The Things We Say To Ourselves: 5 Negative Statements You Should Stop Saying Right Now

People with anxiety and depression are notoriously bad about saying terrible things about ourselves. Most of the time, we say those things to ourselves

Oftentimes we excuse this negative talk by saying we’re just being “realistic” or “trying not to get our hopes up” about something. But, the problem is that with every negative word we speak, we’re only exacerbating the cycle of emotions and reactions that put us in the positions we’re in.

About 10 years ago, just after I first started writing this blog, I wrote a post called “The ne’er-do-well.” Basically, it was 1,000 or so words of me comparing myself to my friends and then trashing myself for not being like them. The following is just one of the paragraphs:

It’s Homecoming weekend at my high school alma mater and many of the people I grew up with and graduated with have come back to town to see friends and family they don’t often see. I’m here because on occasion I get a notion in my head that this time will be different – that this time I will have something to say, something to offer in conversation beyond meaningless platitudes about how great someone looks or how lucky they are to have such a beautiful family. For some reason the thought creeps into my mind that this year someone will say I look good or ask about my fantastic new job or how my writing is coming along. Keep looking, though – that’s me in the corner over there looking into the crowd with nothing to say. After all, what is there for me to say when I am as disinterested in my life as any of them are? There’s no question to ask to which they don’t already know the answer. The job is just that – a job. I get paid ten dollars an hour to listen to people gripe about their $400 telephones that don’t work and then I get to tell them to take the battery out and put it back in so that, as if by magic, it works again; and for that one brief moment I am their hero! I am their champion because I fixed their phone and now they can play Brickbreaker while their kids practice soccer or gymnastics. What more do they need to know about my writing? I write thousands of words each week and no one reads them. No, the questions are not necessary because the answers are always the same.

Holy cow! Even reading that now, all these years later, gives me the creeps. And trust me when I tell you, that is one of the more benign paragraphs! Those are an example of some of the things I said to and about myself on a regular basis.

Negative self-talk is poison!

Studies have clearly demonstrated that negative self-talk can do serious damage. It leads to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. It can damage our ability to succeed at work or school. And, negative self-talk can have devastating impacts on our relationships with family, friends, and boy or girlfriends, partners, and spouses.

Here are a just a few of the potential effects of negative self talk according to this 2018 article on VeryWellMind.com:

  • Limited thinking. You tell yourself you can’t do something, and the more you hear it, the more you believe it.
  • Perfectionism. You begin to really believe that “great” isn’t as good as “perfect,” and that perfection is actually attainable. (In contrast, mere high achievers tend to do better than their perfectionistic counterparts because they generally less stressed and are happy with a job well-done rather than picking it apart and zeroing in on what could have been better.
  • Feelings of depression. Some research has shown that negative self-talk can lead to an exacerbation of feelings of depression. If left unchecked, this could be quite damaging.
  • Relationship challenges. Whether the constant self-criticism makes you seem needy and insecure or you turn your negative self-talk into more general negative habits that bother others, a lack of communication and even a “playful” amount of criticism can take a toll.​

Additionally, for those of us who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, perpetual negative self-talk can lead directly to increased anxiety and even panic attacks through increased feelings of inadequacy.

In order to combat our anxiety, we must learn to 1) recognize negative self-talk, and 2) replace it with positive affirmations that build us up rather than tearing us down.

To help you combat negative self-talk in your own life, here are…

5 Negative Statements You Should Stop Saying Right Now

  1. I am not worthy/I am worthless. This is a LIEYou are absolutely worth every effort and every good thing that comes from those efforts. Simply by virtue of the fact that you are a living human being, you ARE worthy, you have worth, and you are worth the effort it will take to get better.
  2. I can’t do it. This is a LIE! You can do it! Whatever it is, you can certainly do it if you try; if you put in the work it takes to get it done. So what if you don’t succeed the first time? Who ever does? You can do it, you should do it, and you will do it.
  3. I can’t live without him/herThis is a LIE! Trust me when I tell you that you most certainly CAN live without him or her. One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn in my life is to overcome my fear of being alone. Now, not only do I not mind being alone, most of the time I appreciate that quiet, alone time. As much as it may hurt in the beginning, you can live without him or her.
  4. I have to change who I am for people to like me. This is a LIE! Anyone who requires that you change who you are in order to be your friend is not your friend. Be proud of who you are. Here’s a secret: not everyone will like you! It’s another hard lesson I’ve had to learn, but it was liberating when I finally did. Surround yourself with people you care for and people who care for you just the way you areLet the others sort it out on their own. It’s OK that everyone doesn’t like you.
  5. I wish I’d never been born. If you say that to yourself, I want you to STOP right now, pick up a phone, and reach out to someone for help! I’m serious! If you think that you should’ve never been born, or that you don’t want to live anymore, or that you wish you would die, then you are at a point where you truly need help. There are some resources listed below, including the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, please use them! Or, call a trusted family member or friend, a pastor, a teacher–it doesn’t really matter who it is, just call someone you trust and let them help you find help!

There are millions more I could list, but these are a few of the things I’ve said to myself over the years. Most of them I don’t say at all anymore. One or two of them I still catch myself saying from time to time, but I immediately replace them with positive thoughts.

Next time, we will focus on the positive thoughts you can use to replace this negative poison in your life. Until then…

Love and light!
Jason

 

Tell me what you think! In the comments section below, talk to me about negative self-talk and how it has impacted you. Tell me how you’ve overcome it, or what you’re still struggling with. Or, just leave a positive word of encouragement. Just click “Leave a Reply” and write away!


