panic attacks

“All The World’s A Stage . . . “

anxiety-memeI just had to post this anxiety meme, and like larger than life, because as soon as I saw it I laughed so hard I almost choked on my coffee. It’s so totally true. Every time I’m ever with my therapist and we’re talking about something that makes me anxious, or we try to do something on the fear ladder and I get anxious, she immedately goes for the “Okay. start your breathing. Try to take yourself down to at least a three.” Right. I must’ve been breathing wrong before!  If that worked all the time, psychiatrists would be completely out of business.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. I would be a court reporter right now if it weren’t for perforance anxiety.  And, I absolutely loved that job, even more than teaching, and teaching was pretty darn cool. See, the skill of stenography came pretty easily to me because I also knew the skill of braille from when I was a teacher for visually challenged K-12 students in Columbus, GA. Braille is a combination of keys on a machine that amount to much like chords, piano chords is what it made me think of. Court reporting shorthand is similar, so I was able to adapt quickly.

When I graduated, I worked on a temporary license until I could pass the state exam. Only . . . that day never came. Although I did very well in school and often surprised both teachers and students with my speed and accuracy, when it came time to take the test, I felt lost. We were given three five minute timed tests and one hour each test to transcribe them afterwards: 225 wpm for testimony, 200 wpm jury charge, and 175 wpm hard literary. I froze. I just froze.

It didn’t matter how much prep time I had given myself before I walked through those doors. It didn’t matter what I told myself about others who had gone before me and passed.  The first two times I made it through all three timed tests and tried to transcribe all three parts. The second time I managed to transcribe two parts. The third time, although I took all three tests as per usual, I was too disgusted with myself to even read through what I had taken down. Mind you, each time I entered the test in Lansing, it cost fifty dollars; not exactly something to sneeze at.  After the third time I resigned myself to performance anxiety and gave up. I gave up a chance at a career I know I would absolutely love for the rest of my life.

Any time I walked in those doors in Lansing, Michigan, even before the actual test began, my heart would start beating faster, I’d start sweating, I’d get this horrible, unshakable feeling that every other person in the room is staring at me, my hands would shake, and I’d have trouble catching my breath. I talked to psychiatrists and therapists about possible hypnotherapy for this so that maybe I could take the test and pass it, but so far no one has been able to help me.

I’m so sorry this has gone on so long. There are causes and solutions for performance anxiety. I’ll write about those next time.

Until then, be well and be happy!

good performance
Fino a domani, I miei amici!

Yesterday

Y (1)Although we’ve talked a lot about living in the present moment, the fact is most people with anxiety either live in the future or, more likely, in the past. The future living sounds more like a lot of “What-ifs,” and can get very scary very quickly.

Living in yesterday sounds like this: I know I hurt my friend’s feelings when I said that that particular way. She seemed funny after that. It couldn’t have been just because she was dealing with her own issues. I know it was my fault.

Or: I looked so stupid buying groceries yesterday. I’m sure everyone could tell my hands were shaking when I was trying to get the correct change. I didn’t even say thank you or good bye because I was afraid I might break out in tears, for crying out loud. What’s wrong with me? I’m such a spaz and an idiot!

Yet again: Why did I tell my mom I would pick up her meds at the store for her? It’s been really hard for me to leave the house at all lately. Twice I tried yesterday. I got all the way to the parking lot of the store, the first time, but I couldn’t get out of the car. The second time I only made it into my car in the garage, but I couldn’t back out. I am such a loser!

These are all examples of distorted thoughts brought on by panic and anxiety. They can easily be changed by different, more rational, compassionate thinking.

Once the thinking is changed, staying in the moment is so important.

Have a terrific day! I’m going to lunch with my friend Molly!

Ciao, Bella.Paper Fortune Teller

Quivers And Quavers

Q (1)Often, medications have side effects which include shakiness. But mostly, if we have anxiety, shakiness at one time or another, sort of comes with the territory. Either our hands can shake, our voices, or both, or our whole bodies can tremble if we’re very afraid.

It’s actually extremely common, and the only way to stop it is to deal with the anxiety beforehand. If you’re already anxious and trying to prevent shaking hands, it’s too late; kinda like closing the barn door after the cows get out.

