Saturday, June 30, 2007

White and Nerdy- Exciting Blog Updates

photo by cherbert
So I am a little bit of a nerd I admit. I work in a software company after all. I am also a widget junkie. I love trying out new tools and learning how to implement fun features. I don't want to overload my blogsite with these however, only the ones that have a real function and purpose. So please let me know how you like the new features and if you think they are helpful to you or a waste of space so I can weed out the bad ones. Here are a several changes I have made:

  • I added a subscribe button that you can see at the top of the page. When you roll over it buttons will appear that allow you to select where you want the feed to appear. (This works much better in Firefox than in Internet Explorer). By "subscribing" you add a feature to your favorite search engine (google, yahoo, aol, etc) homepage that will update whenever I update my blog. This means you won't have to check back to see whats been changed. Instead it will tell you whenever there are additional posts and you can then visit the page or the feed to see the latest and greatest. I have also added a subscribe by email box on the right hand side that will allow you to receive an email whenever there is a new post if you feel more comfortable doing that. Both of these are for your benefit and then they also allow me to see how many people actually are interested in what I am writing about.
  • My favorite webpages are usually interactive, not just pretty to look or nice to read, but something I can contribute to- has a community feel to them which is what I want to add to my site. So I just barely added a rating widget to my posts that I found from Luna Tail's site. Its a rating system that you can rate 1-5 stars for each post.
  • I've been meaning to do the next one for awhile. I took the songs from my Chill Out Playlist and added them into a music player. I don't like pages that play music automatically when I go to them, especially if you are at work and it blasts really loud! So you can look through them and choose ones you want to listen to if you want to listen. I hope you like them. I will most likely be changing the music every once in awhile when I find new songs that I like that fit into the anxiety category, and I will get rid of ones I am tired of. I'd love any suggestions of other artists if anyone wants to share.
  • Also another interactive feature is a poll on the right hand side. Hopefully they will release it soon. I think it would be interesting to know what types of anxiety my readers struggle with. I plan on doing "A Poll of the Week" varying on different topics such as medication types, satisfaction of treatments and coping strategies, etc. I think it could be a very interesting feature. (This also looks nicer in Firefox)

As for my anxiety today, I woke up anxious. This seems to be pretty common for Saturday mornings. I just took my time to get ready for the day and I am relaxing in front of guess what, Court TV and surfin the web. Probably my favorite way to relax. Tyler is gone on an overnight trip with his brothers which gives me the whole day off. I might help his sister with a craft project sometime, if she ever decides to call. I really should do some yoga today since my overall anxiety level has been so heightened the last couple days.

I hope everyone else is feeling better out there! Linda, how are you doing? I haven't heard from you lately. You are in my thoughts. If nothing else know that someone's thinkin about you and sending well wishes your way. Brinn, has your anxiety risen lately like mine and Molly's? I have a theory that the more time we spend talking to each other, the more our anxiety cycles parallel, just like menstrual cycles do ;)

Let me know if you have any questions on any of this or have technical problems.

Everyone Take Care!

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Level 3 Panic, but I Survived

So I made it through today. Not scot free like the last couple outings, but I didn't have a full blown attack. I got a really yummy salad at lunch and it filled me up before my main meal came. So when the meal came and I wasn't hungry, I started to feel stupid, or that I should be able to eat more like everyone else. I started focusing on whether anyone was watching me and I could feel my anxiety get to a level 3 (see anxiety scale post for more info).

Then, when I started to get lost in my negative self talk and the butterflies were soaring, I was saved by the bell. My phone started ringing and it was Ty. I was able to excuse myself and talk to him and refocus and calm down. When I got back in everything got much better. I was still feeling a little stupid, but I packed up everything I knew I wouldn't eat and left a bag of chips open that I could occasionally munch on. No one said anything to me even though I felt at least one set of eyes (a lady who already has confronted me about not eating enough) watching me. I just ignored her and tried to get distracted in the conversations around me. It worked.

The wedding reception I lucked out of and got there when no one was there and I ended up having to leave after maybe 15 minutes to make Ty's softball game which is where I am writing this as they are getting slaughtered big time.

So all in all, I got lost in my thoughts, but was able to snap out of it before it got out of control. Not a setback at all I think.I don't have to be anxiety free every time in order to have a successful situation I think. For me, baby steps are learning to manage my anxiety, not focusing on stopping it cold turkey.

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Broken and Bruised

Last night was horrible in sooo many ways. First off, I was doing laundry and I am not used to where some new furniture has been placed so I ran right into a nightstand with my knee because the laundry I was carrying blocked my view. I dropped everything and hit the floor it hurt so bad. It started bruising immediately and I have a nice muscle bruise about the size of a golf ball on my leg that shoots pain anytime I move. I then successfully stubbed my toes on one of my barstools. Granted I am a bit of a clutz and am always covered in bruises that I have no idea how I got them. [No, Ty doesn’t beat me ;)]

That night was full of nightmares. First I dreamed about a woman that got kidnapped and she was tortured and they put it all on television. Very weird. Than I dreamt that Tyler and I were trying to save her and we got shot, and no one was helping us. Paramedics came and gave me an oxygen mask and then left again and never returned. The mask wasn’t helping and I couldn’t breathe. I could feel myself blacking out as if I was dying and I couldn’t figure out why the paramedics weren’t coming back. It woke me up gasping for breath and crying. Plus when I woke up my sore throat was the worst it has been so far. After a few minutes of recovery, I fell back asleep to dream about my brother in law dying unexpectedly and I spent the rest of the night crying and grieving in my dream and trying to console his wife, my sister-in-law. It was so horrible. I woke up with my neck stiff and exhausted and anxious. Then I realized I had never turned my alarm clock on so I was an hour late. So I had to get up and hurry to get ready for work. It was the first time I woke up feeling anxious in a few weeks.