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!

 

3 Things People With Anxiety Do That People With Anxiety Should Never Do

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic attacks, and depression can be a real mine field for people who suffer with them. Often times, the very things we want to do and feel an irresistible urge to do are the very worst things to do. That’s what is so insidious about these illnesses–they become a vicious cycle of self-defeating behaviors that only make them worse.

I’ve engaged in those self-defeating behaviors many times over the years. When I first began having the types of panic attacks that have dramatically impacted my life at age 19 (my history with panic attacks is complicated and goes much further back — you can read about it by clicking here), I had no idea what was going on, and I did everything you’re not supposed to do.

I ran. I convinced myself that everything was hopeless. I failed to recognize the need and reach out for help.

In short, I sabotaged myself before I ever knew what I was doing. That has continued for almost thirty years, and I’m only just now recognizing the mistakes I made.

I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did; so, to that end, here are…

3 Things People With Anxiety Do That People With Anxiety Should Never Do

1. Engage in avoidance coping.

woman with worried look resting head in handAvoidance coping refers to refers to choosing your behavior based on trying to avoid or escape particular thoughts or feelings (Psychology Today). Often times, people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks choose to avoid potential triggers for their anxiety.

I am an absolute PRO at avoidance coping. When I am in what I refer to as a “malignant period” with my anxiety (a period of time where my anxiety and panic attacks prevent me from living my life fully), my go-to reaction is to avoid going anywhere or doing anything that might possibly cause anxiety or a panic attack.

However, while this may sound like good common sense, it is, in fact, a means of self-sabotage. Avoiding those triggers, or potential triggers, often causes people with anxiety and panic attacks to walk away from things (and sometimes people) that are important to them. This becomes a form of negative reinforcement. While avoiding those triggers can stave off unwanted feelings, it is self-perpetuating. In other words, once it starts it never stops.

It is vitally important for those of us who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks to overcome avoidance coping and to face our fears in order to lead and full and happy life. You can read more about avoidance coping by clicking here.

2. Engaging in negative self-talk.

This one is HUGE for me!

Negative self-talk is the act of, consciously or sub-consciously, focusing on potential hazards or dangers and convincing oneself that every possible bad scenario will be what happens.

Studies have shown strong links between negative self-talk and anxiety. According to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s Mental Wellbeing and Counselling Services, “Anxiety can easily and quickly be generated by repeatedly making statements to yourself that begin “what if”, which make you anticipate several scary scenarios that make you want to avoid the situation all together” (RMIT).

Oftentimes, I don’t even realize that I am engaging in this negative self-talk until I have “talked” myself into a panic attack. It very often occurs on a completely sub-conscious level. That is why it is so important to learn to recognize it and to replace the negative dialog with positive, self-affirming statements.

I will be addressing negative self-talk in more detail in a later post, but in the meantime, I encourage you to take a look at this PowerPoint put together by the RMIT Mental Wellbeing and Counselling Service.

3. Failing to recognize when it’s time to seek help.

man with worried look with hands on sides of headWhen I first began having really bad panic attacks, I didn’t tell anyone. What would I have told them, anyway? I had no idea what was going on, and I was scared to death that I was either dying or going insane. I kept my problem hidden for years, until it finally boiled over in 2002. That was the first time I ever sought help for the problem, and by then, it had dramatically impacted my life and the lives of many people I cared for.

Recognizing when it is time to seek help, and then seeking that help is absolutely imperative in overcoming anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

According to Tammy Heilemann, LCSW,  and Therapist at Memorial Care Center for Mental Health & Wellness, Community Hospital Long Beach, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America – affecting close to 20 percent of the population.” That means that, chances are, either you or someone close to you suffers from one or more of the 11 recognized anxiety disorders (Heilemann/Memorial Care Center).

Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to mental health treatment, about 1/3 of people who suffer from these disorders never seek treatment. If you are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety disorder, and especially if anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression are having an impact or your ability to cope with everyday life, seeking help is vital.

Some symptoms of anxiety disorder/panic attacks are:

Emotional Symptoms:

Feelings of apprehension or dread
Feeling tense and jumpy
Restlessness or irritability
Trouble concentrating
Anticipation that something bad is going to happen (looking for signs of danger)

Physical Symptoms:

Pounding or racing heart
Shortness of breath
Upset or tightness of the stomach
Muscle tension
Dizziness
Fatigue
Insomnia

There are numerous avenues of assistance available. I have listed some of those resources below. If you are suffering, or if you know someone who is, please seek help immediately! There is help, and there is hope!

So, tell me what you think. I want to hear from you! Please leave your thoughts, questions, experiences, or words of encouragement in the comments section blow. Simply click on “Leave a Reply,” enter your name and email address (I promise I won’t spam you), and write away. Also, please remember to like and share this post!

Until next time…

Much love!
jason walker's signature

 

 


Resources to Get Help!

I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and/or depression, there is hope and there is help! You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!


Are you, or someone love headed back to school? Be sure to check out…

man sitting at a desk biting his nails and looking anxious5 (+1) Tips to Reduce Anxiety on the First Day of School

Written from an educator’s perspective, but these tips are helpful for teachers, students, and parents alike!

You might also enjoy…

a meme of darth vader and c-3po Lessons from Star Wars–“You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned”: How Self-Perception Can Change Everything

The way we see ourselves can have a dramatic impact on our reactions and responses, and especially on our relationships with others. Learning to change your perception can help relieve anxiety!

