Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fried.

Trying not to start every entry saying, "Sorry I haven't written in a while," but it's hard. Cuz honestly, I'm sorry that I haven't written in a while.

Life has been busy, and full of change. I stopped working a morning job that I've had for the past year and a half. Still working with the company, but reducing workload. I had to...it was killing me to work half my day and not have flexibility. And they wouldn't give me a raise. More of my writing work is going the way of magazines--no complaints here!!!--so I'm focusing on that. Financially, I can.

This week has been a blur of endless deadlines and to-do lists. It's had my anxiety up in general, but not to a panicky point.

So I'm going to try to take it easy for a few days, like, easier. Less work, more reading and yoga. I need to remember self-care even though my career is sometimes so exciting it makes me want to keep working. It also makes me try to remember that while I'm excited, self-care is important. Unplugging is important.

And yes, catching up on "Downtown Abbey" and "Pretty Little Liars" is important.

A new order of Sereno chai just came in, so lots of that will be in my immediate future, too.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ugh-wake.

My sleep schedule is completely off these days. It's very interrupted, not at all how I like it. Sometimes it's just me that wakes up, sometimes it's the snoring husband, or the husband leaving early for work. Today it was a combination of that and some anxiety over some little things.

So whatever the reason, I am up. It's now 6:03 a.m. and I sit in bed, laptop on...well, lap...and I type.

I'm normally not an insomnia type of person. I am an eight-hour-a-night kind of girl--nine isn't out of the case and 10 hours a night happens occasionally.This is more of "I'm up, might as well get crackin'" as opposed to tossing and turning all night.

I have to be up in an hour for my morning job, so I might as well get an early start on that.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Chai recommendation.

Gotta make room for the "good stuff" in life. This and Starbucks are my fave.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Healing music: Heather Nova

I find music to be very healing in many ways. It uplifts us, helps us express how we feel and aids us in releasing negative emotions.

So I'll be bringing you lots of music on this blog, and my first song of choice is by Heather Nova. It's called "Until the Race is Run."


While I'm on a Heather kick, I adore her song "Done Drifting."

Making negatives positive.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

The fear and the physician.

Anxiety may subside, but I think it will always be with me.

Today I was driving to the rheumatologist's office for a consultation. Thankfully everything is good and there is no sign of any immune issues like my chiropractor thought. But it just made me realize how, even when things are good, my old "pal" anxiety never ceases to creep up.

This is because a lot of my anxiety occurred regarding the medical field. Even when I go to my doctors now, I always get nervous. But when it came time to go to a new doctor, in a new place...well, that was just kind of terrifying.

Xanax helped, and I'm not ashamed to say that I pop half a pill whenever I'm in a stressful situation. (Again, usually with doctors.) But there will still old voices in my head, like ghosts from the past that never lost their ground.

Funny things happen in doctors' offices though, so I kind of rolled with that. This doctor didn't know anything about my anxiety, but I recall many others who did yet kept me in the waiting room or on the exam table for too long. "Read the chart, moron," I'd always think to myself. This doctor was very nice, but the nurse was a real grump. I tell you, you know you're in a strange situation when the receptionist is nice and the nurse is a grouch.

So there I am, surrounded by charts with muscles and bones and organs. The room is sterile, "decorated" in brass-framed art from the 80s. The floors are 100% pure linoleum. There are latex gloves and models of body parts. And there's me, on the table. At one point, the wait got so long and I folded up my legs to sit "Indian style." Then, I started deep breathing. Might as well get some yoga in the doctor was taking so freaking long.

I looked down at my bracelets, each one is there to remind me of certain things. Like hte outside world, and all the good things in it. My husband gave me the Alex + Ani Patriots bangle for Christmas--that one reminded me that I'm strong and I'm a champion. (Just like my favorite boys from Boston!) Those little reminders somehow grounded me.


Years ago, just sitting there would have been so hard. Trust me, I've bolted from many a doctors' office leaving only a copay behind and no diagnosis ahead. I'm glad that I can get through these things now. Even though each "new thing" feels too new, so my mind tries to convince me that I can't possibly get through it.

