Six Steps to Take Back Our Control: Part Two of Three

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Good morning. ūüôā If you are just tuning in, you can find steps one and two written in the previous blog post.

3. Politely listen but don’t necessarily follow well-meaning advice from family and friends.¬†It’s human nature to want to tell someone or share with that person our ideas about what we think should be done in certain situations. In some cases, this helpful advice comes from family members who have heard us sound entirely different than usual. In my case, it was other siblings who heard me on the phone coming off slurred, drugged, or very sleepy. That’s alarming. I agree. It was disturbing to me as well, even as it happened. Others, including friends who are still on medication and doctors who don’t believe it can be done in your case, offer entirely different words of advice.

4. Visualize all possible outcomes of your choices. I did not do this before I chose to wean myself off my psych meds, but I wish someone had suggested it. I like to play the “What if” game in my head these days. It helps me with most situations. If I’d played this game before I weaned off my psych meds, it might look like this:

  • What if I get anxious?¬†Coming off bipolar and meds for anxiety (specifically Ativan 2mg tablets 3x daily), this is a pretty likely event and concern. So, if I get anxious, I’ll have to cope.
  • What if I can’t cope?¬†What if I *can’t* cope? What do I mean here with this fear? What if I don’t have the *ability* to cope, or I do have the ability, but I’m afraid I won’t want to deal? Suss out those meanings for yourself. I might have to ask for help.
  • What if I ask for help and I’m turned away, or the person I call isn’t home?¬†Then I keep asking. If I have to call the suicide hotline for help, I’ll do that.
  • What if whoever I ask for help that person tells me I need to be admitted to a psych ward?¬†So, is this a terrible thing? It’s *incredibly* difficult to wean off meds by oneself. I’m sure I did it more quickly than I should’ve.

Anyway, you get the idea. Play devil’s advocate on this step.

Peace. xoxo

Chrissy

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Juvi Syed‚Äé Cognitive Care Center P.C

Self-conscious much? Do something!

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Probably each of us has, at one time or another, felt self-conscious about ourselves. I’m sure even actors (John Cusack), and people in high-powered positions have those times when they’d really rather not be there. It’s too hard sometimes to be with other people you’re¬†sure¬†are better than you; a better person, better wife/husband, daughter/son, mother/daughter, people in¬†general.¬†

I’ll tell you something about myself, but you have to promise to keep it secret. “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.” There are many things I do ritualistically and some things I can’t do at all.¬†IF¬†I go to Starbucks, I first look online to see what the slowest time will be, go then, even if it’s¬†not uil 7:00 at night. I’m sure to take the garbage out when it is still dark, and that’s when I pick up yesterday’s mail as well (I don’t like to be seen walking down the driveway during the day — too many eyes on me). It’s not a narcissistic thing. It’s paranoia and huge, insurmountable fear. I walked my¬†dog Pookie once, it was the most natural and most pleasurable walk I’d ever had (not because I forgot about myself for a change) but because I had the perfect harness and leash so that my dog walked right next to me.

Still, I looked down at the ground a lot. When I looked up, I was careful not to focus on anything too much, because someone might notice. I counted steps, and when I wasn’t counting, I was saying to myself, “left, right, left, right.” Anything to get through it and be sure the dog got some exercise. Sometimes (seriously) I’d rather have a root canal than put myself through all this bullshit.

How can anyone get through something like this? The only words that have ever helped me are from my 90-year-old mother.

She said two things that have¬†just begun¬†to take hold. The first wise, experienced words she said were, “Chris if you knew how much people didn’t think about you at all, you’d be surprised.” And she’s¬†right,¬†you know? When on the porch smoking, I might glance up and see someone walking, either alone or with a dog, I might say “Good morning, nice day,” or whatever, then go straight back to book. It doesn’t register on my radar. It’s something I see people do every day.

The other thing is this: “All you can do is try. If you fail, try again, and keep trying. That’s all you can do, the best you have in you.”

Love you, Mom,

Chris

 

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

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Let’s be honest. We all want/need to be loved. Newborn babies who are not held or touched, actually die. We all want someone to say “I love you and I always will. You are important. I’ll try my hardest to never let you down. I’m here.”

