As a little girl, I was a worrier. I worried about silly things like spiders in my bed, aliens living next door, whether my friends liked me, and what to wear to school.
As I grew, so did my worries. Boyfriends and jobs, teachers and classes, filled my thoughts, the normal concerns of any young girl. But there were other worries that consumed me, like a brother who ran away, and another who clung to me when parents fought. I worried about our parents, and whether their worries would tear them apart.
I worried myself into teenage anorexia, which became my coping mechanism for dealing with stress. As a teen, I was expected to fit in, eat with my friends, and munch on snacks all day long, which made me eventually give up anorexia, and worry about my weight. Every time I thought about my weight, I exercised, twirled my hair, fidgeted in my chair, and clicked my fingers, my new ways of dealing with anxiety.
I worried so much, I was often sick, sometimes for a month at a time. I missed school, and wondered if I’d get my work done, or even pass my grade. I worried about the flu and colds I often developed, unexplained fevers, and sores that covered the inside of my mouth.
By adulthood, I was a flustered, stressed-out, overthinking mess. Only by now, I was getting better at hiding my worries. I hid them behind too much work and fussing constantly in my home. I disguised my worries in sleepless nights. No one, not my children, parents, or husband, knew the constant brooding in my head. I guess you could say, in some strange way, I had control over my worries. Only I didn’t.
A few years ago, they all came tumbling out. As my husband and I sat in our car, waiting to turn into a tiny fruit stand, another vehicle rammed into us. I don’t remember the crush of metal against metal, or my brain being flung from one side of my skull to another. What I do remember is standing on the side of the road after the accident, and panicking. Heart-thumping, body-shaking, sweat-dripping, panic.
In one brief second, the only control I’d ever had over my worries, was gone, and there was nothing I could do. And to this day, I still have problems controlling my panic.
Recently, a string of events, some unforeseen, some planned, sent me over the proverbial edge. In less than two months, three sets of guests stayed overnight, my husband lost one job and gained another, we went on an out-of-state trip, I was called to jury duty, and I experienced a health scare. To top it off, my children were experiencing their own sets of problems, and though they are adults, I still worried.
I worried about everyone those few months: My guests, whether they were happy, comfortable, and having fun; my husband, his old job, his new job, his salary, his benefits. I worried about my children, and their futures. I even found time to worry about a brother who was moving away.
It wasn’t unusual for me to worry, but now, my worries were different. I no longer knew how to control them. I no longer knew how to hide behind daily activities. Those two months were filled with a shaking body, constant tears, and a temper that flared for no reason. When it was over, I’d fall in bed, confused, and exhausted beyond belief.
Other things had changed in me as well. Worry wasn’t just a part of my life, it consumed me. So much, I’d forget to eat, nap, and exercise. In other words, I’d forget about me.
It wasn’t until I received the envelope from the courthouse that I began to figure it out. I knew what it was before I opened it. With shaking hands, I read the neatly printed words on the page, and began to cry.
“What is it?” asked my husband.
“I have jury duty.”
Thoughts raced through my mind. How could I sit in a stuffy courtroom, next to people I didn’t know? What if I didn’t understand what was being said? What if I got tired or needed to eat?
Instead of thinking it through, I worried about every scenario. “I can’t do it,” I cried.
My husband took me in his arms. “You were called to jury duty a few years ago,” he said. “Your doctor wrote a letter. Call her tomorrow. I’m sure she’ll write another one.”
She did. But until I had that final notice in my hand, the one that said I wasn’t required to show up for jury duty, I was a freaked-out, stressed, worried mess. Unfortunately, I had one more thing to worry about.
The next week, I received a call from a medical specialist I had recently seen. “We found something on your tests. You need a biopsy,” she said.
I hung up the phone, and began to sob. I cried until every muscle ached and my mind reeled with tons of thoughts and emotions. I was convinced life was over, that I’d never celebrate another Christmas, never see another birthday. I was saddened by a family I’d lose, one that I’d no longer be there for, one I wouldn’t see grow and change.
By the time I went to the doctor, I was falling apart. Every crease in my face accentuated, every muscle tensed, every word shook as I spoke. A nurse was brought in to hold my hand during my biopsy.
As I look back now, I am truly embarrassed by the way I acted. It’s true, it was a stressful time. It would have been stressful for anyone. But I wonder if others would have reacted the way I did.
I’ve tried to gain control of my emotions, my worries, my life, but I’m not certain I can. It is a part of who I am, a flaw I am learning to live with. But I know this, I will never quit trying.
If anything good has come from my emotional traumas, it is this: My marriage is stronger, for I no longer hide behind flaws. Each flaw is beautifully displayed, for my husband, and all the world, to see; I am stronger. I am learning every day to accept who I am; and most importantly, I am learning to take care of me.
