Saturday, January 31, 2009

A taste of recovery

Yesterday I had a taste of recovery.

I did activities that make me anxious but pushed forward through them. If someone interrupted me, I continued on. If I felt like starting over, I didn't. When my mind was cloudy and my vision blurry, I told myself that was OK. And here and there, I started to have some clarity—some glimpses of what it would be like without all this anxiety.

I got a lot done yesterday, and I feel good about that. If my anxiety impaired my performance, then oh well! I did the best that I could. Even though I was anxious yesterday, I know I made progress, and that was a great way to start the weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ending self-torture

Living with anxiety is self-torture. We constantly worry, check ourselves, and obsess over some things and, eventually, everything. Well, I'm getting out of the business of this self-torture. I've tired of abusing my mind with these endless thoughts and worries.

Of course, it's not as easy as saying "That's enough!" and Poof! anxiety disappears. But I think resetting our attitude toward ourselves and our mental health is part of our recovery. This hasn't been easy for me, to accept the unknown and the supposed risks. But I have to do it to get better.

This means just doing what I have to do and dealing with the anxiety without letting it overwhelm me. This is scary, and it's difficult. But it's the only real path to recovery I see. Giving these thoughts any more credibility won't help.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A so-so week

When I was anxious this week, I thought to myself, I'm OK. I'm a good person. I do a good job. This hasn't been easy to do, but it has helped me to push through the things I need to get done.

Also, about a week ago some OCD behaviors started to creep back, such as with washing the dishes or checking the thermostat (I hate to do the latter!). They haven't gotten too bad yet, and I'm determined to not let these behaviors return.

All in all, it wasn't a bad week. I think I'm not buying into my catastrophic thinking as much, so that is certainly progress!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Being ok

My counselor has an interesting theory on why I have so much anxiety in my life: It boils down to not being ok with myself—and all the "imperfections" and "flaws" that make me, well, me!

I know I don't value myself. I don't abuse my body with alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, but I do abuse my mind and spirit with negative thinking. For too long I've defined my self-concept on how I perceive others view me and, being an anxious person, I always assume the worse. Although I'm 30 years old, I've never become comfortable in my own skin, and I've focused on having the perfect home, the perfect body, the perfect job so that others would approve of me.

So no wonder I'm anxious! Too much of my life has been spent focusing on what others think of me (actually, what I think they think!). My internal "critical" voice has become too strong at the expense of my "nurturing" voice.

My counselor believes my anxieties and obsessions at any given time are just the latest flashpoints reflective of a deeper internal struggle to accept and love myself. It admittedly sounds kinda airy fairy, but it makes sense. If I pay more attention to my nurturing voice, find time for me to relax, make myself and mental health the real priorities, and not worry about what I think other people are thinking, my anxiety should decrease.

This is a deep concept, and I hope this post makes some sense. Could overcoming anxiety be as simple—but difficult—as truly feeling OK, authentically believing I am a valuable, worthy, lovable, good person?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Feeling 'stuck'

I feel "stuck." I'm highly motivated to live a less anxious life, and I'm taking steps to do so: seeing a counselor, using flashcards, writing this blog. Yet my anxiety is not decreasing as rapidly as I would like. I want anxiety to stop now, and I want to feel better immediately.

However, I must remember that these problems didn't develop overnight, and they're not going to disappear that quickly either. Overcoming anxiety is a day-by-day journey, and every step down the path to a less anxious life puts me another foot closer to that goal.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Music—another anxiety buster

A couple posts ago, I wrote about the power of laughter in reducing anxiety. I've thought of another guaranteed anxiety reducer: listening to music.

When I'm really anxious or just having a bad day, I like to turn on some cheesy '80s pop or dance music to take my mind elsewhere. Even though I might not feel like it, I'll even sing along (a great way to reduce that shortness of breath feeling anxiety often brings). My current counselor even told me I should sing in the shower in the morning to "start the day right." I readily admit that I'm not a vocalist, but I do find getting revved up by a favorite song to be a great anxiety buster.

Reducing anxiety essentially is about getting back to living—laughing, singing, and enjoying company. Anxiety robs us of all that. We must take our lives back!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ending the worrying about worrying

I overreact when I'm anxious. When I feel those all-too-familiar feelings creep in, not only am I experiencing anxiety, but I become upset that I'm anxious. I start worrying about worrying!

One of the most distressing symptoms I suffer with when I'm anxious is blurred vision and a feeling of depersonalization—feeling "out of touch with reality." I become upset about feeling this way, so I end up fueling the anxiety fire:
  • Doing certain tasks makes me extremely anxious.
  • When I'm so anxious my vision becomes blurry and it's difficult to concentrate.
  • I become upset that my vision is blurry and my mind is cloudy, and I fear these symptoms will impact my performance.
  • Thus, my anxiety level continues to increase.
In the spirit of a new me for a new year, on Monday I tried adopting a new way of thinking. Instead of becoming very upset about these distressing symptoms, I'm trying to remain calm (The opposite of what an anxious mind screams at us to do). After all, I have an anxiety disorder. That's reality, and I can't wish it away. These uncomfortable sensations are part of this disease. I'm doing what I need to do and if I make a mistake because my vision is blurred or thinking somewhat impaired, then oh well! Worrying about these symptoms certainly won't change the outcome and, in fact, will only make me more anxious.

I'm trying to take away the power anxiety has over my life. By attempting to label my anxious feelings as "no big deal," I'm hoping their intensity eventually will decrease. This strategy seems to be working, but it's by no means easy.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Laugh therapy

Today I stumbled across the Web site of L.A.U.G.H. with OCD, a support group in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Its home page presents a powerful and important message: Having a good sense of humor can help people with anxiety disorders overcome their fears.

When is the last time you had a really hearty laugh, in which you burst into tears, snorted, or couldn't catch your breath? If it hasn't been awhile, call a funny friend or watch one of your favorite comedies. When we're laughing, we're not caught up in all these useless fears and anxieties, at least for the moment. And the more joy we can introduce into our lives, the less anxious we'll be.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Liking myself

I am a perfectionist. Some would see that as a valuable attribute, but it's a curse. I find faults everywhere, especially in myself. And when I see myself as flawed and not "good enough," I become extremely anxious.

So I'm redoubling my effort to love and accept myself. That sounds kinda cheesy, but I have to do this.

My counselor says learning to authentically value myself—including my "flaws"—will help reduce my anxiety. She asked me the other day to name three things I like about myself, and I struggled to come up with one. When she asked me to name three things I don't like about myself, it was hard to stop at three! Anxiety was at the top of that list.

Yet if I truly accept myself, "flaws" and all, perhaps I'll be less anxious going forward. I need to discover what I like about myself, as this, instead of my supposed "flaws," should be foremost in my mind.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Finding joy

We people with anxiety are hard on ourselves, always beating ourselves up for feelings and emotions we never asked for and certainly don't want to continue. We are far too often upset, edgy, and moody, so it's hard to have fun and let go. Yet finding joy in life is exactly what we must do to live less anxious lives!

At The Gold Puppy the blogger wrote yesterday:

"As a little girl, my fabulous niece Tovah resolved to 'eat more cake.' Now that's a resolution I can get behind. 'Have more fun,' 'Don't work so much,' 'Goof off.'"

This is great advice (dare I say golden :) for anyone—particularly people with anxiety disorders. Life doesn't have to be so dismal all the time. In fact, the more joy we create for ourselves, the less anxious we'll be!