There are different types of shaking. There may be more, but these are the ones I know:

  • Short term anxiety  Everyone–even people who don’t have anxiety—sometimes shake when they’re in a situation that makes them feel nervous. A first date, called to see the boss, bad thunderstorms, tests. It’s really very normal.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder  Those of us with GAD are in, like, super-charged “worry” mode all day, every day. Our fight or flight system is firing all day long at low levels.  This may cause shaking to happen for what might seem to be no reason at all.
  • Panic attacks  Before, during, or after panic attacks, shaking can be very normal. This type of shaking is absolutely caused by the intense fear that panic attacks cause.
  • Unexplained shaking incident (USI)  Those of us with day to day anxiety may simply feel shaky or develop a tremor in our hands. Long term stress can have unusual effects on our bodies, and so it should be no surprise that we experience tremor during unusual situations.

In the times that I’ve been anxious and felt my hands begin to tremble, nothing has calmed them sooner than cuddling with my Lucy dog or holding a baby. What is it about that?

Well, I did not mean to get so long-winded! Shush me much more quickly next time! 😛

I will see you tomorrow. Be good to yourselves. 🙂

Ciao, Bella.

Panic Disorder

P (1)Well, I did manage to bring in the mail during the day yesterday and, as always happens, by the time I got back in the house my heart was pounding, I was sweating, I could barely catch my breath, and I had to sit on the stairs before I could take the mail either up or down (we live in a bi-level).

So, before I could celebrate that I had achieved something which was a 9 (on a scale of 1-10) on my Fear Ladder, I needed to calm myself down. I did something my therapist had taught me. I placed my right hand on my chest, my left on my stomach, and began to do my best to take deep breaths in through my nose, and out through my mouth, then eventually out through my nose as well. I kept my eyes open the whole time, so that every time I caught my chest rising when I breathed in instead of my stomach, I had to change that. I thought about how babies breathe. They’re such belly breathers! Not a care in the world as they lie on their backs wherever they are, breathing in and pushing that belly out. When we sleep at night, we’re belly breathers. We’ve just forgotten this in our hell fire hurry to get things done.

Let’s belly breathe more often. I’ll sure remember it, next time I get in a tight spot.

This is the entirety of my Fear Ladder. As you can see, it’s written for, and leading up to, a very specific reason:

3 Imagining walking the dog
3.5 Draw self walking dog
4 Look at pictures of lots of people outside
4.5 Watch video of someone walking outside
4.5 Ask for help in a store
4.5 Buy jeans
5 Putting gas in car
5 Walk with someone in a private area
5 Answering the phone
5 Driving in the car
5 Ask for directions
6 Walking into unfamiliar store or business
7 Walk with someone in public
7 Sit outside reading a book and smoking
8 Watch video of someone else with social anxiety disorder
8 Stand outside, look around
8 Taking garbage out
8 Walk with Lucy to the mailbox
9 Walk alone to the mailbox
9 Walk dog around the block
9 Walk down Meadowbrook with Lucy

Hmm. It occurs to me that I’m opening myself up for lots of ridicule by being so vulnerable and, well, open about myself. But I couldn’t think of a better example about panic disorder that didn’t sound straight out of a textbook.

So there you have it!

Ciao, Bella.'That's right! No huffing a puffing for 30 minutes on a treadmill. We've developed a new stress test that is faster and more accurate.'

 

Neutralizers

N (1)Welcome to the letter “N.” It might be easy to smile or, even, laugh at the picture I’ve included with today’s post of Will Smith from MIB holding a neutralizer. But–picture this. There you are, stuck in a panic-anxiety cycle, with no clear end in sight. Along comes handsome, sexy, Will. He flashes his neutralizer at you and suddenly you’re perfectly fine. In fact, you can’t even remember what it was you were so anxious about! Because that’s what the neutralizer does, right? It zaps your memory. I think that would be incredibly clever.

In a way, outside of the fantasy/movie world, neutralizers aren’t really very different at all. Three examples of anxiety neutralizers are:

1. Understanding. This includes both understanding oneself and being understood by others. How is this a neutralizer? The more we understand ourselves, the more we get to know our personalities, our core values, our bodies, our dreams, our likes and dislikes—the more compassion we will have for ourselves, and the more absolute ability we will have to come against fear. Or so I’m told. 😉 And, I don’t think I need to explain how much it matters when others understand us. We all know what it means when they don’t, right? So just imagine the opposite of that.

