Tag: anxiety

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  His comedic riffs seemed outdated and I was not a fan of his recent show The Crazy One’s.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

No Sleep

Last night I got no sleep.  I was tired all day and had to go to the house in Alpine to show someone around.  Worried I would be a drowsy driver I drank some caffeine around 4:30 and I bitterly regretted it by the end of the night.  Plus, my ambien prescription is out and that seems to be the only thing that really helps.

It was a long night.  I kept trying different strategies but nothing worked.  (Deep breathing, counting sheep, listening to audiobook, reading, nothing).  Finally around 4:30 I gave up and decided to start working since I was up anyway.  Its peculiar  because usually this happens when I’m worn out or frazzled but I felt fine.  No real stress. The only thing I can put my finger on is that stupid diet coke I drank.  I used to drink a super big gulp everyday, sometimes 2 and it wouldn’t affect me much but not any more.

I tried to take melatonin but it wasn’t helping.  Nothing was helping.

How do I get in these cycles  you ask?  Well, I stayed up too late during my recent trip and ever since then I’ve had a hard time going to sleep before 2 am.  Sometimes more like 3 am.  My body will be tired but my eyes will be wide awake.  At a certain point you start to have anxiety about not being able to sleep and it gets worse and worse.

I know it affects me in many ways.  Luckily I have a job that is flexible and I can even work late at night if all else fails.  But its hard to be motivated to exercise when you are so tired and a lot of the swim masters are at 6 or 6:30 and I’m sorry but I need more than 4 hours of sleep a night.

Last Fall I went to an insomnia specialist and she helped me get things on track so perhaps I need to see her again.  Meanwhile I’m trying to stay up till 8 or 9 tonight so I don’t wake up at some crazy hour.  Its literally painful.  My eyes hurt, head hurts, my stomach is bothering me and I have no appetite.

I don’t mean to be complaining.  Its just insomnia is the worst!

Do you guys have any strategies that work for you? I’ve also done the sleep studies and have a cpap but it makes my insomnia really bad so I don’t wear it often.  Some days my room helps me a lot with all its beautiful darkness and other days my whole body feels tight and I can’t relax.

Tired Rachel
Tired Rachel

By the way, this is my 700th blog post.  Pretty crazy right! Thanks to all who read it.

DNF is Not a 4 Letter Word

For those of you who do not follow me on facebook you might not be aware of the recent drama in my life.  It started in the summer when my new friend Tanya and I started training together.  She was new to open water.  New to swimming in fact.  She is a student of my friend Kate who is a fabulous swim instructor for adults.  She’s introduced so many people to swimming and open water over the years and has helped me tons with my own stroke.

In July Tania mentioned to me that she wanted to prepare for a race but didn’t feel she would be ready for Deer Creek in August.  The next obvious choice was to take the trip out to Slam the Dam in Las Vegas at the beginning of October.  I have done this race in 2011 and it was a lot of fun.  I figured why not?  (I had signed up last year but various dramas kept me from attending).

So the training began and we got to blackridge pond as often as we could and we both saw improvement.  More importantly we had fun and became dear friends.

Tania and me.
Tanya and me.

Tanya is honestly good for my ego because she thinks I’m such a good swimmer.  I love to swim but pretty much always know I’m the slowest girl in the room and I’m ok with that.  I get the job done and that’s all that matters to me.  I’ve told Tanya repeatedly over these weeks ‘this is a hobby.  If it isn’t fun you are doing something wrong’.

That said, I’ve had nagging doubts about my abilities all along.  With my back and other chronic pain I haven’t been able to train as hard as last year, it was frustrating for me to feel like I wasn’t the swimmer I was just a few months ago.  These anxieties were made worse by the realization of a strict time limit at Slam the Dam.  For some unknown reason the park service would only give them until 11 am and then everyone has to be done.

This only gives the 1.2 mile swimmers 1 hour to swim.  The organizers have told me it is ‘plenty of time for a swim’ but they don’t understand or aren’t interested in nurturing new/nontraditional athletes.  My best time on a 1 mile swim is 53 minutes. At Deer Creek my time was 1 hr 2 minutes for 1 mile.

To make matters worse they sent out an email last week saying “If you are not adequately prepared mentally and/or physically, do not race”  What does that even mean?  I’m not mentally prepared for life let alone a race.  I mean who feels adequately prepared for something so monumental?  I bet if you asked Michael Phelps he’d tell you things he wished he’d done or worked harder on.  To me this was baffling and kind of mean-spirited. (and I begged for some kind of an accommodation but no go)

They have also made it clear that you will be pulled from the water if you go over time, which I’m ok with but I just wish the time limit didn’t exist.  It honestly makes me sick inside.  Sick for my friend.  Sick for me.  Sick for all the other new swimmers who will be discouraged from participating.  A side of me wants to throw in the towel and not make the effort to drive out there and be humiliated…

But where’s the victory in that? I’d say there is about a 50/50 chance depending on weather, current, course, strength, stroke etc that I finish the race.  My GSL time after all was 1 hr 24 minutes so not even close to the cut off time because of the strong current. (Thank you Utah races for not having a time limit or at least a strictly enforced one).

50/50…so I either succeed and have a triumphant moment or I get a DNF (Did Not Finish).  Even now there is a side of me that shudders when I say those words.  It is so outside of my nature to not finish, and yet isn’t it always a possibility in any endeavor?  At least anything worth doing can be a success or failure?

