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Saturday, 29 November 2014 05:43

Important Thing to Know about Anxiety

I have been scrolling through my tumblr when I saw this post on a favorite blog:

-How do I banish the anxiety loops in my head, that I know are ridiculous, but my stubborn mind won't quit scared my fragile heart with?-

I found lazyyogi.tumblr.com answer to be poignant:

-You cannot banish that which is not real. 

Anxiety is always about something unreal. It can be a thought about an unreal future or an unreal experience of the past. 

This is why the anxiety feels so unassailable. You cannot fight something that has already happened or that may happen. So your mind goes on torturing you and there is nothing you can do about it. 

Or so it seems. 

Anxiety is about something other than now. Sitting here at your computer, perhaps alone on a quiet evening, there is no real trouble. Nothing in this moment is lacking, and yet our desire and fear brings in so much turmoil. 

Why does the anxiety need to loop? Because it depends on your thoughts for its survival. So long as anxiety has you thinking and perceiving in line with its vibration, it endures. 

Our language becomes an obstacle when it comes to dealing with such things. We talk of “getting rid of” certain thoughts or emotions but can the ocean get rid of a wave? The waves come and the waves go. It is only a problem when you take the ocean as merely its surface. Then when the seas are tumultuous, you say it is a stormy day. And when the seas are calm, you say it is a placid day. 

But in reality, you are the unbounded deep. You are an ever still and profoundly unfathomable dimension beyond the mere surface waves. To awaken to this truth does not mean introducing a new thought or belief. It means re-examining your current experience. 

The first and most direct way to accomplish this is by means of witnessing. Through the act of witnessing, you are not repressing anything. You are not trying to get rid of an experience. Nor are you asserting any belief or perspective. 

A feeling of anxiety can catalyze a thought. A loop of thought can perpetuate anxiety. And so it continues in a self-propagating system of coupled thoughts and feelings mutually creating each other. 

Try this:

Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. First pay attention to your breathing. You don’t need to alter the flow of breath, just attend to the rhythmic or even tide-like flow. In and out, like waves on a beach. 

Now attend to the sense of anxiety you feel. Is it like a flutter in your chest? A tension at your back? A fear in your gut?

Don’t think about why you feel the anxiety or what it means. Just notice how you experience the anxiety on a bodily level. 

Then don’t do anything about it. Just breath, allow the flow, and be present with the bodily feelings. If your thoughts seem to grab your attention away to focus on their loops, come back to your breath. Then go from your breath to witnessing the feeling of anxiety again. 

It isn’t always easy. I can understand that; I’ve been having trouble with anxiety myself recently. But by dropping fixation on the mind and fully inhabiting your body, you can disrupt the cycle that perpetuates anxiety. 

When you abide with the anxious feelings while not trying to push them away nor indulge them, then you withdraw the power that sustains them. Anxiety cannot survive without you. You can survive without anxiety. 

Pushing anxiety away or fixating on the objects of your anxiety are both forms of feeding that frame of mind. Stillness and attention, on the other hand, open up an entirely different dimension of relation to your current experiences. 

In doing so, the anxiety diminishes and is released. You’ll see this for yourself through practice and application. A moment will come in which you can let it go. Then you do. 

Along with this form of mindfulness practice, I would also recommend daily meditation and the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. 

Namaste :) Much love. 

-

 

I  hope this helped you guys as much as it helped me.

Published in Diary
Friday, 04 October 2013 05:31

Week 10

As many of you know, I am currently in an intensive group therapy program. Its five days a week Monday-Friday. Tomorrow is the final day of my 10th week. I have come such a long way over the past 10 weeks. During my intake interview for this program I was challenged to set 3 goals. One of the biggest ones for me was opening up to people in order to et them support me. From day 1 I have been completely open with the people in this group. I guess it also helps since I'm there for a reason. In about week 2 or 3, I was doing some anxiety research online and stumbled across this website here.


