Everyone Has a “Thing”

If the title of this blog post didn’t get your attention, then, I don’t know what’s wrong with you, haha! (Life with boys will make you laugh at things like this!)

But, in all seriousness, I wanted to write a post on the idea that I know it’s easy sometimes to think that there are all these ‘normal’ people walking around out there, and these people have no issues just because they don’t have the issue that you have.

Sometimes anxiety can make you feel so isolated, and it’s easy for your brain to make you feel like you are all alone and that you are the only one experiencing what you are experiencing.  We all think these thoughts from time to time, and trust me, it’s an easy rabbit hole to go down. I personally feel like there’s a lot of ‘what if’s’. For example, ‘what if my friends don’t understand my anxiety, or worse, what if I lose my friends?’

Here’s the hand-to-the-Bible-honest-truth:  EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING that they feel they are single-handedly figuring out or working through on their own.  Everyone.  Please, please believe this!  I’m not saying everyone has anxiety. I’m just saying that EVERY SINGLE PERSON walking this green Earth has something they are dealing with.

I feel like a majority of this whole ‘everyone else is perfect but me’ thought process comes mainly from social media.  We all get on social media of some type, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter….and see these beautiful feeds, and beautiful websites and success stories.  What we don’t stop to think about is what’s going on behind the beautiful red velvet curtain, that is, social media.  For example, one of the bloggers I follow looks like she has the most beautiful perfect life, the most perfectly dressed kids, the most perfectly decorated house, always sitting right up front at concerts (hello $$$), has really really nice cars etc.  But you know what?  Her husband is overseas, in the military.  He’s never home.  She has to do everything herself.  He was in Afghanistan 8 years ago fighting for our country with no guarantee of coming home.  Can you imagine?

Another blogger/influencer I follow has tried for 8 years to have a baby, and had 3 miscarriages and multiple failed IVF attempts. Can you imagine how many times she probably felt alone and like she was the only one dealing with that situation? PS, she has since had a baby, but it has been an extremely traumatic road to get to where they are now.

There are people in my personal life that I’m around all the time that are dealing with an incurable illness or horrific family issues or have immediate family members going through a stage of life that’s extremely difficult. On the outside, you would never know. If you walked by them in Target you would think their lives seemed perfect.

When we have an issue, however small or big it may be, we have this tendency to feel like we are the only ones dealing with the issue. I don’t like to think of it as being self centered, rather, I think it’s just human nature to have some ‘not so optimistic’ days. If we could only walk in others’ shoes, right?

What I think is important is that we open our minds and consider the thoughts of our neighbors, family members, friends, co-workers and even the stranger standing next to you in the Starbucks line. Be kind. Be forgiving. We are all human and not meant to be perfect. We are flawed and need to realize our actual real life isn’t something we should compare to someone else’s highlight reel.

That’s all it is friends, a highlight reel. Makeup, good lighting, the right photo op, professional photography, a really beautiful house (let’s be honest, it’s only clean for photos and all the clutter is stashed in another room) or a career that seems fun. Also these people have full time assistants, house cleaners and nannies most of the time to run their business online so that you continue to see the pretty highlight reel.

Think about this? What if a stranger stumbled upon your social media and looked at the last 10 photos and posts? What if the same barista at your local coffee shop saw you come in day after day and thought they had you pegged? What would that look like? I can almost say with certainty that there are people out there that would think YOU had the most perfect life, and watched YOUR highlight reel.

I was tired of the comparison game, personally. We live it enough in real life that the last thing I wanted to do was live it on social media too. So, I did a social media ‘dump’. I went through Instagram and looked at each and every person I followed and if they made me feel like I could never compare or if I felt if we met in real life, we would never have anything in common (or if their faces were full of filler and they used a filter all the time), peace out ✌🏻!

It honestly felt so good to get rid of almost 100 people that didn’t contribute to my life in a positive way. I challenge you to do the same!

I’m going to wrap this up by giving you a few things to think about this week, especially since we’re so close to Christmas; places can be more overwhelming and people can be more emotional than usual.

**I CHOOSE to speak out about my struggles with anxiety (panic disorder and OCD) because I know, for me, being open and talking about it helps! I also love that my voice is helping others!!! However, keep in mind that not everyone is like me, and there are a lot more people out there going through something that don’t want to talk about it.