The funny thing is  the ingredients are nearly the same for a finish and a DNF- both have training, goal setting, driving, racing, happy friends and lots of people who say to me ‘I could never do that’.  The only difference is me and my pride.  Kind of silly…

I love what JK Rowling says about failure. ” It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default”

I don’t want to fail by default.  For me a DNF will be a DNQ (Did Not Quit)

swimmingHow do you guys deal with DNF’s and potential failures in your goals?  Its especially hard when it is so outside of your control.  What are your strategies?

I can definitely promise you this- I will not be swimming Slam the Dam again anytime soon.  If they only want athletes with a specific set of skills than they have got it.  This will be the last year myself or my blog are involved.  Too bad really…

I’ve gotten some great encouragement on facebook from the swim forums.  Thanks everyone!

More Delays

Some of you that don’t follow me on facebook may be curious to know where my house is at.  Unfortunately I don’t have great news.  The house is done and gorgeous but I can’t go through closing until the FHA on the complex gets approved.  I’m not going to hear anything until Tuesday because of the Monday holiday.  We have no idea if we will even hear anything then. I think I am going to go crazy!

To make matters worse we could go through all of this and get denied for the myriad of reasons FHA has. I’m trying to not think about that because it is highly unlikely but still possible and with so much time to stew on things the mind reels. Yesterday I caused myself to have a mini-panic attack trying to decide between keeping with the FHA loan or abandoning it and going conventional.  In the end, I decided to stick with what I have and not second guess myself.

So now it is just waiting. The house is done.  It’s sitting there and I’m waiting.

In the meantime I’m trying to curtail my anxiety and fears as best I can.  Mostly I’m trying to distract myself from the boxes and the continually rescheduled moves and the looming loan and closure and some moments I do better than others.  A lot of the day my brain feels like it is going to explode.  Like I’m in a big vice and it gets tighter and tighter.  I’m left wondering what I can do and the answer is nothing and that makes things tighter and tighter.

So all there is to do is wait and sigh and try to distract myself.  I wish I could explain it better but the attempt feels totally futile.   I’m not stressed out, I’m not even anxious.  You know that feeling when you are just about to throw up, like your insides are going to pop outside of you?  That’s how I feel all the time. I wish I could help it.  I wish I could make it go away.  I wish I could grow up and deal with things better.  Sorry I’m really trying.

I am trying to make things nice for my tenants by ordering a POD to be delivered at the house on Monday so they can do part of the move on Monday if they wish.  It’s the least I can do with all they have put up with.

And all I can do is wait…

Control

I am relaxing tonight after a long week.  Work on my house has been clipping along and it looks like I can do the walk through on Monday! Still not sure on closing because of an FHA approval that is ‘in process’ (that is all the government will tell us.  Sigh!).   The house looks great and I’m very happy with it.

It makes me happy as well that my tenants are happy with it and  “LOVE it” (from their text caps and all).   They certainly have been through a lot waiting for this house right along with me and I’ve been so grateful for their patience and kindness.  I definitely chose the right people to share a home with!

Strangely the building (and waiting) of my house was actually the happy part of the week.  It was a very intense week at work with end of the month and end of the year responsibilities.  I’m still packing up my house and had a full schedule.

The real mess started with my soon to be roommate staying up at my Dad’s rental while my house is being finished.  I felt bad but the situation got worse with a break in, her laptop getting stolen and a missing person’s case forcing the police back up to the house.  Then to make matters worse I was still showing the house to potential tenants.  On Wednesday someone looked at the house and LOVED it.  They said ‘we want to sign the contract and get in asap’.

In fact, they wanted to get in the house on Saturday (tomorrow), giving me only 3 days to get the house cleaned, carpet cleaned, move my Dad’s stuff, get it ready to go. Not to mention getting my roommate moved ( I feel so bad about that! The woman deserves Sainthood for all she’s been through).

At first I said no way but then the money convinced me to give it a try.  (Stupid!).  Me and the manager worked very hard to get everything ready but with the snow storm it became clear yesterday that it wasn’t going to happen.  We didn’t want to endanger the cleaners or make things unsafe.

I tried to call, text and email them about the delay and didn’t hear back from them so we kept on working.  Stacia, the manager, worked after getting a root canal done that morning!  Then finally at the end of the day (while I still got my 8 hours in for my regular job and missed my swim!) they sent me a text saying they got ‘cold feet because of the storm’.  Sigh…

It was super frustrating.  I just wish they had expressed some concerns to me sooner or at least been more up front with me yesterday so we hadn’t killed ourselves working on such a tight deadline.  I’m exhausted!

Anyway, it’s just as well.  What made me think of this is I was talking to someone today and they said

‘I’m more of a Spartan when handling such things’

and

‘Why waste energy and anxiety over things you have no control over?’

This made me feel a little sad because I hate being weak.  Sometimes it feels like everyone else is tougher, stronger, braver, better than me and I’m a big wimp.

Here’s the thing I realized- Maybe I am the Spartan because I do get through it all and channel anxiety in the best way I know how?   I take the burden of my fears and worry and still complete the goals in my life.  Doesn’t that in a way make me twice as tough?

Here’s the second thing- I also do it for the most part completely alone.   Yes, I have family and friends who love and support me (thank you!) but as far as the day to day financial, work, social decisions of my life I take all the pressure and have to make all the decisions.

