Sketching on Sunday

Sketching on Sunday

“I draw like other people bite their nails.”Pablo Picasso

As children, our parents and teachers often directed us to draw pictures, possibly because they understood that our ability to express our emotions through our vocabulary was limited. My childhood is laden with memories of Crayola crayons. It was a special gift to have your parents present you with the deluxe box, which not only featured a vast array of colors, but also the handy, built-in sharpener!

For most of us, we lose the desire to draw when we’ve become adults.

“Drawing is putting a line (a)round an idea.”Henri Matisse

At the heart of most ideas and concepts is a drawing, no matter how rudimentary it may appear. Those who work in marketing and advertising start off their ideas with storyboards because pictures help define ideas. In some ways, I don’t really care about how appealing my drawings are to others. I am more concerned about documenting and expressing a thought or emotion. Once I’ve finished a picture, I feel relieved and inspired to write.

What is it about drawing that makes me feel so much better? Perhaps, it’s quiet, focused, and meditative rhythm of the drawing process. It’s a sense of mastery, to some extent, although the drawings themselves aren’t “masterpieces.” By my standards, I have mastered a creation and a story. I suppose there is always the hope that I will one day get a chance to publish my work, though I fully understand how rigorous the guidelines are to have artwork licensed.

In an article, “DRAW YOUR STRESS OUT With a pencil & brush” by Anna Willieme, the author, artist, and lecturer points out how drawing allows us the opportunity to discover the source of our stress.

“Visual expression can help us get past our inner censor, less active in image-making than in language, and connect with parts of ourselves that may have been blocked off. Working visually, we can access our unconscious with greater ease, where we can find out more about our true selves.”

Making art is a process and that is truly the reason I ignore my sketchbook. I’d rather binge-watch “The Office” or drink a pot of coffee when I want to do nothing at all. Allowing myself to sit around and be a consumer, instead of making good use of gift bestowed upon humanity- to be creators, lends itself to further depression and anxiety. Whereas, if I was to overcome my passivity, I’d be less depressed and anxious. Furthermore, instead of worrying about creating so-called masterpieces, it is very beneficial to one’s well-being to draw something, start somewhere. In this regard, we may be able to look beneath the surface of our subconscious mind.

Think of drawing as meditation for your mind and yoga for your muscles. Once you pick up the sketchbook, you may already have an idea of what you want to draw.

Today, my mind was busy thinking about the looming work-week, traffic, bills, shopping, kids, health, and moods. I’m always guided to draw something pertaining to well-being, mental health, body image, etc. (predominantly, issues many woman mull over). I was somewhat disappointed in what I created- I really wanted to capture a broader range of thoughts and feelings, so I crammed them all in the thought bubbles. If I think about it, there are many more thoughts and worries that I could’ve included!

Sources

  1. How Art and Drawing Can Combat Stress. (2016, June 14). Retrieved from https://www.alive.com/lifestyle/draw-your-stress-out/

The Significance of Purging Material and Mental Clutter

Compulsive decluttering or just a simple distraction to stave off anxiety? Whatever the case, I’m right on track again! Just as with any other time I get exhausted, sick, or overwhelmed, I resort to decluttering my house. This time, it was somewhat benign, as the stuff I got rid of was outgrown clothing and Halloween decorations stashed in the basement.

But, first, a little backstory- yesterday, I drove all the gas out of my car to meet somebody who was sleeping off a hangover. I caught a cold while walking around yesterday, breathing in pollen at the park. And, of course, I’m run-down, tired and angry. It’s Mother’s Day again, and I haven’t spoken to my mother in 10 years. In her mind, throwing out assorted ink pens is more important than a person’s livelihood. There is much I don’t want to discuss my family, but we have differing perspectives on certain issues.

This is the second time in a month that I’ve been sick with a cold or allergies. And I’m dreading going to work this week because when one of the team members in the quality department goes on vacation, I have to fill in. In fact, before my co-worker left for her vacation, she ambushed me to ask me to work this past Saturday. When I said I wasn’t able, she took another jab, guilt-tripped me, and now I’m saddled into working next Saturday!

I get depressed when I’m sick, and I start ruminating. Today I was thinking about how little regard my family has given me and my kids. It usually doesn’t bother me, until I get around “normal” people, enjoying time with extended family members. Maybe I am being unrealistic. Perhaps what I see in an hour of time with others isn’t enough time to truly define how other families function.

When I decided to declutter, I started off with my daughter’s box of clothes from the basement. I told her that I wanted to only keep a few bulky winter garments downstairs. Whatever else that can’t fit upstairs, she has to choose what to donate. Many of the clothes seemed fine, but she had minor complaints about each item she didn’t want.

My son’s box was easy to empty because he outgrew several pairs of shorts. What else was there to go through but the Halloween box? I dumped it out and looked over the plastic mice and bats. I remembered the ugly, heavy-duty extension cords I bought only two years ago to use for lights. For all the work I did putting up the lights, it didn’t look as good as my neighbor’s lighting.

Halloween Clutter

There was some shiny, purple garland that was starting to fall apart. When I saw the gaudy, felt decorations, I was reminded about primary-school artwork. All of these items, I thought I was justified when purchasing because they didn’t contain witches or vampires- nothing more than smiling pumpkins and kitty-cats. I just know that this Halloween, my son will be angry that I got rid of the decorations. He likes to dress up and hand out candy on our decorated porch.

After decluttering, I marveled at how clean and organized the basement looked. I have to obtain the strength to not buy more stuff next year to appease anybody else’s values. I need to take a closer look at what I will do to cope when I have no possessions to donate. Maybe I can get out in nature- away from clutter and needless spending.

 

 

Discovering Hope in the Midst of Depression

For years, my weight teetered around 150 lbs. I had a two-year “resonance” in 2012 when I got down to 135. My restricted diet at that time consisted of yogurt and no snacks in between meal. A few weeks ago, I installed the MyPlate app. Sometimes I logged my calories, sometimes I felt unmotivated and didn’t log my food. I figured I was eating right, even though I was hungry. To quell the hunger, I drank some high-calorie drinks.

In my mind, those delicious, high-calories drinks didn’t count as “real food”. When I felt those familiar carb-cravings, I succumbed to the urge to reward my brain– and in the process, deprived myself of health for simple hunger “fix.” Each day, I drank soda or an iced coffee. Sometimes chocolate milk.

Instead of choosing healthier food that would help my body work more efficiently, I opted to still have fast food. Then I weighed myself last week and discovered I gained 5 pounds, instead of losing any weight. For a 5’3 woman, my weight was too much. According to Rush University Medical Center, the ideal weight maximum for my height is about 143 pounds. I would love to be at 135, but I could accept 145.

Sometimes, I don’t even care that I am overweight. I say I don’t care because I have confidence that I can conquer the battle of the bulge. I know I can’t lose it overnight. It’s a slow process. When I see little progress, I decide I must not be doing something right, so I might as well have a Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino. Or, the family is eating Pizza Hut, might as well “break bread” and have a slice with them.

When I see myself in the mirror, I don’t see an overweight person. It can’t really be me in that mirror! That woman is not really fat, just a little frumpy.

I Have Issues With My Heart

Thump, thump, thump….ever since the doctor asked me if I experienced any heart fluttering, I listen for it more when I am laying down, or when I am at work. I can’t really say much else until I get the Holter device next week.

