#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.

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“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.

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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!

Being Medicated

anxiety

Monday was my one-month anniversary of finally visiting a doctor and getting my health on track. I’m already feeling better and I didn’t even cry this time! I want to celebrate by sharing some experiences and answering some questions about anxiety medication.

When I began writing Positively Panicked I began getting lots of questions like How does medication help? Is the medication addictive? Is it the only answer? Does it have side effects? Will you need to be on this medication forever? Is it really necessary?

I don’t mind the questions. In fact, I’m happy to answer them because I want my friends and family to have a better understanding of my life with anxiety and anyone who is dealing with any psychiatric disorder. As a disclaimer, keep in mind that this is strictly from my experiences with anxiety and medicine…everyone is different, very different.

Everyone gets anxious. We each have certain situations that cause us to stress or worry, but some of us stress and worry all day everyday. Some of us have panic attacks. We are the ones with anxiety/panic disorders. On any typical day I worry about every single little occurrence.

No one will like me because of my zits. My boss wants to meet with me, I must be getting fired. Husband didn’t call when he said…he was probably run over by a taxi. My stomach hurts because I’m getting a virus. I can’t breathe. My chest hurts. I’m having a heart attack. Oh, it’s going to be so embarrassing when an ambulance picks me up from work. I wonder if people will visit me in the hospital. I wonder if they’ll miss me when I die. What if I can’t have children….

And it goes on and on. I sweat all day, can’t keep food down, my blood pressure is high, my head hurts and my pulses races because of my constant anxiety. The anxiety is mental, but it causes physical ailments. This is not something I can fix through yoga, prayer, friends or relaxing. Believe me…I’VE TRIED. For years, I have tried.

I used to pray every night for peace, for God to carry my burdens… I would literally say “I’m casting my cares upon you! Please! Take them, I can’t carry them anymore!” It took me years to realize that prayer isn’t always simple. Sometimes I was really angry. Often I felt depressed, but now I feel grateful. I finally heard the answer.

The medicine allows me to get through a day and worry at appropriate times. I’m not a zombie or without feelings. I still cry at cheesy commercials. I get angry when Husband leaves his clothes on the floor for the 5,000th time. I get excited when one of my students masters a new skill, and I worry when I should worry. I feel like I can be me; the person the anxiety is always concealing.

Medicine is not the only option. Some people improve with lifestyle changes, others need therapy, but most need a combination of things.  I need a little of all of the above. The goal is to gain control of my thoughts, reverse my negative beliefs and eventually stop taking medicine.

At my recent appointment the doctor said my blood pressure and heart rate were much better. Luckily, the medicine and dosage are working just as they should and it’s keeping me healthy.

One more question I often hear: Are you worried about being too open/honest with EVERYONE?

My answer: Not at all. Being honest and living so openly is such a relief. I’ve heard from several friends, family members and readers who can relate and are now recognizing their own struggles. I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you to everyone for stopping by each day to read about my life, my fears, and positively panicked moments.

Cheers!

P.S. Got anymore questions? Ask away!

Facing My Fears

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I did it. I went to the doctor today. Whew….boy, do I feel better! Husband went with me for support, and because he needed a check-up as well. As much as I appreciated his presence, it was not very helpful. I was so sick all morning leading up to the appointment. I lay on the couch all morning, could barely manage to eat a banana, and almost threw up on the bus ride there.

While waiting in the doctor’s office I thought I might break down. Why on Earth do they play terrifying commercials in the waiting room of every doctor’s office??? 5 signs you are dying. A terrible story of a girl with a hidden disease. And, Everything you should be afraid of! I tried to tune out the disturbing messages on the TV. I tried to focus on the stack of papers I had to fill out, hands shaking, but it was a challenge.

By the time they called me back I was sweating and my heart was pounding in my ears. The doctor sat me down in her office first to get to know me a little better. I am oh-so very thankful she did this. I got to fully explain my fears, my anxiety and the whole reason for making the appointment in the first place. Of course, the second I opened my mouth I began crying. I hated to cry in front of her, but there was no stopping the tears. My body was just so relieved to let it out.

I told her EVERYTHING. Once I finished “letting it all out” she told me (in a very professional and understanding way) that I needed to be on anti-anxiety medication, to see a therapist and come back for regular check-ups. I agreed because I know I need help and more than anything I want to get back to being myself.

The physical was the most meticulous physical I have ever experienced. She took my blood, did an EKG, and a hundred other tiny tests. Surprisingly I learned that I have a heart murmur. I’ll be returning next week for an echocardiogram, but I am okay with this. She was confident that it is no big deal. Not surprisingly, my blood pressure was a little high…

It was 132/80. Not TOO bad, but not great. Husband’s was actually the same as mine, which is surprising. I will be working hard on keeping my anxiety under control, and we will both be eating less salt and exercising more (hopefully together).

The good news is that I feel much better. I found an understanding doctor, and I am finally on the right path. My journey is just getting started, and I’m sure it will get bumpy, but luckily I have all of you to support me and listen to my anxiety-filled stories. (Thank you so much for the sweet calls, thoughts and text messages today!) At first, I felt silly for having my friends worry about my simple physical, but it definitely made me feel stronger knowing I was not alone.

The REALLY good news is that the doctor said I do not need to quit drinking coffee; I just need to drink less. I can live with that. The second I got out; I went to Starbucks because I had not had any coffee yet and was suffering from a caffeine headache. The barista made me a large when I ordered a small…I think he knew I deserved a treat. Thanks Mr. Barista.

