Monday, November 26, 2007

Big News and Lots of Anxiety to Go With It

Well I have just had the craziest week in my entire life. Big news… dum dah dah dum!!! (Those were trumpets and now for the drum roll)



I found out the night before Thanksgiving which means I had to face the scariest day of the year medication free and completely freaked out. I did pretty well actually. I told the family and they were so excited. Plus throwing up when your pregnant is completely acceptable so had I than it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But I didn’t.

So why am I am telling all of you when I hardly know you and I am not in the “safe zone” yet? Because you already know all the most intimate secrets of my life anyway, and my anxiety has skyrocketed the last few days because of it and I need the release. I need to document my feelings and like always, maybe I can help someone who is going through the same thing. I am praying that everything goes well but I know the chances of miscarrying and if it happens well than that’s another trial for me to have to overcome and I am sure my anxiety will somehow be swirled into that as well.

But in the meantime I would appreciate any warm thoughts my way J

So here’s the latest dilemma. I stopped both medications as soon as I found out. One doctor told me over the Thanksgiving hotline that Zoloft was ok to take, but I still want to make sure with my family doctor before I continue to take it. I don’t know if stopping so soon without weaning off is worse for me or not. Today was the first day that I would have been able to ask but their nurse hasn’t returned my call. I guess I will try again tomorrow.

So my morning anxiety is very strong every morning. I feel this huge pressure to eat a lot and eat healthy because I have a lot of weight I need to gain. And this time I can’t just blow it off like “I can do what I want” because it’s not just about me anymore. But by lunchtime and afternoon I have calmed down, and by evening I am extremely excited and happy.

So the stress and the pressure are high right now. I know that I need to gain around 28 pounds and that scares me. I have been doing well to eat a lot and eat healthy so far. I have gained some weight already so that is encouraging, and my appetite is pretty good still. I don’t think I have had morning sickness yet. The funny thing is that I don’t know how to determine whether I am just anxious or feeling pregnant nausea since the symptoms might be the same for me. If I feel nauseous I immediately get anxious so it’s going to be interesting to see how I handle it. I am hoping that I will be able to use the coping strategies that I have learned this past year to help me through any nausea.

So how will this affect the blog? I don’t think it will affect it much. My anxiety isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So keep comin’ back for more!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Proof that Positive Affirmations Work

One of my favorite positive affirmations that I remind myself of daily is “There’s no need to push yourself. You can take as small a step forward as you choose.”

When I first started using positive affirmations, I liked this one because it calmed me down, and made me feel safe. At the time I started using it, I was aggressively trying to gain weight by taking weight gaining supplements, counting my calories, and force feeding myself when I wasn’t hungry. I wrote a post called, “My Healthy My Happy” where I decided that I was putting too much pressure on myself which was causing more anxiety. That’s when I posted a picture of a footprint in the sand on my cubicle wall right next to my monitor at work that represented the positive affirmation above. It’s something that no one else would know its meaning except for me, and I can remind myself often that I don’t have to push myself.

The underlying fear of trusting this affirmation is that I would never make any progress. I do want to gain weight, but I also want to be as anxiety free as possible. So I decided to work first on my anxiety and then when I get to a better place I could refocus on my weight.

Around this same time, I was around 106 pounds. That was after I had gained almost 10 lbs. I went on vacation to Hawaii where I had major panic attacks daily because I was off of my medication (because I didn’t wait long enough for it to work before I decided it was useless, bad decision) and I didn’t have enough Clonozepam with me because I thought I would be fine. (Another painful but important lesson I learned). When I got home from vacation I was down to around 99-100 lbs. I had lost all my progress of weight that I had gained. It was a horrible setback for me. I felt like I would never recover and I would never be able to gain the weight back.

That was back in April. I am pleased to say that I now weigh 105- 106 again and I haven’t been trying to gain weight at all. I have been really good at listening to my body, eating when I am hungry, and stopping when I am full. It’s very cool because before it was really hard work to gain the weight. This time I haven’t focused on it at all, rather I have been focusing on my anxiety instead.

So I wanted to let others know that positive affirmations really do work. They don’t hold you back from progress, but they can help you achieve success.

For more information on positive affirmations, you should check out some of my other posts on the topic.

I hope everyone has a panic free Thanksgiving tomorrow. Thanks for all of your support and well wishes.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Turkey Day Meltdowns

Thanksgiving is easily my least favorite holiday for obvious reasons. It’s the one day of the year where the entire point is to eat as much food as you can in front of everyone you know. It’s a nightmare in real life.

Last year I tried to do 2 different dinners, only to wind up having a panic attack at my sister’s house and having to bail out before the food was even done being cooked.

I remember feeling so embarrassed and upset that day because I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. This was when I was just learning about anxiety and panic attacks and hadn’t quite nailed it all down yet.

Then to make matters worse, the next morning all the girls on my in-law side of the family had to do the early morning shopping. When they were starting to slow down and talk about going out to breakfast, suddenly I started to feel nauseous. Still not sure why I had the reaction I did but knowing it had to do with eating around others, I had to make them take me home before they went out to eat because I was going to throw up. So I managed to thoroughly embarrass myself on both sides of my family last year.

This year, I have already been invited to the morning shopping with a “Don’t worry, we won’t go out for breakfast so you won’t get sick” reassurance that only reminded me of the embarrassing memory and let me know that others hadn’t forgotten it either.

