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My Cure for Anxiety: Female Friends

A few months ago I opened up about my struggle with anxiety. I received a lot of very nice emails, some from strangers, saying they too struggled with it. For me I figured out that a lot of my anxiety stemmed from a move that has left me feeling isolated.

Simply put, I have felt a bit lonely.

Not sharing everything started to feel heavier then it really should. I also became very out of love with social media. It’s great, but I like face-to-face time the best.

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Los Angeles is a huge, spread out city. It can be challenging to see your friends. If you hit the jackpot and get great neighbors, well, you are lucky. Because of your proximity, you can chat with them daily and frequently.

I often blame my neurosis on living in L.A. But then I thought about all of the emails I received from people after I published my struggle. A lot came from people all over.

One friend, who lives in the Midwest, offered to share her battle with anxiety publicly. I have to let you know that she’s one of the smartest, kindest, most social people I know. She's deeply embedded in her community. So hearing that we shared this common thread of anxiety made me feel better. Perhaps it will for you too.

Our modern lifestyles keep praising autonomy, but I think it’s making us miserable.

She shared with me that she does deal with anxiety and does use medication, which is unlike most of her friends who deal with anxiety. They have chosen not to medicate. Her sibling also deals with anxiety.

I asked her what she thinks caused her to become anxious? She responded:

“For me, it’s the terrible circle. Being anxious makes me incredibly less productive then when I ‘m feeling well. I feel overwhelmed by what I am not accomplishing and anxious about that. I am self-employed and work by myself a lot. I am also a total extrovert that re-energizes by being around people. So if I’m feeling anxious, I now know to get out and talk to people!”

This just confirmed my belief that we women should be raising our kids in far for communal ways. Our modern lifestyles keep praising autonomy, but I think it’s making us miserable.

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My anxiety slowly grew worse after being diagnosed with a form of tachycardia. I was afraid it would hit at any time. This summer, it rendered me a ball unable to move. I began to take huge steps towards change when that happened. I asked her when she started to feel like she needed to do something to manage her anxiety.

“I can tell you the exact moment I knew it had gone further then I felt comfortable with being able to handle on my own. I was walking over a bridge holding my youngest in front of me. I could not shake the feeling that I was going to drop her. I squeezed her tight, crossed the bridge and called my gynecologist’s office to get a counselor recommendation.”

As for myself, I have given up drinking wine nightly. I meditate, exercise and hang out with friends more. I also take my daily heart medication and Xanax. As for my friend:

“I’m on 20 mg daily of a typical anti-anxiety/depressant. For the first three to four years that I was on it I would occasionally try to wean myself off of it, because I thought I was doing just great! Then I would watch myself get really short with my family and doubt my own decision-making abilities. I would get back on and feel normal again. For the last couple years I have not tried to wean myself off. It is a way for me to stay healthy and be at my best for myself and those around me.”

'I think all adult women feel lonely more often then they care to admit.'

Over the last few years of me feeling isolated, I wasn’t reaching out to friends enough. I would sometimes reach out to a friend who I knew would not make time for me. I have made an effort to do that now, and it makes all the difference. Dinners, phone calls, texts. Not just social media — real-life get togethers. I asked my friend if she felt lonely. She lives in a small town and knows more then half the city (maybe an exaggeration but not by far).

“There are moments I feel lonely. But I try to be quick in recognizing them and make a call, text or message a friend to get my head out of my ass. I think all adult women feel lonely more often then they care to admit. I remind myself that we are all navigating things behind our pretty doors that no one sees or experiences — so I must be nice and assume the good in everyone.”

Did I mention my friend is awesome?

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“The biggest thing that makes me less anxious is connection with other women. It doesn’t have to be a powwow about what we are anxious about at the moment. It just needs to be time spent with other women.”

I could not agree with her more.

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Image via Twenty20/evicolson

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