Unconditional

Have you ever needed to express yourself so badly that it hurt, physically hurt? Is there ever something you needed to say, write, sing, dance, paint, play so desperately that it’s consuming your every thought? You can’t focus, can’t sleep, can’t hold a conversation because there is work, art and poetry that needs to be made and if you don’t do it now it may never get done! So you start, you grab your paintbrush, tie your sneakers, tighten the strings on your guitar or open up your laptop and then…then, what? What you have to say is so deep within you that you don’t even know where to start or how to express yourself in a way that is meaningful and beautiful enough to transcend to anyone outside of yourself. How do you begin?

That’s where I am.

I love people. I love them deeply. I especially love the people in my life. These people, my friends, my family, my coworkers, my bosses, my students, my neighbors, my doctors, my baby… I love them. I love them for who they are and how they love me for who I am. I love them because they are wise, funny, kind, compassionate, caring, creative, hard-working, beautiful, strong and so much more. They are also all a little broken, bruised and even odd. They can be forgetful, selfish, stubborn, absent-minded, late, annoying and disorganized. They have faults, many, because they are real. They are real people who need love, just like me.

type of person

All my life, I’ve been told to love. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love as God loves you. Treat others with love and kindness. Above all else, love. Love wins. Love is the one most powerful message I have learned from my parents, my church, my favorite teachers and my mentors. That message has stuck with me through the years. Sometimes it’s at the forefront of my thoughts, and other times it’s tucked back behind my anger and ignorance, but at some point it always rears it’s head to remind me of what matters. Truth is, sometimes anger and ignorance wins. On those days, I go to bed feeling exhausted, sad and disappointed in myself. What did I accomplish with my anger or fear? Nada. When I let go of my anger and allow love in instead, I see change. I see change within my own heart, and within others. Love truly does win.

The other day a friend of mine, a friend I love dearly, let me know that she is transgender.

Was I surprised? A little, but it wasn’t at all shocking. Honestly, I felt honored because I am one of the few people she trusted to know and still love her no matter what. And I do, and I let her know that I do and that I will always be in her corner.

threat

As I drove home, grief and confusion hit me, but not for the reasons you may think. (I have just as much anxiety for others as I do for myself, it’s exhausting!) Reality began setting in and I couldn’t help but think about the struggles my friend would face, the bullies she would endure and the pain that more than likely lies ahead. However, more than those sad thoughts were the people whom my friend couldn’t trust with her news. The ones who will choose to stop caring for her, the ones who will turn on her and the ones who will no longer have her back.

I let my non-stop mind go silent for just a moment (because I so often find the answers in the silence), just long enough to hear Katy Perry (the CD that was blaring in my car to keep Luna from crying) sing the word “unconditional”, and that’s when it hit me. Unconditional love. All those lessons on love through my childhood, were based on an unconditional love. When you “love others as you love yourself”, “love as God loves” and remember that “above all else is love” than you must love unconditionally.

Come just as you are to me
Don’t need apologies
Know that you are worthy ~ Katy Perry

When you love unconditionally, you love without conditions. That should be self-explanatory, but it seems that it needs to be said. You love someone for exactly who they are despite their race, religion, political agenda, sexual preference, gender, job, education or background. It’s true that each of these factors affect us and who we become, but they do not make us good or bad.

stutter

I have to tell you I know some awesome white, straight, Christian, educated, hard-working Americans. I also know some really shitty ones. In my experience it works like that for every single labeled group of people. There’s good and bad everywhere, but mostly good. And, if you’ve got good, kind, honest and courageous people in your life, you’re lucky.

My loved ones are all of those traits and so much more, and that is what matters. Nothing more.

above all

I do not judge I try very hard to not judge, for I do not wished to be judged either. I think we could all use a lot less judgement and a lot more love. At the end of the day, when you find yourself feeling all judgey it’s best to take a look at yourself, because most judgement stems from our own fears and insecurities. It’s got more to do with you than the person you judge.

Just love. Love yourself. Love others.

Cheers

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#14DaysOfMe Challenge Complete

Two weeks ago, I challenged myself to a #14daysofme challenge wherein everyday I must pick one thing I love about myself, capture it in photo and share it via social media. While aware that this may appear to be narcissistic, I did it to not only change my own inner voice, but to encourage you to change yours. Positive self-talk is one of the most effective ways to improve depression and anxiety, but it takes a lot of work to change that negative inner-voice. The #14daysofme challenge was my answer to kicking off better habits and thoughts about myself.

