Tag: anxiety

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.

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.