Update

It’s been a while. I think I always start my posts here like that. The last few months have been up and down. I still struggle going out on my own. It’s frustrating. Today I went to the drug store with my son. It went well but the wave of fear that washed over me as I got dressed was very real. I always tell myself it’s just to the corner. If you were home you’d be fine. As soon as I think about going out alone I start to panic. What if I have an episode of tachycardia? What if I finally really lose control or die? These are the annoying thoughts I have whenever I feel anxious and especially when I go out by myself.

It’s bizarre how far down I have sunk. I mean while I worked I had worse anxiety but driving around town was part of my routine so I managed to do that but now that has become one of my triggers. Even though I enjoy being out and about it still poses a challenge.

My main problem is that I don’t put it into practice. The way to beat fear is to master it. I should be going out everyday, a little farther each day but staying home and hiding is easier. I avoid the very thing that causes me anxiety (which is my anxiety) and by doing so I make everything worse. I know what will end up happening, I will find myself between a rock and a hard place soon and be forced to get my shit together.

Functioning is not impossible but some days are difficult. Anxiety is a constant in my life. Even when I can’t feel it.

It’s a new year!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post here and it’s partly because I sometimes find it triggering to delve into my anxietyc(I have probably said this before). I don’t pretend it’s not there, I live with it so I address it pretty much daily but something about blogging about it makes me…anxious. Anyway, last year had a lot of ups and downs anxiety-wise but I made a lot of progress. Mental health is a journey (for me). I started saying yes to a lot more things and I am happier for it. I have learned that having anxiety in a different city is maybe a bit scarier but the panic attacks are no different than they are when I’m at home. Granted, sometimes the mere fact I’m far from home triggers my anxiety and panic attacks to astronomical levels but I always make it out ok.

I started off the year with a brand new planner and a lot of motivation to continue to build on the victories of last year. I haven’t kept a planner since I was in grad school, I had one last year but I used it more as a place to jot down lists than actually plan in advance. Chores and housework hardly seemed important enough to schedule but I am beginning to see the value in treating these tasks like I would any other appointment. When I write things down I tend to get them done and this has already proven valuable this past week.

I have never been this on top of the housework as I am right now and it feels great. I had began to realize that I had become codependent. I wanted none of that. It’s not fair to my husband and it’s not fair to me. I want to reclaim the independence I once had. So I am making changes. I used to go everywhere and do everything by myself. No place was too far or inconvenient. Now, I like the comfort of having my husband with me, and even though at first going out together made caring for our son easier it has gotten to the point where I have to admit that the idea of running errands alone terrifies me and that is something I refuse to be okay with. So I went out today and ran all the errands I needed to run and I am OKAY! I didn’t feel any anxiety (maybe just a bit) but I did it. And I will continue to do it. Some days I will try to talk myself out of it but that’s part of the process.

My son was so good during our outing, not that he generally isn’t but you never know when a two year old will have a bad day. So, we got home and I did the laundry, steam cleaned the floors (again!) and did a few other things that needed doing. I am so happy about the productive day I had that I am wide awake and sleep does not seem to be anywhere in sight.

This year I want to update this blog more often and I will share not just the good, but also the bad. Even though writing about my anxiety is sometimes difficult it always feels good in the end. I put it out there and it feels like I’ve let it all out. It’s a form of therapy.

When I am having a panic attack I feel like everything is on blast, everything is moving so fast, my heart, my thoughts about how I am dying, and nothing feels good. It’s awful but in those moments, which really are not as long as they feel, I have started to describe my symptoms out loud. It has helped to take a clinical approach to how I view what is happening to my body and I feel as though it starts to break down the panic attack until it’s nothing but jitters and a post adrenaline high.

 

 

Always there

I have meant to post something here for ages but when it came down to it I just didn’t feel like delving into my anxiety. It’s a constant companion and often, discussing it proves triggering. Sometimes it’s easier to just ignore it even though it’s always there. Some days I like to pretend that my anxiety doesn’t exist and of course it’s a fool’s errand because it will always be there.  I’ve discussed before how there are things that have become difficult for me and I am slowly working on overcoming these fears.

