Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'09 resolution: Boost self-esteem

Obviously, one of my New Year's resolutions is to be less anxious in '09. Part of my strategy involves boosting my self-esteem. My counselor sees my low self-esteem and self-worth as feeding into my anxiety. This makes sense, especially since I have a lot of anxiety about "failing" in life. So I'm ending '08 and beginning '09 with a self-commitment to appreciate and value myself.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Emotional magnifier

I have found that being continously anxious can be an emotional magnifier. Since I'm keyed up all the time, I overreact to situations other people would handle more calmly.

For example, when a friend arrives a half-hour late, most people would find that irritating—but not a huge deal. For me, ever worrying and always "on," the emotion is "amplified," and I make a late arrival much more of an issue than it should be! So calming my anxiety is key to not overreacting in all other aspects of life.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Finding support

At Anxiety, Panic and Health I found a link to an online chat/bulletin board Web site called AnxietyZone. I'm enjoying posting comments there—and it has enough users that you get multiple responses :) I'm also checking out Compeer, a "real world" mentoring program for people with mental illnesses.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I think one of the most difficult aspects of tackling my fears and anxieties is learning to trust myself. Trusting my eyes to see what is there, trusting my brain to accurately interpret the world, trusting that everything probably will be OK, as it usually is. For people with OCD, this can be particularly challenging, as we don't trust what are eyes are showing us. We can look at something 2, 10, 10,000 times and still see something wrong with it, even though we know on an intellectual level that there isn't anything amiss. I am learning to trust myself, but it has not been easy. But if I can't trust myself, who can I trust?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Distorted reality

Yesterday I was talking with someone who has OCD fairly severely. What I found particularly interesting about this conversation is that she easily could "see through" my anxieties and fears to a more rationale, less "anxiety clouded" future. In the same way, I saw through her rituals and behaviors and could point out their disconnect to reality.

Anxiety and fear warp our minds. We lose perspective of what's real, what could happen, and what actually will happen.

I am very fearful of the future, but I'm trying to find ways to embrace a more positive and optimistic outlook. That's hard to do in this economy, so step one might be limiting my access to the news (of course bad news sells). I spend a lot of time reading the news (not because of anxiety, but because I am a "news junkie"), but maybe I'll focus a little more on myself and my wellness next year.

Hmm, time to start thinking about those New Year's resolutions!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Don't fight it

I read a great post at Anxiety, Panic and Health today about not "fighting" anxiety. I highly recommend it.

Mind Block

I am trying to find some relief through an exercise I call "mind block." I respond to a particularly nagging anxious thought by saying to myself (or outloud) "mind block!" It seems to be working. The "toxic" thought remains in my brain, but I'm replacing it with another, hopefully stronger, one to prevent it from "getting through" and making me even more anxious. Just a little trick I'm experimenting with.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


It's amazing just how much anxiety can transform your life. For many, this condition can make normally mundane tasks, such as reading, eating, driving, walking, and so on, excruciatingly difficult.

Consequentially, sometimes I look at those without this condition with jealousy. Their lives seem so much easier than mine.

Of course, the targets of my envy could have their own mental health problems or other life complications. Yet when I'm really anxious and I see people casually doing activities that drive me crazy, I can't help but envy their freedom from the "managed hell" I experience every day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Just do it

Today I had to do things that make me uncomfortable, that make me anxious. They're things that I have to do everyday, in fact. But no matter how awful I feel, I do them, as I don't want to give into fear anymore. A short post, but an important message?

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's hard to stop a train

A useful concept my current counselor taught me is to consider, What way is the train heading? When you're anxious, it's easy to lose sight of your progress. It's easy to feel defeated.

Yet recovery is a journey. Anxiety usually doesn't develop overnight, so neither will problems dissipate as quickly as we would hope. So consider where you are in your recovery process—are you taking healthy steps to feel better? If so, you probably are headed in the right direction.

Your "train" may slow down at times, but with hard work you can keep it chugging toward your destination—a healthier, less anxious life. It's not easy to stop, let alone turnaround, a train, so if you stay on track, you will reach your goal.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Morning anxiety

I found an interesting blog post on morning anxiety, a phenonomen I experience. For some reason, my anxiety is usually worse before noon (on weekdays), and by the end of the day activities that make me very anxious in the morning aren't as anxiety provoking. It's comforting to know that other people have the same experience.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


I've had a lot of counselors. Graduate students, PhDs, LSWS—I think maybe more than ten in ten years. I've learned something from each one (Well, except the guy who wanted to cure me in six sessions to appease my insurance). One counselor who had anxiety problems herself was really helpful, but she decided to focus her practice on spirituality and relationships, so we had to part ways.

One thing they've all told me about is the importance of flashcards. Basically, on index cards you write inspiring and hopeful messages to counter negative and anxious thoughts. For example:
  • I am perfectly imperfect—and that's OK!
  • I trust myself.
  • So what if I'm feeling anxious. This feeling will pass.
  • Good for you for taking this head on and having the courage to do this.
When anxious, you review your flashcards, and you do this over and over. The goal is to reprogram your brain to accept these messages to replace the anxious ones. Or at least that's how I understand it.

For a long time, I did not like flashcards. They just seemed to gimmicky to me. I wanted to take a pill and be free from anxiety. It took me a long time to realize that overcoming anxiety is not that easy. Medication can help some folks manage the symptoms, but overcoming anxiety also requires hard work. Brain work.

Finally, two months ago I decided to give flashcards a shot. At first, my response was very negative: This isn't going to work. But every time I was anxious, I would refer to them—a quick "reality check" from that flood of anxious thoughts. It took time, but now I'm starting to believe those hopeful messages. I carry my flashcards with me and refer to them quite frequently. I add new cards when I think of uplifting messages.

I wish I would have taken my counselors' advice about flashcards earlier. But that's the odd thing about living with anxiety (at least for me): You learn to live with it, and are skeptical of being free from it, even when people try to help. But instead of letting anxiety influence so much of my life, I now want to focus on living instead of anxiety.


Thanks for visiting my blog. Here I decided to share some thoughts on living with anxiety. It is not easy! I have been an anxious person most of my life, including childhood. I have struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety. These problems run in my family.

I'm not sure what I want to accomplish with this blog. Maybe it will be just cathartic for me. Maybe somebody else will relate to my struggles, and we'll start a dialogue. We'll see where it goes. Just writing this blog makes me feel anxious, but learning to tolerate and live through these feelings is part of the process of freeing oneself from fear.

I'm emphasizing living in this blog's title. I am not letting anxiety shut me down. No matter how difficult life is, I'm not going to let it win. Being hopeful is an important part of the healing process.