Greener Grass

Jealousy must be innate, it must. I work with babies a lot, and babies are jealous of other babies all the time. No one is showing them how to be jealous, they just are. If their Mom is holding another baby, they cry. If another baby has a toy they do not have, they throw a fit. Even if a baby has the exact same toy they have, they still try to yank it out of the other babies hands, convinced that it must be better than the one they already have.

For most of us, this behavior does not really change. We don’t all yank toys out of other peoples’ hands in a jealous fit, but the envious feelings are definitely still there. Why is the grass always greener on the other side?

I typically think I am not a very jealous person. I am happy for my friends when they get the things they want out of life, I am happy with my own life, and I often think there’s not much I would change. I assumed jealousy was just a small issue, one that I could shove to the back of my problems, and focus more on bigger issues like anxiety and caffeine addictions.

Until now.

Lately, I have become a terrible jealous person. I have been jealous to the point of anger. I don’t really have a reason for it, it just kind of happened.  I guess it was amplified over the last week when I had to work while my friends and family were out enjoying each other’s company. Pathetically, I started feeling sorry for myself. These jealous thoughts started with questions a lot like this…

Why do I have to work 6 to 7 days a week? Why don’t I make more money? Why don’t I ever get a break? Why can’t I afford designer duds? Why is my apartment so small? Why do I have an anxiety disorder? Why do I suffer from panic attacks? Why doesn’t anyone ask me to be on DWTS? Why am I 27 and still suffering from acne? WHY CAN’T MY LIFE BE PERFECT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE’S!?!?

Gross. I sound like a big spoiled whiny brat, but even knowing this couldn’t shake the jealousy I was feeling. I felt like a baby, and I just wanted to rip a rattle out of someone’s hand and claim it as my own.

During this time, I went out for drinks with a few friends from work. I had something really awful happen right beforehand, and was really upset by the time I met them at the bar. Immediately, they noticed my tear-stained face (which I thought I hid with makeup), and wanted to know what was wrong.

After sharing my awful experience with them, one friend began to smile.

She looked at me, and said, “Hilarie don’t take this the wrong way, but I am so relieved to know that your life isn’t perfect!”

I looked at her with confused eyes, and my mouth open, not knowing what to say. Perfect? My life?  Are you kidding???

She then proceeded to tell me that I am always so happy, always smiling, always telling stories about something fun I did, I am engaged (she’s single), etc, and she has been jealous of me!  She just assumed that my positive disposition at work meant that everything in my life was perfect.

I KNOW that I have a great life. I am so grateful for everything I have, my health, my home, my family, my job, my friends, Fiance, Belle…. I am a lucky girl. But, my life is far from perfect.

We talked for a long while about perceptions, about how “the grass is always greener”, and how we never really know what a person’s life is like.  Everyone has his or her own problems and struggles, everyone has something to be grateful for, and everyone forgets that NOONE’S life is perfect.

I went home that night with a new perspective. I know I should not be jealous, I know I should be more grateful; I just needed to be reminded.

It’s important to remember that we never know what another person may be dealing with in their personal life. Marriage, money, children, careers, are all great, but none of them can promise us contentment. Having them, or not having them cannot determine our happiness either.

I am definitely going to try harder to be happier for the people I love, and also happier for myself. We all have a lot going for us, and more importantly, we all have each other. There’s just no room for jealousy’s ugly head.

Once, I’ve got this taken care of, maybe I can finally start focusing on cutting my Starbucks bill in half.

Cheers!

A Little History

I wasn't always THIS happy

Since I accepted the fact that I have an anxiety disorder, I have spent a lot of time asking questions. Like…. Why me? When did this begin? Could it have been prevented? Is it hereditary? Will it ever go away? Am I going to end up living in a padded room with friendly caregivers?

I cannot answer most of those questions, but I can try to explain one. When did this all begin? I cannot give exact dates or moments, but I do believe a series of events in my early childhood had a dramatic affect on me, and my anxiety. As you continue to read, I want you to understand that I in NO WAY blame anyone, and I am not looking for pity.

When I started taking medication (about 2 years ago), my doctor suggested that I see a psychologist. I was very much against having my head shrunk, but it was free, and I was running out of excuses to not go… My doctor did not believe that I had an actual allergy to psychologists.

I think the psychologist may have been half psychic. After speaking to me for about 30 seconds she said that I appeared very uncomfortable, and like I did not want to be there. Five minutes later she told me that I seemed to have a “control issue”. I think this is when I started to trust her judgment.

We spent the hour discussing my life, mostly my childhood, and she helped me realize the progression and the history of my anxiety. Talking to her was like connecting the dots in the coloring book picture of my life. (I never went back for my next appointment… This is largely because my life was INSANELY busy at the time, and partially because I thought one head shrinking was good enough for me.)

To summarize, I am the youngest in my immediate family. Both of my parents are the youngest in their immediate families. They both have rather large families; therefore, many of my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. are much much older than me. Also, there seems to be a fair amount of illnesses that are hereditary in both families.

In elementary school I had already been to several funerals. By high school I actually knew some of the funeral home workers by their first name. True story.

