Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday blues

I suppose that everybody has some variation of the holiday blues. For me the holidays were always happy as a kid but when I grow up they seem to get more depressing.

Maybe it was because of those somber Christmas is living with my father and having very little money, or maybe it was that as I grew older more loved ones in my family passed away and Christmas was never the same without them.

There are so many loved ones that I never spent Christmases with but love so much and just knowing that they are gone seems to make the holidays worse. I know a lot of people go through this.

Today I was wondering why I have such a love/hate relationship with Christmas. It's definitely not because of the spiritual reasons because I certainly am grateful for and celebrate the birth of Jesus. But when you look around it's hard to be happy when things are missing. People, I mean.

Why do we fixate so much on the people that have passed and the fact that they are no longer physically present? They are very much with us spiritually, I guess that's something that I believe being a Christian. I always feel that the people who have passed are still very much a part of my life watching over me. Yet I still miss them. Especially this time of year.

And wonder why it is so hard sometimes to forget about the wonderful things that are ahead of us and those who are with us on Christmas. For instance, I miss my uncle Bob and my grandmother and my Italian nan who died on this day in 1997 so much, but I am also so fortunate to have three beautiful nieces and a nephew and a husband and a wonderful family that was an addition to my life around the time when so many people I love passed away. I also still have many people in my life that were with me as a kid who I cherish very much.

Why can't I just focus on them and be happy? I am happy but also sad.  I guess if you are a glass-half-empty person you always think about what is missing and loved ones who have passed certainly can't be present physically so you definitely feel their absence. But I'm not really a glass-half-empty kind of girl I work very hard to be a glass-half-full person. Still, the holidays tend to hit a sore spot in my heart.

It is funny how things come and go as you grow older.  The generation of adults that you grew up idolizing pass on and leave you in this brave new world that is your life. You make friends you add family members and you morph into this whole other version of family.

There are now children in my life, thank God, and they don't replace those who have passed but they certainly make my life richer. I guess it's just how timing goes old people pass away young children are born and that's the way life goes. I suppose that when you don't have children  you  tend to ruminate on things a little more because you are not pulled in the direction of all the energy that children bring. Somewhere in the middle, here I am thinking about both what I have lost and what I have gained.

I guess overall I feel so blessed to have loved so many wonderful people in the past and present. I hope that every Christmas even if you are missing people or lonely or sad or anxious that you can find some sort of peace between past and present...and hope for the future.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holiday wishes.

Despite a bit of a cold that has me rundown and not able to workout, I'm doing well. I'm actually looking forward to the holidays. It's not that I ever dread them, well, I did when my anxiety was horrible. I'm just not into the commercialization aspect of Christmas. There's so much to do!

But now that I'm taking next week off, I'm looking forward to this time of peace. I'm throwing out all my "better get working" and "gotta keep on making money" thoughts and just taking a week off. I can't wait. Reading, sleeping, Starbucksing, exercising, walking, knitting..whatever I want.

Wishing you all a peaceful and merry holiday season. Make time for self-care!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

SafetySuit - Looking Up

I'm a firm believer in using music as therapy and for healing. Sometimes, though, you need a song that just let's you let go and perpetuate the positivity.

This is mine--and dang, it's fabulous.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pray for Paris.

My heart is so heavy for anyone impacted by the Paris bombings.

I know that the people who lost someone are reeling but there are so many people who experience anxiety that are just as traumatized. Even if you're nowhere near Paris.

I know because I only recently dealt with the impacts from Sept. 11, 2001. Terror attacks, the media, and living constantly "aware" are hard for everyone, but for those of us with heightened nervous systems, it can be debilitating.

Sending all my love.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Laugh at it.

If you don't laugh, you'll probably end up crying.

Yesterday, I had my first dermatologist appointment. Horrible to have waited this long, but at least I went, right? The experience reminded me of how far I've come. Going to a doctor used to mean scouting the right office, nervously walking in to many of them to scope it out and make sure it was "safe," obsessively researching the doctor online, finally choosing a doctor to make an appointment--only when I had to--and then losing sleep the night before the appointment. That was just leading up to the appointment. Some were disasters (didn't go in, ran out of room) and others were huge successses (made it thorugh long enough to get medication, still freaked out but didn't show it as much as I used to).

Yesterday I realize my appointment is in a hospital. I started to mentally freak for about a second until I started laughing.

That's right, laughing.

Many years ago, just going to a doctor's office would have destroyed me--and you can imagine I didn't fare well in hospitals either. And being on the second floor would make my inner child go nuts because she always sought after a quick pop-out-the-door escape plan.

I was fine. No Xanax. No major freaking. And, in fact, laughter.

Did I mention that I took an elevator, too? That used to drive me into a tailspin.

When we got into the elevator (my husband a nd I both had appointments) he's like, "Calm down," before I said a thing. He's had to pre-emptively calm me down so many times.

"You know, honey, I am okay," I said. "It is what it is, and I am okay."

