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Archive for the ‘Anxiety’ Category

On my blog entry entitled Adaptability and Living Life after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

but.what do u do when u find anxiety overtaking so much of your life..?i find the more i delve into all ive learned i want only the reasonable safe nest i hv created for myself at home.agoraphobia would a relief by far if i cld afford it.sadly not kidding ~ Malanie

I come at this question from two directions – the early stages and the later stages of healing.

In the early stages of healing, I needed to find ways to manage my anxiety because feeling anxiety was a “normal” part of my existence. What worked for me was learning how to do deep breathing, yoga, and meditation. Some readers have told me that these methods did not work for them and had other suggestions, such as Pilates. (Readers ~ Feel free to jump into the comments with what worked for you!)

I also had to discover ways in which it felt safe to “be present.” For me, this started by being out in nature, such as taking a walk along the beach, and from being in safe groups, such as my Sunday School class. Being present is the opposite of anxiety.

When you are truly present in your life, you are “being.” I didn’t even know what that was like when it happened the first time. I felt like I had been beamed into my life and was an active participant, not someone watching from the sidelines. It felt peaceful – the opposite of anxious.

In the later stages of healing, it is time to let go of the anxiety crutches that got you through the early years. I have chosen to stop drinking alcohol or taking Xanax during the day and, instead, allow the waves of anxiety to come when they do. (While I am still not drinking, I am battling insomnia right now and sometimes using Xanax to help me sleep, but that is a different issue.)

What I have learned is that there is no way to “shut down” the “bad” emotions while still experiencing the “good” ones. If you numb yourself with Xanax, wine, or whatever your numbing agent of choice is, you interfere with your ability to stay present, which is the way out of the anxiety. It takes a leap of faith to do this because you have to face the anxiety head on. That’s where the fire hose analogy comes in – no matter how strong the wave of anxiety is, I am the fire hose (the body), not the water coursing through it (the feelings or emotions).

You cannot prematurely move from one place to the other, so follow your therapist’s advice. There is nothing wrong with using a crutch, such as Xanax, to help you get through the early years of healing. However, don’t allow yourself to believe that you cannot survive without it. As you grow stronger and discover the beauty of presence, you can let go of the crutches and step out into life. Anxiety won’t kill you, and behind the anxiety is joy!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Choosing Not to React to Emotions, a reader posted a link to an article about the differences between fear and anxiety. I had never really thought about the differences and found this article to be fascinating. I think this article also explains why I have had negative associations toward anxiety (I always equated “anxious” with “weak” and had a difficult time applying that label to myself.)

According to the article, while people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently struggle with anxiety, the anxiety is a byproduct of a “conditioned fear response,” which distinguishes PTSD from other anxiety disorders. The article argues that the two terms of “fear” and “anxiety” are not interchangeable because they have different causes:

The difference between fear and anxiety starts with the proximity of the threat. The individual in a state of fear perceives the threat to be real and immediate, demanding an active response. The anxious individual, on the other hand, does not perceive an immediate threat; he is focused on a potential threat that looms in the near or distant future. ~ How Fear Differs From Anxiety

The article points out that the person experiencing anxiety is in a state of distress, not fear. The anxious person doesn’t do much to solve the problem because the source of the fear is murky. However, the person who is experiencing fear “perceives the threat to be real and immediate, demanding an active response.”

The article then goes into the scientific explanation, which I hear as the teacher talking in a Charlie Brown cartoon. (My sister is the scientist of the family, not me.) Apparently fear happens in one part of the brain and conditions us at a primal level to react to a trigger as if we are currently in danger. If I am reading this correctly, we get hardwired to react to a trigger as if we are currently in danger, which is very different from feeling distress about something that could happen. We react as if the danger is happening.

More scientific blah, blah, blah stuff, but I think the article is saying that fear conditioning does not imprint the same way that regular learning and memory does. I wonder if this is the reptilian brain that Michael is always talking about?? Interestingly, the fear-state causes changes in the brain, including speech. I wonder if that is why I talk very fast when I am triggered??

This disruption of learning is thought to account for many of the symptoms of PTSD; there is no opportunity for the fearful experience to be processed and transformed into the declarative memory system. Instead, the changes in cellular activity are confined to subcortical structures. Encounters with somatosensory stimuli associated with the trauma continue to trigger the conditioned fear and the cascade of events starts anew, thereby interfering with the opportunity to “learn” (explicitly) that the conditioned stimulus is not a real threat. ~ How Fear Differs From Anxiety

You can read the full article here. It’s fascinating even if you don’t follow all of the science stuff. I’ll have to email the article to my sister and get her to dumb it down for me.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Continued from here.

My house is in shambles because my kid has been home so long from the inclement weather, and I don’t have time to clean it all up (he does a thorough job) because my son and I flying to Florida to celebrate his birthday with my sister and nephews. I am trying to stay on top of my classes (I work part-time as an online college instructor), keep up with the bills, manage my son’s medications (the antibiotics for his ear infection brings me up to medicating him four times a day for that, asthma, and ADHD). I have been arguing with hub over blowing off my son’s birthday. I haven’t seen much of my offline friends due to the holidays and then inclement weather, and I have had very little time alone, so I haven’t been able to manage my anxiety through friendships or yoga. I still can’t take a shower before bed because I am dripping sweat when I wake up and just have to take another one.

