How Classical Music has Helped With My Anxiety and Life in General

 

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I was never one to fist bump the air with elation every time I was subjected to classical music. In fact I would throw myself a pity party every time my parents would force it upon me. I can remember the uncomfortable car rides when we were living in New York. It was classical music 24/7. I would plead for them to play the country music station but alas, my calls would go unanswered. Yes, you read that right… I was obsessed with country music. I had a cassette tape of  The Judds which I used to play over and over again. My dad would get flustered and eventually snap at me because of my overuse. If it wasn’t classical or Greek music, he didn’t want to know.

When I was old enough to keep concentration for a while my parents enrolled me into a piano class. And when it was time to pick up music at school, the flute became my companion. In between these lessons they would take me to see the New York Philharmonic orchestra, and violin quartets and pianists and let’s not forget the hours worth of opera, ballet and musicals. Throughout my earlier years I saw piano and my classically trained background (I even took music theory and completed grade 5) as simply another shrug of ‘things that looked good on your college application’.

I guess I was so against it when I was younger because it was forced upon me without me having a say-so in the matter. But as I grew up I started to appreciate the fact that I was shown all these different kinds of artistic expressions. And before long I would use my time with the piano as a tool to alleviate stress. I could sit down for hours and play Mozart’s Sonata No.16 in C major over and over again. Because it soothed me. And  of course the most important reason, my brain would cease to spew out chaotic thoughts of the miseries I endured as a teenager. But then my piano playing became few and far between after I went to University. Once I moved to London I only got to play every time I visited my parents back home in Cyprus. Then they moved to another town and my piano went into hibernation. I haven’t played the piano in about 6 years now and throughout this time I have seen myself go through mental, physical and emotional issues without having an outlet to pacify these burdens. I started to get panic attacks, my anxiety was going through the roof. I ended up having a kidney infection and had to stay 2 days in the hospital. Antibiotics were my friend at that time because my kidney issues weren’t getting resolved.Money was (and is) always a struggle. I was exceptionally unhappy with my jobs. The men that I let into my life would seem to be unattainable and left me feeling insecure, vulnerable and unwanted. One, for example, said that they wouldn’t date me because of my weight. A sentence such as that sticks with you. It embeds deep within your psyche, attaching itself to even the most minute particles, where disposing of it seems remote. And I had quite a few of those sentences floating around in my noggin. Then I got IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) for which I’m still suffering 10 months later. The latter had deprived me of my simple unfulfilled life completely and my stress levels became fried. Almost as if the neurons short circuited after the amount of anxiety-volts coursed through me. I became depressed. I tried to reach out to people in my own way and they didn’t understand and in turn showed little support. I tried meditation, breathing techniques, therapy, and yoga. My music of Etta James, Little Willie John, Missy Elliot and FKA Twiggs (to name a few) wasn’t cutting it anymore in the relaxation department. And I’d like to add that the sheer thought of travel became unbearable. Which almost made me feel like I was starting to become agoraphobic, seeing as I couldn’t take the underground trains without experiencing panic attacks every single time I would descend the stairs to hell. I literally felt like I was imploding within myself. And then, amongst all this battered chaos, I thought of my piano…

I knew there was no way I could afford to buy one here in London, so I was stuck. Stuck in a place of knowing the cure that could tame the virus yet not having any syringe to dispense it. And then one day I thought, why not listen to my favourite Mozart piano piece and see how I go from there. I put my headphones in, turned the volume up and looked to hope that peace would come. Once the first notes daintily trickled out, I felt as if a gigantic orb of light engulfed me. My muscles relaxed and my brain ceased to churn out thoughts. For those 3 minutes a wave of tranquility washed over me and I knew that I had finally found my saving grace. Next I chose to play Chopin’s Nocturne No. 2 in E flat and that was when my stress melted away. I was smiling in a crammed sardine can without a care in the world. People didn’t bother me. My thoughts weren’t on my IBS. I just floated… on a cloud of calm.

Have you ever noticed, when you’re scurrying around trying to somehow not be associated with the metaphorical ant analogy, people’s faces and sound effects? Every day I would hear the huffing and puffing of wolves trying to blow down a path through the glazed commuter’s programmed route. And every day it would chip away at me. The facial expressions of hatred, annoyance and exasperation filled my view and I couldn’t shake it. Having to deal with that and all my other issues was a nightmare. Because their negativity would rub off on me. Until that is, that  one fateful day Classical music intervened.

I now listen to it everywhere I go, if you can believe that! From the girl whose threshold level for classical music was exceptionally low, this was a major achievement. It has also made me think that I am an old blob but hey, if it works then I will happily embrace becoming an old blob if it means I get to keep my sanity.