5 (+1) Tips To Reduce Anxiety on the First Day of School (with COVID-era upate)

It’s that time again…

Back to School!

The first day of school is just around the corner (already here in some places), and for students, parents, and teachers alike, knowing that first day of school is coming can produce a lot anxiety and sometimes enough stress to make you sick!

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

jason walker wearing shirt and tie standing in front of projector screen

Mr. Walker on his very first first day of school as a teacher!

When I was still in the classroom teaching, I dreaded the first day of school. I never felt prepared and I always felt like I was going to crash and burn as soon as the first bell rang!

No matter what I did, the first day of school always seemed to be the most daunting day of the entire school year.

I remember my first day teaching in my first year teaching. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and when I finally got out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to get ready to go, I thought the world was going to end. I had major anxiety: dizziness, upset stomach, cold sweats, headache, racing heart, shortness of breath…

You name the symptom and I had it!!

But, somehow I got through that first day, and the other 175 days that came after it. Somehow, I always got through the first day of school every year, and I was always glad I did.

And, believe me when I tell you that if I did it, YOU CAN, TOO!

Here are 5 Tips to Reduce Anxiety on the 1st Day of School:

1. Don’t stress about being prepared — you won’t be!

It didn’t matter how much time I spent on lesson plans, setting up my classroom, gathering materials, cleaning, making copies….I never had everything done on the morning of the first day of school. And, guess what? You won’t either!

But, the great part about that is that, it’s OK! Your students will probably be too worn out from summer and overwhelmed themselves to notice. Not being 100% prepared on the first day will not permanently damage any of your students. So, give yourself a break. You will get it done…another day!

2. Make sure that you are well-rested.

Notice I didn’t say, “get plenty of sleep the night before”…right?

If you’re anything like me, you just can’t sleep when you’re nervous. And, if you’re like me, you’re going to be nervous the night before the first day of school. If you don’t sleep 8 hours, DON’T PANIC! There are ways to mitigate the damage.

Take a good nap during the afternoon before. Hey, who doesn’t love a nap? At least your body will get some rest that day.

Don’t do anything major on the day before the first day of school. I once had a colleague who ran a charity 5K every year right before school started. Several of them happened on the day before. I really don’t recommend this.

Use the day before the first day to let your body rest. Don’t do anything stressful–especially anything like preparing for the next day. Take it easy. Watch a good movie. Have a good meal. Spend time with your family.

RELAX!

3. Give yourself plenty of time.

One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of people make, not just teachers, is not giving themselves enough time in the morning. Being in a rush, even if you’re not running late, creates more even more anxiety.

If it normally takes you an hour to get ready in the mornings, give yourself an hour and a half on the first day.

If your commute is 30 minutes, give yourself 45.

If you know there will be a line at the copy machine–do your copying several days ahead, or better yet, do an activity on the first day that doesn’t require making a bunch of copies.

Whatever you need to do, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to get there and get down to work. No one ever made a difference by being in a rush!

4. Eat something–ANYTHING, even if you don’t feel like it.

You remember what grandma used to say: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

Well, guess what? She was right!

There have been numerous studies that have shown students who don’t eat a good breakfast in the morning before school don’t perform as well. The same thing is true for teachers.

If you go to school hungry, even if you don’t realize you’re hungry because your nerves are on edge, you simply won’t perform well. You know what I’m talking about. You’ll end up with a headache, upset stomach, lethargy, and you’ll be a bear to your students in the class period before lunch!

Even if you don’t feel like it, be sure to eat something. Some crackers and cheese, or peanut butter; a piece of toast and cheese…eat something with some protein and carbs so that you’re full and have plenty of energy.

5. Remember, there is only ONE first day of school!

This is maybe my favorite one of all!

Whatever happens; however terrible (or terrific) the first day of school is, remember: there is, and will ever be, ONLY ONE first day of school. You will get through it. The last bell will ring. The students will go home, and you will, too.

Yes, the first day is stressful. Yes, you will be nervous and anxious and excited and worried and thrilled and all of the other emotions at the same time. And, yes, at the end of it you will be exhausted…but, it will be over, and it will be the only one of the year.

Remember that while you read the note little Johnny’s mom wrote to you complaining that she has to spend her money on “school supplies for other kids.” She’ll only write it once!

And, just for you, my readers….

BONUS TIP…..BREATHE!!!

That’s right. Whatever you do, don’t forget to breath.

In through the nose for four seconds. Hold two seconds. Out through the mouth four seconds.

Purposely slowing your breathing accomplishes three things:
1. It lowers the heart rate.
2. It lowers the blood pressure.
3. It ensures that your brain and body are getting enough oxygen.

All of those things reduce anxiety.

2020 Update: The First Day in the COVID-19 Era

If you had told me last year at this time that in one year’s time I’d not only be teaching fully online, but also taking classes fully online; and if you would have told me that almost six months would have passed since I would’ve eaten inside a restaurant; and if you would have told me that millions of people around the world would be dead from a virus that, until February, I (like most other Americans) had never hear of — I would have probably laughed in your face and told you that you were crazy.

But, I am, it has been, there are, and that’s the way we begin school in the COVID-19 era…

I wish I had a magic wand to fix this. Or, at the very least, I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you when it would all end. But, I don’t have either of those things. In fact, since transparency is the name of the game here on the Anxiety Diaries, I’m going to be complete transparent and tell you that I’m not handling this well at all. I’ve taken some major steps back in my battle with depression and anxiety. Thankfully, I’m attending school and teaching at a university that has seen fit to allow students and professors to decide what works best for them and I can do everything online for now. But, if that weren’t the case, I don’t know if I’d still be teaching or going to school at all.

