fear

How I Survived A Life-Threatening Illness


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.

Rejoining The Human Race

first day on earth castellucciAmazingly, it’s been almost five months since I last posted to this blog. And I pay for it! LOL ¬†I’m not sure I still remember how to do it. Have I been through some struggles in that time? Of course, but you know what? So have you, so have we all! I’ve experienced some major triumphs, too. Do tell me yours.

Here’s another thing. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I’ve really missed you guys. I’ve missed the camaraderie, the comments, the back-and-forth, and just knowing someone out there is reading silly things I’ve written.

You probably don’t know this, but there is a radio station out of Detroit (near where I live) which plays¬†all¬†Christmas music starting November 1st. Right? A little whacked, but I love it since it’s my favorite holiday. In fact, I was thinking of going to buy lights to put up around the ceiling. And, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it’s so important to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to put up the tree, even if it’s fake. Seriously?

Well, I won’t keep blabbing on and on. I read in a blogging book that the shorter the post the better (we’re all so busy these days!).

This will be my new schedule for posting: SU-T-TH-S. From now until just about Christmas I’ll be writing about trying to get my Christmas gifts crocheted in time. Yikes!

See you Tuesday. Until then, take care of yourself, and take care of each other.

 

Performance Anxiety Redux

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 . . . “

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!

Self-harm

cuttingSelf-harming, or cutting, serves many purposes. If you talk to eight different cutters, you will most likely get eight different reasons why they cut. It is as much individual as is the individual who engages in the practice.

Take me, for example. I used to cut on a regular basis. In fact, I attended the S.A.F.E. Program (Self Abuse Finally Ends) in Chicago several years ago to help me stop. I cut for several reasons. I hated myself, felt numb, invisible, was angry, felt¬†soooo¬†much pain and cutting relieved it, was intensely sad, and intensely anxious. I did not yet know any other coping skills, and cutting filled all those holes for me. Oddly, I usually didn’t feel any pain when I was in the actual act of cutting. I felt pain as it healed. Either way, the point was relief, which was greatly achieved with the act of harming myself.

There are other ways of self-harm besides cutting, some ¬†much more extreme and dangerous. I used to get more of a rush and release from burning myself than cutting—but, after years of self-abuse and scars up and down my arms and legs, I finally had enough.

  • Other types of self-harm include:
    –Branding, burning self with a hot object
    –Friction burn ‚Äď rubbing a pencil eraser on your skin
    Picking at skin or re-opening wounds (dermatillomania) ‚Äď an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one‚Äôs own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused which relieves stress or is gratifying.

    • Many compulsive skin picking causes are emotional or mental. Emotional trauma can lead to feelings of helplessness¬†When a child is being traumatized and bullied, he or she loses the feeling of being in control of their environment

–Hitting (with hammer or other object)
–Bone breaking
–Punching
–Head-banging (more often seen with autism or severe mental retardation)
–Multiple piercing or tattooing ‚Äď may also be a type of self-injury, especially if pain or stress relief is a factor
–Drinking harmful chemicals

Well, sorry for such a serious and, um, kind of depressing topic of conversation so early in the day. But it’s very real, you know? It happens more and more. Some people think that anorexia nervosa and bulimia are types of self injury but this is a¬†falsehood.¬†Anorexia and bulimia are stubborn, dangerous¬†disorders and illnesses.¬†They couldn’t be further from self injury.

Anyway, a small announcement. I’m chucking the plan for the rest of the month. That carefully detailed plan where I was going to write a certain topic for each day until the end of May? Yeah, that. ūüėČ You’ll just have to wait and see, and be surprised.

Love, me. Mmmwah!

Ciao, Bella.

The Bystander Effect

bystander effectAccording to Wikipedia, the bystander effect, a.k.a. bystander apathy, “is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders.”

The first case that caused research into this “effect” took place in 1964. At that time, 28-yr-old Kitty Genovese¬†was raped and stabbed to death in front of her apartment.

The attack lasted over 30 minutes and was witnessed by several dozen people (at least, it was reported, but later found to be not quite accurate–only about a dozen people actually witnessed the crime.) who failed to report the incident. Some didn’t know an actual crime was happening, claiming they thought it was a “lover’s quarrel,” while others knew a crime was happening but didn’t report it because they assumed someone else already called the police. My only question is, how do you confuse someone being raped and stabbed with a “lover’s quarrel?” Right?

Remember the movie “The Accused,” with Jodie Foster?¬†I think she might have won an Academy Award for her role as a women who was raped by a bunch of men on a pool table in front of several witnesses who did nothing. ¬†Some even clapped and cheered. The actual incident took place in New Bedford, MA in 1983.

