So I started Music Monday to share songs I find to empower me when driving because my panic usually happens in the car, on the highway. Something I have to do everyday for 40 minutes to get to work. Yikes, tricky tricky.
However this edition of Music Monday will not feature music. Because sometimes music does not cut it for me to be honest. Lately I have taken up a new defense mechanism against wandering thoughts and anxious feelings I experience on the road. When it comes to entertainment in regards to tv and books I always gravitate towards uplifting and growth inducing. I love Oprah’s OWN Network with shows like Super Soul Sunday and Lifeclass, where well-known spiritual and thought leaders appear. However with no time to ever actually watch these shows with work and a baby and social obligations, it has been some time since I have seen an episode.
And then I realized that YouTube is a wonderous and resourceful site to find clips or past episodes, sometimes in full. And since I have a YouTube app on my phone and my phone can be plugged into my car, you see where I am going here. And the beauty is, these shows don’t require to watch anything since they are interviews, you just need to listen.
So I have made a YouTube playlist that expands past just interviews with some of my favorite spiritual and motivational speakers on Oprah’s channel. I have some Tony Robbins in there, some guy named Geert in Brussels who is a regular guy who beat anxiety and now has his own little method and tips for dealing, I have some TED Talks on there. So I get in the car, select my playlist and let it play through. Before I know it, I am at work and the time seemed to fly which is what I really need when driving!
To me this is the equivalent of what some people may get out of going to church in the morning, or praying. To fill my mind with such inspiration and motivation and positivity before I even officially start my day has given me a little extra pep in my step. I am the midst of what I know is a passing funk so I can use all the extra pep I can find. And right now I find it on YouTube.
A blizzard is on its way where I live and it is reminding me of a great lesson a past blizzard had taught me. There are opportunities for lessons everywhere, even in the weather. It goes like this…
There was a time when I could not be alone. My anxiety and panic was new, and it was terrifying and I required a constant rotation of friends and family by my side forcing me to avoid my scary thoughts and feelings and use them as false sense of security. I was unable to feel safe by myself. I feared my thoughts would put me over the edge, that I would go crazy, and I needed someone always. I was single at the time living alone so this meant spending a lot of time crashing on the couches of others. The nights I did have to spend home were torture. The funny part is, this couch hopping actually made me feel worse because I would tell myself that this would make me feel better and naturally it didnt. They couldnt jump in my head and untangle the mess of thoughts and they could not go in and soothe my frazzled nerves. So it actually frustrated me because deep down I knew I had to learn to be my own safe harbor. I knew that nothing anybody could say or do or how many people I surrounded myself with could fix my panic and anxiety disorder. The only thing it did bring me was a tiny sliver of peace knowing if I went crazy someone was there to make sure it didnt get out of hand.
And then a blizzard was coming. A state of emergency, snowed in for days, stock up on essentials, better get a good shovel and snow boots, hell of a storm. I knew I would have to be alone. I had to do this and what better way then when you cannot leave and nobody can get to you. It was exposure therapy at its finest. I could in theory go be snowed in at someone else’s house but I decided that this had to be done. I told myself that if it broke me, if I went into a crazy anxiety panic downward spiral from it then at least I tried. I faced the fear of being alone with my thoughts and unpleasant feelings.
And something miraculous happened. When I did not have the option to run, when I did not have the option of calling someone over, or getting in my car to go somewhere I was forced to deal. And I had zero anxiety or panic the entire three days. I mean ZERO. In fact it was a turning point for me. Those three days restored my confidence in myself and my strength and let me know I can overcome this, I can learn to deal. I am stronger than I think. Facing the fear shed light on it, it was not so scary. Having the options in the past made it easy for me to crumble and cave. Having no choice was like a switch in my brain went off.
When the snow outside started to melt, slowly so did my symptoms. Facing a fear head on and the regaining of confidence from doing so is a powerful thing. I diminished it to nothing just by facing it. That was the end of running to other people’s house. I slowly started not getting anxious on my drive home from work knowing all the co-workers and conversation and busyness of the day would be gone and it would just be me. I didn’t fear weekends without plans, or weekends with plans. It really was the start of the healing. And that little bit of confidence gave me the strength back I needed to do other things to help the healing process that I was too burned out in the anxiety cycle to focus on prior.
Is there something in your life you are avoiding or running from that you can attempt to face? Think about it, even if it is small it is worth a try. You may relapse at times ( I did at certain points) but to less severity and still with the knowledge that I have and can get past it with real life proof of that.
