Category: panic attacks

Depression, Anxiety, Robin Williams

I hesitated to do this post because like when Whitney Houston died I didn’t want to just be one more maudlin grab at attention from tragedy.  Everyone probably knows that Robin Williams died yesterday of an apparent suicide.

It’s strange because if you had asked me if I was a Robin Williams fan before yesterday I would have said ‘not any more’.  His comedic riffs seemed outdated and I was not a fan of his recent show The Crazy One’s.

And yet, when I heard about it I started to cry.  I’m not sure I can even explain it but it impacted me.

The 90’s were golden for Williams and that was when I grew up. Just like with Houston I seemed to have outgrown Robin Williams but when something like this happens you remember and mourn for a little bit of that innocence which is lost.

3 of his films really stand out- Dead Poets Society, Aladdin and Mrs Doubtfire.

These movies all seem very different but they all contain varying degrees of his manic comedic riffing but also had a lot of heart.

Mrs Doubtfire

Along with Home Alone I can’t remember a movie making me laugh more as a younger person but it had real heart too.

Dead Poets Society came out when I was only 8 so I learned about it from friends when I was in high school and it is one of the first tragedies I remember responding too.  Before that the movies were for fantasy, laughter and entertainment.

Dead Poets Society

It’s interesting a few weeks ago I did my Disney Tag and I mentioned thinking Aladdin was a bit overrated but since I made the video I’ve actually been thinking about it.  I was going to watch it and see what I thought.  I remember seeing it and laughing at all the jokes and great songs.  I don’t know if those jokes bear frequent repetition but I’m going to watch an old VHS and see.

I did say in that video if I could pick any person from a Disney movie to be my friend it would be Genie. After all ‘you aint never had a friend like’ him.

But even Aladdin had a moment of heart for our Genie

I guess I just want to say one more thing.  I think the reason why I cried yesterday doesn’t really have to do with movies at all.  I have seen addiction and depression wreak havoc on my extended family and I think most of us can say the same.

In fact, I have not been immune from depression and anxiety myself.  I’ve spoken about it many times on this blog.  I had a period of my life where I was so unhappy that I honestly doubted whether I could feel happiness again.  I seemed to be presented with happy things but never felt any real joy from them.

I remember my mother asked me ‘why is this so hard? You’ve faced a lot of hard things.  Why is this so tough for you?’

I said ‘because every other time I could see the out.  I could see the ending but I don’t any more.  I feel like there is a black cloud over my life and it won’t go away’.

It took a nervous breakdown to wake me up and make the changes I needed so I could rescue myself.  I will never forget staring at a plate of spaghetti and thinking ‘why isn’t the rest of my life this good?’ It was really scary to jump into the unknown but it was either that or I hate to think what I would have done further down that road.

Life presented me with a way to rescue myself and just after I quit my job I was unemployed for 6 months.  People kept asking if I was bored and I’d say ‘no way’.  What I didn’t tell them is I was healing.  I was remembering what made me special and happy.

And that was when I started this blog because I was smiling again.

I was rescued and it makes me sad when others are not.  Please try to reach out to those you love and tell them you are there for them.  If someone is going through depression don’t judge, just hug them and help them rescue themselves.  Pray for them.

Anyway, I don’t mean to be sad but it was on my mind and I wanted to share it with you.  God is there for you.  He loves all of us and He wants us to be happy.

 I am donating to St Jude’s hospital in honor of Robin Williams. stjude.org/donate

A Week in Chaos and No to Slam the Dam

So I’ve had an intense last couple of days.

Saturday- book club highlight of the day.  Great turn out, great friends, great discussion.  We read The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella which I’ve mentioned a number of times on this blog as a fav.  We had this great discussion about workaholism in the modern culture.  Then I went home and spent 5 hours on an audit for one of my jobs.  I finished drained and so glad I didn’t have to teach the next day

Sunday- went to church, fast Sunday.  Didn’t have to teach but didn’t get much spiritual feeding because my week to go to sharing time.  Then had dinner with my sister.  We had some girl talk and watched Downton Abbey.  I have so much I need to work on.  My personal life is far from perfect. It was fun and supportive but felt tired next Morning.

