Monday, July 30, 2007

Slacking Off has No Pay Off

photo by cybertoad
I have seen this happen to other bloggers and I think its been happening to me lately. You get to thinking you can let your guard down. You can't get too comfortable with your anxiety because thats when you start skipping yoga sessions, (haven't done it in forever), skipping medication (I haven't taken it in 2 days cause my prescription ran out and I keep forgetting to pick it up), not taking time to prepare for situations (I have been feeling more anxious than I have in while when I am in social gatherings.) You get to thinking that everything is ok and you are doing so much better so its ok if you skip just this once. You forget how crappy it feels. You forget why you work so hard to prevent and manage it. You start to think you don't need to do so much work.

Its so hard for me to get in the habit of doing what I know I should and its so easy to become lazy and slack off. Then I curse at myself when the anxiety seeps back in. And now I feel overwhelmed at the idea of getting back those good habits I had once formed. Yoga is awesome and I feel so much better after doing it, but it is so hard to make the time when I feel so tired. Taking my meds isn't hard, I am just forgetful and I need to be better about that. Preparing before I go out with others is time consuming and takes a lot of focus and concentration.

I have heard that habits take 21 days to form and only 7 days to break (good habits anyway). An article I found says this about forming habits:

"It takes at least 21 days to form a habit. This means that you have to do something at least 21 times before it begins to become part of your everyday routine. So . . .

  1. Decide exactly what you want to do. Write it down and post it where you can see it every day, like your bathroom mirror. Be as specific as possible.

  2. Schedule time to do what you want to do. Again, it takes 21 days to form a habit, so schedule at least 21 days on your calendar and don't let anything get in the way of your schedule. If you miss one of your scheduled days, it's best to start over and schedule another 21 days. You must be consistent and dedicated to doing what you want to do.

  3. Once you reach your 21 days, congratulations! Don't stop now though, schedule another 21 days, and then another and so on, until you do those things you want to do, without even thinking about them . . . like brushing your teeth."
So what I am learning is there is no real pay off when slacking off. Managing anxiety is hard work that has to be done EVERY DAY. So stick to your goals and don't give up. Don't give in, and don't get lazy like me!

P.S. I am going to go more in depth tomorrow on making and keeping goals for those interested.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Confidence wavering

The last couple days I can feel my confidence dropping. Certain negative thoughts will arise and I find myself believing them rather than fighting them. This may be one of my biggest downfalls, never content with myself, never feeling good enough, and not knowing how to change that.

Another thing thats been bothering me lately. I have been married for 5 years (next Friday) and I have been off birth control for about a year and a half. We are living by the idea that if I get pregnant, thats great, if not, thats cool too. Just letting nature do its thing. But lately the thought of actually being pregnant is very scary to me. Not so much the idea of having a child because I think that would be awesome. Not even so much of the labor and delivery. But mostly I am panicky about the nine months of caring for this baby. I worry that I won't be able to gain the needed weight to keep it healthy. I worry that I will be prone to miscarriages and high risk pregnancies with my low weight. I know that maybe I should wait until I am in a really good place anxiety wise but at the same time, its been over a year and I am surprised that it hasn't happened yet. We made plans 5 years ago based on the idea that we would have already had children by now. So I don't want to put it off if its going to be really hard for me to have children. I figure let nature take its course, and I will be able to handle it when it happens. Besides, is anyone ever really ready for that big step? And maybe I will never be in a really good place with my anxiety. Maybe I just have to learn how to deal with anxiety and being pregnant just like I do for other triggers. I am worried that I will be overly critical of myself if something were to go wrong. I think I would feel like it was my fault, that I didn't eat the right things or take care of myself the way I should. But then again everything could be perfectly fine so why worry about something that hasn't even happened yet? I tell myself these things and it makes sense but that doesn't take the anxiety of it all away.

I got a really awesome raise a few weeks ago and lately I am feeling very unworthy of it. I am hiring people that are definitely more technical than I am and that makes me feel a little bit worthless. So I tell myself, just cause they are technical that doesn't mean they would be a good leader or manager (which is what I do). But somehow that doesn't balance the scales for me.

If I am honest I am really proud of what I have accomplished in my life. I feel that I have an awesome career and I am making more money than I ever thought I could without a degree. I have a home that we bought all by ourselves, I have a great marriage-I should be really happy right? Its never enough. Its always so much easier to focus on the bad. Would a degree really make me feel all that better? Will I ever be technical enough? Will my body ever be good enough?

Sorry for the pity party. It's the big mystery in my life. How do you gain confidence in yourself?

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wondering if You Have Anxiety?- Assess Your Stress

photo by In The Sun Studio
Some of the new visitors to the blog may be wondering if you have anxiety or not. It took me YEARS to figure out that I had anxiety and panic attacks. Sometimes its hard to understand what is happening to you. Many people wander into ER's all the time with potential heart attacks or thinking that they are dying only to find out that they were having a panic attack. So its important to find out why your body is doing something that has you concerned.