2. Fun. The extreme importance of fun is not lost on me. I surely don’t have enough of it. Lord, my mother is always telling me I’d be prettier if I’d only smile more often. I think we’re all so serious because–well anxiety is a serious business, and we spend half our lives looking over our shoulders to see where the next shock is going to come from. But you know what? Let’s not. Let’s not do that. Let’s pretend we all live in a Disney movie. One of the old ones from when Walt was still alive; an animated one, like Cinderella. You know, she comes from a bad situation but she gets out of it and she marries a prince. Right? Not too shabby! I wouldn’t mind that. Try to have some fun. Don’t be afraid to look a little stupid. Hell, I look stupid all the time. 😛

3. Mindfulness. One of the biggest problems with anxious worriers is they spend half their time obsessing about something that happened yesterday, which they can’t change, or panicking about tomorrow, which hasn’t come yet. Mindfulness teaches us to focus on right here, right now, this moment. There is no other.

This was a little longer than I wanted it to be, but I tried to say it as succinctly as possible. I hope you found it helpful. Again, sorry for the tardiness. We were out of internet all day and, while I could have gone to Panera or something, I needed to stay for the Brighthouse guy because my mom wasn’t sure what to tell them.

Ciao, Bella. You all brighten my days so much. 🙂

P.S. I got the mail during the day twice this week and if I do it again tomorrow that’ll make three times!
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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

G (1)I saw one of my favorite therapists (of which there have been many), Heather, for two years. Each and every time I saw her, because I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, she gave me a seven-point assessment test called the GAD-7. These are the statements it included:

Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Not being able to stop or control worrying? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Worrying too much about different things? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Trouble relaxing? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Being so restless that it is hard to sit still? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Becoming easily annoyed or irritable? Not at all
Several days
More than half the days
Nearly every day
Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen?

I didn’t know it at the time, but of course now I know. It’s scored 0-3, where “not at all=0, several days =1, more than half the days=2 and nearly every day=3. So, like, the higher you score, the more challenges you are facing.
Anxiety-girlIn the beginning, when I first took the GAD-7s,  I fudged my answers. I didn’t know it was for my benefit, and that the more candid I was, the better Heather was able to help me. But the weirdest thing about GAD, for me? How often it comes from out of nowhere, BAM! 

I can be in a safe place, with safe people, feeling somewhat relaxed, and suddenly I feel my heart start to pound, I begin to perspire, and my hands tremble. I get that urge to flee, which is what usually happens when I get too anxious. But the worst part? There’s absolutely. No. Reason. Why. I’m. Anxious. I just know that I am, and I have to go about calming myself.

That’s GAD, in a nutshell.

Cheers to an anxiety-less day!

Peace out.

Double-Edged Sword

D (1)Okay. First, I just have to say that I’m writing this on my new HP Mini Laptop Stream, which is pink, so very light, and so gosh darn cute!

Picture this: a professional runner at her mark. Her head is down, her feet set at the blocks, waiting for the starter’s signal. She quickly brushes away something you can’t see with the tips of her fingers. As the camera zeroes in on her, you see a few drops of perspiration slide from the runner’s forehead, nose, chin, and hit the ground below. She licks her dry lips. She checks the runner on her left and right. She turns her head straight out in front of her toward the path ahead, then hears the starter’s signal go off and kicks off the blocks.

What exactly is that? Is it stress, anxiety? But–at least for me—when I’m overcome with anxiety, I’m a hot mess, curled up in a ball somewhere, or on the phone with my best friend. Hence, the double-edged sword. It cuts both ways. Anxiety can work for us or it can overwhelm us. In the case of the pro runner, she has found a way to make it work for her. The challenge is to always manage to find a way to do that, emphasis on the word challenge. 

For instance, I shared with my therapy group that I was super proud of myself that I had gotten the mail during the day two times that past week. Instead of just being happy for me, I’ve been challenged to do it again this week. *le sigh* I only have Monday and Tuesday left to go to accomplish this task, as the group meets Tuesday afternoon.

Do something brave, just because you can!

Peace out.
double edged sword

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