Monday- Found out that month end close was on the 5th this week instead of the 10th and I was going to be out of town on the 5th.  Serves me right for taking a day off work!  Stressed out all day.  Then miracle of miracles Avalara called me and said they could move up my closing to the 3rd so I could get everything done.  Great news!   Stress has moved into the anxiety stage but some relief (most dangerous kind of anxiety is when you think it has been resolved and let your guard down). 10 hour work day

Tuesday-  Found out my ride to Henderson to stay with my Aunt and Uncle wasn’t going to work out.  (The details don’t matter but it was a  communication problem that caused me a lot of anxiety).  Felt unprepared for race.  Spent $100+ on race already.  Couldn’t decide what to do.  Was supposed to be fun but then with all the work anxiety and mechanics of it all it was anything but fun and certainly not relaxing.  I had a decision to make could either stay here, give up on my plans, or find a way out there and swim a race I was unprepared for but could probably do anyway?  My fear was if I didn’t go I would just end up working anyways and then be ready for a mental ward by Saturday….10 hour work day

Wednesday- Had a big long cry, near panic attack.  Felt overwhelmed by everything.  And then like a bolt of lightning I just knew ‘I have to make a decision.”  and then I knew “I’m not going” and I immediately felt a confirmation this was the right choice.  Seriously a lightness I had not felt in a long time came over me and I smiled.  My Dad called me about 5 seconds after hearing me in sobs and couldn’t believe the transformation.  All it took was a decision to be made.

Then I said what can I do to relax instead of working if I stay?  My solution- go to City Center Marriott (my favorite as it was my victory celebration when I quit my job in 2007) from Tuesday to Monday morning get a room all to myself and watch Conference and enjoy.  They have the best pool, hot tub, robes, sheets.  I know I will be able to sleep well.  Its near everything (in the center of the city!).  I want to try out some cool restaurants and really try to relax.  If this doesn’t work than maybe I really have lost the ability to relax.  I think my mission sucked the power out of me.

So, it was a hard decision.  I loved the race last ever and had a great experience but sometimes you have to do what is best for your brain and body even if it doesn’t match up with your goals.  My eye still has sutures and my equilibrium is still off.  I had maybe 3 swims in September and today I was training with Michele and I about passed out doing stair steps.  Don’t know if from overwork or my eyes.  Either way my body just isn’t itself at the moment and there is nothing I can do about that.

I know the next 3 months are going to be hyper stressful with a move, packing up, closing on a house, finding tenants etc and maybe I needed this break to be able to handle all of that (which is way overwhelming)?

Maybe Heavenly Father just knew I needed to focus on Conference this October because my spiritual canteen has been feeling low (only so much I can gain all by myself).  My family might come to the hotel and enjoy it with me but I told them NO WORK TALK!!!!  NO DRAMA!

I wish I was better at handling anxiety.  I wish I could do more and be more but then I think of all I do and wonder maybe I do too much?  Then there are slow weeks where I am itching for things to do.  Balance  between work and life are impossible for me.  Thank goodness for my friends who keep me sane. Thank goodness for boxing and swimming and thank goodness for my parents for loving me and not judging when I struggle.

So there it is.  That was my decision making process.  I know it was the right thing to do so it will be interesting to see what my Heavenly Father has in store for me.

Things to Help and Hurt an Anxiety Attack

Cycle of Anxiety

Hello readers.  As you all know I suffer from mild anxiety and occasional panic attacks.  I find that those not familiar with mental illness struggle to help people out of an attack.  I am no doctor but after dealing with this for most my adult life here’s my advice

THINGS THAT HELP

1. Continual encouragement.  Remind them the episode is like a foot cramp, temporary and it will be over. ‘You can do this’.  ‘This is really hard’.  ‘We love you no matter what’.