The first two days were easy. It’s simple to find at least two things you like about yourself, but by the third day it started getting a little challenging. I began questioning anything I liked… What if I share this and everyone thinks “really? she likes that about herself?” What if I’m wrong? What if I sound cocky? What if I don’t like anything about myself? I almost asked Husband to help me out a few times, but I never never did.  You know what? I found something everyday.

And, what’s more, everyone was super supportive. I cannot tell you how nervous I was to post each photo, but everyone single one was met with words of encouragement, agreement and even appreciation. It started getting easier to find what I like about myself. I began feeling more confident and am now very aware when that negative voice sneaks back in and tries to knock me down. THAT is a huge step in the right direction. Oh how, I hope hope hope my little challenge may have challenge one of you to do the same and change your inner voice!

By the end of the two weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking of things I like about myself. In fact, today, the final day, I had a list of things I could have shared, but after reading this beautiful essay by Glennon over at Momastery, I decided to appreciate my many faults. I highly recommend reading it if you have or know anyone who has any sort of mental illness. (addiction, anxiety, depression, etc).

Help us manage our fire, yes, but don’t try to extinguish us.Tweet: What we mentally different need is respect. Help us manage our fire, yes-but don’t try to extinguish us. @momastery http://ctt.ec/e11Cc+ ‎ That fire that almost killed us is the same fire we’ll use to light up the world. And so we don’t want you to take what we’ve got, we just want help learning how to use what we’ve got for good.  – Glennon

(Funny, how you find just what you need at the exact right moment.)

So here it is, all 14 days of me…

The challenge may be over, but it’s just the beginning to my new habit of loving and encouraging myself. What’s more, is this little boost of confidence is already empowering me to encourage and remind others how they too, are beautiful and wonderful. Like, you. You, my friend are beautiful, brave, kind and strong. And don’t you forget it.

Cheers!

#14DaysOfMe

Over the years I have tried numerous techniques to help me handle my anxiety and panic attacks. Yoga, praying, counseling, medication, meditation, exercising and diet changes, just to name a few, are all practices that I have tried/still do, but there’s one that I rarely talk about because it’s a little embarrassing and pretty silly. MANY professionals and fellow mental healthy sufferers swear by it… positive self-talk.

ears

“Self-talk” is your inner-voice. It’s that little person in the back of your mind constantly telling you what you can and can’t do, what looks good on you, how much you should weigh and giving or taking away your confidence and self-worth. It’s powerful, that little voice. Small, but mighty. So mighty, that it affects how you see yourself, how you behave with others and even how high you set your goals. The power it has over you, is exactly why it is so important to recognize how you talk to yourself, and if needed, change it.

It isn’t easy to change your self-talk, but the fastest way to recognize the negative thoughts is to recognize your negative feelings. Next time you feel anxious, depressed or unworthy, stop and listen. What are you thinking? What are you telling yourself? More than likely you are dwelling on the negative and it’s time to change what you are telling yourself. Flip it around, look for the positive and tell yourself more realistic and positive things.

change

All of this thinking about how I think, has really got me thinking… how can I create better positive thinking habits? 

Then, this happened. (The time I chose myself as my #wcw).

Then, Dove released this incredible video. (Imagine hearing the words you say to yourself being said out loud to someone else.)

Finally, I read about the #100happydays project.  This is a project being shared and spread like wild-fire through social media. It’s simple. Just post a different pic of something that makes you happy for a 100 straight days, using the hashtag #100happydays. (I love this idea, and plan to do it very soon.)

Each of these added up to my answer. To help myself create a habit of thinking positively and changing my inner-voice I am going to find and share something I love about myself for 14 days.

For 2 weeks, I will look at myself, inside and out, and find one thing each day to share on Instagram. I will share my photos with the hashtag #14DaysOfMe, starting tomorrow. My goal is to begin changing my self-talk and make positive thinking a habit.

I’ve got to say, that I’ve given this challenge a lot of thought over the weekend, and already begun looking at myself and debating what I love enough about myself to share on social media, and it’s challenging. Hopefully, it’s less so after two weeks. We shall see.

I’d love for all of you to join me in this challenge and see how it affects your own inner-voice. If you want to try it with me, then please use the hashtag #14daysofme so I can see all of your beautiful photos!

In 14 days I’ll be reporting back with the outcome of the project. To view my pics and thoughts each day follow me on Instagram @PositivelyPanicked.

Cheers!