Classical music has somehow become my knight in shining armour. It has not only accompanied me on my journeys to and from work but has even caressed my ears while at work. Instead of watching countless hours of TV or waste my brain cells surfing the web, I put on a classical playlist and read a book or write in my journal. 

Before, I used to have a panic attack stepping out of my front door in fear that I would inevitably shit my pants in public due to this whole IBS thing. Because my mind was constantly thinking about all the horrid scenarios that could befall me. Before, my concentration was that of someone who was suffering from ADHD. That’s not a joke by the way. It’s how I was acting. While at work, I would flutter around from task to task, which in turn took longer than it actually should have. Because my brain would be in overdrive. While at home, simple chores became impossible to finish. While grocery shopping, I would hop around missing the essentials. But somehow all this has changed. Before, my brain would be on the go all the time; constantly inventing scenarios, conversation, over-analysing and over thinking. But now I listen to Chopin and Mozart and know that all will be ok. That I can calm myself without having to resort to medication or therapy. That I can concentrate without compromising my time. That I can live a life that’s less stressful. All I can say is….. It feels good! It feels really good.

❤ ❤ ❤

 

 

P.S.- I wanted to share this with all the pandas out there who feel like their anxiety, panic attacks and stress are getting the better of them. You are NOT alone. All I can say is to explore every possibility out there. Meditation might not have worked for me, but it might work for you. Or maybe you will find that walking more often might help. Or painting, or using one of those popular colouring books that are out there nowadays. Whatever it may be just do it often to de-stress. Because nothing is more important than the stability of your well-being! If you are unwell then you won’t be able to take care of anything else. So whatever it is, just do it!

❤ Love, Happiness and Laughter always ❤

When Monday Motivational Quotes Don’t Do The Trick… (battling with depression, anxiety and panic attacks)

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So my little pandas, I’m going to try and talk about depression, panic/anxiety attacks in the lightest way possible. Key word being… try, because quite frankly I don’t want to get myself worked up again to the point where funny gifs won’t be able to do their job anymore.

Lately I have been suffering from a load of shit. Some of it literal and others being more metaphorical. Long story short I was having major tummy issues (see my previous post). It has been reoccurring since end of May. Right after my stomach went all Mt. Vesuvius I was also about to start a new job. Let me tell you, having to juggle the mental acrobatics of trying to coax yourself out of distress in fear of shitting your pants in public and learning the ropes of a new job really took a toll. I started to crumble. There were days where I would only eat like 2 bananas and some strawberries in fear that I would loose the battle with my bowel. I figured the less I had to eat the less times I would have to be in the bathroom. Throughout this time I lost my appetite completely. Now, I would like to inform you all that I’m a gal that loves food. So for that simple pleasure to be ripped away from me didn’t help me mentally. On top of all this I was also worried about money, the quality of my life here in London, being a hermit, not having any friends around, not having someone to come home to, not starting a family and my parents.  You see, because I was at such a low point I brought all these other things into my head. I started collecting all my failures one by one and lined them up solemnly.

I swear the brain is a blessing and a curse. Sometimes circuits get re-wired, re-programming takes effect and for a short while you turn into a person that is just not you. You are floating in the distance looking down at this destructive blob that has taken over your body and you can’t do anything about it. You just watch, saying ‘Hey, that’s not me! I don’t think things are so bad!’ But it can’t hear you, for the Pandora’s box of negativity has opened and it’s nothing but a downward spiral from here on out.  There are bouts of sanity however, that may filter through. Where thoughts pop into your head like “I know this is nothing. People are going through much worse things. What you’re going through will pass. Stop being so negative.” But then, your brain switches and you are back into the deepest abyss. It’s a sense that you will never get through this. A sense of despair. As if you were drowning. Or sinking into quicksand.

My stomach caused me to have more anxiety. I would be anxious to leave the house. I was in constant fear that I would have an accident in public. Anxiety turned into panic attacks where I would self-destruct. I hated everything that I was. Everything that I achieved was meaningless because I was convinced I was a failure at life. I called up my mom, who is from an era that never really talked about mental health, even though her sister was a social worker. The compassion, understanding gene of mental health must have skipped my mom. However, I don’t blame her really. She just never was around it. Therefore, everything that she was saying made me revert into an even worse place. So I was screwed with no outlet to vent. I thought of going to see a psychologist but then became even more depressed when I realised I couldn’t afford it.