I can't say I wasn't a little nervous, but I can't believe how far I've come. My entire baseline anxiety level was maybe a 1 instead of a 10 before even going in to the parts that scared me. Even when the doctor sliced off a mole, which involved a needle, I was okay. I was just so grateful to be able to do the experience--so grateful, in fact, that it easily trumped any fear. Now that's recovery.

And even if you're not there,  you can get there. It happens eventually. Healing can happen. You just have to work at it. Find the right tools, the right support system.

I think it's cool when you are not only healed, but when you can be eternally grateful for that healing. For your strides. And when you focus on that, the things that used to scare you aren't so frightening anymore. They are milestones you can look back on...and relish, and appreciate. And perhaps, laugh at.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Is Emotional Abuse as Harmful as Physical and Sexual Abuse?

Is Emotional Abuse as Harmful as Physical and Sexual Abuse?

A pair of recent studies asserts that psychological abuse may be as harmful as other forms of child maltreatment, including physical and sexual abuse.

Although researchers describe emotional abuse of children as widely prevalent, it has not always been seen as serious or as damaging as other forms of maltreatment. But as researchers link psychological abuse to mental health-related issues later in life, these findings raise questions about the implications for screening, treating and preventing childhood trauma.

A new study released last week in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that emotional abuse is just as damaging as violent abuse when it comes to mental and behavioral health. Children who have experienced psychological abuse exhibit trauma-related health issues at the same rate as their peers who have suffered physical or sexual abuse.

In a paper titled “Assessment of the Harmful Psychiatric and Behavioral Effects of Different Forms of Child Maltreatment,” the authors examined nearly 2,300 children ages 5 to 13 who attended a summer camp for low-income children in New York from 1986 to 2012. About half had a documented history of some form of maltreatment, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The authors described emotional abuse as including behaviors such as ridicule, intimidation, rejection and humiliation.


Monday, October 12, 2015

My kids.

This is the level of cuteness I am dealing with tonight:)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Book wonder.

Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to finish this book. I was raking leaves today thinking that it's so hard to make time to write...especially when you write all day for a living.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Health anxiety.

One of the scariest aspects of anxiety, for me, has been when a new symptom manifests. A new symptom can mimic just about a million other health ailments, so it's hard to discern if the symptom is from anxiety or an underlying problem.

I've been working--a lot--and noticing that I have some numbness in my forearm, wrist and hand. It's on my left side, which makes the anxious nutcase in me internally cream, "Heart attack! At 37!"

The numbness comes and goes. And today it struck in the grocery store. I tried to calm myself down, thinking maybe it is just an overuse injury and I was probably leaning on the cart waiting at the deli, cutting off some circulation to my wrist. (I've had so many problems with my hands as a writer/all-day dear little money-makers!)

It was just kind of a reminder how upsetting it can be when the slightest thing happens. In my case, I'm pretty sure it's from all the typing I do--I have carpal tunnel syndrome--but it was still weird to slip into panic mode when it popped again.

What's your latest symptom? How do you not let it yank you into health anxiety oblivion?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Work night.

Crammed dinner down and it's on to more work. And that's good, because I've been wanting to feel productive.

Today I worked on some writing assignments that felt like I was writing a term paper instead of copywriting. There was a lot of research involved, and I felt like I was taken back to my college library, sitting in some cubicle highlighting photocopy after photocopy of some scientific something. (Yes, we photocopied in my day!)

Even though the work is less than energizing, I am happy to do it. I recall vividly what it was like to be miserable at work. The chance I got to start my business and the success I've had are not lost on me. Neither is the bliss of being able to work on my own, from home.

So after a brief Starbucks break, I'm back to work.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Patience is practiced.

Patience is not one of my virtues. It never has been. Although I am aware of this, that hasn't stopped me from being impatient. The best I can do is stop in my moments of angst and remember to be patient...or at least grateful.

Yesterday on the beach--where I have most of my profound insights--I let myself feel. I have been frustrated because everything--work projects mostly--seem to be delayed lately, leaving me with gaps in my schedule.

This means that I'm not as busy with work, which is a trigger for me. If I'm not working, I'm not earning and I start to freak out about making enough money. It also means I can either take time off or scramble to generate more work. (Being a journalist is cool like that, because I can pitch more stories when I have time. The problem there is that the story approvals typically come back just when I the delayed project will start, and I will be swamped.)

I notice a pattern: When I'm busy, I'd rather not be working and I start to wish for time off to, say, go to the beach. Vicious cycle, I tell you. (Life of a freelancer.)

I realized yesterday that this feeling of frustration is really me being  upset that I'm not busy. Moreover, it's a feeling of being bummed about not having work assignments coming in. I don't like when exciting things aren't happening.

As I sat there on a gorgeous semi-sunny day, I wondered, "How bad is this? Who cares if you're not working all the time?" Me. I'm the only one who cares. I'm the only one sitting here, upset in paradise, about not working.