2. Remind them of the deep breathing exercises and get them to walk, eat, do something physical.  Make sure they are not suicidal and do not need immediate hospitalization.   If they really can’t breathe and their symptoms are getting severe (heart palpitations, seizures, temperature) take them to the hospital.

3. Ask them to think of some of the processing skills learned in therapy.  In my case I study cognitive therapy so using my charts to write it out can help.

4. Remind them that they are not stupid and then when they inevitably feel guilty over the attack and apologize just let it go say something like ‘that’s what family is for’ or ‘we are always there for you’

5. Try to be empathetic and tell them (even if you have a to fake it a little) ‘I can see how that would be very upsetting’.

6.  Distraction can be very helpful in calming down the mood.  A song, a board game, a trip to anywhere can be helpful.

7. Medication can be a powerful and helpful tool.  I use it on an as needed basis and sometimes it has saved my life.

8.  Get them to make a decision.  Often for me the what if’s, should be’s and what will they thinks are  at the root of most of my anxiety.  By making a decision I am taking control and will feel more confident (sometimes quite dramatically).

9.  In general I find to be as practical as possible is helpful.  What I mean is get them to think of something practical they can do immediately to give some confidence like make a sandwich, get a glass of water, or do an errand.

10.  Realize some people may be triggers and should just be avoided during this sensitive period.

11.  Meditation and essential oils really do help me.

12.  Realize that every anxiety/panic attack I’ve had has been one of the scariest experiences of my life.  For about 30 seconds I feel like I’m going to die.  It is awful.

I’ve learned a lot over the years but I will always have the potential for anxiety. It will never completely go away.

THINGS TO NOT DO!

1. Do not tell them that things could be so much worse and life is terrible for wounded warriors or starving children in Malaysia and that we should all just ‘grow up’.   I feel anxious just writing that sentence down.

2. Do not try to solve whatever problem it is at least at first.  My first panic attack I ever had was because a kindly boss agreed to solve an employee dispute I was in on Monday.  This meant I had 3 days to worry and panic about what would happen.

3. Saying things like ‘well, you should just quit your job/marriage/friendship whatever if its causing such anxiety’ is not really helpful.

3. Do not assume they need to talk it out.  That can be the worst thing.   Eventually yes, but not in the moment of the attack.

4.  Do not tell them you understand unless you really understand.

5. PROBABLY MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL-  Do not look for or expect a rational explanation or problem.  Again, people have anxiety over opening a door or shaking a hand.  It is not a rational experience.  That does not mean it is stupid or they are a weirdo.  We all have irrational responses to life.  How many of us shrink back at a garden snake that is harmless or shriek at a spider that is almost always harmless.

6.  At least for me solving the exact trigger for the panic attack does not help much because it like fixing a decoration of a cake made out of glue.  The tipping point is just one part of all of the things, so trying to fix that one thing does nothing and may add additional anxiety.

7.  Realize that stress and anxiety are not the same thing.  My last post I wrote about stress.  That is day to day, how am I going to get everything done emotion.  Anxiety is like a fever of the brain.

8.  Don’t assume saying ‘calm down’ will do the trick.  That puts pressure on the person and can actually cause more anxiety.   “I love you”.  “You can do this”.  “It will be Ok”  Much better.

READ FEELING GOOD by DAVID BURNS.  It gives you so many PRACTICAL solutions to help.

Long of short of it- I’m not going to slam the dam any more.  Extrapolate from that and the post above what you will 🙂

Ok.  Got tons of work to do today.  Getting to it!  🙂

I took from some inspiration for this post from Jamie from her blog James and Jax blog.  Her post is great as well and I did get her permission for using her inspiration.   http://jamesandjax.com/2012/04/09/what-to-say-to-someone-having-anxiety-6-suggestions/