Be your own BESTIE, or your own ENEMY: Living with Anxiety
Let’s just dive right in. Shall we?
Knowing what I now know about anxiety, I’m surprised that in 2003 when I was diagnosed with depression, the doctor didn’t diagnose me with anxiety as well, as they go hand in hand. This was at the height of dealing with some seemingly difficult relationship issues. I was officially diagnosed with anxiety in 2010. I was also dealing with some emotional traumas brought on through a difficult relationship at that time. See the pattern here? I was told I had, “situational depression”; that it was brought on by circumstances in my life, and that it was merely a short-term, stress-related type of depression. It can develop after you experience a traumatic event or series of events. Situational depression is a type of adjustment disorder. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/situational-depression
Pretty accurate. I was against taking medication at that time. I didn’t believe in it. I’m tough; I’m resilient, I said. I can get through this. All I need is a positive outlet. So, yes you guessed it, I did what I do best… I wrote. But in 2010, when I began to experience faint spells, shortness of breath, extreme heart palpitations, I knew it was time to seek help. The physician, while knowing my stand on not medicating, encouraged me to take the anxiety medications she was prescribing. She promised it would stabilize my heart palpitations and my blood pressure. So I did, under the impression that once I was “stable”, I could stop taking them. And off we went.
It would be some years later before I had another episode, but in that moment I realized. Not only is it okay to allow yourself to surrender to the aide of non-conforming methods to treat this diagnosis, but that it was also time to change my habits. I remember thinking, if something were to happen to me, right here, right now… who would take care of me? With my family living in South Florida, I had nobody. I had to pull it together. My son was nine years old at the time. It was smack dab in the middle of a time where he was actively involved in extra-curricular activities. For me that meant, mommy-mode activated! He had sports, he had cub scouts, he had school, and I had a career… PULL IT TOGETHER LIN! And I did. Ultimately. Once I was stable, I had done some restructuring of my mind. I started counseling. I had to find out, why I kept “putting myself” in these positions? Clearly, I can’t figure this out on my own. And this helped me. Finding an unbiased outlet where I could release my inhibitions and actually do as they said for the chance at a cloud free life; it was just what I needed.
I began to incorporate healthier habits in my life. Self-care became optimal for me. I developed a workout routine, and I followed it. I held myself accountable. I made changes to my living environment. I pulled up my boot straps (after crying it out in the middle of a newly rented four bedroom home in the dark, I CRIED IT OUT). I packed up, I found a new place. I moved in, and I started rebuilding. Slowly, I started to find my safe space. But it took time. I was so hard on myself. We do that you know… we are our own worst enemy.
Nonetheless, despite my efforts to improve, I still participated in negative-self talk. And then I’d pull myself out of it. This yo-yo effect of destructive behavior continued until I was over it. And I was, OVER IT. Even in those moments, though the word of God was a safe haven for me, it wasn’t what I first reached for. Instead, I wanted to escape. I wanted to just start anew. I wanted to feel happy, and joyful, and special again. My nine year old son’s company, though warm and inviting (insert laugh here) wasn’t cutting it at the time. I found that in a friend who invited me to travel. And guess what, I DID! By myself… across the world… for the first time ever in life… on a seventeen hour and thirty minute flight to Chania, Crete, Greece where he was stationed with the U.S. Navy. Then off to Athens, then off to Rome, Italy. Again, exactly what I needed at the time. I felt free. I felt changed. (See the travel pictures on my Instagram Travel Highlight) https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17923551166510500/
It re-centered me. I returned home with a new sense of purpose. With an ignited soul. There was nothing I couldn’t accomplish now. I traveled halfway around the world on my own. I saw monuments and parts of history (for a history buff like me this was major) that I had only seen in history books. I was changed. And ready to take my life back.
Some years later I experienced anxiety again after cancer claimed the life of my son’s daddy; who I perceived to be our guardian angel. In that moment, I welcomed prescription assistance. Again, to stabilize my vitals. My son was crushed. If you’re a parent, seeing your kid emotionally broken is a pain that’s hard to endure. But we got through it. This time I knew better. We dove right into the word. And we were lifted, in time, we were better. We were encouraged, we were reminded of all the amazing things his life left behind and how much life we knew we just had to live. A reminder of his love for life despite his circumstances.
It’s a journey guys. A roller coaster yes, but one amazing journey. You know life well enough to understand that those life tragedies can and will present themselves at any given time. The point is, you must be prepared. Are you in between episodes? Start developing a plan now.
- What are the things that get you out of a slump?
- Have your doc on speed dial if you’re open to discussing these issues with them.