I’ve learned in the last four months that animals have many of the same emotions as human beings. That shouldn’t really surprise us. I mean, my previous dog suffered from pancreatitis,¬† so we know they share at least one biological, internal organ as do we. But it is fascinating to read something like this:¬†Brain Scans Show Striking Similarities between dogs and humans

A little over four months ago, I adopted a dog who had been through the hurricane in Flordia. So he most likely suffered PTSD, as humans do when we suffer something horrific. He lost his family and was moved from place to place to place until he came to live with me. I think intellectually I knew it would be difficult, but was terribly unprepared emotionally for all the emotions and behaviors he expressed that worried me. To be honest, three weeks ago I seriously thought about placing him with another owner, because I wanted a better life for him, and I didn’t think he could have that with me. I’m still in contemplation. Don’t judge me.

I’ve learned some things during this time with my little man (an affectionate nickname), some things that pertain to both anxious humans and dogs both:

1,¬†Be patient.¬†This is maybe the most basic and most difficult practice, patience. Things happen in their own time, and if we try to rush them we most likely will end up mucking it all up, left with feelings of frustration and irritation. PTSD is essentially a form of anxiety. There are all kinds of theories about a dog’s memory. Some people would say my dog has gotten over his anxiety, fear, skittishness, isolation, or whatever else. Others would say it takes a while to move from that feeling. Forgetting isn’t always easy for dogs. They remember when they’ve been abused. And how do we explain the reaction and memory of a dog who would completely knock down his owner and lavish her with kisses after she’s done a year-long tour of duty? Which bring me to number two.

2.¬†It’s not about you.¬†It’s rough not to take things personally when dealing with animals. Don’t we all have that picture in our minds of the lab laying his paw on his owner’s head, the man on his porch, complete with the breathless sunset? Ha ha. Yeah. It’s a beautiful image, but it’s not always that way, and even if it is, it takes¬†work and patience.¬†But maybe, like me, you’ve taken into your home an animal that mostly distrusts you (you think), but then jumps on you when you come home. It’s puzzling¬† and sometimes heartbreaking.

3.¬†It is what it is.¬†This is a rough translation for “radical acceptance,” which means accepting what is in front of us completely, absolutely, without taking away or adding to. It means we¬†stop¬†fighting what’s real, and in doing so, we hurt less. We don’t hold on so tightly. We try to remind ourselves that nothing stays the same: good times don’t last, or bad, or complicated, or simple. They just are. Like a drowning person, we won’t survive our rescue until we accept the fact we’re drowning and someone has come to save us.

5.¬†Be calm.¬†I’ve heard it said, when “growing” a dog, that they often take on the personality of their owner. So if we are calm and happy, our dogs/cats might also become calm and happy – again, depending on the circumstance.¬† So if we are Woody Allen stereotype anxious or worried, our animals might be the same. My mother always says to me if I didn’t have something to worry about, I’d make one (I’m worried that I’m not worried? lol). A happy medium is probably best.

7.¬†Give yourself a break.¬†I’m quick to judge myself’ and I assume I’m not the only one to do so. I’ve made many mistakes working with my little man Pookie. I’ve not always been consistent, which I understand is crucial for training. Sometimes I say, “Pookie, come,” in the happiest, cheerful tone I can manage. When Pookie sits there at the top of the steps musing his options, I say (probably a little louder) “Come on, Pookie!” accompanied by an inviting pat to my knee. Finally, I give in to “Pookie Stachura, come here right now. I mean it.” In which case he eventually comes. Or, when none of that works (he can be as stubborn aattention¬†s me!), I’ll try waving my hands down the stairs, calling “Hurry hurry hurry!” Yet, he’s gotten away from me four times – three by just pulling hard, and one when he slipped out of his collar. Each time, my frantic “Pookie, come!”brings him back, where he sits, calmly, usually behind me.*sigh* My point is, we need to cut ourselves some slack. Puppies have the span of a gnat. Three-to-five minutes five times a day is the most to hope for, and that might even be too much. Ending on a good note, where he actually gets the command, is jackpot. Go easy. Keep it simple. And remind yourself that two steps forward, one step back is still one step forward. ūüôā

This has been my first post in quite a while. I try my very best to supply information in a fun, sometimes funny manner.

Have a great day.

Chris

Bullies, Be Gone

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I like documentaries, usually. I enjoy learning new things. I even watched a heartbreaking documentary that some of you might be familiar with about how elephants are treated in the circus. An elephant named Tyke had escaped and ran through the streets, desperate to get away from abuse before he was shot – I can’t even remember how many times. It profoundly affected me, and still does, so I try to stay away from the really difficult ones.