Now, let me say this: I work. I just don't always work an 8-hour day. I am blessed to often earn an hourly rate that means I can work less hours than most people. Plus, I don't have a commute. On the flip side, I have days where I work 12+ hours. My schedule is all over the place. I try to balance it. Delays get in the way, and then I get ticked off. But it's not really the delay that unfurls me. It's the feeling that new opportunities aren't pouring it. (Have I mentioned I'm also bummed that my kids book is taking forever to publish?)

So right now, there are some gaps. Not like I don't have tons of other things to do with my time. I guess I just want to make sure enough money is coming in. That fear kicks off the bad feelings. And I know I feel crummy but I didn't understand why until I sat for a moment, breathed in salt air and really got in touch with what was happening inside.

The truth is, I'm kind of addicted to knowing I have work lined up. Don't you have to be when you're a freelancer, though? Maybe I function better when I'm busy. Still, I know many times when I am busy, I wish for more free time. There's that stinky vicious cycle again.

Today, I worked all morning. And now I want to go to the beach. And I can. I'm practicing patience that all these delays are okay. They're in my life for a reason. I'm grateful for this time, and I'm not going to let anxiety about money ruin that for me. It will all be okay. I am enough even if I am not working a 40-hour week this week.

You don't just acquire practice it. You keep practicing it because let's face it, you may never have it. You can only be mindful of the angst that impatience can cause you, and take breaks to try to let go.

And while having to "practice" patience may be frustrating, it's good to know that we can work on things. And in the meantime, I suppose, enjoy beautiful scenery while we're at it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Waiting to breathe?

Sometimes I am amazed at how in-check my anxiety is. I've dealt with a lot of things that, just a few years back, would have crippled me. How am I doing that? It makes me think "when's the other shoe going to drop?" but I try to silence that inner critic.

If my panic disorder ever becomes bad again, I know how to get help.

In the meantime, we have to enjoy our journey, wherever we are on it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Blogging may be slow lately, but writing certainly isn't.

I did a BOLD thing and finally printed my manuscript last week. All 87,000 words of it--quite the hot mess.

I decided it was time to stop writing and read the sucker. Fill in the blanks on my own. Weed out all the banter. And it's working. I have a few chapters that I am really happy with. Very poignant.

Next step is to keep editing and work on through. I've edited and entered edits for about 1/3 of the book. Then I'll reach out and begin the fun process of trying to get an agent. I hope it's not so hard as getting an agent for my kids picture book has been--that has NOT been fun. Still, I have faith it will all fall into place.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Good and bad.

I was writing--working on the book--tonight, and this came out. And this is resonating.

"No matter how bad life gets, there is always good in it. Sometimes those positives are not right in in your face….you have to know to seek them out or you’ll forget they even exist."

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Not good enough?

You know how you feel when someone articulates the exact feeling you have...exactly? That elation when someone hits a nerve of sorts--a tender spot--that makes you feel complete relief that, "Yes, another human being does feel that way?"

That's kind of everything. That's huge.

As a writer, I'm not sure I will ever be able to give people that "aha" moment. I try, but I don't really. I just try to convey my own thoughts without trying to connect the dots. I trust that others know what I mean. Especially those reading an anxiety blog...we all just "get" each other, right?

Kira Elliott did that for me today--she articulated something that seems impossible to do, and she got me. I bet she got a lot of people with the wonderful way she writes, conveys what she feels.

I don't always get to do that, being in copywriter/journalist mode. I'm all about the sales benefits, the who-what-when-where-why when I'm writing. It's so fleeting that I get to just write for the pleasure of it. (Perhaps that's why my book is such a slow-go. I want it to be more than a transcription of what happened...I want to connect dots, find the beauty in my uncomfortable experiences, and make it something that inspires others. It's hard enough to remember events that happened four, seven, twelve years ago...then to make it eloquent? Hard work.)

Even on here. I'm always trying to keep up...keep the blog fresh. Most of the time, I just spew ideas. I guess I'm okay with that.

Go read her post, though. If you've ever felt like you're not enough. It's a good reminder that you are enough. And that it's vital to pause.

What currently happens is I am filled with this drive to do more and be more. I am never satisfied. I am suffering. I am filled with hungry ghosts of not good enough. And here is where I get stuck, I want to change, let go of the habit of constant motion and extreme effort so I get out the only tool I have or really know how to use, the big ass hammer of extreme 120% effort. I go all in and try to change with 120% effort. I use the very same mindset to change what I want to let go. It is a mess because I fail at changing which then makes me feel bad which leads me to find something I can excel doing so I can feel better. The cycle loops around and around.


And...out of curiosity, who gets it?

Monday, June 15, 2015

The landscape.

I was landscaping this weekend...putting in a new fence and bed in our front yard. Yesterday, when all was done and I could hardly move, I snuck off to the beach for an hour. I was thinking about the landscape of the beach. And how the landscape of something may not change, but our perception of it can change.

