Dealing with Anxiety

Disclaimer: I like to keep this a happy, funny blog, but I also know I have a pretty solid readership and I like to use this platform to discuss serious things sometimes. I hope you can dig it.

I had been intentional about not posting about my New Year’s goals in January, because honestly, I wasn’t ready. Although many exciting things happened in December, it was personally a very difficult month for me.

I’ve been anxious for as long as I can remember, but it was “normal” for me.

That said, moving is one of the top 10 life stressors, and that alone could have put me over the edge. Add it to filming for a TV show, several family illnesses, and over-filling my Life Plate, I ended up in the ER a week before Christmas.

My stress had morphed itself into a nasty, relentless anxiety that I could not shake. Long story short, one morning while I was at the gym my heart went out of control, and I knew immediately that something was wrong.

I attempted to drive myself home, but soon realized I was too shaky and lightheaded to drive. I pulled over and called 911.

I had never, ever beed so terrified in my entire life.

I ended up in the ER and when I left, I was told to follow up with a cardiologist.

A sonogram of my heart was ordered, and I was hooked up to a 24-hour EKG.

After a slew of tests and doctor’s visits, my cardiologist said: I have one piece of advice for you, and it’s to seriously get your anxiety under control. If you don’t, it will end up getting the best of you – in the worst way. 

What I heard: Stop stressing, or it’ll kill you.

Oh. Great. Thanks. That helps a lot. What’s that? Yes – I would like a paper bag to breathe into. 

I’m a mental health professional. I KNOW what stress and anxiety can do to the body. That’s why I’ve been so frustrated with myself. I help people everyday who experience anxiety, but I had been struggling to help myself.

So now what?

Great question.

I really do believe that everything happens for a reason, but I’ve been grappling with why I was given this lesson of unshakeable anxiety, and as a result, the most terrifying experience of my life.

For me, it’s been a tough lesson to learn (thank God my friends love me), but I can honestly say that, now, I feel really, really good.

 

I’ve seen a therapist, which has been awesome and I highly recommend the service.

I’ve been serious about my yoga practice, which has been amazingly helpful.

And I started taking medication, which has been the BEST DECISION I’VE EVER MADE!!!

The medication is NOT a forever thing, actually it’s quite short term, but it’s helped me think clearly, free of anxiety, for the first time in years.

(If you have something negative to say about medication, please don’t do it here. I’m taking the time to mention it because I’m constantly trying to do my part to help demolish the stigma that “therapy” and “medication” are only for “bad, crazy people.”)

Like I joked about earlier, 2013 is my “Year of Zen” and I’m taking my mental health seriously. I want you to know that I’m not a basket case. I’m not talking to walls or hearing voices. I’m just dealing with stuff.

In my opinion, anxiety is impossible to explain to someone who has never experienced it; But for someone who is familiar with that tight-chest-for-no-reason feeling, I know you understand, and I want you to know that you’re not crazy, and that you’re not the only one.

*As always, if you have questions or need someone to relate to, you can always email me at lunchboxdiaries[at]gmail[dot]com.

Totally Truthful Thursday.

1. I ate three huge cookies last night while catching up on The Biggest Loser. It feels good for now, but once they get to the makeover episode, I feel shameful and switch to gum chewing.

2. I’ve been married for (almost) a year and a half, and my email address is still colleen.maiden name@gmail.com. I’m certain that this is unacceptable, but it feels like such a pain in the ass to change.

3. Bad dreams affect me for like, hours, after I wake up. Jamie and Emily, I hope you’re not really mad at me in real life. I also hope there is not a rabid raccoon in my closet in real life.

4. I feel unfeminine when I admit that I couldn’t care less about celebrating Valentine’s Day.

5. It’s such a pet peeve of mine when people say, “I could care less.” COULDN’T!!! If you’re expressing your apathy about an issue, you could not care any less! If you COULD care less, then you OBVIOUSLY care. Random rage. I apologize. 