For millions of teachers and students around the country, the first day of school is just around the corner, or has already started, and they’re back, in the buildings, in some Twilight Zone existence featuring masks, keeping six feet apart, not touching, constantly washing or sanatizing hands, and in some cases separated by plexiglass bariers attached to their desks. Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have written it better for a movie. If that’s you, and if you’re anxious and nervous and not sure about any of it, here’s what I suggest:

  1. Educate yourself. Make sure that you are up to date on the latest information about and recommendations for staying healthy in the midst of a pandemic.
  2. Enforce boundaries. You know what you’re comfortable with. Don’t let people guilt you into doing something you don’t feel safe doing: if you don’t want to hug, don’t; if you don’t want to shake hands, don’t; if you don’t want to eat lunch at a full table, don’t. Do what you need to do to be calm.
  3. Take time for yourself. Don’t allow yourself to get inundated like you normally do during the school year. Leave some free time in your schedule to decompress–you’ll need it.
  4. BREATHE! This is always most important. Don’t forget to breathe!!!

As cliched and trite as it sounds right now, we will get through this. It’s going to take time, but we will. And, I firmly believe that when we do we will be better for it.

So, those are my tips for getting through the anxiety and stress of the first day of school, even in this COVID-19 era. Be well. Be safe. Be happy.


Tell me what you think. In the comments below leave your thoughts, share your experiences, offer other tips that have helped you. Or, just offer a word of encouragement for all the teachers and students heading back to school in the next few days! Click on “Leave a reply,” enter your name and email (don’t worry, I’m not going to spam you or sell your email address), and then write away.

And, as always, if you’ve found this post helpful, please be sure to like and share!!

Have a great year, everyone!

Much love!
jason walker's signature

Changes — They Are a-Comin’!

Change is good, right?!

I started this blog almost 10 years ago when I was in the midst of one of the worst periods of anxiety and depression that I’d ever experienced. In the beginning, the blog was a way for me to get my thoughts out of my head and on to “paper” — well, virtual/electronic paper, anyway.

Before long, people started reading my thoughts…people I didn’t even know! They started reading and then they started commenting and sending me emails thanking me. These people I didn’t know, people who also struggled with anxiety and depression, were writing back thanking me for being honest and transparent.

It helped them realize they weren’t alone.

So, my mission became even more important. I wanted to give a voice to the voiceless. I wanted to be their champion–a fellow struggler who was doing his best to get better.

Somewhere along the way, I got lost. My blog morphed into an unrecognizable mish-mash of posts with no consistent topic and no clear focus.

It’s time to change that!

wooden blocks with letters spelling the word change

Change is good, right?!

Over the last several months, I’ve come to realize that I am in a unique position to help people. I’m not a physician or a licensed counselor. But, I know about anxiety and depression. I know how harmful and destructive they can be. I can speak openly and honestly to people who are struggling like me. And maybe, just maybe…I can help.

 

In the next couple of weeks, you’re going to see a lot of change here–a whole lot of change.

I’m getting back to my roots. I’m getting back to the whole reason I started the blog in the first place. I’m going to write about anxiety, depression, my struggles, my triumphs, my failures…I’m writing about it all.

What does that mean for you?

Well, hopefully you’ll stick around and keep reading!

While my focus will be to help people with anxiety and depression find their voice and find an advocate, I think that the content I post here can and will be helpful to anyone who reads.

You can still read some of my “old” stuff.

I will be archiving my old posts that don’t really fit into the new blog mold, and don’t fit with the focus of the blog. I’ll create an archive page and you can go there and find sort of a Best of the Redneck Sophisticate. Poems, short stories, random thoughts and musings. They’ll be there for you.

Who knows? Someday I might start another blog where I just write whatever comes into little brain. But, that’s down the road.

For now, I need to get focused so that I can accomplish the things I want to accomplish to help other people. I hope you’ll stick with me because….I don’t know what I’d do without you!

Have any thoughts, questions, comments begging me not to change…or, hey, even some encouragement? Please use the comments section below!

Much love! Jason 🙂

 

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 8: Making Amends and Knowing When It’s Time to Stop Apologizing

In traditional 12 Step recovery programs, two of the steps are dedicated to righting the wrongs that have been done–or at least acknowledging them, apologizing for them, and, if possible, making some sort of reparation (not necessarily monetarily) for them.

Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

-12 Steps of AA

I don’t know a lot about the 12 Steps, but in my mind, these two would be near the top in importance (you can correct me if I’m wrong and you’re familiar with the program).

This last week, since my complete failure at returning to the classroom in a new district, I have been on something of an apology tour. I apologized first to my family, then the principal who offered me the job, then to a new colleague who’d been helping me, then to friends who’d vouched for me as references, then to some generous friends who’d offered direct support and encouragement, and finally, to all of you. I truly felt it was necessary to make all of these apologies.

What’s the difference between apologizing and making amends, and why is making amends so important?

Although I’ve sort of equated making amends with apologizing, truly making amends is far more than offering an apology. Just look at the word a-MENDS…you can see the difference in the very word itself. When we make amends, we MEND something that has been torn or broken–we fix it–or, we at least try to fix it. An apology, however sincere, can’t really mend something that is broken. It offers, at best, a temporary reprieve from the hurt that has been caused.