For the last few weeks, though, since we returned from Hilton Head, I just couldn't get that beach out of my head. The compact sand you could bike on...the calm water...the warm water...the dolphins always visible off the coast. Somehow, when I returned to New Jersey, I wanted nothing more than that beach...I wanted to be back in Hilton Head, and thought the rugged Jersey coast wasn't as pretty, or couldn't compare. I hated that, because I have always adored the Jersey Shore. I didn't want to love another beach more than it.

The Jersey Shore is my every day landscape...I want to be able to appreciate it instead of traveling 12 hours once a year to enjoy another beach. I want to be the beach I have. For the first time, I kind of couldn't. I loved it, but I loved Hilton Head more. That's nice, but I want my beach to be my favorite...I never want to be that person that's always looking elsewhere for happiness. I want to be happy with what I  have, right in front of me. The same way I don't want to be one of those "I'll be happy when..." people--I want to be happy with what I have...right here, right now.

Yesterday, looking at the landscape of the beach, I realized that my love affair with the Jersey Shore beaches finally returned. Even though I walked the boardwalk throughout the year, the beach wasn't the same until I could plant my chair in the sand on a hot day and enjoy the water. Now that I can, the beach has a totally different landscape to me. It's changed. It returned to me.

I guess what I a trying to say is that it's important to appreciate what you have, what's right in front of you. Usually, I don't have a problem with that...until I saw a beautiful beach and went to a lovely place. Now, though, when I was able to really be on my beach, I was able to embrace the beauty around me. I'm glad, because the beach means the world to me. It's nice to know that paradise is a mere 10-minute drive. We make our own matter where it is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Things have been all right here. Same old. I can't complain about that. I've been working and taking care of my house. There's been some intermittent panic, but nothing that's carried me away. I am learning to weather those storms so much better...they that used to overtake me.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Birthday blahs.

These days, I am really liking my time alone.

I remember when my anxiety was super horrible, I hated being alone. I would do all sorts of things to comfort myself so I could just get through a day at home alone (working, of course, but still alone).

These days, I need more time to recoup from being around certain people. Their energy is draining. And this is hard because I like to relish the time I have with people, because I know it's fleeting. All the same, I want to relish my life and enjoy it. Sometimes, that means being alone.

Tomorrow, I turn 37. I have mixed feelings about it. I've never liked birthdays. A few years ago, Tim and I started doing something fun for my birthday, just the two of us. It helps me think of the day as "remember that time we did..." instead of just it being my birthday. After all, a day is just a day. It is precious, but so is every other day when you think about it.

Friday, May 1, 2015

LIsten up, self.

Panic disorder is like an unpacified child. In my early days dealing with it, I went with the flow and cried like the cranky child projecting outward from within me. These days, I just get upset when my panic starts to activate.

My latest episodes aren't full-on panic attacks, they're just waves of panic, if that's possible. They're kind of a nuisance.

They're also trying to tell me something, and I have to listen up as annoying as they can be.

(Granted, I'm glad that panic waves can be annoying compared to living many years ago with ongoing full-blown attacks that I couldn't control...)

My therapist used to tell me that when life got stressful, my anxiety levels--and likelihood of attacks, waves, whatever you want to call them--would skyrocket too. This was novel to me at the time.

Now I recognize the signs.

Sure, these aren't horrible panic attacks, but I think they are telling me that I really need to make self-care a priority. I need to turn up the dial on Kristen time. That's so hard right now because I am slammed with work and have a number of issues going on in the lives of people close to me. Everyday, I have to weed out the things I can and cannot deal with--and I have to do it all with a demanding work schedule.

Point is, I'm still learning how to manage it to balance.

It doesn't just "come" to you, learning how to balance. It's a conscious choice we have to make during the day. Too much stress? Dial up self-care. Self feeling okay? It's okay to push a little on work/personal obligations.

So...I'm going with it, consciously balancing--and re-balancing--myself.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Don't wake the baby.

Sometimes, I swear, anxiety is like this sleeping giant. One panic attack awakens it and it's like a restless child that can't go back to sleep.

A few weeks ago, panic hit me to the point where I was like, "Wow, was that a panic attack or is something seriously wrong with me?" (Not that attacks aren't wrong. I just notice that as we age and evolve, our panic symptoms seem to change--almost as if to keep us constantly on our feet.)

Since then, I've had some aftershocks. And my body generally feels lousy and on edge. I'm sure it's not that one attack that brought it all on--I'm aware of the stressors in my life that can get me into "a state." And while I'm not completely falling apart, I can feel a bit of what I remember to be like.

Prescription: Self-care, self-care, self-care.

Hopefully things will pick up again, and by pick up I mean slow down.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Now leaving your comfort zone.

Traveling is hard for me. There, I said it.