I know women who have made almost no decisions independently of a spouse or parent in their life, ever.  I think it can be hard for these types of people to understand the pressure, anxiety and fear that can go into each choice.

If I have a fear that everything will go wrong and an anxiety for the future maybe it is because I’ve fallen flat on my face enough in life to know how much it sucks?  I think in a way it is a protective instinct.  To protect me from the pain I try to prepare for it.  I also feel like once I had my first panic attack my brain changed and I just don’t absorb things like I used to.  I fear going through that again because it was awful.

Just look at this house- it is 100% all me.  I made every choice as far as colors, size, dimensions, income property, tenants, everything.  Getting the loan, picking the location, going through closing will be only me.  Again, that is a lot of pressure. If it fails I am the one that is blamed.   It is the same way with my work- all 3 of my jobs. Yes, I have associates and support but in the end it is me alone in my apartment working.  No substitutes, no excuses.

And I do it all with a diagnosed anxiety disorder…maybe I’m not so weak?

Here’s the third thing- Asking the question ‘why worry about things you can’t control?’ is sort of redundant for anxiety sufferers because

I can’t control my anxiety!

Yes, I can channel it; and yes, I can learn to react to it more effectively but at a certain point it is there and just like any other illness you have, and you must work with your body to respond in a healthy way.

This is so hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced that out of control feeling but believe me it is real.  I actually feel I have handled things pretty well considering.  Believe me if I had given into every moment of anxiety I felt I would have been way more of a mess!

So there you go world- Just think about it when you use that CONTROL word because what is in my control as far as anxiety may be just as challenging as my control over FHA approvals or anything else.

CONTROL (Maybe that’s why I like blogging I can control it and it is all mine!)

What do you all think about control and dealing with pressure?  I’d be especially curious to hear from my single friends that have to do a lion-share of the decision making and how they deal with that? Especially singles who have purchased homes!

130111-193125
Trying to figure everything out
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Worrying Rachel
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Try to smile through the fears

An Absorber

Something has been on my mind that maybe all of you, internet world, can have some insight into.  Maybe you can relate?

Do any of you have friends who seem to be able to handle just about anything that is thrown at them? What I mean is I have friends and family in my life that never get unglued, never feel panic or anxiety, and we are talking after dealing with some serious trials and yet they bounce back so well.  Do you have people in your life who keep a constant calm while the world is swirling around them?

I envy those people.  As much as I try I just can’t do it.  In fact, I have to consciously allow myself to express anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed or the problem only gets worse.  The whole reason I had my first panic attack was because I balled everything up inside of me for 3 years until it exploded. I learned the hard way that keeping it all in my head only made things a million times worse for me.

This week I am feeling haggard and worn out.  Trying to manage 3 jobs, moving, waiting for the house and the loan, managing my tenants, finding tenants for one of my Dad’s properties who wants to be in by Saturday which necessitated the moving of my tenants (sigh…) and going to a new ward.  All of that in one week!

And yet I think of my friends with special needs kids or a myriad of other challenges and my problems seem so small; yet that doesn’t stop my brain from feeling like it is going to explode.  My heart starts to race.  My head aches.

I guess when it comes down to it I wish I could be more of an absorber.  It makes me feel weak that life wallops me so often.  I honestly try to be stronger but again that can make it all worse.   I see little improvements in how I handle anxiety and I ALWAYS finish what I start but the journey can be rough.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve turned into kind of a lousy adult because I come unglued so easily.  Things seem to make me nervous or anxious that other people don’t even care about.

For example, I was talking with a friend about my frustrations over being alone for Christmas and she mentioned all of the great things she did when she was alone at Christmas and it made me feel more frustrated.  It just feels sometimes like others have it all figured out and I am playing catch up.  Do you ever feel that way?

I think the challenge is finding that balance between improving myself and self-acceptance.  I want to do better and I certainly don’t want to feel anxiety but then I also want to acknowledge what I am feeling and deal with it in a constructive way.

I don’t know if any of this makes any sense so please tell me if you see any of this in your life?

How can I do better?  How can I be more of an ABSORBER?  What do you do to manage anxiety in your life in a productive way?

On a related note, one of my frustrations is that it is difficult to adequately describe how I feel.  Stress definitely doesn’t encapsulate it and anxiety is really too clinical for most people.  Pressure or feeling overwhelmed is the best I can do.  I think this image says a lot more than my words ever could.

ID-10087052

Two Week Notice

stress11

Today I found out that my house is officially delayed by 2 weeks…sigh.  The cabinets took longer to install and now the countertops aren’t ready until next week.  I might get lucky and things will be done sooner but at this rate I wouldn’t count on it.  I have increased my leave date in my apartment complex and let my tenants know.  They were all bummed about the delay but understanding, which I am SO grateful for.  I really found the best people ever for my new place.  Everything would be so much more stressful if they were unhappy.

The truth is it is out of my hands but that is exactly what makes it so nerve-wracking.  I am just at the whim of this other group, tossed about from one week to another.  That is very frustrating, but also the nature of the beast.

Any of you out there have any strategies for dealing with the next few weeks in a healthy way? Maintaining my anxiety, not getting to worked up, etc?  I kind of wish I hadn’t started packing so early because it adds to the sense of chaos and lack of control in my life, creating more anxiety, but how was I to know? As late as last week they were still committing to the 31st as the end date so you have to prepare for that.