At first I thought it might be awkward since I didn't know anyone else on here. I thought it would be like facebook where u may have over 500 "friends" but only comment on maybe 3 people's things. I didn't really know if I would stay on here or if it was just a one time thing. The next day, I was reading my email and I had a bunch of notifications from this site saying that people were commenting on my posts, adding me as a friend and messaging me. It was an awesome feeling. I noticed very quickly that it is socially acceptable for anyone to comment on other people's posts here.

A few weeks later, I saw someone post a link for tiny chat. I tried logging in a few times and nobody else was ever online. Fast forward to today and I have a pretty good idea as to when I can expect people to be online.

A lot of people in my therapy group feel anxious after the group and on weekends. I don't have to worry about that because I can come here to a whole other group.
A lot of people feel very nervous when they get past the 6 week mark in the program since they are working on transitioning out and it can be uncertain (also we can't have any communication with any of the others until we have both completed the program). I am ecited about finishing. I had 2 awesome people graduated when I was in week 5 and I haven't been able to see them since. I am looking forward to seeing them. Also I have my ASN people to rely on.

Week 11/12 next week. Time to start getting my life back on track. I'm totally ready for the next 2 weeks :)

Published in Diary
Friday, 16 August 2013 05:09

New Beginnings For Me

Hi everyone, my name is Lexie. I am brand new to this site I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. I am also emetophobic. As a kid I was always a worrier. I had many problems with worrying about getting in trouble, or not having a partner/group for projects. These worries consumed all my time. If I stopped worrying and was at peace I would suddenly remember that I had something to worry about and go right back to worrying.

I was very healthy. I only had season allergies. No severe illnesses and no chronic conditions. At the age of 12 I woke up one morning and couldn't get back to sleep. A few hours later I vomitted. I thought I had the flu so I went back to sleep. A few hours later I woke up and felt like nothing had ever happened. A few days later the same thing happened again. This time it happened 3 days in a row. Eventually I would feel this way almost every day. I went to the doctor who presceibed anti-emetics.

To make a long story short I was treated for acid reflux, hormonal imblances, and just general dyspepsia. Despite all these treatments and many tests I was not feeling any different. At one point my doctor had suggested stress, but we dismissed that since i got some reflief from the ant-acids. I was on ant-acids and digestive aids all through high school. At the age of 22 I was in university, had been on many treatments, repeated a lot of the medical tests and still got no results. I went back to my doctor to bring this topic up again. She suggested anxiety and gave me a few tips and tricks to help. The next few months I used a mixture of digestive aids and relaxation.

Right after my last doctor's visit one of my friends at work ended up being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I could see alot of similarities between the two of us and started taking my diagnosis more seriously. About a year ago she went through a very rough patch and was talking to me about it. I finally got up the courage to tell her that I also have anxiety. I really thought she was going to cry. She was so happy that she didnt have to suffer by herself anymore. We became eachother's support system after our initial discussion. This brought us a lot closer together. If one of us is struggling we always message eachother. I became a lot more open to the idea of treating my sef for an anxiety disorder.

This past May, I graduated from university with a BA in Psychology. In between job hunting and adjusting to life without school, I decided that this would be a good time to get help. I went back to my doctor and was given questionnaires. I was also started on medication and given a referral for group therapy. I was on the meds for 2 months before starting therapy (long waiting list). I had noticed subtle changes. My stomach was feeling better and I was generally less anxious (but still extremely anxious).

I met with a psychologist who runs various therapy groups on an outpatient basis at the local hospital. She suggested the intensive group. It runs 5 days a week for 12 weeks. They had space available for the week after that. I decided that this was the only time in my life where I would have the time to do something like this. I took the offer and started with the group the following week. Right away, I felt at home. Everyone in the group was very welcoming. Although I was one of the youngest members I could relate to everyone's stories. I knew I had made the right decision.