About the Author
Guest Post by Irving Schattner
Post Design and Edit by Christy Zigweid
Photo by blickpixel via Pixabay
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) involves excessive anxiety, worry, fear, or unease about events or activities. Its duration, intensity, or frequency is disproportionate to the actual likelihood or impact of the anticipated event. People suffering with generalized anxiety disorder experience difficulty controlling worrisome thoughts which interfere with managing tasks at hand. It is common for persons with this disorder to worry about daily, routine tasks and circumstances such as school, job or career responsibilities, health, finances, household chores, being late for appointments, or question or evaluate the competence of their performance in given situations. The focus of their worries or anxiety may shift from one concern to another. as it is common for such persons to complain about persistent thoughts of worry, anxiety, fear, distress or dread, which they feel incapable of shutting off.
Unlike normal worry, persons with generalized anxiety disorder find the excessive nature of their worries of everyday life significantly interfering with healthy, adaptive psychological, emotional and social functioning.
With generalized anxiety disorder, worries are more distressing and longer lasting. This excessive worry may appear to be without cause and be accompanied by physical symptoms such as feeling on edge, being easily fatigued, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, concentration difficulties or having one’s mind seemingly go blank, trembling, shakiness, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, irritable bowel syndrome, and headaches.
Overcoming Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The good news is that generalized anxiety disorder is highly treatable! With the expertise of a mental health professional who specializes in treating anxiety disorders and utilizing an approach that’s based on proven interventions individually tailored to meet the needs of each client, you will be well on the path to recovery.
Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) is one of the most effective treatments for generalized anxiety disorder. Studies have shown that the benefits of CBT may last longer than those of medication, but no single treatment is best for everyone. CBT examines the interconnection between one’s negative thought patterns, feelings and behaviors, and how they maintain, reinforce, and even intensify anxious thoughts and worry associated with generalized anxiety. Learning to replace negative thoughts and beliefs with more realistic, supportive, adaptive thoughts and feelings leads to less generalized worry and anxiety, which translates into increased behavioral mastery and competence in those same or similar situations.
Mindfulness and applied relaxation are other effective treatments which work by focusing one’s awareness of the present moment (vs. future events) by acknowledging and accepting feelings (whether positive or negatively charged) and deactivating bodily sensations. Being mindful makes one aware of what one is feeling and experiencing in the moment while remaining in a calm, accepting state. Applied relaxation focuses on muscle relaxation and visual cues to maintain that state of calm and acceptance. Yoga and other meditative techniques have proven highly effective in reducing or deactivating the “anticipatory anxiety” normally associated with generalized anxiety disorder.
About the Author - Irving Schattner, LCSW
Have you ever felt like a fraud? Do you treat yourself poorly? This is the episode for you!
In this podcast Lara Heacock comes on to discuss The Impostor Syndrome and The Self Kindness Revolution.
ABOUT LARA (From Her Website)
Hi! I’m Lara Heacock, and I believe, so strongly, in being kind to yourself.
My Kind Over Matter story began after decades of trying to check all the “right” boxes…
I got the degree (in Psychology) and then an MBA. I got a house and a husband, and I poured my heart and soul into a very successful 11 year career as a professional recruiter and leader.
I was the strong one holding everyone else up, determined to maintain the image that I had everything perfectly under control, and could do it all! I was the good one, the reliable one, the one who had it all together, but I wasn’t happy. There was nothing left for me.
Eventually, I was exhausted. I couldn’t fall asleep at night and had no energy during the day. I felt disconnected, misunderstood and angry…a lot…especially at my husband. Even though I’d cultivated this ‘perfect’ image, I still struggled with how I felt when I looked in the mirror, but I thought it was weak to share any of this. After all, I was the strong one! What would people think?
I was not good at asking for help, and kept hoping that staying busy and having nice stuff would make me feel better.
When I realized that I could no longer get out of bed on time to get to work, and that I was procrastinating everything because I felt insecure & anxious, I knew something had to change. My emotional balloon was about to burst!
I started being kind to & taking care of myself, and everything changed. I was happier, felt balanced and got “me” back! My marriage improved and my stress level went WAY down. I even found the courage to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an Executive Life Coach. It was the start of a journey that changed my life.
I will never forget sitting in my first day of coaching training and admitting that I was afraid everything was fake and there was nothing underneath.
You can’t do it alone either, and you don’t have to.
When I learned to love and take care of myself, everything changed. I found my inner light. I built a foundation of self-kindness and acceptance, and am now better equipped to handle what life throws at me. Through my training, I was able to re-claim my self-worth, self-respect and creativity.
If I can change, so can you!
Since then, I’ve spent hundreds of hours helping others:
Life is short, and you deserve to enjoy yours fully!
Let me show you how.
Click HERE to read about working with Lara
Guest Post by Tim Stoddart
Edit and Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by markus53 via Pixabay - made using @WordSwagApp
In general, anxiety is part of the human experience. It’s a natural reaction to stress. It might show up as sweaty palms before an interview, chaotic thoughts clashing in your head before making a big decision, or a general sense of unease in daily situations like meeting new people. Anxiety spans across a broad spectrum.