Anxiety And Panic Attacks

The diagnosis of the “extra” heartbeats (ectopic heartbeats, PVC’s), I’m wondering if I could have something else wrong. I feel as though just thinking about it today at work was making me nauseous and dizzy. In the mirror, I removed my glasses to re-apply fresh eyeliner. My face was as pale as a ghost. Or was it in my head?

Depression

Usually, by now, I’m riding the wave of mania.

No energy, only lots of yawning (despite sleeping 8 hours).

No creativity, no desire, no hope.

I’ve been thinking about how pointless hobbies and writing are to the grand scheme of everything. There is really nothing new, nothing in the world that hasn’t been said, written, painted, or sung about previously. What is life when you take away all the pleasures and activities we stuff into our lives?

Still, I smile at jokes. I enjoy my friends at work. I love my family. There is a lot of brokenness in my family. More significant people in this world have a strong network of caring people. My mother disowned me 10 years ago. There is a brokenness in the relationship, but for me, it is also brokenness about the idea of “motherhood.” Mother’s Day is rapidly approaching.

Last year, I had to leave a church service on Mother’s Day because I couldn’t stop crying. Everybody was watching me too since the pastor called attention to all the single moms in the room. The pain and loss of my own (living) mother affect how I see myself sometimes (for instance, a failure at being a daughter, a failure at not meeting my own expectations of “mother”). Even people that have been rejected or worse, abused, by a mother, still experience a loss when that person is no longer of a part of their lives.

Neverending Worries

Why does it seem as though people like me, people suffering from anxiety or depression, can’t ever take it easy, or enjoy life? Everybody else seems comfortable, quite content and happy in the things of this world.

Here I am in this world. Just like anybody else that you see. A little bit imperfect, no visible clues about the pain inside. Hiding the pain, denying pain, like many people in the world.

Words of Hope

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Matthew 11:28 ESV

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

John 16:33 ESV

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

A doctor holding red stethoscope.

Understanding Unspecified Depression Type Diagnosis

The last seven years of my medical history have been confusing. When I looked over my medical summaries, I noticed I was diagnosed with depression, in some way, shape, or form for these years. I guess since I declined to take prescription medicines for my depression, the doctor(s) may have just decided to not look further into my issues. Maybe they just thought I was resistant, or crazy.

Lately, I’ve been getting stressed at work. In most cases, I think I can manage, but sometimes things are beyond my control. For instance, there are times we are required to work overtime- 12 days straight. Also, the expectations of my company keep changing. More is demanded at times, at other times, I feel bored, unchallenged and unappreciated.

In any event, I knew my previous medical practice wasn’t good for me. I felt like I needed a doctor with good reviews. I researched the doctors in my insurance directory and discovered one in town that was a D.O., instead of an M.D. The difference is an M.D. is a Doctor of Medicine, while a D.O. is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. From my understanding, there is very little difference as far as certification and training:

“While osteopathic programs tend to be less competitive than allopathic medical schools, students in both programs receive similar training. However, osteopathic schools have a stronger focus on alternative therapies, holistic medicine, and disease prevention.” (www.gulfbend.org)

  • This factor appealed to me since I am one that has been resistant to taking prescription medications.
  • I went to the new doctor for convenience (he is located in town, as opposed to my previous doctor, who was about 12 miles from my home).

I went to establish a new doctor, but I discovered I have ectopic heartbeats, or, extra heartbeats. Soon, I will have to wear a Holter monitor to find out more information.

Also, my diagnosis included:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression, unspecified depression type
  • Fatigue, unspecified type.

Depression, unspecified depression type is often used at the beginning of medical diagnosis and treatment. This category is used when there is not yet enough information. Once the doctor has my information, he or she may proceed to choose a more specific condition.

As far as the other conditions are concerned, I suppose I could worry. I’ve read that PVC’s- Premature Ventricular Contractions, can be induced by anxiety. Sometimes the PVCs are nothing to worry about if all else is normal. It could also be a sign of underlying heart disease.

My new doctor asked me if I felt any fluttering in my chest, to which I replied that I hadn’t noticed. I’ve been so consumed about mood disorders, I took for granted the fact that just because I have had a long history of anxiety and depression, doesn’t mean that I can’t have other problems. I’ve been accustomed to “invisible” problems for so long that I ignored my “visible” problems.

Such is the case for me. I become blinded by my own thought patterns. I really wanted my doctor to look into this aspect of my health too.

References:

  1.  https://medschool.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=1158&action=detail&ref=1019
  2. https://www.nchmd.org/education/mayo-health-library/details/CON-20376741
  3. https://www.gulfbend.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=12992&cn=5
woman walking near brown wooden door during daytime

Why You Should Take a Break From Technology

“Technology is, of course, a double edged sword. Fire can cook our food but also burn us.” -Jason Silva

Mobile phones and other electronic devices offer access to an array of entertainment and information. We can access information about anything at any time. We can watch movies, listen to music, and read books with a sleight of hand. But these things are nothing more than distractions. In some regards, distractions can be helpful. When we need to move at a quick pace, listening to music on our iPhones provides that rush of adrenaline we need to hustle.

A diverse group of people who are distracted by cell phones and tasks.

Distractions Are Nothing New

For many years, people have turned to mindless entertainment. Such entertainment is usually wrought little redeeming qualities, but audiences tune in anyway. There’s the stereotypical image of the 1950s, where the man of the house retreats to his den to skim the local newspaper. Women turned to soap operas and television dramas to “escape” their ordinary lives.

In the 1980s, music videos and video games were rolled out to the masses. When people were not watching TV, playing games, or listening to the radio, they passed the time using the phone. Although technology has changed, the concepts are relatively the same. We seek distraction. We seek an escape from reality and our problems. By immersing ourselves in technology, we can feel “engaged” without fully participating in life.

Artificial Happiness

In my experience, I’ve learned that electronics and the various means of communications via electronics (i.e., my phone, laptop, blog, email, social media) provide me with an artificial “high”. Who isn’t delighted to get a new friend request or find some illuminating, esoteric information?

Promises of Opportunity

I was recently seduced by an email invite from a notable online community. I accepted the offer, which involved writing, and realized it amounted to pennies if it amounted to anything at all. Money for impressions, eyeballs, and clicks. The next day I vowed that I wouldn’t let the desire for success or money to cause me to accept such offers.

For others, they may be chasing other promises. The promise of fulfillment, success, friendship, beauty. Advertisers and publishers study our habits and know our desires. Before cell phones and computers, there were magazines, billboards, newspapers, and radio. Now, it is much easier for people to be swept away by advertising.

The Natural Tendency Towards Selfishness And Sin

One could say that greed, not a technology in general, was my flaw. Humans all have a tendency towards sin, whether it’s the promise of easy money (sloth, greed), or the envy of a celebrity, the feeling of adoration (pride), and even gluttony (casually, mindlessly eating while sitting in front of the TV.

Technology, in itself, isn’t inherently good or bad. It is a tool that we use. Unlike “functional” tools, such as an eating utensil, the “tool” of technology lends itself well to human weakness. We love to share our lives with others, yet technology can easily be misused. It also robs us of face-to-face interactions and “real” friends. Too much time online can make people feel lonely and depressed.

Teens Especially Vulnerable To Technology’s Vices

In an article from the Chicago Tribune, titled, “Mobile Phones Linked To Anxiety And Severe Depression In Teens” studies show that feelings of hopelessness and suicide increased by 12% between 2010-2015.