I’ve been trying deep breathing, my sleep hygiene, exercise, essential oils, and even some medicine on occasion, but what other tools help all of you out there dealing with anxiety during intense times of change?  I would really appreciate some feedback on this one.

Have any of you built a house? Perhaps you can relate to what I’m experiencing.  I’m now realizing what a bold move it was to dive into not only home ownership but a build and an income property and I know that is part of what is overwhelming.  However, on the same breath I know it is right but the right things can be overwhelming and full of anxiety (ie pretty much every day on my mission…).

I would love to hear your experiences from any of you that have been through home builds.  Unless it’s horror stories.  Save those for another day!

At least I know what’s coming and am not waiting in limbo for contractors to get back to the builder.  That was worse than a delay.  In the meantime, I’m trying to count my blessings and manage my anxiety that is nearly constantly bubbling inside me (I told my Mom today I can’t help it.  It’s just there all the time.  I can help how I respond to it but not make it go away).

5 Love Languages at Christmas

Think of the 5 languages next time you are watching your favorite Christmas movie!
Think of the 5 languages next time you’re watching your favorite Christmas movie!

Having a relationship free Christmas with no family/spouse to spend it with has made me think a lot about past holidays and why some were more effective and loving than others? What made one Christmas happier and lighter in feel than others?

I’ll be honest when I was in college we had a pretty mean streak of chaotic Christmas breaks.  For about 3 years some or all of us ended up getting sick, my parents had a new baby (always tough) and they had just moved to California and hadn’t really settled in.  Life was a challenge.

That said, we did always manage to leave the season with a sense of unity and purpose and particularly Christmas Day never failed to be magical. A lot of this credit goes to my Mother who does whatever she can to make our somewhat odd family united.

Anyway, I was thinking about what I could have done in some of those hard years to make things better?  It’s hard to say because I was exhausted from school and ill equipped to deal with a family under duress.  I was also immature and eager to get back to my independent life. A baby and young toddler were the last thing I wanted to deal with and my response was probably on the selfish side; although I do think I tried.

I sometimes think it would be easier if I had friends in California but since I only lived there for 9 months, even today, I end up working most of break which doesn’t make it much of a break for me.  Plus, I find I turn into this different person when I am home.  More of a nag and less of a carefree, happy person.  Do any of you see that with your own behavior at home? I’m not sure why I do that?

While I was pondering these past Christmases I thought about how Christmas is like a little microcosm of all the ways we experience love (and its opposite) jam-packed into one month. There are so many opportunities to think of others and to receive love in return that it is really like no other time of the year, but again how can we make those interactions more effective?

I’m sure most of you have heard about the 5 Love Languages.  They are by Dr. Gary Chapman and have been a part of a number of his bestselling books. While possibly a bit gimmicky, I have found them to be very helpful in my friendships and family relationships over the years and today I was thinking about how much they relate to Christmas.   In fact, I think the success of a Christmas depends on our ability to express love in each of the 5 ways, and in the way others need that love:

5 Love Languages of Christmas

1. Quality Time-  This is the type of person that will get very frustrated by a slew of activities that are rushed through (how many of us do that at Christmas!).  They want time for ‘meaningful conversation’ and ‘eye contact and shared activities are needed to feel loved’ (I  wonder how many people felt ostracized from me because I couldn’t make eye contact with them with my strabismus?).

Basically bonding time is what they need most of all.   For example, this person would probably not be well suited to seeing a movie Christmas Day but would rather sit and talk over cookies.

My parents aren’t really ‘event’ people, meaning they enjoy doing things with all of us, but I don’t think they see it as an important expression of love.  They would see all the time spent with me on the phone as more important than any activity we might do together (which for me is definitely the case; although I am also an activity person).  In the past I have gotten frustrated when my family doesn’t seem as energized as I am about something important to me but maybe that is just not the way they express love?  Hmmmm

2. Receiving Gifts- This is probably the clearest link to the holidays and most treacherous.  Following the example of the magi of old we give gifts during the holidays and most of us try to give something thoughtful that the other person will like.  With children it is often the quantity of the gifts that stand out where an adult may get one or two more carefully chosen gifts.

Here’s the rub- some people, as Dr. Gray points out, just don’t think gifts are an important expression of love; for others it is key.   I can think of people in my family who land on both ends of the spectrum.  My Dad, for instance, is not a huge gift person.  He likes them fine but it’s definitely not his language.

One year I got my brother in the Christmas drawing and he said ‘ughh, Rachel is a bad gift-giver’ and I was so offended.  (It may have been his strategy because I gave him a sweet gift to prove him wrong!).  Giving and receiving gifts is important to me and I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give an effective gift- https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/good-gifts/

Dr. Gray says “When you are with a partner who love little gifts and surprises, this is precisely what you will get. You will constantly be showered with new clothes, flowers or even chocolates. This is how they want to be loved, so this is exactly what they do for their partners. Giving the gift of self is also an important symbol of love to these people.”

On the other hand when someone is not a gift love language person it can come across as cold and distant to those who are. I can think of several Christmases I would have been happier had my expectations of both receiving and giving of gifts been aligned with the person on the opposite end of the gift.  Something to think about!

