fighting anxiety with a blanket

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not intended as medical advice. This is what works for me, and any information gleaned has been credited. 

Trigger warning: anxiety and PTSD

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As some of you know, I struggle with anxiety, which grew into postpartum anxiety after my children were born. As probably even less of you know, I also struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Through years of therapy and guided techniques, my PTSD has lessened its grip on me, but it will never truly go away. For everyone, PTSD and anxiety manifest in different ways, but my anxiety and PTSD typically look like:

-thoughts of inadequacy/worthlessness
-constantly questioning myself/others
-loss of focus and concentration
-negative thoughts and amplified stress
-flashbacks
-night terrors
-forgetting where I am/who I am with
-responsive to specific triggers

They can also manifest physically, in the form of heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, nausea, tightness in my chest, and strained breathing. The best way I’ve ever been able to describe anxiety to those who don’t have it is the stairs/missed step analogy. Do you know the feeling you get when you’re taking a step down the stairs, and your heel brushes the next or misses it entirely, and your heart skips a beat and a small surge of adrenaline hits? That’s how anxiety feels. That feeling of distress that doesn’t subside until you firmly touch the second step. When it comes to both, but especially my PTSD, I have made astounding progress. It’s very rare I deal with forgetting where I am/who I am with (the last time this happened was two years ago), but the night terrors and flashbacks happen on occasion. My husband is tremendously helpful when these things hit, and I’m deeply fortunate that I have never had an episode with my children around. I have been diagnosed and have been undergoing treatment for almost five years now, and it’s been a long, but fruitful journey to recovery!

But sometimes, I still need help. And that’s when the weighted blanket becomes vital.

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my aesthetic is ‘so retro, it’s almost ugly’

Weighted blankets are like typical blankets, but, well, weighted. Heavier. They are filled with natural or synthetic pellets to make them anywhere from a few pounds to thirty pounds heavy, making them mimic deep touch pressure (DTP). DTP is essentially evenly distributed weight over your body to give a sense of calm and comfort. Studies have shown these blankets can help calm anxiety, treat insomnia, ease sensory disorders like autism, improve overall mood, and more. “This gentle pressure acts as a calming force that can reduce activity in the sympathetic sections of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) in ways that increase your endorphin production and decrease your heart rate.” (source)

 *IMPORTANT* When choosing a weighted blanket, each person needs something different for their size and weight. Especially if the weighted blanket is for a child, rather than an adult. You should not use a weighted blanket if you have respiratory, heart, or circulation issues.

The cost of a weighted blanket can be very high, and I’m a fan of shopping local, so I asked my local ‘crunchy’ group if they could point me in the right direction. It was then that Lili, the owner of local (to me) Busy Beaver Sewing Co. reached out and offered to help, because she has a heart for people who are suffering with mental illness and perinatal mood disorders. She asked a lot of questions about my needs and sizing to ensure she made the right fit for me, and then took me (virtually) to pick out a fabric of my own choosing to make sure I loved it. She has a heart for retro prints, so I was overjoyed when she showed me a vintage floral print that’s almost sore to look at. Perfect.

Busy Beaver Sewing Co. worked with my budget and timeline and was kind, loving, and compassionate throughout the entire journey. The construction of the blanket is beautiful, and it’s now been in my home for a month. I wanted to write a review sooner, but I wanted to wait until I had a true need to use the blanket – and I knew I would. Last week, I was lying in bed with my husband, and a physical panic attack hit harder than I could process. Mentally, I was fine. But my chest tightened and I lost the ability to fully breathe, all while tears streamed down my face. My husband stirred because I thought I wasn’t okay; I frantically grabbed his shoulder and motioned that I couldn’t breathe, and he firmly pressed his palm to my chest and repeated some tools we learned to help me through it. It had been a very long time since I’ve had a physical panic attack and I couldn’t believe it was happening. We spent ten minutes trying to get my chest to ease and breathing back to normal; it felt like I was gasping for air, with water filling in. That’s when he said, “Your blanket! Do you want your blanket?” I nodded and he hauled it over, placing it on top of me. Slowly, my chest eased. The blanket held my body, with my husbands arms banded around me, and my breathing became deeper. Five minutes later, I was shaking, but the worst was over.

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I believe my weighted blanket was directly responsible for ending my panic attack. I felt an instant, small calm when it was applied. The pressure was comforting, which was good because in my normal state, the blanket feels heavy in my hands. I was nervous about whether I’d be able to handle it on me – especially since I felt like I was drowning. But the weight, rather than pulling me fully under the water, was like an anchor I was able to use to climb back out.

I recommend doing your research and talking to your doctor before trying out a weighted blanket. If you decide it’s right for you, I cannot emphasize how important it is to work with someone who can really help you with your own needs. Lili was an amazing woman to work with and I strongly encourage you to talk to her if you’re in need of a blanket. PS – I also bought my reusable cloth liners from her, and also love them to pieces.

It is thanks to Busy Beaver Sewing Co. that I fought and won against my panic attack. I am so grateful to have this crucial, calming blanket to add to my valued resources that I can call upon when my anxiety or PTSD just feels too strong to fight alone.

PS PS – This is not a sponsored post. I’m just that happy!

 

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