Yesterday I had a hell of a panic attack. This may not seem surprising to you since I write a blog about anxiety and as a sufferer you may assume I have panic attacks all the time. Not true. Do I have anxiety attacks, rumination, racing thoughts, monkey mind, unsteady breathing and racing heart, and all the other truly darling things anxiety brings, yes. But not so much panic. I would say I average one panic attack every six months and they are usually a one and done, phew glad that is over with, let’s carry on with our day, sorta thing. Now there was a time in my life, the nervous breakdown which you will hear me reference often, that I was in a constant state of panic attack for months so I am not a stranger, but it has been almost a good 4 years since then. My last panic attack was in August and it was isolated to a situation meaning once I got back home I was fine and unfrazzled. And prior to that August one I had not had one for almost a year.
And then there was yesterday. I was in the car on the highway on the way to work. If you have read my previous blog entries you know most of my anxiety happens in the car especially on highways. I have had anxious thoughts almost everyday on my way to work but like I said, it never really escalates to panic. Yesterday I was tired, I had not slept. I have a little bit of stress happening with the planning of a wedding, my Grandma is ill and possibly not going to make it through the weekend, things at work have intensified. It makes sense. Only on the surface I do not feel like I was thinking of any of those things. What I was thinking is, I feel anxious, remember that time I had a nervous breakdown, oh god what if that happens again, is it happening now, what if I have a panic attack and I can’t calm down and I am already half way at work, I am having a panic attack. Shit. Call the fiance, tell him to come get you. Turn around, go home. Turn around, turn around. I wont make it home, I am going to pass out.
It went something like that. My thoughts normally always go to “What if I get as bad again as I use to be” ( the nervous breakdown constant panic attack state aforementioned). On strong days I shut down those thoughts real fast with facts. 1- you came out of it 2- it led to great spiritual growth 3- You did not know what it was then, you have knowledge and resources, it won’t ever be that bad and many other self affirmations I have stored for such occasions.
But on weak days, when I am tired especially or have pent-up stress, not much helps. So I did call the fiance and he strongly urged I do not turn around and he was right because once you turn around and go home your confidence goes down. At least for me. Then negative self talk begins, “You are not strong enough to push through” and it becomes a cycle where you always turn around and then you get trapped in the fear that you cannot push through and you just always default to staying home and that is dangerous territory. So I arrived at work and he showed up to offer hugs and support. Once he left I was on my own to battle the mind and make it through the day. For the most part when I have a panic attack in the car, almost immediately as I step out of the car at my destination it immediately lifts like magic. Yesterday it did not. As I emerged myself in work the anxiety and lingering panicky aftermath started to fade and by 3:00 I chuckled to myself over how absurd it is that I don’t feel anything like I did this morning. Man is panic and anxiety weird! So now you are thinking, yay happy ending, she felt great by 3:00pm and she conquered the day. Not really. So I left work and on the way home I started to feel frazzled again. And then this morning I woke up with residual anxiety. Now lucky for me I am working from home today but I believe strongly that if I had to drive to work I would panic again over memories of yesterday. BUT at least I could tell myself that I survived yesterday and I survived today.
The big difference to panicky me now as opposed to panicky me during the breakdown is now I don’t panic over panic as much. It is so uncomfortable, it makes you feel like it will never go away and you won’t ever feel better and sometimes feels impossible to beat but I just tell myself that I have felt this way before, and then I have felt better in days following and it is an ebb and flow and just go with it and take it as it comes and it too shall pass.
In the past I would have freaked out and reacted so much to the panic which obviously just makes it grow. So although I did freak slightly I kept going forward and I guess sometimes that is the best we can do. Today I sit here with residual anxiety. I feel worried about driving to work tomorrow and if I am being quite honest I feel a panic attack creeping up just thinking about having a panic attack tomorrow but I try to take the perspective that each attack is an opportunity to implement techniques for coping and each incident that I cope will make it easier and easier. It is why I truly believe I have been able to keep panic attacks at bay in the past.
Send me some good vibes for tomorrow’s commute!
( Good vibes back at ya!)
Happy Monday to all. I just realized that my last post was also a Music Monday. Back to back Music Mondays. Eeek. Note to self, write more during the other days of the week!