One of the most common mental illnesses affecting U.S. adults--about 40 million—are anxiety disorders. When anxiety levels become difficult to control and negatively affect day-to-day living, it can be deemed an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can lead to a host of physical problems, as well as life problems: anxious habits, substance abuse, difficulty with relationships, problems at work.
No matter how it shows up in your life, anxiety can be troublesome. An anxious response can range from uncomfortable to inconvenient to overwhelming. Even in situations of “minor” stress, our brains behave differently and we don’t always think clearly.
Your Brain on Anxiety
Our brains can also trigger an anxious response from something internal—a quiet thought or worry—and experience the same fear, dread, or apprehension. Our bodies still react, and our thought patterns can become clouded by emotions.
Anxiety is a powerful force in your brain. But how you react to it can make a huge difference in the power it has over you. Don’t think of anxiety as all bad! That energy in us can also help us to be more productive, pay attention to detail, and creative. It’s not about beating anxiety, but outsmarting it in your everyday life.
Being told to “just breathe” can be really frustrating in the heat of anxiety, but it’s actually great advice. In a research study, scientists found that certain emotions change our breathing pattern. Similarly, by taking control of our breathing, we can change the way that we feel.
When we’re anxious or stressed, our heart beat elevates and our breathing becomes fast and shallow. If we continue this breathing pattern, we prolong the emotional response. According to the study, the best medicine for anxiety is “deep, slow breathing into the belly.”
Does your mind ever start racing, but you need to get focused again? Grounding techniques are a practice in mindfulness that you can use every day. When the thoughts start picking up speed, ground yourself by focusing on something concrete.
Focus your attention on sensory details around you and stay in that moment. Wiggle your fingers and watch their movements. Tap your feet in a rhythm. Focus on those sensations and the control that you have over your body. Look up at the sky, hone in on the movement of the clouds. Describe the colors and shapes of the leaves—aloud or in your head. Whatever you can do to put yourself in the present and relax, do it.
We spend so much time worrying about the past and the future, but things slow down when we can put ourselves in the present. In general, you can practice mindfulness at any time—while you’re eating, in the shower, on a walk, or listening to music. It can help in any intense emotional state.
It’s easy to lose touch with Mother Nature amidst our busy lives. But, time spent outside is important—it’s a break from our everyday stresses, it can help us to relax and breathe easier, and it’s the ultimate place to get serene and practice mindfulness. Even if it’s just for a short stroll, by stepping outside to appreciate the tangible beauty in our world, we can bring ourselves back to center.
A great activity to practice outdoors is meditation. When we’re tangled up in anxiety, it might seem impossible to sit still, be quiet, and meditate. Like any skill, meditation gets easier with practice.
Think of meditation as personal therapy time—a space to untangle your intense emotions. First, control your breathing and let your emotions settle. Then, quiet your mind. What are you feeling? Are you bothered, angry, fearful, stressed? Taking the time to meditate reminds you that—here, in this moment—you are safe and you are okay.
You can meditate at home, outdoors, or even in a quiet place on your work break. Meditation isn’t limited to sitting cross-legged in the lotus position. You can sit in a chair, lie down, or take a walk. Some people enjoy guided meditation recordings, calming music, or nature sounds, while others prefer quiet. And it doesn’t have to last an hour—try 15 minutes, 5 minutes, or even just 1 minute.
Reason with Yourself
If we can slow down our thoughts, we have a chance to challenge some of our thinking. When you’re feeling nervous, afraid, or overwhelmed, talk to yourself like you would a friend.
What’s going on? What’s inspiring your fear or apprehension? Are your fears posing an imminent threat, are they far-off in the future, or are you stuck on the worst-case-scenario? What can you control, and what’s out of your control?
Take action when you can, but so much in life is out of our control. Ease the panic by identifying what you can do and what you must let go. You can use internal self-talk to get real with yourself; try talking aloud, or writing those thoughts into a journal to make more sense of them. Reasoning with yourself may not “fix” the problem, but you parse through the intense feelings and see things more realistically.
Be Kind to Yourself
Many people, like myself, get frustrated with their anxiety. We perceive ourselves negatively when anxiety has a hold on us. Instead, make an effort to be a patient and accepting friend to yourself. Allow your feelings to exist without judgment. Bolster yourself against negative thoughts, rather than putting yourself down even more.
One of the best ways to practice this is through positive affirmations—statements or mantras that you use to bring positive thinking into your life. You can say them in your head, aloud, or write them down and post them somewhere you can see them. The idea is to practice them daily and change the color of your thoughts. No need to be insincere—use statements you believe in, that will actually help you.
I am safe. Life is good. It’s a beautiful world.
Let it Out
Last but not least, we all need an outlet for our feelings. With any emotion, it manifests in our body as energy—and you can feel that pent up energy and tension with anxiety. Find a way to let it out.
For many of us, this means having a trusted friend you can talk to or call in tough moments, or scheduling time to meet with a therapist. Talking it out is a way to release those feelings and reason with yourself and someone else in the process.