- Find a mental health provider you connect to.
- Develop a support system that will not only understand when you’re ready and willing to talk, but even most importantly when you’re not.
- Develop a healthcare routine to increase your endorphins levels. Endorphins help relieve pain and reduce stress. Just what you need in those moments.
Here are some alternative methods as well:
All, extremely and helpful ways to manage your anxiety. But take this seriously! This isn’t a fad-like, trendy thing to incorporate into your day because everyone is doing it. It’s critical to your health and well-being.
So, how do you stop yourself from being your own worst enemy? I’ll always bring it full circle with a book. There were two in particular that helped me during this time. Both books I’ve either purchased for others (numerous times) when they’ve struggled through similar circumstances; or I’ve given my only copy away only to go and purchase another. Back in 2003, this one gave me so much understanding, for those currently going through a similar circumstance, I encourage you to read, “Loving Him without Losing You, How to stop disappearing and start being yourself,” by Beverly Engel, available for purchase on Amazon I’m sure, but you can find all her great works here http://healmyshame.com/books/
In 2010, at the height of my first bout with anxiety I read, “The 7 Things that Steal your Joy,” by Joyce Meyer. Though I couldn’t locate the book on her official site, here’s the link for your own viewing pleasure. She’s got many outstanding self-help and inspirational books. https://joycemeyer.org/shop/Books%3djoycemeyer_usa-books
If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m an independent thinker. As an independent person, I’ve always wanted to help myself. How ironic right? Always looking to help others, but I much prefer to help myself. Self-help books became my saving grace for that very reason. Whether you’re open to help or are more likely to find help yourself as I did, the goal is to strive for improvement. For progress. For healing. Whichever path you decide to take, I hope you know… I am here for you as well.
My prayer is for this to have blessed you in more ways than I will ever know. Now go on, and be great. Be HEALED!
Choose YOURSELF, every time!
Before I prepared this post, I had a different message aligned. It was supposed to go a lot differently. I was going to harp on all the amazing things you can do for yourself. How amazing it is to spend time alone. How soothing and relaxing it is to have that quiet place , that stillness. All the things I’ve incorporated into my daily life. The things that have helped me. I was eager, I was excited, I was ready… and well. I’ll still share… but God sure has a way of making us practice what we preach.
Shortly after my last Instagram post where I talked about the importance of “Pouring into Ourselves,” my family was hit with a personal crisis. During that time my brother-in-law was admitted into the hospital. This wasn’t uncommon for him lately with many of his health complications led by Hydrocephalus which he was diagnosed with at birth. Though, this time was different. All the while, we still stayed prayed up. There were signs of improvement, then signs of decline, then signs of improvement, then… well, things took a turn for the worse. We still remained hopeful. Even when the doctors said hospice was the next step in this journey. After all, doctors also said he wouldn’t live past 16, and here he was at 52.
We visited him day in and day out looking for signs of a miracle. I played his favorite music each time we met in that hospice room and I swear I saw signs of life. Just a glimpse, just a glimmer… of hope. That’s what it was, hope. For the scripture reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews%2011&version=KJV;NKJV;NLT
It was a whirlwind of a week. On April 1, 2021, as I celebrated my son’s 20th birthday I also woke up to the sad news that my brother-in-law went on to be with the Lord. Through April 10, 2021 we grieved, received family in our home, and attended his funeral. All this while we were also finalizing arrangements for his final resting place. There was so much to do, as well as many things and people to consider. During this time I disconnected from most interactions, from social media, and the world at large. Stopping in between for moments of reflection. Spending time with the Lord also took a back seat during this time. Surely there were moments of prayer, but not in the way I’d grown accustomed to doing so lately. My routine was flipped upside down. And like a whisper in the wind, a dear friend reminded me of my very post. She said, “Give yourself the time you need…” https://www.instagram.com/p/CNH5Af4BBE3/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
That’s when I realized, I also I hadn’t read my devotionals, my daily word, my bible scriptures, or meditated. I hadn’t worked out, or written (except for my new task to write his obituary, and a very difficult task that was). Signing on to my social media page apologizing to my followers for my absence. I couldn’t be the inspiration even I needed at the time. I had to take care of me first.
Opting to chime in every now and then to keep some momentum going. I also leaned on comfort foods during this time, a big no-no, but for the time being it seemed to help. I also loaded up on healthy energy supplements for that added push to help me get through the day. I felt depleted. But GOD. We made it! I’m back to the word, to my place of peace. My time of solace, to regroup, and recharge. Back to my workouts. I’m on day two of a three day cleanse to rid my body of the unhealthy toxins I fed it during this time. (See link for details) https://www.teambeachbody.com/shop/us/d/3-day-refresh-complete-kit-3DComplete
Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy. He always helps me find my way back.