There are more incidents of The Bystander Effect, probably many more than are reported, but I will not cite them all here. I can tell you about something that happened to me and my mother years ago in front of our own house. My brother Greg has a penchant for Packards. One day he was over, visiting, and he couldn’t get it to start. He told my mom and I that if we gave him a push start, he was sure he’d be able to start it. So (foolishly) we started pushing, and got sort of running, not thinking we should let go of the car once it started.

We both fell in the street, my mom flat on her face. She could’ve broken her nose, but thankfully didn’t. Of course there was a lot of blood, and my brother and I helped her stop the blood while she sat on the porch. She didn’t want to go to the ER. My point is, we fell right in front of my “across-the-street” neighbor’s house. They had their screen door on, so I’m sure they heard and saw everything that happened. There was also the neighbor kitty corner from us. Not one person bothered to see if we were all right, even as my mother sat on the porch bleeding. No one checked in on her later to make sure she was okay.

Are these bad neighbors and friends? Not at all. They most likely didn’t want to get involved or assumed someone else would help. Neighbors aren’t like they used to be, after all. It’s not an easy world to live in any more. And if we could ask Kitty Genovese, she might reply, “Was it ever?”

Hope you enjoyed this late late blog post. I’m really very sorry. It’s not my intention for them to be late. I get caught up in things and forget, which is not to say you are not just as important! Please stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post, which will most certainly NOT be late. ūüėČ

Ciao Bella.

 

Xanthophobia

X (1)Today is brought to you by the letter “X.” Your first instinct, when you hear about today’s subject matter, might be to laugh, but I urge you not to. It’s a very serious matter, and I think, if we suffered with it, we would not be laughing, not one bit.

Xanthophobia is an intense, irrational fear of the color yellow. It is very real to the person or persons impacted by this phobia. Taken to its extreme, the xanthophobic person may even feel an overwhelming fear of the very word yellow. Xanthophobia comes from the Greek word “Xanthous”, meaning yellow and “phobos” which means fear.

Just like all fears and phobias, xanthophobia is created by unconscious thoughts as protection. At some point in the person’s past, something probably happened bringing together the color or word yellow and emotional trauma, like PTSD. This might have been a real life scare, but this condition can also be triggered by movies, TV, or seeing someone else experience trauma. The person attaches negative feelings to any situation where the color or word yellow is present, and therefore xanthophobia is born.

I really understand this. I have a thing about escalators (I’m sure there’s a name for that particular phobia). I will avoid them whenever possible. When it’s not possible, it takes me about a half hour to make myself step on. But think about it. They’re actually dangerous. People have been hurt on them before. They’re not very safe. Some people walk up them instead of holding still, so they’re inconsistent. I like things to be the same, all the time. But that’s just me, and we all know I’m a little crazy. lol

Have a great evening. Next month is Mental Health Month, and I’m already planning some of my blog posts!

Ciao, Bella.parents-rights-cartoonphobia

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! ūüėõ

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

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.'

 

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

O (1)Most people, when they think of OCD, imagine the comedic detective,¬†Monk.¬†While he shows some of the fears, obsessions and compulsions that may indeed be typical, I think it’s mainly a caricature. It was still a wonderful way for people to be exposed to this particular illness.

The obsessive part of OCD symptoms usually includes: fear of contamination, having things in order or symmetrical, strong or horrible thoughts about harming yourself or someone else, and unwanted thoughts, especially sexual.

The compulsive part of OCD symptoms usually includes: washing or cleaning, counting, checking, asking for reassurances, following a strict routine, and being very orderly.

The two main treatments for OCD are psychotherapy and medications. Obviously, the best treatment would be a combination of the two.

I have never heard it called this, but ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) therapy is supposed to be the most effective treatment. It involves gradually exposing the person to the feared object (dirt, etc.) and talking about whatever comes up as you go; being in the anxiety and not running away.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) has also been suggested for individuals who don’t respond well to either psychotherapy or medications. People should be warned it hasn’t been thoroughly tested.

Coping with OCD can be difficult. There are things we can do to help us get through, such as: join a support group, find a healthy outlet (like a hobby), or learn relaxation and stress management.

Hope this was helpful. Have a wonderful Friday!!

Ciao, Bella.
bother you

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. 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!
Bn3WRE2CYAAm7z_

Keenness And Learned

K (1)Today’s post is brought to you by the letters “K” and “L.” Please forgive yesterday’s lapse; it was not a good day for me. As described in¬†Definitions.com,¬†keenness’ 3rd definition is: “characterized by strength and distinctness of perception; extremely¬†sensitive or responsive.” I think again, we see the double-edged sword, where perception and sensitivity can be either a strength or a hindrance when taken to the extreme.¬†

I think if we dig hard enough, we can see that that’s true. It’s very true for me, I know that much. My sensitivity allows me to know when someone is feeling upset or out of sorts, or maybe carrying a secret–bursting at the seams with it, and yet this same sensitivity can be ¬†downright agony when I allow it to go to the extreme. I get my feelings hurt so easily, my heart is broken time and time again, and I’m devastated when I’ve taken things too personally (thought people were talking about me), because, you know, it’s¬†always¬†about me. Not.