One day last week, though, I watched what I thought was a documentary about bullying. It actually was a movie. I’m not certain of the name now (don’tcha¬†hate getting older?), but I think it was something like “Just a Girl.” Actually it was about two girls in two different states who had been bullied, both in school with verbal comments, cornering, shoves in the hallway and – something I never had to deal with – cyberbullying.

The first high school girl ended up committing suicide because it was all too much to handle for her. She had gone to a party and had too much to drink. She blacked out, and a male student took advantage of the blackout, posting all over social media that he had had sex with her, how hot she was, and how she “put out.” That morning, the morning after the party, she had frantically texted her friends, telling them she couldn’t remember the previous evening, and needed to know what happened.

This young girl had a wonderful reputation, ruined by one unfortunate evening. Some would say it was her fault because she was drinking. In fact, that opinion goes back years, just like “She was asking for it. Look how she dressed.”

Because of all the attention, the student couldn’t even make herself go¬† back to school. The last text she left to a friend said, “My reputation is ruined. My life is over.”¬† Then she killed herself.

Bullying doesn’t just happen in high schools. It happens in grade school, middle school, college, and on into supposedly “fully mature” adults. The thing about bullying that those who have never been bullied don’t know is that it sticks with you for life. Those words, once they’re out there, can never be taken back. Even apologizing, trying to make amends, doesn’t usually work. Sure, bullied people might appear perfectly fine on the outside. Someone who was told she had fat thighs in high school might be a colleague you work with. She doesn’t mention it aloud, but thinks of herself as ugly and alwayso tries to dress so that her thighs are less noticeable.

I’m known in my family for being sensitive, sometimes too much so. In fact, sensitivity involves many factors, and is now viewed to be as¬†personality trait, even socio-biological. It’s evidenced in both animals and humans. For instance, my newest addition to our house, a rescue dog named Pookie, has what many of us have – selective memory. Although I pick him up and hold him for many reasons – to cuddle, to give him kisses, to carry him across to the backyard when the snow is too deep for him to walk in. But I also pick him up when I have to go somewhere, therefore putting him in his crate – for his safety as well as keeping him from destroying the house. Now, why do you think he often backs away from me when I go to pick him up? One would think he’d remember all the good reasons, the cuddling and so forth. But – just like you and me – he remembers going into the crate, which is still a highly stressful situation for him.

We’ve all been bullied at one time or another. Some of us manage to let it go. Others – us “overly” sensitive types – have memories like elephants. I have always suffered from severe anxiety, and developed a nervous habit of licking my lips in high school. One of my friends at the time said, “Why do you lick your lips like that all the time?” Here I was, thinking no one noticed me. I couldn’t say it was because I was anxious, so instead I said nothing, but still remember that comment. Another time, in college, a roommate said to me, “Open your¬†eyes!” which was really innocuous and probably due to drinking too much the night before. But ever since then, when I see my eyes in the mirror, they look too small, the color is indefinable to me, and my lids seem droopy. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is how I interpreted what was said to me at my sensitivity level.

This is getting long. My apologies. And I’m sorry for any misspelled words or grammar errors; I didn’t take the time to proofread. It’s just that there are so many other ways to bully now, and others join in with “likes” or “comments” on social media, not to mention texting.

Try to remember to think before you speak. Once it’s been said, it can’t be unsaid. There are no do-overs.

Peace,

Chris

Social Media CON-nections

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So okay. First I want to explain my choice of title for this post. Social media connections have many positive effects on people and individuals. What bothers me is it seems a little – like chocolate (for chocolate lovers). So if you love chocolate, you’d at least want to taste it, right? It would be weird not to.

Then suddenly, there is more and more chocolate, as far as the eye can see. And it’s still tasty, sure, but there’s starting to be kind of a chalky after-taste, like the chocolate “mouse” in Rosemary’s Baby. If you ever saw that movie, you’d remember how her actual satanic neighbors drew her in with kindness. But it still seemed strange to Rosemary, who brought it to her husband Guy’s attention. He laughed it off, telling her it was because of her pregnancy, or she was paranoid. When all the while, he had already been accepted into the circle.