“As smart as phones may be these days, they simply don’t know when to quit. To protect your mental health, experts say you must develop ways of outsmarting them – and often that involves simply turning them off.” (https://yp.scmp.com/news/features/article/108242/mobile-phones-linked-anxiety-and-severe-depression-teens).

For teens, who on average spend 9 hours each day online (Common Sense Research), the use of electronics and technology is especially pervasive. When teens interact on social media, technology can cause harm when they feel excluded from social groups. Additionally, it’s easy to take offense to what others post on Instagram or any of the other myriad of social media.

The Addictive Nature of Technology

It’s important to consider the “feel good” effects of technology, and how we can become addicted to the “reward” our brain receives when we spend too much time online.

“Dopamine is a feel-good neurochemical messenger that carries signals across brain synapses, responsible for motivation and reward-seeking behavior, and essential to neuroplastic change.  Neuroplastic change is what allows a habit or addiction to form in the first place.” (thebestbrainpossible.com).

“All of our technology is completely unnecessary to a happy life.” -Tom Hodgkinson, (British writer)

The Minimalist Approach

In an article featured at Becoming Minimalist “7 Important Reasons To Unplug And Find Space” by Joshua Becker, we can discover some interesting reasons to avoid technology. The reason that resonated with me was  “Powering-down promotes creation over consumption.” Joshua points out that we spend our time in one of two ways: consuming or creating. We spend time reading, watching, playing or browsing. He advises us to power-down so that we can recharge our battery. In doing so, we can inspire the world around us, instead of simply taking in so many distractions.

Shut-Down Technology, Renew Your Soul

Why should anybody fast from electronics and technology? The same reason we should fast from anything in life. Moderation is key. Mindfulness and discipline to keep track of our precious energy and time, and so we don’t become so consumed by worldly pleasures and fleeting things.

Benefits To Your Well-Being

More time for face-to-face interactions.

More Time to create instead of consuming.

More time for personal reflection.

Less time spent clicking unnecessary pages.

Less time worrying about other people’s lives and dramas.

Less time comparing yourself to others.

 

 

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, Joshua Tree, United States

When Anxiety Overwhelms: Rules for Purging Things

Problem: It is difficult for me to identify what causes me to purge things compulsively. It is something I do when I feel anxious and overwhelmed. Decluttering- throwing away or giving away things seems to temporarily relieve my anxiety.

Some of the things I’ve discarded or have given away have been perfectly good items, and perhaps, they didn’t take up much room or appear distracting in any way.

In retrospect, I realize that I wasn’t always this way, although I can easily see that I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, emotions, and disordered eating. Likewise, I can see the times in my life when things were ideal, or when I’ve felt like my true self (euthymic).

Support Systems

During those times, I have coped well and I’ve expressed myself through visual art and writing, exercise and sports. Solid (but imperfect) relationships carried me through adolescence, except for the years when I struggled with anorexia (age 14-18). My grandmother was of great emotional support when I was entering adolescence. Luckily, my sister and I lived with my grandparents during the summer that my parents separated. I was encouraged to draw and go outside to ride my bike while under their roof. Previously, I did not feel free to be a child while living in a dysfunctional home with my parents.

Deciding To “Disappear”

Having a few good friends in high school helped me overcome the misery I experienced in middle school. I was awkward, chubby and lonely before tenth grade. With my friends, I experienced camaraderie and belonging. At home, with the discord of my mom and her boyfriend, I felt invisible at best. At worst, I was awoken by the alcohol-fueled verbal assault of my stepfather towards my mother.

Sometimes I felt I was supposed to be in charge of tending to the emotional wounds of the narcissist in my life who tore me apart with names that caused me to starve myself. I controlled myself and my appearance (at least) by starvation.

muhammad-ruqiyaddin-1367343-unsplash

The more invisible my body became, the more people started to pay attention to me- I was “admired” for my slender physique by the very people I wanted to look like in high school.

From the time I started to become an “adult” (i.e., the period in life that becomes more complex- more responsibilities and learning to focus less on self), my minimalist ways have become the primary thread in the tapestry of life. It is also important to note that at the same time I was becoming an adult, I was more isolated from friends and family.

In reflecting, I realize the following things about being a minimalist (if that is actually the broad stroke that can be applied):

Minimalism and purging for me are cyclic and may be attributed to hormones. During a monthly “cycle” (menstrual), I am wrought with a multitude of emotions and my eating habits become unhealthy. It is during a “cycle” in a woman’s life that we must reflect, regenerate and prepare for the new “phase” in life.

Sometimes simply feeling anxious, overwhelmed or depressed, at any time in the month, brings me to the point of purging things. Two weeks ago, I wanted to chop off my hair for instant relief and regeneration (of a “new” me).

Does purging/decluttering specifically equate to a minimalist lifestyle? When I ask myself about the appearance of the “minimalist” style- the clean lines, simplicity, and functionality of minimalism, I believe the answer is “yes”. But not all minimalists tend to their lifestyle and philosophy because of emotional wounds. Some minimalists don’t soothe their anxiety by way of design choices. Many people choose to live minimally due to religious beliefs, cultural upbringing, even because of thrift, frugality, or poverty.

Going through my “things” (sorting) allows me to think about the needs of myself and family.

For instance, I understand my daughter’s clothing style and choices change over time. It is beneficial for us to go through her closet and decide what should stay and what can be donated. In doing so, I can help her manage her belongings while listening to her needs. Sometimes it takes a while for me to realize that my son will never wear the brand-new jeans in his closet because he doesn’t like the cut- or perhaps I overlooked the fact that his pants are becoming too short!

As a parent, I subconsciously want my kids to remain children forever.

Perhaps sorting and getting rid of stuff- even clothes or toys that are in great condition- is a way to allow them to grow, while allowing me to process this “growth”. Maybe purging and sorting things makes me feel more in control of the process?

 

Not Everyone Approves Of The Minimalist Lifestyle

There are times when other methods or mechanisms may have been better employed. I have purged things of my children’s without discussing it with them (knowing they probably would want to cling onto what I was ready to part with). I should have allowed them time to process the “loss” or have a voice in the matter. In those instances, I could have boxed up the item(s) until a later time.

My minimalist ways have conflicted with the hoarders in my life.

My minimalist ways have also conflicted with the toxic people in my life.

When I shared physical and emotional space with these types, there have been problems with my purging/decluttering compulsion. Compulsion or a lifestyle choice? It is a bit of both for me, hence the compulsion that is the primary aspect of a minimalist lifestyle. The toxic relationships in my life may have exacerbated my habit/disorder (?). It is apparent that it was for the best that the relationships be altered. The process of purging, albeit MINDLESS purging, served as a catalyst for changes in the relationships.

Regret: The process of purging is often sudden and mindless for me. Many things I have discarded have had to be repurchased. Some of the things- drawings, writings, photos and things that have taken time and money to make it into my space- can’t be (easily) replaced. In life, I can sometimes make amends. Other times it is out of my control. But simply “holding onto” things (or relationships, feelings, grudges, wounds) for sake of fear, is unhealthy as well.

Grief Still Remains If You Don’t Handle The Emotional Aspect Of Certain Possessions

I wish I could hold onto some things a little longer. For instance, I would like to keep papers and duplicate photos longer before discarding them. Better yet, I would love to be the kind of person that manages such things creatively- such as making a scrapbook and utilizing them into space, walls, artwork. For this reason, I stay away from talented women on Pinterest. Sometimes I peek into their lifestyles. Other times I follow the other minimalists to see how their managing life. In any event, they may or may not have the same emotions and complexities going on in their minds.