I know everyone loves it, and there are many aspects of it that I like. But truthfully, traveling brings up a lot of anxiety for me. Not just anxiety...physical anxiety. To the point of interruption. For years, I was ashamed of this...kind of still am. But I am trying to accept this, and that's easier because I know where all the anxiety stems from.

Even though it's tough, I made baby steps...a big stride, actually. I spent more than a week in Hilton Head, SC. It was beautiful and blissful. And despite a little anxiety, I was okay.

There's something to be said about throwing yourself into a situation and just dealing with it instead of anticipating all the things that could go wrong. Here's what's to be said: It's not that easy at all.

I think you have to get to a certain point where you can take that step of faith. It doesn't' just happen even though everyone says "Just Do It" like they're from Nike and it's not a big deal. It is a big deal.

Very grateful for the time in paradise and memories made. It was nice to get away, and I'm looking forward to being able to get away any time I want, even if I can't go away. It's all about balance, and perspective.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Push and pull.

There's no one way to healing. I know that, I just have to remind myself of it. Like, on the hour.

I'm a pusher. Type A to the max. This is why the concept of "baby steps" was so hard to grasp. Who wanted to take steps? I just wanted to arrive--at everything. I wanted to instantly conquer fears. Instantly eradicate anger. Overcome panic disorders in a single therapy session. It doesn't work like that.

Sometimes when I see programs that promise to eliminate anxiety "for good" I feel helpless. I also have to laugh. Anxiety isn't something you's something you live with. That level of anxiety hopefully decreases so you can live, but I don't think it ever really goes away.

Especially when you're being triggered, or dealing with things that used to scare you in the past.

In yoga, my teacher Laurie always says "it's a push and pull" when we're in poses that require you to push and pull at the same time in order to get the proper position and stretch. Anxiety's kind of like that. It's a balancing act. You have to move forward, but you have to take baby steps. And you have to be okay with the fact that you have to take baby steps.

I swear, just accepting that I needed to take baby steps, giving myself permission to take baby steps, and not shaming myself for needing them, took up a large portion of my time in therapy.

This week, I'm grappling with some anxiety. I want to just arrive at being free of it, but I have to go through. And to do that, I have to take baby steps. There's nothing wrong with it. I just have to remind myself that it's perfectly okay to find that balance of trying to push through but not pushing so hard. That's my Achilles heel in my healing--giving myself permission to move at the pace that helps me instead of the pace that I want to accelerate.

What's your push and pull?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lack of therapist.

Is it possible to miss one's therapist? I do. I miss her so much. I stopped going more than six months ago, and it still seems so odd to me not to be in therapy. We both decided I didn't need to do anymore "work" unless I wanted to go back for additional EMDR. Right now, I don't need that.

It's still weird--life after therapy, that is. Of course, challenges still arise, but none that have had me reaching for my phone to call my therapist and beg for an appointment. How's that possible? I suppose I have healed. Maybe not completely, but for now, I can function so much better than I used to.

When I was sick for about a decade, and twice quite acutely for about a month during each break, I couldn't imagine the next moment let alone life after therapy. All I wanted was life without anxiety. But I guess because I no longer want that, it shows that maturity.

I mean, at some point, I was hoping to get well. That's why I spent all that money on therapy. I guess it's just odd when it finally happens. When you realize that you're stronger and healthier. It doesn't mean you'll never need therapy again, but it means you're better equipped to deal with life on your own.

And I am, and that's cool. I just really miss her. How could I not? She was with me for more than a decade, holding my hand...holding my heart.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How anxiety impairs our decision-making skills.

How Anxiety Affects Your Decision-Making Skills


The last three times your boss called you into his office, it was to praise your work and give you new responsibilities. But today, her disapproval makes it feel like she's considering firing you. How does her next meeting request make you feel?

Or what about those final-round candidates you’re considering hiring—if the last two people you brought onboard were duds, will you go with the safe bet or the risky one?

If you’re anxiety-prone, the choices you make in the future may be skewed by past burns—and science backs those nerves up. Anxious people are more prone to making bad decisions, according to research out this week from UC Berkeley.

Read the rest of the article at Fast Company.


Thursday, March 5, 2015


Another day, another snowfall.

I'm not complaining. Life could be worse. This is winter. And if you think about it, it's known as this cold, "bad" time of year, but is it really so?

Underneath the ground, spring is waiting to arise. It couldn't without winter. Kind of like how we can't grow without trials. (Leave it to me to find the anxiety analogy, right?)

I've got some cabin fever, mostly because I work from home, but I'm not going to let it get me down. Things could be so much worse. I like to use this sort of thing as a life lesson. In a few days, the snow will melt and hopefully I will finally be able to see the entire lawn, which I don't remember at this point. But life could be worse.

Without snow, how would I have done snow angels after the Patriots won the Super Bowl? It's the little things, folks.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do your job.

It's Super Bowl week. And as a Patriots fan, I couldn't be more elated.

