Q: I think I may have an undiagnosed case of anxiety. I often have panic attacks that seem to begin when some fears I have are triggered. My spouse says I have a tendency to rationalize my fears — which he believes are unreasonable — whenever I begin to spiral down a deep black hole of fear.
I'm not sure what to do. I've noticed that I become quite distressed when confronted with situations that I cannot control, and try to overcompensate by trying to control whatever I can. I barely even leave the house now.
Can you recommend some reading to help me deal with this? I can't afford therapy right now but I'm tired of being afraid of everything.
Stressed and Afraid
A: A start-right-now answer: If you can stream video at home, then you have access to instruction in yoga and meditation. These can bring immediate and proven stress-reduction benefits, to the extent it's almost shocking — you can feel muscles start to unclench.
The longer-term answer: You're in crisis so please pursue therapy anyway, by seeking a provider who will work on a no-fee or sliding-fee basis. Your regular doctor can diagnose and start treating you in the meantime.
Navigating all this is a tall order while you're feeling anxious, possibly even overwhelming, so ask your spouse to help you. I hope he also does some reading himself; dismissing your fears as "unreasonable" is not productive, even if he is technically correct that logic doesn't support them.
If willing, your spouse can help by adopting "reflective listening" techniques. Reflective listening is a way to validate someone, where calling fears unreasonable or rationalized only negates — plus, it encourages you to talk your way to what's really bothering you, and therefore to a calmer state of your mind's own making.
If your spouse is not willing to try this small adjustment to help you, then you might need to consider that a lack of support in your marriage is at least a small part of what ails you.