Tag: anxiety

Rachel Eat Pray Love Day 1

So I know I say things like this all the time but it doesn’t make it any less true- today was one of the best days of my life!  It was so wonderful!  Its hard to believe that I ever contemplated doing anything else and that I could be the same human being that was so miserable on Tuesday.  I wish I wasn’t such a spazz and had a constant, even tone to my days but alas that’s just not my style.

The one thing about an insanely hard week with a seemingly impossible deadline and a near-panic attack is that everything can only go up from there and boy did it.  I’m so glad I decided to spend the money (and it wasn’t too bad actually) and treat myself to a weekend  of rehabilitation and rejuvenation.  I needed it so badly!

For starters I finished the month end in time!!!!  I still can’t believe it!  Hurray!  Heavenly Father really does answer prayers and help you do the impossible when you have faith.  Seriously.

So done with my Friday free (hurray!)  I set out for a massage at my gym.  (Would have asked my dear friend Jill but she had to take a 9 to 5’er for insurance 😦 ).  Anyway, got a one hour massage and it was heaven. Seriously if I was rich I’d have a massage every week.

zen achieved

Oh I forgot I got to the massage late because I was cleaning my car because my folks are using it this week and guess what I threw into the recycle dumpster?  Yes, my keys.  It was quite the endeavor to get them out climbing up on a laundry basket that was in the dumpster and hurling myself into the cardboard.  It actually hurt and I have bruises but I got the keys!  Nothing was going to get me down!

found the keys. Dumpster diver extraordinaire!

After the massage I got the car wash and then headed to the hotel.  I am staying that the City Center Marriott in Salt Lake. I stayed here once before when in 2007 I along with 4 of my friends celebrated the last day of a job I hated and the beginning of a happy Rachel.  It is honestly one of the happiest memories of my life. So, naturally I have a special fondness for the hotel and its luxurious accomadations (amazing robes, tons of pillows, soft sheets, thick curtains etc).  Just look at the pillows!

Is that not heaven

They weren’t ready for me right away so I went off to have some lunch.  At first I walked the wrong way and so I asked these businessmen if they knew of any good lunch places. “There’s Carl’s Jr” they responded.  Isn’t that rude?  For all they knew I was a visitor to their city.  I would never do that.  Anyway, nothing was going to get me down so I headed the other way and went to wells fargo to deposit a check and asked the teller if he knew a good place “The Robin’s Nest” he said.   It was just around the corner so I went and checked it out.

I figure in lunch places it is always a good sign when the line is long and the tables are full.  This was the case at Robin’s Nest.  Everything was delicious from the bread to the orzo side pasta.  I got the gobbler (turkey ‘thanksgiving’ style sandwich with cranberry relish, mayo, lettuce ect).  The half was huge and the lunch combo came with drink (fresh squeezed lemonade no extra), orzo pasta or chips and a dessert bite (I got the lemon square although everything looked fabulous).  I heard Bobby Flay say that ‘delicious’ was passe as a food adjective so I’m not sure what word to use.  It was scrumptious.  Perfect lunch.

Love a good sandwich

Once I checked into the hotel I read for a little bit on my fluffy pillows and then napped for about 30 minutes.  Feeling great I headed up to the pool/hot tub and had a great swim.  As a Masters Swimmer (I was going to say competitive but I don’t know if last in every race really counts as competitive) I naturally always wear training swimsuits.  So, it is nice to occasionally swim just for fun and wear a suit that feels a tiny bit more attractive.   Is that terrible to say?

Love this photo. Feeling pretty!

At the pool they had this sign that made me laugh.  Kind of a challenge to the whole weekend in a way!

Oh you better believe I’m swimming alone and dining alone, going to the movies alone, whatever. I’m having a spectacular time alone and breaking all the rules!!!

After a refreshing and relaxing swim/soak I came back and read some more and worked on my novel.  It’s just a silly thing I’ve toyed with over the years.  I am going to finish it for the national novel writing month in November.  If I don’t I have to do a polar bear swim! (Its a bet with my friend Abby).

Next up I went headed to dinner.  My friend Heidi had recommended The Copper Onion to me and as it is minutes from my hotel I thought it’d be a perfect fit.  Boy was she right.  I have never been to such a nice restaurant in my life.  Everything was beautifully presented and tasted sublimely good.  Best restaurant meal I’ve ever had.

I decided to try different things.  Be bold and daring because that’s the kind of day it was!  So here are the courses:

For appetizer crispy pork belly salad with pickled vegetables.  I’ve always wanted to try pork belly and it did not disappoint.  The salad was rich, decadent, salty, sweet, spicy (pickled jalapenos).  So good!

pork belly salad. Yum!

Then I got the duck which I’ve never had before.  I’ve always heard it was too fatty and I hate eating chicken fat.  Figured wouldn’t like duck fat any more than chicken.  But this was perfectly cooked.  The fat was completely rendered out with a crispy skin, cooked medium rare.  Then underneath the duck breast was duck confit (holy cow yum!) and a baby portabello mushroom that was the best mushroom I’ve ever had.  All accompanied with a butternut squash puree that was like butter and a mixed green salad with roasted peppitas.  (Salivating yet? Wait until you see the photo).