Patriots fans have embraced our coach's motto, "Do Your Job." He tells the players not to worry about the hype, just to treat their game like a job. It helps them focus on what's important. Now, the fans have  job too, as outlined in the contract above. Which I gladly signed.

Hear me out, please: Even if you hate the Patriots. 

When I started to heal from my anxiety, my therapist was adamant about finding the positives in life. "Embrace the good stuff," she would say. Having spent so many years focused on negative things, this was completely new to me. One of those good things was football. I found other good things, too. 

When I started looking for good, it was everywhere. Then I started practicing gratitude, and things really turned around.

There was so much good, and so much to be grateful for, that I started to focus more on positive things. I made it my job. It changed everything. It changed me from the inside out, I tell you.

I was able to be happy about the littlest things, and appreciate life more. I found inner happiness. Finally.

I have found so many similarities between myself and football players. Like me, hey face so much adversity (hello, panic disorder and life as a constantly rejected writer) and experience such moments of glory (overcoming a fear) and disappointment (having a bout of panic out of the blue and feeling like you're right back where you began). I just find so much inspiration in the game, the players...all of it. As for my team, I love how they keep their heads up and always try to be the bigger people even when they want to sit in a corner and cry their eyes out (okay, maybe the crying is just me!) 

That's why football is so personal to me. That's why we have to find something good.

You have to find something good. It's kind of our job in life, this whole happiness thing. Otherwise, you'll just be miserable.

Turns out, those good things aren't just a distraction. They sustain us.

I'll never forget having my blood drawn a few years ago, which was a debilitating fear for me for many years. But when I focused on a good thing (talking to the doctor while she drew my blood about how much I adore Tom Brady) it kind of diminished the shaky feelings. Sounds silly, maybe, but those good things can sustain us even when the world seems to be falling apart. That gave me confidence that I could conquer other fears...and I have!

This is so powerful, because honestly, we have enough negativity in our lives. That may never end for us. But we can choose a little "good stuff" injection whenever we need it. Treat it like your job. Make it your way of life.

Find your good stuff, and add it in. Feeling negative? Add more good stuff. Caught up in something upsetting? Time for a "good stuff" break--add more like you're pouring the whole bag into chocolate chip cookie dough.

As for me, I'll be enjoying the big game Sunday But I'm also enjoying just watching my players shine. I like knowing that they overcame so much to get to where they are...just like me! I'm so grateful to be able to watch their journey. In my mind, they've already won regardless of what Sunday's scoreboard looks like. 

On an aside, I am not sure if I shared this, but here's another cool thing about why I am so proud of my team this year. In October, I went to my first Pats game at the home stadium. I was thrilled enough to be there, but even more so when I was asked to be on NFL Network. I met some players and NFL brass, and it was just such an amazing experience. I felt so grateful for the experience, and I don't think I would be so giddy about it had I not learned how to embrace the good. I won't let that go.

That's me on the right in the blue coat and red hat!

Instantly, whenever I recall that memory, I glow. Maybe I'll carry this photo around with me and pull it out the next time I'm feeling glum. Just as a reminder that there is good. And we have to work at it sometimes, even if it feels like a job.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ignore the noise.

Ignore the noise. That's the motto flowing around Patriots Nation lately. (If you didn't know, I am an avid fan of the New England Patriots.)

That's hard, becasue the team I adore is being accused of something when the investigation isn't complete. I won't delve into my feelings on #deflategate here much, but the concept of ignoring noise has been resonating with me lately. I think it does for everyone.

Sometimes, it's hard to ignore the noise. As a writer, I am constantly bombarded by rejection. Told I'm not doing something right. It's a lot of noise, and while I don't want to take it personally, I can't help but do that. Writing is my profession, but it's very personal to me. (As are the Patriots, whom I often empathize with for being good people and constantly being berated even when they don't do anything wrong.)

How does one ignore noise? When you deal with anxiety, the noise is loud...blaring in your face. What if that happens? Run away? I can't do that... the messages we send ourselves are not only negative, they kind of blare in our faces. Especially if you're in the midst of a panic attack, when you feel fear and "hear" the voice so loudly, you believe it's true...even though you know you're not in danger. You still feel like it.

These days, I do not experience as many severe panic attacks, but that doesn't mean the world isn't a noisy place. Whether it is your boss telling you you've done something wrong or a "friend" telling you that you've chosen to root for a group of [alleged] cheaters, there's plenty of noise. The worst of it comes from people who hide behind a smile and are outwardly mean.

Then there are other forms of noise. Our self-critic is quite a noisy one, as is the healthy part of us trying to process things in our lives and make sense of it all. Then there are other things...maybe not messages but just everyday things that create noise: Commuting, checking your phone, helping others, etc. It's all a ton of noise.

That begs the question: Why the heck do we listen to it all?

We don't' have to listen to the noise, and we certainly don't have to take it all in.

When I started healing from my anxiety issues, I found that I became super-selective about what I listened to and what I was telling myself. I focused on what was good for me. I focused on only accepting the truth. I learned to filter out self-criticism, perceived criticisms and blatantly negative messages that otherwise used to consume me.

