you’re facing, don’t ignore them and don’t feel weak or ashamed because they exist. Get help, change your circumstance, and learn to enjoy your life!
Jim Jones is the creator of the Travel Stories and Images blog, where he shares stories and photos of interesting places he’s been to. Jim has traveled extensively both for work and pleasure, visiting all 50 states and nearly 40 countries. You can find out more at his blog or on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook; links provided below.
Anxiety can happen to anyone, anytime, and any place. Anxiety is not just one gender role played condition. Anxiety does not only happen to few people, many people have it. Some would rather not talk about, while others need/want to share and talk about it. Whichever the case, we should always lend a listening ear and we willing to help when we can or where we can.
I have one more fantastic story for you, stay tuned tomorrow for another story. In the comments below, let me know how you have enjoyed the anxiety series.