Most amazing entree I’ve had at a restaurant. Can’t wait to go back and try more things.

Then for dessert I had a chocolate pudding that was divine.  It was rich with a crunchy topping and whipped cream.  It had sea salt or something sprinkled in to counter the sweetness.

chocolate pudding. This costs $4. Isn’t that insane?

I cleaned my plate in every course but the great thing is I didn’t feel stuffed or even overly-full.  I felt perfectly satisfied.  The food was not overflowing like at chains but it was all delicious and memorable, which I’d take any day over quantity.  I got all of that delicious food plus a drink for $40.  Doesn’t that seem like a pretty good deal?  You’d pay triple that in New York or San Fran.

The thing I appreciated the most about the restaurant was how accommodating they were to me as a single diner.  I’ve tried to eat at nicer places by myself and felt literally singled out and that I was an inconvenience for a busy waiter wanting more tips.  This is why I usually get take out not because I’m afraid of being alone at a meal but because it isn’t a pleasant experience as a rule.

Tonight was totally different.  First of all The Copper Onion has a bar (a suggestion I often give single diners as it easy to find someone to talk with and does not feel so isolating as a big empty table) with a separate bar menu but they also have what they call the counter.  This is like a separate bar area that faces the chefs.  It was so much fun seeing everything get made and smelling all the dishes!  My waitress was wonderful. Kind, accommodating and extremely knowledgeable about the entire menu (she was partly responsible for my bold orders!).   See the smile on my face!

Happy Rachel (I also wore eye make up for the first time since the surgery. Hurray!)

The meal was sublime and when I finished it was 6:50 and as I walked past The Broadway theater next door to the restaurant I noticed that Perks of Being a Wallflower was playing at 7.  Perfect timing!  The Broadway is one of the only independent theaters in Utah and while many of their choices seem a bit dreary for my tastes this was a film I’d been wanting to see.

It is definitely not for everyone but I loved it.  Its funny, sad, different and the dialogue is perfect.  I think it is one of the few movies I’ve seen that gets the feel a high school experience right.  Most movies about teenagers feel like the show Glee that is mostly starring 30 year old actors in high school.  This was much more authentic.  I don’t know if I totally bought some of the darker elements but still very emotionally satisfying to see something original and different.   I felt inspired!

Here’s the thing that made today special.  I have obviously lived alone for many years of my adult life.  I’ve gone to movies alone, eaten alone, even went on a cruise alone, but I don’t’ know if I have ever spent a day with basically no companionship and had such a spectacular time.  It is really gratifying to know that I can be that happy all by myself.  I think I have to remember that when I’m feeling lost and out of control.  I have the power to feel happy all by myself even without all the luxurious trappings to prop me up.

I feel proud of myself.  I did something that  nobody else I know to my knowledge has done.  I spent the whole day by myself and had a spectacular time. Granted most everyone I know doesn’t even have that option but still its nice to know I can do it.

Even more than that, its nice to know I can relax like a real human being.  Feels like forever since I’ve relaxed. Since Hawaii for sure.  And how great to have achieved my Hawaii zen right in my own hometown for pennies on the dollar of what I’d spend on any trip, anywhere.  What a freeing concept!  I look forward to many more adventures!  It’d be great if some of my friends joined me but also great to do it alone.  How freeing is that?

Most importantly I feel like I can conquer the world again.  I wish I didn’t get the anxiety and I am getting better at dealing with it but I’m grateful in a way for it because it forced me to take action and create happiness for myself.   I learned that making a decision is a freeing experience and then planning for joy is the only way to really get it.  Rarely is it presented to you for free.

I’m grateful to God for giving me this day.  In the world of billions of souls going about there day He proved once again this week to me that HE KNOWS ME and HE WORKS MIRACLES!   I can’t wait to hear Him speak through His prophets tomorrow.  I will have notebook in hand and am confident I will receive instruction and inspiration.   I am so blessed. I am so grateful. I am so inspired. I am so HAPPY!

 

 

 

 

Exercise and Control

I realized today what I have learned to like about exercising.  When I’m at the gym my success or failure is entirely up to me.  I am not talking about weight loss that can be entirely out of my control.  I’m talking about during that hour of work.  I decide whether I am going to kick butt or play it safe.

I cant get that kind of control from almost anything else in my life.  I can’t control my family, my love life (or lack of), my friends, my job, what deadlines are set for me without my say.  I think this is also why I like voice lessons.  It is entirely in my control.  (I’m doing Moon River this week. Hurray!).

This week I was under so much pressure because of a deadline set for work that even my boss had no input on.  I really thought it was going to be impossible.  I finished my end of the month 6 days faster than I normally do.  That might as well be an eternity in accountant terms!  So for each day to go to the gym and have a short sense of control makes a big difference for my mental health.