My Minimalism Rules

  • Don’t throw away things when feeling depressed or manic. Wait until moods are “euthymic”.
  • Discuss with children before discarding or donating some things.
  • Read a book on anxiety, stress, spirituality, etc. when feeling the urge to purge.
  • Some notable choices include:

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns

My Age Of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, And The Search For Peace Of Mind by Scott Stossel

Acceptance, Improvement, And Letting Go

Finally, it is often hard to accept myself when I fail others. When I disappointment those around me with flaws- what seems rational to me is irrational to others. I can’t push my beliefs on anybody else, but when I hurt them through my actions (purging), I need to seek amends, if they are willing to accept my peace offerings. My kids have forgiven me when I got rid of a book of a toy they wanted (I often have re-purchased some items $).

The toxic people– those who value possessions above people, or those who hold others to unattainable standards- I’ve let them go for now. I can’t work on myself if I am trying to contend with somebody else’s personality/character flaws. There is no clarity or benefit in such situations.

3 Important People in Your Anxiety Treatment

“People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind then becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgments, guilt, and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and so on.” -Eckhart Tolle

In the US, over 40 million people are affected by an anxiety disorder. Although it is highly-treatable, it’s reported that only about 37% of affected individuals receive treatment. (ADAA).

6 Types of Anxiety Disorders

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Specific Phobias
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

When you consider the various sub-categories listed under “specific phobias”, one can conclude there is a multitude of anxiety types. These subtypes are broadly-defined:

3 Types of Phobias

    1. Agoraphobia– A fear, anxiety, or avoidance of non-specific situations where one may not be able to escape or get help if a panic attack occurs.
    2. Specific Phobia– A fear, anxiety, or avoidance of specific situations or object (i.e, a fear of flying, a fear of needles, or the fear of spiders qualify as specific phobias).
  • Social Anxiety Disorder– A fear, anxiety, or avoidance of social situations. Intense fear in social situations includes the fear of appearing foolish, which can physically by way of blushing, shaking, sweating, etc.

Scientists believe there are a complex variety of factors that cause anxiety disorders, but they can be simplified into two broad categories.

  1. Genetics– A family history of anxiety disorders is a significant indicator of being predisposed.
  2. Environment– Traumatic, stressful, or exposure to violence can cause individuals to develop anxiety disorders. (NAMI).

Identifying the sources of anxiety disorders can be complex and confusing, hence why it is especially important to first see your doctor to eliminate the possible physical cause that mimics anxiety disorders.

It is also important to do whatever you can to reduce or eliminate sources that cause you to feel more anxious or nervous. For instance, you can opt to drink decaffeinated coffee instead of regular coffee. Some dietary choices can improve the physical aspects of anxiety. Simple choices are only the beginning of managing anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Disorders Originate In The Recesses Of Our Brains

“According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are two parts of the brain that are key players in the production and processing of anxiety – the amygdala and the hippocampus.” (Neurocore Brain Performance Centers).

Our brains- and our specific human experiences- are complex and vast, but the good news is that only you fully understand yourself! Conversely, others on your mental health “team” (i.e., your family doctor, your nutritionist, your spiritual advisor, therapists, counselors, and other qualified mental health professionals).

The Family Doctor

You may opt to schedule an appointment with your family doctor before or after you’ve had time to reflect and write down information on your anxiety disorder. You may have learned from school or work that you don’t like public speaking or crowds. It will be most beneficial of you to have notes and information to offer your doctor when attending your appointments.

Don’t be discouraged if your family doctor seems to focus on the “externals” more than the “internals”. The doctor may offer you unwanted advice, such as losing weight, getting more exercise, or reducing the amount of caffeine or alcohol you consume. These are important steps in the management of your anxiety, although, they are often not the only steps to pursue.

Therapists

As I mentioned earlier, each individual has their own unique and complex brain and set of experiences. There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to anxiety. Medications may work for one person but may be ineffective for another. Many individuals prefer to manage their anxiety through therapy. Therapy types are as varied as the individuals seeking treatment, so be sure to have a solid good understanding of each type.

Traditional  Psychotherapy

  • Interpersonal therapy
  • CBT (Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy)
  • Psychodynamic Therapy

Non-Traditional Therapies

  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction model (Jon Kabat-Zinn)
  • EMDR- Eye Movement Desensitization Resolution (Often for individuals suffering from PTSD).
  • Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)- Developed to understand and improve moods, based on biological and social rhythms. (“Taking Charge”, University of Minnesota).

There are other therapies, which include group therapy, family therapy, and emotion-focused therapy. (Types of Therapy).

Help Yourself (And Others) Treat Your Anxiety Disorders

You may be limited in your choices of family doctors, based on where you live or the type of medical insurance you carry. Additionally, your medical insurance may limit the type of therapy or mental health services you can receive. Be sure to obtain a provider directory and handbook from your insurer to ensure you choose providers your insurance will cover, or you may end up paying more than you can afford for your treatment.

Consider what your own preferences are along with what your insurance will offer. Is your local family doctor in your network? If not, you may have to choose another or decide if it’s worth it to pay out-of-pocket.

In addition to receiving medical care and therapy, be sure to consider your own interests, and how they can be applied to help you manage and treat your anxiety.

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” -Socrates.

  • Are you artistic? Why not try painting when you need to calm down?
  • Are you a kinetic person? Do you have lots of energy? Why not try jogging to release some negative energy?
  • Are you an emotional or sensitive person? Why not channel your inner-poet and write something expressive?

When you know yourself, you have insight and wisdom about yourself, and thus, can make better decisions on how to treat yourself. You will not be able to treat anxiety effectively- at least, not in most circumstances, without the help of others. For some, that includes doctors and therapists. Many people wish to augment treatment by using their faith and spirituality. The most important thing to realize is that you can get the most out of managing anxiety if A) you understand yourself and B) you allow others to help.

References:

  1. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders
  2. https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/specific-phobias-and-social-anxiety-disorder-social-phobia/
  3. https://www.neurocorecenters.com/blog/depression-anxiety-stresseffects-of-stress-anxiety-on-brain
  4. https://keltymentalhealth.ca/types-of-therapy
  5. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-types-psychotherapy-are-helpful-anxiety-and-depression
  6. https://www.2knowmyself.com/The_kinesthetic_personality_type
  7. https://sciencing.com/kinetic-energy-potential-energy-apply-everyday-life-15430.html
  8. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201603/know-yourself-6-specific-ways-know-who-you-are
Woman sitting behind green bars, smiling innocently.

Simple Ways to Manage Anxiety and Depression

“Once a week, I like to slip into a deep existential depression where I lose all my sense of oneness and self-worth.” -Bo Burnham

The most helpful part of managing my mood disorder is the fact that my moods are fairly predictable. In more severe cases, it is much more difficult to manage, at least not without the help of doctors. I’ve battled these moods since I was a teenager.

I’m almost certain, however, that I experienced strange things when I was younger. These things I’m talking about are the symptoms one sees when they have experienced trauma. Dissociation, depersonalization, and even involuntary, but subtle, nervous ticks.

So, I’ve battled these moods for many years- anxiety, depression, GAD, OCD. I am familiar with the alphabet soup of mental illness- although, that doesn’t qualify me to dispense medical advice. It simply means, my conditions are much more manageable, so manageable now that I can tell the psychiatrist I don’t want to take the Lamictal or any other drug.