Tyler thinks maybe my nightmares are from watching too much Court TV. It’s my favorite channel and I love a good murder mystery just not when I’m in it! I do watch a lot of crime shows I admit and its possible that may play a role somehow.

Today is the day I have been dreading all month. I have a bridal luncheon and a wedding reception tonight. I’m leaving in about 30 minutes so I hope my luck will turn around. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Another Small Victory to Add to the Tally

photo by chloemonster1

Today spontaneously at lunch a coworker decided to grill up some hamburgers. I was really hungry and they sounded so yummy. So I added my name to the list of people that wanted one. When it was time to eat, I didn’t even worry about my anxiety. I told myself I am going to eat what I want to and not worry about anything else. It worked. I was so hungry I was eating with everyone and not even caring what anyone might be thinking, and I am pretty positive no one was even thinking anything since I was scarfing it down! I don’t know if that somehow made it a little easier since I was starving, but I’ll take it as a successful situation! For some reason eating around coworkers is one of the toughest things for me and I did it today all by myself; with no Clonozapam as an aid. (I even forgot to pick up my Zoloft refill last night so I didn’t even take that today shhh!) Sure the thought arose in my head that it could be hard for me but I think my subconscious told myself the positive affirmation that has been taped to my alarm clock, “This might be hard, but I can handle it.” My anxiety never got above a 1. I never had to focus on breathing or anything. So I have 2 successes in a row which makes me very happy.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You Are Mighty

If anyone is looking for a quick encouraging message I have a couple websites that are a must see:

and this next one you have to fill in part of it (for unpersonalized version just click the link otherwise type in the address as needed in your address bar):

http://[type in your firstname].[type in your last name]

Doesn't that make you feel so much better?

Thanks Ben for showing these to me. They made my day.

UPDATE: Apparently neither of these links take you to those sites anymore. If anyone knows if they exist elsewhere, I would love to know where they went. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Spotlight: The Worrier

So this may sound a little cheesy to some, but I have been thinking a lot lately about doing a spotlight on each of the Sub personalities that people with anxiety suffer from to an overwhelming degree (the Worrier, the Perfectionist, the Victim, the Critic). They may appear different to you in your head when you think about each of them but I am going to describe how I see them in me.

Today I want to focus on the Worrier since that is the strongest sub personality that I struggle with.

My worrier is small and weak but very persuasive. She has dark circles because she hardly sleeps and wide bulging bloodshot eyes that skitter back and forth as if they are fueled with electricity. Her hair is frazzled and unkempt and she has a large wart on the end of her nose (Worry Wart, get it?). She can’t sit still for very long. Paranoia consumes her. She lives in a corner where she can keep her back to a wall and she has built a thick concrete wall in front of her that is hard if not impossible to break through because the world is a very scary place to her and she can’t trust anyone. Her heart is overworked, tirelessly pumping adrenaline through her system. She’s constantly rambling nonsense about the future, things that haven’t even happened yet, and fully believes in her own prophecies.

As I think about her I think, what a nutcase! I don’t want to be anything like that! But sadly she creeps into my day to day routine whispering her prophecies in my ear and persuading me that they are somehow true. I know that there are some instances where we should worry as a survival instinct, maybe walking home in the dark or if we hear a noise at night to worry it could be someone breaking in. If we aren’t cautious in these real threatening situations than our survival can obviously be temporary. But it shouldn’t overpower or engulf us everyday to where we create phobias and avoidance. I hope I can somehow cage my Worrier parasite and only call on her when there is a good reason. The more I learn about her the more I can easily point her out when she comes around and the easier it is to tell her to go away.

This was a really fun exercise. I’d be interested in hearing about what anyone else’s Worrier looks or acts like.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Reader Appreciation Day

photo by Sober Chick

I know that I don’t have a host of fans out there but I do have some friends and family and a few new online friends that are pretty diligent readers and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the comments, love, support, and feedback from everyone. I love getting comments and knowing that there are people that are benefiting from my blogging. It really makes it all worth it. If I can help anyone either struggling with their own anxiety or to better understand a loved one going through it than that is a huge bonus for me. Blogging wouldn’t be half as much fun if no one read it, so I just want to let you all know how awesome you are! If there are any questions about a topic that you are more interested in or would like me to mention just let me know and I will do my best :)

Thanks again to all!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Success Exists and I'm on Top of the World

photo by Renee_W
Friday night was an all around huge success. I am feeling so proud of myself for preparing so well. I was able to concentrate during dinner on just eating what I wanted and thats exactly what I did. We had tacos and I ate one soft taco which was really good and then I was content so I stopped and no one said anything about it. I was able to enjoy and participate in the conversation and never had to focus on my breathing or positive affirmations. I think I was more comfortable than usual because I had told her before about my anxieties and so the pressure was off for trying to impress them and be "perfect" because the secret was already out. I had so much fun. We told funny stories and laughed and afterward went out to see a movie (1408 which I recommend, it was a good scary movie). After the movie we left to go home but I had so much fun I wanted to hang out with them again as soon as possible. Its very cool that I was so calm and collected. Granted, I took a little Clonozapam before I went and that might have helped but I'm okay with that.

I feel that this experience will help me in my goal to break out of the captive fear of caring about what others think. It might be a slow crawl, the anxiety is still there, and some days are worse than others- but this was a huge success for me. I know that by writing it all out beforehand I was able to enter the phobic situation in a more relaxed state of mind which is what you are supposed to do before you "expose" yourself to your fears.

I am hoping that I can continue to document successful situations such as this so that they will outweigh the setbacks. Also the more success I have the more I can draw for proof to stop the overgeneralization that I will always have an attack in a certain situation. I might have mentioned this already but its so much easier to remember the bad situations because they leave a harder impression in your mind. The good times, the successes, are much harder to remember and so I want to remember this day, this feeling of pride and accomplishment and success. photo by simon24601

Thanks to everyone's love and support. I really do appreciate it.

