Chapter 5: Summary/Currently

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In my mid-30s, I am still strengthening areas when the opportunities arise: How to “be” socially, my confidence, and who I am in terms of personality and life satisfaction.

One of my “more recent” areas of growth, is when I grasped why not to care what certain people think: You have the support of family and friends, plus the facts – who you “aren’t”, and how the immaturity/rudeness of others isn’t on you. Continue being you, and allow the true colours of others to show in time (may just be to people in their life, or public) Take the higher road. It’s a free feeling! You have every right to remain on your Journey, to love yourself, and not get caught up in other’s games.

Summary:

I’m not totally free of anxiety, but I am worlds away from not being able to walk three blocks from my house! The worst is behind me.

Be-it fast or slow, good change happens if you keep at it. You may not notice right away, and you may have days or even weeks in the beginning where you feel you’ve slid back down to the bottom, but they key is – keep at it – as best you can, when you can. Be a friend to yourself.

Remember your problems are not your identity.

It is possible to have a degree of control over the vibe of situations. You can put a smile on someone’s face, by simply sharing yours and saying Hello. If a person makes you feel bad, it doesn’t mean you deserve it – give yourself permission not to care. Let it lift off of you.

As your anxiety is tweaked and replaced, you will get to know yourself better. Enjoy the excitement of exploration and decisions!

I didn’t want to write this blog until I had every answer to give you! No one ever has every answer.. whether you deal with anxiety, or not. We’re always learning.

May you open the door to your Monster of fears, and find your way past him! Grab hold of your new freedoms. Be patient, stay positive, and know that change is coming. You’re not alone in this world!
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Chapter 4: Curiosity Got Me (Facing My Biggest Fear)

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This deserves a Chapter all it’s own.

Around age 33, I’d become happier and a little more casual about my outings. Some-what of a plateau progress-wise, but at least it wasn’t the Hell I was in years ago! I was invited to a place I’d always wanted to go as a child – California. Two new friends of mine lived there.

I hated planes. Even being at an Airport dropping someone else off, made me nervous! My thoughts about flying were: What if the pressurization gives me one of those agonizing headaches? What if I can’t handle the take off and flying, and the landing just does me in? What if I have a traumatizing “Mother-of-all” Panic Attack? I can’t open a window! I can’t ask to be dropped off! What if my body just can’t handle it?

At the very same time, part of me was angry at the fear! WHAT was the face of this monster? WHAT was I so afraid of? I wanted to meet it. What was on the other side? Whether I opened the door, and crawled with exhaustion past the monster, or said “hey” and told it to step aside – I was going to see what was behind it!

The below picture was my view while waiting to taxi and take-off. My heart wasn’t pounding, actually I was very calm. An “I’m not really here”, calm. I asked myself “What am I thinking? I’m on a plane!” Ascending made my head feel like it would explode! I assume that was from tension. During layover, I had to really talk myself into the second flight! “If you don’t go, you’ll just find yourself here again some day! You’ll be disappointed in yourself if you turn back.” The second take off, I was surprisingly fine!

WPTM-Plane

My time in California was hit and miss. I had shakiness at first, and decent times of enjoyment, though I felt socially insecure (not much of a life to speak of, and not always sure of myself when speaking) I did eat, just not a lot.

Compared to not being able to leave my house without anxiety, in my teens.
And the New York City trips where I’d lose 10 lbs in three days.
I’d say this Plane ride and California trip were a huge improvement!

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JenCali

Ch 1. / Ch 2. / Ch 3. / Ch 4.  / Ch 5.

Chapter 3: My 30’s – Angry and Determined

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Determination and Details: Try 3

After another year or two of feeling aimless and unsure, I wanted a closer look at what wasn’t working. I tweaked my approach and expectations.

I needed something “constant”. Not periodic accomplishments. I like the “big accomplishments” as they really inspire me and put a dent in my progress, but unless I won the lottery, that wasn’t going to be an ongoing option.

What” needed work? Well.. When out, I’m very quiet. Insecure. Have anxiety.
Who” do I want to be? I imagined her, as if she was a friend to look up to.
How” to change? – Less quiet, and more thought into how I portray myself. Body language, personality. My influence.
Facts” I need to remind myself when something isn’t worth worrying about. And that I’m bigger than my physical anxiety.

I started out simple. Eg. In a cab, I wanted the window down. My anxiety made me clam up. Would he be annoyed? Would my nerves make me sound weird? Fact: People ask for the window down, just ask nicely. If he gets annoyed, that’s on him, not you. I asked, and he was so nice about it! “Oh yes, sure!” and down it went.