Writing Heals, It Really Does

A couple of months ago, an article popped up in my Facebook feed with a title that went something like….10 Facebook Pages Every Writer Needs to Follow!  I would never ever call myself a “writer”, but I do enjoy writing and am always looking for ways to improve my writing so I read the article and found a couple of pages that offered writing prompts, quotes, interesting articles and whatnot.

I followed the pages, then, I completely forgot about them and because Facebook is super annoying these days and only allows certain people and pages to show up in your feed, I didn’t ever see any of their status updates, until today. Today, a status from NaNoWriMo magically appeared in my feed and caught my interest. It read…

“Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.”

Today’s writing prompt? Write a sentence summing up your year so far… then write the next sentence in that story as you look forward to the rest of 2015!

So I tried it. It’s much harder than it sounds. Go ahead try it. Just think of a sentence. Here’s what I came up with… (It’s 3 sentences, but whatever.)

Happily trying to keep my head above water as I finally figure out how to manage life as a Mom. Everyday feels like a race these days, but it’s a race I never want to end. I only want to continue growing, learning and chasing dreams.

Afterwards, I went on to read the actual article from the New York Times that is linked on NaNoWriMo, and found it no only intriguing, but oh so right! OF COURSE the power of writing can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness! Isn’t that why I write. Yes, yes it is. Don’t I always tell everyone that writing is what helps my anxiety most? It keeps me sane. It brings me back. It reminds me of everything that really matters. And, now I’ve found proof.

why i write

Apparently there have been studies done that prove that writing about your life, your problems, your loves and your dreams can actually “improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.”

When I write about any issue that has been eating away at me, and nervously press that powerful “publish” button I immediately feel a weight taken off my shoulders. Sharing my truth allows me to let it go. Then, when I begin connecting with you, reading your comments and emails, and learning that I am not alone, I am lightened. Beyond that, I learn more about myself, my mistakes, my habits and my fears through reflection. Putting pen to paper (err..fingers to keyboard?) allows me to make corrections, outline my future and began creating a new chapter.

write what

Perhaps, the most powerful quote in the article is the last…

 

“When you get to that confrontation of truth with what matters to you, it creates the greatest opportunity for change,” Dr. Groppel.

That’s important. How do you get to that truth? Do we all find it through some form of art? Can you write and tell your story? Would you prefer to paint it? Choreograph it? Photograph it? Will it have the same effect as writing? I think so. I think, perhaps, we all have a way of finding and sharing our truth. Find yours.

Writing this blog has changed my life. It began as a way to share my life abroad with friends and family and has since morphed into therapy. Therapy, that is constantly curbing my anxiety, healing me after many health scares and teaching me what’s important. Thank you for being a part of the process!

how yo do it

If you are ever debating to write, or not to write, whether it be in a journal, a blog or an email, please do it. You will not regret it.

Cheers!

The Highs and the Lows

Oh boy. Oh, today has been a day of the highest highs and the lowest lows. My emotional roller coaster has twisted and turned so much that I am now sick at my stomach and unable to sleep. Tonight, all I want is to hold Luna a little tighter and never never let go.

okay

I had an appointment with my hypertension specialist early this morning, which is an emotional roller coaster in itself. He literally looked me in the eye and said that I’m ridiculous and to stop being so neurotic. Thanks Doc, easier said than done. It ended on a high note and I walked across the street to the Children’s Hospital to visit my friend. My 5 min walk knocked me down about 5 pegs on the emotional scale. I wanted to hug every single parent I saw. Watching them walk the halls while pulling their sick babies in wagons or picking up lunch with their teen attached to an IV never ever gets easier.

My time in the hospital room with one of my favorite little girls was a blast, as always. We finger-painted, made Christmas cards, practiced math skills and had a dance party to Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off. At lunch, she barricaded the door and refused to let me leave, which worked. I spent four hours playing games, singing and dusting off my teacher skills.

You CANNOT listen to this and NOT dance. It's impossible.
You CANNOT listen to this and NOT dance. It’s impossible.

I left with a huge smile on my face and Taylor’s lyrics in my head…then, I got on the elevator. It was me, Luna and a priest. A priest. In a children’s hospital. Holding what looked like a Bible. He got off before me and headed to someone’s room, and I wanted to jump out and ask him “why?!”. What happened? Why is he needed? Where is he going? HOW DOES ANYONE HANDLE ANY OF THIS? Again, I left in tears. I left with my happy healthy baby, thinking it’s so unfair. I felt very low.