I get a gold star for the day :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Preparing for Countering Negative Self Talk

"You cannot run away from weakness; you must sometime fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?" –Robert Louis Stevenson

Tonight I have a challenge. My new friend Rachel that I have mentioned before has invited us over for dinner and a movie at their new home tonight. I am so excited that she wants to hang out, but part of me is freaking out that she wants us to have dinner together. I’ve decided to go, face my fear, and do whatever feels most comfortable. I have to learn to accept myself the way I am or no one else will ever be able to accept me either. So if I go and I feel sick and can’t eat very much than that’s ok. I will just say so and not force myself. That’s my main goal. I don’t want to push myself because I am worried about offending her cooking. I have to accept that it’s more important for me to be me as opposed to being something I’m not. When I can learn to be comfortable with me, thats when confidence will grow.

It’s going to be hard. I haven’t been in this formal of a situation in awhile. So here’s my game plan/ coping strategies:

  1. Go with positive counterstatements in my head already
  2. Take some Clonozapam before I get there if I am really nervous
  3. Be honest. If I am not feeling good, mention it to Rachel and let her know that I am not feeling well and that its not the food so she will understand and not get offended.
  4. Try to disrupt any negative self talk at the beginning with deep breathing (counting to 4 for each inhale and exhale) or distracting myself by focusing on an object and analyzing it instead.
  5. If I start to panic, I will temporarily leave the situation, maybe go to the restroom or somewhere where I can calm myself down, disrupt the negative self talk with rationalization and with positive counterstatements and then when I feel more in control I will return.
  6. Analyze thoughts later.

I know it’s important to try to disrupt any negative self talk I feel or in other words, learn to counter my anxiety.

Edmund J. Bourne says, “Cultivating the habit of countering is one of the most significant steps you can take in dealing with all kinds of anxiety as well as panic attacks.”

So it’s a little unorganized but I am going to try to sort it all out now so I can recall it later tonight.

Anxious Self Talk:

I am definitely plagued by thoughts of The Worrier when I go to these events. I am almost always thinking “What if people don’t think I am eating enough and they think I have an eating disorder? What if I lose control and throw up?”

I think I am getting better at the caring about whether people think I am too skinny or not. I think my main worry is that I will have a panic attack and feel overwhelmingly embarrassed about being judged if I do and they will never call to hang out again.

Positive Affirmations and Rational Counterstatements:

photo by kinky fantastic

I like the picture above and how it impresses to me that if I am hanging out with someone who is overly critical of me than I shouldn't worry so much about pleasing them and probably shouldn't be hanging out with them at all. If I think about it I know that its in my head and these people are nice and they aren't judging my worthiness to exist, so I shouldn't worry so much about trying to impress them and just enjoy being me. Basically "Don't act like such a doormat, especially when no one's wiping their feet!"

Positive Counterstatement Alert: There’s no need to push myself. I can take as small a step forward as I choose. I can be anxious and still do this. I’ve gotten through it in the past.

Ok so now I will add some rational counter statements to my catastrophic thoughts and images:

“If the worst happened, then…”

If the worst happened, and I threw up at their house and everyone knew it, then I could be honest and explain to them that sometimes I have panic attacks in social situations and they would likely understand. Life would still go on, there is nothing life threatening about it. And no matter what happened, they are still my friends and nice to me.

Okay so I am feeling a little better about tonight. I will be myself no matter what. I am a little excited for the challenge, to see how well I can handle it. However even if things go horrible I won't feel bad because its still a step in the right direction and I will be able to learn from any set back that may come.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sometimes You Just Gotta “Be”

Yesterday I woke up and was so exhausted I talked myself into working from home. A few hours later I realized that my connection was too slow and I wouldn’t be able to get anything productive done from home. So I started blogging and researching on the internet. Before I knew it, it was 6 pm and Tyler was on his way home. I had successfully done nothing the entire day. No shower, no laundry or dishes, not even yoga, just nothin. So I started feeling guilty that I didn’t go into work when there is so much that I need to get done, that I had this day off and sat in bed all day long watching bad daytime TV and surfin the web.

If you didn’t already know who I am let me introduce myself. I am the Queen of Justification and I can rationalize almost any behavior I do to make myself feel better whether it’s right or wrong. Sometimes it’s a bonus and other times it’s a flaw. I’m not sure where this one should be categorized, but watch me go.

For me, every once in awhile I just need a day where I can just be, just exist. I don’t have to do anything if I don’t want to and if the day is a blur with no accomplishments than that’s ok. No pressures, no appointments, no expectations or things to analyze. It’s a mental holiday. And I think that’s ok. The timing might not have been right with the rest of the world, but I have to allow myself those days and not feel bad about them.

Today I am back at the daily grind and I feel the pressure mounting for the next few work weeks. I love the company that I work at and I love what I do, but I know that I am going to have to put in some overtime and I am not looking forward to it. This will happen once every couple months or so whenever we let out a release. If anyone is curious about where I work they can check out this video that is a short advertisement for the software I help create (test actually).

So I know that for the next month or so I won’t be able to justify any vacation time, so yesterday was my one day off for awhile and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

See? I feel better already.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Anticipatory Anxiety

photo by Meredith Farmer
You know you suffer from anxiety when you worry about worrying. At the end of June I have a bridal luncheon and a wedding reception dinner for two different people all on the same day. Then a month after that I have a baby shower. My friend just text'd me and invited Tyler and I over for dinner and a movie this weekend. I have a family dinner this Sunday at my Aunts house and another family BBQ in a couple weeks. All of these events give me butterflies anytime the thought of going to any one of them appears in my head. Just listing them all in one place is bothersome, too many of them! I am worrying about me worrying at these events. Not being able to control the worry or panic that I feel and having a panic attack in front of others which would be extremely embarrassing. I've been trying to not think about the dates, procrastinating buying the gifts and responding with RSVPs. I know I have nothing to fear and I just need to prepare for them- write out my negative thoughts and rationalize their validity but it seems so hard.