SO

**Be empathic

**Be sincere

**Be understanding

**Be an ear for someone

**Be a support for someone

**Reach out to friends and family that may need a support system

**Keep your patience

**Be aware of what your surroundings entail. Maybe there’s someone out there that may need a helping hand more than you realize.

**Be thankful. A thankful heart can never be anxious.

Xoxoxo (& Merry Christmas, friends!!!)

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Anxiety Series, Post #3: Things That Help Me (Coping Strategies)

**I am not a doctor and do not have the skills to tell someone what medications or supplements/hormones to take**  (Like you didn’t already know….but just in case haha)

As many of you know all too well, having anxiety certainly is a rough road.  Some days are rougher than others.  I think once you accept that you have really bad anxiety, you can focus on what a plan of attack would look like. Though I’ve had anxiety since 4th grade that has progressively gotten worse over the years and turned into OCD and panic disorder (read the whole story HERE), it wasn’t until this year that I really accepted that I had some pretty bad anxiety and only I could take control of it.  Yes, the past couple years, I would tell people that I had OCD/anxiety in hopes they would listen.  I would try my hardest to tell people I had these things and felt these feelings and how they negatively impacted my life, because I so badly wanted people to understand what I was going through.

What I realized this year, was that I was going about it the wrong way.  I have truly accepted I have these things; these panic episodes, the contamination OCD, the general anxiety….but I have not truly pushed through to find and share my voice, my opinion and my story.  The fact is, there’s literally NOTHING to feel bad about, and I shouldn’t feel like I have to get acceptance from others or be ashamed of anything.  Anxiety is all around us.  It affects so many people, on different levels, every second of the day.  This realization of knowing and sharing my own story has actually become a blessing to me, how crazy is that? To be able to talk about these things feels so refreshing.  To share what has worked for me, to share my struggles and to receive the feedback from all of you, has made me so happy.  I feel like I get to use the TEENY TINY platform that I do have (seriously, it’s small), to talk about something that so many people struggle with!

So today, I wanted to share some things that have helped me work through some of this anxiety.  Beware:  they are random and glorious at the same time.  And also, I just want to say, dealing with anxiety isn’t something that you can magically get great at over night.  I know I personally have a long way to go, but I feel in my heart of hearts that some of it has gotten better, which is why I want to share.  I was always on the search for “something”…for years, that I could relate to, or someone I could relate to, that would fill my brain with positivity, so basically I want to be a friend and let you in on what I’m doing.  Some of these may work for you, some may not.  We are all unique!  If these methods don’t work for you, keep trying to find your own!

Here are some things that have worked for me (in no specific order):

**Therapy:  I can’t say it enough.  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE BROKEN (or feel broken) TO GO TO THERAPY!  It doesn’t mean you are weak, it doesn’t mean you don’t love Jesus enough to depend on prayer alone (trust me, I love me some Jesus and I pray all the time), it doesn’t mean you are a crazy person.  There are tons of benefits of talking with a therapist.  I really think everyone….that’s right, everyone, could benefit from seeing a therapist regularly.  Here’s the main thing you have to keep in mind while considering therapy:  you have to finding the right therapist for you.  In 2013 when I was diagnosed with OCD, I didn’t see a therapist until 2015.  I had no idea how to find one or what to look for.  All I wanted was someone close to my house or my work, and an actual psychologist, not a counselor.  I had no idea what to expect, and let’s just say, I hated it. I felt like nothing was getting any better and I was paying this lady 130.00 a week to sit and talk about things that weren’t even useful tools to overcome my anxiety.  I stopped going after 7 or 8 months and was completely turned off by the idea of a therapist because I had such a negative experience.  It wasn’t that the therapist I went to was bad at her job, she just wasn’t a good fit for me.

This past (late) winter when I was diagnosed with panic disorder, I knew I had to start my search all over again for a therapist. It took 3 months to narrow options down and get suggestions and recommendations from others, but I hit the jackpot!  I finally found a therapist that was able to target the issue, hit the ground running really hard and actually give me tangible skills that helped me overcome some of the anxiety battles I was facing.  When I started seeing her, I was going twice a week, and am now going once a week, and feeling like there are some weeks I may skip as I continue to progress.  It literally just feels like the weight of the world has been taken off your shoulders when you go to talk to someone who can give you helpful tools to achieve your end goal.