This is especially true when I’m kickboxing.  It feels so empowering and exciting to get the anger and frustration out.  I wish I could explain it. I feel like I can explode (maybe even lose control) in a socially acceptable way.

The strange thing about my anxiety is I actually feel tons of adrenalin during the anxiety.  I think that is what allows me to get through it.  I do a good job despite the tears when I’m under anxiety.  In fact, often it is my best work which is perhaps why I can’t seem to remove it from my life.   I remember my old boss saying he kept giving me more work because I did such a good job on them that I was the first person who came to his mind.  Each job I’d agree to because most of the time I had no choice but then I kept doing better and better with the increasing pressure.  Problem is my head was exploding bit by bit….Gosh it’s hard to explain.

At least when I am angry, or anxious my performance in the gym or pool is like nothing else.  Perhaps I feel challenged or my body gives off some chemical when it feels anxious that boosts performance?  I’m not a doctor so I’m not sure. In February I was very upset because of a personal disappointment but I had an appointment to swim so I went and my times totally rocked.  Has anyone else experienced this?

It’s funny because I generally don’t get adrenalin from exercising.  In fact, I never do.  I get adrenalin from anxiety and stress and then it helps me in exercise but it doesn’t actually cause adrenalin.   Maybe before races I just need someone to break my heart or tick me off?  (Please, no!). 😉

Anyway, I was grateful this week when working 12 hour jammed pack days and having my anxiety episode that I have built up a pattern of exercise to help me feel in control.  I don’ t know how I could have made it any other way.  Well, I know it would have been an episode a day earlier and much more severe. I’ve said it a million times but for me anxiety is all about fear and control.  Cognitive therapy has taught me a lot about rationalizing and overcoming that fear but I think everyone needs some control over their life.  For me, exercise does that.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been forced into this mindset of control because so often in my life I’m in situations where if I didn’t do it, or lead it, it didn’t happen.  I remember even going back to Middle School and there was a craft fair for some club and I made nearly every craft.  (Still have the burn on my leg to this day).  In grad school I decided to give up control and went on a trip trusting my group for a project.  Came home and turns out they hadn’t read the assignment fully and in 3 days I had to come up with a survey of JWA employees, tabulate the results and turn in the assignment for the group.  That was the last time I took a back seat in grad school I will tell you that!

This is how it goes for me. Every job I’ve ever had has been one where I had no back up or substitute, total control. Funny because I think I’m a natural leader?  (I admit I’m a terrible follower…).  A side of me obviously likes this control or it wouldn’t land in my lap  so often (I certainly hate the reverse and being told what to do all the time) but the anxiety is an unwelcome side affect I’m getting better at dealing with.  (this is why a mission was so hard for me. You lose all control, but it was for God so I knew it was in His hands and had a great, if exhausting, experience).

This blog actually gives me control.  In the end it is my voice and I chose what to put out there.  No editors (but my own constant editing), no teachers, no collaborators to deal with.  Just me and my voice.

You see why I’m single.  This control thing will be interesting come marriage!.  Even in dating and relationships I feel I often have to take control but that can be obnoxious too.  Are you asking the right questions? Are they being real?  What should you say?  One time I went on a date and a guy made me ask every question or it was silent and then at the end I hadn’t finished my food I said ‘Sorry I’m a slow eater’.  He said ‘Well, if you didn’t talk so much’…Last time we went out!

I guess in the end it is all kind of silly because I don’t really have any control . That is in God’s hands. Believe me He made it possible for me to finish the impossible task this week.  He held my hand when I felt out of control and He helped me make the tough choices.  Some may look at my life and even express to me that I have nothing to feel anxiety about.  What a comfort to know that God understands and loves me no matter what.  He is all patience.  All love.  And He knows us and knows that in the midst of the hurricane I need an hour of control at the gym

(Thanks also to my trainers Michele and Ben for being so great during this crazy week).

I honestly feel like I did on my mission and I can’t wait for a relaxing weekend.  Wahoo!

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.

Mixture of Thoughts

So today has been a thoroughly strange day.  On one hand I woke feeling hopeful.  Drained but hopeful.  Things in my personal life and my health are looking up and for that I am deeply grateful.  I really felt a wad of stress I’d been carrying around settle and am looking forward to the future.

Wanting to process my life and having the PTO I decided to take some time off today and was feeling great.  I noticed a facebook post from my siblings about the Dark Knight premiere they had been to and how good it was.  It seemed like nothing could burst my bubble.

Then I turned on the TV…

“Massacre in Colorado Theater”.  Horrified I then saw details of the awful shooting at the Dark Knight screening in Colorado.  Initially my bright mood turned to anger, confusion and then finally despair.  I tried to make sense of it for a while but obviously there is no making sense of such an action.

Here are some jumbled thoughts

I think it almost goes without saying that my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones.  I can’t imagine facing such a shock and loss.