The following is summarized from the book The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook that I have listed on my home page. Anticipating anxiety, or apprehension between panic attacks focusing on fear of having another one, is one of the hallmarks of panic disorder. If not treated it can lead to agoraphobia (fear of open spaces or better defined as fear of being in a situation where escape from panic attacks are unavailable). The moment you start avoiding situations (for me would be eating in public around others in a formal setting) for fear of panicking, then you've started to develop agoraphobia. From there things only go more downhill. I don't want to take that road. It can lead to depression, fear of leaving the house, etc.

So I don't want to avoid these events even though my insides are screaming for a reason not to go. Instead I have to plan out what I will do in certain circumstances, what I might say if I start losing control. Best case scenario is that I can prepare for each event, go into it with some positive affirmations and confidence in myself, and be able to manage any anxiety that might arise.

In either case the next few weeks are going to be important. I will either grow a lot in experiences where I can manage my anxiety, or I could have some potential setbacks in which I will still learn alot. I am hoping for the former. I'm sure the following posts will include follow up and preparation for all these potential nightmares.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lessons Learned: Patience and Determination

photo by cahrleskames

The last few days I have been so busy that I haven’t had time to write. Last night I was trying to think of what I should blog about and couldn’t think of any “Ah ha!” moments that I have had recently or any major struggles that I haven’t already blogged about. Sure I have had a few instances where I was anxious but they never elevated to anything past a 2. So I started to think about how nice it is to have these few days of solitude, where even though work is getting busier and more stressful, my mind and body are cooperating with me. So I am counting my blessings for the time being.

Last night I was reading from The Book of Mormon and I read this: “Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren… and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success.” –Alma 26: 27

It struck me how important that direction was for me in my life. Sometimes it can be so frustrating and exhausting to constantly be worrying or thinking about anxiety and I just want to give up and say, “Well I tried. I guess this is my lot in life and I should just accept my fate.” Or I struggle with “When”. “When will I get over this? When will I not be afraid? When can I be considered cured?” But if there is any lesson to be learned in all of this it is patience. And if I can be patient with my struggles and hurdles, eventually Heavenly Father will give me the success that I so desperately want in my life. He knows better than I do my needs and He will see that I learn whatever it is I need to learn along the way.

Because I am in a good state of mind lately it’s easy to say to myself "Just be patient." I’m sure if this was a bad day I wouldn’t appreciate the response to my When questions very much. So I am thankful for the timing of this lesson and I hope that when things aren’t so easy that I can recall this blog and maybe it will give me some strength to keep fighting, keep learning, and keep trying. Never Give Up.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Nasty Habits of a Habitual Worrier

I give my dog Toby a really hard time about his biting habits. Whenever he gets really excited, he has to bite something, anything, be it you or something you are carrying or our other dog's ears or legs. He just can't help himself. I always yell at him or grab his snout and tell him no because sometimes it really does hurt! And I hate that when I get home everyday the first thing that happens is I get attacked by my own dog!

However, I have made a saddening discovery that I am more like Toby than I care to admit. When I get nervous or anxious, by natural response is to bite! No joke! Not people, lol, but I do have my own quirks.

All my life I have been a nail biter. I used to get in trouble as a kid for doing it. When I am nervous or anxious about something, one of the bad habits I do is start biting my nails. Now my nails are so fragile anytime I actually grow them out any small amount they chip and break pretty quickly. One day I hope to have long beautiful nails, otherwise I might just have to go the manicured way and get the cool fake ones on. But for now, its boy hands for me.

Another bad habit I started because of feeling anxious was biting my lips. This may sound weird or gross, but I would chew on them and peel skin off not even really realizing it. Heres the gross truth about what happens if you do this. Eventually, you destroy a spit valve in your mouth. This causes a bubble called a mucocele to form on the inside of your mouth that will not go away unless it is surgically removed. Its a minor procedure that doesn't take very long at all but its annoying enough to make you go in and get it done. After all was said and done, it cost me around 300 bucks to have it done. So now when I get anxious and I bite on my lips, I feel the small scar inside and ask, do I really have all that money to spend on this right now? And then I stop.

I have been thinking about this post for awhile now and it wasn't until today that I made the connection with me and Toby. I guess I shouldn't give him such a hard time. :)

Level 3 Panic Today

photo by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha
Even though I had some weird dreams last night and I am pretty tired today, I am in a pretty good mood. Last night I was debating whether I would come in to work today and this morning I knew I was fine and capable of going. Its Friday after all and that almost seems like enough to get through anything. So everything was peachy and then my sister wanted to meet for lunch somewhere so she could give me some money from a project we worked on together. My stomach sank instantly. I haven’t this high a level of anxiety for a good week or two so it was scary to feel that way. Luckily I have been able to manage any anxiety to stay around a 2 or under which is pretty nice. (See blog: Anxiety Scale to understand more about the different degrees of [my] anxiety). So I am writing this now as a way to prepare myself to go and meet her.

Personally, I am not hungry right now. So I am thinking that I will meet her and get food to bring back here to the office for later. That means I will have to struggle with doing that, and trying not to care what she or her husband think about it. Its so weird, I was able to down 2 pieces of pizza at their home last night with no butterflies, but eating out somewhere suddenly makes me all nervous.

I immediately thought of telling her to just mail me the money so I wouldn’t have to be in the situation, but I knew that would be avoidance and I can’t reward my fear. So I will talk it out:

Ok so what am I telling myself to make me feel this way?

What if I can’t eat very much and they will judge me?

What if I tell them I don’t want to eat right now and they judge me for taking it with me?