Apparently, social media isn’t satanic (unless I’ve missed something in my research). But do you actually realize how many there are out there, and how many individuals join on a daily basis? Here is a graph of¬†just¬†the top fifteen social media websites of 2017:

Top social media sites in 2017

Taken from The 15 most popular social networking tabs in 2017

This is absolutely incredible to me. Most of these social networking sites I have never even heard of. And, contrary to popular opinion, I was not born under a rock. Let me just go on record as saying there are several good reasons for a person to spend hours on these sites. One, the person may be homebound in some way, or agoraphobic. Some people, struggle as they might to overcome that particularly difficult form of anxiety, cannot make it happen. For that person, social media is truly needed, plus it’s “open all night,” so there’s usually a friendly person to text with. I’m purposely using the term¬†text because as much as we might try to convince ourselves, we aren’t¬†speaking with anyone in particular.

When you see someone’s picture of FaceBook or any of these other sites, how much do you trust that photo? It could be a man or woman posing as the opposite sex, or even a teenager trying to sound more grown up.

For Pete’s sake, if I met someone in an online dating service, thought he was gorgeous and said all the right things, I would¬†still¬†ask to meet him in a very public place. If he or she is not who they say they are, they either won’t show up or fend me off with some lame excuse.

When did we become a country where social media websites have become like food to order on a menu. If I lived completely alone on an island, but was miraculously wealthy and could afford electricity, I would limit my time on social networks to one or two hours a day.

There are just so many other things to do in the world. It’s only my opinion, but I feel I can speak about it with some expertise because I’ve been there. Feel free to disagree.

Buyer beware. There are “con” (short for confidence) people everywhere.

Peace,

Chris

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How I Survived A Life-Threatening Illness

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I lie awake at night, wondering what fresh hell tomorrow will bring me.

“Change is inevitable We can depend on that. By letting go of our efforts to influence the future, we become freer to experience the present, to feel all of our feelings while they are happening, and to more fully enjoy those precious moments of joy.” –Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon

So, you might think, as you read this, that bringing humor to the situation is insanity. But you know me and my sarcastic wit. Would you recognize me any other way? ūüėČ Besides, the alternative is too stupid to consider, and useless. Plus really, who doesn’t love a little Tina Fey?

But seriously, I have had such a hard time writing this (it’s been on my mind for a while), because I honestly don’t want to come off sounding pitiful, or elicit sorrowful responses, most of all. What has happened to me could happen to anyone–could happen to you. So please–don’t feel sorry for me. I’m here, I’m alive, and that’s a¬†good¬†thing.

It has not been the greatest year so far. Lol. First, I had to go back into a psychiatric partial day treatment program to get my bipolar meds adjusted. But what I learned shortly after I was admitted was that this therapist had noticed my hypomanic episode building since before Christmas. Why she didn’t say something earlier is still a mystery to me, but hey–at least she copped to it when my mom finally told me my agitation and irritability were getting hard to deal with. All of this explains why I ¬†had such a hard time decorating for the holidays last year. Seriously, I was like a slug, and even when I’m depressed it’s like my favorite time of year. I barely put up lights on the ceiling and yanked out the tree (with lights already on), no ornaments—voila. There. Be happy. Ha ha.

Psych partial started on January 25th. My psychiatrist there (it’s like you no longer have the shrink you had on the “outside;”¬†this¬†shrink, the one in the hospital, calls the shots) tried several different meds, at different levels, and suddenly—instead of hypomania, I started feeling incredibly depressed. Yeah, I know–I should have my own channel on Youtube, because my life is just¬†that¬†fascinating.

Then, I went home early from the program on February 13th, because my back and left leg were just killing me. All I missed was relaxation therapy, but you’d think it was chemical engineering, for all the tap dancing I had to do to get out of it. So I went home.

That night, I woke up in the wee hours freezing cold with my teeth chattering. Yikes. I can’t remember the last time my teeth chattered. So I got up, took my temp, and it was elevated; something like 101. (I’m not totally sure at this point; my baseline temp is 97. I just know I had a fever) I also noticed like a big cyst or something high up on my inner left thigh. I wasn’t too worried at this point. I took a couple aspirin, ran some hot water on a washcloth to lay on the cyst and went back to sleep under like 5 blankets.

The next I knew it was morning and I was in a sweat. Good. So my temp was down and the cyst had also diminished. But then, my fever spiked back up again at around eight. I told my mom I thought I needed to go to the ER, and she agreed.