It took a lot of freaking time. And a whole bunch of practice. A lot.

It did not come overnight.

Or with one choice to "ignore the noise."

Over time, though, it got easier.

This week, I have been bombarded with noise, not only from the media hounding "my boys," but from agents rejecting my book idea, picky editors and a packed-full schedule. I've had to discern what I will let affect me. Knowing that you can choose to ignore certain things is the first step to learning how to filter out what doesn't matter in life, I think.

And when all else fails, laugh. Because you can.

There will always be positive noise, and that's what you need to focus on. As for my football dilemma, I chose to focus on my favorite Pats player who always keeps things light. He's the type of person I want to be--someone who inspires others to embrace positivity. Thanks, Jules.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Big magic.

I wanted to share something I was led to online. It was written by Elizabeth Gilbert, the mastermind writer behind the famous book Eat Pray Love.
She wrote about fearlessness, and did so in such a wonderful way...


Dear Ones -

Can I speak out for a moment against the word "fearless"?

Cool! Let's go.

Over the years on this Facebook page, I've been hearing from a lot of you, about how you want to become fearless.

Some of you had it for your New Year's Resolution for 2015.

I've also heard many of you say that you want to live more creative or adventurous lives — but that you need to "get past" your fears first. You say that you need to put your fears behind you, or to fight against your fear, or to conquer it, or to silence it.

Yesterday, when I put a posting up here about having fire in your belly, many of you wrote back saying that your fear has killed the fire in your bellies, and that you now want to kill the fear, in return...

But I don't think that's how it works.

I'm an enormously fearful person, by nature. I was born terrified, and I was an incredibly freaked-out and panicky child — and I still am full of fears. Just last night, I was awoken in a cold sweat by a full-on terror dream about public speaking. (I lost my notes, had no idea what to say, couldn't find a nice dress to wear, couldn't find my way to the stage...etc.)

I gave up fighting against my fear a long time ago. I found that the harder I fought against my fear, the harder it fought back. (Generally speaking, life has taught me that the harder you fight ANYTHING, the harder it fights back.)

These days, I try instead to make room for fear — with a sense of respect and appreciation.

Lots of room.

People want to leave their fears behind — but you can't. You just have to make friends with your fear, and make space for your fear, and make peace with your fear.

I recognize that my fear has a role in my life — to protect me against unknown outcomes. (You fear assumes that all unknown outcomes end in your bloody death.) All my fear is trying to do is save my life. You have to give it credit and appreciation for that. So whenever my fear arises, I thank it. I say to it, "I understand that you are part of me, and that you are necessary for my existence, and that you are the reason I am still alive. So thank you."

But then I politely explain to my fear that I will be going forward with the project or the activity, anyhow.

It's not a fight; it's a conversation.

I do this all the time with creative endeavors. I tell my fear that me and creativity are going on a road trip — and I INVITE my fear to come along with us. I explain to my fear that I won't try to kill it, or to exclude it. I explain to fear that it is very welcome to join us, and even to have a voice. But I also explain to my fear that it won't be allowed to make any decisions along the way. Only creativity and I will be making deciisons. As I always say to fear, "Get in the minivan with us! You are part of this family, and you are coming along for the ride!" I say, "Thank you for your input, but with all due respect, you don't get to choose the route!"

I have come to understand that creativity and fear will forever be linked — because creativity always asks us to move in directions of unknown outcome, and fear HATES unknonwn outcome.

I have made peace with that reality.

All of which is to say: I really don't believe in fearlessness.

I don't think it's a wise or sane goal.

I believe in integrating all the parts of yourself into one functioning family. And that means never leaving your fear behind — just as you would never leave any family member behind — but just bringing it along for the ride.

Because the truth is, we can all live together without fighting — all the different parts of ourselves. That's how you integrate all your parts into one healthy whole.

That's what's called A FULL LIFE.

So don't leave your fears behind, Dear Ones. Instead, leave behind your fantasy of "fearlessness", and replace it with a goal of living gracefully within your complete and whole humanity.

Then onward you shall go (even into the realm of public speaking!)


She's so right. Why are we striving to be fearless? Why has that word always stood over me like everything I want? When I think of life without my fears, sometimes it sounds so appealing. It also sounds like I would be hollow without them, in a way.

My fears are helpful. My fears are part of my journey. They are a reflection of my wounds--and my healing. I am not them, but they are a part of me.

If I love myself, I have to love all if it. Even the parts that may be embarrassing. 

Gotta embrace the full you for a full life. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

When to push, and when to soar

This week kind of kicked my butt.

One of the things that has been a hang-up for me since my anxiety started is flying. Through therapy, I was able to conquer most of the things that caused me a lot of anxiety. Except flying. It's hard to do that--there are not a lot of baby steps you can kind of just have to get on the plane and pray that you won't melt down and bang on the door to get out, all the while worrying what TSA will do to you.