Positive Affirmations:

  • She has been very supportive lately of my eating habits and hasn’t judged me for them.
  • It’s my life and I can live it the way I want

Taken from previous blog entries but still apply:

  • “I am learning that I don’t have to eat to please others. I only need to eat to please myself.”
  • “There’s no need to push myself.”
  • If someone comments that I am not eating enough or taking enough food, so what! I can tell them that I am not very hungry and not worry about what their reaction might be. If they pass judgment on me what’s the worst that could happen? People are going to not like me or think ill of me no matter how “perfect” I might try to be. So I should stop trying to please them and do what I want, because I’m the one that has to eat it. And it might sound awkward but what’s the worst that could happen? They could again pass judgment on me but I have to learn that it’s their problem if they think ill of me, not mine and that I am being me which is the most important thing!” “If I feel sick and I don’t want to eat, than don’t eat. My body will tell me when it is hungry and there is no need to push myself.”

Ok so that brought the anxiety down at least one notch but its not gone completely. So I will take a Clonozapam to ease the nerves.

When I started this blog things were so bad I had to take one of these just to get through breakfast by myself. I haven’t taken one in about a week or so, so I shouldn’t feel guilty at all about taking one for this. This is a big step whether I eat with them or not, because either way I am facing a fear of being judged and learning to love myself the way I am now.

Alright so I have almost 2 hours before I have to meet them at the mall food court. Maybe by then I will be more hungry, but if not I need to not care. I will post later to let you know how I handled it.

*** *** ***

Well it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. It turned out they were about 15-20 minutes late which meant I couldn't stay much longer anyway. So I was just going to get food to bring back to work and they decided to go to a restaurant. So we only ended up seeing each other for a few minutes and there was no eating involved.

I feel guilty however because as I was waiting for them I went to a jewelery store and thought, "I should be rewarding myself for doing this scary thing. I've read that by rewarding yourself often, that will keep you motivated." So I bought myself a fun ring that I thought I could use as a reminder of how I can handle any situation. So now I have this fun ring that I don't really deserve cause I wiggled my way out of the scary situation. But I can still reward myself for the progress I've made this past week, and for going in the first place and not avoiding it altogether I guess. I am the queen of rationalizing purchases. :)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Power of Nightmares

photo by Kinryuu JFJ
Last night was a terrible night of sleep full of nightmares that had me tossing and turning and waking up crying. It was one of those kind where I am being pursued all night by people that are trying to kill me and it seems so real and so terrifying. When I finally wake up I am so stressed out it doesn't feel like I got any sleep at all, and it puts me in a depressed mood.

I tend to have nightmares pretty regularly. They are of different kinds, sometimes I am driving and I can’t reach the brakes and so I am flying through traffic and can’t stop. Other times its people that are out to kill me and my family. The other night in my dream my jaw wouldn’t open and I had to try to talk with my mouth closed. Sometimes my eyelids won’t open and I wander around blind all night long struggling to see. I get so emotionally involved that its entirely draining, to the point where I consider taking the day off from work to recuperate. This morning it hit me how these nightmares are a continuation of my anxiety all through the night. I don’t get the down time I need, the relaxation that is necessary to function at full capacity the next day. Tyler (my spouse) has gotten used to me waking up in a panic in the middle of the night and he is so good about holding me until I feel better and can fall back asleep. He’s my sanity sometimes I swear.

There are theories out there that suggest nightmares or dreams in general are a way for your subconscious to send you messages about what needs changing in your life.

I found a website that lists a way to understand what your nightmares are trying to tell you:

· chase or attack : The pursuer usually represents a fearful aspect of our shadow, and hence an exaggerated version of a denied or inhibited portion of our own personality that would benefit us if integrated and appropriately expressed. (ideal outcome: standing our ground, facing and dialoguing with our pursuer, and eventually, acceptance and embrace)

· falling dream : Am I feeling heavy, unsupported, worried about something? How can I feel freer, lighter? Also: do I need to be more grounded? (ideal outcome: feeling safe, landing, floating or flying)

· car out of control : Is life too hectic, out of control? How could I slow down, act more peacefully and "enjoy the ride"? (ideal outcome: driving well & within speed limits, walking peacefully)

· unprepared, late for or failing an exam : Am I feeling unprepared for some upcoming event? Unconfident about my performance? Am I worrying needlessly or do I actually need more preparation in order to feel confident and do a good job? (ideal outcome: feeling assured about oneself, performing well)

· stuck in slow motion, unable to move or make any noise : Where am I feeling stuck in life, like I’m getting nowhere or unable to voice my true feelings? What can I do to change it? (ideal outcome: relaxation and acceptance, and eventually, peaceful action & self-expression)

· embarrassed to be nude or naked in public, though nobody seems to notice or mind : Where in life am I feeling unconfident, embarrassed, unskilled? This type of dream is usually pointing out, by the fact that the other characters in the dream don’t seem to notice, that we are the only one viewing our self this way, and usually mistakenly so. (ideal outcome: comfortable with oneself as is, confident)

· personal injury, dismemberment : What part of my life—not usually the physical body—have I been neglecting, mistreating, forgetting—i.e. dis-membering as opposed to remembering? (ideal outcome: healing)

· trapped, locked in : Where am I feeling trapped in life? How might I open myself up to a new perspective, and explore new courses of action? (ideal outcome: breaking out, exploration)

· drowning, threatening waves, tsunami (tidal waves) or flooding : Am I blocking, denying or feeling overwhelmed by my emotions? How might I better acknowledge, accept, and feel these feelings—which often include vulnerability? (ideal outcome: swimming, surfing, breathing underwater)

· helpless, abandoned, or crying baby, monkey, bunny or small animal : Have I been taking care of my "inner child"? Maybe I need to laugh more, play outdoors, express my creativity, be more spontaneous, or enjoy more personal warmth and intimacy? (ideal outcome: caring for baby or animal, playing, simply having fun)

Another theory I have heard is that at night your brain takes all the miscellaneous thoughts from the day and tries to organize them into something that makes sense and creates these dreams as a way of filing them together somewhere.