I found a stress test on Webmd that can help you evaluate if you have a high level of stress or not. It also has an article about managing your anxiety which I think is pretty interesting. It lists some symptoms to help you know if you should seek help or not as well as how to cope with your symptoms. Here is a small excerpt:

"When anxiety is taking a toll, your body knows it. You have trouble sleeping, eating, and concentrating. You get headaches; your stomach is upset. You might even have a panic attack -- the pounding heart, a feeling of lightheadedness.

Anxiety may also feel like depression. "The two sometimes overlap," Ross says.

When anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it interferes with day-to-day activities -- when it keeps you from going places, from doing things you need to do -- that's when you need help, says Ross."

I hope everyone can rule one more thing out or finally find some answers.

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Shout Out to Beaumont

photo by Angel-Jane
In looking at my traffic it appears the majority of viewers come from Beaumont (either Texas or Washington). I just wanted to leave a quick shout out to those viewers with a thanks. From the high numbers I can't help but be more curious about who it is that is there. Is it just MSN polling my site or is it real actual readers? Any other bloggers have the same phenomenon? Who is all from there? How did you find my site? Is there anything that you are looking for that I can help you with?

Lets have this be a global shout out as well! Anyone who visits the blog leave a comment about where your from (if you are ok with leaving that info- it can be vague) how you found the site, and any questions or thoughts that you have about anxiety. I already know some of the readers but you can leave it again if you want for others to see. We'll open it up as a message board. Even if you don't suffer from anxiety I still want to get to know more about my readers.

I'll start. I am from Salt Lake City, Utah and I have social anxiety. I have had it since high school and have only diagnosed it since October of 2006. I have made lots of progress but have a long way to go still. I really enjoy helping others that are going through the same or similar things that I have gone through.

Don't be shy! (Well I guess thats a horrible thing to say especially if people have social anxiety like I do.) If you want to be shy thats fine, but I still would love to see some comments from others. :)

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why Me?

A lot of us tend to fall into the victim like thinking of "Why me? Why do I have to struggle with this when others don't? I think I'm a good person, so why do bad things happen to good people?"

This line of questioning is closely related to spiritual discussions such as "How could God let this happen?" I don't know if you are religious or not, but I am, and that in turn drives my thought process. I can't separate my religious beliefs and my thoughts on anxiety as both deeply are a part of me. So if you get offended about topics that are religious in nature you might want to stop reading now, although I encourage you to continue because I think I have found some interesting stuff.

So- back to the "Why do bad things happen to good people?" question. I found a really cool quote that explains it much better than I could:
"Now, we find many people critical when a righteous person is killed, a young father or mother is taken from their family, or when violent deaths occur. [my own insert... or when we struggle with daily pain and suffering of anxiety, panic, and or depression.] Some become bitter when oft-repeated prayers seem unanswered. Some lose faith and turn sour when solemn administrations by holy men seem to be ignored and no restoration comes from repeated prayer circles. But if all the sick were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended.
If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil- all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, no Satanic controls. Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, or disappointment, or even death; and if these were not, there would also be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, and godhood."
-Spencer W. Kimball

It makes sense doesn't it? There has to be opposition in all things. How can we know and understand joy if we never feel pain? How can we appreciate the good days without the bad? How can we enjoy life if there were no death?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

You Never Know What Others Are Struggling With

photo by simon.flanagan
Last night I had two girls and their significant others over. The men left to go rent a movie and the three of us were left to just talk. At first it was a little awkward, not knowing what to say, but the conversation quickly turned to something very interesting. I can't remember how the topic came up, but one girl confessed that she suffered from depression and how she just barely got off her meds because her fiance thought she didn't need them. (Duh! she seems normal BECAUSE of the meds). So now she has been off them for about 3 weeks and she is extremely emotional, crying all the time. She talked about how she has panic attacks and passes out sometimes, and how hard it is for her to make friends because she is so self conscious about what others think about her. Then the other girl opened up about how she thought she had depression too and how her husband would get offended when she would talk about it because he assumed if she was depressed it was because of him somehow. She said she also had a hard time making friends because girls have always been so mean to her in the past. I was sitting there thinking, this whole time I was worried about me and my anxiety and what they thought of me, while they were worried about themselves and what they are going through and what I thought of them! For awhile I thought the first girl didn't like me because she was so quiet and never seemed to talk to me or want to get to know me. In reality she was so shy and didn't think I liked her. It also made me realize just how supportive Tyler is of me and my anxiety. It really makes me grateful for the "ah-ha" moment.

So we talked about how we should hang out more since we all have so much in common and we have fun together. It was a real eye opener for me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What is Anxiety?

Lately my anxiety has been flaring up. I almost had an attack the other day and in all honesty I think I would have if I didn't escape the situation when I did. I'm not feeling all that great today either as I have two BBQs to go to tonight, one I am hosting. I stayed home from a boating outing I could have gone on simply because I don't feel bathing suit worthy and didn't feel like dealing with the insecurity and constant fidgeting I would undergo. So I am blogging and I plan to do some yoga since it has been way to long since I last did it and I hope it will help me to feel better about tonight. I also plan to reread some of my older posts that I wrote to help me prepare for similar occasions.