3. Words of Affection- This is a person who needs positive reinforcement vocally to feel loved.  Dr.  Gray says “those who speak this language are sensitive people and don’t take criticism as well as others. They may illustrate their frustrations by using sharp words or even by harassing you.” (sound like a holiday you have experienced!).  I probably fall into this language most of all; although, I have also learned over the years to hold feelings inside causing me anxiety and even panic.  That’s how unnatural it is for me to not communicate my feelings.

This type of love language can be a powder keg when large gatherings combine lots of personality traits together, giving ample opportunity for snubs, slights and over-reactions.  Even just the anxiety of reinforcing others and then not getting it back like you might have hoped can be difficult.  For example, someone who is shy and private may have a hard time communicating with someone who needs words of affection.

On the other hand, this expression can be full to overflowing in the positive during Christmas as people share testimony of the Savior, and we feel Jesus’ love stronger than the rest of the year.  Plus, cards, carolers, party-goers and family members all get ample opportunity to shower each other with words of love.  It just helps to know that is what your loved one needs.  Watch out for his or her patterns this year.

I can think of so many people who are great at this.  My best friend Emily comes to mind.  She is loving and thoughtful and we have a very similar type of love expression which is good for a best friend! :).  My old roommate Camille is also excellent at absorbing large personalities.  She is such a great listener, a necessary companion to being a words of affection person.

4. Physical Touch- This is probably the least visible during the holidays but certainly present.  As we visit with loved one’s hugs and other physical touch are a part of feeling warmly welcomed and loved.  If you are someone like me who is not a cuddly person sometimes such affections can be difficult to initiate but still appreciated.

It’s interesting after I showed my new roommate the house we were chatting and at the end of the conversation she said ‘Can I give you a hug?’.  I don’t know her well enough to say she is a physical touch person but suffice it to say I would never have made a similar gesture and t was very friendly.  Made me feel all the more confident in her character and that she would be a good roommate.

5. Acts of Service- Dr Gray defines this as “Some people find pleasure in doing things for others.  This may mean that they will feel loved when their partners help out with chores or does things for them.  However acts of service should be done out of love, not obligation”.

I was not always so great at the doing it out of love part but I did it and that counts for something.  Again, I was immature and craving my independence.  This did not always make for the most willing servant for my family, but we did work hard.

I remember one of the most difficult Christmas times my mother was injured and my Dad was sick and when we came into the house my Mother said ‘I hope you have come with an attitude of service’.   I’m sure I wasn’t perfect but I remember trying to serve.  My Sister (who was always better at this than me. Perhaps it is her language of love?) and I planned and cooked for a church party my Dad had scheduled weeks before the injury or illness nearly cancelled it.  I know it meant a lot to my Mom to have our help and I look back on it with gratitude to my Heavenly Father for giving me the chance to serve.

I have always been involved with service for the community around Christmas.  For years I did sub-4-santa, even when I was in high school, and have one planned this year for a family friend.  I am also taking the lead on Swimfest which I see as service to my swim family.  Next Tuesday I am going with my activity days girls to sing at the senior center near my house- another great opportunity to serve during Christmas.  (The girls requested going to the center! Isn’t that cute?)

So those are the 5 love languages.  I hope that you can think about them as you try to express love this Christmas season.  The most important thing to remember is that Jesus Christ, the reason for the season, understands our language perfectly and can love us like nobody on earth. In fact, He already has shown the ultimate love by giving us His life so we could be forgiven and be happy.  Returning to His presence with our eternal families makes all of life’s struggles worth it (and the happy times extra sweet).  Merry Christmas!

NativityScene

Change Your Brain Change Your Life

I’ve recently found a book that I wanted to share with you.  As any reader knows I have struggled with anxiety since a panic attack in 2007 changed my life forever.  I have improved a lot but things have never quite been the same.  Even just this week I felt life overwhelming me.  I knew things would turn out fine but that didn’t seem to stop things from boiling up inside of me.  I’ve gotten better at how I respond to the boiling feeling but not making it go away just yet.   I’d tell you all the details but they really don’t matter.  As I’ve said a million times anxiety is not a logical experience so it doesn’t make any sense when you describe it.

Cognitive therapy has helped me immensely over the years especially Dr.  David Burns book Feeling Good which I’ve praised many times on this blog.  It is a cheap book go out and BUY it! Even if you don’t struggle from a diagnosable mental illness such as depression or anxiety his thoughts on distorted thinking will help anyone (For the list of distorted thought patterns read this post https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/feeling-good/).  An example is if you make a mistake your distorted thought might be ‘I’m a total screw up and never do anything right”.  Nobody is such an extreme but how many times does Satan fix that thought into our heads?  I know he does it to me far too often.

Anyway, another book that I’ve recently been introduced to and found very helpful is called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Dr.  Daniel G Amen.  While admittedly a little dry and scientific, I found this book to be fascinating and extremely helpful.  Dr.  Amen, a psychiatrist, has studied brain scans of mental illness patients to look for patterns depending on the illness.  What he found is certain areas of the brain are more active in patients with one condition and other areas for other conditions.  For instance, in anxiety patients the basal ganglia area of the brain is more active than in a normal functioning brain.