I've grown so much, especially in the past few years. And one thing I reminded myself of was that I have to bring a little of the person I am when I'm not in a "scary" setting into those terrifying places. The bracelets were key in reminding me that I could do this. Then I remembered that I was in control, and if I left, that would be okay. I also remembered about this blog, and how I may sound like I'm so enlightened at times, and so healed. And I am, but not completely. I can't forget that--all my healing, all my strength--when I'm in a place that gives me anxiety.

You have to heal and taste the good, and bring it with you. Because "bad days" happen. You'll have to go into places that give you anxiety if you want to heal. The real test is to see if you can bring your coping skills along for the ride. Or if you can recall positive things when you're in a negative situation. Then, it's not so bad. It takes time and hard work to work up to this point, of course.

And if "the ride" sucks, which it may, go easy on yourself. Remember that we're healing little by little. And if you're not on some sort of path to get better, remember that by talking about your anxiety and learning about it, you're still getting somewhere.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Surviving anxiety.

Scott Stossel is right on the money.

He's the guy who recently penned the cover story for The Atlantic, "Surviving Anxiety." His somewhat lengthy essay was refreshing, honest--and I'm just so glad it's out there.  He talks about all the ways that he's tried to cope with his disorder, and really exposes what it's like to live with this condition.
"Stigma still attaches to mental illness. Anxiety is seen as weakness. In presenting my anxiety to the world by writing publicly about it, I’ve been told, I will be, in effect, “coming out.” The implication is that this will be liberating. We’ll see about that. But my hope is that readers who share this affliction, to whatever extent, will find some value in this account—not a cure for their anxiety, but perhaps some sense of the redemptive value of an often wretched condition, as well as evidence that they can cope and even thrive in spite of it. Most of all, I hope they—and by “they” I mean “many of you”—will find some solace in learning that they are not alone." --Scott Stossel
I feel the same as I write in this blog, and actually thought that speaking out about having anxiety would be similar to a homosexual who "come out of the closet." At least that's what it feels like to me.

For so long, anxiety was this hidden thing in my life. This huge aspect of it that I kept under wraps. I was so conscious about not letting too many people know the extent of the problems I experienced at the time. While I wish I was brave enough to blog about it when I was in the thick of it, I know that I was where I was--albeit fairly silent--for a reason. I had to get to a certain point healing to start talking. To share. Now, finally, I'm there. Scott, you're not alone either as you embark on the "coming out" journey.

I've already ordered a copy of Stossel's new book on anxiety, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind.

I put that sucker on a two-day Amazon Prime delivery. (As all things should be!)

I can't wait to read about his experiences. I hope it empowers me, and you, to share our vulnerabilities. I truly believe that's a huge part in recovery.

When we can start to say, "I have an anxiety condition, so what?" there is so much healing on the other side of that. It takes away anxiety's power, and enables others to connect with us. As much as some people don't "get it," there are so many who do, and who can help us as we make sense of this condition.


The Atlantic wants people to share their anxiety stories. I'm going to. Let's be brave together!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anxiety resources.

I don't think we every really heal from dealing with anxiety. That, in itself, is a trauma all its own. But things can get better--there is healing no matter how unlikely it seems.

When I first started experiencing anxiety, I felt like most people. That is, I thought I was going crazy. My body had these weird sensations and on top of it, those feelings made me feel depressed. This is why the cycle of anxiety and depression are so intertwined.

So, where do you start? Where do you begin to heal? I say you begin by understanding the physical mechanisms of anxiety and panic attacks. Once I understood what was happening to me inside, I felt a lot  more normal.

No one really talks about what panic attacks feel like, and they certainly don't talk about the phobias that can arise out of them. I remember when I was getting panic attacks in college--it was hard to leave my dorm room or sit through a class. How weird was that? Not weird at all, in fact--actually, it was quite normal. So I started to explore what was going on. Even though, yes, I did think I was going nuts.

Here are some of the resources that helped me. These will explain what's going on in your body and how all that negative self-talk can evolve into something even worse. And how to stop that from happening, or deal with it if it has.

The best book I read at that time was From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett.


Later on when I sought therapy, this one helped too. Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns.


And then this one, though quite older, has some really valuable information. Hope and Help for Your Nerves by Claire Weekes. She also has some great audio resources that kind of made me feel like I was hearing from a kindred soul. 


There is also an awesome community at www.anxietyzone.com that includes a chat and forums.

Please share your favorite resources with a comment about them! I'd love to eventually build out a section of resources on this blog!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My own private living room.