I don't know what theory I believe, but I am pretty confident that many insecurities and issues that I struggle with in my daily life are taking on a life of their own at night in my head. I have no idea how to stop it. Any thoughts or suggestions out there?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Morning Anxiety

picture of my backyard at 6 am

This morning I woke up early with a strong sensation of anxiety again. I tried to fall back asleep and ignore it but it kept waking me up every 5 minutes. I was so grateful when my alarm went off and I knew I could start the day and shake it off. I saw one of my affirmations on my bathroom mirror and that perked my spirits a bit. It still wears on me though. I didn't eat very much for breakfast today, and I feel tired from having such a disrupted night's sleep. I found a link to a really cool article on another blogger's site about Morning Anxiety and I want to try to implement a couple of it's suggestions to try to eliminate my morning anxiety.

One thing I definitely need to improve on is getting ready for the morning the night before. I am always late to work and that wouldn't happen as often if I knew ahead of time what I was going to wear, etc.

Something I could aspire to is waking up earlier and doing yoga before I go to work instead of after work. In reality I know I don't have the commitment I would need to actually do that, but it sounds nice :) I'll think about that one some more, and maybe try it out for a little while.

This article also makes me want to buy new bed linens and I have a great excuse to do so! IKEA here I come!

I might also look into getting a little notebook to leave by the bed so when I wake up with those feelings I can jot down whatever it is that I am thinking.

Its good to know that I have already implemented some of the suggestions such as the positive affirmations. Those really seem to help me shake off any anxiety so that it is manageable, maybe at a level 2 on the anxiety scale or below. Those have made the biggest difference for me out of all the lifestyle changes that I have made.

I wonder if one reason I have morning anxiety is because of my anticipatory anxiety about starting the day all over.

UPDATE: Some additional and even more helpful posts on Morning Anxiety as I have continued to work through it: 

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

BBQ Update

In my last post I talked about a family BBQ that I was preparing for since that is a potential trigger situation for an anxiety attack. It turned out to be very casual and people were eating on and off whenever, so I was very comfortable. I sat next to my niece who was all alone so she wouldn’t feel left out. Part of me wonders if I did that so that I wouldn’t have to eat around everyone else, and it might have been. I was able to eat a lot of good food, and even compliment the chefs while I was eating because I felt that no one was monitoring me or judging what was or wasn’t on my plate.

Besides eating, I also opened up to something I normally wouldn’t have done and played a little volleyball. I didn’t do all that bad and I had a lot of fun. Normally I would have worried too much about embarrassing myself, but I think I am feeling very accepted by my in laws and I am not caring if they see my flaws as much as I used to.

Also, one of my new hobbies is photography, and so I spent a lot of time focusing on others instead of myself and what might be going on in my own head. I was able to get some great shots of the kids which makes me happy.

Overall it was such a fun party and I wanted to do another one again, rather than avoid it, which definitely is progress!

Anna my 6 year old niece

Ava my newest niece 2 months old

The Grill Master

Harrison my little nephew

Heidi and Dakota- my Sister in law and 4 year old niece

Friday, June 8, 2007

Finding Beauty in the Storm

Pink Rose

This has been an overall pretty good week so far. I haven't had any anxiety attacks, and any general anxiety that arose I was able to manage using deep breathing, positive self talk, and my good ol' Clonozapam. I am feeling better about my body image. I wake up with positive affirmations around me so any immediate anxiety I feel quickly subsides. I am still generally anxious around meals even by myself, but I have gotten much better at only eating what I want and not forcing myself to push past anything uncomfortable. So I am proud of myself for the progress I made this week. However, that said, I have been fortunate to not be put into any position that might cause a panic attack to occur such as a family party that I have on Sunday, or any surprise get togethers at restaurants this weekend that could happen. My biggest challenge is to be myself around these people and keep doing what I am doing, and not worry about what they think about it. I have realized that until I am happy with myself as I am now and with the way I live my life now, than there is no way I will be able to not worry around others. So self love before self improvement. You can't fix the outside if your broken on the inside. And for awhile I was trying to gain weight at the same time as working on my anxiety and I understand now why I could fall so hard. I was counterproductive. Telling myself that I shouldn't worry about others but at the same time, I have to gain weight because everyone thinks I should. How insane! How easy it is to get sucked into this vicious cycle.


There are other things that raise my anxiety besides eating around others and driving is the next biggest thing. I am okay if I am driving alone in a car, but I hate driving with passengers. Usually I will say "We can take my car if someone wants to drive it" before I will drive with people in the car with me. I also get nervous about driving somewhere that I have never been before as was proven when I first tried to get to my Therapists office in an earlier post.

I also have a hard time making friends. I can do small talk and socialize at work, but actually opening up to someone about how I feel and having a real connection with girls especially has been a real problem for me. I don't really have any friends outside of my family. I have coworkers that I chat with and people at church I say hi to, but no one I can call if I am having a bad day and need a friend to come cheer me up, or someone to go shopping with, or any of the things you do with friends.

All that said, today I drove with a new friend in the car all around town. She is the wife of my husband's coworker and we have been hanging out the last couple weekends. I was really nervous about it but I did it and I am proud of myself for driving with someone that I really want to become good friends with, being able to talk to her and have a really good time. Sure I almost killed us once, and my parking was horrible, but we survived! She seemed very nice and understanding, and she opened up to me as well so it was really good. Its been a long time since I have been able to make a new friend which unfortunately is hard for people with SAD. The last real friend (outside of the family) that I had was in High School 7 years ago, and that relationship ended badly. So I am excited about the prospects of having a relationship like that in my life again, but at the same time I am not expecting anything. I am taking risks around her which is good because it means I am comfortable around her to be myself, and thats all I want to be. I think we will continue to hang out, and if she can't accept me as myself and if we never hang out again, thats okay, it was a good experience and I learned a lot.