An example of Dr. Amen’s brain imaging

The basal ganglia ‘are a set of large structures towards the center of the brain that surround the deep limbic system.  They are involved with integrating feelings, thoughts and movement, along with helping to shift and smooth motor behavior.  The basal ganglia are involved with setting the body’s idle speed or anxiety level.  In addition they help modulate motivation and are likely involved with feelings of pleasure and ecstasy. ”

So basically this is the area of the brain that tells you when to “jump when you’re excited, tremble when you’re nervous, freeze when you are scared or tongue-tied when the boss is chewing you out.  The basal ganglia allow for a smooth integration of emotions, thoughts and physical movements and when there is too much input, they tend to lock up“.

Excuse the long quote but I found that to be the most amazing thing.   That when I feel like I’m boiling inside its because my brain is basically boiling inside! Here are physical proof of physical symptoms of what for so long was viewed as something purely mental.  What a relief! I’ve always thought the experience I had in 2007 changed something inside of me and now I think it might have really done that. I wonder what Dr.  Amen would have seen in a pre-2007 scan and post of me?

Dr. Amen chocks the book full of case studies and characteristics of increased basal ganglia activity including conflict avoidance, nervous tics and fine motor problems, but the one I found the most interesting was ‘low and high motivation’.  Tell me if this describes someone you know… ”

“They tend to work excessive hours.  In fact, weekends tend to be the hardest time for these people.  During hte week, they charge through each day, getting things done.  On the weekend, during unstructured time, they often complain of feeling restless, anxious and out of sorts.  Relaxation is foreign to them.  In fact, it is downright uncomfortable.  Workaholics may be made in the basal ganglia.  Their internal idle speed, or energy level, doesn’t allow them to rest.  Of course, there is positive correlate.  Many of the people in society who make things happen are driven by basal ganglia that keep them working for long periods of time”  (Could this possibly be said blogger who wrote a 105 page novel in 8 days…)

All of this would be interesting but not empowering if left on its own but Dr. Amen’s next chapter gives 8 prescriptions to dealing with basal ganglia activity.  I have a feeling I will be working on applying all 8 for many years to come (none of these are exactly new to me but the combination of them I found very encouraging and illuminating.)

Prescriptions for “optimizing and healing problems with the basal ganglia”:

1. Kill the Fortune Telling ANTS (automatic negative thoughts)- I was already working on this with Dr. Burns distorted thoughts and Dr. Amen gives similar advice still good reminder.  I had a great example of negative fortune telling this week.  I signed a new contract on my house and I started to feel some anxiety about the new price with upgrades and additions that had built up.  I had convinced myself it was going to be astronomical and it ended up being about 2k more than my original contract.  Bad fortune telling ANTS!

2. Use Guided Imagery- “Find a quiet spot where you can go and be alone for 20 to 30 minutes every day.  Sit in a comfortable chair and train your mind to be quiet. In your mind’s eye choose your own special haven.  Imagine your special place with all your senses.  The more vivid your imagination the more you’ll be able to let yourself go into the image.  If negative thoughts intrude, notice them but don’t dwell on them.  Refocus on your safe haven.  Enjoy your mini vacation.”  This is definitely Hawaii for me and with my insomnia specialist’s encouragement I have been doing an hour of soothing activities before I go to bed and I was skeptical but it does seem to be helping.

3. Diaphragmatic Breathing- This is the low breathing you do when you sing.  (I wonder if that’s why my voice lessons are such a soothing experience for me?)

4. Meditation and Self Hypnosis- similar to the guided imagery Dr.  Amen gives a guide for the self-hypnosis which I must admit I haven’t tried yet but want to but it is mostly about focusing on tranquility and relaxing your body.

5. Think about the 18/40/60 rule- This was brilliant.  “When you’re 18, you worry about what everybody is thinking of you;  When you’re 40, you don’t give a hoot about what anybody thinks about you; When you’re 60 you realize nobody’s been thinking about you at all”.  How much energy is wasted on worrying about what others think about you?

I think I’ve gotten better about this as I’ve gotten older (maybe because I’m nearing the 40) but it creeps back in every now and then.  For example, the other day a person implied fairly strongly she thought I was lonely and desperate to get a man and the idea made me crazy.  I am not and and the idea I could be giving that kind of impression really upset me, but that’s not who I am so why do I care?  I wish I could explain it but all I can do is keep improving.

6. Learn How to Deal with Conflict- This is probably my worst one of the whole bunch.  Both panic attacks I’ve had were because of an intense fear of conflict (and a fear of looking like an idiot despite a valid case, so looking stupid in conflict). I’ve gone 48 hours with no sleep because I was so terrified of a conflict with a person.

Dr. Amen says ‘asserting yourself in a healthy manner’ is the key.  That the keys to effective conflict management are “1. Don’t give into anger, 2. Don’t allow the opinions of others to control how you feel about yourself.  3. Say what you mean and stick up for what you believe is right. 4. Maintain self control, 5. Be kind, if possible, but above all be firm in your stance.”

Easier said than done. I think being bullied as a child has always left me with an insecurity that I won’t be listened to in conflict. I don’t know if I’ve ever walked away from a conflict feeling like I was really understood and that it was effective, so I’ve learned to just stuff it inside which is obviously unhealthy behavior.

The 2007 incident was completely caused by a fear of conflict at a meeting and I could not get the idea of confronting a person out of my head.  What if I exploded?  What if I did something stupid?  What if she manipulated me like she had a million other times? I had no confidence and the questions didn’t stop.