There are also healthy routes of self-expression worth trying. Journaling is extremely effective for many people, helping them to interpret and understand their thoughts. But, writing isn’t the only way—paint, draw, collage, sing, dance, cook a meal. The idea is to find a way to express whatever chaos goes on in your brain so you can lessen the negative impact it has on you.
Anxiety is Smart but You're Smarter
About the Author
Guest Post by Hillary Doerries
Edited by Maureene Danielle
Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by Skeeze via Pixabay CC made using @WordSwagApp
Looking back on my life, I can confidently say that my struggles with depression began when I was in high school. I remember having days when I would cry and cry for no obvious reason. Life was good – loving parents, an attentive boyfriend, and a seemingly bright future. But the sadness would strike out of nowhere, and there was no telling when it would end. My parents – especially my mother – would try to cheer me up by leaving me handwritten, encouraging notes on my pillow; or an uplifting card in my lunchbox.
No one, including myself, had any idea what was going on or how to handle it.
A handful of years later, I started seeing a therapist when I was in graduate school. After a conversation I had with Mark, the man who would become my husband, where I admitted that things that seem easy for other people just aren’t that easy for me, we decided that seeing a counselor was the next best step. We discussed my symptoms one by one: the days where I couldn’t get out of bed for class. My irrational anger and irritation toward the people in my life. My past relationships that failed because of my unfounded jealousy and unrealistic expectations. My extreme mood swings that I could never predict. My tendency to hole myself up in my basement apartment for days at a time. My general solitary, negative outlook on the world and my place in it.
I was a mess. I was never good enough. And I never would be.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helped to rewire my brain and taught me how to look at my world differently. It was tough work. One therapist I saw during my last year of graduate school often gave me homework to take home. Things to ponder, charts to fill out, and lists that tracked my mood at the end of every day. I had to somehow make sense of layers and layers of emotions that were just beginning to surface. I feared those close to me would leave. I learned to look at the hard evidence: what clues or information did I have that confirmed that this would actually happen? Many times, there was no evidence. After a time of practicing this type of mindfulness, my fears lessened, and I realized that I was not so alone after all.
It was also by seeing a therapist that I finally had a diagnosis for my struggles: Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD, coupled with General Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. For me, it was important to have a name for what I was going through, if for nothing else, to confirm that what I was feeling wasn’t my fault.
Therapy was only a piece of my healing process. There were also drugs. Lots and lots of drugs over the years: Wellbutrin, Lexapro, Zoloft, BuSpar, Cymbalta, Klonopin, Effexor, Deplin, and Abilify, to name a few.
It was a constant battle to find the correct combination of drugs. My medications were always being tweaked and adjusted, and each adjustment was always preceded with a crash in my mood. But I picked myself up and was back in the doctor’s office each time. It was also a battle to find a psychiatrist who would listen to me and not just dope me up with the latest drug. I’ve seen every kind of doctor from a general practitioner to a psychiatrist to a psychiatric nurse. Then, after six years of taking psychotropic medications, I gained over 100 pounds and I began to take medicine to counteract the side effects of the antidepressants: fish oil for high cholesterol, Levothyroxine for thyroid, and Metformin to help regulate my blood sugar. Now I was fat, still depressed, and looking for a way out.
In December 2014 I had a plan to end my life. I was overworked, stressed out, mad at the world, and in general, not taking very good care of myself. After an argument with my husband at work, I got in the car, floored it home, and went upstairs to my nightstand. I took a bottle of Klonopin out of the top drawer and through tears and cries of desperation, decided that while a part of me wanted it to just be done and over with, there was a larger part of me that wanted to figure this out. Somehow, I got back in the car, drove myself to my local inpatient mental health facility, and checked myself in. This move shocked some, but for me, it was the safest place to be for a few days. I stayed there for four days and completed all the tasks that were set before me. I met other people who were struggling, saw a new psychiatrist, who adjusted my meds, and cooperated with the nurses. After four days, I was ready to come home.
The next couple of years were kind of fuzzy. I was functioning – going to work, completing everyday tasks, and was social enough to see and be seen by others. But things still weren’t quite right.
Despite continued therapy and my cocktail of medication, I still felt there were persistent, undulating waves of depression that accompanied my everyday being. Sometimes the waves were small and not very noticeable. Other times they were loud and clear. I slept a lot during the day. Often I could only work for a few hours before feeling like I needed to go home and recharge with a nap. My psychiatrist kept adjusting my meds but I couldn’t shake this unsettling feeling that my life could be better. I just didn’t know how I was going to get there. I remained this way for several months - just kind of existing in a fog. It was like looking at myself in the mirror without my glasses, my face blurry and misshapen.
The months rolled by until finally my psychiatrist told me about a relatively new type of treatment for those with persistent depression for whom medication didn’t seem to cut it. It was called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and my own doctor happened to administer it right in his office. I discovered TMS works very much like an MRI. It’s a large machine that emits magnetic pulses meant to stimulate the brain’s pre-frontal cortex so over time, it can relearn how to make those good brain chemicals on its own, therefore possibly eliminating the need for antidepressants. After going round and round with the insurance company, I was finally approved for the treatment.