Sometimes we need those gentle reminders. Sometimes it takes a tragedy for us to realize that we’re in over our heads, and other times it’s our health that shows us signs that we need to slow down. Then there are your friends, the outsiders looking in. They see you spinning your wheels. Those angels on earth that are concerned for your well-being. They want to see you shine. They want to see you excel, be joyful, live your best life. Why? Because YOU DESERVE IT! That’s right. YOU- DESERVE- IT!
So you’re a single mom. You work two or more jobs to put food on the table. You don’t have time, to take… for yourself, you say. YOU DO! Even in that brief moment where you need to take a bath, draw a hot one. Once the kids are off to bed, tucked away in their rooms… sprinkle some bath salts, light some candles, and enjoy some aromatherapy. Make yourself a priority, if even for 15 minutes. Close your eyes. Pretend you’re floating in the water off the coast of Croatia, or Mykonos… or, hey, even Destin, Florida. Just take that time.
So you don’t like baths, no problem! Choose what brings you joy. Imagine a day where you can spend a few hours in that space, then develop a plan to work this in to your calendar. Rally up your support system. If they love you, and I’m certain they do, they’ve probably offered to be there for you a long time ago. Take them up on it. JUST DO IT!
How about a simple quiet moment of reflection. At the park, listening to the sound of the birds and the leaves blowing in the wind. In your bed room, put some headsets on. Play some meditation music, allow yourself a moment to breathe, to sink in to your bed with the soothing sounds of the calming ocean. Before you know it you’ll be so relaxed you would have drifted off to sleep (WARNING: make sure you don’t have anything that requires your supervision during this time… because YOU WILL fall asleep; speaking from experience).
What I’m trying to say here is… take time for yourself. Don’t wait to be over-exerted to do so. Though you’ll still enjoy it, you won’t value it as much as when you are intentional about creating that space and time.
For some additional self-care tips, click the following link:
Hope this helps!
PEACE of mind.
Let’s talk peace. I mean, what is that? Like, really? Peace? Maybe you’ve never even considered the thought. After all, when’s the last time you had some? Peace, that is. Get your minds out the gutter.
Webster’s dictionary defines it as:
1: freedom or a period of freedom from public disturbance or war 2: a quiet and calm state of mind. 3: agreement and harmony among people. 4: an agreement to end a war.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peace#:~:text=1%20%3A%20freedom%20or%20a%20period,agreement%20to%20end%20a%20wareace: in a state of concord or tranquility
So, let’s start there. When’s the last time you felt undisturbed, calm, harmonious, and FREE? Many times people think it takes a lot to get there. Mentally, maybe… but physically? Nah. You can literally walk yourself to a peaceful place; a calm environment; a quiet oasis. You can drive there, you can skip, you can… well, you get the point… you can physically take yourself there. Why haven’t you? What obstacles are in your way?
With the current state of our world, it’s becoming more and more important for us to find that peace. We can get so caught up in doing the right thing, wanting to stay on top of the current events, and in being present… that we forget that sometimes the things you think are the “right things to do” are often bringing you spiritual chaos. They get you riled up and do the opposite of what you’re seeking. It disturbs your peace. Peace begins within. You can say you’re doing the right thing for others, but, what are your true motives? Is it coming from a peaceful place, or a reactionary place? Is it because everyone’s doing it and you don’t want to seem like the odd man out, or are you called to do something about it?
Think of the many peaceful protests that occurred in our history and how much impact they had. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963, The Women’s Suffrage Parade in 1913, and the Medals Heard Around the World in 1968, just to name a few; but I digress. https://darlingmagazine.org/5-times-peaceful-protests-made-difference-history/
What I’m getting at is that, just like in times of old, when a peaceful protest was meant to accomplish an overall goal, the initiation of some improvement… you can also find that seeking peace within yourself does the exact same thing. The ultimate goal… JOY, HAPPINESS, QUALITY OF LIFE, FEELING ALIVE! That’s right. Can you imagine? Waking up each day and feeling like that? Just the thought of it fills me with joy.