When it comes down to it EVIL exists. Satan is real and he wants all men to be miserable just like himself. If we let him, He can take a seed of anger or disappointment and work on it until it unfolds in true horror.  He wants us to hurt one another.  He wants us to be angry and resentful and there is no end to the anger if left unchecked.

My next thought I’m going to try to word carefully.  When such things happen people immediately jump to conclusions about mental illness.  That someone must have been ‘insane’ or ‘crazy’.

Here’s where I think we have to be careful.  Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness that are not going to kill anyone.  Mental illness is probably involved in such a case, but a shooter is a bizarre extreme symptom of an illness.  It would be like saying everyone who has the stomach flu is going to die because one woman does pass away. Its an abnormality, a mutant like distortion of the real disease.

The stigma and fears surrounding mental illness are only inflamed when such careful distinctions are not made and then situations like this become more likely.  People who have severe conditions do not get the diagnosis or the help they need because of the stigma and the community in general is not informed enough to encourage or even enforce such treatment.

As someone who has struggled with anxiety and the occasional panic attack I will tell you it is a scary experience and I only was able to make healthy choices once I was honest and disregarded the stigma.  Not everyone can do that and not everyone has the overwhelming love and support I am lucky enough to have.

If I was king of the world I would require mental health check ups for all college students because it is such a great time of change and the time when most mental illness such as schizophrenia manifest themselves. Someone may have never dealt or thought about mental illness and then all of the sudden they are dealing with signs and symptoms and yet no treatment is sought out of shame or fear.

Mental illness is just another illness.  It’s a part of our anatomy and sometimes it gets sick just like anything else.

So there I said my peace on that.

One last thought.  My cousin Anne spoke her peace about the violent content in the Dark Knight movie after viewing it at the midnight screening.  She said quite movingly

“I am very saddened about the shooting in Colorado. The news article said they could not identify the shooter’s motivation…. How about the very movie that was showing in the theater where the shooting took place?! I know The Dark Knight Rises is the movie of the Summer, but I walked out because of how intensely violent I felt it was and the ruthless killer Bain was dark and evil. After 20 minutes I went back in because I didn’t want to feel left out… (wish i would have chosen differently now.) i know its bold to say, but we cannot keep watching this violence on screen and expect to be exempt from it in real life!”

Now did the movies cause some kind of hypnosis that made the shooter do what he did?  Of course not, but I do agree with her that as a society we have become increasingly desensitized towards violence.  I’ve felt this for some time.  I remember coming back from my mission and being shocked by the decapitated heads in the final Lord of the Rings movies.  I was horrified at first but then  I started watching 24 with friends.  Slowly I began ignoring more and more violent content until one episode Jack basically hung a terrorist on a chain to get what he wanted.  That was it for me.  My wake up call.

Violence stays in my head and never leaves.  The other day I was watching Project Runway and an ad for some terrible serial killer movie came on and before I could change the channel there it was in my brain.  Nightmares! Thanks Lifetime!

I resisted the temptation to see the 2nd Dark Knight movie for many months until it was out on DVD and finally caved because EVERYONE I knew loved it.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it completely terrified me.   I had nightmares for weeks.  I recognized that it was well made and acted but I did not feel a good spirit while watching and regretted it ever since. I really felt like the only one out of all my friends who didn’t love it.

Even a movie like Ironman that has some torture of the lead in the beginning I found quite upsetting.  As a single woman living alone I’ve found I must be very careful with what I view because it sits there in my head making mischief.  I realize not everyone is in my situation or has my sensitivity level but still I just don’t see how watching such things can be helpful or inspiring.

What really makes me crazy is we have this pretense of an MPAA giving movie ratings but they should just change it to the ‘counting swear words brigade’.  I don’t understand how The Dark Knights and Hunger Games (children killing other children) gets a PG-13 when Bully a movie that might actually help reduce violence is given an R because of 6 words.  How can anyone say that 6 words are worse than murder? It doesn’t make sense. Something has to be so over the top in sexual content and violence to merit the R rating but 6 swear words and an automatic R? Again, to me that makes absolutely no sense.

If I ran the world I would make the MPAA like http://www.screenit.com which provides incredible details of the content you are viewing so you can make an informed decision.  I think it is $25 a year or something like that and I would recommend anyone sign up kids or no kids.

As to whether there should be some type of censorship or monitoring on this type of violent content, I’m unsure.  I certainly think there should be a discussion and its effects should be taken seriously.  We have no problem acknowledging the negative effects of sexual pornography and that industry is regulated fairly strictly.  What’s wrong with applying those same standards to violence?  I’m not expert on stimulus addiction but violence seems as penetrating in the brain as sexual content and clearly can be as destructive to human life.

I don’t know the answer but the human mind has always been attracted to violent content.  That’s Satan’s job, that’s the natural man. In the past a salacious story of Western slaughter or war would excite readers but now the malcontent can be exposed to images, video, dialogue, again and again, with each time needing more intense portrayals.  How can that not have a damaging effect?  Do I have a solution to fix that in a free America?  No.

