Tag Archives: Anxiety

Powerless

You can take care of yourself. You can check on your people. You cannot force anyone to get the help he or she might need.

When you suffer from a mental illness, it’s like a fog that cannot be lifted. You can’t see the way out. Or sometimes, you can see the way out but it’s too daunting to rise above. Nothing in the world can motivate you. While I’m not a trained mental health professional, I can attest firsthand that no one can pull me out of my current state. It’s entirely up to me.

I’ve learned over time through trial and error what to say to people, how to talk about what I’m experiencing and how to rise above my anxiety. It can happen in hours or can take weeks – every instance is different. While you can’t see it or perhaps even notice it, I know its always there. You don’t need to treat me differently, however I do appreciate a general awareness.

And this is the situation when you’re diagnosed and openly talking about it.

Imagine seeing someone you love so sick that they don’t know they need help. This is often the case with addicts. Because they are debilitated by the disease, they are unwilling to seek treatment. So what do you do?

For starters, we’re not mental health professionals so we can’t and shouldn’t walk around diagnosing people. Instead, we can:

  • Remove any judgement we have about the person or his/her situation. Because the truth is we don’t know what’s going on inside his/her mind, heart, soul, etc.
  • Be open and receptive if/when the person reaches out. Try to make the time to connect with them and take their concerns seriously. Listen, hold space and do not preach.
  • Pray and if that’s not your thing, send positive vibes out into the universe for that person. I firmly believe in the power of pray or good vibe sending. It can make a difference while bringing a sense of peace to a tumultuous situation.
  • Keep taking care of yourself. Yes, I’m saying it again because it’s that important. Running yourself ragged worrying about someone who isn’t ready to accept help isn’t going to help. It’s actually going to make the situation much worse. If you need to, talk to someone about what you’re experiencing as the loved one or caregiver of someone with a mental illness. Support groups are another resource that could offer perspective on a pretty shitty situation.

Honestly, it sucks being powerless and unable to help those you care most about. Talking about it and setting boundaries helps and yet, there will still be times when it sucks. I’m giving you full permission to hate on it, let it suck, whatever. But, you cannot stay in the suck. Remember you can only control your reaction to the situation. Choose that reaction wisely.

I hope this month’s posts gave you some insight into my views on mental health. It’s only by continuing the conversation that we can remove the stigma.

F.E.A.R

Face Everything And Run

OR

Face Everything And Rise

I let out a long exhale before I sat down to write this post. This topic is one I’ve been wanting to write about for some time and yet, I’ve been apprehensive, worried about people’s reactions. Well, I guess it’s time to face that fear 😉

Fear can be paralyzing, causing time to almost stand still as you watch your life pass before your eyes. It can also lead to unnecessary arguments, violence and acting without thinking. I’ve experienced how suffocating fear can be. For me, I’ve always been fearful of events I can’t control and situations I’ve seen other people in.

Money is a perpetual fear of mine – not having enough, losing my source of income, the list continues. Why? Because I’ve watched people lose it all and because it was so devastating, they can’t recover and are crippled by the aftershocks. On days when it becomes particularly difficult, I remember that I’m not those people. I’m an entirely different person, with different circumstances and different goals. It’s doesn’t mean I go charge up my credit cards but it does mean I can enjoy the benefits of working hard.

Fear of the unknown is also a challenge for me. Something as little as not knowing travel plans can cause an anxiety spike. Despite being an extrovert, social situations can cause tension. When I start a new relationship, whether it be at work or personally, I’m always fearful of not knowing how people will reaction or respond. It’s debilitating and I spend hours convincing myself of alternatives.

And yet, I forge on. Why? How? Well, for starters, being full of fear is no way to live. Unless you’re in inherit danger, there’s no need for it. It’s downright bad for your health. Life is so much more enjoyable when you let go and go for it versus standing on the sidelines. Sometimes, you will get feedback on how to change an approach or your tone. That’s okay! It’s the only way you’ll learn how to do it better next time.

fearSome of the most profound relationships in my life are with people who look, sound and think differently than I do. Yes, I was fearful when these relationships were starting out because I didn’t know. There are still days when I’ll rewrite a text message because I’m anxious about how it will land. Well guess what?! These people are now my friends, they’ll tell me if it doesn’t land and we’ll move on. We all assume positive intent and know it’s okay to disagree.

Could we all commit to operate with less fear and more understanding? Less judgement and more kindness? A lot of issues I see in the world today are because of fear. Fear of not knowing. I challenge you to override your fear of the unknown and be curious about that someone who operates differently. You won’t know unless you try.