Tonight, I got to see Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the musical at TPAC, which I will be reviewing tomorrow! It was adorable, and Luna got to come! She loved the show and I can’t wait to tell you about our experience. I came home to Husband standing in the driveway waiting for me to pull-up so he could turn on the lights he had just put on the house, all by himself. He spent all of his time at home alone, baby-less, putting our first lights on the house. It was the best Christmas surprise! I oooh’d and awww’d over his hard work, then hurried in to put Luna to bed. I was definitely on a high.

Our house looks nothing likes this, but this is how I felt when the lights turned on.
Our house looks nothing likes this, but this is how I felt when the lights turned on.

As I rocked her to sleep, I began browsing my phone, which I hadn’t done all day. That’s when I learned the lowest of the low. That’s when I learned about Pakistan.

moms

 

How? Why? WTF?!

I have spent the rest of the night reading article upon article about the tragic school shooting in Peshawar, Pakistan today. 132 children dead. 132. As I began reading the horror story that took place today, I didn’t think about the government’s reaction to the attack or the extremist terrorist and their perverted beliefs. All I can think about are the students, the teachers and the families.

The students who ate their breakfast thinking about their upcoming math test and set next to their best friend in class, maybe even passed secret notes about their crushes. The teachers who stayed up late last night planning a science project and probably forgot their lunch on the kitchen counter. Then, the parents, the parents who send their kids to school to learn, think, dream, grow and become hard-working successful adults. No parent sends their child to school thinking they won’t come home. How many of those parents rushed their kids off to school without a second thought? What if they forgot to kiss them good-bye? What if they argued over something silly, like what they were wearing? What if that was me? Us?

I didn’t intend on writing about such a serious topic tonight. If fact, I planned to go straight to bed and writing nothing at all, but that was before I knew. How can I not address it? As a mother and a teacher, it feels too close to home. It’s important for us to talk about these issues, to recognize them, pray for those families, acknowledge their loss, look for answers and show support. They need us. Those families need all the love they could possible receive. Hug your kids a little tighter tonight, send them to school with a thankful heart tomorrow and keep Pakistan in your thoughts. I cannot imagine the loss they feel. My love, peace and courage outweigh the fear that is trying to be instilled.

xo

Mr. Panic Monster Returned

Life has been so busy the last couple of months, and with the holiday season already starting, it is sure to be even busier. I love busy, so I am not complaining. I’m actually making an excuse, an excuse for steering clear of the topic of anxiety. For a while, my anxiety seemed to be disappearing, but the last month has been a brutal reminder that my anxiety is always lurking in the background, just waiting to jump when it sees a moment of weakness.

Over the last month of or so I’ve had a few little hiccups in my health (my anxiety trigger)… I had a small mass appear on my hip that had to be removed. It turned out to be nothing, but scar tissue and fat, but there were a couple of weeks of worry. Honestly, I didn’t think I was that nervous, until the very small operation. And, why?? Simply because I was afraid of having my blood pressure taken. I am having the hardest time recovering from the post-traumatic stress of being so sick after having Luna. Then, my nerves really kicked in as a waited for days for the results of the testing. I felt much better after the whole episode, but a week later was my next appointment with my hypertension specialist.

cat

I LOVE my doctor. He is blunt, bald, a traveler and has a very dry sense of humor. He does not understand my anxiety or panic at all, yet we somehow work well together. His nonchalant attitude toward my tears and questions of “AM I ABOUT TO DIE???” is very calming. Last time, I saw him I cried and told him how scared I was of dying and not being a Mom anymore. He looked at me seriously, and said, “Why? I’m not worried. It’s my job to worry about you and I’m not. Let me worry. You have no reason to worry. Stop crying.” This brought back memories of church and my Sunday School teacher telling us to “cast our cares upon Him” and “let God worry for you”… it was actually extremely helpful. I love my doctor, which is why I don’t know why this next appointment freaked me out big time. I was so anxious that I was physically ill days before my appointment. Obviously, the appointment didn’t go swimmingly…

7c52ef2c1941cb32dad9b93fc1ec2262

Between the doctors (squeeze an OBGYN appointment in there too), the sleepless nights (thanks Luna) and the hectic schedule, my brave walls of tranquillity began to fall, and Mr. Panic Monster invaded. It’s been rough. Anxiety is always a vicious cycle. Going to the doctor makes me nervous, when I’m nervous I can’t sleep, lack of sleep cause anxiety, the anxiety makes me worry about my blood pressure and so on and so on.