6. I would sleep with socks on if Cory didn’t think it was gross.

7. My mom and I talk at least twice a day and my Dad thinks it’s ridiculous. He says, “What could you two possibly have to talk about now??” Um, everything, Dad. Everything.

8. At my new gym, I am always the first person to show up to 6 AM fitness classes. I remain nervous until another person walks in the room.

9. I’ve written a serious post about struggling with anxiety, but I’m anxious to publish it. Ironic.

10. I’ve found these two blogs recently and I love them! I think you will, too!

Evaluating Your Life Plate

We live in a society where the most popular New Year’s Resolution is weight loss. Many people are so concerned with what they put on their plates, that other important things tend to fall by the wayside.

But speaking of keeping your plates healthy, I wanted to focus on a different kind of plate: your Life Plate.

I think of Life as a huge buffet busting at the seams with wonderful people, places, opportunities, and choices.

And like at you’re favorite Chinese lunch buffet, you have a choice as to what you put on your Life Plate.

You can choose to fill your plate with things that make you immediately happy, but end up leaving you feeling empty and tired.

You can lose all willpower and fill your plate with facades and lose sight of who you really are.

You can also choose to fill your plate with shoulds (things you think you should do, be, say, etc.) that ultimately end up making you feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Or, you could think of your Life Plate as a balancedhealthy plate filled with people and things that fuel you and make you feel your best. (Always remembering to save room for dessert ;) )

As 2012 comes to a close, I encourage you to take a look at your Life Plate. Is it full of junk, or is it full of things you need?

Like a huge serving of faith (whatever that looks like to you), a heaping helping of family and meaningful relationships, all heavily seasoned with compassion (for yourself and others), genuine relaxation, and FUN.

Think about it.

Let’s chat – What’s currently filling up your Life Plate? What could be dumped into the garbage disposal, and what could be added? 

The Girl Who Tried to Control Everything

Every time Cory and I go on a road trip and we pass a sign that indicates what restaurants are on each exit, Cory never fails to point out a STEAK ‘n SHAKE!!

via

I always roll my eyes and making vomiting nosies to convey my feelings about Steak ‘n Shakes in a mature fashion.

Each time, Cory is let down.

So when he told me that a NEW STEAK ‘n SHAKE!! opened not far from us, I decided, “Oh, what the hell? Let’s go.”

And so we did.

While we were sitting at the table eating overly-greasy burgers and shoestring fries, I couldn’t help but realize how far we’d come.

When I was a Junior in college, I genuinely struggled with food. And it almost ruined our relationship. 

I was so obsessed and focused on “not eating bad foods” that it got to the point when Cory and I often chose to eat apart, because if we tried to eat together, I couldn’t handle it. That has too much fat. Think about all those calories. Sodium, sodium, sodium. Think about how fat that will make me. 

Going out for a meal or drinks with friends quickly turned me into an anxious mess. I couldn’t relax, and I definitely could not enjoy myself. It was as if a giant boulder was placed on my chest and I couldn’t breathe.

Finally, on some random Sunday when I was berating myself over everything I ate and drank the night before, Cory told me I had to quit it. He told me that my food anxiety was affecting him, and that it was affecting us. If I didn’t figure it out soon, he didn’t know how much longer we could be together.

It was the first time I realized that my issues had the ability to seep outside of my own self and touch someone else.

I sought help. I talked things out with a professional, and she helped me put things into perspective. I had to shift my perspective on what deserved more attention; my dinner or my boyfriend of three years?

Things changed. Slowly at first, but I was making progress.

After a while, I didn’t have a boulder on my chest each time we went out for pizza. I could go to bar nights and not keep a running calories tab in my mind. I was able to relax.

 And now? I hardly remember that scared girl. The Girl Who Tried to Control Everything nearly ruined the best thing in my life.

I’m healthier and happier than I’ve ever been, and I’m comfortable in my own skin. The sense of accomplishment that lies within that fact is insanely liberating.

I’m sharing this with you because I know that someone reading this can relate. Maybe she’s where I was and she just needs help realizing that her perspective needs to change. Or maybe she’s better now and needs to be reminded of how far she’s come.