Sick of Somedays

How many times have you flopped on your train home and said “I can’t wait for this day to end?” You don’t mean it literally, of course. We’ve all uttered these words but do we mean it?

I’m typing this on my flight home from Houston after a work conference. A few hours ago, not too far from Houston, yet another school shooting occurred, another set of innocents lives taken for no reason. Unfortunately, these shootings aren’t new headlines, as it feels like some massive tragedy is almost a weekly occurrence. Lately, it’s not only mass shootings that have me thinking about morality in general and how truly fragile life is. I’ve heard of people being at work on Thursday and gone Friday. People with plenty of life left to live. Let me be clear, death is scary and upsetting regardless, but when high-schoolers are shot or a relatively healthy 30 year old dies, it makes you pause.

Everyday matters

From the book, “Where Will You Be in Five Years?” Highly recommend!

I’ve seen or heard too many of these examples lately. Sometimes, there’s no reason why. All of these too close to home scenarios have me reprioritizing. As I’ve confessed before, I’m your typical type-A planner, who obsesses over the details. These personality traits come in handy most days. But it can leave me with somedays instead of todays.

The obsession and anxiety can be so paralyzing that my couch is the only place I want to be. It’s doesn’t happen often because I’ve learned to recognize it, yet I still catch myself spinning or avoiding tasks. My guess is this won’t ever go away. However, the obsessing is slowing down. You hear these tragic stories that bring the cliché “life’s too short” to fruition. There’s only time stop and smell the roses if you make the time. When’s the last time you looked up at the sky? Or gazed at the stars? If that’s not your thing, find what is. And make time for it. I’m not saying go quit your job and backpack Europe (maybe!) but slow the hell down.

How you ask? I’m still figuring it out. Some days it’s simply working outside so I can feel the sunshine. Other days it’s spending over an hour on the phone with my mom. For the month of June, it will likely mean living out of boxes as I refused to give up my social life to move. It’s thinking bigger. No one is going to say, “Wow she created a fantastic spreadsheet” at your funeral. They’re going to talk about how you made them feel and the memories you created. Drastic example, I know. But, asking myself the question, “If you look back at your life, do you like what you see?” has made me be more intentional with my time.

I’m not saying don’t strive for more. I know I always will, it’s in my DNA. And some of Diane Ackermanthat striving brings me a euphoric high that I’ve never want to lose. Yet, I find myself being more resilient and letting go of things more frequently. Screwed up a communication at work? Let’s debrief it and move on. Didn’t exercise today? Ok, I’ll try again tomorrow. Had a horrible date? On to the next one! Life really is too short to waste precious energy on things that won’t matter in five minutes, let alone five years.

And even for the big things that do matter, if I can’t change the outcome, then it’s not worth my energy. It’s not worth wasting a minute of my life. Because it’s all mine and all yours. Not your parent’s or your spouse’s or your kids’ or your employer’s. It’s yours, stand up, own it and give up the somedays.

I Am Miranda Bailey

Let me first start by saying I am a dedicated Grey’s Anatomy fan, which means Thursday nights are a form of religion for me. Whether it’s realistic or not, I’m committed.

Before I tell my story, I want to acknowledge that I am not 100% Miranda Bailey. I will never know what it feels like to be an African American woman. It is another complex layer to Bailey’s story that I cannot understand because I don’t have that experience. However, I can say with full confidence that I know the debilitating effects of OCD.

Let me fill you in. In last week’s episode, Dr. Miranda Bailey went to the hospital (not her hospital) because she knew she was having a heart attack. Multiple doctors rejected her claims. At one point when reviewing her medications with the doctor, she mentions an antidepressant to help manage her OCD. She describes precisely how she fights the compulsions daily and knows the doctors are looking at her differently because of it.

Miranda BaileyI nearly stood on my couch and applauded Bailey (and Shonda Rhimes) for going there and saying all the things those of us with OCD and anxiety feel daily. On average, I fight at least a dozen daily thoughts that could hault my entire life. Some are trivial like what to wear, what time to food shop and what episode to catch up on first. Others are far more draining. And every day, I talk myself down, reminding myself that whatever choice will make me happy is the right one. That anxiety is useless and there’s no reason for it. Some days it’s a few deep breaths. Other times, it can take a full hour to rewrite the story and shake the frustrated mood I’ve put myself in.