I am now finishing my 3rd week. I have already made progress. I feel like I have known these people all my life. It is hard waking up first thing in the morning when I'm used to sleeping in. Its also very difficult to talk about problems five days a week. Its both mentally and physically exhausting, but it feels good. Sometimes I get triggered by soemthing someone says or a topic that we are covering. After being triggered, recognizing this and sharing with others, I feel so much better. I am really hoping that I am able to use the 12 weeks well and am very optimistic.

I will give regular updates on my progress as time goes on. If anyone wants to talk ever, I am here. You can add me as a friens, message me, or whatever. I look forward to getting to know the community here.

Published in Diary

Depression is ugly. There’s no way around this fact. Depression is like driving to an amazing job interview and your car dies in the middle of nowhere. Say goodbye to the interview. You will be sticking around for a while.

Those of us with anxiety are well aware of our depressive episodes. Depression and anxiety come in the same package. The National Institute of Mental Health states on their website that, “Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder, often accompany depression.”

When a car breaks down, our immediate reaction is often a bit senseless. We may get angry at the car for busting down. We want to scream at it; to kick it; to take a sledgehammer and smash all its windows. Likewise, when someone we love becomes depressed and simply stops functioning, we often become overwhelmed and frustrated by their ineptitude; and rightly so. It is not easy having a car bust down and spoil longed for opportunities. However, smashing in the car, telling the car it is lazy, sending the car on guilt trips for busting down is not going to get anyone back on the road. Smashing up the car will only make matters worse. One must give the car a tune up. Maybe it needs some more gas.

The consequences of maltreatment, however, are obviously more severe for living things. Didier Lefevre traveled into the rough terrain in the bleakest parts of Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. He recorded his journey in captioned photographs and illustrations in a book called The Photographer. At one point, he comments on the treatment of caravan horses who accompany travelers through the rocky passes. “Caravan horses go through martyrdom” he says.

 

"They’re overloaded, yanked here and there, subjected to freezing cold, and wounded by stones. They collapse from exhaustion and get abandoned on the side of the road. The trails are littered with dead horses and donkeys." (46-47)

               

People who are suffering from depression often feel like these horses who have been driven to the point of exhaustion. They feel like they cannot take another step. Yet the travelers feel like they must drive the horses harder. Lefevre showed a sequence of pictures of a horse and explained,

 

"That horse is making long stops. He can’t take any more; His eyes seem to be saying, 'Enough.' The asshole Muj’, the one Regis and I don’t like, comes up to him, places his AK-47 on top of the horse’s head and fires a volley of shots forward between his ears. The poor horse whinnies and runs desperately for fifty yards before stopping again, panting. And the Muj’ starts again, and keeps at it all the way to the top." (63)

 

Most of us could agree that this is maltreatment of the horse. Obviously, the man needs the horse to carry his things. He needs the horse to keep going. But this is clearly not a good solution. When the horse finally dies of exhaustion, it will be of no help at all.

As someone who has been that horse before, here are some things that I feel are helpful for people who suffer from depression.      

 

*Recognition of the Illness

 

When the horse can’t go any further the mindset toward the horse must change. A person with depression may be strong in spirit, like a horse, but simply unable to utilize their strength at the time. This is not laziness. They are sick. When someone comes down with physical ailments we allow them to be sick. We do not expect them to act like a healthy person. That would be harsh. The same is true for depression. To help them, you must recognize that they are sick and need special treatment and reprieve.

 

* Positive Energy

 

        When you are depressed, you don’t want an AK-47 fired next to your ears. You want to laugh again. You want to enjoy life. You want to like yourself again. When you are surrounded by positivity and cheer it gives you strength to move again. Nobody wants to be forced to act happy. But whatever degree of positivity your loved one is able to accept, offer that to them. Sometimes, something like cleaning up an area of their home so they have one less thing to worry about can add positive energy and show that they are cared for.

 

* Hope

 

        Now that you have recognized that they are ill, realize that their hopelessness is faulty. Have hope. Share hope. Give any dosage of hope that they are ready to accept. Life is never as bad as a depressed person believes it is.