It’s a very hard thing to explain to someone who doesn’t get panic/anxiety attacks or depression. You eventually end up sugar-coating it. You don’t want to say to people that you don’t see the point in living anymore. That maybe you should just throw in the towel and call it a day. Because sometimes dark thoughts manifest so much so that you can’t control it. Fortunately for me, mine are just thoughts. Because I know that with each battle won, I’m strong enough to face another episode if/when it happens. But at the time it’s all I would think of. That I am a failure and everything in my life has been a consistent pile of shit that magically increases in the amount of shit with every year that goes by.

Yet, somehow the storm passes and I continue to chug along. I continue to stay afloat. Sometimes in that moment you feel like you are the only one in that black hole and once you escape you can’t help but rejoice fighting off your arch-nemesis.

This wasn’t a post about me complaining about what I’m going through. The message of this post was to simply say… you are not alone. And besides, it’s better to get it out than to hold it in.

Here are somethings that can help: (I am no expert, but these are some things that have helped me) 

  1. Make sure to surround yourself with people who understand. In this instance, people who are prone to dishing out tough love are not the kind of people you should be around at the moment.
  2. Look at old photos (or any photos) that show some happier times. For me, my brain starts recalling those memories in detail and for a time it forgets what sadness you might be going through. It lessen the load.
  3. Write down everything you’re feeling in a journal. Here is where you can be the most candid. So let it all out.
  4. Go for walks and take in as much fresh air as possible.
  5. Get a lot of sleep. For me, when I stress my brain doesn’t turn off, even when I sleep. I even have extremely vivid dreams of me constantly battling something, getting killed, you know the usual! So it’s important to try and get as much sleep as possible. That way when your sleep becomes interrupted you can add in a couple more hours in there.
  6. Soak in a bath. Unfortunately my tiny studio doesn’t permit a normal bath (it’s just a shower) so the next best thing is for me to sit on my couch and soak my feet. Improvisation is key people!!
  7. Eat as healthy as possible. I know booooooo to this! But sugars don’t help panic/anxiety. I know they say it’s part of comfort food but it does more damage in the long run.
  8. Ok this one is something that I do…. I put on some music and dance and sing until I get tired. I feel sorry for my neighbours.
  9. When things get really bad, it’s ok to curl up in bed and do nothing. You are allowed!
  10. Watch youtube videos of fluffy baby pandas. This one never does me wrong! It always makes me smile!

❤ ❤ ❤

Wishing you all the happiness, health love and laughter in the world…

PS- I know, this wasn’t such a light post… Sorry! ❤ D

The Beautiful Chaos of A Panic Attack, Your Brain and Eventual Insanity

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This might be a downer of a post today so I can only apologise for it coinciding with Friday celebrations. But unfortunately sometimes these things can’t be helped, however, it still needs to be told.

Yesterday I experienced what one would call a panic attack that was probably mixed with a breakdown of my mind, body and soul. If I were to try and explain what this would feel like, I think I would do a pretty terrible job. But I will try anyway. You see the beauty of one is that it might slightly alter every time. So your mind will convince you that you are having a heart attack, some rare disease and/or dying because you haven’t experienced these feelings before. You are a prisoner to your mind and if it says that you are dying, well then, you are dying. You will convince yourself that only rare un-treatable ailments are afflicting you. And because of your beautiful mind, it shall cause a stormy chaos that is so uncontrollable, you fear that this is the end of the line. Eventually your biggest fear will rear its ugly head… that you are finally going insane.

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I felt faint at work and asked to leave early. I thought I was coming down with something normal, like a cold. But as I kept thinking about it, I couldn’t shake it. It’s flight or fight at its very core. All your senses are telling you that you must leave, run, fly, drive, whatever, just so you can escape. I called an uber because the thought of going underground felt like I would be depleting any energy that I had left to survive. So I stayed on the surface of the earth thinking that the open window and the breathing of semi-fresh city air as we whizzed along would soothe me. But instead, I focused on the way the driver was stopping and starting the car. It was a jerky ride to say the least and thus, the sudden urge of sickness was bubbling up inside of me. I was not only ready to kill this taxi man but also succumb to my own perilous death by jumping out of the vehicle and praying wholeheartedly that I would get hit by a bus. A bit dramatic isn’t it? Well that’s how your mind fucks with you. You are present in that moment, feeling everything, all senses heightened to infinity.

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But of course these feelings did not go away. I managed to get home, take a shower and jump into bed. It was about 3:30pm and I was determined to fall asleep. But did my brain let me? No, no it did not.