It has taken me years to get to this place, where the anxiety and OCD are manageable. A combination of experience and meditation have helped immensely. For some, the only way to find some relief from this constant spin is medication, as in Bailey’s case. And THAT. IS. OK. If that’s what it takes to live without the constant second guessing, overthinking and over exaggerating, so be it. Certainly, a person shouldn’t be judged for it. That’s the trick with mental illness: You can’t see so it mustn’t be real. That’s also the problem. I am SO glad Grey’s Anatomy went there because it needs to be addressed. Just think: This is an accomplished, educated Chief of Surgery who knows what a heart attack is. Yet, she wasn’t’ taken seriously because of her OCD, her gender and her race. What chances does the everyday women without a medical degree have when she walks into the ER?!

You can have OCD and anxiety, but still make rational decisions. Honestly, the older I get, the more I can sense when my obsessiveness is shining through versus knowing something is right in my gut. There’s definitely a difference and it’s through much self-reflection that I’ve been able to listen to myself more and trust myself again.

To the millions out there working through these suffocating conditions, hang in there. Get and ask for help if you need it. Every adult should have a good therapist and a favorite ice cream flavor stocked in their fridge at all times. You can and will overcome. You’ll learn that life is too damn short to obsessed over nail polish color or missing a family occasion. No matter what you do, it’s never enough time anyways.

be gentle

 

C-C-Changes

I wrote this post as thousands are suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. If that doesn’t give all of us perspective I’m not sure what will. I decided to still publish this post because what each of us is feeling is always valid. Please keep those in Texas in your thoughts.

I pride myself on being a positive, life-loving person. As I’ve talked about before, I was an anxious child and teenager. I swore I wouldn’t go back to being that person. The person that was “too much,” who lost friends because of fake freakouts and who walked around feeling like I was always letting someone down. That person was gone.

Enter a dresser. Yes, a dresser that caused me to revert back and feel all the feels.

I was never a big fan of change. I liked my world in black and white, no grey area. Clearly, life doesn’t work like that. The recents weeks, months, years have been filled with tons of change – it’s really the only constant in life. I’ve learned to accept that and put a huge smile on my face. See the first paragraph – I didn’t want to be that girl again – the anxious, negative, too much girl.

Then I decided to build this dresser over the weekend. Surely, I’m a smart girl, I can do this. After multiple hours and getting a friend on FaceTime, I literally lost it. I let myself get to this point because I don’t want to admit to feeling anything other than positive emotions. Let me be clear, the damn dresser is a first world problem and thanks to a very good friend, it’s standing with my crap in it. Life is good, actually it’s great, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel some kind of way about the future. get up and dont give up

I. AM. TERRIFIED. 

Of becoming that girl again. 

But guess what?! It’s ok to be scared or anxious sometimes. I fight these feelings everyday so that I don’t go back to my old ways. No one, including me, liked that girl. The one filled with fears and doubts. But every now and again, she shows up because the feelings are valid. I need to recognize her, work through the feelings and move on, not bottle them up and explode on my poor friend who was trying to help.

Of course, once the floodgates open, every last insecurity came out. I should be able to build this dresser, other people can. Why didn’t I just pay to get a premade one? I *should* be able to afford a nicer one. Um, yeah total insanity. Who cares about how much the dresser costs, that it took me several hours to build it, why does ANY of this matter?!?! It’s doesn’t. All of this led me to my new mantra:

COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY

One foot in front of the other. Every single damn day. That’s all I can do. I am happy, I am healthy, I am surrounded by amazing human beings. On the scary days that I *will* allow myself to have, those are my reminders. And that I can do, overcome and become whatever and whoever I want.

So if you’re afraid that all the progress you’ve made might blow up, it’s okay. Feel the fear, talk to the boy/girl you used to be and politely tell him/her to hit the road. You are more than your yesterdays.

Break Before the Breakdown

I spent my #MDW doing absolutely nothing. No predetermined plans. No beach trips or barbecues. Instead, I slept. I exercised. I shopped. I caught up on my favorite T.V. shows. And it. was. blissful!

Because sometimes having your life scheduled to military precision drives you insane. Sometimes you need a weekend to exhale.good vibes only

This weekend was the first weekend I’ve been home, in my apartment, in six weeks. Five business trips along with one week at my dad’s house. Traveling is one of my favorite hobbies; my curiosity is instantly peaked when I’m in a new place. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve experienced.

But…

It’s exhausting. Early mornings, late nights, always being “on.” As extroverted as I am, even for me, six weeks was enough. I took the weekend to unwind, unplug and reflect. Schedule time to think my friends, it’s extremely important.

During week five while at my dad’s house, I literally had a breakdown. Think panic attack meets three-year old tantrum. One minute I was typing an email, the next I was hysterical. And I had no idea why until I took time this weekend to figure out what happened.