Here’s to many more positively not-so-panicked doctor visits!

Cheers!

My Panic Monster

When I first started Positively Panicked, Husband’s loving Aunt sent me a book. I received Life With The Panic Monster, written by Evelyn Barkley Stewart, in the mail with no note attached, and was not quite sure what to think. I had never read a book about panicking and was afraid that reading about someone else’s fear would just create more of my own. I read the introduction, my heart racing the whole time, and then quickly put it back on the bookshelf, right between Brad Paisley’s autobiography and F U Penguin.

I didn’t want to learn about someone else’s worries. I didn’t want to hear about how hard and terrifying life became for this author. I was afraid to discover that she never recovered, never healed, and never lived a “normal” life. So, I didn’t. I left the book to collect dust and bond with my other lonely, abandoned books…until a couple weeks ago.

I probably “forgot” to mention on here that I have been taking Lexapro for the last month. As you know, I am only just now getting my health insurance through work, so you may be wondering how I scored some anti-anxiety medication. Well, it’s simple really:  I just forced Zoey to go to a doctor in Costa Rica, tell them she needed it, get a prescription, and I’d pay for it, (a whopping $20 BTW). It was almost as easy as getting anti-anxiety medicine in Albania. Except there I just walked into a pharmacy and asked for it, and it only cost $12.

Before, I get a bunch of phone calls and emails telling me how irresponsible and stupid this plan was, let me say I KNOW. It wasn’t exactly my proudest moment. Please try to understand that I was having a panic attack almost every night in Costa Rica, and I was far too panicky to go to the doctor myself. I was absolutely 100% sure that if I went to the doctor myself, I would be informed that I was dying or having a heart attack and I would have to immediately be sent to a hospital to receive treatment, which would definitely ruin everyone’s Costa Rican vacation/my Honeymoon.

I realize that this is completely illogical, and that if I was actually dying, going to the doctor’s office would be a better choice than not going, but when you suffer from panic attacks your mind cannot separate what’s logical from what’s completely crazy. So, Zoey, being the best most wonderful sister-in-law there is, did me a HUGE favor, and I was actually able to enjoy the last few days of our trip. Not only that, but I’ve been able to take the medication the rest of the summer.

My goal was to stretch it out until my insurance kicked in and I was able to make a doctor’s appointment, get a psychologist recommendation, and a legit prescription. Unfortunately, the pills did not last me that long, and although I haven’t had a full-blown panic attack since Costa Rica, I am starting to get anxious about upcoming doctor appointments. I have been trying to remain as calm and logical as possible to prepare my mind and body, and recently I came across the Panic Monster book again. I skimmed it a little more, and decided it might be worth a chance.

That night, I went to bed earlier than normal so I could start to read the book alone, while Husband played video games and watched Jimmy Fallon in the next room.

I was crying before I finished the first chapter, and finished the entire book in the next 2 hours. I continued crying for probably another hour. I cannot really explain the reason behind the tears…sometimes I was crying because I was afraid, other times I was crying for the girl telling her story, and often I was crying because I didn’t feel so alone anymore. Each little anecdote struck a chord with me; it was as if I was reading my own thoughts and experiences, re-living some tough and cruel moments.

The author of this book wrote honestly and clearly about her life with panic, her “crazy” thoughts, her most challenging struggles, and her effort to live a “normal” life. When I finished reading it* I got online to find the Ms. Stewart and stalk her until we became best friends. I just kept thinking how great it would be to not only tell her how much her story meant to me, but to really get to know her. I wanted to hear more; I wanted to keep being reassured that I am not the only one suffering from panic.

*(The very first thing I did when closing the book was run in the next room and hug Husband with all my might and cry and cry into his shoulder. The book reminded me that I am not the only one suffering. Husband suffers with me, and I am so, so, so, so grateful that he not only puts up with me, but also does his best to help me, and love me more. I can’t imagine having panic attacks with a spouse who judged me or didn’t at least TRY to understand me. I know it’s not easy for him to live with me sometimes, and I just wanted to love him and squeeze him to remind him how much I appreciate his help.)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyway to contact her. Instead, I started brainstorming. I stayed up most of the night comparing my life to hers, making lists of my biggest fears, googling anxiety support groups in my neighborhood, and thinking about what I could share on my blog.

One of the most important, heart wrenching, and enlightening moments of the book for me is in the end. Evelyn resolves with the fact that she will always need medication; after years of therapy, support groups, different medicines, and practices, she can’t happily and calmly survive without it.

This is not a fact for everyone who struggles with panic. Often people panic for a brief period, and are able to heal and move on in life. I have a feeling I am not one of those lucky people. That sounds very negative, but I actually felt relieved when I read her outcome. I thought, “If she has to do it, then so can I”. After all, “We can do hard things!” right Glennon?

Overall, this book wasn’t scary. It didn’t send me into a downward spiral of nightmares about life-threatening illnesses. On the contrary, this book was exactly what I needed. It was confirmation that I am on the right path. I am no longer in denial, I am healing, and I am definitely open to getting help (medical and mental), which I previously was 100% against. Most importantly, it reminded me that I am far from being alone.

If anyone else is dealing with similar struggles, I highly suggest reading Evelyn’s story. I can even lend you my copy. It’s even beneficial to non-panicky people because it explains how to live with and help the ones you love who panic.

Much more to come…

Cheers!