And, I’ve spent so many years on the prescription-drug rollercoaster, to no avail. Well, that’s not entirely true- Prozac wasn’t too bad, except for the occasional electrical surge. Lexapro wasn’t so bad, either. Definitely a pass on Paxil, Buspar, and Serzone.

You might be able to pick up on the fact that I haven’t written regularly for the past few weeks. Today I began to see an improvement in my mood. Soon I will be scribbling away, hopefully finishing some artwork. Now that I am feeling better, I wish to share some simple things that help me feel “at peace.”

Thrive Mindful- Ways To Feel “At Peace”

Shop when the stores are empty.

Get a haircut.

Study a free online course through Coursera.

Play board games with family.

Prank-call a family member.

Play a musical instrument.

Enjoy an open-air, free concert.

Organize photos.

Visit the library.

Ride a bike.

Adopt an animal from a shelter.

Call a long-lost family member.

Wash the car.

Donate unwanted clothes to charity.

Do some yard work.

Explore other WordPress blogs.

Read a good book.

Write a poem.

Organize computer files.

Go for a car ride at dusk.

Watch the sunrise.

Make a list of goals.

Write down 3 things you enjoyed when you were ages 9-12.

Do a free, online personality assessment.

Draw (or doodle) some pictures for your poetry.

Draw a self-portrait.

Rearrange living room furniture.

Invite the opinions of others on topics with universal appeal (i.e, favorites lists of anything)- Promotes diversity and fresh ideas!

Take the family or a friend out to lunch.

Watch a band at the coffee shop.

Schedule a yearly health exam.

Play tennis with some family or friends.

Mental Health Communities And Forums

Finding relevant information and maintaining privacy are key issues for individuals suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. I’ve included some resources that may be helpful for questions and answers.

www.uncommonforums.com: Topics include psychology, depression, anger management, addictions, eating disorders, and anxiety/panic attacks.

www.dailystrength.com: Online support groups for anxiety, addiction/recovery, mental health, men’s health, women’s health, teens, children’s health/parenting and many other health issues in general.

www.sane.org: An Australian mental health website that includes a well-organized forum area. The aesthetic appeal and non-spammy feel make the website worthwhile.

www.beatingthebeast.com: “Beating The Beast” touts itself as an online depression support community, but I’ve discovered useful advice on anxiety disorders, as well as bipolar and other mental health issues.

If you were to write a list of things that make you feel happy or relaxed, what would it include? Is there a pattern in your list?

My list includes a little socializing, some solitude, and purging of unused things that others might want to use. Note that much of my joy comes from reading, writing, and drawing.

No matter how depressed or anxious I become, I try to make an effort to pursue my faith (reading the Bible, watching or reading content online about my faith). One key difference between how I handle my moods now, as opposed to when I was younger, is the fact that I pursue my spirituality. Even when I feel I’ve lost hope or control, there is always something more that governs life and the world around me.

How to Channel Anxiety in a Positive Way

Where Are You On Maslow’s Pyramid?

“We may define therapy as a search for value.”

-Abraham Maslow

Abraham Harold Maslow (1908-1970), an American psychologist best known for “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”- a theory that employs the notion that in order to achieve one’s highest potential, one must not be lacking in any of the four essential needs of the pyramid. Of these four needs that precede the self-actualization level of the pyramid, the following must be satisfied:

  • Esteem- The desire to be valued and accepted, power, recognition.
  • Love/Belonging- Family, friends, intimacy, inclusion.
  • Safety- Money, health, stability, and a sense of personal and family safety, property, employment.
  • Physiological- Air, clothing, food, water, shelter, rest.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs helps outline the components needed to ensure happiness and self-actualization.

Maslow, who referenced his own work as, “positive psychology”, called the four bottom levels of his five-level model, the “deficiency needs.” These needs are called deficiency needs because, without them, we feel uncomfortable and anxious. However, when these needs are met, we are not likely to notice, or feel any different, simply because they are innate needs.

The highest of Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is self-actualization. This tier includes things such as morality, creativity, problem-solving, and spontaneity. Self-Actualization is the ability and desire to meet one’s fullest potential or to accomplish as much as one’s ability allows. Self-actualization is achieved when we are equipped and ready to “level up.” In other words, when we don’t have to worry about the basics, we have more resources available to consider our growth and development.

What Things Hinder An Individual’s Personal Growth?

When a person is living with constant fear, it is more difficult to get their needs met. For instance, when an individual feels threatened, their brain prompts the fight-or-flight response. At that state, it is unlikely that the person who is plagued by fear will have to ability to effectively utilize problem-solving skills. Additionally, that person will be so focused on meeting their safety needs, as well as the need for love/belonging and esteem.

In an effort to subdue distress and anxiety, people often use what Freud called, “defense mechanisms.” Furthermore, many individuals who suffer from anxiety may also substitute their deficiencies. Instead of adopting healthy habits that will help us achieve our needs (and thus, self-actualization), we may feel compelled to feel a sense of love/belonging by controlling our appearance or employing unhealthy eating habits. Another example would be family dysfunction or a dysfunctional household. The teenager who lives in an alcoholic family may undertake the role of the nurturing parent. Another person may take a different route- perhaps by running away or seeking solace by withdrawing from the family.

The How And What Of Defense Mechanisms

While Maslow focused his work on the study of what makes humans happy, the Austrian neurologist, and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud explored other elements of the human psyche, such as sexual energy being the driving force behind our unconscious behaviors. Freud noted several defense mechanisms people use to protect themselves from anxiety.

  • Repression
  • Denial
  • Projection
  • Displacement
  • Regression
  • Sublimation

Freud's Defense Mechanisms

Sublimation: A “Mature” Defense Mechanism

Psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, George Vaillant, contends that many of the aforementioned defense mechanisms can be harmful to us, but concluded that more “mature defenses”, like sublimation, can be productive. Vaillant proposed four layers of defense mechanisms:

  • Narcissistic
  • Immature
  • Neurotic
  • Mature

Some common examples of sublimation include channeling aggression into a sports activity, or painting when one wishes to express, in a socially-acceptable behavior, the pain they feel from a broken relationship.

Sublimation can be used to control negative impulses associated with anger, jealousy, disappointment, sadness, and mistrust.

Many notable creative and literary work have been bestowed upon humanity, most likely, as a result of the use of the sublimation defense mechanism. Van Gogh is reported to have painted one of his most prominent paintings, The Starry Night, while hospitalized at Saint-Remy. The painter Jackson Pollock, employed “action painting” into his creations. The use of movement and expression involved in this type of pursuit likely utilized the sublimation defense mechanism to deal with his own internal conflicts and anxieties.

While both artists had personal struggles- Van Gogh had mental health issues and Pollack had a tendency to become violent when drinking, it can be surmised that their ability to express themselves artistically may have helped them channel at least some of their negativity into more positive ways of dealing with their problems. Possibly, life could have been better for these artists, but we can truly never know the depths of their psyches.

Maslow’s pyramid indicates that one characteristic of self-actualization as the ability to be creative and spontaneous, independent, and honest. Pollock was widely regarded for his authenticity in his painting style. Was he true to himself? Could he have been even more successful as an artist, or even, as a husband to fellow artist Lee Krasner?