Today I had to go to the post office to mail out something for a friend. To say that I did not look forward to it is an understatement. I find my anxiety symptoms exhausting and anticipating them is my downfall. I have identified this as one of my biggest triggers: the assumption that I WILL experience anxiety or a panic attack. I decided to try a little experiment today. Since my husband is at work I could not rely on him for support, it would be just Diego and me and the big box. On my way to the post office I thought to myself, if I were sitting at home on the couch I would not be feeling anxious this is all in my head. What I am feeling means nothing. I continued on my way and completed the trip with an anxiety level of ZERO.

I could hardly believe it but I was grateful that I figured out a way to help me not sabotage myself. If I go out thinking that I am going to panic, guess what? I panic! Now, that’s not to say that anxiety can’t crop up unexpectedly but as I learn to control it more and more I feel empowered.

Something else that I have been thinking about is how we often think of anxiety as a handicap, and while it definitely is I find that thinking of myself as ill and impaired does me no favors. I CAN do things, I CAN deal with things. Believing that I can has made a difference. Is it more difficult for me? Most definitely.  How we deal with anxiety is a deeply personal journey. People don’t necessarily experience anxiety in the exact same way nor will the find relief in the same way either. Discussing anxiety with others who experience it is always interesting (and helpful) because firstly it reminds you that you’re not alone, and it also inspires you to try new things or even think about it in a different way. One thing that is universal: anxiety is easier with support. Talking to a doctor, a friend, or family member is important and healthy. We aren’t alone.

The BIG trip!

About a year ago, a friend and I planned a trip to Orlando. That trip just took place and in light of my recent struggles with anxiety I was a little scared of what my anxiety would do to my trip. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of my friend, even though I am fully aware that I have her support and understanding. I prepared myself as best I could, I read my Freedom from Fear book and kept my thoughts as positive as I could. I was excited, and happy about my vacation but that little tiny Boo voice would nag me in the very back of my mind. Regardless, I packed in front of my boo, loaded up the car, and finally got in the car while the Boo tried, in vain, to distract me.

Orlando is about a three hour drive from me, at the height of my anxiety such a drive felt almost impossible (even though I’ve visited multiple times) this trip was a breeze. I kept wondering when the Boo would sneak up on me but then I decided I was better off pushing him out of my mind. I had an anxiety free ride!

This entire vacation has been one huge victory against the Boo. I feel so empowered by it, not only did I have an amazing time with my friend, but I did so with minimal to zero anxiety! We drove all over Orlando, went to various restaurants and shops, and while I did have moments where I looked over my shoulder for the Boo, I was never at a high anxiety level.

A few months ago I felt that I would not get through this trip without massive bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. The one disappointment was not being able to go to the Magic Kingdom as we’d planned on account of my son having a very rough night due to teething. I guess the huge crowd of the parks will be a challenge for another day.

Gearing up for a big trip

I’ve promised myself countless times that I would more diligent about blogging here and so far I have not kept up. What I have kept up with is telling my Boo to take a hike. It hasn’t been easy. I had a very rough week a few days ago. My anxiety symptoms skyrocketed to levels I hadn’t felt in a while. I was having heart palpitations and those always leave me in a state. I hate them. I hate all anxiety symptoms but that is one I loathe.

Whenever I get like that I feel like a fog descends upon me. It consumes every waking thought. Even when I am doing something else the Boo whispers in my ear, “Aren’t you worried it will happen again? Aren’t you worried you’re going to drop dead?” That’s the kind of asshole he is. Curiously, when I recall that week I am amazed at how much I was able to accomplish even though I felt like I could not function. I still played with my son, fed him, loved him, laughed with him. I guess when I am in the midst of it all it feels all encompassing and all consuming but I manage just fine. At the end of the day I handled it, and that’s no small victory.

The thing with anxiety, at least in my case, is that as much as it affects me I don’t let it affect those around me. It’s like a storm cloud that only exists over my own head and doesn’t rain on anybody else. I am still able to enjoy things, go out, do what I must, even though in all honesty sometimes I really don’t want to. It’s because I don’t want to, that I must.