TMS is a big commitment. I had to be at my doctor’s office every weekday for six weeks in a row for about an hour at a time. For those six weeks, my life and my daily plans revolved around my TMS treatments. I ended my TMS therapy in April 2016 and I can say with confidence that going through TMS was a profound gift of new life for me. First, my mood has stabilized. People that know me often comment that I seem lighter and have more life behind my eyes. Sure, I have ups and downs as anyone does, but I am better equipped to deal with them in a level-headed, rational way. I still take naps, but now I take them because I want to, not because I feel like I have to. The best part is my doctor has started to wean me off of my antidepressants. I’ve been on the drugs for over six years now, so the process is a slow one, but by this fall, I hope to be rid of all of my meds.
While we may not know it as we’re plodding through the journey, we are changing every day. Even the small steps we take to help ensure a better quality of life help us in big ways down the road.
We have to believe, even when we feel stuck, that things won’t remain difficult and stagnant forever. As someone who has just managed to get my head above water regarding my mental illness, I want to tell others to never give up. Keep fighting for your mind and your health. Try new things and be an advocate for yourself, because at the end of the day, nobody else can but you.
And above all, if you are suffering, reach out and share your story. If nothing else, your bravery in doing so will prove to you that you are not alone.
To our health,
About the Author
My diagnosis is ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorder. I have suffered with depression for 5 years and my anxiety for 1-2 years. I have fully recovered from my depression and have slowly, even without realizing it, found ways to cope with anxiety. I’ve come to the realization I have to cope with my ADHD the rest of my life.
I suffered with my depression for a year in college, where I studied office administration, and in that year I barely made it through alive. Right now I am taking time to work and do research and figure out what I want to do. I have thought about being a counselor, teacher, or anything that involves helping those with mental health problems, where I can inspire others in tough situations.
Some of my passions and coping strategies are:
Listening to music. At times when I'm feeling anxious, music helps me ease my thoughts on the situation. When I feel ready to react properly to the situation, I feel more confident and aware of what I should feel and think in the situation.
Inspiring others: I'm passionate about inspiring others with the knowledge I've gained through my experiences and recovery. I've inspired, given advice, and helped people (including those who suffer from mental illness) with my first blog. I currently have a new blog on Tumblr where I still inspire others.
Being creative: When I set my mind to something, I’m finding new ways of thinking differently & creatively. I make sure my thinking is positive, inspiring, beautiful, encouraging, uplifting, happy, and creative.
Being optimistic: The movie Tomorrowland with Britt Robertson and George Clooney, was very inspiring to me. I've come to realize in the things that I do and believe in, that I never give up and always find a way to make it work.
Now that I've finished recovering from my depression, I realize I can fully embrace the person that I've been hiding even before the depression.
In my recovery, I’ve learned how to be confident, love myself for the first time, and not letting anyone or anything hold me back. I now have so many plans I want to do with my life. I feel more myself than I've ever felt in the 19, almost 20 years of my life. And lastly, I am truly proud for all that I have accomplished with my recovery and all it gave me in return. I may have suffered from life-threatening illnesses, but I am here alive, mentally healthy, and happy, which I will never take for again. Near the end of my recovery, I actually started to really and honestly feel that love within myself. Loving myself for the very first time feels amazing.
Versions of this story were also posted on:
My story is posted for team not ashamed, May 20, 2016
My full story can be found on Medium.
About the Author
Guest Post by Joseph S. Fusaro
Edit and Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Picture made using @WordSwagApp
It was the spring of 2013. It had been 3 years since my last psych inpatient stay for schizoaffective and general anxiety disorder and to this day, I still say my symptoms were from excessive cigarettes, Adderall, benzos, and the 6-10 joints I was smoking a day. I never had a problem with any of these meds before, but after 2 years, they stopped working and I would go from ADHD and general anxiety straight into psychotic and schizophrenic episodes.
But, before I get into 2013, I need to explain what happened after my last inpatient stay in 2010. Held against my will for over a month and a half, I learned the hard way that sarcasm mixed with psychosis is really a bad idea in urgent care; a sentence of 45+ days and a monthly shot of Haldol is what one gets for not being compliant. I could not stand the fighting, the older lady defecating on the floor in her room for fun, the nightly argument of what terrible 1980’s movie would be played, the medication line, the bedtime, and the patronizing of patients from the guards and nurses aids. I hated that they gave me a handful of downers and then told me I could not sleep during the day. I would skip out of every group activity and the guard would open my door, knock, and tell me to wake up, then stare at me while he or she feverishly took notes on my current state to give my doctor.
I was so exhausted I knew I had to comply because I never wanted to go back there.