The last poll was very interesting. It seems like most of us are either pretty personal about our anxiety, telling only our close relatives and friends, or we are very outgoing about it and willing to tell anyone who wants to know anything. Only a few don't dare to tell anyone. I added a new poll that will simply allow me to know what you are most interested in reading about so I have a better idea of how I can help you.

I often look for interesting videos on YouTube relating to anxiety, and awhile back I came across a long 30 minute video of a man named Charles Linden who is trying to sell his services to "cure" anxiety. At the time I watched it, he said some things that really interested me, but I wasn't interested in posting such a long video that was really just an advertisement for someone. Now I have noticed that he has broken this video up into smaller chunks. I found a small portion of it that discusses the science behind anxiety. This is the part that interests me since I don't really know what goes on up there when an anxiety attack occurs. I am not endorsing his services by any means, but I thought this video portion was very educational for me and helped me to understand a little better what happens to the brain- particularly the amyglada- that causes overwhelming anxiety. Is he right? I don't know. He says that its a fact that scientists have long agreed with so I thought I would do more research and see. Although I didn't find any article from a source that was "credible" everything I did find seemed to agree with what Charles is saying.

So I am interested in your thoughts on it. Is he right? Is the "chemical imbalance" that we all hear about just our amyglada getting stuck on overload?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is Recovery like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny?

photo by Space Potato
Seriously, is Recovery even real? Or is it something doctors make up to tell their patients so that they will keep coming back over and over again for more medication, more therapy, more hope. Can someone with anxiety ever be "normal"?

I have been trying to be grateful and soak in the goodness I have been feeling lately since I haven't had a full on panic attack but that doesn't mean I am cured. I am far from it. I still get anxious and I have anticipatory anxiety and I am majorly avoiding my fears. This weekend I have a conference for work that involves a luau and a family BBQ. Did I think to myself, "Oh that sounds like fun. I can't wait to go." No. In fact I put down that I wouldn't be attending. Why? Because I don't know how to drive there and I don't want to stress about trying to find it myself or feel stupid for putting someone out of their way for a ride. Also because I will be going alone and I don't feel like having to eat at a small table with other coworkers since that is really hard for me. So what am I doing? I am avoiding the whole situation. But then I feel guilty that I am giving into my fears and I can't do that. So I think I have talked myself into going to one of them.
I also have some friends coming over Friday to see our new room in our basement and we'll have a BBQ. Am I crazy? I want them to come over yes, but I don't want to BBQ. I am dreading the BBQ. Anytime I think about it I get butterflies. What is wrong with me? I should be excited to see friends.

My friend at work who has been nothing but nice to me is having a baby shower Aug. 3rd. That happens to be my 5 year anniversary. I should be really bummed that I won't be able to make it, but instead its a huge relief because I won't have to worry about eating in front of a bunch of women.

I guess I am letting The Victim and The Perfectionist in, but I can't help but feel like enough is enough.

I want to feel what "recovery" tastes like. Just a sample. To me recovery doesn't mean the panic attacks are gone. Recovery means I look at social events with my friends, family, and coworkers as something to look forward to, something to want to be involved in. Recovery means not avoiding "life."

Is that even possible? Will this always be something I manage, like some chronic illness? I've read that you can be "cured" in 6 months to a couple years. I think I have to see it to believe it.

What does "recovery" mean to you?

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Breaking Up With My Therapist

photo by Hair Grows, right?

It wasn’t her, it was me. Sure we had some great times, a lot of laughs and some real serious talks that brought more depth to my life. She was a great listener and was always putting things in a new perspective for me, opening my eyes to a world I didn’t see before. She helped me to feel understood and valued. But I feel that we ran out of things to talk about. She knew all my stories. Yet I knew so little about her. Maybe someday I will come to realize that I need her in my life again. But for now I feel I need my space and its time for me to move on, to take some time to figure things out on my own.

Plus, my insurance won’t pay for it anymore.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Taking Deep Breaths

One of the easiest things to do when you start feeling anxious is to focus on your breathing. Most people with anxiety tend to breathe in short quick breaths. If your like me, in a horror movie when you get scared you might hold your breath altogether. In movies you see when people start hyperventilating (or taking quick short breaths) they have them breathe out of a brown paper bag. That actually works because it forces you to take deeper breaths because of the lack of oxygen.

So here is a really simple exercise that can help you out tremendously.

  1. At least once a day either when you are anxious or just when you have a time that you can sit and focus, take a deep breath in and as you breath in, count to 4.
  2. Then HOLD YOUR BREATH for a moment.
  3. Release the breath slowly, counting to 4 again (or counting backwards from 4 to 1, whichever you prefer).
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 several times until you feel relaxed and calm, or a 0 on your anxiety scale.