I am feeling tons better at the moment and I know that with each panic/anxiety uptick I am gaining valuable experience. It will be put to the test next week when we go on vacation. There is nothing that causes a surge in my symptoms like being in a new place, and while Orlando isn’t exactly foreign to me, it’s not home. I am trying to not tell myself that I will surely have anxiety and panic attacks while I am there. The Boo is already trying to fill my mind with garbage. I know that I will have an amazing time meeting my friend and hanging out. I know that even though Disney is crowded and far from home that I will be okay as I always have been during my visits there.

And what if the Boo pulls a fast one on me and I panic? I will handle it. I know I will and I must remind myself of this knowledge. Panic and anxiety have this magical power that allows your memory to be erased. I’m armed for battle. I’m bringing my Freedom From Fear book with me and I’m ready to show the Boo who is boss.

I am so excited about meeting my friend and I have been looking forward to this trip for about a year. Nothing is going to get in the way of my enjoyment of it. Whatever the Boo brings, I will handle it!

Big victory!

Today, or really yesterday since it’s after midnight, I had a huge victory. I am going to ignore the fact that I have all but abandoned this blog (I have kept up a real journal made out of real paper :p) because I am so excited and relieved to be done with today. I had to take my son to the doctor for a wellness checkup. I was weary of my anxiety. Of course I got myself worked up right as I left the house. I just knew I was going to have a panic attack and the worst part is that it was self inflicted! Ugh, the rage I felt at myself was only tempered by the intense fear I felt as I started up the car and backed out of my parking space. The entire ten minute drive was spent talking myself out of turning around and heading back home. It was a ridiculous idea. I mean, it’s just a short drive to the doctor’s office, a place I have been to countless times by myself.

My arms felt heavy, numb and tingly at the same time. Every unpleasant physical symptom of my anxiety came at me in full force with the Boo whispering gloom and doom in my ear. I told him to shove it while I focused on my breathing and on the road of course. I was quite calm by the time we made it into the waiting room but minutes later my mind was racing and all I could think about was how stuffy is was in the office (it always is, panic or no) and how badly I wanted to go home. I stuck it out, naturally, and completed the visit with no incident. The sheer elation and feeling of accomplishment was worth every minute of discomfort.

Anxiety can suck it.

Falling behind!

So the idea behind putting my anxiety diary online is so that I can access my notes and victories on the go. No matter where I am I can pull this up on my phone and read through it if I need to. I also keep a handwritten journal. This is like a back up. I always mean to transcribe my handwritten notes here but I obviously don’t. I am going to try to be better about that. Anyway, I have new victories to add. yesterday the three of us walked to Walgreens. It was a nice evening and although I was anxious about being on foot (as I always am) I felt less anxious than I did last time. It was also fun to see Diego make the trip on foot. It’s not very far as I’ve said before. The roundtrip is under a mile but for a 17 month old I am sure that felt like a huge distance. He asked to be picked up half way home on our way back but that didn’t last long. He asked to be put back down soon after. He was so tired that when we got to our front door he was eager to get inside.

Today I went out by myself to pick up some dinner. This felt pretty huge to me as it’s been ages since I drove anywhere completely alone. I normally have Diego with me but today the boys stayed home watching Monsters, Inc. In terms of my anxiety I was of course worried I would have a panic attack (thanks, Boo) but I love a challenge and so I decided that this was a good opportunity. On the drive I talked to my mom on the phone and before I knew it I was back home. My anxiety level was at a 1 or 2. Out of 10, that’s pretty good.

One of the things that has stuck out to me while reading and rereading Dr. Liebgold’s book is how our victories give us the confidence to branch out and tackle other anxiety producing situations. The more victories I rack up the easier it is to deal with whatever my Boo throws at me. Writing them down also helps. As he points out, our Boo likes to erase our memories and writing things down is an affront to him. Also, we write slower than we talk and think so this helps to further reinforce us.

I have missed a couple of journal entries on purpose as I have had a level of anxiety of zero until yesterday. I struggled with feeling a little anxious all day and then last night I was painfully anxious for a lot of the night. We didn’t do anything too exciting. We went to Panera for dinner and then walked over to Target for a few essentials we were out of. I started feeling a little anxious at Target but it was pretty easy to dismiss the feeling and carry on as if nothing was wrong. Ignoring the Boo is important and effective.