I would say Hi walking by random people. Their faces would change, most of them were happy to be acknowledged. I did have influence. Where I live is very small, so in terms of exposure to new situations, I didn’t get a whole lot.



Since anxiety begins by sub-consciously initiating adrenaline, our overall mood has to change. Our expectations. A lot of the time, I’d think of “future me”.. how she’d react in the same situation. What she’d say to me. Giving my brain a better option to chose from. The longer I did this, the quicker “she’d” come to mind. I feel more like her these days.

The trick is to be consistent, yet expect bad days. When they come, accept bad days happen to everyone, and continue on as best you can.

You will begin to fill the social gap that anxiety has left you. You get to explore who you are, and rebuild as you want! It can be very exciting!!

Ch 1. / Ch 2. / Ch 3. / Ch 4.  / Ch 5.

Chapter 2: My 20s – Depressed and Determined: with Suicidal thoughts

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Frustrated and Scared

After high-school, I surely didn’t want to face College. Put money towards hellish days that interfered with learning? No, thank you. I wasn’t sure “who” I was or what I wanted anyway. I landed a part time job steps from my house, with a relative as manager.

Suicide entered my mind off and on in my early 20s. I felt worthless, a burden, embarrassed, emotionally and physically worn out. Literally pained. Day after day. I just didn’t know what to do with myself! I have experienced two different feelings of suicide: A slow onset that sustains or builds, and one that hit me like a brick wall – which I will explain later.

I wont be divulging my suicidal ideas, as not to encourage anyone. I will just say, one method was easy (though realized others might get injured) The other, was a sure-fire way to die painlessly, but complex and would take time to save money for.

Outings for me: Symptoms and intensity depended on how far from home, who was there, and how long away I’d be. “Usually”, my anxiety would bubble up into tension, nausea/indigestion and headaches/migraine. Sometimes hot flashes and shakes would join in. I never ate when out, or if I’d be going out – so I could avoid stomach pains/nausea if major anxiety or panic happened. The odd time, a nervous cough, too, would show; so I carried throat numbing spray with me wherever I went.

One overnight outing I pushed myself to do initially, I couldn’t pee! I had to, but I was so tense, I just couldn’t. I ended up going home in the middle of the night. It still took me another few hours before I could “go”. Do people think things like that when they hear anxiety disorder? Likely not.

Staying in: Caused major depression. I wanted progress! Staying in, was not who I really was! Still, going out didn’t result in me nor “my life” either. It was painted unorganized and dormant by my disorder. Limited, and full of fear rather than growth.

The comparison I use to describe the emotional aspect: It was like I fell down a deep, dark hole. Someone built a highway over the opening, where everyone’s life was zooming by. They were unaware of me trying to scream for help. Every time I attempted to get a handle on my anxiety situation, it felt like I’d climb up the hole, only to be knocked down and tired once again. It was draining.



Determination: Try #1

A person I identified with in the beginning and looked up to (thanks to my doctor), was Donny Osmond. He had Social Anxiety Disorder as well, and happened to be touring with musician Jim Brickman at the time. Donny learned how to cope enough to travel all over and perform! If he could do that? I could travel a couple of places, to sit in the audience. Maybe I’d have the same feelings of confidence and inspiration as the New York City trip.

I took approximately four “Donny trips” by bus, each averaging anywhere from 1 hour, to 5 hours away. I almost came home from the furthest trip. This one, I had the opportunity to meet Jim and Donny. I take baths to relax myself, and not even that was working. I wanted to blink and be home.

A lot of my trips back then are a blur. Either I’m blocking things out, or I had so much baseline anxiety (a certain amount of anxiety continuously in your system for a period of time) that it didn’t stick well to memory.

I did meet Donny, Jim, and the rest of the band! I’m glad I went, but there were times I wished with all of my being, that I were home.

In my research of Donny, I also caught a few David Cassidy songs and information. He didn’t have anxiety, but was inspiring in his own ways. He was touring, and I wanted to keep trying with the “bus trip therapy”.

Add five “David trips” to the list! Two of which, were near New York City. One of those trips, I lost 10 lbs in three days. I remember crying on one as well, I was just so sick and tired of not fully being able to enjoy myself.

What I did to endure these trips? I sectioned them off: The bus ride there. Day one, day two… The bus ride home. This way, I’d get through it, step by step. My last “David trip”, I ate while on the trip, and had only a headache one night! I felt NORMAL. I thought, “Wow.. I beat it!” Never again would I suffer from anxiety!