After this stay, even though I started to make up with friends and family and being a little more social (I was now getting out once a month instead of once a year), I was prescribed a month long injection of Haldol which was literally stealing the life and soul from my body. (I later found out from a drug rep at a NAMI event that Haldol was a drug from the 1950’s and they only give it to people in the public hospitals that have no money. He said it was outdated and dangerous). I could not eat. I could not think. My muscles were spastic and twitchy, and I know that I was at the beginning stages tardive dyskinesia, even though my psychiatrist denied it. He would stare right at his notepad, never my eyes, and say, “You are still shaking, but that is normal.” I would think, “Well doc, I felt a hell of a lot better when I was on anything except this garbage in a vile.”
Every time I went to a psychologist I would tell him that I am one bullet or handful of pills away from death. I was numb and in serious physical and mental pain from the Haldol. I could not socialize. I had major, major depression that he was ignoring. I guess, in his eyes, as long as I was not psychotic, we were winning this health war, but I felt very different. I had to make a change. I had to make a change myself because there were too many people making decisions about my life. There were too many outside sources ripping the book that was my life apart.
I finally could not take it anymore and in the winter of 2012, I made a decision which looking back now, may have saved my life.
I decided to find another psychiatrist. I told him the whole truth of exactly how I felt every moment of every day; how extremely depressed I was, how much trouble I was having thinking and focusing, and how I needed something to help me sleep at night. I conveniently left out my other psychiatrist and the medication I’d been on. I believed in my sick and tired mind, this new doctor would prescribe me things to balance or offset the garbage my original doctor was forcing me to take. And, to my amazement, it worked. The new doctor prescribed me Adderall (a lot of Adderall I must say). I also got my best friends Xanax and Clonopin back. This felt like Christmas. I filled my prescriptions right away and before I even left the pharmacy, I had 40 milligrams of Adderall sliding happily down my little throat. I swear before they even hit my happy stomach I knew this was going to work. The Adderall was going to counteract the Haldol and I was going to be free again. Well, at least until they stopped working again, which after a year or two of overdoing it, they always stop working.
While this was not a cure-all, just a Band-Aid over a Band-Aid over a 30-year-old bleeding infection, I was feeling okay for a short time. I was still far from healthy, but it got me out of bed every day. It started going to family events and hanging out with friends. For a year or so I thought I had found the answer to my mental illnesses.
I thought that I was finally on the ever so famous and glorious “road to recovery.”
While I was more active and social, there was one issue holding me back. I could only be around people or hold conversations for a maximum of 2 hours. After this, I would lose all interest and focus and my brain would start to take a launch into space. While I had to keep my visits with others short, the more I went out, the longer my visits became.
When I had to go to a family wedding in Florida, things started to take a nasty turn. I was extremely nervous. I had not been on a vacation or a plane in years. I had not seen my family or been around people for more than a couple hours in years. In my mind, there was only one way to power through all of these strong emotions and that was with Adderall and benzos. What I have learned time and time again with this combo is that: 1. It only works if you can keep them to minimal dosages and 2. You cannot take them at the same time or alternate them (Adderall is for days and benzos are for nights). So yeah, I totally abandoned that theory for my trip. Coincidentally, the drugs then abandoned me.
Somehow I made it through the trip, but my sleep schedule got completely screwed up. From the moment I got home and laid on my couch, I knew I was entering a bad phase. When I was just about to fall asleep, I had a dream that someone was whispering in my ear and I knew that the lack of sleep caused the racing thoughts and nightmares to begin again. Now it was just a matter of damage control for me. Could I keep this from becoming mania or psychosis? I knew if I just took my Seroquel every night I would pull through. What I did not calculate was that if I was taking between 40-100 milligrams of Adderall every day I was going to need a lot more Seroquel.
I was a mess and didn’t have any answers, but was not ready to admit defeat.
Days started going extremely fast. I would wake up at 7 or 8 am and take an Adderall, then I would go back to sleep for a couple of hours and wake up at 11 am or so in pain. The only thing that eased my pain was another Adderall. I used to always know when mania was starting because I would write with vigor. I wasn’t writing poetry, prose, an article, or even thoughts, just my opinions on anything and everything. I could connect the dots to anything. I could tell you why the sun came up. I could tell you why I fell off my bike when I was 7. I could tell you why birds lay eggs. Then I could tell you that all 3 topics were scientifically connected…via the power of God. I was working on a book that I called Loose Associations, which if I ever decide to put it together and release it will probably only make sense to 1% of the 1% of people that live with schizophrenia. I did not have these psychotic symptoms all the time, but I can assure you for my stints of psychosis I was not even in this galaxy. I lived in a world of telepathy gone mad. I lived in a world of nuclear war gone everywhere; friends were at war with friends, and family was at war with family. I was on the lookout for it 24/7 and hiding from it any way I could. I thought that alone, I was chosen out of every person in the world to fight and end this war so that the “regular people” did not have to be bothered. I thought that I was named Commander and Chief, then given a sword and horse. All of the Justices, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings, and Queens looked at me and said, “We need you, Joseph. God speed, kid,” and sent me off to save the world. I later found out while I was in my internal war that I had scared the life out of everyone; my family, friends, doctors, and pharmacists.