At different points I felt very close to having a panic attack but I managed to stave it off, or at least keep it at a subdued level. We watched Frozen (which I loved) and some How I Met Your Mother episodes. The most frustrating part about anxiety is that it just happens.

I was so wired that I couldn’t settle down to sleep so I stayed up really late reading and watching videos on YouTube. My husband is off on Thursdays so I was able to sleep in until 10am. I felt really good when I woke up. Too, good and this spooked me. That’s problem with living with anxiety, feeling normal feels weird. Especially after having had a rough day.

Earlier this afternoon we went to BJs Wholesale Club and I started feeling anxious on our way there. I remember thinking to myself that I was tired of feeling anxious and immediately started implementing some of the techniques from Dr. Liebgold’s book. Just knowing that I can handle it makes it all a little more bearable. Even though I was in no mood to experience the potential panic attack that was looming over my head I knew that avoiding the trip was not good. Here I had a perfectly good chance to blow it all by avoiding something. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to practice what I learned and put another victory under my belt.

By the end of our trip to BJs I was at an anxiety level of zero. I could have easily stayed for hours on end. What happened? I acclimated. My anxiety is no match for me and what I decide to do with my life. It’s just an unpleasant feeling, and by treating it as such and nothing more I have been able to get better at beating it down. Do I have fleeting moments of panic where I start to question whether or not I am actually going crazy? Of course, but that’s normal. It’s not all smooth sailing, and that’s ok. I am still here. I am still going about my life, only I do it with a little internal turmoil that most people don’t notice. You can’t see it.

 

Chapter 2 notes

Tools and Strategies to Combat Anxiety

  • Your brain has two sides- a right side and a left side.
  • The right side is the biochemical adrenaline-stimulating side. When you are in your right brain, you are in the adrenaline-stimulating side.
  • The left side of the brain is the critical, calculating, action-oriented side. When you are using your left brain, you shut off adrenaline
  • Cortical switching involves getting yourself out of your right brain and into your left brain. This can be accomplished by choosing:
  1. three things you can do: talking to or phoning someone, dancing, singing, yodeling, playing a video game, or doing a crossword puzzle.
  2. three things you can see: counting ceiling tiles, looking for cloud designs, reading labels in the supermarket. The more intensely you focus, the more likely you are to reduce anxiety.
  3. three things you can hear: birds chirping, ocean sounds, construction noises, background music, or the speaker’s voice.
  4. three things you can feel or smell: holding someone’s hand, stroking a piece of faux fur, smelling a particular scent. (for the last one you can have a piece of cloth saturated with the smell kept in a zip bag)
  • The brain is a “show me” organ, it does not believe what you tell it- only what you do.
  • “The Phobease Golden Dozen” (even though there are only eleven, haha):
  1. Recognize and accept the Boo
  2. Thought Stoppage and calmative breathing
  3. Dispute and reframe
  4. Cortical shift
  5. SUDs Evaluation (Subjective Units of Discomfort)
  6. Model and Mirror
  7. Get in the here and now
  8. Anticipate and prepare
  9. Write it down
  10. Study the subject
  11. “I will handle it”
  • Remember that only victories, purposeful exposures to the thing you fear, cure phobias. And when you get them, write them down.

 

I’m still sick and feeling worse than I did yesterday. Being that I am working on revamping my daily routine I still made an effort and got a load of laundry done. It was difficult to muster up the energy to do much, even making dinner seemed like a daunting task. I managed to resist the urge to order food or ask my husband to pick up something on his way from work.

I was lucky that my son was very cooperative today. After breakfast this morning I was feeling so unwell that I put him in his crib and he amused himself for about two hours. He later took a three hour nap which meant I was able to get some more sleep. I think it helped somewhat but I still feel rundown.

Anxiety-wise I am at a level zero. I think I don’t have the energy to let my mind wander. It’s been nice to not feel anxious on top of it all. I haven’t exercised in a few days but I have kept up with my meditation.

I’m hoping to feel better tomorrow.