Except to say this- watch what you watch and what your children watch.  Watch how you rationalize things away and try to stop it. Stop spending your money on things that glorify violence.  Hug your loved one’s.  Resolve differences.  Forgive because you never know when things can change and you’ll miss out on the chance to make things better.

Please go to http://www.bringchange2mind.org/ to sign the pledge to end the stigma against mental illness.  Maybe if we all work together we can stop such tragedies from happening again?  That is my hope.

I started my day hopeful and I’m ending my day with hope. Hope in Christ and His great love. He heals the broken hearted and gives comfort to the weak.  I KNOW that is true.

When Goals Make You Nuts…

It’s only Tuesday…How I am going to get through this week I will never know?  As many of you know I have a bit of an anxious personality, coupled with a very strong will.  This makes for an interesting experience when setting goals.

I’ve never been a half way kind of person so I have to be very careful when setting goals.  I will become totally immersed in whatever I’m trying to do.  This caused for great disappointment as a teen because I didn’t make most of the things I set goals to do…Sigh.  (If any of you watch The Middle, I was basically Sue in real life!).   It wasn’t until I got into BYU that I finally made something I’d tried out for/applied for.  It was one of the best moments of my life partly because I expected to fail, or at best was cautiously optimistic.

I think it is these experiences that made me so anxious about goals.  I grew up feeling like I could accomplish anything but eventually being let down when I didn’t; hence the anxiety about seeing something through developed.  It’s the what if game- especially in the home stretch, when I almost have it.  (Just wait if I ever get engaged the weeks before getting married will be interesting!).

That’s what has been amazing about the last few years.  Unlike other times in my life I have actually accomplished almost everything I’ve tried to do. I think finishing my mission is a big reason for that.  I know  if I could do that, I can do anything.  It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I made it through.  Not only did I make it through but I did a good job! (You set a lot of goals on a mission and I was pretty good at achieving those goals!).

Then I moved on to graduate school and I did that and started the fitness quest and open water swims, did those.  Even my recitals for voice lessons have all gone well.  (I hope I’m not due for a spectacular crash and burn soon…Again, anxiety).

And yet, there has been so much bad news in the last year and a half that I feel primed and ready for a victory. Still, I wish it would just come already!

In the end, I know I can do it.  I know it will be an awesome day! I’ve put in the work.  As the sports psychologists say I just have to keep the positive self talk because “negative self-talk becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy…”.

I also remember a talk I heard once by Elder Featherstone where he said “Decide what you are going to do if you don’t get an answer to your prayer and then proceed as if you will receive it”.  I’m not saying I’m perfect at this but I think there is truth to it.  If you can visualize a ‘worst case scenario’ and deal with that, put it behind you than it is easier to move on.

Recently I also got some good advice to turn your anxiety into something funny.  Laugh, not in a mocking way, but in a ‘I’m not going to be that ridiculous’ kind of way.  This helps you smile and take a breath.  I’m trying it out and it seems to work quite well.

Still, I wish this was a week where I was out and about instead of a mostly inside.  More time to stew, especially after my scary swim on Monday, is not a great thing.  Thank goodness I have great friends who are THE BEST!  I think every last one of my friends believes in me more than I believe in myself.  They may grow weary of reminding me that I can do it, but I never grow tired of hearing it.

Let me also put in a little plug for Doterra Balance.  It might be a placebo thing but I swear it helps me calm down.  Makes my heart stop racing and feel at peace.  It really does.

What works for you when you are anticipating a big event, feeling a bit anxious?  What calming techniques, coping strategies do you like?

I know music helps and hot liquids. Sometimes just getting your mind off of it is the best thing you can do.  That’s why my friends and I are going out Thursday night.  Anyone want to do something (not to late) Friday night? I’m not saying I’ll be great company but better than nothing!

Another technique I use is focusing on relationships and moments more than outcomes.  If you can say I gained this relationship or I had this great moment than the outcome is less important.  It’s especially good to focus on outcomes you can control.  For instance, I can’t control the weather or the waves but I can control my training and my diet.  I can control some outcomes such as ‘regardless I’m going to have a darn good blog entry on Saturday’.   That’s an outcome within my control.  It took me YEARS to figure that one out!

Honestly, the best thing for me is prayer and knowing that my Heavenly Father loves me regardless of all my insecurities, failures and foibles.  I learned on my mission that God knew me and that He accepted my best effort.  I left that experience having no regrets.  I can honestly say I have left every experience since then with NO REGRETS!  I haven’t been perfect.  In fact, I’ve had some spectacular screw-ups but I know God has accepted my effort and that is the greatest peace a girl can have.

I love this painting. It is the most peaceful image I’ve ever seen.

My mission president told me once ‘You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone’ and I think that’s such an important reminder.  I’ve already proven myself to the Lord and my loved one’s by just pushing forward, just trying.  They aren’t Simon Cowell.  I’m not being judged in that way.  I’ve already finished the race just by entering it.  Now is the home stretch and the whole journey both mental and physical will make the final triumph all the more victorious!