I decided that although I have a much better understanding now how to properly plan and prepare for the holiday, I am not going to throw myself into situations that are too much. Thanksgiving dinner is going to be hard enough without throwing in more dangerous triggers. I don’t feel bad about it because I am not avoiding it because I am afraid, but rather I want to have a good memorable Thanksgiving that I can use to draw strength from next year. So I will stick to the basics and work my way up.

Positive Affirmation Alert: There’s no need to push myself. I can take as small a step forward as I choose.

This Thanksgiving I want to keep things as simple as I can. My sister’s family is going to have dinner with my Aunt but I worry that it will be too small a group to where I will feel uncomfortable. But I don’t want my sister to feel bad if I don’t hang out with them. I don’t even know my in-laws plans yet. Personally I would just have my own turkey dinner if I could! But its more than food, it’s about being with your family.

So my plans for the horrible day are not yet confirmed. I am going to have to do some major prep work no matter where I end up spending the day. T minus 7 days to go.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Our Deepest Fear

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear our presence automatically liberates others."

-Marianne Williamson
American author, lecturer

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

10 Step Mental Exercise that Will Reduce Panic

When you feel a panic attack coming on, usually everything escalates very quickly. With or without noticing it, your mind begins to race and quickly the negative thoughts overwhelm you furthering the panic. Negative thoughts usually start off with “What if…” “I should be able to ….” “I have to…” or other critical comments like “I’m so weak” or victimization “Its hopeless, why bother”. These thoughts are called Negative Self Talk.

The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne lists a quick explanation of what Self Talk is and how it works:

  • "It is so automatic and subtle you don't notice it or the effect it has on your moods and feelings.
  • It appears in telegraphic form- one short word or image ("Oh no!) contains a whole series of thoughts, memories, or associations.
  • Anxious self-talk is typically irrational but almost always sounds like the truth.
  • Negative self-talk perpetuates avoidance.
  • Self-talk can initiate or aggravate a panic attack.
  • Negative self-talk is a series of negative bad habits. (You have to reprogram your brain to say helpful uplifting confident talk to remove the negative thoughts)"

Recognizing that you are doing this is a huge step towards learning to manage your anxiety. The next huge step is successfully slowing your thoughts down, analyzing them, and then reprogramming your mind to think differently. This will greatly reduce the amount and size of panic attacks you have. It helps me stop panic attacks dead in their tracks probably about 80% of the time.

So here is the exercise:

I have many posts where I outline this exercise for myself to help me cope with whatever panic attack I may be having at that time. It is extremely helpful for me to go back and read them when the same situation appears again in the future. I encourage you to read a couple to get some ideas or more details on how to fill this out.

  1. When you feel panic coming on, take some deep breaths.
  2. Ask yourself, “What am I telling myself to make me feel this way?
  3. Write out any automatic thoughts (fears, concerns) that are making you feel panic.
  4. Then write out or ask yourself, “What if the worst case scenario happened? What would I do?”
  5. Then write out a rational response or game plan as to what you could do if the worst did happen.
  6. Then take each of your fears or concerns you wrote out and challenge their truthfulness. Try replacing that thought with a positive counter statements and/or positive affirmations:
    1. Ex: WORRY- “What if people around me see my anxiety and judge me?”
    2. POSITIVE COUNTERSTATEMENT- “I am willing to go forward with my life and try to better myself regardless of what others think.”
    3. POSTIVE AFFIRMATION- “I respect and believe in myself apart from other's opinions.”
  7. Repeat those affirmations or counterstatements over and over while taking deep breaths.
  8. If you find yourself not believing them, realize that these can also be considered goals. Place “I am learning” in front of them. Ex: “I am learning to respect and believe in myself apart from others opinions.”
  9. If your mind is still racing, choose one that you are working on and write it out ten times on paper (printing not cursive) so that you can really concentrate on the words.
  10. By this time you should be feeling calmer, or at least the symptoms aren’t as severe as they were. You can then follow up any more anxiety with medication as needed, or by temporarily leaving the situation if possible and then returning when you feel better.

Following these steps takes practice and patience. But it’s worth it. There are many websites that have lists of positive affirmations. Here are a few:

At one point I even taped them around my house so that I could see them often. At work I have little symbols or stickers that have hidden meaning behind them to help remind me of them. This exercise has probably been the most effective thing I have introduced in my life to help me manage panic attacks. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes it all happens so fast that its too late when I try to slow things down, but if you start doing this the moment you feel a twinge of anxiety, then it will help you keep it at just that level of intensity.

Edmund J. Bourne further says, “Cultivating the habit of countering [negative self talk] is one of the most significant steps you can take in dealing with all kinds of anxiety as well as panic attacks.”

There is so much more you can learn about the art of countering your negative self talk. I encourage everyone to find some that can help you in your life and remember them when the panic comes.

I would love to hear if anyone else has used this type of exercise and whether it helped them or not.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Can You Be Declined Life Insurance Because of Anxiety?

This morning I had a nurse come over to my house, take my medical history, draw blood, etc. all for the purpose of approving me for term life insurance. The man signing us up was a little concerned about my anxiety background as cause for being declined. He said that people with anxiety have a separate phone call made (which I am still waiting for) to discuss it in more detail.

My question is, since anxiety isn’t life threatening, why would you be declined for life insurance? Its not like having anxiety means you are suicidal. History of cancer? Understandable. Diabetes? Definitely a red flag. But anxiety? Come on!

So I am waiting to hear the verdict. If I get declined I will be very shocked. Heaven forbid anyone gets a bugbite because that might be next on the list of potential life threatening illnesses or diseases to decline insurance for!

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