Long story short, what started out as a simple cyst turned out to be necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria. Yep. My WBC, which is supposed to be 10 or under, was 21, so I was admitted—instead of let go from the ER—on Valentine’s Day. I had three surgeries in four days in that most private of areas–whether you are a woman or a man–and spent eight days inpatient. Granted, I was on morphine, and much of the pain is now a blur, but still. My fever was up and down, up and down. They had me on I.V. antibiotics, three at a time (once I read a label, and it said 2,000 units!!)–like throwing paint on the wall–trying to see what would work. Finally the WBC came down enough that they could let me go with Amoxicillin for one week.

I had to have the surgical sites packed (with gauze) by home care nurses for¬†at least¬†two months, my surgeon said. So yes, I’m positive 2,000 people have seen my va-jay-jay at this point. I kept forgetting to charge an admission fee. I always meant to, though. At least I still had some self-respect. Just kidding. The nurses were so kind and gentle with my body and my heart. I couldn’t have asked for nicer people to care for me.

Now here’s the best part. I saw my surgeon yesterday for our weekly checkup of the surgical wound sites, right? She was SO pleased with how well everything is healing. Everything has closed (from the inside out, to prevent future infection) at least halfway, in some cases more. In fact, I’m doing so well that she said I can say goodbye to the daily nurse care and she doesn’t want to see me again for a month. After that, who knows?¬†That’s exactly¬†five weeks¬†from the day I was admitted, right?

What an incredible journey!! I wonder what the rest of the year has in store? Bring it on.

Performance Anxiety Redux

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wpid-20150526_080944.jpgAll right. This is not an apology, this is an explanation. There’s a reason I have been so flaky lately with my posts . . . well, this whole entire month, specifically.

Last year, when I tried to crochet Christmas presents, I didn’t start working until like October or even November, and of course didn’t get finished in time. I have a large family. So this year I began in January. So far I have two granny square blankets crocheted. I just have to put them together. I’m working on my third (pictured above) which looks like snowflakes! I have 30 out of 88 squares done.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about performance anxiety, and the causes and helps for it. The three main causes of PA are:

  • Mild social anxiety.
  • Inexperience in public.
  • Strong distaste for failure

As with most anxiety problems, it’s hard to know the exact cause, but performance anxiety is also self-sustaining, because it creates a mindset that focuses only on mistakes and seeing others as judging you. One small mistake, even if no one notices, or one person in the audience that looks unhappy and all of your fears are reinforced, causing more performance anxiety to happen later.¬†No matter the effects of anxiety, there is no denying that anxiety itself can create more anxiety. The more you are worried about your performance, the more your performance suffers.

Some strategies which can help in overcoming performance anxiety are:

  • Pre- and Post- Presentation Positive Writing Exercises ‚Äď Since anxiety is a problem with negative thinking, one way to combat anxiety is to force yourself to think positively. An example of this type of exercise includes writing out 10 or 20 genuinely positive thoughts about how you performed or will perform. It’s not perfect, but it will stop you from focusing only on the negative.
  • Positive Support ‚Äď You also need support from others. It’s easy to think about the negatives when you mess up ‚Äď or when you have the possibility of messing up. But if you can find people in your life that are always supportive, you won’t care as much about any mistakes because others in your life will make things easier. Positive support is very helpful for this type of anxiety.
  • Happy Distractions ‚Äď Much of performance anxiety is not what happens at the time of the event, but what occurs before and after it. This is when the mind can wander into negative thoughts. Keeping yourself mentally active and busy prevents the mind from focusing on the negatives, especially if you can focus on more positive activities like going outdoors and spending fun time with friends.
  • Practicing Under Pressure ‚Äď It is often hard to practice under pressure, because practice itself rarely has that much pressure. But if you can get used to being under pressure situations, then when you actually face some type of pressure it won’t cause as much anxiety. For example, if you are giving a speech, do it in front of smaller crowds and work your way up to the bigger ones. If you are playing sports, practice playing where people challenge you with noise and energy ‚Äď just like you would experience in a big game. This will help you get used to some of the components of pressure situations, even if it doesn’t resemble it completely.

 

Fino a domani, I miei amici! Mwah!

 

“All The World’s A Stage . . . “

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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!

Quivers And Quavers

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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! ūüėõ

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

Ciao, Bella.