Because several of our deceased family members and friends were victims of some terrible diseases, the topic of illnesses was often at the top of our discussions in the house. It’s really no wonder that I have a terrible obsession with dying from a horrible disease.

I would say, “that is that”, except that there are thousands of people out there who have been through much worse than I! I mean, yes, it is hard to deal with untimely deaths as a young child, and no my childhood was not perfect. However, it was also pretty great!

I mean I can hardly complain. My parents love me and support me, my big sister will do anything for me, I have always had a really tightknit group of incredible friends, I did well in school, my neighborhood was like a street right out of a 50’s sitcom….so after my psychologist appointment I began to think…

I left the appointment feeling like “oh thank God! It’s not my fault that I’m crazy! It’s just my history.” But after all that thinking, I began to change my mind.

“How come I’m not as tough as everyone else? What’s my excuse? Why can’t I handle tragedy gracefully and move on in life? AGAIN I was embarrassed and ashamed of being weak and crazy. Obviously, I dwelled on this for quite a while.

(This is also a huge reason why I did not share this with many friends…sorry girls. My friends are some of the toughest, smartest, most beautiful women I know! They seem to overcome any obstacle life throws at them and rise to the top. They have overcome adversities that would have caused me to go into panic-attack-overload.  I am constantly amazed at their strength. I just assumed I’d look silly trying to explain my problems that seem so little in comparison. Of course, now I know I’m silly for not telling them. I know they’ll always love and accept me for who I am. Thanks girls.)

After all the dwelling, I came to this conclusion.

I was born this way…Just as Miss GaGa herself would say.

I have ALWAYS been extremely anxious, shy, nervous, etc. Some of my nerves were cured or went away. For example, I am no longer the quiet little girl in the back of the classroom who is afraid to raise her hand or ask to go the bathroom. My Mother probably wishes I was a little more shy than I’ve turned out to be…just look our YouTube video. I got over my fears of driving, flying, riding roller coasters, skydiving, no big deal!

Now, all my anxiety issues seem to stay focused on the one issue I’ve clearly discussed. I don’t think it necessarily could have been any other way. It’s just me. And, maybe I’m a better person for it. Maybe I can help someone else suffering with panic attacks. Maybe I’ll make some new friends and we can bond over anxiety meds. Or, maybe I’ll just continue to write this blog and hope someone finds it interesting.

In any case, I’m not ashamed anymore. I love who I am, coffee addiction, messiness, craziness and all!

xoxo

The Truth, The Whole Truth

Hi I’m Hilarie and I’m a control freak, perfectionist, hypochondriac, anxiety disorder, and panic attack having person.

Wow. That may sound like a funny “I know how to pick fun at myself” sort of comment, but the truth is, it’s all too true. And, I’ve only told a handful of people about that side of myself that I try very hard to hide. In fact, I’ve been hiding it since I was in elementary school.

Let me explain. My first memory of a panic attack is when I was 8 years old, but I’m pretty sure I was having them before that age. I remember lying in bed with overwhelming repetitive thoughts of death. Running through my head like a ticker at the bottom of my favorite television program were the words… “You are going to die. Your family is going to die. Your friends will die. Everyone you know and don’t know will die at any moment and there is nothing you can do about it.”

I remember trying desperately to shake the thoughts or think about something else…anything else. I reminded myself that the next night was family night at Dairy Queen, that I’d get to go to the library after lunch at school, and that my best friend and I had plans to start a new secret club at recess, but nothing could shake the “death ticker” scrolling through my mind.

By the time I started sweating and my heart was pounding in my ears I started yelling for my Mom. My Mom sat with me, held me, and told me repeatedly that everything was going to be okay, no one was dying, to keep taking deep breaths and calm down. I eventually broke into a cold sweat, cried, and began to calm down. This episode became a routine that I grew to hate, but learned to deal with….and years letter learned was a panic attack.

At some point, I learned to handle them without having to call for help from my Mom or Dad. For a couple years in my early twenties I stopped having panic attacks all together. Or so I thought. They returned with a vengeance, and Fiance began to take the roll of holding me and loving me until the panic attack passed.

For many years I ignored the fact that I was suffering. Once the panic was over, I could forget it ever happened. The fact that I was suffering with high anxiety went unknown because A) I’d always lived with it and knew no different, and B) I didn’t tell anyone about the crazy panic stricken thoughts I often had.

By the time I grew up a little, realized I was different, and learned about anxiety disorders I went through years of denial. This is where my “perfectionist” side kicks into action. I am not a perfectionist in every aspect of my life (just watch me attempt to cook), but I used to be a perfectionist about my body, and how people perceived me. I also used to be desperate to fit in, basically go unnoticed. No one who knows me recently would believe this, but I was painfully shy growing up and NEVER wanted to stand out.

Okay, I’ve gone off topic now…where was I? Oh yes… perfection. I live to please. I am a yes person, and I want to make everyone happy and proud of me, not necessarily a bad quality. Because I was so determined to be the “perfect” daughter, student, sister, friend, employee, etc…I did not want to disappoint anyone by letting them know my secrets. Most notably, I didn’t want to disappoint myself. There was no way I was going to admit I had a problem, a flaw, or most terrifying…something I had no control over.