I think the weekends are the hardest for me right now. I have no important reason to get out of bed so I lay there feeling anxious for an hour or so just trying to talk myself out of it. I skipped breakfast both on Sat and Sun which makes me feel bad, but I am going to get over it and move on. Tonight I have a family BBQ at the park and I want to think it through before I go so I can avoid a panic attack and enjoy myself. The most important thing I want to remember is to eat only for myself, and not for anyone else. I have to remember to be unapologetic about my body, and if anyone makes any comments about it, to not let it get to me. Don't let others see how their comments might hurt me, instead laugh it off and make it not be a big deal, or be bold and stand up for myself. Let people know its not cool to talk to people that way. (I am so non- confrontational I doubt I will have the guts to do that but ya never know)
Thoughts I want to bring with me:
  • I am ok the way I am
  • Theres no need to push myself
  • This may be hard, but I CAN DO IT
  • My Healthy, My Happy
  • It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you, only what you think of you
  • Its none of their business
  • Don't let them take away your happiness
  • Love yourself- you are beautiful

I think that during the week I have a set schedule that makes it easy for me- I know what to expect and feel safe in that setup. However when the weekend comes, anything could happen and that unknown factor is what conjours up so much more anxiety. That unknown factor is what caused me so much stress in Hawaii. I don't want to be so worried about that because it will effect all my vacations, camp outs, etc this summer. I need to get over it somehow, and not be so sensitive. Its the Worrier, the What ifs that race through my head.

I am glad I have this time to prepare for the party tonight, pump up my spirits and go in with some positive thinking ready. That always makes uncomfortable situations easier as opposed to getting thrown into something.

In summary, its nice to see the progress that I have made even though there is still so much more to work on. I have seen a lot of growth this week, finding some beauty in the storm, and thats exciting.

Here are some pictures that I took of some flowers after it rained. The slideshow cuts them off so you can click here to see them in full.

Close Up of Roses After Storm

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Absolutely Unapologetically Thin

Most of my pictures from my blog comes from the Flickr website I came across an amazing picture of a torso of a woman with the words "Unapologetically Thin" on it. (Click here to see the pic) I am trying to get the woman who took the picture to let me display it on my blog and I will add it if she does. What I loved in addition to the picture itself was her comments to go with it. Here they are, from hd connely:
"There's no doubt that weight is a constant topic of conversation in this world these days and in reaction to growing concerns about weight and health, I've found myself the target of amazingly insensitive and absolutely unasked for commentary about my being thin.'s my response. I'll say it and I'll move on.

Am I a product of genetics? Is my weight a symptom of another health issue? Should it matter to you? Does it affect you in any way?

I've never told anyone they needed to look more like me or for that matter, less like themselves.

This goes out to those who make comments in my presence about how unattractive thin folks are. This goes out to the woman at the grocery store who made a scene when I picked up fat-free the nurse at my doctor's office who told me to eat more "fried 'taters" everyone who takes it upon themselves to offer "helpful" advice on an issue that is absolutely none of their business.

This also goes out to everyone who has tried to conceal their disgust for my weight in "concern". I can spot the difference between genuine concern and projection of your own issues from a mile away...because I've had more than my share of practice at it. I shouldn't have to defend myself against your insults. I admit I've been deeply hurt by your words, but you will no longer get that kind of power in my life.

Long story short...
Love yourself. Love your body. Own your issues. Be a bit more compassionate and a bit more aware of your own actions."

Wow! That impressed me. I am a very soft spoken, non assertive person that avoids confrontation at all costs. I know that I could never be so bold myself, but she nailed it as to how I feel sometimes. Many times I admit I imagine the judgments but there have been many real ones that got me to where I am today that were not imagined. I wish I could be more confident, so unapologetic as she is. I love how she respects herself the way she is and says "Screw everyone who doesn't like it!" lol. I hope that I can become braver and take a small bit of her attitude with me.

So these two pictures here are my attempt- my bold- my unapologetic, I love my skinny body, so there- attitude!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Cracking the Code of Overgeneralization

photo by Sam Wethern
So today an interesting thing happened. I am sitting in my cubicle and feeling very anxious about eating breakfast. I can’t even eat my entire egg because I just feel so uptight. Then I go into a meeting and after a couple hours someone brings in snacks and I am suddenly munchin' on licorice and strawberries feeling hardly any anxiety at all. Whats that all about? Now here I am back at my cubicle for lunch and I am procrastinating it for some reason. It all has to do with what I talked about before- overgeneralizing. I do this every day. I think to myself that because I have felt anxious over breakfast or lunch before, that I am going to feel it now, and so my body responds to the situation as if it is a true threat. So I know that I am overgeneralizing, but how do I stop? I did some research and found an interesting article by Adam Khan (click here for the entire article: I am attaching some of what he said that I think is helpful for me to remember.

"Overgeneralizing causes despair and hopelessness. The researcher Martin Seligman and his colleagues have discovered that the two most deadly assumptions you can make about a setback is: The cause of the setback is permanent or pervasive. Permanence and pervasiveness are both overgeneralizations — and dangerous ones at that.

Permanence says, "This is always going to be here," or "There's no way out of it." Pervasiveness says, "It has ruined everything," or "My life is over." These are overgeneralizations that evoke feelings of demoralization. They make you want to give up. That's usually not a very useful response to make to a setback.

Interestingly, one of the things Napoleon Hill hammers on in his books (Law of Success, Think and Grow Rich, and Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude) is that failure is only temporary defeat. Hill and Seligman are trying to get their readers to do the same thing: Don't jump to the conclusion that this setback is permanent. It's a deadly overgeneralization. It stops action. It kills motivation. It destroys dreams. Don't ever do it again!

The word always [is] a generalization.

Stressful moments are more memorable than emotionally-flat moments, and because of that, we can overgeneralize — falsely see a negative pattern that doesn't really exist. It's an illusion caused by the way our brains selectively store memories.

In Consumer Reports on Health, they had this to say:

'Mundane happenings can be difficult to remember. But upsetting events are often hard to forget...A separate, more durable system for storing emotionally charged memories has survival value, the researchers pointed out, enabling animals to remember and avoid threatening situations. Presumably, the stronger the emotional response, the stronger the memory.'

what to do about it

When you feel doubtful or anxious or angry or frustrated or worried, look into your thinking and see if you can find an overgeneralization.