Panic Disorder

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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

4

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. ūüėČ 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. ūüėõ

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. ūüôā

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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Managing

6

`M (1)P.S. You‚Äôre not going to die. Here‚Äôs the white-hot truth: if you go bankrupt, you‚Äôll still be okay. If you lose the gig, the lover, the house, you‚Äôll still be okay. If you sing off-key, get beat by the competition, have your heart shattered, get fired‚Ķit‚Äôs not going to kill you. Ask anyone who‚Äôs been through it. —Daneille LaPorte

Well, it turns out I’m not the best sort of person to do this sort of thing—-the A-Z Blog Challenge. See, besides writing the blog post itself, we’re supposed to comment on each other’s blogs. But I can barely keep up with posting every day. It hasn’t become a habit yet. Who knew? Well, all I can do is my best, you know?

As I was reading through the articles I had marked about managing the symptoms of anxiety, I just got overwhelmed and all of it started to not make any sense at all. So I thought, what the hell? I’ll just write down what¬†I¬†do to try and manage my own anxiety. That way, after you read it and it makes no sense to you, you can substitute in what¬†you¬†do! Ha ha ha.

Remember to breathe. The first thing that happens to me when I get anxious is I forget to breathe or I start to breathe really shallowly, which amounts to the same thing. So, I have to actually remind myself.

If I’m feeling worried/bad/sad/mad/frustrated,¬†change the thought.¬†Works every time. Change how I’m thinking, and I’ll feel differently.

Crochet/meditate¬†through the problem. The repetitive nature of crochet lends itself to meditation very easily. While I’m crocheting I can think through a difficulty, or–better yet–let my mind empty itself and sort of rest.

Relaxation. I usually do deep breathing while I sit in a comfortable chair, eyes closed, but I breathe differently than most people tell us to. I breathe in through my nose (through the diaphragm) and back out through the nose (not the mouth).

Reading.¬†This is just a really fun escape, because it takes me so far away from anything and anywhere I was before I started reading. It’s tough to be anxious when you’re in the middle of a thriller or a romance. Really. Try it.

Color-by-Number and Dot-to-Dot.¬†I went to a Michael’s art store and found these intensely intricate¬†adult¬†color-by-number and dot-to-dot books. Except I’m too intimidated to start them, because I’m a perfectionist and I don’t want to make a mistake. LOL! How insane is that?!

Television.¬†It goes under the escapist column, but it’s also very educational. I learn how other people act in similar situations, too. And we got the Amazon Fire Stick recently, so have been¬†stuck¬†on Mad Men (we’re on Season 4–there are I guess 7 seasons), for real.

Doing my best.¬†It’s all I can do. It’s all any of us can do.¬†ifeel

Benzodiazepines

7

B (1)Once upon a time, a discovery was begun by a man named Leo Sternbach and finished by a co-worker named Earl Reeder. What he had was a compound which showed¬†very strong sedative,¬†anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant¬†effects. They named it Librium and they introduced it to the world at large in 1960. A few years later, Valium came into being, the one referred to as “Mother’s Little Helper” by the Stones.

It is said that “benzos” are most effective if used in the short term, that is for about a month to six weeks. HA.

Full disclosure: I take a benzo, and it is not the first benzo I have ever taken. The first one I was on for a few years, “as needed for anxiety,” was Klonopin. I took myself off of it when the pastor in my church told me I didn’t need it. I guess I was really gullible at the time because I believed him. Well, to be truthful, he didn’t understand or believe in mental illness. So then I was on Xanax and got wildly addicted. My whole family got really scared and angry, so I had to get off of that (even though I was only taking it as directed). Now I’m on Ativan. I’m supposed to take it three times a day for all my anxiety problems. But see, I also have chronic fatigue syndrome, so I’m naturally a bit wacked out. Add to that the sedative properties of Ativan, and I might as well kiss the day goodbye. I cut myself down to one pill a day, at lunch time, and I just deal with the stress when it comes up.

I have never known anyone who was on a benzodiazepine in the short term. That’s absolutely fascinating. It’s like the tobacco companies suddenly becoming scared about the dangers of nicotine. Sort of like trying to close the barn door after the cows get out. Too little, too late. Don’t tell me you care now. For some reason I’m finding it difficult to trust you. ūüėČ

In one of the articles I read there was talk about other treatments for anxiety; such as MAOIs or other antidepressants which may have anti-anxiety-like properties in them. It’s something to think about. I take Neurontin, which is for my bipolar, but it also helps with my back pain and anxiety. It’s a¬†wonder drug!!¬†LOL

Anyway, cheers to as much of an anxiety-free day as you can get.