I tried to do all the right things. I made myself exercise every day. I tried really hard to get more sleep. I ate healthy, even drank less coffee. I took deep breaths and my medication, but nothing seemed to help much. The one thing that has helped the most is simply going to all these doctors and being told I’m more or less healthy. Just that bit of reassurance has made me a much happier person this week. It is so very hard to face a fear when you suffer from anxiety disorder, but please know that facing that fear is sometimes the only action that gives relief. At least, that what works for me anyways.

The problem now is fearing fear itself. When you have a panic attack, it’s typical to suffer from anxiety about having another panic attack. You’ve got to understand that having a panic attack is one of the scariest experiences, and often forces you to believe you are dying. Who wouldn’t be afraid of that happening again? Especially, since it leaves you feeling powerless. I’m working to stay in control, which is one big reason why I’m writing this now. Writing is a huge release for me. However, I need to take further action. I need to speak to a professional.

I have been putting off speaking to a therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist/counselor for a VERY long time now. Partially, because I don’t actually know the difference between any of them and partially because it’s embarrassing (though it should not be) and time-consuming. I will do it though… I will. I will. I will. I will. I will.

Hopefully.

Now, if someone could just hold me accountable, or perhaps pick me up, tell me you are taking me to Starbucks and then drop me off at a shrink instead! But, then be sure to bring me Starbucks when it’s over.

If you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, please do your research, find solutions and do what works for you. Talk to people you trust (like me!), take a deep breath and repeat after me, “It get’s better. It always get’s better.”

Cheers!

A Little Garden Therapy

Lately, I’ve been battling more anxiety than usual. It’s typical that my anxiety goes up and down, yet it always seems like a surprise when it comes back. I know why it’s been worse, there’s been some stressful situations as of late, but no time to sit down and write about it, which I know I need. In fact, today isn’t the day to discuss panic either… Today, I want to talk about some beautiful gardens, and how a little nature, beauty and family time can wipe the blues and nerves a way.

harvest

Saturday was Husband’s 30th birthday. We did a lot to celebrate his big day, and it all began at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. We try to visit Cheekwood at least a few times a year. Fall is one of the best times to visit because it is stunning! The leaves are changing and Chrysanthemums of every color are planted everywhere! There is also a “Cheekwood Harvest” throughout the month of October.

bridge

The Harvest includes family ‘art’-tivities, live music, storytime, garden tours, museum tours, a pumpkin patch and a lot of locally made scarecrows. My original plan was to arrive early, and hit every single activity, as well as a reserved lunch in the Pineapple room restaurant. Bbuuuttttt as my good plans go lately, it was an epic fail. Between all of us being sick, trying to get sleep, a late Birthday breakfast of bagels and everything else that comes with a baby, we didn’t get to Cheekwood until lunch time. I wasn’t feeling very calm or peaceful when we finally arrived. I felt like Husband’s Birthday plans were very quickly falling apart. And, because I was already down, it just made me feel like a failure.

luna and dad

 

Something happened when I entered the gardens. Something changed. I stepped into the sunlight and felt it warm my skin. The scent of a myriad of flowers and herbs filled the air. I couldn’t help, but dance a little to the live music wafting through the gardens. I looked at Husband, looked at Luna, looked around at the other families enjoying the beautiful Saturday and began to feel grateful. Happy and grateful. Nature does that to me sometimes. I don’t know if it’s the fresh air, the vitamin D or the walking, but with every step I took I felt more and more like myself. The more we toured the more I noticed my beautiful family and the less I noticed that nasty panic monster. Sometimes a sunny day with the people I love just washes the anxiety away. Even if it’s temporary, it’s lovely.

my outfit

We had a great day at Cheekwood. Everything we’ve previously done seems brand new now that we can experience it with Luna. We let her play on the pumpkins in the patch, which she drummed on to her hearts content.  We walked around the scarecrows and tried to guess which each one was before reading the descriptions. Most were easy (especially the 4 Olaf’s), others were a little harder to decipher.

scarecrow
Look at dat wittle baby scarecrow????
Harry Potter
Clearly, one of my favs

pumpkin patch

The day just kept getting cuter. Luna danced her little booty off to some live bluegrass in the herb garden. She also had her second art lesson. She “learned” to use tissue paper to stain paper, glue and do some more water color. Although, she was much more interested in eating her art than actually making it…

dancing luna's art

Cheekwood was a great start to Husband’s 30th Birthday celebration and a therapeutic trip for me. I think we will be back soon.

me and luna

Cheers!