According to SoberNation.com:

Making amends is an integral part of personal growth and healing. It is so imperative to make amends with those people whom you have wronged that it is outlined, clearly, in Alcoholics Anonymous. Steps eight and nine of the Twelve Steps specifically call for amends.

The Difference Between Making Amends and Making Apologies

I won’t go into the different types of amends here, although I do suggest reading the article quoted and linked above, which explains them in detail. I’m writing about them now because it’s time for me to start making them to the people I’ve hurt.

It’s important to know when to STOP apologizing.

I am deeply sorry for any pain my actions have caused. But, it’s not enough to be sorry anymore. Now, I need to fix it. I need to make amends.

There are a few people I need to make direct amends to, and I am in the process of doing that. But, there are many more people for whom making amends will mean getting well, getting healthy, and moving on. For those people, seeing me stand on my own without their constant support will be the only real amends.

I suspect that for all of us who suffer from anxiety/panic disorder and/or depression and OCD, there are many people to whom we owe amends. I encourage you to sit down and think about those people. Stop apologizing and start making amends.


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!


Previous Posts in this Series:

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 1
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 2
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 3
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 4
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 5
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 6
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 7

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 7: Sometimes We Fail

Sometimes, we fail.

When I started this series over a year ago, I made a commitment to total transparency. Share everything (that is appropriate to share), hide nothing. Because only when we are totally honest with ourselves, with the people who love and care for us, and with the people who are helping us, can we totally heal. This post honors that commitment.

It’s been a long, difficult four days.

As most of you who regularly read this blog or follow me on social media know, I was to have started new hire orientation at a new school district on Monday. I was excited. It was going to be a huge step forward for me both financially and professionally. You’ve probably notice by now that I’m writing in the past tense…

I thought I was ready. I thought I could power through my anxiety and make it work. I was wrong.

By Sunday night, I was a complete nervous wreck. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I tossed and turned, and was up and down all night long. I finally drifted off into a fitful sleep around 4 a.m. My alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. I got up and got myself ready. By the time I needed to leave, I was in a full-blown panic attack, and I couldn’t get it to stop. But, I got in the car and headed out anyway–thinking, hoping, praying that I would settle down and be able to do it. I couldn’t.

I won’t belabor this story. The long and short of it is that I walked away from what likely would’ve been the best job I’ve ever had–certainly the best teaching job I’ve ever had. My anxiety. My panic. It won this time. So, this week, I found myself back at square one.

What does this mean for me? Where do I go from here?

The short answer is, I’m not sure.

The school district has the option and the right to place a sanction on my teaching certificate, and it could be suspended for a year. My hope is that with a note from my doctor and counselor, they will elect not to sanction me. But, if they do, then I will understand and accept that decision.

I don’t know what the future holds for me with regards to teaching. For now, I have to focus on the present. I have to focus on getting better. I have to focus on healing.

I’m still going to start work on my PhD in a few weeks. And, I’ll have to find a job working from home for the time being. I do have some longer term plans which I will share with you later. But, for now, what matters is the present moment and getting better.

I know some of you will be disappointed. Some of you may even be angry or feel betrayed in some way. Believe me, I understand that, too. I’m alternating back and forth between considering myself a total failure who shouldn’t be trusted and considering myself smart for recognizing a potential disaster (entering a classroom in a state of panic is not good) and doing what I could to avert that disaster, even if it meant damaging my immediate situation.

I only ask one thing of you: don’t give up on me. I’m in the fight of my life and I need people around me who love me, care for me, and support me, even if they don’t understand me. I’m human. I’m flawed. Sometimes, despite my best intentions, I fail.

Sometimes we all do.

More later.


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!


Previous Posts in this Series:

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 1
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 2
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 3
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 4
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 5
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 6

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 6: The Myth of Safety

In my previous posts in this series (links available at the end of this post), I’ve written a lot about many of the facets of my struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. But, one of the things I haven’t yet addressed is one of the myths that people who suffer with anxiety and panic attacks believe: the myth of safety.

As I’ve told you before, when I’m feeling anxious or having a panic attack, my first and strongest instinct is to flee the situation or the place I’m in, whether or not either has anything directly to do with the anxiety or panic. Even the most benign situations like sitting in a restaurant having a leisurely Sunday dinner with my family has ended with me getting up and leaving the table, either temporarily or permanently.

In those moments of panic, no matter when or where they are, I don’t feel safe. In my mind, getting out of that situation or space is the only safe thing to do. Once upon a time, home was the only safe place to be; and my family members were the only safe people I knew. When I felt panicked, I had to get home, or at the very least, I had to get near some family member. But, then, something awful happened.

Humans live through their myths and only endure their realities.

Robert Anton Wilson

After years of running when panic struck, panic followed me home! I started having panic attacks in my house and around my family; and worse than that, when I felt anxious away from home, running home didn’t fix it. The myth of safety that I’d constructed crumbled and I realized the truth…

There are no safe spaces and there are no safe people.

One of the things I’m struggling with on this road to wellness is rewriting the narrative in my head. Learning that the story I told myself for years is just that, a story; and learning that I am and must be my own safe person, and that whatever space I’m in is a safe space because I am in control of my thoughts, my emotions, and my reactions to whatever physical response my brain and body team up to produce. I’ll tell you that it’s not easy, but it can (and must) be done.

But, how does one go about completely rewriting that narrative that has existed for so long–in my case, for nearly 40 years? The answer is as practical as the answer I give my students when they ask what they need to do to revise and edit their writing: take out the words that don’t work and replace them with the ones that do!