Peace out.anti-anxiety

Anxiety

7

fearA (1)is for anxiety. Anxiety is not the same as fear, which is the response to a real or imagined threat. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, or unease often not focused on anything in particular and possibly an overreaction to a situation (though not seen that way by the sufferer). It often comes with physical symptoms, such as tension, fatigue, restlessness, and concentration problems. 

When anxiety gets to be too much it becomes a disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety¬†disorders¬†affect 40 million people in the United States alone (or 18% of the population ). Anxiety disorders are “the most common mental illness in the U.S.” To me, that’s pretty astounding. Even more astounding, about 2/3 of those suffering don’t receive treatment for what is a highly treatable illness.¬†

Also according to the ADAA, “anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.” For me, I don’t remember my mother or dad being at all anxious growing up, except situationally, where it was warranted. I was anxious as young as eight years old, but could never figure out why. If anyone in the family was displeased or uncomfortable, it was my job to make it right, you know? At the same time, I ended up displeasing them (and feeling helpless about it) when I would hide in my bedroom during family gatherings. It’s really hard to say what caused all that, what continues to cause my difficulties around people I don’t know. . . or people I know too well.¬†

Here’s to a well-managed anxiety day. Peace out.

 

Exposure Is Like A Four-Letter Word

4

exposureOr at least, it should be, and that’s the word¬†fear.¬†In the book I’m reading about social anxiety disorder, Dying of Embarrassment, there is lots of talk about¬†exposure¬†as the main solution to dealing with most anxious and troubling situations.

The first part of the book helps one figure out what exactly is distressing and anxiety provoking. It’s all very individual, of course. Then we’re supposed to put it in a hierarchy, like from least anxiety-provoking, to moderately anxiety-provoking to severely anxiety-provoking. I’m just reading this book to read it for now. When I sit down to really look at situations and make a list it’s going to take me a while, because my knee-jerk reaction is always “It’s¬†all¬†severely anxiety-provoking! What do you think got me¬†into¬†this mess?!”

Exposure therapy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_therapy) as a form of torture began in the 1950s. It’s also known as¬†flooding.¬†Of course, I’m kidding about the torture part (a little). I only say that because I’m actually considering it and I’m afraid. The next section of the book (I forgot the part about the coping skills and changing cognitive distortions) is actually doing it. Exposures take two forms:¬†in vivo¬†(real life) and¬†imaginal¬†(in the imagination). Before we do an actual in vivo exposure, we’re supposed to take ourselves through a few imaginal exposures.

In imaginal exposures, everything is imagined as detailed as possible. All the smells, the sounds, are people sweating, etc., get as detailed as possible. Then go through the situation and let your anxiety rise as you sit through it. Go through the anxiety and stay with it because it will go down again the longer you stay with it, as you remember your breathing exercises and so on.  You might imagine absolute success or you might imagine marginal failure and how you would come at your cognitive distortions in the imaginal exposure.

In¬†in vivo¬†exposures everything is real. The book never mentions this, but to me it is like taking someone who is afraid of snakes and throwing them into a pit of vipers! Of course, it’s not that dramatic, because there’s the hierarchy list; the list of lesser anxiety-provokers and higher anxiety-provokers. So it’s much more within the control of the person with social anxiety disorder. For example, let’s say you’re afraid of public speaking. You might start with saying hello to your neighbor when you’re both working in your backyards. Then a medium task might be giving a talk at the high school. A severe task would be giving the baccalaureate speech for your daughter’s friend’s graduation.

If you read this far, God bless you, Geshundheit, please place your trays in their upright positions, and thank you for not smoking.

coffee

The Art of The Avoidance Act

0

cant-hear-youYou wouldn’t think it, but avoidance is actually a coping skill for anxiety. It’s probably not the best one, and may be a last ditch effort to “push through” the moment.

  • There are many ways to avoid situations a person finds anxiety-filled, and here are just a few:
  • avoiding eye contact
  • playing with some small object (or keys, whatever)
  • staring off into space
  • counting the tiles in the ceiling/floor
  • daydreaming
  • doodling (not¬†all¬†people who doodle are avoiding, just perhaps anxious people)
  • leaving the situation entirely

I actually seem to have the hardest time with avoiding eye contact and leaving the situation entirely when it gets too hard. Thanks to a wonderful friend, who also contends with anxiety on a daily basis, I’m learning to push myself a little more each time, so that I know for a fact I¬†can¬†stand it.¬†small-victories-workplace-ecard-someecards

Apprehension

2

apprehensive-1Writing this blog used to be easy and fun for me. Now, each time I sit down to write, I’m filled with apprehension and dread. Questions swirl through my mind, because it’s not just me or my satisfaction I think about anymore. “Will this make people happy? Will it offend anyone, even unintentionally? What’s relevant¬†for the reader?¬†What should I write about? Will it keep their interest? Will it make them shut down immediately? Or will it touch a cord so deep they wish they’d never read it in the first place?”