There are ways to overcome our sensitivity. I gathered up my research and decided on the best things that would help. Here they are:

1. Admit you have a problem. Until you admit you’re overly sensitive, you can’t change.
2. Explore your sensitivity. Ask yourself questions, like are you sensitive to a particular person or a group of people?
3. Look for a particular trigger for your sensitivity, like an image, color, scent, sound, or sensation.
4. Take your time. Be sure to go over the exploration and trigger steps as many times as you need to until you have a complete understanding of your sensitivity.
5. Be brave and start to unpack the sensitivity. Study it compassionately. Admit that you don’t find that this particular sensitivity helps you, each time it comes up.
6. Build strength. Finally, you will just “know” sensitivity for what it is whenever it comes up. You’ll be reminded that you have no interest in being that way and you can let it go quickly without becoming upset.

L (1)It seems just a few days ago we were talking about how anxiety was hardwired. Now we’re going to a whole different perspective, which says that being anxious is a learned behavior. In fact, this article is so interesting that I’m just going to include the link so you can read it for yourself:¬† Unhealthy behaviors cause anxiety disorder, not genes. ¬†The basic idea is that anxiety is learned, and that, if so, it can be unlearned through various techniques. I’d be interested in your thoughts after reading the article.

Well, I know the “L” post is especially short, but I don’t want to go on any further. I believe I’ve given you enough to think about, especially if you read that article.

Have a great day/evening!

Ciao, bella.
food

Nothing is permanent in this wicked world‚ÄĒnot even our troubles. –Charlie Chaplin

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.

Fear

F (1)is for fear. Fear can be a good thing. It keeps us from touching a hot stove, or walking down a dark alley (hopefully!). It’s a protective, survival instinct. There are three other types of fear that we might not think about all the time:

1.¬†First, we can’t forget the sort of fun, oogedy-boogedy chiller fear we get when we watch horror flicks or go to a haunted house around Halloween. That scares us for a bit, but we get over it because we know it’s not real, it can’t hurt us.

2. Internal fears. These are usually triggered by things or events outside of you. But, they are caused by internal emotions, which can make them hard to recognize. They show up as our fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, lack of self worth and doubt.

3. Subconscious fears.¬†Our fears become so internal that we start to believe them, and this truly limits us. An example of a limiting belief (or subconscious fear) is thinking you’ll never get a job because every job you’ve ever had was terrible. Or thinking you’ll never get married because really you’re truly worthless.

Here are five steps from the University of Florida’s Counseling and Wellness center on how to handle fears:

  1. Get clear in your mind what it is that you’re afraid of. Ask questions like, “What about that scares me?”
  2. Become aware of your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself that scares you?
  3. Exaggerate the bad consequences you fear. Begin to recognize that you were probably already exaggerating and didn’t know it and that what you feared is indeed and exaggeration already.
  4. Visualize yourself still being afraid, but handling the situation in an acceptable manner.
  5. Gradually expose yourself to the feared situation by doing things that more and more closely approximate what you fear.

Here’s to a wonderful day!

Peace out.
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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

Anxiety

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

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 Reality About Anxiety

fine

Take a long look at this sort of Justine Bateman Look-alike (or maybe it really is her). Do you think she has sand in her eye, or do think maybe she’s crying? Yet the message she’s sending out “to the world” is “I’m fine.” Have you ever been there, done that? I know I have, in the middle of tears, great big sobbing-blubbering-get-that-girl-a-hanky tears . . . I’m like “It’s o-o-okay. I’m fine.”

Then we have this fellow, some sort of coach, but I don’t follow sports all that¬†chewing lipmuch, so… But unless you’re also someone who gets anxious, you might not notice this when you look at him. He chews the inside of his mouth. It’s something I do when I get stressed, too, because it’s the least obvious of picking on my fingernails or pacing. He really looks worried, though. I say, if it helps him in this moment (until he can find something that doesn’t hurt the inside of his cheek), there are worse things he could be doing.

mailboxShe’s being funny, of course, and referring to getting enough exercise walking back and forth to pick up the mail. But I’ve mentioned how difficult it is for me to pick up the mail, right? Sometimes my mom and I have to wait a few days for me to get up the courage, like I’ll pick up three days worth of mail at the same time. Ugh. Such an idiot, not being able to do such a supposedly simple thing. Well, agoraphobia can be like that.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about pretty much everything. So the cartoon¬†dreadof the hammer about to come down on the nail actually did make me chuckle a little because it’s how I so often feel and I was like, “Yes! That’s it!” Especially the fact he’s so self-absorbed he doesn’t think enough to look down and see what happened to the other nail. That happens, we get so caught up in our own anxiety it can affect our relationships.deep breathingI hope this ecard doesn’t offend anyone. The fact is, anxiety–all forms of it–is a serious matter that deserves care and needs to be understood. In fact, during April’s Blogging from A-Z I plan to do a whole series on anxiety, which I hope will be both educational and fun(funny?). If you’ve read this far, God bless you, Gesundheit, and thank you for not smoking.