Those of us who suffer with anxiety and panic attacks must retrain our brains to throw out all of the narrative that turned out to be a myth and to rewrite a new work, an autobiography, a true story of who we are and who we are meant to be.

For me, that means actually saying the new words out loud (or if the situation requires, internally):

  • This is anxiety. You know it is because you’ve experienced it before.
  • You are OK. You are not having a heart attack or a stroke. You are having a panic attack.
  • BREATHE! This will pass soon. Just let it be what it is, and let it run its course.
  • DON’T RUN!!! You are in control of this situation. No one else offers anymore safety than you. Nowhere else will be safer for you. DON’T RUN!

Not everyone requires that active level of verbal reinforcement, but most probably do–at least until we’ve retrained our brains and rewritten the narrative. Like I said, it’s’ not easy. It takes time and effort, and it won’t happen overnight. But, I believe it will happen. (Resource: The Power of Positive Self-Talk)

Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love.

In the end, it’s important to remember that, as adults, our individual safety and security rests solely in our own hands. We must learn that whatever space we are in is a safe space because we are in control and we are our own safe people.


I hope these posts are helpful to you, whomever you may be. If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, there is hope to be found. You can call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 800-64-PANIC (72642). (The page links to more information about anxiety and panic disorders.)

As always, if you or someone you know is suffering from any sort of mental illness or disorder, please reach out for help because there is help to be found!

Please share this post! Even if you don’t suffer, or don’t think you know anyone who does, you might just reach someone you didn’t even know and offer them HOPE! Thank you!!


Previous Posts in this Series:

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 1
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 2
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 3
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 4
Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, Part 5

Lessons from Star Wars–“You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned”: How Self-Perception Can Change Everything

One of the things I struggle with most in my life–one of the things I think we all struggle with–is self-perception. It’s not necessarily that the way we perceive ourselves is bad or negative, but a lot of the time, I think they way we perceive ourselves is, quite simply, inaccurate. That is something we must all learn…or, unlearn…

Let us now turn to the greatest teaching tool in all of history–Star Wars…

When Luke Skywalker first began his journey toward becoming a Jedi Knight, his self-perception was largely informed by the things his Uncle Owen Lars had told him about himself, about his history, and about his family. Those things weren’t necessarily false, but they certainly were not the whole truth.

What people tell us, and what we tell ourselves doesn’t have to be false to be untrue.

Yoda, the only surviving Jedi Master taught Luke to “unlearn what you have learned.” To see himself and his destiny for who he and what it truly is.

Upon his arrival on Dagobah to begin training with Yoda, Luke had come quite a long way since Obi Wan Kenobi took him from his home on Tatooine. But, he still had in his mind that he was just that simple farm boy; no one of much significance in the universe; always faced with the things he was unable to do.

Then, Yoda, the last living Jedi Master spoke words to Luke that would change both his outlook and the outcome of his destiny.

 

 

 

You must unlearn what you have learned.

With those words, Yoda started Luke down the pathway that would eventually lead to his defeating the Emperor and redeeming the soul of his father, Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader), himself a case study in how self-perception can radically change the course of life.

So, what does that have to do with me and you and the universe outside of George Lucas’s imagination? Well, just like Luke, we must unlearn what we have learnedWe must stop believing all of the negative things that we’ve been told and that we tell ourselves and learn what the truth really is.

I am Darth Vader.

For a lot of years I fancied myself strong and ruthless. I thought that was a good thing. Strong and ruthless people don’t get hurt. They’re impervious to injury and damage. Strong and ruthless people can withstand any assault.

Darth Vader, the Dark Lord of the Sith. Strong. Ruthless. Evil. But, in truth, a tragic and pathetic character who believed things about himself that were not true.

But, something else that strong and ruthless people do is hurt others who they see as a threat–because really, they aren’t that strong.

When movie-goers were first introduced to Darth Vader, he seemed to be the ultimate villain. All bad. Evil. Sinister. Strong and ruthlessIt was only later that we learned the truth. Darth Vader was a sad and tragic character who spent the better part of his life believing things about himself that someone else told him.

And that was me.

I hurt people out of weakness, not out of strength. I burned bridges to avoid getting hurt and only hurt myself more in the process. I separated myself to avoid being cast aside and left alone. And the irony in that is rich.

We are ruthless because it’s easier than being vulnerable. But, in the end, our ruthlessness turns inward, and the people destroyed are, well…ourselves.

I’m actually a worried, fussy protocol droid.

When I finally figured out that strong and ruthless were not necessarily a good way to go, that left me a little lost. My self-perception and my identity were so wrapped up in those beliefs that I didn’t have anything to replace them.

C-3PO, human cyborg relations. Worried. Fussy. But, ultimately the consummate helper and hero.

Then I realized my true nature (not necessarily my true identity).

I am C-3PO, human cyborg relations.

Who I really am is a sort of worried and fussy guy who like things in order and sees his main mission in life as that of providing help and assistance to people who need it–and maybe a little comic relief along the way.

Now, you may be thinking, “Jason, I don’t want to be like C-3PO. He was always finding his way into trouble at the hands of R2-D2 who seemed to revel in the act of getting him there.”

Well, that would be understandable if that’s who he really was. But, it’s not. Yes, C-3PO did end up in a lot of precarious situations, but he always came out on top. And, most of the time, he was a big part of saving the day.

He made people’s lives easier. And that is not a bad person (or droid) to want to be.

Put down the mirror. It is not your friend.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone at some point in life say something like you’d better go take a good look in the mirror young man/lady. I know that I sure did. But, I have some advice for you…

DON’T DO THAT!!!