All this is going through my mind, especially as April draws near. April, as many of you know, is the “Blogging From A-Z” challenge. The participant (me) is expected to write a post¬†SIX days a week, getting Sundays off, making it 26 posts for the month. That’s going to be a real stretch for me, but I’m committed to it.

In order to do it, I think, I have to pretend I don’t have a readership. I know that sounds weird, but it’s the only thing that will work for me. I have to pretend I’m writing only for myself. . . and maybe for Lucy. She’s pretty nonjudgmental. ūüėČ

If you’ve read this far, God bless you, Gesundheit, please put your¬†trays in their upright positions, and thank you for not smoking. ūüôā

The Anxiety-Exhaustion Tango

lie downSometimes, I’m surprisingly tired in the evenings before I go to sleep and I have to stop and figure out why. With generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (just being the anxiety issues), it’s a lot to sort through.

Usually, if it’s not a physical reason, if it’s not because I’ve helped someone move their apartment that day or something else equally taxing, I know it has to do with anxiety and emotions.¬†So then I sift through my day.

When I was in high school my sister moved back home with her three young children for a time and we used to play a game around the dinner table. Everyone would say what they did that day, and the children took it very literally ūüôā “I woke up, I brushed my teeth, I got dressed, I had breakfast….” Like so. That’s the way I tried to relive my day to see what the culprit might be.

Usually, of course, it was people. I am still not very good with people. So it might have been a lunch with an old school mate, or a visit with a brother who came over, maybe a family gathering.

People don’t often understand how something like anxiety, something so high-keyed, can be linked to exhaustion. But–just think about what happens to all that balled up energy when it finally lets go. Sort of like a balloon deflating, you know? All around the room it goes, bouncing against the walls, until it comes to a very final end.

If you’ve read this far, God bless you, Gesundheit, please return your trays to their upright position, and thank you for not smoking.

Championing Crochet’s Comfort

feel betterFiber arts, whether knitting or crochet, have long been known to have a calming and positive affect on the people who participate in them.  In this article on Lion Brand Yarn, the author gives us several different ways to meditate using crochet.

I love to speak about one of my very favorite books, possible my favorite book entirely: ¬†http://www.amazon.com/Crochet-Saved-My-Life-Physical/dp/1478190450/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425224849&sr=1-1&keywords=how+crochet+saved+my+life¬†¬†. (sorry this came out so messed up, but I asked for assistance from the WP wannabe helpers, and they were nowhere to be found. ūüė¶ ) I’ll probably be all over the place, because I can’t remember where the author wrote about what, but I’ll try. She mostly spoke about crochet, and I liked that. It made me feel special, because there are so dang many books out there for knitters it’s enough to make one’s head spin, light up, and fall off.

The author went through a deep depression before she wrote the book. Plus, she didn’t yet know how to crochet. So the woman did piles and piles of scarf after scarf which she either kept or gave away. How extraordinary is that? I can barely keep track of the 3-4 projects I have going right now, and she’s¬†whipping these off for her friends and neighbors.

Thirdly, Vercillo includes a score of other people who write about their experiences being helped by crochet, and each tale is simply awe-inspiring. I can’t remember now if it was Vercillo herself or another crocheter who introduced the “3-stitch Crochet Meditation.” It’s so simple, you’ll want to laugh but you can’t because it’s that important.

All you have to do is take your hook and your yarn and empty your mind. Then you start a chain: 1, 2, (Did I turn off the iron?) START AGAIN: 1, (I wonder if Peter’s mother will have a problem with my dress tonight.) START AGAIN.

You get the idea. It’s lovely and oh so simple to catch on to. Don’t worry. It takes lots and lots—AND lots of practice to get to be good at it. But what’s the rush, right? No hurry scurry. Take it slow, dude.

If you’ve read this far, God bless you, Gesundheit, and thank you for not smoking.