I’m like a kid at Christmas- I wish it would just come already! Ok.  I will try and get some sleep once again.

Insomnia and anxiety are not a great mix… 🙂

Anxiety

Let me start off by saying this is an incredibly personal thing to share; however, I decided long ago that if I was going to embrace social media I would do it 100%.  You truly know the real me through following me on facebook, twitter or by reading this blog.

So I have good news my friends..  I have slept- from 11:30 last night to 6:30!  I was thrilled!  The truth is Monday night I was having a bit of an anxiety attack.  This is only the second time in my life I’ve experienced such a thing.  I can’t explain it but will just say the brain can become fixated on a thought and it won’t go away.  The crazy thing is that both times this has happened to me were after I thought I had dealt with the situation and had even felt some catharsis that it was over and then BAM!

It’s really hard to understand if you haven’t felt it.  Fixating on something like fibro pain, which has been bad lately, or on possible changes at work, or on other personal changes, and you try to distract yourself but then it keeps coming back again stronger and stronger.  At a certain point I even was getting anxiety about getting anxiety.  Also, the more sleep you lose the more tense you feel.

This chart brilliantly describes what happens when we feel anxiety

The truth is the reasons don’t really matter.  All that matters is that my thoughts changed my feelings into a sense of panic or loss of control.

Like I said, my other panic attack happened in 2007.  At the time I hated my job and felt I had a black cloud over my life.  No matter what I did I felt sad and worthless.  No matter how much reinforcement was given me I felt like a failure.  This was reinforced by the disdain showed me by my boss but it was also due to a feeling of ‘let down’ after being so important on my mission.

There was one particular day where I had finally had it with this boss.  I had planned out my week to the tee and already felt totally overwhelmed.  Then we got this new training on a huge new project.   That was it.  I couldn’t do another huge project. There was no way.  I started crying as the girl in Florida (thankfully over the phone) was giving the training. (And I was not a crier at work)

After the training my boss (who was supposed to be my advocate- or at least that’s how I saw it) turned to me and said ‘well, you are just going to have to get it done.   That was the tipping point.  I just left and stormed out of the office and called my superior boss.  This is a man I’d known for many years.  He calmed me down and we discussed the situation.  He said that he ‘shouldn’t have let this happen.’ (the mark of a great leader in my book).  Then he said ‘we will talk about this on Monday’.

Situation seemingly resolved, I felt calm and went home.  Then the little bug of a thought started in my head.  What could happen on Monday?  What if I lost control?  What if I yelled and screamed?  What if I looked like a fool? etc.   For 2 days I tried to remove those thoughts from my head but they kept coming and coming.  I just couldn’t figure it out.

Finally at Walmart I started to feel claustrophobic and my asthma began to flair up. I felt like I couldn’t breath.  I made my purchases and went home.  After calling my Mom, my brother and roommates came over to help me.  I remember they were all surprised because, like me, they thought everything had been resolved when I spoke with my boss.

Eventually I was able to calm down and everything was okay.  I did go to a counselor after this experience and found some great advice that I have put into practice many times in the last 5 years.

This week was kind of the same in the sense of building stresses, one on top of another, and then once I had thought I had it figured out, I became fixated on a thought.  In addition, I was in pain and when you have chronic pain it is easy to get anxiety about having more pain. I can’t explain it but I couldn’t get to sleep and then began to feel anxiety about not getting to sleep. At a certain point you have anxiety about getting anxiety!

I did everything I could to snap out of it but you know what finally helped?  Talking to a friend who had undergone a similar experience.  She was able to give the perfect advice.  I got out of the house (went to Walmart, the scene of the last crime).  I took some medicine that is for emergency only.  I used my Balance Doterra Essential Oils and I went to bed using as close to good sleep hygiene as I could.  I also ate a very healthy dinner.

All of these things helped but just talking to a friend and feeling understood was probably the most helpful.  Again, anxiety is not about events but its about how we process these events. How we feel about them. Those feelings are usually completely illogical but it doesn’t matter.  Part of cognitive therapy is recognizing those thoughts and then creating a plan for future thought maintenance.

Feeling Good by David Burns has helped me immensely (hey it gave me 5 years in between anxiety!  Pretty good!).  If you don’t have it I will buy you a copy.  Aside from the Book of Mormon (which I will also give you a copy of!) it is the most helpful book in my life.

He says “Negative events grow in importance until they dominate your entire reality- and you can’t really tell that what is happening is distorted.  It all seems very real to you. ”

He then goes on to give 3 Methods for Boosting Self-Esteem (or shutting out negative thought).  They are too complicated to explain here but very effective (like I said they worked for me for 5 years drug free).  But in conclusion Burns says on changing our thoughts:

“How can this be accomplished? You must first consider that human life is an ongoing process that involves a constantly changing physical body as well as an enormous number of rapidly changing thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Your life therefore, is an evolving experience, a continual flow.  You are not a thing; that’s why any label is constricting, highly inaccurate and global…Your thoughts may be positive, creative, and enhancing’ the great majority are neutral.  Others may be irrational, self-defeating, and maladaptive.  These can be modified if you are willing to exert the effort, but they certainly do not and cannot mean that you are no good.  There is no such thing in the universe as a worthless human being.”