**Medication:  Everyone says this is such a touchy subject, but honestly….why?  If you have a sinus infection, you take an antibiotic to get better right?  So, what’s the difference between that, and having severe anxiety and needing medicine to help regulate some of the levels in your brain that cause the anxiety?  There is no difference.  What helped me the most was getting a genetic test done, that showed what medications would work the best for me, based on my cellular make up.  There are a blue million anxiety medications out there and I think I’ve tried 7 or 8 of them over the past 16 years, but after having the genetic test done, my doctor was able to narrow the playing field a bit and switch up my medicine to something my body would respond to better.  In my case, the test showed I had a receptor block on all SSRI’s, which make up about 70% of all anxiety medicines.  Which, also explains why I showed no improvement with some of the medicines I had been on in the past.  I also had a test done at my hormone replacement doctor’s office that would measure my levels of dopamine, serotonin and nor-epinephrine.  As my doctor suspected, I had extremely high levels of nor-epinephrine, which meant my body was constantly in fight or flight mode.   So, to those out there that say “oh you can heal anxiety naturally, you dont need medicine.”  Cool.  But I DO.  I can’t just use lavender essential oil or some combo of anti stress oils (side note: I love my oils…thieves oil is used every night on our kiddos) or CBD oil, or some natural anxiety supplement and have it all magically go away.  My brain actually produces too much nor-epinephrine and not ENOUGH of the chemical (excuse my lack of medical terminology) that calms my brain down.  So I do take the medicine, and it does help.  But, you should also know that you cannot rely on medicine alone.  To TRULY OVERCOME anxiety, and by overcome, I mean learn which tools help you battle through it, you have to do more than just rely on a pill.

**Meditation and Mindfulness:  Meditation is something that completely took me by surprise.  My therapist suggested it when I first started seeing her, as a way to practice slow breathing and to try and calm my thoughts.  I thought “oh great, how the heck am I going to navigate this one.”  I looked on You Tube and watched a few and wasn’t really impressed.  For whatever reason (because I usually don’t turn to the good ol’ iTunes app store), I found 2 apps that looked like they would be promising.  On the way home from North Carolina this summer, we were at a rest area in West Virginia and I started listening to the free meditations on the Calm app.  I kinda toyed around with it for a few days, trying to start this meditation habit and finding which ones I liked and which ones worked.  There’s a lot to choose from, and honestly, I ended up purchasing the full expanded version of the Calm app.  Meditation was CRUCIAL for me the first 2 months in my journey of battling panic disorder.  Every morning, I would do a quick 10 minute meditation.  I get it now, there’s a reason why people think meditation is all the rage.  You guys, it feels like you are wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, sitting by a place you love the most, thinking CLEAR thoughts.  Meditation puts you in a state of mindfulness.  You are sitting in the here and now and it just feels so great.  No worries, just what’s around you at the time.  It just feels good to start your day with such a positive vibe.  On harder days, I would also do them at lunch.  Just a quick 10 minutes on my lunch break….to reset.  For those of you that don’t know much about meditation, there are meditations for literally everything; self esteem, mindful eating, relationships, health issues, kids, creativity, dreams etc.  You can even fall asleep to nightly meditations.  My psychiatrist was pumped when I told him I was trying to meditate and figure it out.  He and my therapist both kept telling me I had to “get good at it” before I noticed the benefits and had the tools in my pocket.  It’s true.  I did this almost every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day, for maybe 3 months and I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it about a month into the practice.  Mindfulness is a key tool in overcoming anxiety and meditation can get you there.  Try it!

**Books that helped me:

~~The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety by Alexander L Chapman, PHD.  My therapist suggested I order this on Amazon before I even began my first session with her.  It “teaches” mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

~~Dare by Barry McDonagh.  I haven’t finished this one yet, but the first 5 chapters introduce the method.  It’s pretty awesome!  It’s a great resource to have handy!