Another tip that you can do while you exhale is to say a phrase or a positive affirmation in your head that is meaningful to you. Something like “this too shall pass” or “I can do this” or “I can take as small a step forward as I choose”; whatever works for you. When you do these actions it forces your body to react in the opposite way you would if you were scared or frightened which in turn can make your anxiety symptoms calm down. It’s also a nice trick you can do no matter where you are, subtly, without having to make a scene. Once you get really good at it, you can do it right in front of someone as they are talking to you and they won’t even notice. I have done this in restaurants, church, in meetings at work, everywhere.

Another form of daily meditation I use in conjunction with the deep breathing is yoga. I have a lot of improving to do myself, especially when things get really busy and hectic, but I know when I make the time for myself to meditate and take deep breaths, I always feel better for it.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

10 Common Ways to Trigger an Anxiety Attack

There are many things we can do to work on our anxiety. The first is recognizing what it is that we do to ourselves that cause anxiety attacks. Sometimes we feel like they are completely out of the blue, but I bet if you thought about all of them long enough and figured out what you were doing before it happened, what you ate, who you were around, what you were thinking, etc. you would eventually figure out what your "triggers" are. Here are some of most common things we do to ourselves that can trigger attacks (in no particular order):

  1. Play the What if Game and other negative self talk- Setting Ourselves up for Failure
  2. Poor Self Esteem- thinking we're not worthy enough to be around others and be liked for who we are
  3. Put too much pressure on ourselves to be "perfect" for others or not to have an attack
  4. Focus on ourselves more than those around us
  5. Eat poorly, drink a lot of caffeine
  6. Do not exercise and or meditate regularly
  7. Full Exposure to our phobias instead of baby steps
  8. Do not get enough rest at night
  9. Hold in our feelings
  10. Do not focus on breathing deeply- I think I will focus more on this particular topic tomorrow as it is so helpful for calming you down when you feel initial anxiety symptoms.

If you are still not sure why you have anxiety attacks and you desperately want them to stop or at least reduce in their frequency or severity, take a look at these and see if you are giving in to any of these triggering behaviors, and make the needed adjustments.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Breaking the Stigma

photo by cloois
Before I introduce the new poll I want to quickly go over the last poll. Over half of the people that voted on what medication they take selected Clonozepam. I am curious if this is a daily pill for everyone or do you take it just when you feel overly anxious? Everyone else takes Zoloft, Klonopin, Paxil, Prozac, and something else that I don't have listed. Over the past week in different comments in the last poll post as well as the Q&A post I think we have had some really good discussion on what we take and why, so I won't go into that more.

Ok, so for this week's poll:

Our society has put a stigma on mental illness. If you have cancer then the whole world supports you and you become a fighter in their mind. I personally feel that by telling people that I have a mental illness I am asking for them to think of me as a disgrace of a human being. This not only hurts self esteem but it also prevents people from getting medication that could help them.

"An estimated 22 to 23 percent of the U.S. population experience a mental disorder in any given year, but almost half of these individuals do not seek treatment (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002; U.S. Surgeon General, 2001)."
There are some mental illnesses that cause extreme behaviors and if left unchecked can result in traumatic events such as the Virginia Tech shootings. I think that is where the bad feelings come from. People think because a few go over the edge that everyone will cause we're all "crazy". In reality there are so many people that suffer from depression and anxiety and other conditions that are able to function normally and have meaningful relationships.

So what can we do to educate and erase this wrong line of thinking that society has towards people with mental illnesses?

There are many campaigns out there for fighting the stigma. Here are a few interesting ones I have found: is a place for friends and family to figure out how to deal with loved ones suffering from a mental disorder. Its pretty cool. Here are a couple of their campaign videos that are on tv right now:

The UK has an interesting campaign going on to try to educate people. They are posting signs in the Tube (subway system) and they have a commercial out for a nine minute movie to try to break the stigma. I don't have the movie but I have the commercial:

WARNING: video is graphic, mature audiences only

Normally I wouldn't advocate something so bold or extreme, but I think thats what it takes sometimes to get people's attention, so I understand it and can appreciate its message.

Another group doing a campaign is Mental Health Ministries. They have a video that is interesting (a little cheesy but still interesting)

Some campaigns you can donate to, others have places for students in high school or college to get involved by creating clubs or having guest speakers come. What can you and I do? Maybe you disagree with me, and thats ok. Either way, let me know what you think...

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Silver Linings

photo by Arman Zhenikeyev's
Well all in all today sucked. I was supposed to have a BBQ with my new friend and her spouse at our house and then watch a movie in our new Media room that we just finished in our basement. And by just finished I mean the carpet was installed yesterday. It looked so awesome and we were so excited to finally use it.

This morning I woke up and I was anxious thinking about the BBQ. What if I ran out of things to talk about with her and things got awkward? What if the whole night was a disaster. I hadn't felt this anxious for awhile. But before I could even get out of bed to take my medicine I hear Tyler tearing through the house like a mad man. Something was definitely wrong. So I go up to see what the problem was.