I am a creature of habit: I love having a game plan, a routine. I want to know how my day, week, month is going to be spend…loosely. Every hour does not need to be scheduled. When I break my routine, I lose control. I tell myself stories that are completely untrue. And my anxiety goes through the roof. Enter childlike breakdown.

Upon further review of the situation, here’s what I know:

I need sleep. This isn’t a new thing, even in college, I couldn’t pull all nighters. Without an uninterrupted six to seven hours, I’ve miserable. I also need to exercise regularly, better if it’s in the morning. It starts my day off right and prevents the spin.

I noticed that all of areas of energy are connected. For example, if I exercise, I am instantly in a more positive mood. Physical energy connected to mental energy, easy example I know. Then there’s emotional and spiritual energy, which is a bit harder. Writing in my journal every Sunday night is how I refill my emotional energy tank. I include things I am grateful for and other reflections from the previous week. Spiritual energy means finding your church. It could be an actual church, it could be your yoga mat, whatever is good for your soul.

All of these examples were missing the week of my breakdown.

surround yourself

The people in  your life are also a source of energy. It can be very easy to catch the energy that’s around you. You should only surround yourself with good people, positive people, people who want to make a difference. Negativity sucks the life out of you and negative people steal your joy. No bueno.

Sometimes I need to distance myself from people I love so that their energy doesn’t consume me. Sometimes that means taking a time out and walking away. I’ve done this at work, where I’ve gotten up from my desk and gone for a walk so I don’t lose it. If you feel a breakdown coming on, stop what you’re doing (it’s not that important), change your scenery (outside is recommended) and breathe. Break before the breakdown!

My new goal is to communicate this with the people around me. I can’t expect people to be mind readers. Share your routines, boundaries, plans for progress with anyone who could impact them. It will save you the headache later.

I’ve been much more intentional about controlling my different energy level since my breakdown earlier this month. So much so that I now track it my journal. I know when I need to sleep or need to meditate or need to talk to someone.  I can literally feel it and I’ll never ignore that feeling again.

If you’re energy is depleted in any way, you’re no good to those around. And with everything happening in the world right now, we can’t afford to be anything less than at our best.

Stopping the Spin

Whirling: A verb: move or cause to move rapidly around and around. That’s how I describe it. Constant, continuous whirling. All. The. Time. Thoughts whirl in, out, through and around my head. And for a while, I had no idea how to manage it.

To my recollection, the whirling dates back to when I was 2 years old. I would rip paper up, put it into a plastic bowl and spin it around with my hands. At the same time, I would chant. Yes, you read that right. A buzzing, humming chant that increased in volume over time. While I don’t have proof that this was the start of the whirling, it certainly looks that way.

As I grew up, the whirling turned into anxiety. The floodgate of thoughts would open at any given time, rush through my brain and leave me anxious and unsure of what to do. It wasn’t alway as paralyzing as it sounds. I figured out ways to focus, especially when the topic was of interest to me. While the chanting did stop, the fussing and fidgeting did not; I would constantly twirl a rubber band (or Mardi Gras beads, or a hair tie, etc) between my fingers. I could control it to an extent; if I was comfortable around someone or in someplace, the rubber band would appear.

10% HappierTwo weeks ago, I ditched the rubber band. Sometimes, it feels like I threw out my security blanket. The twirling and fidgeting was a release for me and although it isn’t detrimental to my health, it was distracting, to me and those around me. This is thanks to Dan Harris and 10% Happier. Harris, an ABC news anchor, talks about his struggle with his version of whirling. He’s real, relatable and was a skeptic of meditation. Now, after seeing a change, he is one of its biggest advocates.

We all have the whirling..worries, to-do lists that are never done, etc. But, how we manage it is unique to us. What mindfulness does, as Harris describes, is helps people identify their thoughts to create space in their heads. This helps you be less anxious, less responsive and overall less stressed. Yes, there is scientific research that backs this.

I’m also finding that other activities provide similar results to meditation. Activities like working out (especially yoga and strength training) and cooking relax my mind and provide something specific to focus on. Cooking also unleashes a stream of creativity that excites me. Maybe try these activities (if you like them) as a start.

I get it, it sounds a bit crazy. I know. I was there. But I encourage you to start small, a few minutes a day and use a guided meditation app (I recommend 10% Happier, Happify or Headspace). I use these to fall asleep, which is when my whirling is the worst. Overall, I fall asleep and stay asleep longer, can stay in the present more easily and when I can’t, I use my breath to regain focus.

Now, I am not perfect and some days, all I do is whirl. But, it’s progression, not perfection, that’s important in this mindfulness journey. Corny? Maybe. But it’s accurate and life changing. Give it a try and start living your best life.

 

 

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