This is the hardest one for sure to solve. Luckily I don’t have conflict that often as I’m not in a relationship (and no that is not why I’m not in a relationship) and have rarely if ever fought with my friends.  Still, I know it is something I need to work on…

7. Basal ganglia medications- There are 5 classes of medications that can be used to treat basal ganglia activity most Dr. Amen recommends on a  ‘short term basis’ as to avoid ‘addiction’.  I have an emergency only prescription and I’ve had 2 30 pill bottles filled since 2007, most of the second is full so clearly I use them rarely but it reduces panic and anxiety to know they are there if I need them.

8. Nutrition- This I found very interesting.  Dr Amen says “If your symptoms reflect heightened basal ganglia activity and anxiety, you’ll do better with a balanced diet that does not allow you to get too hungry during the day.  Hypoglycemic episodes make anxiety much worse.  If you have low basal ganglia activity and low motivation you will likely do better with a high protein, low carb diet to give yourself more energy during the day.  It is also helpful to eliminate caffeine, as it may worsen anxiety”

This was fascinating to me because I do get very crabby and anxious when I’m hungry, tired or sore (all which can be symptoms of hypoglycemic episodes and basal ganglia activity).  Ask anyone who knows me and they will agree I am not at my best when I am hungry.

Conclusion

So that is the list!  I don’t know if this will be interesting to anyone who isn’t struggling with anxiety but as I’ve always had a great response to my posts on the subject I hope it helps someone.  I’m still pondering Dr. Amen’s book and I am aware there is some skepticism in the psychology world of his scans but I have found much of it helpful so that’s what matters to me.

I hope that you find it helpful and would be curious for your response.

NaNoWriMo: Writing a Panic Attack

So I finished my book today!  I can’t even believe it but it is done and I kind of love it.  I’m sure most people would see it as a silly book but I love it.  I can’t wait to edit and then print it out for my own little Christmas gift to myself.  I haven’t decided who else I want to read it but will probably give it to a few people.  I admit it will be hard to hear feedback because the story is so close to my heart.

However, I thought it would be fun to share one more section with all of you.  This is where I had to write about the panic attack I had in 2007.  Just before the scene you will read I had unloaded to my boss about all my frustrations and anger.  He was nothing but super duper nice and told me we would discuss the situation on Monday.  At the time I thought it was all done when I hung up the phone.  Then the nagging  question of what would happen at that Monday meeting overtook my brain.  Its pretty much just as you will read below.  Only major difference is instead of Oliver coming to my rescue it was my brother.  We’ve never been super close so I’m grateful to have that moment of bonding, as hard as it might be.

Since the episode below I have had one other panic attack during a period of extreme anxiety at the beginning of this year.  I can honestly say it is one of the most terrifying experiences a person can have.  I hope I have captured a tiny bit of that experience in this story.  I hope I have portrayed what went on in my brain effectively and in a way that makes sense.  This is just a rough, rough draft. It may not even be any good, but I was proud of how it came out.

No critiques at this time.  Just enjoy it and keep writing

Here it is

The Panic 

I don’t know how long I was asleep.  Maybe 30 minutes, maybe an hour but it was not a restful experience.  I woke up groggy and for a second I couldn’t remember where I was or what had happened.  It was almost like I was a drunk person waking up from a coma (not that I would know what that was like).  My head ached and I was starving.  I looked at the clock 5 pm.  No wonder I was hungry.  I’d slept the afternoon away.   Why had I done that?  I never take naps.

“Oh yeah, I lost it at the office today” I say laughing in a sort of half dazed, half crazed way that insane people do in the movies.  The whole incident felt like a movie.  I wonder what my Father and Mother will think of all of this?  I know they would be concerned for me but would they understand it?  I guess Rich had understood why not my own Mother and Father?

“I wonder if Jamie is home?” I ask myself.  “Oh yeah, she is going on a date with red head Sean directly after work.  I wonder how it is going? She certainly deserves a great guy.   They would certainly have cute red headed kids” The image of all those red heads makes me chuckle.

I realize I better get some food in my stomach, so I put on a new set of clothes and take a look at my reflection.  My eyes are sunken, dark and puffy from crying. What a sight! My muscles feel sore and tired which I find odd.  I haven’t done any exercise unless crying is considered a workout.  I put on my necklace and give it a kiss.  I wonder what Oliver thinks of my outbreak? He would probably feel bad but would he care like I wanted him to care?  Why did he seem so upset with me? Maybe I can talk to him on Monday and get to the bottom of all of this?  Monday, Monday, Monday.  Why does that sound familiar? Oh yeah, that’s when Rich is going to meet with Chandra and myself?

Meeting with Rich and Chandra on Monday I repeat to myself several times.  Suddenly the weight of the situation occurs to me.  I’m going to meet with Chandra and Rich over everything I said to Rich today.  I’m going to have to confront Chandra with it all.  With three years of anger and resentment, how would that work out?  What if I lost it again and fled?  My cheeks got red just thinking about it.  It would be so embarrassing and to make matters worse my parents would be in town on Monday, so they would see it all.