Other psychologists theorize that self-actualization involves fulfilling an altruistic need, that is, the ability to serve humanity. Perhaps by using sublimation defense mechanisms (sports, art, science, etc.), we can manage our anxieties until all our hierarchical needs are fully met. We can “fake it ‘til we make it.” Although it is challenging at times to consider altruistic endeavors, once we can find a way to overcome ourselves, we can be equipped to use our gifts to serve others.

References:

  1. https://outre-monde.com/2015/10/01/a-philosophical-cure-for-anxiety/
  2. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/abraham-maslow/
  3. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-monroecc-hed110/chapter/theory/
  4. https://www.simplypsychology.org/defense-mechanisms.html#why
  5. https://www.verywellmind.com/biography-of-abraham-maslow-1908-1970-2795524
  6. https://www.psychologistworld.com/freud/defense-mechanisms
  7. https://psychologenie.com/understanding-concept-of-sublimation-in-psychology
  8. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jackson-Pollock

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Speeding light corridor.

Understanding Anxiety’s Psychological Effects and Syncope

Every once in a while, something triggers my anxiety so intensely that I become physically and emotionally ill. Yesterday was one such day where I felt like I was going to faint. My skin was clammy, my stomach was churning- I initially thought the fruit I ate at lunch was causing the mild cramps in my stomach. I felt so weak and sick that I had to retreat to the bathroom and rest for a few minutes.

What set off the series of unpleasant symptoms was that I got cut on my finger at work. My co-worker was talking to me and I was feeling a little tired and distracted. This proved to be a recipe for disaster, at least, in my mind. As I was talking and working, the cutters slipped and sliced through the middle of my fingernail, drawing blood and stinging like crazy. I quickly wrapped the finger tightly and tried to continue working.

My co-worker suggested the cut may need stitches. When I told her I had cut through the nail and I didn’t think they could “stitch” my nail, she proceeds to offer vivid details about how the doctor might “rip my nail off”. She also mentioned they may apply “New Skin” to the nail, but since she already polluted my anxious mind with details of ripping my fingernail, I grew weak and dizzy. My skin got colder. I told her I had to go for a few minutes to look at the cut and sit down.

Eventually, I found a more helpful co-worker who provided me antibiotic cream. She told me the doctor might stitch under the nail, and apply the liquid bandage to the fragmented nail. I opted to wrap the finger as tight as possible and deal with a more thorough examination at the privacy of my home later that day.

I’ve had a few times in my life where anxiety- and the sight of blood or other bodily fluids, organs and things of that nature, have triggered the same symptoms.

The first time was when I was in elementary school. Our class had to walk down the corridor to look at the science fair entries. One project appeared to be a mason jar with the contents of an animal’s brain. The kids were enthralled by the “brain”. They kept talking about it, and suddenly, everything looked blue and surreal. The next thing I recall is waiting for my mom at the nurse’s station in the school office. The staff doted on me and seemed concerned.

In high school, my mind was occupied about various issues. At this time in my life (age 17), my grandmother had passed away. The funeral and surrounding events- the drinking binges my mom went on after my grandmother’s passing, may have contributed to my episode. It seems like I started getting more depressed as a teenager. I felt I was losing everybody and everything from my life. My friends were all struggling with problems too. Some of them spoke about their experiences with substances. To compound issues, the type of music I listened to at that time was very dark and depressing. This was undoubtedly a confusing and emotional time.

One day, I started to walk to school as usual. I hoped my friend was going to school that day because I could meet up with her and walk together. I remember that there were a Catholic church and school on my path. Every day, I’d pass and gaze at the statues. They seemed eery to me- they didn’t elicit the same emotions I’d feel when admiring art. In fact, they always gave me a morose feeling.

As I continued past the church, I focused my eyes on the Veteran’s Memorial. Suddenly, everything looked unreal and I felt faint. I kept walking and passed a morning jogger who mouthed, “Good morning!” as I dredged on. It dawned on me that I shouldn’t go to school, and I went home.

The final memory of fainting and dizzy spells comes from when I had an appointment at the doctor. I had blood drawn from that visit and I recall the details of blood work seemed vivid and overwhelming.

So what does anxiety have to do with these fainting episodes? I wanted to understand how something that originates in the mind can cause so many repercussions.

Fainting, otherwise known as syncope, is a “sudden loss of consciousness from a lack of blood flow to the brain.” (www.verywellhealth.com). There are a number of factors they can cause an individual to faint-

  • Dehydration
  • Heart Beat
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Anxiety

Before fainting, these symptoms are present:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Blurred or Tunnel Vision
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Shortness of Breath

Psychological Triggers

Although less common than other triggers, anxiety, stress, and panic disorder can all stimulate the vagus nerve- the nerve which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. “The parasympathetic nervous system regulates organ and gland functions during rest and is considered a slowly activated, dampening system.” (www.lumenlearning.com).

Hyperventilation and Hypoventilation

Too much or too little oxygen changes CO2 levels in the blood, which activates the feeling of passing out that often accompanies anxiety, stress, and panic disorder. (www.anxietycentre.com).

Our stress response prompts a release of stress hormones into the bloodstream that is supposed to equip humans to better manage threats and dangers. These hormones cause emotional, physiological, and psychological responses that signal us to respond- fight or flight.

Maybe, in the recesses of my mind, I perceive “blood” as a warning because I am not prepared for such accidents (i.e, I don’t usually carry bandages and first aid equipment). Who will take care of me if I can’t take care of myself? The vivid details of cuts and wounds really disturb my mind. Ultimately, I am reminded that this body of mine will eventually perish.

 

How Early Trauma Caused Much of My Anxiety

I am inclined to believe that living in a stressful environment triggers OCD. As a new mother who suffered from depression and anxiety, the compounding factor of being in a dysfunctional relationship seemed to be the trigger in the development of my OCD.

My husband was an alcoholic and often abused me, verbally, physically, emotionally and financially. I became consumed with the compulsion to discard things in my home. I look back with regret when I realize the importance of things I threw or gave away. Sometimes, I even re-purchased similar items to replace things I threw out or donated.

The process of getting rid of purging became cyclic. I recall, getting rid of items I had stored in plastic boxes, then I got rid of the boxes. I would feel “better”, or just get a desire to purchase something. Then I had to move other things around to “purge” myself when I became overwhelmed by the ritual of shopping.

 

Other times, I got rid of “things” when I was overwhelmed with emotions and did not realize I was not finding a proper outlet for my emotions. My husband only made my condition worse by calling me “crazy” or “unstable.” Sometimes I purged items when I was experiencing symptoms of PMS. He called me “hormonal” when he discussed such issues to my in-laws (who also called me “crazy” and “unstable”).

I was diagnosed with OCD and GAD several years ago. At the time when I was diagnosed, the two disorders were listed in the same category in the DSM. In 2013, the fifth edition of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) remains under the section under anxiety disorders, OCD is under a section labeled as “Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders. Included under this category are hoarding disorder, trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder), and body dysmorphic disorder. Though individuals suffering from GAD and OCD tend to spend much time worrying, the difference is that people with OCD rely on physical or mental rituals (compulsions) to relieve stress caused by an obsession. Those with GAD tend to worry about “real” problems, while those with OCD are plagued by intrusive thoughts that are somewhat illogical or unrealistic, such as unnecessary counting, or a preoccupation with symmetry.