Anxiety Effects and Panic Producers

albertcamusIt can be something that seems very threatening like giving a speech in front of a crowd, or it can seem as innocuous as going to the grocery store to pick up staples.
It starts differently maybe sometimes. There’s a thought. God, look at all these people. Oh my God, I can’t breathe, I can’t do this.
Then maybe your palms start to sweat or you feel way overheated in the car, only the thing is, the heat isn’t on and it’s freezing outside. The thoughts start building up in your head until it feels like it’s going to explode. Then the hyperventilating starts. That’s fun. Try having someone suck all the air out of your head, only you’re still breathing in and breathing out. You’re sure you’re going to have a heart attack. This is it. You wish you had told your mom/wife/husband/kids you loved them.

Then…..amazingly…you live. You don’t have a heart attack, your breathing slows down eventually, your heart stops pounding like a hammer.

Now you know what it’s like to survive a panic attack.baby

G is for: Glassy-eyed, Gone, and Drooling—Oh My!

spockSometimes, I think, if the disease doesn’t kill me, the cure will. Here you see a cartoon with Captain Kirk complaining to Spock about his mind-melding techniques; that he would have expected a little more than “the lights are on but nobody is home.”

The reason I share this is not to poke fun of people ratcheting up the electricity bill in their homes. Not by far. I’m showing you this cartoon because it helps me to talk about something near and dear to my heart; psychiatrists in the U.S. (and perhaps other countries) over-prescribe to their patients. Especially benzodiazepines. Feeling anxious? Here: Klonopin, Ativan, or Xanax should have you feeling comfortably numb in no time. I get it, okay? And this is not a complete and total¬†indictment of psychiatrists all across the country. They are pressed for time. They have insurance issues to deal with, plus pharmacy reps coming in trying to sell them the latest and greatest drug out there.

deadhamsterSo no, this is not a slam¬†post. That was just an observation. The title of the post is much more personal. I’m on pretty high doses of medication right now, trying to get me off a manic phase. (Yes, please God, now.) I’m thinking better, not in so many different directions at once, but I still have flights of fancy (Of course I can do the A-Z Blog month, despite not making all the flash cards for my Maybury Farms volunteer post! I can do everything).¬†Never mind that I had no business signing up for the blog post competition. My mind, which knows me and loves me, also sees shiny things and wants to kill me. So we have this total love/hate thing going on.

When I first wake up in the morning, or even just before I go to bed at night, it’s best to not talk to me. I make absolutely no sense, even when I try my utmost. I imagine myself sounding like the teacher on the Peanuts cartoon show. So why do my closest loved ones stay by my side? Can’t they see that I’m so not worth it?

closedYesterday morning I actually turned to my mom and said, “What did you just say about pickles?”

“What?” she asked, not in a judgmental or an oh-you’ve-really-lost-it-this-time tone of voice.

I cleared my throat, tried to speak more slowly and articulate every word.

“What did you just say about pickles?” I asked again. It seemed really important to me, but—don’t ask me why.

“I didn’t say anything about pickles,” Mom responded, then she went back to her crossword puzzle, and I returned to looking at FaceBook and trying not to drool because—even though I’m constantly parched and thirsty from my meds, one of them gives me excess saliva. Oh, and it’s hard to swallow, so lots of times whatever I’m swallowing (sometimes just¬†saliva¬†) will go “down the wrong pipe,” causing coughing and choking fits until I can drink enough water to get past it. I look drugged. For the better part of the day my eyes are at half mast, and it drives me crazy. I have to really work to make myself understood, and if I’m excited about a topic?¬†Fuhgeddaboutit.¬†

I can count on a window of 2-2 1/2 hours in which to get any intelligible work done. That’s it. So it’s no wonder that, around 10:00, when it’s time to take my meds and my second wind starts to kick in, there’s a huge part of me that wants to¬†scream,¬†“I don’t want to take them and you can’t make me. Everyone is asleep, even the dog. No one is pulling at me for my attention. I could get so much done.” Which is why I stayed up past my bedtime last night, and sacrificed sleep for making more flash cards.

But—I see my shrink today, in a couple hours. I’ll go over all this with him. I don’t want to wander around in a drug-induced haze.

Hope it’s spring-like where you are. Feels wonderful here. I’ve made a commitment to go to the gym today, but I might change that up to taking Lucy for a walk.

Peace out. Take care o’ you. xx

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