 

* Confidence

 

      Depressed spirits often lack in confidence. This is ill founded. See past this. See their potential rather than their sickness. Share this vision rather than pointing out how awful they have become since they have gotten sick. That will just make them feel less able.

 

* Encouragement of Healthy Choices

 

        No one wants the horse to stop at the side of the road and never trek again. Encouraging the regeneration of healthy habits without being overbearing is important. This is a tricky balance. Help your loved one to run again. But keep in mind that they are injured. Don’t make them run faster than they are able. Encourage them toward manageable efforts that may improve their condition. They need encouragement to realize they are capable of much more than staying in bed all day. Make the encouragement positive and manageable rather than negative and overwhelming.

 

* Seek Help

 

        All of this can sound overwhelming when we have our own discouragement and problems. We don’t want to overwork our own selves. If it becomes too much, seek help from a professional-- for your loved one and for yourself if needed. Seek help from friends and family. Don’t try to cure their ailments alone.

 

* Take Care of Yourself

        If you are happy, your loved one will benefit.

 

Life is a blessing. Everyone deserves to enjoy it. Let’s all try to lift each other.


Sources:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/what-illnesses-often-co-exist-with-depression.shtml

Guibert, Emmanuel et. al. Trans. Siegel, Alexis. The Photographer. New York. First:2003.

        Print.

Published in Anxiety General Blog
Friday, 17 August 2012 18:16

Anxiety and Identity

Having become recently aware of my own social anxiety disorder, I've been reading with interest the "Anxiety" opinion series in the New York Times. (For those who haven't seen it, you can check it out here.) The most recent entry, by professor and author Daniel Smith, includes this passage:

"Like many people who have been given a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder (and many who have not), I am always braced for the next recurrence. Anxiety, like the tide, is forever receding and returning, receding and returning. I have been experiencing this pattern for nearly 20 years now, so that my anxiety has come to seem, at times, inevitable and unassailable — a fait accompli. My anxiety, I’d concluded, is what I am. There is no escape."


Being new to this, I've been thinking a lot about how social anxiety affects one's sense of identity. (Short digression: When I say I'm "new" to social anxiety, I mean that I'm new to the knowledge that there's a name for this condition, and that communities, such as this one, exist for those dealing with anxiety. I'm not  new to the feelings. Those have been with me as long as I can remember.) While I always knew I was, to put it kindly, quirkier-than-most, this is the first time that I've had a label to put on it, and an explanation for why I feel and behave the way that I do. I'm finding that this newfound awareness has both benefits and drawbacks.

The benefits are straightforward. I have been surprised, and overwhelmed, by the diverse and open nature of this community. So many of your stories resonate with me and make me recognize things in myself that I'd ignored or papered over in an effort to be more like others. I have dived into learning as much as I can about social anxiety, and the more I learn, the better understanding I have of my own thought processes and behaviors. That is so valuable.

The flip side is that anxiety is becoming more of a prism through which I view the rest of my life. By spending time learning and talking about it, I dwell on it more. In my quest to better define it, I'm worried that I'm letting it define me. 

Smith's article posits that it's possible for anyone to lessen or elude their anxiety by  remembering to not "be an idiot."  I don't think it's ever that simple. I can't deny anxiety is often a major hurdle in my relationships with others, or ignore it's role as a silent player in almost everything that I do. And I know that I am, relatively, at the milder end of the spectrum.

But his words do serve as a good reminder to try and put anxiety in it's proper place.

For me, for now, that's resisting the urge to think of myself primarily as a socially anxious person who happens to also write, and run, and make fabulous grilled cheese sandwiches.

I'm a writer. A runner. And a connoisseur of melted cheese ...who happens to also have social anxiety.

-----------

AG, short for AnxietyGirl, is a 30-ish resident of the East Coast who's not sure she knows what she's talking about yet.  She welcomes your feedback and criticism. Those on Twitter can also follow her confused thoughts daily at @TweetsFromAG.
Published in Anxiety General Blog
Thursday, 16 August 2012 15:08

EMDR Part II

Yesterday I talked about how great EMDR is. I explained how it works by essentially allowing you to change your old negative pathways of thinking and develop new, positive ones. This allows those old, negative pathways to heal over and eventually disappear. I tried to describe the feeling and experience of EMDR but in the interest of time I decided to make this a 2-part essay.