Today’s edition features a song so near and dear to me. Darlin Do Not Fear by Brett Dennen. This song does worlds for my anxiety and really just because of title line. The song itself is mellow and relaxing in true Brett Dennen fashion which doesn’t hurt. If you do not know him and crave mellow, feel good, calming music but not sleepy music, he may be your man.
For a long time this was the ONLY song I would play when starting to get anxious in the car or feelings of panic would rise. Let me break it down. The chorus goes ” Darlin do not fear, what you don’t really know, cause it won’t last, your worries will pass”.
Do not fear what you don’t really know. I repeat, do not fear, what you don’t really know. This logic really hits me in that sweet spot that turns anxious thoughts into empowering thoughts. This is how it goes.
I’m driving, something triggers an anxious thought, anxious thought turns into ON MY GOODNESS I feel faint, what if I pass out behind the wheel, what if I crash my car and die, what if I get to work and I still feel like this and I cannot function, what if my anxiety is back with vengeance and I need to get on medication and then I can’t wean off, what if what if what if what if what if. Darlin do not fear, what you don’t really know. Inhale, exhale. Darlin do not fear what you don’t really know.
Because isn’t anxiety most times getting wrapped up in hypotheticals. Fearing the unknown. The loss of control. Not knowing sometimes is the biggest trigger of anxiety. Or thinking you know what will happen. We should not fear things we do not know. It’s hard right because anxious people want to know, they want to feel in control, they want to own all the information in the world so they can be prepared. This song reminds me to let go of control and surrender. Surrendering control of the unknown feels good if you can get yourself to do it. Playing this song on repeat when I am struggling with that grounds me. It reminds me to take each moment as it comes and to not get wrapped up in fearing all these made up situations in my head and focus on what is real and what is in front of me and what I can control. My thoughts and my breath. (And yes I know controlling your thoughts is hard!)
Till next time ( promise, before Monday!)
“Oh my god I would have a panic attack!”
“I almost had a panic attack!”
“I’m seriously going to have a panic attack!”
These are things people often say in jest. Just the other day I was talking to a co-worker about how I did my Christmas shopping in one day, 7 hours in the mall and he said ” I would have a panic attack.” To him this is a simple exaggeration and his way of saying he could never do that. It is too much shopping, not something he is interested in. And so many times you hear people utter the phrases up top in a light-hearted manner. But when you are someone who ACTUALLY does have panic attacks the light-hearted response hits a bit deeper.
My first reaction to his comment in my head was “Oh I wonder if he suffers from anxiety too.” But in reality I know saying things like this is said in the casual tone similar to when people jokingly say “I’m gonna kill you” Because people who do and would have panic attacks rarely make a public statement like that about it. However I am the opposite, I tell anybody who would listen as hiding it or pretending it is not happening actually makes it worse for me. But that is for another post.
Whenever I hear someone make a statement as such I find myself thinking about how nice it must be to say something like that knowing you really won’t have a panic attack and although the situation might stress you out and you would like to avoid it, saying you are going to have a panic attack is just said to symbolize how strongly you dislike it. I envy those people. Ah to be able to say it in jest and not really live it. Same thoughts go through my mind when someone says they are anxious because of xyz. “I am anxious I have to give a presentation tomorrow.” “I am stressed and anxious because I have a lot of work on my plate right now.” I would LOVE to have actual factual reasons for anxiety. Something I could link it back to. That to me that is easy peasy to deal with. Cause and effect. You know the source, you know why, you might even know how to alleviate it. But when anxiety and panic hit you with no obvious and forefront cause, that is another level of displeasure.
Because of my awareness of this due to my own personal background I make it a point to be very careful with my words and sensitive to what I am saying. For instance, if I am really bummed about something, but fleeting sadness, something happened to cause me to be sad, I try really hard not to say “this depresses me, or I am depressed over it” because I know how deep and real depression is and you never know the inner struggles of your audience. Someone experiencing depression will not appreciate you putting your sad moment in the same category as their debilitating darkness. I know that the majority, if not all the people, who say these things in jest are not purposely being insensitive by any means. I cannot control what they do however I can use what it feels like to be on the other end of that and make sure going forward I choose my words carefully and make sure I don’t speak lightly of serious things to those who may struggle. Just something to think about and be aware of when communicating emotions to others. I would hate to contribute to the desensitization of such disorders and those who truly suffer deeply to be made to feel like what they are dealing with can be made light of.