When you look in a mirror, what do you see? You see yourself the way other people see you. That is the sort of self-perception we should try to get away from, not lean in to.

Real change in self-perception comes from looking at yourself from the inside out. It comes from shedding all of the lies and half-truths you’ve been told by other people and by yourself, and seeing yourself for who you truly are. Once you do that, then you can change that perception and begin to change your life.

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that I believe myself to be an expert on this subject. Far from it! I’m still changing my self-perception…daily. And it’s some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. Sure, I’m C-3PO now, but maybe some day I’ll be Luke, or Obi-Wan, or Yoda. Who knows?

The point is that self-perception, how we see ourselves, plays a huge role in both our outlook on, and the outcome of our lives. Self-perception changes everything…

It can change good to bad.
It can change bad to good.
It can change worthy to worthless.
It can change worthless to worthy.

 

SELF-PERCEPTION CHANGES EVERYTHING!

Take a good look at yourself. What do you see? Who do you see? Do you see the person you or someone else has always told you that you are, or do you see the truth?

Find it. Find you. Let is change your life!

Anxiety–Destroyer of Lives, part 5: A Road to Wellness (Here We Go)

In my last post, I wrote that I would be starting an intensive outpatient treatment program for anxiety and depression soon.

Soon has come!

I began the program on Monday, and completed the third day yesterday. One of the rules of the program is that I not discuss treatment outside of the group–with anyone. So, for the last couple of days I’ve been trying to figure out how to write about my experiences while staying true to that requirement–I want to work the program exactly as designed. I think I’ve figured it out.

In the journal that I keep (it’s true, I don’t write EVERYTHING here!), I write down takeaways each day. Most of them don’t relate specifically to treatment, but instead are my own thoughts and impressions. I will be sharing some of those with you, and I’ll also try to give you a general sense of my personal progression. I think that’s fair, and it honors the spirit of the rule.


First: Why am I writing anything at all about what I’m doing?

When I first started this blog, it was a place for me to keep my thoughts and feelings during a particularly dark time in my life. I was, at that time, nearly housebound with anxiety. I rarely went anywhere, and when I did, I stayed away from as many people as possible.

TAKE AWAY #1: ISOLATING BEHAVIORS ARE VERY COMMON WITH PEOPLE WHO SUFFER FROM ANXIETY AND/OR DEPRESSION. I’VE BECOME VERY GOOD AT ISOLATING AND AT JUSTIFYING THAT ISOLATION.

It was only a very short time before I discovered that there are many more people out in the world like me than I ever would have believed. People who suffer like me, or people who love and care for people who suffer like me began reading my blog and commenting. Just knowing that there were other people who felt the things I felt helped me more than you can imagine.

So, I write about this because of that! Maybe there is someone reading who is suffering; and maybe that someone who is suffering will feel just a little better knowing that they are not alone.


Stepping out of the tiny world-box I had created for myself…

I’m not going to lie–this week has been TOUGH!

When I arrived on Monday, the first day, I was a wreck. On a scale of 1 to 10, my anxiety was at about 412! I was experiencing every, single physical symptom that come with my anxiety and panic attacks all at once!

Dizziness
Feeling like I was outside myself
Rapid heart rate
Weakness
Trembling and shaking
Stomach cramps and nausea
Headache
Muscle tension
The desire to get up and run away

Yes, for real…all of those AT ONCE!!

I didn’t think I was going to make it through the intake process, much less the entire four hour treatment time. But, with the help of some really good and caring folks, I did. It wasn’t pleasant. I didn’t feel good. I was exhausted by the end of the day, but I stayed.

Day 2, Wednesday, didn’t go so well…

I don’t know why Wednesday was such a bad day, but it was. All of those symptoms you see above…yeah, they were magnified by a factor of about 100. I only made it through about an hour and then I left–I had to go. I wasn’t doing myself any good being there…

Or, at least that’s what I told myself as I was leaving.

I came home, got in bed, and slept for about four hours Wednesday afternoon.

TAKE AWAY #2: FLEEING/RUNNING AWAY FROM SITUATIONS THAT CAUSE ANXIETY (AVOIDANCE) IS MY GO-TO REACTION. THE MINUTE THINGS BECOME UNCOMFORTABLE, I RUN. THAT IS NOT ON THE ROAD TO WELLNESS–AVOIDANCE IS AN EXIT RAMP OFF THAT ROAD!

Day 3, Thursday, was a better day…

On the way to Tyler I was doing some serious rationalization–talking myself into quitting and “trying to get better another way” (because that has worked so well up until now). Twice I turned on my left blinked ready to make a u-turn and go home.

Twice I turned it off and stayed on the road.

It wasn’t an easy day. But, I stayed. I wanted to leave. I came up with some pretty good reasons to leave. But, I stayed. I left the group twice. Once I even picked up my stuff and took it with me. But, I stayed. I stayed and I finished the day. I didn’t feel good. It was difficult. I was exhausted…

But, I stayed.

TAKE AWAY #3: EVENTUALLY THE TERROR PASSES. MAYBE I DON’T FEEL GREAT ONCE IT DOES, BUT THE TERROR OF THE PANIC ATTACK PASSES AND I CAN KEEP GOING. LEARNING TO RIDE IT OUT; TO BE PATIENT AND WAIT FOR IT TO PASS WILL BE A BIG KEY TO GETTING WELL.