After an all-night battle with myself, I walked out of my room at 1 pm and decided I was going to take the day off and watch a Mets game for the first time in a few days. Wait, it was the last day in June? I had not sat down to watch a game in over a month? I did not have any proof but I could sense that one of my friends had told my family that I was a mess and it was only a matter of time before my family called the police on me.
I knew what was coming. I needed to leave and get out of here now. Was there any way I could get from my house to the airport without anyone noticing? I checked my Twitter app and what I saw was my latest post was at 4:15 am. It had happened again, my mind had won again. I left an embarrassing trail of every thought that crossed my mind (which I thought were kept on my private on my public profile) and every battle I’d fought. I’d left thumbprints of every moment, fear, and illness via likes and posts. I can distinctly remember the few random replies from people who wanted to start a political or racial war with me. They had no idea that I was fighting this war and disease internally. They had no idea I was in shock and awe of the things I was reading, watching on the news, and thinking. They had no idea I was fighting a war for peace. My tone was that of fear, not anger or rebellion.
I could sense my what-had-become-routine-pickup-by-the-police coming every time. You’d think I would have known by now that when I started to sense someone was going to call my doctor or police behind my back, I would stop taking the controlled substances that made me walk around my house talking a mile a minute to the air. And when I heard the siren, I sighed, knowing what was coming. My heart and cheek bones swelled up with emotions. I could feel the air around me thicken, and I slowly started to drown in the embarrassment and anxiety. I’d done it again; blamed everyone else for my addictions and dependence. The officer knocked and said, “Hey Joe, can you come outside with me for a second? I just want to talk. I promise no one is going to take you from your home.” (They always make you go outside for their safety. I knew that he was lying. He came here with one intention and that was to take me from my home to the home). At that point, I could deal with one more embarrassment for the sake of my well-being. I tried desperately to stutter my way out of it for a few minutes and he became impatient. But, this time, I was given an option: “You can come gracefully with me or we can call an ambulance and strap you down. Joe please, just walk with me.” So I did. I gave up.
All I could think was that I had let everyone down again and the next week to a month was going to be the same pain from a few years ago that I thought I was done with. It was going to hurt so much. I was going to be so sick. And on this Independence Day, I was surely guaranteed to be alone and far from free.
That Independence Day hospital stay was my last and from that day forward, I have stayed sober and reduced my meds down to just Seroquel for sleep. For some strange reason or by the grace of some force that is stronger than me, I found a great doctor in 2013. He was the first doctor that I could tell had faith in me. He encouraged me to tell my family and friends how I truly feel and to try and repair my relationships. He taught me breathing exercises and self-compassion. He taught me about eating healthy and getting sufficient rest. He not only prescribed me medication but he made me believe in me, which is something I wish a doctor would have taught that six-year-old kid with depression.
As of 2014, I can feel the change of seasons again. Holidays feel like special days again. I have friends and family I can call if I am having a bad (or even a good) day. Now that I am focused on the right things I am finding that I attract more of the right people and the right lessons. I can honestly say for the first time since I was a kid, that I am happy. Every once in a while I still feel a little behind the game when all of my friends are getting married and having children, but I know that I have been so patient for so long that if I keep the right attitude good things will happen. I now know that I cannot search tirelessly for patience, peace, or love to add to my life because I already have it. I just take a deep breath, smile, and think, yes I am happy, but I am not done yet.
I may have lost everything but I did gain one thing: I have a constant desire to spread a positive message that there is hope for those with mental illness. There is no reason to feel ashamed and you are not alone. This is all I have and I am making it my responsibility to shine a light on mental health.
About the Author
Surviving Survival is really difficult.
Sometimes, surviving is actually worse and harder to overcome than when the actual events happened. Kelley, The Survivor Coach, knows this all too well.
She has survived many things. She has lost children, molested as a child, has lost both of her parents, breast cancer, divorce after many years of marriage and an almost successful suicide attempt.
Her mission in this life is to help others not only survive but THRIVE in their survival. She has created her own tools to help those who can relate to these things and those who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts.
This is her story.
Therapist & Author Jodi Aman joins Jay on the ConquerWorry™ Podcast to discuss managing anxiety. Her passion is teaching people how to win their life back from anxiety. Listen to her fantastic strategy on this episode.
In This Podcast We Discuss
Jodi Aman wrote the bestseller, You 1, Anxiety 0 to help people WIN their life back from fear and panic. With sharp empathy into the complexities of people's pain–since she has recovered from her own family chaos and panic attacks–and a keen understanding of how and why people get stuck there, Jodi has decided to dedicate her life to helping people feel less lonely and afraid.
Find her at http://jodiaman.com. Check out her videos at http://youtube,com/jodiaman. Get inspired on Instagram @JodiAmanLove. Or feel loved on Facebook: http://facebook.com/jodiamanlove.
Article by Two Wise Chicks
Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by quinntheislander via @WordSwagApp (Pixabay CC)
It's exam season again, and we all know what that means...