Going to an EMDR therapist you should probably be prepared to see and experience things differently than when you go to your regular therapist. While you are doing EMDR it is probably best to put your regular therapy on hold so you can focus solely on your work in this model. A lot of the time, you will only see your EMDR therapist for however many sessions it takes for you to reach your goals. This depends completely on the therapist you choose. Some only do the intense EMDR work and that is all they do. Others mix traditional therapy with EMDR and you may end up seeing them for longer. My main point here is, EMDR is intense, it's draining, it's real, actual work. Going to your traditional therapist while trying to do EMDR may be too much to handle and if it is, that's totally okay. If your therapist cannot or will not work with this, find out why first and foremost. Your therapist knows you, they may have very good, clinical reasons for their opinion. Hear them out and try to figure out what will work best for your specific treatment. If they try to talk you out of EMDR but you still feel strongly about it, then I would say you may either want to wait or visit an EMDR specialist in your area and see what they say. They will likely be completely happy to talk to your therapist and attempt to work out a treatment plan for you together with your therapist.

I should also explain that EMDR is different than a traditional therapy session. Your therapist will ask you questions and will most likely ask you to close your eyes and really visualize your answers. This is helpful in getting you to relax and feel open and ready. Your EMDR therapist will ask you to be aware of your thoughts and your body - how does it feel? Do you feel any particular sensation anywhere in the body and what do you feel or hear as a message when you pay attention to it? Your therapist will ask you to allow your mind to go wherever it needs to go, you may see memories in your minds eye of events you had totally forgotten about. You may experience sensations in your body - warmth, tingling, aching, tightening - pay attention to these sensations and make note of them and what they mean to you.

Your EMDR therapist also uses tools to help speed up your brains processing and building new pathways. These tools can be one or all of the following things - an approximately two foot long bar with small colored lights inside held up on a tripod or set on a desk or table - you will be asked to follow the lights with your eyes. Another possibility will be what I have experienced with both of my EMDR therapists. Small rounded paddles, approximately two inches around held in your hands that vibrate intermittently while you are searching through old memories. Or, your therapist may just ask you to follow his finger with your eyes and stand in front of you moving it back and forth while you focus on the movement with your eyes.

Remember - EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Re-processing. Studies have shown that moving your eyes or focusing your attention left-right, right-left, etc, directly effects the building of new neuro-pathways and brings symptom relief for PTSD, anxiety, and depression sufferers.

Through EMDR I learned the following pathway was alive and kicking in my brain. I began focusing on the sensation of anxiety in my chest, my therapist had me hold the paddles and close my eyes. I let my brain bounce around, go wherever it needed to, and after a minute or so I saw my teenage self sitting on the porch of my boyfriend's house when I was about 17. I recognized this as a memory of my smoking pot and completely freaking out. I was not the pot-head type but the boyfriend was so I had gone for it. Only to find out, it made me want to die (I believe this may have been a panic attack brought on by the paranoia I got from smoking pot. Awesome.)
My brain then bounced to several other long forgotten incidents of my throwing up or panicking or freaking out. Eventually my brain bounced its way to a memory I had completely forgotten. It explained why I hated Boston and didn't want to go there ever. Apparently, in college I had gone to Boston with some friends and at some point, the T (metro) broke down. Underground. And it was really dark and really freaky for about 15-20 minutes. Surrounded by strangers, clinging to my friends and amazingly, not freaking out during the period of darkness, probably because I knew instinctively it wouldn't do any good.

Basically, my brain had built a pathway with all sorts of delightful stops along the way, that I had largely forgotten. And somehow along the line they became tangled and the messages I received from these long forgotten experiences were "You ruin everything. You kill the fun. You suck. You can't do anything right so you should just stay home. Boston hates you, it's out to get you. You ruin everything. You ruin everything. It is all your fault."