No joke, our basement flooded during the night. All over our new carpet. What the?

So we spent the entire day cleaning it up and we ended up having to rip up the carpet and dry out the padding underneath and leave some fans blowing on it all day.

So here is the silver linings to this really crappy day because why not try to see the good in everything? Because of the flood we ended up having to cancel the BBQ and although I was excited for the idea of how that would be fun, it did stop my anticipatory anxiety that I was feeling because of it. The other silver lining? We were forced to clean out all the storage in our basement that had gotten ruined in the water, and now everything is nicely stored and reorganized and not as cluttered.

P.S. I also took a 5 minute break when my anxiety returned during the day and weeded my garden. Gardening is very therapeutic for me and it was able to distract my thoughts enough for me to calm down so I could get back to cleaning.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Be Assertive?

For my work I am a manager over approximately 6 people. I love what I do. I love adding organization to the chaos and being “in the know”. However there are many things about being a manager that I struggle with. One quality that I don’t have is assertiveness. My CEO has told me she wishes I were more assertive. I don’t know if I ever will be.

Every once in awhile I have to have an extremely awkward conversation with one of my team members if they are not performing the way I know they can. I hate doing this and I usually procrastinate doing it until the problem has lingered for far too long. I just want everyone to like me and I know that unrealistic but subconsciously I will try to achieve that anyway.

Today I knew I couldn’t hold off any longer. I practiced several times what I would say to him and then called him in to chat.

Needless to say I was able to say what I had to in a nice way and we were able to talk a bit about it. After we were done I didn’t feel like he hated me nor had any hard feelings toward me.

So I am taking that as success. I may not be the smoothest manager out there, but I can do what has to be done whether I like it or not. That has been the hardest thing about my job. Once I had to fire someone and I was so nervous I had a panic attack right before hand and threw up everything. I think the conversation took about 3 minutes in total. Afterwards I was shaking I felt so horrible. But it had to be done, so I did it.

So even though I really like my coworker as a person, it’s my responsibility to make sure our resources are going to the most qualified people. And even though I disagree with about 80% of everything my CEO says, I really like how she said something to the effect of, “When you don’t say anything about a behavior that is not acceptable, you are ultimately giving them permission.” That employee deserves to know what they can do better in otherwise they will never grow. I know that if I am doing a poor job I would want someone to talk with me about it and give me opportunities to do better before they just decided it wasn’t working out and it was time to let me go.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Q&A Time

photo by
Alright I am stealing this idea from Debaser’s blog My Brain: My Friend, My Enemy, but I can’t help it. I think its such a cool idea. At least I am giving credit where credit’s due. What I do is respond to all the search queries that people entered into their favorite search engine that led them to my blog. This way I can answer any questions people might have in case they couldn’t find it on the blog. It’s amazing to me that you can even see this kind of info and it’s always cool to see what others are wondering about. So here goes my first attempt. In the last week here are the following queries:

“morning anxiety”- sucks doesn’t it? I have a post that describes my morning anxiety as well as some suggestions for how to get over it that you might want to look at.

“rude to tell someone too thin”- whoever this person is I agree whole heartedly with them. I’ve said it before in my post "My Story" and "Absolutely Unapologetically Thin" that people think they are giving you a compliment because most people are trying to lose weight but really you are just telling someone there is something wrong with them and they are not good enough the way they are. They are not “normal”. Whether we realize it or not that can have effect on our overall self esteem and feeling of self worth if we start to believe them.

“anxiety and not hungry”- I think a lot of stress and anxiety result in symptoms showing themselves in our digestive track. When I get anxious I get nauseous. I’ve heard other people refer to “stomach attacks” for their anxiety attacks. The last thing I want to do when I am feeling anxious is eat. So you are not alone.

“clonozapam”- best drug on the planet, it saved my sanity.

“how to stop victim thinking”- again I have a post that explains a way to stop thinking of yourself as a victim and how to become master of your mind. It’s all about how to stop your negative thinking and reprogram your brain.

“I suffer with waking anxiety that goes away by noon”- I think this person like many of us suffers from morning anxiety and would benefit from reading the post I mentioned earlier that has suggestions of how to overcome the anxiety that you start your day with.

“I wish I could push myself more”- This person probably didn’t find what they were looking for since one of my affirmations is: There’s no need to push myself. Otherwise I put too much pressure on myself which causes anxiety because I feel like I have to be perfect.

So that’s it for this week of searches. I hope you find this as interesting as I do!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My Dream World- What My World Would Look Like Without Anxiety

Oh my dream world, the one I can’t seem to actually dream about at night. Only during the day can I entertain the thought of what my life would be like without anxiety.

I think overall I would be a lot more fun to be around. I would be much more outgoing. I wouldn’t be so hesitant to do anything fun. Anything that could remotely get you in trouble is too worrisome for me to attempt. Even normal things are too hard to do like socializing with other women, eating, driving, etc.