I just want to cry and scream. I feel like I need to cry for hours, throw things at the wall, and pound the floor at the unfairness of my life. If somebody else beamed into the day-to-day of my life, she would probably tell me to stop my whining because I have a really good life. However, I cannot enjoy or appreciate it because I am constantly flooded with anxiety during the day and nightmares during the night. I am not suicidal, but I beg and plead for a “shorter life” because I don’t want to keep doing this for another 30 or 40 years.

This is me after healing since 2003. This is me IMPROVED from last year. Even in this terrible place that I am right now, I can acknowledge that I have good days which used not to be the case, so I know I am making so much progress. Despite all of this anxiety, my weight has stayed fairly steady, which means that I am making improvement on the eating disorder. I have not self-injured at all. I am sleeping some nights without a sleep aid, which is improvement. Progress is measured in baby steps, not miles.

So, that’s me, folks ….your “brave, strong” friend in Blogland. I still get triggered. I still struggle. I might have developed more healing tools than you have, and I might no longer lose time like some of you do, but I am still one of you. I still have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alter parts. I am still vulnerable. I hate it, but I am still vulnerable.

I apologize if nobody got anything out of what I wrote, especially since this is now going to run for four days. I needed it, though. These thoughts have been swirling around in my head for a month now, and there has been no safe place to express them. Hopefully, this place was safe. I have been crying as I poured all of this out. (Imagine how my offline friends feel when I get going in person!). I hope this will be cathartic and that I can move forward as I get on that plane this afternoon and leave my life behind for a few days. (I wrote these four days on 1/14/11 – My son and I are going to Florida for the long weekend.) Thanks for listening.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Continued from here.

Then, I fear that I am turning into one of “those” bloggers who just wants ratings, which has never been my goal. I just want to offer hope and healing to fellow child abuse survivors, but a “persecutor” part of myself tells me that I am just some egoist and that I deserve to be attacked on my blog. After all, who the h@#$ am I to give anyone advice? I am no paragon of healing. I can’t even tell when am triggered … my friends have to point it out to me.

I have been healing since 2003 and have made virtually no progress sexually. I guess I have made progress if we want to celebrate that I no longer have to get drunk before and bang my head immediately after. However, it still frequently hurts, and I just want it over with as soon as possible. What kind of wife does that make me? I feel like a complete failure as a wife.

I have a kid with ADHD, and he is so hard to parent. I love him deeply, and he loves me deeply as well. I have kept him safe and continue to do so. I am the one who manages all of his medications (for ADHD and asthma), handles all of the discipline, and, quite frankly, does 99.9% of the parenting if you don’t classify earning the paycheck as an element of parenting. (Hub is a wonderful provider and enables me to be a stay-at-home or part-time work-at-home mom…completely my choice.) My child is 10 years old and cannot entertain himself for 10 minutes. When he stays home from school, he needs constant attention, which is so foreign to me. I was ignored throughout my childhood when I wasn’t being abused, so I simply have no idea how to give anyone attention 24/7. That makes me feel like a non-nurturing “bad” mother because I feel “sucked dry” after five days of this. I just want to scream that I don’t have one ounce of myself left to give to anyone!

I live with a husband and child who cannot/do not process anything, so the house looks like a frat house unless I stay on top of it constantly, either throwing away soda cans (all theirs – I don’t drink soda at home), etc. myself or reminding them over and over again to do it themselves. When I get behind because they have both been home for the holidays, inclement weather, etc., I see that I am a lousy homemaker, too – O for three. In the South, a woman’s value is pretty much equated with how good of a wife, mother, and housekeeper she is, and I am O for 3 in my head.

I have always been a good employee and a good friend, but my employer is over a computer (I work as an online college instructor) and my friends are “gone” due to the holidays followed by inclement weather, so all I see is my “failure.” Then, when my professional blog “disappears” and I am criticized on my personal blog, and what’s left? Just me, a big, fat failure.

To be continued…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Continued from here.

However, that never happens at this time of year. Here are the stresses that have kept me in a high state of anxiety this January, but there is always something similar at this time of year… My son had no school for five days straight (including the weekend) due to an ear infection and inclement weather. There goes the gym, yoga, and meditation. (He has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD – and is very hyper with a low attention span.) I have been waiting to hear back from a part-time job I really want. I was told I would hear in 48 hours … it’s been a month. I can tell online that I have been neither hired nor “rejected” through their website – I am in perpetual limbo and don’t want to make long-term plans until I know whether I am taking on this commitment or not.

My husband scheduled a business meeting on the evening of my kid’s birthday. He is his own boss with complete control over his own schedule – he just didn’t think about it. So, I raced around like a madwoman to throw together a last minute birthday party for my kid so he wouldn’t notice that his father was “too busy” to have time for him on his birthday.