Like Burns says controlling our thoughts takes work and we will have moments where we aren’t successful.  That is okay.  When this happens have a list of resources that you can turn to.  I had mine and they came through for me in spades.  Even just strategies like getting out of the house or making a list of positives can help.

I share this experience with you because I am a smiling girl 90% of the time.  I love my life but like everyone else I have my battles.  There is such a stigma around mental illness in our culture but I believe just like I can get the flu, I can get an anxiety attack.  It happens.  Its OK.  Don’t be ashamed.  You will get through it.  People do love you immensely.   Get the help you need and if the first thing you try doesn’t work try something else.

Also don’t be surprised if healthy people have a difficulty understanding your condition.  To them, they may add up the events and think ‘what is the big deal?’  or even ‘why can’t she be more mature’.  It doesn’t really have anything to do with events.  Its about the thoughts and processing of those events which is completely within your own psyche.  The best advice I can give is to be honest with yourself (no denial, no self-criticism) and then create a plan to move forward.  Also, listing your distorted thoughts and a complimentary non-distorted thought (as Dr. Burns suggests) can be very helpful.

Now here’s to going another 5 years! (Its really kind of amazing I hadn’t had one last year with all the struggles but the previous one took over a year to build up to as well.  Another lesson learned).

There is no such thing in the universe as a worthless human being.

Go to http://bringchange2mind.org/ to sign a pledge to end the stigma against mental illness and to find more information for both helping yourself and your loved ones.

Feeling Good

So, its the holidays- the season of Joy and Gladness.  Anyone else out there feel the occasional winter blues?

I was visiting with a few friends today and we all started talking about how stressful this time of year can be and not really for the shopping, decorating, budgeting requirements countless Christmas specials would have you believe.

The weather and propensity for illness are part of the yuletide stress but it also seems to be a stressful time for every job.  Whether it is end of the year responsibilities, finals or a million other things December brings loads more work than other months.

As my friends and I vented our stress we started talking about all of the things we ‘wish we could do’ or that ‘we should be doing’.  Do you ever play this mental game?  It made me think of my favorite book on cognitive therapy- the classic Feeling Good by David Burns.  In the book he describes how distorted thinking tears us down. For example,

“I think the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ are almost always unhelpful and should(!), wherever possible, be deleted from your vocabulary. ”

I love this idea.  Take ‘should’ out of your vocabulary.  (I quoted this exact quote to my friends tonight.  You’d be surprised how often I end up quoting this book.  A few months back I recommended it to my trainer and the other day she quoted it back to me. Funny being quoted from your own recommendation!).

Not that we shouldn’t set goals or be ambitious but doesn’t a goal mean we are doing something, not feeling guilty for not doing something?  Guilt saps us of our positive energy and it distorts our self-image.

Anyone else feel this way? Ironically it seems like the time periods we are doing the most is when most of us feel like we should be doing more.  In my experience women are particularly bad about this.  Nothing is good enough (that old comparison bug can be so deadly!)

In the hopes of being helpful here are other forms of distorted thinking that Burns talks about (it really is such a good book.

The 10 forms of distorted thinking.  I’m sorry but I just think this list is SO BRILLIANT.  Which distortion do you relate to the most? How can we do more to support each other? Really, share your thoughts!

1. All-or-nothing thinking. This is when you look at things as absolutes : good/bad, success/failure, black/white. There’s no room for shades of grey. For example, ‘If I don’t get an A on this test I’ll be a total failure,’ or ‘If this relationship doesn’t work out I’ll be lonely and miserable for the rest of my life.’ In both cases, neither helpful nor true.

2. Overgeneralisation. You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat, or take one situation that doesn’t work out to mean that life is always this way. ‘No-one really enjoyed that lasagna – I must be a terrible cook,’ or ‘My partner seemed really grumpy with me last night. I think she’s going off me.’ As with all these forms of distorted thinking, we fail to look at the bigger picture. Perhaps she was tired, not feeling well, had a stressful day at work, was preoccupied with money worries, had an argument with a friend on the way home… there could be a dozen good reasons, but you assume it’s all about you and extrapolate that out to make it a large-scale, global catastrophe.

3. Mental filter. You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives – so, if your university tutor marks an essay and, in the middle of a glowing assessment, he includes one mild criticism, that’s what you fixate on. Think of a beaker of clear water – it only takes a single drop of ink to make it look murky and cloudy. In the same way, obsessing about a single negative remark and ignoring all the compliments or praise is a surefire way to darken your mood.

4. Discounting the positive. You reject all positive experiences by telling yourself, ‘They don’t count’, or ‘They’re just saying that to be polite.’ If you get an A-, you tell yourself it should have been an A+. If your boss praises you for a brilliant piece of work, you immediately shrug it off and say it was all down to your team, or anyone could have done it. This is a particularly unhelpful way of thinking because it drains all the joy out of life and constantly makes you feel inadequate and unappreciated. Not good.