If I had no anxiety, I would invite my favorite people over and entertain them with a home cooked meal and we would all sit down and eat together until we were stuffed. I would have so many friends that were girls, but only a handful would be my really close friends that I kept in touch with almost on a daily basis. We would go out to lunch all the time and have girls’ night out where we would go to the movies, hang out at my house, scrapbook, make crafts, watch chick flicks and eat chocolate. Any men that are reading can put the pillow fight fantasy away now ;)

I wouldn’t be so self conscious. I would love myself. I could wear my bathing suit and not be worried about how it looked on me.

I would enjoy the holidays with my family.

I would enjoy going on vacations and getaways.

I would have more energy to do more exciting things as opposed to watching so much TV.

I would be more assertive. I would give my opinion openly at work and around others and not let people use me as a doormat. I would tell people no if I really felt like it. I would still be kind and nice and want to help others, but I would respect myself enough to defend myself. I would confront people when they need to be confronted.

I would tell people that make fun of me exactly how their comments affect me and how it makes me feel towards them and my relationship with them even though it would be an awkward situation.

What would your dream world be without anxiety?

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Safety First?

photo by Jakob Lodwick
Last night I dreamed that I was going to a family reunion and I was really nervous and anxious about "preforming" in front of my family. I woke up with my stomach all in knots and feeling anxious. I realized I was breathing pretty quickly so I tried to slow it down and take deep breaths.I fell back asleep only to have more bad dreams about my family. They weren't violent or super disturbing like some of my dreams are so thats good, but I hope it doesn't make me have anticipatory anxiety for the next time I go home.

An update to my earlier blog about morning anxiety: I did get a new bed- I went from a Queen to a California King and I love it. That means new bedding too. That hasn't been enough to stop the nightmares though. I do a pretty good job of getting around 8 hours of sleep a night. So there has to be something else I can do to make them stop. I'll have to work on it some more.

This morning I had a bad scare. I was booting up the computer in my bedroom when I heard the doorbell ring. Normally I answer but I was home alone, and there have been warnings on the radio of daytime home robberies raising in our area. What they are doing is knock on doors and if someone answers they act like they have the wrong house and if no one answers then they try the doorknob and go in. Everyone that I could think of that would be stopping by should have been at church so I figured it was probably a door to door salesman (they are stopping by ALL the time in the summer) or someone like that. So I ignored the door. Plus my two dogs bark like crazy so I figured they are a pretty good reason for robbers to go to the next house instead of try mine. So after a good 5 minutes, the doorbell rang again and I started to get nervous. So I went to my closet to put some clothes on and debated opening it or not. Suddenly I hear the door open and someone came inside. I cowered in my closet and didn't know if I should close the door and hide in there or if I should confront whoever it was. I racked my brain trying to figure out who it could be and scrambled to put a shirt on. I heard the person calling my dogs by name and putting them in the backyard. I didn't recognize the voice and wasn't really comforted that they knew my dogs name. I went out to see who it was and it was my brother in law that came to work on my basement. I didn't think he would have come because he is an avid church goer and I thought thats where he would have been. I was so scared when someone came in. But I was relieved it was a family member. I guess I should lock the door when I am home alone in the future.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

New Poll of the Week

I updated the poll today to reflect a new topic- Medications. I'm curious to know how many of you take meds and how many don't and which one you take. Not only that I am curious how you feel about your prescription, how much or how often do you need to take it, or why you don't take medication at all. I will start. I take one 50mg a day and 1/2 to one pill of clonozepam when needed which is like waves or rollercoasters. I will go for weeks without needing to take one of those but then there will be a month or so where I have to take it several times a day to make it through. Clonozepam (I swear I spell it differently every time) has been a life saver for me. It took me a lot longer to warm up to Zoloft. But I think I am finally seeing results from being consistent with it.

The poll will be up until next Friday night and then I will replace it with a new one. Feel free to take it and add any comments you want.

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Friday, July 6, 2007

Who Are the Nebulous They and Why Do They Have So Much Power Over Us?

When you wake up and are feeling anxious and you try to write out your thoughts and you write, “I might get anxious, have an attack, and they will judge me”

Who are those people? Who are the “They” that we are so afraid of and why do They have so much control over us?

For me They is anyone I am not comfortable around which is almost everyone! They is anyone that looks at me with any vague suspicion. Anyone that shows general concern for my well being. Family, friends, coworkers; no one is immune from the gang of They.

How can we wake up in the morning and already let They get to us? People we haven’t even encountered yet, haven’t even seen suddenly has all the power and has stolen our happiness.

So how can we get the power back? How do we turn the nebulous They into comforting, peaceful, and non judgmental people in our lives?