The line of bus trips stopped. Stress built with a situation at home, and… the anxiety came back like it never left. Depression wasn’t far behind. I felt defeated.

This depression lasted two years.

I didn’t know what to think. Trying to be positive again, felt like lies.



Determination: Try #2

My mid-20s, I felt it was time to try again. Something closer to home. What might I be doing if I didn’t have anxiety? I like music, and creative people, therefore decided to join a local theatre group. My goal here was to accomplish going on stage (like kicking my social anxiety right where it counts) I thought THIS will stop the anxiety! I wasn’t going to worry about making friends, I was just there to accomplish something for myself.

Good thing I wasn’t there to make friends, there were two or three rather snobby ladies that obviously didn’t like me. Oddly enough, these ladies tested what area of strength was needed, and I passed! I didn’t quit!

Four months of rehearsals. Getting dressed in the hallway in front of whoever. Having scenes where I was a (visual) focus. Doing nine shows in a month and a half. I didn’t pass out or throw-up once! (note: anxiety has never caused either to happen for me) I even went out after rehearsals with new friends (made in theatre), to sing at a karaoke restaurant and hang out. I did sing off and on. The best vocal outcome was Halloween, when I had a costume on.

The friends are still in my life to a degree, by the way.

The confidence from being part of a performance, and going out with new friends, lasted a little longer than the “bus trip therapy”, but alas, it did not stay either. In fact, after a few years, even though some of my progress remained, I lost one friend whom I really cared about. He didn’t totally get the whole anxiety thing, and after a while, was tired of it. I wasn’t sure how to fix myself, as much as I wanted to. His attitude at the time did more harm than good. I felt very small.

A big part of my Social Anxiety, is not wanting to disappoint people I care about. Wanting people to know “me”, not the insecurities or hindrances. To a lot of people, I wished I could just say “Wait.. you’ll see who I really am!”

If a person doesn’t want to be there in the hard times.
They wont be invited to the good times.

Self-respect helps you grow away from your anxiety.

There were one or two people I valued very much, who were pushed away by my “oddness”. By guilt, I wanted (and tried) to “fix” what I ruined. In hind-sight, trying to fix things was also unnatural, and did nothing but make me look insecure.



A year or so after this, came the second type of “suicidal feeling”. Sitting at my computer in Winter, not concentrating on anything negative.. I suddenly felt as if everything around me was dead. Time stopped and flashed forward all at once. The chairs across the room, I could see them broken down and dusty as if centuries of neglect passed. A reflection of how I felt inside. I didn’t matter, and was going nowhere.

Physically, every negative feeling you can think of, was burning from my core, out every pour of my body. Invisible poison consuming me. I wanted to run from behind my desk, and throw myself off my balcony. Not like three stories would definitely kill me – but I wanted another sensation. Any other sensation! I understood how a person could throw them-self in front of a train. My body was immobile. I sat like this for a few minutes, then collected my thoughts. I went to the doctor as soon as I could to try an anti-depressant. I didn’t want to feel that again. I went on a very low dose. Whether it was “in my head” or not, that low dose seemed to work. Thankfully that weird sadness hasn’t happened again.



My favourite childhood band (NKOTB) was reuniting in 2008. This pushed me to travel and be around a lot of high energy sooner than expected. One member of the group, Jonathan Knight, dealt with horrible anxiety, I believe, almost his entire life. If he was going to perform, and I had traveled long distances before… I could see them an hour away! No problem!

Waiting in 5th row for the show to start, my anxiety got the best of me. I walked out of their very first reunion concert. Progress goes back and forth while you’re in the process. I didn’t go home – I stayed for the next two concerts.

Ch 1. / Ch 2. / Ch 3. / Ch 4.  / Ch 5.

Chapter 1: “I have what?” Hello High-school

Ch 1. / Ch 2. / Ch 3. / Ch 4.  / Ch 5.

Confusion / An Unknown Future

For my social anxiety to make sense, this actually begins a few years earlier. Around age 11, my outlook started to change. There had been a negative person in my life as I grew up, and I wondered if his attitude was correct, both towards me and the world. Also, I began to question if the positive people were being so, out of pity. I questioned my appearance, my personality, my voice, pretty much everything that could potentially annoy or disappoint others.

Highschool came. My first time ever switching schools.