Today I came across this study about researchers from DePaul University who found that people with mental illness or emotional distress received better care in an alternative recovery-oriented, homelike environment instead of a traditional emergency room.

All the people out there with white-coat syndrome and anxiety disorders are like, “Well, duh…yeah!”

“No one likes going to the doctor,” people used to tell me when I attempted to open up about my fear of being in medical environments. For a while my anxiety was so bad that I could hardly sit still in the waiting room or the exam room. Sometimes, I'd just leave and go cry in my car, thinking I was nuts.

I recall many times when I thought that I could handle being told I had some horrible disease if the doctor told me at home…just not in that office.

It kind of comes as no surprise that they would find that this setting helped more. Even if you don’t have a phobia of needles or white coats, being in the ER sucks. I’ve never had to go for my own treatment and imagine that if I was there for a mental-related problem, it would be 10 times worse. Waiting to see a doctor for two hours is okay when you need a stitch or something…but it can’t put a bandage on an emotional problem. Especially one that can’t wait. I imagine many people simply don’t seek treatment in a crisis because they know what the emergency room is like.

I like that this study is out there. It’s not necessarily out there because there are people like me that are able to calm down more in a less-sterile setting. But it does show that I’m not alone in feeling more receptive to treatment in a “living room” type of environment. That’s been huge to being able to take care of myself.

This is why it was imperative for me to seek out great doctors that had soothing environments. Now I can relax a little more and discuss the things that need attention instead of staring at white walls or dirty stainless steel. Those things really affected me in the past.

If you’re a self-proclained medi-phobe like me, seek out environments that you feel comfortable in. While the ER may never look like a living room and you may find yourself in a stuffy doctor’s office now and then, you can still find doctors who care as much about their settings as they do their patients. When I think about it, my dentist’s office emulates a spa and my primary care doctor does her exams in her office–and lets me sit in a normal chair to talk before she puts me on one of those tables that always stick to me. Doctors like that are the ones that will help you get the attention and care you deserve.

If you’ve ever felt like a warmer environment would make your medical experience better, seek it out. When you find a doctor who provides it, it’s not nearly as scary as going to the doctor used to be.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

My "perfect" world.

In a perfect world, this blog would have never existed. In a perfect world, I would be free from anxiety. I'd have no reason to blog. I would be calm and peaceful all the time.

The world isn't perfect, though. And the more I live in it, I realize that having an anxiety disorder is exactly where I should be. There is no such thing as perfection for even the coolest, the calmest...the most collected.

So I write. And I'll have a lot to say. Because I've learned to live with my anxieties, and I've learned to thrive not only despite them--but because of them. That's the beauty in the journey. I'm ready to share mine, and I'm ready to make you part of it. It's time to stop hiding about my condition. I want to document my life and thoughts. I just know they can be helpful for others. It will be therapeutic for me to write here.

My ultimate hope is to inspire and help others, but I'm also eager to release my thoughts.

So here goes.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My story.


Hi there, I'm Kristen.

My struggle with anxiety began when I was in college, though in dealing with it I found that its roots went back even earlier. I also have a history of mental health issues in my family. Now I'm trying to break that cycle. I've healed a lot, and life will give me new opportunities to continue that healing.

Although my anxiety was only severe at times, it has greatly impacted me. Now that I have worked through the issues that led to this condition, I'm looking to help others. I want you to know that you are not alone, and that someone else has walked in your shoes. I want to document life for all its beauty--the good and bad. And I want to give you hope. I want you to heal, too. And I want you to embrace life, even when every breath may feel like your last. There is good out there from all of the negative...we just have to find it. Maybe you'll find it in my posts about anxiety, or maybe you'll see it in the other things I post.

I want you to know that even though it feels like every breath is your last, you can get through this. We can share our stories. There is so much strength in that, no matter how severe your anxiety is.

Anxiety is a part of my life, but it doesn't completely define me.

I'm also a writer. My husband is amazing, and I love our kitty kids. I live at the Jersey Shore, and I enjoy music, knitting, football, paddleboarding, reading, and going to the beach. I have an awesome family and great friends. From a very young age, I have been blessed to have The Lord in my life. On the whole, life is good.

I'd love to hear from you. Drop me a line at healingfromanxiety@gmail.com.