~~Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.  Yes, it’s a self help/motivational book.  But hear me out, this book led me down a rabbit hole I am so glad I fell down.  Everyone around me was raving about this book.  How great it was, how motivational it was.  The truth is, I don’t have a ton of time to read and I was focused on doing “all the things” to try and get myself out of the panic disorder cycle my body was in.  I ordered the book on Amazon mainly because everyone else did.  Peer pressure haha, jk.  After reading the first couple chapters, I was thinking “man, this chick is pretty cool, I feel like I need to know more, because there are some eerie similarities here; maybe I should check out the podcast everyone ALSO keeps raving about.”  That’s when it happened.  I found Rachel’s podcast (her podcast is titled Rise, btw) on how she handled her debilitating anxiety.  It was all over after that.  Everyone finds a message that speaks to them….that podcast was LIFE CHANGING for me.  Every word out of her mouth, I was nodding my head “yes, that’s me, uh huh, yep, so true, holy cow that happened to her too?!?”  I could have cried after listening to this.  FINALLY, there was someone I could relate to, someone my age, that wanted “all the things” and knew they were made for more, but had to overcome this freaking mess called anxiety.  FINALLY.  Someone who powered through and made the best freaking lemonade life could make out of crappy lemons.  Then I started listening to Dave and Rachel’s daily live streams.  If you don’t watch them, you should.  These live streams replaced the morning meditation for me.  They are typically 20-30 minutes and inspirational as a motha.  So the moral to this story:  for me personally, the best thing I have done for myself in this anxiety relief journey, along with my kick ass therapist, was finding the wonderful Rachel Hollis.

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.  Ok, I can’t comment too much on this since I’m only on page 30, haha.  BUT, if you purchase the book, it comes with a free 31 day mentoring session.  Pretty cool huh!  Mel has battled her crippling anxiety by using her method (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) and fought lots of other battles using the same concept.  I can’t wait to dive in and read the rest of this book.  Also, she does a coffee chat in the mornings that always are about an interesting topic.  These are usually at 9:30 am, so I have to watch them on my lunch hour, or after work.

**Moving Your Body:  It’s true.  Get up.  Move your body.  Walk, do jumping jacks, wall sits, push ups, shake your arms and hands, stretch.  Moving your body makes your brain think about something else.  If you are home, go for a walk outside while blaring some rap or alternative music, get on the treadmill, run up and down some stairs or lift weights!  If you are at work, get up and stretch while taking deep breaths, walk/pace your office or the hallway for a minute or two, do 10 lunges or just shake your body from head to toe for 30 seconds.  Anything that requires a different movement than the normal routine is going to lead your brain down a different path, and some of the anxiety should dissipate.

**Miscellaneous Tools: Find music that brings back amazing memories and listen to it in times of stress or panic.  Journal your struggles and the steps you took to help conquer them.  Journal 5-10 things you are grateful for, because, as my therapist has told me since day one…a grateful soul cannot be both anxious and grateful at the same time.  Pray.  Get your hormones tested and if need be, be open to taking non synthetic hormones to help gain some balance in your body.  Call or text old friends and reconnect with them over coffee or wine.  Find an online community that may be struggling with what you struggle with and look through their suggestions or go do something special for someone.

These are some of the things that have helped me.  Some of these things may work for you, some of them may not.  But, I thought it was important to share the combination of things that worked for me.  Like I mentioned above, just taking medicine, or just meditation is not going to “cure” severe anxiety.  You have to find a combination of things that work for you, and use all of those tools together, to power through.  You know the saying “it takes a village”?  Imagine a village with 30 houses, and each house is a different tool.  You are in control of the tools you use, but it takes the entire village, not just one house.  As I learn and evolve more into my journey, I’m sure my village will get bigger and that’s the hope!

I hope this helps some of you, or leads you in a direction of what different options are available out there to try.  And also, when I say try, I mean really try.  Give them a solid 2-4 weeks to work and for you to master the skill.   Powering through the traffic jam of anxiety is not easy.  If it were easy, no one would have anxiety.  Be patient with yourself and accept that you need a change of habit to change the way you think and to acquire the skills you may need to help you through your own journey.

Xoxoxo

Mary

Handling Situations with OCD

The first thing I wanted to talk about is how I deal with contamination OCD in everyday situations.  After all, this was the first anxiety disorder I was diagnosed with that has totally changed the way I think about simple things.  I was going to make the focus of this post of what a “typical” […]

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Anxiety Series #1: Let’s Talk Background & How I Got To Where I Am Now

How do you post about something that makes you uncomfortable?  Wait, WHY would you post about something that makes you uncomfortable?  I really have no idea how to start this post or what I could use as a catchy opening paragraph that would lure you into reading what’s to follow, because really, it’s a scary […]

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North Carolina Has My Heart

Before we really begin the story, there are some things you need to know about me.  When I was 12 and in 7th grade, I suddenly fell in love with all things North Carolina.  That was also one of the years UNC went to the championship game for college basketball.  I’ve never been a huge […]

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