I recognize finding that peace can be difficult. I know it can be a battle of the mind. Our thought patterns are the root of the problem. I’ve learned to eliminate certain words from my vocabulary, “I can’t” “It’s too hard” “Why me?” “What if?” Easier said than done, I know. But nothing is impossible when you’re trying to make a positive shift in your life. Sometimes peace is hard to seek when you’re filled with resentful thoughts. We all have them. It’s important that we learn to look at life half glass full. Understanding that sometimes things that occur in our lives do so for our good. Ever consider that? Refer back to my Blog Series Two titled, Healing in Your Own Skin and read, “Sorry, Not Sorry?” https://issalivestyle.com/2021/03/15/healing-in-your-skin-series-two/
So how do you get started? Wondering if there’s a giant “magic peace wand” somewhere out there? You already know the answer to that. NOPE. It’s going to require some work on our behalf. What better work to do than the work we can do within ourselves? As written in THE BOOK OF JOY, “nothing beautiful comes without a measure of pain, frustration, and suffering as with child birth.” Soon you’ll be a “reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that ripples to those around you.”
(From the Book of Joy, By H.H., The Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu). https://www.dalailama.com/books
Need a helping hand to get there? Here are 14 practices you can apply in your life:
- Mend what is left gaping and unaddressed with people. (as uncomfortable as this may seem, IT IS NECESSARY)
- Finish your unfinished business. (both personally and physically with unfinished projects)
- Clean out the clutter. (both in your mind as in your space)
- Accept what is. Let go of the struggle.
- Stop reacting. Start responding with forethought.
- Make integrity your bull’s eye target.
- Get to know your TRUE Self.
- Kick the adrenaline habit. (Oof, this is a hard one for my coffee lovers… but anything is good in moderation
- Surround yourself with peaceful people.
- Pay very close attention. (without judgement)
- Choose peace over people pleasing. (sound familiar)
- Take a lesson from Nature. (I love this one)
- Release expectations. (I was free the moment I applied this to my life)
And of course I couldn’t talk about peace without mentioning the very tool that was the cherry on top for me… MEDITATION! I was that person, the one that said… my mind is constantly racing, I can’t focus long enough to meditate. I wanted to stop my thoughts long enough so I can be at peace. The reality is, that’s a farce. No need to feel the pressure that you have to stop your brain from working. It’s all about redirecting those thoughts. Take a few deep breaths, thinking of a mantra that reflects the space you’d like to manifest, say that over and over until the thoughts that keep trying to creep up disappear. Before you know it, 15 minutes has passed. That’s a great start. I have other meditation tips I’ve learned along the way. If you’d like me to share, hit me up directly. I’d love to help walk you through it.
IF you haven’t already invested in the BOOK OF JOY, I suggest you do (see link above). There are some additional Joy Practices and Meditation guides to get you started at the back of this book as well (pages 343-345).
Hope this helps.
I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up this Self Care Series, than with a talk about, CREATIVITY! As I thought about what I’d like to share on this topic, my thoughts transported me back to Providence, Rhode Island… where all my creative juices had an outlet. As far back as I can remember I liked working with my hands. In my early years of adolescence I enjoyed writing, playing with marbles, basketball, painting, creating the Asian rubber band chain we used to acrobatically jump over (wish I knew what this game was called, we may have very well made it up), among other things. I also had a desire to perform. This is shocking to even think about as I just couldn’t imagine doing so now, at least not in the way I dreamed of doing so back when I was young and fearless. Music and performing arts became a positive outlet for me, as described in the Healing in our Skin Series Two, “Relationship Shmalionships.” https://issalivestyle.com/2021/03/15/healing-in-your-skin-series-two/
I vividly recall all of these creative moments. In fact, I believe there’s a VHS tape, yes… I said VHS, (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VHS ) of myself and my older sister performing to the tune of the Beach Boys’, “Surfin in the USA” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDb303T-B1w . Whoa! Listening to that brought back so many memories (as I drift into memory-land); I shake my head in joyful disbelief at how eager I was to get the moves right. I wanted to nail it. You’d think I was performing on Broadway. Nope, just a local community play. One of the many performing arts activities our parents introduced us to. Then there was the influence of Asian culture with the learning of the traditional dance of Thailand. Our hands turned backward in such a way I didn’t even think was possible. Pointing our fingers in directions we didn’t know we could; all while our wrists rotated combining all these movements. Our feet daintily tip tapping across the stage. Making sure to keep our movements subtle, the moving of our hips as we were accustomed to in dances within OUR culture, was simply not allowed in this one. Take a look https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04sfcOtG4u0 Yes, I did that! I performed the heck out of it. I’m sure I was no match for the professionals, but you couldn’t tell me so.