Spinning classrooms while I sat still. Walking down a hall, it’s floor felt made of balloons. Not being able to breathe. Sometimes it looked like everything got brighter, and I could barely feel my body. Chest pains. Heart palpitations. Panic attacks, feeling like I “had” to get out of the room, as if a Tsunami was about to hit. I had an average of 7 anxiety/panic attacks a day during 9th grade.

I quickly developed a groin hernia from the tension. It popped up by the end of the day, keeping me company on my bus rides home.

We weighed in for phys-ed, September and December. My weight went from 99 lbs, to 80 lbs. This was caused by the adrenaline of anxiety, and not wanting to eat much from nausea.


At home, the anxiety lessened but did not go away. I felt embarrassed and concerned about my day, of course I worried about the next day when I’d have to face it all again. I remember sitting in a dark hallway before school started, totally blind-sided that I had anxiety problems. What did this mean for my future? Was I crazy?

I couldn’t escape it, not even in my sleep. I had nocular attacks (panic attacks in your sleep) I’m glad no one could see my bedroom window. No matter if it was the middle of Winter, if a nocular attack hit? I threw almost all my clothes off and stood in front of the open window for relief.

I tried going for walks after school a few blocks from my house. Being outside caused shallow breathing, heart palpitations, and loss of feeling in my legs. Then of course I’d have to act like I was perfectly fine when passing people on the street. Needless to say, I had Agoraphobia going on as well (fear of leaving one’s house)

Once your body is use to something like anxiety and panic attacks, it’s so hard to make it forget.


Anxiety is very sub-conscience.
It begins before you realize. Automatic thoughts are difficult to control.

I was shy. Quiet. Mildly bullied (names, the occasional apple sauce on my lockers lock) Simply being me (or the very shy version) made me feel like a disappointment or unwanted. I didn’t mean to do whatever was causing me to be the disappointment.

In obsessive compulsive style, I wrote on my calendar each day – what I wore, and exactly how I did my make-up – to see if anything visually caused problems socially.

I should’ve seen it coming, but I lost touch with friends, and of course, myself. Shrinking away socially and emotionally will do that.

Thankfully, the school allowed me to do my work in one room through-out the day, instead of trekking as herds from class to class, or speaking in class.

I recall a (then unknown to me) coping mechanism my system took upon itself to materialize. A combination of: Depersonalization (feeling as though you’re outside yourself) and Derealization (feeling as though something is wrong with reality) Sitting in this classroom at the end of the day, I suddenly couldn’t feel the pen in my hand, nor the rest of my body. I knew I was looking at a gray wall with a window above it, but wasn’t thinking anything else. It was a very welcome, overall calm. It only ever happened once.

My high-school years got slightly easier each year. In my perfectionistic head, I never did reach “average life of a ‘normal’ student”. I’d like to note, I didn’t try medication during high-school.


Two things that helped me out of my initial “am I crazy/what’s going on” phase, were learning (a) What anxiety and panic are. Why mine may’ve started. And (b) I’m not the only one who deals with it.

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. As a nervous disorder, it’s characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

Symptoms include:

Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness
Problems sleeping
Cold or sweaty hands or feet
Shortness of breath
Dizziness
Heart palpitations
Not being able to be still and calm
Dry mouth
Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Nausea
Muscle tension
Migraines/Headaches
Nervous cough/Tickle in throat (this is one I had, yet never saw listed as a symptom)

Panic Attacks are quite simply.. many anxiety symptoms at once, causing major panic.

What happens during an anxiety or panic attack: When people feel stressed, their sympathetic nervous system revs up, releasing energy and preparing the body for “Flight or Fight”. The parasympathetic nervous system then steps in, and the body stabilizes to a calmer state. If the parasympathetic nervous system is somehow unable to do its job, a person will remain fired up and may experience the heightened arousal characteristic of a panic attack. It is basically.. over-exaggerated natural fear sensations, firing off at times they aren’t necessary.

Well known people with anxiety-related problems (past &/or present): Ellie Goulding, Zayn Malik, Christina Ricci, Jonathan Knight, Donny Osmond, Johnny Depp, Barbara Streisand, Robin Mead, and more!


I’m ending this chapter with something that came along in 10th grade that proved helpful. I always wanted to go to New York City (a 7hr bus trip away) I had my chance, and could take my Best Friend with me. So out of frustration, curiosity, and desire, I said “I’m doing this”. I have no idea how I managed! I found I love New York City, and when I returned home, I felt very confident. Inspired. The great new feelings shriveled down to my usual hometown feelings, unfortunately. The trip had a positive effect. Good to know!

Ch 1. / Ch 2. / Ch 3. / Ch 4.  / Ch 5.