I have had a reader trying to debate me on the blog and, instead of sharing gentle constructive criticism or a different perspective, taking me on directly and accusing me of posting erroneous and harmful information for my readers. I take my blog very seriously, and if it were true that I was posting harmful stuff on this blog, it would truly break my heart. At the same time, my professional blog “disappeared.” This has all been worked out (was a simple technical issue), but I feared that three years of my writings were simply “gone” – three years of my life, with my soul poured onto those pages.

I could go on forever just about the blog. My blog has exploded in readership over the last few months. I used to consider it an amazing feat if 400 or so people read it in a day. Now, it is consistently averaging well over 1,000 page views in a day. The Black Swan blog entry alone has had over 2,000 page views at the time that I am writing this, and rather than celebrate this, I doubt myself. I wrote that blog entry to help me process a movie that resonated with me so deeply and triggered me. (I still want to write about how much of myself I saw in Nina and how that disturbs me greatly.)

To be continued…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Some reader comments cause me to fear that some of you think I am much stronger and “together” than I really am. My biggest concern with any of you believing this is that you might believe that I have only healed to the degree that I have because I am “stronger” than you are. Because you are not “that strong,” healing is not accessible to you. The purpose of this blog entry is to show you some of my vulnerability and reassure you that I have been where you are and that I still cycle back to where you are, as I have over the past month.

I just let myself go and poured out my anxieties onto the screen, so this wound up being very long. I am going to let this post across the next four days. Think of this as getting a peak into my diary. My intention is nothing more than to give you a glimpse into what it is like to be me from the view of my own head. I don’t intend it as a “pity party.” I intend it as a snapshot of how I view myself and my life, which is likely very different from how you view me. I hope you will take away from this that the same is probably true about you. Your own self-view is likely just as different from how others view you as your view of me differs from this “diary snapshot.”

I have not been doing very well over the past month. I am blessed to have offline friends who can honestly tell me that I have made great improvement from last year because I was an anxiety-ridden basket case for three months last Christmas, and it has only been a month of it this time. While it is nice to hear that I am improving, when I am in this place, I really don’t “hear” it. All I know is that I have been working so hard to heal since 2003, and yet here I am, having to take Xanax daily to function, shaking and feeling panicky and overly sensitive to triggers.

At Christmas, there are plenty of triggers to keep me in an emotional frenzy, so I cannot come down from one before the next one gets slapped on top of it. So, by the time I get the d@#$ed Christmas decorations put away (always on January 1 – as fast as I can!!), my sense of “normal” is operating at about 80% anxiety level. If I could just get back to exercising at the gym, doing yoga & meditation, and taking one day off a week to enjoy being alive (my personal “Sabbath” that I observe on Thursdays so I can be alone in my house), I can get back down to my baseline (which, quite honestly, is probably quadruple a “normal” person’s anxiety level).

To be continued…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Some of my dearest friends would probably die laughing if I told them that I am only now becoming aware of the degree to which I struggle with anxiety. Of course, they see it from the outside. They are the ones who hear my words get faster and faster, and they see and feel my intensity when I am triggered.

Nevertheless, labeling myself as an “anxious” person has never crossed my mind. I think this is because the women I have seen labeled as “anxious” are those who are also viewed as “emotionally fragile,” and I do not see myself as “emotionally fragile” in the least. Yes, I get triggered, but I also know I am tough as h@#$ and will fight my way back. In my head, I am a warrior, not a “worrier.”

I guess it doesn’t help that my mother-in-law was such an anxious person (she passed away a few years ago), and everyone in the family had to tiptoe around her anxiety. Everyone viewed her as a fragile flower who must be protected at all costs. I have hardly been “protected” throughout my life, so my perception of anxiety discounted the possibility of applying that label to myself.

My medical doctor had no problems whatsoever with labeling me as having anxiety issues. She made the mistake of stating my weight at a physical a couple of years ago, and I had a complete panic attack in her office right there in front of her. She immediately prescribed me Xanax, and she has been wonderfully supportive of empowering me to manage my anxiety with Xanax as needed while, at the same time, taking note that I don’t abuse it and frequently go months between refills. I am actually taken aback when she uses her “bedside” voice toward me (her “anxious patient”) because nobody ever treated me with kid gloves … not even when I was a kid!

I am coming to realize that my normal state of being since childhood has always been “anxious,” but I had to learn how to mask it. When I am alone, I do all sorts of “crazy” things to manage my anxiety, from tapping my fingers in a particular way to breathing in a funky way. As a child, I did everything from blowing on my hands to clearing my throat repeatedly to manage the anxiety. My son started doing something weird with his wrist that was in imitation of one of my anxiety-reducing rituals, and that was a real wake up call. (He was just trying to figure out why I do it and how.) It has only been in the past few weeks that I am awakening to the fact that my body is feeling X, Y, Z, which means that I am having anxiety issues.

It is weird for me to think of myself as being an “anxious” person because I have always equated “anxious” with “weak,” and I am definitely not weak. Nevertheless, I have struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, phobias, and frequent triggering, which all fall under the umbrella of anxiety. I think it is weird that I couldn’t see this in myself before now.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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