Anyway, I am planning my 10-year anniversary trip with my husband. We don't take a lot of vacations. We've never taken one where we just check in to a place and enjoy. We're always driving around from place to place. Now, I lucked out in the husband department because he's not interested in travel like I am. It's not just because of my fear--I just don't think I need to see every crevice of the globe to feel complete. I do like me a getaway, though, and that's what we have planned in a few months.

And I've worked in therapy on my fear of flying. And I thought I was ready until I started planning this trip. I expected to have some push-back...after all, did I think I was going to calmly book and plan a trip and walk on a plane and ride off safely into the sunset?

It was like a switch went off, I tell you. Full-on fear mode. Not the way I want to live. Not the person I am inside. My mind was over the "fear" but my body didn't get the message. I had no idea my body would revolt on me like that.

The thing is, I'm not really scared of the actual flying anymore. Or being "trapped." I didn't know that my real fear is dealing with anticipatory anxiety. That black sludge-like feeling completely clouds your view of what's rational. It's completely crippling, and that  is what I need to learn to handle.

I didn't think it would overtake me, and it did. I began to be anxious all day and feel dreadful--and that's so far from my usually positive attitude. Faced with the fact that this is an area that clearly needs more work, I decided not to fly. And I felt horrible about it, because a woman whose favorite Bible verse is "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me" should just be able to get on the dang plane, right?

In my mind, in my Type-A-push-myself-to-the-breaking-point, yes. When I started to feel the agony I was going through, and realizing that my mind may be okay but my body is still trapped in a pattern of panic, I put the brakes on. For years, I have been conquering things left and right by giving myself permission to take it easy on myself. Why did I think I had to push myself full-force into this? Because I had waited so long for it?

Truth is, I only started dealing with the flying fear a few months back. And while I quickly got over the actual "in the sky" part, I am not over anticipatory anxiety. I didn't book a flight because I was afraid to get on a plane--I held off booking a flight because I don't want to go through two more months of pure panic. I don't want to go down that road again. I want to take care of myself.Once the anxiety switch went off and I was panicky all day, I remembered that my mind is invincible, but my body still needs help. I have to respect it in all of its impaired glory.

That alone was a struggle, because my inner critic screams, "You're just taking the easy way out! You're always going to have anxiety before you fly because that's how it is!"

I don't know how to "fix" anticipatory anxiety yet. It is the most crippling part of a fear. Even when you're over the fear itself (I actually recall loving to fly) you still have to deal with old habits. My body has always been in the habit of anticipatory anxiety before doing something big. I could calm it with other "big" things but flying presents other pressures...a set time, don't want to ruin a trip, etc.

So now I'm back to the drawing board. Oh, but I did book the trip--I am taking a train! I took a train once in college and loved it. And my husband is okay with this. I am still going. I am still moving forward. (Something tells me that after 13 hours on a train, I will soon welcome a one-hour flight!)

This is still a positive step. It will help me deal with less-severe anticipatory anxiety. It will put me in a situation where I am not in control. It will help me with my traveling anxiety. Years ago after my anxiety emerged, I couldn't even think about getting in a car let alone a train. This is a baby step. As much as my critic wants to discount it, it's a positive thing.

I want to tell you that we can "just do it" when it comes to conquering fear, but I also believe in what my therapist taught me: "Set yourself up for success."

I want to be this glowing example of "have faith, just go for it." What I learned this week was that I do have faith, and it's not just in being able to do anything. It's in timing.

I can get myself sick over this, or I can plan a trip I enjoy that still challenges me. in the meantime, I must go back and work on this newly discovered problem: The thing I fear can be conquered, but dealing with the anxiety leading up to it also needs attention.

I booked my tickets yesterday on the train. While part of me felt let down, part of me felt happy because I was excited and not terrified.

While I don't want to run away from my fear of flying, I want to work on it some more so I can be more comfortable if and when I do decide to fly. This is the method that has gotten me through all of my fears, and I need to have patience and faith that it will carry me through again.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dreaming and doing.

The truth is, I dream more than I do. And I hate that.

Maybe it's a good thing--I used to be a do-do-do, go-go-go kind of person. Then I started to relax more, and I love that. It's been great for my mental health.

My mind is an endless running narrative of books to be written and ideas to be implemented. Instead, I work. I sleep. I don't get to do a lot of the things I dream of. I'm the only one standing in my own way.

But the truth is that if I followed all those dreams, I'd be run ragged. Exhausted. Anxious. Mentally unhealthy.

I guess it's about finding balance. Today I am freaking exhausted and I'm working but I wish I was working on a book. Instead, I'm busy meeting a deadline. When I'm done working, I'll rest. Because my body needs it, even though I wish it didn't.

I'm trying to embrace the Type A me with the healthy me that requires rest and reflection. I don't have to act on all of my great ideas, as long as I try to work on some of them I think I can still be content.