Though my GAD may have progressed into OCD during my marriage, I recall other stages in my life where I have been afflicted by one or both of these disorders. In my twenties, I attended college despite my impairing social anxiety disorder. I rarely made any social connections during my academic pursuits. I managed to take several drawing classes as part of my graphic design course load. I became repulsed by using pencils in my drawing classes. I was unable to pick up the charcoal sticks to complete my work because I was focused on the trail of dust left behind from the materials. The dust was attached to my artist’s toolbox and my portfolio. I spent a great deal of effort obsessing about the dust and eraser crumbs in my tools and supplies. Years after I dropped out of my classes, I tried to save the pieces I had labored over, but like everything else that had some sentimental value, I discarded them too (OCD Almost Destroyed My Creativity!).

Exposed To Adult Life

As children, my sister and I became fixtures at the local bars. From ages 10 until about 12, we were dragged along to a number of bars near our house so my mom could drink and be with my dad. The bar was a dive and quite disgusting. My mom bought us pop and Slim Jims, and I sat at the booth with my sister. Sometimes we were allowed to pick songs on the jukebox (I played, “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac and “Rapture” by Blondie on a loop!).

At times, it felt glamorous to hang out in bars. Other times, it was unsettling to see adults become less inhibited, argumentative, and repulsive. I could get a sense when people were getting too “loose”…almost an innate vide to warn of impending danger (in my adult life, this “sense” was clouded by my own self-doubt and afflictions).

My mom got annoyed when I sat on the barstool next to her, spinning around, so she sent me off with a constant supply of quarters to play arcade games and the pinball machine. When I 12, I was old enough to not have to sit at the bar. At some point, it was decided that I was old enough to take care of everybody else.

I was appointed the neighborhood babysitter- my mom offered my babysitting services to her friend so they could go out drinking. I was given no instructions on how to feed, entertain, or comfort the kids. The house in which I cared for them didn’t appear to show signs of toys, books or anything that could help me occupy the kids while they left us for hours on end. We sat in front of the TV, bored, tired and hungry until they returned after the bars closed at 2:30 AM. Sadly, when I became a mother, I was haunted feelings of inadequacies due to these experiences.

Help! I’m Starving Myself (To Get Control And Acceptance!)

At age 14 I developed an eating disorder. When I stood in front of the mirror, I would section off the parts of my body I deemed too fat. Within six months I had dropped down to size 2 in jeans. I survived by drinking soda and eating just one item per day, usually a school lunch item, as to not draw too much attention to my disorder.

At dinner time, I covered food in napkins, moved food around on my plate, or I simply gave the food to the dog. Eventually, my mom realized my tactics and I had to eat more of my dinner. I still rationed my food, or only ate half servings. This went on for four years. When I overcame one element of my disorder, it manifested in some other way, as in discarding things. Sometimes I purged the food I ingested, but mostly I purged “things”.

My compulsion to discard things is more manageable now. I have limited contact with people that may provoke or trigger anxiety and OCD symptoms. I try to be more mindful by writing in a journal and meditating on my faith. I also keep a few empty boxes out of sight for those times when I feel compelled to purge. My rule is that I must wait a few days before deciding the permanent home for all the “things”. This time allows me to sort my thoughts, gain clarity and determine the reasons why I feel the intrusive thoughts.

 

References:

Glasofer, Deborah R., Ph.D., “What Is the Difference Between GAD and OCD?”

www.verywell.com, July 28, 2016, accessed August 21, 2016.

 

Simple Changes That Improve Anxiety Disorders

“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” -Andrew J. Bernstein

The word “stress” often gets a bad rap, thanks to “anxiety.” Since stress is often the precipitating trigger in anxiety disorders, it is perceived as a negative experience. Stress is defined as your body’s reaction to a trigger and is generally a short-term experience. Anxiety, on the other hand, doesn’t resolve itself once the triggering event has subsided.

Anxiety is prolonged and debilitating. Disorders, such as GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) leave individuals feeling a sense of doom. Although stress can trigger anxiety, more often than not, the causes of anxiety are not always easily identified.

Years ago, I was diagnosed with agoraphobia and GAD. I felt somewhat relieved to know that a “fear of the marketplace” (agoraphobia) was a logical explanation for some of my distress about running errands or going shopping.

In retrospect, I was afraid of being around a lot of people, in situations where I might find it hard to get away if needed. I especially feared being judged when I was a new mother. I feared people might say rude things to my kids, or criticize my parenting style (they did!). A simple comment on how to manage my children when they cried in the long lines, or how I should discipline then if they misbehaved often left me feeling depressed and apprehensive. My head often grew heavy when I even thought about going out in public!

GAD, on the other hand, is a more mysterious anxiety disorder. GAD is defined by WebMD as, excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worries about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for worry. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about health, money, family, work, or school.”

So, what is the proper amount of worry about everyday life events? How much is a normal amount of worrying about important things such as health, money, family, work, or school? Possibly, is it an abstract amount of worry that can only be defined by the extent of uneasiness it causes to an individual? Why do some handle such pressures effortlessly, while others are plagued by apprehension or displeasure?

When I experience agoraphobia and GAD as a new parent (who possibly was afflicted by postpartum depression), I was limited into tapping into a source of support, and sources of guidance and encouragement. However, I took advantage of reading and talk therapy in some support groups. I lacked supportive family and friends, so I had to seek out my tribe. Only those people could understand me. Such groups offered a reciprocal dynamic.

What differentiates my ability to cope with stress now compared to those years?

  • Closer to a supportive family (father and stepmother)
  • Stable job
  • Having a reliable source of income (see above)
  • Wisdom, experience, maturity, insight, perception
  • Ability to reframe events and experiences
  • Writing in a journal when I have a difficult problem
  • Knowledge and implementation of nutrition and exercise
  • Stable environment for my children
  • A work schedule that allows me to maximize time with my family
  • Seeking spirituality each day

For me, changes in environments, income, neighborhood- physical resources, have contributed, I suppose. Experience, wisdom, maturity, insight, and perception have helped me significantly. These things do not occur overnight, nor can a prescription cure all elements of anxiety or stress. Understanding that we live in a dynamic, cyclic and rhythmic world, and forming internal and external patterns to accompany this understanding is a crucial step in coping with stress.

Break Into Smaller Tasks

I have also learned to break up problems and tasks into smaller pieces. If I am faced with a vast amount of tasks that need my attention at once, I can only delegate- to myself, that is, I must assign myself different steps to complete the tasks. And, most of all, I ask for help, even when I think others might judge me.

Allow Time For Issues To Improve

Just as we need time to adjust our internal rhythm, the problems and external forces surrounding our stress need time. Time for resolution, time to plan, time to delegate, etc. Time doesn’t have to be considered an enemy. When we are mindful about stress, we should actively pace our breathing to reset our bodies from a “fight or flight” response to a response that is confident and able to handle challenges.

Stress and Relaxed

References:

  1. (https://www.healthstatus.com/health_blog/depression-stress-anxiety/how-is-anxiety-different-from-stress/)
  2. (https://www.psycom.net/stress-vs-anxiety-difference)
  3. (https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/generalized-anxiety-disorder#1)

 

How OCD Nearly Destroyed My Creativity

One of the things that helped soothe my mind as a child was art. I had a special affinity for drawing people. Teachers noticed my skills and would shine the spotlight on my artwork sometimes. I became known as a good artist by my classmates. I always believed I would choose a career path that utilized my artistic talents. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I started to become disenchanted with the concept of art. In school, art was never very disciplined.