And I know that those who have never suffered or experienced such dark moods do not know what it feels like and might truly think a panic attack is being stressed out and frantic in the crowded space of a mall during Xmas time. Or someone who is really sad about a break up may think that it is similar to what depression feels like because they do not know better. But us who do know better, we can choose our words wisely going forward. And maybe even help those who don’t know, understand and perhaps make them more aware and sensitive to the words they select when describing what they are experiencing. I guess my point is, I would like to fight for awareness and help stop the desensitization of these words and this seems like an easy situation to help do it in both by making you aware of how you may speak to others and help correct others when they speak to you using terms in jest, that hold a lot of weight to those suffering.
“All at once, the world can overwhelm me
There’s almost nothing that you could tell me
That could ease my mind.”
All at Once – Jack Johnson
When I was a little kid the news had to be shielded from me. Upon catching wind of a meteor that was possibly headed our way, I wore my bike helmet in the house for a week. Upon hearing about the Oklahoma City bombing, I could not go anywhere without fixating my eyes on the exit and devising an escape route in my mind. And I looked at everyone as a suspect. These are a few examples. I would like to say as an adult times have changed, however times have NOT changed. I don’t have that detachment that many people can achieve when hearing about tragedy. Yes it makes other people feel sad, and they feel sympathy for those involved and the families but then they mostly can go about their day. I wish for that. I cannot go on with my days, weeks and sometimes months after hearing about tragedy. I carry it with me. I was never that person that thought they were invincible and had that ” it would never happen to me” mentality. I have the “Oh my goodness that could be me!” train of thought. Hello anxiety, no wonder you are ever presence in my life.
Lately I have been brought way down by the events and state of the world. I cannot tell if things are just really really bad right now, or it is the same level of evil and tragedy and bad that was always there, but when you are young you tend to not hear about it all, and with social media you hear about EVERYTHING that normally your regular newspaper or news channel might not cover. Either way I have had to stay off of Facebook because I was exposed to some horrific images, and tragedy after tragedy with people sharing news stories that I tend to avoid by not watching the news or reading the newspaper. I am not like you. I cannot go about my days.
It stops me in my tracks, it invades my mind and takes over and does not let go for weeks. And people in my life know it. They avoid talking to me about something they heard in the news, they stop the conversation about it the minute I walk in the room and they refuse to engage me if I keep pestering for more information because they know how I will internalize that information.
“Which way will you run, when it’s always all around you, and the feeling lost and found you again, a feeling that we have no control.” All at Once, Jack Johnson
So what am I to do? Bury my head in the sand and only watch things with puppies and babies and sunshine and rainbows? This is not realistic. I am trying to find the balance between compassion without taking it all on. What I have been doing lately is switching up my gratitude journal. Instead of 5 things I am grateful for each day, I write 5 beautiful things about the world. Trying to counter balance the negative. It is something, and it helps but it is not enough. So for all you normal people out there who can watch and read the news without crawling into fetal position and feel like the world is crashing around you, I am open to your insights and words of positive encouragement.
You know when you feel all antsy and anxious inside. You cannot concentrate, your monkey mind is swinging from vine to vine and you think “Surely I am coming off as crazy as I feel inside.” You’re not. Because you are not your anxiety. The real you, the person you are is still being shown to the outside world despite what your inside dialogue is doing.
Yesterday I got two unrelated, and unsolicited nice emails from friends. Friends who do not even know each other and my relationship with them each are very different. Friends who know about my anxiety, have witnessed it, and yet still see the real me despite that.
Friend # 1 says:
“You are like sunshine. You just got to get some. You are a treasure, unlike any other human being I ever met.”
Moments later I get an email from another friend.
Friend # 2 says:
“You have this heart of literal gold.. and you radiate it.. Its one of the reasons why so many people love to be around you.. In some ways your kind of addicting.. You are bubbly and always seem happy.. even if you’re really not inside”
The point of this is not to gloat and show off how awesome my friends are and how lucky I am to have them. It is to show you that your true authentic self is not defined by your anxiety, depression, ocd, whatever ails your mind. People will see through to what you really are. You never are outwardly acting as crazy as your mind makes you think you are.
My second point is that you get what you give. I was left wondering, what have I done that would make two people send such lovely thoughts to me in the same day and I realized it is because you give love you get love. And I found one of the best ways to take the focus out of your head, your problems, your ailments is to give. Give, give, give, and you will get, get, get.
Now go give love and reap the benefits of getting because that is what will define you in the end not your anxiety.