5. Jumping to conclusions. This is when you interpret things negatively even though there are no facts to support your conclusion, and falls into two categories:

a) Mind reading. You immediately assume that someone is thinking negatively about you (‘I just know this girl thinks I’m an idiot. She obviously finds me really boring.’)

b) Fortune-telling. You predict that things will turn out badly (‘I definitely failed that test.’ ‘I’m bound to be the one who gets made redundant’).

In both cases, the key is checking out the evidence – in the vast majority of cases you’ll find your negative assumption was quite wrong.

6. Magnification or minimisation. You exaggerate the importance of your problems and less-desirable aspects of your character, while minimising your desirable qualities. ‘I wish I didn’t lose my temper – I’m a horrible, angry, unpleasant person,’ or ‘Yes, I’m quite good at maths, but I’m terrible at writing essays.’

7. Emotional reasoning. This is when you assume something is true because you feel it so strongly it must be, assuming that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are. ‘I feel sure this plane is going to crash – let’s take the next one,’ or ‘I’m so worried about my best man’s speech, it’s bound to be a disaster.’ As with distortion 5, if this is true you have an uncanny ability to predict the future!

8. Should statements. I think the words ‘should’ and ‘must’ are almost always unhelpful and should(!), wherever possible, be deleted from your vocabulary. This can work two ways: you can either tell yourself that you should do this or that, have done something better, be more skilled at something else… or that the world should be a certain way. It’s so unhelpful because should (like must, have to and ought to) have a punitive, critical edge that makes you feel bad. And if you apply shoulds to the world (‘This train should be on time! Now I’m going to be late’) it’s a guaranteed way to crank up your negative feelings.

9. Labelling. This is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying, ‘I didn’t cook that spaghetti very well – I’ll concentrate a bit more next time, you tell yourself ‘I’m such a rubbish cook! Why am I a failure at everything?’ This is not only unhelpful but inaccurate – are you really a failure? At everything? Have you never succeeded at a single thing in your life then? Was every meal you ever cooked rubbish? Of course not. Also watch out for labelling others: ‘She’s such a bitch,’ or ‘He’s a nightmare.’ Again, neither true (she may be bitchy sometimes, but is that the totality of her character?) nor helpful.

10. Personalisation and blame. In the first instance, you hold yourself completely responsible for something that is only partially, if at all, your responsibility (‘I know there’s a recession on, but it’s still completely down to me that my business failed.’) In the second, you blame others 100% for your circumstances or problems. In both cases, the key is to be realistic and fair – you might have made some mistakes with your business, but countless businesses fail during a recession, so stop beating yourself up! Instead, take responsibility for your mistakes, learn from them and move on.

A Stupid Fear

Today I would just like to expose a fear of mine that is kind of involved with my current weight loss program.  My hope is that through expressing myself I will be able to deal with this fear and move on.  So here goes…

Relationships have always been a mystery to me.  Sometimes the whole “love” concept feels a little like Santa Claus- like one day I will wake up and realize romance is a big myth grown ups like to tell.  It’s hard because I have never been in love or anything close to it.  In fact, it is almost impossible for me to imagine anyone being in love with me.  I say that with a very healthy self-confidence.  I know I’m beautiful and accomplished, but I still can’t imagine anyone falling in love with me (Doesn’t everyone have a few things they are insecure about? This is one of mine).  Maybe romance is something you can’t imagine until it happens.

Part of what makes this tough is I am admittedly naive when it comes to men.  Aside from my father and brothers I’ve had limited interaction with men.  My friends have always been girls- even as a child or teenager.  My crushes have also been few and far between.  I’m not sure why but it seems I don’t meet men I’m attracted to very often.  Don’t get the wrong idea- I’m attracted to men but I don’t crush often. Even the Hollywood guys that other girls swoon over I rarely find that good looking.

Anyway, I am happy with my life.  I love being single and independent, but I think everyone would like to fall in love at least once in his or her lifetime.  So, here’s my fear- what if I lose all the weight and then meet someone.  No matter what happens there will always be the potential for me to look the way I am now.  How do I know that the future person will be ok with the current me? Does that make sense?  In some ways I wish I could meet someone right now.  If someone could fall in love with the plus size me it would take a worry away.  If it happens after I lose the weight I will probably  be a little anxious about my looks. What if I have a baby and end up looking just like I look now will that be a problem for the guy?  I know things like that are more important to guys but it could happen.  There will always be the potential for me to be a big girl and he has to be ok with that. Basically my fear is if I lose weight, meet someone and then gain the weight back will he not love me anymore?

It’s not like I can do much about this fear except deal with it.  It certainly is not going to stop me from getting in shape.  Love is not something that can be planned or organized on my timeline.  It is up to God and my mystery man out there.  We will just have to wait and see what happens, and I will have to conquer my anxieties and fears.