They are hard to detect because you assume whatever you think is true. It would be easy to detect if someone was angry at you and said something like, "You never wash the dishes." The first thing you'd think of is all the times you washed the dishes! But when you say something like that to yourself, you don't question it. You just feel bad.

But if you stop and look, you'll be able to find your own generalizations. The moment you discover an overgeneralization in your thinking — the moment you recognize a thought as an overgeneralization — your negative feelings start to diminish. The negative feelings were being generated by your mistaken assumption. When you recognize your mistake, your feelings change — immediately.

Remind yourself that your feeling of certainty might not mean anything. It'll allow you to place less confidence in your conclusions. When your conclusion is giving you negative feelings, your skepticism can make you feel better and act more sanely.

Pessimistic assumptions change the way you feel which changes the way you perceive the world to match your assumption. You are less likely to see contradictory evidence.

The tendency to overgeneralize is built into our brains. But there is a cure for it. The cure is simple: Catch yourself overgeneralizing. Over and over and over. Keep it up and your tendency will gradually diminish.

The real trick is to keep reminding yourself to catch yourself over a period of time. It won't work to remember it for a week and then forget about it. Extended effort is what is required. Here are some ideas to help you remember over time:

1. Ask your spouse to catch you. We often say our overgeneralizations out loud.

2. Put a message on your screen saver using the Scrolling Marquee.

3. Write OVERGENERALIZING on a card and carry it with you.

4. Post a note on your bathroom mirror.

The possibilities are endless. But the principle is important: Use a system to remember to catch yourself overgeneralizing again and again over a period of time, and your tendency to overgeneralize will dwindle. As it does, you'll experience negative feelings less often and less intensely. In other words, you'll feel good more often. And who doesn't want that?"

With yesterday's post I wanted to work on trying to make my attitude in the mornings better, and this morning I was able to do that with taping a few of the affirmations I liked around- one on my alarm clock, bathroom mirror, and closet. I also want to work on not overgeneralizing breakfast. Some of the suggestions mentioned above were the same approach I took yesterday. I think what I will try to do to stop my overgeneralization is to notice when I am doing it and try to think of times when I had good experiences with breakfast or lunch. Maybe I will put an O on my monitor with an X through it as another reminder.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Master Rather than Victim of My Mind

photo by tibbly
This morning I woke up and again I felt defeated without even getting out of bed. I thought things like, "Here we go again." "Another day of struggling." "I don't want to deal with this today" "This is so hard." I get out of bed with this horrible attitude of self defeat, sometimes not even realizing it, it sometimes is just a feeling in my stomach that puts me in a negative frame of mind. I really want to work on this because it does set the mood for my day and makes it so much harder to stay positive and not fall into the role of the Victim. All along I have been thinking that I am not really effected very much by the negative self talk of The Victim, but I am realizing that this self defeating attitude I face in the mornings really is The Victim creeping into my life and ruining my confidence, self respect and motivation.

So I need to stop sabotaging my recovery. I need to stop acting like I am a Victim of circumstances, and realize the affirmation I tell myself all the time: "I am in control of my life." I need to start the day with more positive thinking. The first step is to get rid of the idea that its definitely going to be a hard or bad day. I don't know if it will be a hard day or not, but telling myself that will make it hard. So if I wake up feeling bad I should say to myself "This might be hard today, but I can handle it. I can do this." I want to become Master of my mind and not a Victim of it. So heres my challenge to myself. The next day I wake up feeling scared, hopeless, or annoyed about having to start the process all over, I am going to try to remember to think of any of these positive affirmations instead:
(found at

View this positive affirmationI have the power to control my health.
View this positive affirmationI am in control of my health and wellness.
View this positive affirmationI do not fear being unhealthy because I know that I control my own body.
View this positive affirmationI am creating healing energy in my life
View this positive affirmationMy thoughts are under my control.
View this positive affirmationI am taking care of my mental health every day

Maybe I will write one out on a note card and put it on my nightstand or on the bathroom mirror or in my closet so I can see it when I wake up.

Also, I am trying really hard this week to do yoga everyday if possible, and to eat something for every meal. Even if its a small something, I don't want to get into the habit of skipping meals altogether. Also I am trying to follow the good advice of my sister. Make every bite count. So if I can only eat a little something, it will be packed with calories and be very nutritious. So far, so good.

The following is an excerpt from the book "The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook Fourth Edition". I didn't list the whole passage but enough of it to remind me about how I am in control of my life and can choose to feel fear or replace it with peace:

"Focusing on a fear always makes it worse. I can change my focus to loving, supportive constructive ideas. I can't make fearful thoughts go away. Struggling with them only makes them loom larger. Instead I can redirect my mind to more peaceful calming thoughts and circumstances. Every time I do this I am choosing Peace instead of Fear.The more I choose peace, the more it becomes a part of my life.With practice I get better at redirecting my mind. I learn how to spend less time focusing on fear. I grow stronger in my ability to choose wholesome, helpful thoughts over fearful ones. I make time to relax- to reconnect with that place deep within myself that is always at peace. When I make time to do this, I can choose to move away from fearful thoughts. I can allow my mind to expand into a wider place that is much larger than my fearful thoughts. When I relax or meditate my mind becomes deep enough to transcend fear.

I'm learning to see that my fearful thought grossly overestimate risk or threat. The true risk I face in most situations is actually very small. True its impossible to eliminate risk from life altogether.

I'm learning to recognize my tendency to exaggerate risk, to blow them out of proportion. Every fear involves both overestimating the threat of danger and underestimating my ability to cope.

The important thing is not to feed fear. Not to dwell on it or give it energy..."

I no longer want to feed my fear or my Victim within. Only my tummy :)
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