It may be the dreaded Exit Exams, end of year exams, College exams - whatever they're called, it's no picnic - and for many of us it leads to feelings of panic.
We'll keep this short 'n sweet given that your eyes are probably weary from all the other reading (and breathing into a paper bag) you're doing. Our tips are evidence based and doable, and will help you feel less overwhelmed - promise.
1. Stick to your routine (studying, sleeping, eating) - now is NOT the time to make any big changes.
2. Use summary cards to whittle down your notes to key points. (Interesting fact: if you're dyslexic it really helps if you use yellow cards with red pen).
3. Eat - healthfully and regularly. 'Dieting' or otherwise restricting yourself in order to get your body 'beach ready' for the post-exam holiday is not a priority (see #1 above).
4. Sleep. You'll be tempted to pull all nighters. Understandable but ineffective. We need to have slept well to be able to reproduce learned material well.
5. Get out in the air. Exercise. If you feel too tired, it may be study induced inertia - get out and you'll notice your energy level will come back up. It will. And you'll think more clearly too.
6. Talk if (when) you are stressed, choose someone who will actually listen and be helpful.
7. Take a lot of breaks.
8. Study at a desk if possible, not in bed, or on a couch. (We have reasons for this but trying to keep this short ;)).
9. Wear the same perfume/ aftershave/ deodorant studying as when taking your exams (lots of scientific reasons for this).
10. Visualise yourself succeeding. Visualise yourself getting your results and being happy, getting that placement, result or even that job you want so badly. Mental rehearsal works (yes, there's proof of that too!)
1: Over-do caffeine or take vitamin supplements that you're not used to just because you heard or read somewhere that they help you concentrate.
2: Don't take those study drugs that people are trying to sell to students. All they care about is your money (goes for all drugs, but we digress...) and we know that the side effects can actually damage your performance.
3: Don't engage with relatives or adults who are pressuring you (as opposed to encouraging you) to perform well. They may well have their own regrets and are now foisting them on you. #NotYourProblem.
4: Don't tell yourself or others that you'll fail, not even jokingly. It's not kind and you wouldn't do it to someone else. It also falls into a negative mindset that can mess with your motivation.
5: Don't take fewer breaks now because you're running out of time. Now is the time for more breaks, because you're getting more stressed. It can feel counter-intuitive but it's true!
6: Don't talk to your friends before the exams if there's a chance it will make you anxious. It's OK to avoid people now unless they're supportive and calming.
It's always ok to limit exposure to people and situations that are not supportive...
7. Avoid chats, FB threads and friends who are panicking and negative and lying about how much work they've done ("I still haven't opened a BOOK!!" - Right? You know the ones..).
8. Don't stop having fun - TV shows, Netflix, music or socialising that makes you laugh or feel good, keep doing them. Just not too late at night and remember to give your brain screen time rest for 30 mins before sleepy time.
Students in their teens need 8-10 hours of restful sleep for optimum brain functioning. It's better to sacrifice study time than sleep time... it really is
Stay as present as you can, breathe....
You've got this - and we've got your back!
P.S. PLEASE add any tips you have that have helped you cope in the comment section below (you never know who you might be helping!).
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Sally wants to help create a world of compassion for ourselves and others. A world where mistakes are allowed, gender roles don’t exist, sex ed in schools is a real thing and everyone dances – lovely! As a psychologist and psychotherapist in Ireland, she’s worked for nearly twenty years in private practice, with adults and trainee adults of all ages. She blogs on her own website, is a feature writer for super duper parenting website Voiceboks.com, does print and radio media work and has been known to Tweet. She’s the one running our Twitter page!
When she’s not working, you will find her engrossed in Science Fiction or some dark and Danish TV show, listening to music, watching the sea (while really, really wishing it were warmer), or figuring out how to work Lightroom on her Mac. All while munching on Bombay mix.
She’s happiest when dancing and erm…. her cat has his own Facebook page. We won’t link to that, it’s too embarrassing..
Tanya looks forward to living in a world where people know their worth, respect boundaries, and always have time for tea and chocolate. A magic bubble that protects her from sticky fingers, hormonal girls and dog hair would be awesome as well.
Her education and much of her training is in the areas of psychology and human potential. She worked as a licensed psychologist for over 14 years, with 10 of those years spent building her own successful private practice. In total, she has over 20 years of varied experience working, volunteering for non-profit agencies, and consulting to small business. Most recently she has launched her dream online coaching practice where she gets to work with motivated, amazing women who need help overcoming life’s hurdles. Exciting times!
She has lived in Ireland, Ethiopia (okay, just 6 months), Canada, and currently lives in central Texas with her husband, three girls (including fraternal twins), two dogs and three cats.
When she’s not finding ‘everyday moments’ to write about here or on herown blog, you can find her being walked by her dogs, unearthing unidentifiable food-objects under the couch cushions or baking her famous banana bread.
Tanya runs our Facebook page – and not to be outdone by Sally’s cat, her dog has its own Facebook page too.
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