They don’t hide in corners waiting to ambush us. They don’t hold mallets and sentence us to prison taking away our freedom and happiness. They don’t always laugh and mock us as soon as our backs are turned. But we somehow imagine that they do whether consciously or subconsciously. We have to learn to be comfortable enough with ourselves to not care about the monsters we sometimes create in our lives and then we can see They for whom They really are.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

We All Fall Down

Yesterday I hit another mini milestone. I went to IHOP for brunch. I used to love breakfast and ever since my last flare up of anxiety I have been avoiding anything that was the least bit heavy or daunting. So for me to suggest going to breakfast where I knew there would be a big plate of eggs, bacon and French toast was taking a small risk. Granted I went with Ty who is my support person and I was a little anxious while I was there, but I ate a lot (I was hungrier than I realized) and the food was so yummy. So hooray for me :) I am trying to enjoy myself while things are going well because I know that at anytime I could lose my bearings and fall... again.

When I had my major setback in Hawaii, I was crushed. I thought I had come so far and had accomplished so much and I had lost it all. In fact I thought I was worse off than before I started because I had a panic attack almost everyday. I would wake up nauseous and it wouldn’t leave until the evening or until I threw up, whichever came first.

When I got home and it was still there I felt like a total failure.

My therapist told me that I shouldn’t think of a set back as having to start back at square one. There is knowledge that we have gained that doesn’t leave us. There is also some good in analyzing our setbacks and figuring out why we think it happened and what we could have done better to prevent it.

I learned from my last setback to not get caught up in the idea that I am cured and don’t need to properly prepare myself for triggering situations. I left without enough medication, which was not smart. So I know now that no matter how good I feel I always want to have a back up plan just in case.

So if you are in the midst of a break down and are beating yourself up for it, don’t. You are learning something valuable right now and you just have to figure out what it is.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

On this Fourth of July I can't help but think about how lucky I am to live in this country. We may not be granted happiness, but we are given so many things that help us with the pursuit of it and isn't that what life is all about? Isn't that what we are all striving for every day? To find our own personal happiness, personal peace of mind and acceptance in this world.

When I went to India a few years back, my eyes were opened up to just how lucky I am. Walking through the streets I saw these children running amuck, dirty, unsupervised, barefoot and their clothes were hanging off of them. My hearts went out to them. They loved getting their picture taken and seeing it on the camera. I went back a few months later and saw them again to my delight, but nothing had changed. Most everyone lived in cramped apartments and if you weren't that lucky you would be in a shanty or a small room made out of tin with a tarp for a roof. Your children would be playing in the sewers or helping you work doing construction. I came home to my 2 bedroom starter home with a raised ceiling and thought that I lived in a mansion and felt so unbelievably blessed. We all have our problems but I can't help but feel grateful today for all that our country offers us. Don't get me wrong, India is beautiful and has a very rich fascinating culture. However, the average person here in America lives a much richer life with streets that are clean, dogs that are put in shelters and not left to fill the streets, and food that isn't sold on the ground two feet next to the trash infested ditches.

So as you go to your family BBQ, the city parade or carnival, while watching the fireworks or seeing a movie, whatever your family tradition might be, look around at all that you have. Tomorrow might be full of complaints but maybe today we can just be grateful for our blessings and opportunities that make the Pursuit a little easier.

If interested here are some more of my pictures from India. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