Why hadn’t I just quit before losing it? What is Chandra going to say? What did I have to say in my defense? I could picture it now. “Chandra has been mean to me and treats me with condescension”. I could picture her telling me to ‘wake up’ or ‘grow up’ and was she right? What if I just came off looking like a fool? I knew Chandra had the ability to do that.  All she had to do was talk about all of my screw ups on the check run or only getting four fixed assets done in one week. Would she bring up the ‘adequate’ comment and if she did what would be her defense?  Rich had said she hadn’t spoken with him.  Would she get fired and then finally scream at me?  What would happen?  Why hadn’t I listened to the voice telling me to ‘make a change’ but it had seemed so hard?

Now nothing felt harder than Monday’s meeting. After all I had been through.  After all the anger and humiliation it was all coming to a forefront and I have never felt more relieved and terrified at the same time.  It was awful.

I had no choice but to go through with the meeting no matter the consequences.  Even if I ended up looking like an idiot.. well let’s be honest I already looked like one. Monday would just be facing the consequences of what I had done instead of hiding in my room.

My brain felt fuzzy again and I couldn’t seem to stop myself from asking more and more questions.  What would happen and would I look stupid seemed to be the most persistent questions I couldn’t get out of my head.

My heart beat seemed faster and I felt like I needed to take another nap.  “How the heck am I going to get through this weekend?” I wondered. A distraction.  I need a distraction. Cooking seemed like a good idea so I headed to the kitchen to see what I could whip up.  Looking in the fridge we had nothing unless I could make a meal with an egg some ketchup, jam and an expired container of yogurt.  Shoot.  Looks like I will have to go to the store.  It had been a week since Jamie and I had been to the grocery store to get food for the spaghetti incident dinner.

“I better go to the grocery store because I am certainly not going out to eat looking like this” I sigh into the fridge.

Grabbing my keys I head out to the car but the distraction isn’t really working.  As I walk and then get in my car I hear again and again in my head ‘What is going to happen? You will look like a fool”.  “Go away” I think and try to shoo the thought away like an annoying bug. Again when I start the engine the same thoughts plague me.

‘Focus on driving.  You can’t control Monday” I pleads with myself, trying to control my brain as if I was engaged in a giant tug of war game.

Driving does partially distract me for a few minutes and entering the store I feel confident.  “I can do this.  I cannot think about work.  I am thinking about what I might like to eat for dinner.  There are so many options.  Maybe chicken.” And then uninvited “What is going to happen? You are going to look like a fool.  You look like a fool right now.  Think how many times Chandra has done it before.  She always wins every argument.”  I look around at the crowd surrounding me and in my head everyone seems to be stepping away from me.  “I do look weird.  I am weird. Why is everyone looking at me this way?”  My breath gets faster and my heart races.  “Go away!” I think and I start to cry in a desperate sort of way.

“Ok.  I have to leave now. Maybe go to the hospital” I say to myself in a very clinical sort of way because my brain is totally absorbed in the panic of it all.  “What is going to happen? You are going to look like fool” pops into my head no matter how many times I shake it out.  Almost leaving my purse I rush out of the grocery store leaving a cart full of unpurchased food.  I have to get home.  I don’t know why I need to go home but it is a primal instinct. I’m not thinking.  My brain is full and exploding.

Somehow I make it home but each breath becomes quicker and images keep popping through my brain.  Images of what could be.  I can see images of Chandra winning whatever bizarre competition we have.  I see images of my parents looking disappointed at their out of control daughter.  I see Oliver’s face and a look of relief at the whack job he avoided.

“He, he, he, he” my breath has become like a fitful clown.  “I’m going to die.  This is it.  I can’t breathe.  I’m going to die”.  The world is black and I don’t know what to do.

“Call someone, anyone.  Where’s Jamie? Should I call a friend from church?  I can’t just die here alone!” the space around me swirls like on a hurly whirly at a fair.  I hear questions like music pounding in my head.  I have no idea what I am doing or where I am.

“Honey it’s going to be okay.  We all love you” I can hear my Mother’s voice saying through the darkness.

“I don’t know who to call.  I’m going to the hospital” I tell my Mother. “I love you.  I’ll call you when I get there”.  I know she wishes she could come and rescue me if only an ocean wasn’t in between us.   The hospital was an option but only rock bottom and I knew there was one person left to call and without even thinking my fingers call Oliver and he answers.

“I need help” I say as my breath gets fast and I know he can sense the panic.  This is the real deal.

“I’ll be right over”. He says and I put my head between my knees and try to control my breathing as I had seen people do on television when having a panic attack. I didn’t even care if he thought I was a crazy person.  I guess I was a crazy person.  I didn’t want to die and I didn’t want to go to the hospital.

Before I knew it Oliver lets himself in the front door and gives me a hug ‘You can get through this.  You are strong” he says which I have since learned is the perfect thing to say to someone having a panic attack.  Perfect.

“Now take a deep breath. I want you to take this medicine.  It will help calm you down, nothing scary I promise”

“I’m really sorry that I made you angry” I say ready to go into sobs again.

“Don’t worry about that right now.  We can sort all that out later.”  I hate later.  Later is unpredictable but I look into his eyes and I know he is really worried about me.  I have to get through this if anything for him.

I take the medicine and we walk around the house a couple of times. He is so reassuring and kind that I start to feel like myself again.  I can breath again and I don’t feel like I’m going to die. The fear of the future has not been taken away but the panic is lessening.  My brain is spinning less. Amazingly I’m still crying.  How much can a girl cry in one day?

“You probably think I’m a total weirdo but it was all more than I could take” I say as we walk and he takes my hand in his.