Panic attacks

Now this is where things get completely out of control. As I lay there I got a sense of anxiety, like something was coming but I didn’t know what. My limbs felt heavy. It swayed from being numb to pins and needles, to finally me feeling like my whole body was going into paralysis. I felt like I was sucked under a mound of cement trying to fight my way out. Lethargy was in abundance, confusion soon followed and that’s when I was at the point of no return. I called the NHS (which is a free GP service here in the UK) and I begged them to see a Doctor. But all she (the receptionist) could offer was having the doctor call me for a phone consultation. I was in despair so I grab it with open arms. I then called my mom, who did not help my situation whatsoever. In fact, she made it worse. But finally the doctor called and that’s when I broke down. It’s like my mouth was clamped, jaw tightening commenced so much so that I thought I was going to break my back wisdom teeth. Breathing at this point, was none existent. All I kept saying, like a broken record, is that “I am freaking out!” So she asked me to come in.

With all my might I fought to get dressed. The yearning to see the Doctor outweighed the pain I was going through. I was like an amputated soldier still crawling around in the battlefield. And yet, somehow I managed to keep moving.

As I walked, alone, to what felt like a death sentence, I cried. The crying was never-ending. Tears were pouring out of me. They were making tracks on my face. I now know what Smokey Robinson meant by the way. No matter what I did, my eyes were a broken faucet that could not be fixed. The streets were filled with people and I did not care. They stared at me, a dishevelled resemblance of a human being, and yet I still did not care. My main goal was to get to the doctors office.

Finally I had arrived. As I waited, I continued to cry. There was a woman opposite me, looking as I cracked out a hundred tissues. If it were me, I don’t know what I would have thought if I saw someone acting like I did at the time. The doctor came down to get me and by the time we went to her room, having sat down in her chair for no more than a second, I sobbed even more violently than ever before. Breathing ceased to exist and my brain felt like it was about to explode. Talking was not even a remote option. There I was, unkempt, fucked up un-penciled eyebrows, pale makeup-less face, clothes that did not match, crying in front of a complete stranger. Bless her for being so calm in such a situation. She managed to check me out, reassuring me in the process, that nothing seemed out of the ordinary. You would think I would have been relieved. But I wasn’t. Because this meant that my brain had concocted all these symptoms all on its very own.

Just so you know. I have never been a person to cry in front of others. I have always opted not showing signs of weakness in public. In fact, I had always prided myself in being one tough cookie. Yet something in my brain had said enough is enough. Something snapped and malfunctioned. And now I have the fear that one day, my brain may go to the extreme of the anxiety spectrum. Thus resulting in a nice cosy cell with  four padded walls.

I don’t know why this happened. However, I do remember the first severe time it ever occurred. I was in Greece, miserable with my life, hating my very existence. I had experienced a prolonged version for three months. Yes, three months! I thought I was dying. I convinced myself I had cancer because I couldn’t see properly. Light affected me. I was experiencing a form of vertigo. The list was a very long, extensive one. All the specialists that I went to said that everything was fine. And all, had said it was stress related. I scoffed at this idea. Stress? Bullshit! But one day I decided to pack my bags and fly to Cyprus. That trip alone, was the most excruciating experience of my life. Yet I pushed through it. And do you know what happened forty-five minutes after landing? All my symptoms had vanished, without a trace. And just then, did I acknowledge that it was brought on by stress. I know why I went into a mental breakdown that time. But this time? Everything seemed fine. I’m in London. Working, paying all my bills. Seeing friends from time to time. What could I possible be so anxious about for me to have an attack? What is wrong about my life? It’s an okay life. People have it far, far, far worse and I remind myself of that every day. Yet here I was, thinking the world was sitting on top of me. That I was breathing for the world. That I was suffering for the world. That I was dying for the world. I mean who the fuck did I think I was! The modern day woman version of Jesus? 

The brain is a powerful organ, isn’t it? It has the capability of giving you hallucinations, depress the living shit out of you and make you think that you are dying. It is the grandmaster puppeteer, commanding a slave held by unbreakable strings. I can only bow in merciful pain when it decides to strike. It’s a sadistic bastard. Prolonging the agony as long as possible just for its own personal amusement. But through it all, I manage to at least try and stay strong. And I always repeat these words in the hopes that one day they will work within 2 seconds flat…

You are going to be fine. Breathe. You have gone through worse and you have always made it to the other side. You are not dying. You do not have an incurable disease. You got through the last one and you will get through this one. You…. will…. be… okay….

*If you suffer from panic/anxiety attacks, just know that you are not alone. Tell someone. Get to a doctor and talk about what you experienced. Here are some things that you might find useful.

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Also Art therapy works wonders. It’s like an adult colouring book. And who wouldn’t want that. I just bought one…

And remember…