My Top 10 Anxiety Tools and Resources

I thought I would discuss what I use as my favorite tools and resources for learning about and dealing with my anxiety/ phobias. All of these are listed on the right hand side of the blog that I leave up normally so you can refer back to any of them anytime. Its a long post I know but its I believe its very valueable for those trying to figure things out.
  1. Reading Material- The biggest help that I have gotten (seriously it has changed my whole perspective on everything) has been from the book The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook Fourth Edition by Edmund J. Bourne. I am not one that buys books very often and I came across the Third Edition of this Series in my public library. It was so amazing I kept it until I wasn’t allowed to renew it any longer. I returned it sadly and then decided I had to have my own copy as a resource that I could use whenever needed. The guidance in this book is amazing. It touches on everything that I can think of on how to manage and get rid of your anxiety and phobias. I haven’t gotten to the getting rid of part because I am still getting used to managing my anxiety first. I highly recommend trying to find this book if you are looking for something to help you, especially if you can’t afford to see a specialist or a therapist. Before this book I was hopeless and it gave me the motivation to take control of my life again. Main things that helped me in this book was learning about Self Talk, Positive Affirmations and Mistaken Beliefs.
  2. Medication- I take a daily dose of 50mg of Zoloft. At first I was really skeptical about taking the medication because I didn’t want to be reliant on it. I fell into the stigma that most people have about mental health medicine- that you should be able to control your own thoughts. I have since learned that some brains are simply hard wired different and need the medication to work properly. If you are diabetic, you take insulin and no one questions it, its what you need. So I take that daily and have been doing much better since I have been consistent with it. I also take Clonozapam when I need it as an additional way to calm my nerves and that helps tremendously.
  3. Spiritual Belief System- I have a firm faith in my beliefs that we are put on this earth to be tried and tested. I know that we are only given adversities that Heavenly Father knows we can handle even though it might seem so overwhelming to us. I know that he helps me along the way as I continue to ask for it and pray for it. I encourage everyone to figure out their own spiritual belief system as it gives a firm foundation for when things get rocky. One of my favorite quotes says, "Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, 'Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come ad dwell with thee and fully share Thy joy!'" -Neal A. Maxwell.
  4. Yoga and regular exercise- I am not as consistent as this as I would like to be, but anytime I finish a workout or a yoga session I feel better immediately. I have found yoga to be more of a help especially. An interesting article I found says, “Yoga's postures, controlled breathing and meditation may work together to help ease brains plagued by anxiety or depression, a new study shows.” I don’t need the study to tell me that, I have experienced it first hand. I used to Tivo a daily yoga show as corny as it was to do at home but when the show no longer played I had to find another method. I like to work out at home, its too hard for me to keep up with going to the gym and I never end up going. So I am borrowing an XBOX that hardly gets used and I bought a $9 dollar game at a used game store. This game is awesome. It’s a Personal Trainer that does yoga and exercising with lots of other cool features.
  5. Therapist- It was a blow to my ego but when things got really bad I had to face the music that I was in over my head. I went and saw a therapist who was able to help me point out my negative thoughts when I didn’t realize I was thinking that way.
  6. Journaling- Journaling is a great way to figure out your thoughts and feelings and mentally unwind. That’s why I started this blog. Its my journal and has been extremely therapeutic for me.
  7. Vitamin B Supplement- This is a daily pill that helps manage the nervous system that is an additional more herbal remedy as opposed to Clonozapam.
  8. Family and Friends- Having a support person is important. Someone that knows whats going on so that if you have to leave suddenly or have symptoms coming on, they are there to help you and be there for you. Sometimes having that support person with you in a trigger situation can be enough to help you stay calm. Plus as I have mentioned before, than your secret is out and you don’t have to try so hard to meet everyone’s expectations and you can focus on other things. I only tell my closest family and friends about it, plus all of you of course, but I try not to tell people that I feel aren’t on a need to know basis.
  9. Expressing Yourself Creatively- I find it important to express myself in relaxing ways that help me define who I am. I do this with gardening, playing the piano, scrapbooking, blogging, and photography. All of these hobbies give me a sense of accomplishment and let me know that I am worthwhile as a person. They give me strength to want to better myself in all areas of my life.
  10. Down Time- Its vitally important to give your mind some rest. This includes getting a full night’s sleep, time management, and making room in your schedule for relax time. Time where you do nothing but meditate or veg out, anything that’s relaxing. Taking a bath, watch tv, just exist.
Some of these may work better than others for you and your situation. Whats important is finding out what it is that works best for you. I'd love to hear if anyone else has other tools or resources or ideas that help them.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Helping or Hurting? What People Around Me Should or Shouldn't Do

Okay Ben this posts for you. I can understand the request for this post because if you confide in people about your anxiety, sometimes they don't know how to act around you in an anxiety triggering situation. The last thing I, or I am guessing anyone, would want is for the loved ones in our life to feel like they have to walk around on eggshells around us. I can sense when people do that and it makes me feel handicapped. So I want to share this blog so the people in my life or that have loved ones suffering with anxiety have a better idea of what helps in an anxious situation and what just makes things worse.

I appreciate the sensitivity shown by my family and friends. It truly makes things a lot easier to know that I have someone that will understand my quirkiness and will still love me for it. My sister for example, didn't want to put me in an awkward position around her so she wondered if she just shouldn't invite me out to lunch anymore. On the surface that sounds great :) Just avoid the situation altogether! However thats not want I want, because that would actually be hurting my recovery by enabling me to avoid my fears which would only make the fear grow. On the flip side, I don't want her to invite me over to eat all the time to try to make me feel better about it. That would just be a strain on our relationship if I was always stressing over it.

Here's what works best for me: Act the way you would if you didn't know I had anxiety. I still want to be invited to social gatherings, even if its too much for me and I have to turn it down. I still want the option to take the risk. You can be sensitive by not bringing attention to my anxiety or any of my eating or driving habits. If I am in a situation where I have to eat with a bunch of people, even getting the "How are you doing? You okay?" look in my direction has been enough to cause a panic attack, just because I knew someone else was focusing on it like I was. I may be fine inside or really struggling, but for some reason if I think I'm the only one who knows I am struggling it makes it easier.

I don't feel the need to get over my driving fears right now. One phobia at a time! I have no problem avoiding driving if I can and I still plan on doing so in the future. I drive when I have to and thats good enough for me. One step at a time. So friends could offer to drive or offer to drive my car for me :) If I am driving, being a backseat driver is the worst thing you could do. I have never had a full blown panic attack about driving, but my anxiety/ stress levels can get pretty high some times if I feel my driving is being critiqued.

So in summary, just treat me like a normal person and then love me even if I am not normal in return :)

UPDATE: Since posting this post I have come across a website dedicated to family and freinds of loved ones suffering from a mental illness that is pretty cool. It's called They have videos on tv that are pretty cool, here is one of them:

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