I learned a lot in a short amount of time–mostly about myself…

TAKE AWAY #4: MINDFULNESS. LEARNING TO HAVE THE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS THAT COME, WITHOUT JUDGING, IS VITAL TO WELLNESS. THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS ARE WHAT THEY ARE. THE ONLY SIGNIFICANCE THEY HAVE IS THE SIGNIFICANCE I (WE) GIVE THEM. LEARN NOT TO JUDGE AND ANALYZE EVERY SINGLE THOUGHT AND FEELING.

TAKE AWAY #5: FILTERS. LIFE AND REALITY AREN’T ALWAYS PLEASANT. THINGS HAPPEN, EVENTS TAKE PLACE THAT CAN SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACT OUR LIVES. BUT, HOW WE REACT TO THEM DEPEND LARGELY ON HOW I (WE) FILTER THEM THROUGH MY (OUR) OWN THOUGHTS AND BELIEFS ABOUT MYSELF (OURSELVES). THE THINGS I (WE) TELL MYSELF (OURSELVES) ABOUT MYSELF (OURSELVES) PLAY A HUGE ROLE IN HOW I (WE) REACT. CHANGING THAT FILTER IS WHERE WELLNESS BEGINS.

There is room for change in every area (except reality), but before thoughts, emotions, symptoms, or reactions change, we MUST change the filter. We can’t continue to believe the same things about ourselves and expect change anywhere else!

TAKE AWAY #6: FEARS. HUMANS COME INTO THE WORLD WITH ONLY TWO FEARS–FALLING AND LOUD NOISES. ALL OF THE REST OF THEM ARE LEARNED


The whole truth and nothing but…

It’s only week one. I’m not going to boast about breakthroughs because, as yet, there hasn’t been what I’d consider a breakthrough. But, I have learned some important things, mostly about myself. The theme for week one: I STAYED.

I’m going to try a couple of more “adventures” — you know, like going to Wal-Mart and not bolting out after ten minutes — this weekend. I’ll post about those on Instagram. Do you follow me there? You should….I am unclenobody (don’t ask, I don’t remember why…click the name and then click “follow”).


As always…

If you, or someone you know or love, is suffering from a mental health problem, I urge you to reach out and seek treatment, or offer your support and help for your loved one who is suffering. Below are a few numbers to call for help in finding resources near you.

Please like and share this post…you never know who you could help!

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 800.273.8255 (TALK)

Veterans Crisis Line – 800.273.8255 (Press option 1)

Treatment Referral Hotline – 877.726.4727

For more resources: www.mentalhealth.gov

Meditation Is Good For the….LOOK! A SQUIRREL!!

In an effort to help myself with my ever-present anxiety, I have started meditating. I’m trying to do it every day–that’s the goal. I’m mostly succeeding at that. I’ve missed a couple of days, but not too many. I try to do it first thing in the morning before I get moving and before my brain really starts to do its thing. But, even early in the morning, it’s tough.

I’m a thinker.

No, not that kind of a thinker. I’d never sit around naked on a rock and think. But, I do think about a lot of things all the timeThey’re not all bad or negative things. A lot of the time I’m thinking about good things: ideas for writing, ideas for teaching, music (I have this little orchestra and choir that lives in my brain). So, not all of my thoughts are negative.

It’s not the manner or tone of my thoughts that plagues me while trying to meditate, though. It’s just the sheer volume of them, and the speed at which they come to me. Often I can’t keep up myself. If I get an idea that’s worthy of exploration, I need to stop what I’m doing and write it down. Otherwise…it’s gone and there comes a new one!

But, that is counterproductive when attempting to meditate. The goal of meditation is to center oneself, to focus, to breathe, to relax. The goal is to clear one’s mind of thoughts, and to just be in the moment.

Or so I thought…

My niece, who’s been meditating for much longer than me, posted an interesting thought on her Instagram story the other day. I’m not quoting directly, but in essence she said not to be concerned at not being able to completely clear the mind of thoughts. Rather, to let those thoughts come and then go. And, she’s not alone in that sentiment.

In a post entitled “Meditation isn’t about suppressing your thoughts and emotions,” JD Andre writes:

When you meditate, you strengthen awareness of everything that appears in consciousness: thoughts, emotions, urges, sensations, etc. You develop the skill of noticing it all without getting caught up in it (without indulging it).

On the other hand, suppress is defined as “forcibly put an end to; prevent.” Meditation is the opposite of that definition — when you meditate, you aren’t trying to forcibly end or prevent anything. To the contrary, you accept it all non-judgmentally.

Put another way, meditation is embracing whatever is happening in the present moment. The distinction is that meditating isn’t wallowing in thoughts and emotions. Nor is it dwelling on — or analyzing — them.

Well, that’s a relief! No, seriously, that’s a REAL RELIEF!!

It’s good to know that I don’t have to get caught up in this idea that in order to achieve successful meditation I have to clear my mind of all thoughts. Honestly, I don’t even know how I would go about doing that. I don’t know how anyone would go about doing that. Is it even healthy to try?

And, so I’ll take my 12 minutes a day (don’t ask why 12…it’s just the number that came to me) and I will close my eyes, relax my entire body, focus on the present moment, breathe deeply and slowly, and I will let whatever thoughts come to me come. And I won’t worry about them. And I won’t stress over them. And I won’t consider myself a failure because I couldn’t get rid of them.

Man, oh man….this making myself a better person isn’t easy!

My question to you is this: do you meditate regularly? If so, what do you do? Do you struggle with racing thoughts like I do? I’m really curious to know. Please comment below and talk to me about your experiences.

Until later…

Namaste.