Once I took art classes at college, it was very different. I hated using charcoal pencils, pastels, and paints. My artwork no longer represented my creativity, but rather, it reflected “mental clutter” and oppressive memories. I started purging my pencil and charcoal sketches that I had devoted so much time and energy. I did not want these remnants of my past, for whatever reasons.

In my early thirties, I began favoring a more minimalistic home environment, much to my family’s dismay. I was unable to have any kind of clutter. This meant I could not pursue my art anymore, though I tried to keep my interest in art alive by doing art with my kids. I would buy art supplies, make arts and crafts, then throw the supplies and designs away. It also meant that my husband and I would have arguments over what he wanted to save and what I wanted to discard or donate. He wanted the basement to remain undisturbed. He did, in fact, want to hoard too many things, but the truth is told, he had a point. My thoughts were impeding on the liberties of others in my home.

OCD or A Bipolar Trying To Control External Stimuli?

It’s odd that I started to favor a minimalistic theme in my life. I loved to see art, I loved to be surrounded by cozy objects in other people’s homes- just not my own. My mind became cluttered with stimuli if I allowed any empty space in my house. My kids said our house looked like we just moved in. I tend to agree with them! The mission to maintain a clutter-free house consumed me- OCD Decluttering! Absolute madness, yet disregarded by many that do not see the damage caused by this disorder.

Assigning Values To OCD Stress & Triggers

I don’t know what has caused my OCD symptoms to lessen. Perhaps the passage of time, or maybe I have become more mindful of the destructive ways of OCD. When I have become overwhelmed, I have purged “things”…clothes, paper, the pantry, anything I could get my hands on! I try to minimize things that trigger OCD. For instance, I try to avoid doing too many things I dislike in one day. I won’t grocery shop and drive excessively on the same day if I can help it. Maybe somebody should try to assign numbers to indicate varying degrees of stress for daily activities. I know there are such systems for monumental stressful life events (such as jail, divorce, job loss, etc.). For people suffering from anxiety or OCD, this would be ideal.

Reconciling OCD, Rekindling My Creativity

My OCD symptoms have diminished in the last few years… I haven’t thought too much lately how far I have come with my anxiety and OCD because I have been distracted by other issues. Visiting an art museum has helped me to become inspired by art once again.

In my previous post, I wrote about being happy when I am out in nature. Nature is beauty in its simplest form, no clutter or embellishments. Art is the creation of man (and woman). It is not necessarily simple, yet I find it beautiful and edifying. I have become less focused on intrusive, unimportant worries about clutter, and more concerned about what is involved in the making of the things that are in my surroundings. Processes, engagement, activity: things that are relational help make the visual beauty in a way that has depth. This is beyond what was once shallow. Everything that is material or visual is not superficial to me any longer.

Regaining Control Over Anxiety at Work

Another anxiety attack manifested yesterday. The sudden bout of nervousness and agitation were precipitated by a few triggers.

  • My workspace was invaded and altered abruptly.
  • Physical discomfort and exhaustion from hormonal changes.
  • Working in an unorganized and moderately hazardous workspace.
  • Feeling overwhelmed with workload and expectations.
  • Embarrassment and feeling as though there was no “escape” from the chaos!

I would feel tears streaming down my face as I plotted what I could say to my supervisor to escape the madness I was struggling to contain. He was pushing me and my coworker to do more work, to work in between the seconds we waited for parts to assemble at my production job.

At first, I adapted my workspace to accommodate the changes implemented. After several minutes, I felt relaxed and I thought I was working at a moderate pace. My supervisor emerged and started piling partially-assembled bins on my table (which cluttered the space that I diligently maintained). I thought if I quit talking to my coworker working next to me I could work faster, but after working 7 days in a row, and battling PMDD (PMS on steroids), I realized despite my intentions and efforts, I couldn’t do the task today. I usually don’t assess myself so clearly and easily, but I’m well-acquainted with anxiety and all the masks she wears- the mask of OCD, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, PTSD…even bulimia, and anorexia!

How I Gained Some Control

My choices were limited in the frantic environment in which I was thrust. The supervisor was hounding me to do more than I was capable of doing. PMS was wreaking so much havoc on my body that I had to sleep with a heating pad on my stomach for the past two days, and I used a pillow to elevate my sore feet at night. My mood seemed pleasant, mostly, until Sunday at work. I haven’t felt this agitated at work for a few months. At least, not so agitated that I wanted to leave for the day.

So I devised a way to tell my supervisor that I couldn’t handle working this day. After many interpretations of how I would elicit some shred of sympathy, I opted to find one of my supervisor’s subordinates. She nodded as I replayed the events in my work area and as I told her about my PMDD and anxiety symptoms. Within minutes she was able to get me moved to an area where I could work alone and in an orderly environment.

After I was situated in at my new station, I put in my earbuds and listened to some motivating music to get me thinking about how I would enjoy the day once I got out of work!

Here’s What Helped!

  • Change of environment.
  • Asking for help/support.
  • Being assertive.
  • Listening to music.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Working in a clutter-free area.
  • Working alone.
  • Finding a rhythm- working by the timer set on my new machine, as opposed to not having any timer/or relying on the timing and rhythms of my coworkers.

When Painful Childhood Memories Leave a Lasting Impression

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a distant relative on a genealogy website. She motivated me to obtain and scan old family photos to share on the site. Of course, I was delighted to find somebody that shared an interest in our family’s roots. My dad agreed to let me have his family photos and records.

In the past week after all my work of scanning photos, I felt unsettled. There are brokenness and trauma in my family. My grandfather suffered a blow to the head and died several years after he sustained injuries to his brain. He had two failed marriages and some of his children moved out of state. Whatever his problems were with his wives and children, to me he was my beloved grandfather. To my family, we were all hurt deeply by his death and suffering.

Our family moved into the house my grandfather used to live and my parents began fighting began when I was 10 years of age. I was beginning to put on weight prior to these changes in the home. I can remember being a little on the chubby side back when I was in kindergarten. My mom often ridiculed me and called me, “Tubby”, “Tub-of-Lard,” “Baby Huey” and a number of other variations. Sometimes if I was quick enough, I could see her making fun of my lazy eye, or encouraging other family members to do so. If others tried to console me, she would say that I was trying to be “babied.” After a while, hugs and attention from people embarrassed me. I kept my emotions stuffed and I got stuffed in my appearance! The only time I showed weakness was when I stayed at my grandmother’s house and my mom wasn’t lurking nearby to monitor conversations.

So when I see a few photos of myself from age 5 until age 11, I can clearly see that my problems got bigger at the time of upheaval in our family. When I was 10, I stayed outside every chance I could so I could be with the neighborhood kids, playing baseball, or riding bikes. My stomach had expanded so much that I couldn’t just buy regular clothes. I was relegated to wear “husky” pants (now called “plus” for girls), and they were unattractive. I didn’t want to wear dresses or try to look pretty anymore. This type of behavior went on until I was 14 years old and began starving myself for a few years.

The odd thing was that my mom seemed nicer to me when I lost weight, but she found out I was not eating. In order to avoid fighting, I ate the bare minimum amount of food in her presence. At school and everywhere else, I ate almost nothing and loved to hear my stomach grumble. A grumbling stomach equated with acceptance by others, and it meant that I was losing weight.

Time has a way of helping you change your course, but some pain remains. Therapy probably helps many people, but I just lack the time and commitment to seeing a therapist regularly.