The Boys and Girls Club was also such a major part of our creative development. It was through this community center that I learned to swim, play bumper pool, and dove into various crafts and creative projects. During this time my cultural and creative awareness was heightened. We moved from this neighborhood in Rhode Island to the Chad Brown Projects when my mother was granted the distinct opportunity at some Section 8 housing. For a young girl like me it was just another chance at making new friends, learning a new set of skills, and exploring. It was here that our elderly neighbor sat on the front breezeway weaving away at her plastic canvas work, day in and day out. I was mesmerized! I had never seen anything like it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWO1Jn-72ac Needless to say, I asked her to teach me. Soon, my mother and I were on an adventure to find the tools and supplies needed so that I could weave on my own. Fond memories.
Somewhere along the way I lost IT. The desire to be creative. The need to explore, to learn something new, to push myself past my comfort zone. Not sure at what point in life. Maybe it was the abrupt lateral moves across state lines that required us to get serious. The need to focus on schooling. Soon my artistic dreams began to dwindle. It became a frivolous thing to even think about. The need to transition into our new school, maintaining our good grades, and growing into new responsibilities were front line. Then, along came boys, where creativity was lent more to the way we styled our hair hoping to get noticed, and convincing our mother to buy us trendy clothes while we pushed and pushed the envelope. Those were the good ole days.
I’ve carried on the desire to be more artistic and creative all my life. I suppressed it. Other things became priority. I turned to dance as the most common way to express my creativity. It’s where I was the most free. Opting to enjoy moments of dance with my girlfriends, and even going to dance clubs on my own. Yes, I did that. Writing was my “secret past time.” I also attended writers groups, of which I was always the youngest participant. I learned through life experiences that many people don’t get to experience cultural awareness the way I had. As we moved from North East to South East I realized just how sheltered many people are in other states. I felt like the entire country should have been a melting-pot of cultures by now. I found it strange, a culture shock even, to find that many people didn’t know the variety of cultures that exist in the world. I felt blessed.
Along the way I’ve been led to visit various countries and cities, where you can see the shift in culture by a mere crossing of the streets, let alone crossing the ocean. The magic of social media has made it all the more possible to see the many creative ways others are able to express themselves. I see paintings, acrylic art work, time lapse drawings, and works of art using the very things we are graced with here on earth. Mother Nature is MAGICAL! I came across something in my readings that confirmed this for me…
“We are challenged and encouraged to be excellent and creative in any activity; we are given full artistic ability.” Exodus 1 speaks of Belazel who trained for many years to become excellent at what he did and was prepared when God called him to use his artistic skills to bless others. “We are called to act and transform our culture by becoming excellent in our creative work.” (As written in the Coram Deo, Bible App Devotional Living Before the face of God: Building Culture) https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/15255-living-before-the-face-of-god
Why else do you think we’re here? When we talk about living our purpose in life, do you think that means to have a big house, white picket fence, a dog, and two children in a loving marriage? Or do you imagine it to be, YOU living your best life in the light of God’s eyes, doing what you are purposed to do with the gifts he has given you? Let’s think about that for a second. Have you ever wondered what your gifts truly are? Have you really considered that those very things that you are good at, be it writing, singing, dancing, speaking, typing, working on computers, your love for kids, for animals, your love of nature, of drawing, of painting, of fitness… those are all your gifts to share with the world. Scary isn’t it? Terrifying! But there’s someone out there that you can personally inspire with that gift. So you say, why you? There are so many more gifted and talented people out there that do the same. Guess what? They aren’t you!
Imagine this, when we get to heaven, God will show us a shelf with many cubby holes. In each cubby there is a bin. In each bin, a gift he’s blessed us with. The goal is to get there and not have anything in any of those bins. To have Him pull a bin with a gift still inside is a disappointment. He expects us to empty those bins while here on earth. So what are you waiting for? What will it take to inspire you to share that gift with the world? For me… it was a leap of faith. That constant nudging, divine message, intervention, the downturns that put us on a path to an upturn (as described in the Bible App Devotional, Why God allows a Crisis, by Tony Evans) https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/13046-why-god-allows-a-crisis
But creativity isn’t only about spiritual responsibility or cultural awareness, it’s also about self-care. “Self-care is not just about regular exercise, eating right, and making time to relax. Creative self–care is about feeding your soul. It’s making sure that you have something to be excited about when you get up in the morning.” Amy Miracle writes on her art site where she shares her views on the healing power of artistic expression. https://mindfulartstudio.com/what-is-creative-self-care/#:~:text=Creative%20self%2Dcare%20is%20not,it%20might%20be%20something%20else. In this article she also shares how non-artists can use art as a way to relieve stress. Check it out! http://mindfulartstudio.com/how-even-non-artists-can-use-art-journaling-to-relieve-stress/
Well, I hope this in some way heightened your senses and gave you a desire to reach for the stars; to perfect the salsa; to open that business; to write that book… it has for me!