Um...well if that's not a Panic Attack Cocktail I don't know what is! And there were loads of these pathways in my brain created by many other incidents and traumas that had stuck with me. Never processed or resolved, just...basically squatted in my brain rent free for years. Years. Many of them. Seeing these memories allowed me to take the power out of them.

The best part of EMDR is using a memory of a time when things were amazing or wonderful. This is the heart of the experience - you will use this memory to flood your brain with delightful, delicious endorphins  and dopamine! Yum! When you end your session you will likely end it on this memory. You will use this memory like a mouthwash to rinse the icky off the session and replace it with minty freshness.

Find your truth and own it baby!
Published in Therapists Blog
Wednesday, 15 August 2012 15:00

EMDR Part I

"If it's hysterical, it's historical." - Words to remember when freaking out. My former therapist used this phrase to explain to me how far back the anxiety and panic response goes. It wasn't until I began EMDR therapy that I began to understand exactly how true those words are.

EMDR is an amazing form of treatment that is slowly gaining attention in the larger world thanks to the power of Google. EMDR is: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming. In a nut shell it helps you build new neuro-pathways in your brain which allows old, negative pathways to grow over. Picture your brain as a forest. If you walk the same way day after day, you will create a path. EMDR allows you to see, in your minds eye, all the stops along that pathway. What will blow your mind is how seemingly random the events that created that path appear. By bringing these old, buried memories to the surface of your conscious mind you are able to process them and take the power of negativity away from them.

You are then able to build new, healthy, happy pathways by flooding your brain with powerful, sensory memories of a time in your life when things were wonderful. Eventually, like any other trail, when your old pathways go unused, nature will reclaim itself and those old pathways will heal over. This is also why positive affirmations work. Because by repeating something over and over it eventually wears a pathway, affirmations are great, but it can take a long time to get results whereas with EMDR you have a direct line to your subconscious. EMDR is used to treat trauma but can also be used for just about anything you can think of.

In my case, EMDR blew my mind. I experienced it in my mid-twenties with my first therapist. I was nearly phobic of travel but really wanted to see my godmother and cousins who lived in Mexico. My brother and I planned a trip together and I was desperate to ensure my panic disorder wouldn't stop me from having a good time. I did the EMDR once and seriously had the best trip I have ever had. We climbed pyramids and ruin sites, we went into Mexico City and shopped, ate at awesome restaurants, and all without a hint of anxiety or panic. I became a believer of EMDR.

More recently, in the past year and a half I switched from my traditional therapist to another EMDR therapist. This EMDR experience was much deeper and more intense than my first one because I had a whole new decades worth of trauma, hurt, panic, and pain to dig through. It was hard. EMDR is serious. You will feel exhausted and wonky after a session. You will be more sensitive because you have literally dragged your subconscious into the light of intense examination and that feels awful a lot of the time.

Nobody ever tells you this so I'm going to - Growth and Change - the biggies that everyone wants? Feel awful. AWFUL. When they are happening. It is in the moments of struggle and hopelessness that we experience true growth. Lasting change. Intimacy. All of those things come from being vulnerable. We, however, are hardwired to avoid pain.

We're taught that pain is bad, we should make it go away as fast as possible. I challenge you to stay in the moment next time you find yourself trying to shut down when things get uncomfortable. See if you can allow yourself to feel whatever it is you're experiencing and name it:  Fear, Guilt, Shame, Anxiety, Panic, Hurt, Worthless, Angry, Awkward, Silly, Stupid, Sad, Frustrated, whatever. 

Feel it. Feel it and see - your feelings will not eat you up, you are not what you feel, you are separate from your emotions. Just because you feel worthless or guilty doesn't mean you are either of those things. It means that you are experiencing them and you have a responsibility to yourself (and your loved ones) to find the root of those feelings and make peace with it.

I couldn't have said it better myself.
Published in Therapists Blog

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