That’s right…one more great personality trait. I’m a control freak. Sometimes, this is great: I tend to move up my career quickly because of my tendency to take control of situations. I get things done, and I do them well. I have great grades. I eat healthy. I workout. I make an effort to stay in touch with people. Basically, anything I can have control over, I will master. The problem is things I have no control over.

See, I have tried very hard to “control” my life…my schooling, my career, my home, my Health. So when something comes up (…sickness….) that I have not control over,  I do not know how to deal.

Now let’s discuss hypochondria. For me this is what ties everything together. I have a severe fear of dying, therefore; any little symptom becomes a life-threatening disease in my mind. My OCD then takes over and I have a constant stream of thoughts telling me I have some terrible disease. I get even more upset and obsessed because I, of course, have no control over these thoughts or the sickness. My anxiety progresses, and will eventually lead to a panic attack.

Now, that I’m all growed up and forcing myself to face my faults, I’ve taken many many steps to change things. I have prayed, meditated, relaxed, gotten extra sleep, researched, stuck to a strict workout regimen and diet, etc. etc. These things helped and would often lessen my anxiety, but nothing would fully “cure” me.

Two years ago, I had a major breakdown. The doctor told me my blood pressure was a little high.  Now, I tried reminding myself that I was (at the time) working over 70 hours a week, getting an average of 4 hours of sleep a night, teaching a class full of underprivileged children, coaching dance and drama, tutoring, taking dance classes, and preparing to move to Albania… all of which would make my blood pressure “a little high”. “Nothing is seriously wrong with me, I am just stressed and need to chill”…I tried telling myself. However, from the moment I left the doctor I freaked out.

For days, I could do nothing but dwell over the thought that I was going to die of a heart attack at any moment. I could focus on nothing, I could not sleep, I could only hear my heart pounding and imagine the world without me in it. This all ended in a massive panic attack, lots of nausea, and 2 days of missed work…. I know it’s all very dramatic.

Fiance (who is always amazingly supportive and very understanding) managed to convince me to go to a doctor (my biggest fear). As soon as I stepped in the office I started telling the doctor about my problem. Before I could get out the words “I am a little nervous…” I started crying like a baby.

I think the relief of admitting my fears and concerns was so overwhelming and relieving at once that all I could do was cry. This doctor, whose name is Candy, was so wonderful to me. She told me I was not crazy, that I’m not alone, and that I can get help.

The problem with this appointment is that she suggested I go on medication.

Uh what? Medication?? Like a crazy person?!? Was this doctor seriously telling me I needed to take pills to think like a normal human??? I was humiliated and horrified! Only crazy people take medication like this! I am an educated, self-sufficient, successful, well adjusted, woman!

I told Peter about the nerve of this “doctor” prescribing me medication! I fully expected him to tell me that was nuts and I do not need to take medication. See a psychiatrist maybe, do more yoga, sure, but not take a filthy pill. Well, Peter shocked me…

He agreed…. With the doctor.

My response? “Great. So I am crazy? So crazy, in fact, that the love of my life thinks I should be medicated. I am a crazy person!”

Peter’s response? “Yes, you are crazy. Only a crazy person eats an entire jar of peanut butter in one sitting. Only a crazy person wears 4 inch heels when they teach for 8 hours a day. Only a crazy person drinks coffee on their way to work, and then stops at Starbucks to buy more coffee. Medicine isn’t going to help you stop being crazy. But, it will help you stop being sick. It will help you feel like yourself again. Just like a diabetic needs insulin, you may need some medicine, and there is nothing wrong with that, or with you…besides your coffee addiction.”

Well, maybe, since he put it that way. He gets me all to well.

I decided to confide with a friend at work. Which must have been fate.

Guess what? This friend, has a daughter, about my age, who suffers from the exact same problems…since she was a very little girl!!! In fact, she had been recently diagnosed and medicated. I decided to talk with both of them about everything I’d been going through, feeling, thinking, and get their opinions.

I could not believe I had someone I could talk to who truly understood how I felt, who could relate to my pain, be sympathetic, and tell me honestly that it WILL get better, and nothing is wrong with taking medication. I will forever be grateful to both of these amazing ladies.

I started the medication that night.

Best decision I ever made. Even better than when I dipped Oreo’s in peanut butter for the first time. For the first time in a long time, I could think clearly. I could think positively. I could listen to someone talk about a disease without breaking out in a hot sweat. I NEVER imagined I would feel this relief.

I decided to share this in my blog for a couple reasons.

If ANYONE else is going through anything similar I want them to know that they are not alone, they are not crazy, and that there is hope. I hope that my stories will encourage others to face their fears, seek help, and turn their lives around. I also hope that telling you about my secrets will be a healing process for myself. It’s a relief to share my secrets, and I just want to be as open and honest as possible, not only with you, but with myself.

I know I just shared way too much about myself, but I’m not even finished! From here on out I’ll share with you about mine and Fiance’s new life in New York, our exciting wedding plans, the ups and downs of a 400 square foot apartment, and I will continue to share how I cope and live with my positively panicked life.

Cheers!