Anxiety Diaries – It’s OK to Have a Bad Day

Anxiety Diaries – Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Celebrating Small Victories #2 (Don’t Quit!)

Staying Positive and Finding Small Victories

Things People Say That I Wish They Didn’t Say (Video)

People mean well–I know they do. But sometimes, when I’m in the middle of a panic attack or an anxious day, people say things that I wish they wouldn’t say. Here are five of the most common ones. Remember, sometimes the best way to help is just to sit quietly and be there!

Anxiety Diaries – What do you do when you have a bad day? (Video)

The Myth of “Safety”

It’s taken me a long time to write this post. I actually started it almost two weeks ago; but, for various reasons, not the least of which has been my own up-and-down battle with anxiety and stress, it’s taken until today to finish.

Better late than never, I suppose…

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written  here on the blog, which is odd when you think about it. There’s so much anxiety and stress wrapped up in our current situation with the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic–you’d think I would have a lot to say about it. And, I do, but until now I haven’t been able to come up with the words I need to say it. Who knows if this post will even accomplish that. But, I’m going to try.

So, on that note, let’s talk about…

When I teach my students about myths, I’m very careful to make sure they understand that, in the context of literature, the word myth does not carry with it the negative connotation that we endow it with in modern speech. While myths as stories are fictional, they are, for the most part, based in genuinely held beliefs and are used to explain the inexplicable in nature. That’s why I’ve purposely chosen the term to describe the phenomenon I’m writing about today.

In the late spring of 2009, I began having severe panic attacks again. As I’ve written about previously, although my anxiety is persistent at some level on a daily basis, from time to time, I go through what I refer to as malignant periods–periods where my anxiety is severe and acute. That spring was one of those times. As usual, I had (and still have) no idea what precipitated their onset. Quite literally, I had a panic attack when I got off the elevator at work one morning, went home a few minutes later, and never went back. That marked the beginning of what was an almost year long battle.

The Olympians

As with all of my previous malignant periods, I sought what I believed to be the safety of my home and my family. They were my safe place and safe people. But, as time went on, and as this period of severe panic and anxiety lingered, those safety nets got smaller and smaller until, by the end of that summer, I was essentially confined to my bedroom. I only left its confines to get food or use the restroom, and I certainly didn’t leave the house. Even then, I didn’t feel safe.

That’s why I refer to the myth of “safety.” I truly believed that I could and would be safe from my anxiety and panic in my own house and with my own family. In the beginning I felt safe; but as the panic attacks continued on, my world became smaller and smaller, until there was nothing left of it but my bed, my desk, and my television.  The myth had been shattered. I realized that there was nowhere I could run and no one I could run to that would afford me real safety.

Fast forward…Spring 2020

Here’s the hard truth about Coronavirus (and almost all other viruses & bacteria): hiding from them won’t stop them. We can lock ourselves away from now until eternity and that virus will still be out there.

There are people who truly believe that if we all shut ourselves inside long enough that we can kill the virus–that we can starve it of enough places to land that it will become a non-entity. They believe that hiding away offers safety. That is a myth–a genuinely held belief that explains the inexplicable in nature.

Now, let me be careful to say that I am not suggesting that we simply go on about our lives as if nothing is wrong. That is foolishness. This virus is very real, it’s very deadly, and we need to take it seriously. We need to mitigate as much as possible to protect the most vulnerable members of our population. But, we also need to be realistic. Staying locked away forever won’t kill this virus. It doesn’t offer us the sort of “safety” we so desperately need right now.

OK, if I’m not really “safe”, what do I do with the fear?

This is a good time to remind you that I am not a psychiatrist, nor a psychologist, nor a trained counselor. I’m just a guy who has suffered from panic and anxiety since he was a little kid. But, over the years, I’ve learned some things that help me when my anxiety and panic are peaked out, and I’ll share them with you.

  1. Educate yourself. If your anxiety/panic are caused by something which you don’t know a lot about, but which presents at least some level of threat to you, educate yourself about that thing as much as you can. This is the case for many of us in our current situation. We don’t know enough about this virus yet, and we always fear what we don’t know. Find reputable resources for accurate information (I’ll provide some below). I don’t include media in this category, not because I think they’re purveyors of false information, but because I understand that they have paying advertisers to satisfy with maximum viewers and maximum clicks on stories.
  2. Avoid information overload. This one is tough for me because I’m an information junkie. I want as much information as I can get my hands on as quickly as I can get my hands on it. Unfortunately, that often leads to information overload which leads to increased anxiety and becomes a vicious cycle. Turn off the television. Back away from social media. Find something to do that offers you a break from reality. I’m not saying turn everything off and pretend nothing is happening, but give yourself a break from the onslaught of numbers and theories and arguments.
  3. Mind your physical health. One of the things I have learned about over the years of my struggle is the mind/body connection. It’s very real and it works both ways. Just as much as an unhealthy mind can lead to physical illness, an unhealthy body can contribute negatively to our overall mental health. It’s important to eat healthy foodsdrink plenty of water (stay hydrated), exercise our bodies, and for heaven’s sake GET ENOUGH SLEEP! 
  4. Isolate without being isolated. I know what you’re thinking — “Huh?” Just trust me here. We’re all being told how important it is to avoid being too close to crowds of people for long periods of time. We’ve learned this new term, “social distancing,” and it’s ubiquitous in our culture now. But, it’s important to remember that, as you isolate yourself in an effort to avoid exposure to Coronavirus (as much as that’s possible to do), it’s equally important not to isolate yourself from the rest of the world. Stay in contact with family and friends. Visit with them in person if possible, maintaining recommended protocols. Talk to them on the phone, via Skype or Zoom or FaceTime, etc. Most importantly, BE HONEST with yourself and with them. If you’re struggling, let someone know. Don’t struggle alone.
  5. Be realistic and don’t ask too much of yourself. We’re all glad (well, many of us anyway) that the restrictions are easing up–that we’re beginning to be able to get out and about more, and that there is some good news out there about the virus and progress being made toward vaccines, treatments, and just general knowledge about it. But, not everyone feels comfortable enough yet to get out and about. That is OK!! It’s important not to put a time table on your own ability to manage anxiety. Not everyone feels better at the same speed. If you’re still not comfortable getting out, then don’t push yourself. Set realistic goals that you can achieve. Don’t compare yourself to others.
  6. Seek professional help if you need it. This is an incredibly stressful time we’re living in. Truth be told, it’s probably the most stressful time most of us have ever lived in. For me, the only time I can compare it to is the days and weeks immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The sort of fear and stress we’re experiencing now can cause long-term mental health issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder; not to mention depression. These are all very real and very serious. If you think you might be suffering from any of these, it’s important to get professional help as quickly as possible. There are resources available to help. Don’t wait.

The reality of the situation…

The point I’m trying to make with this post (see, I told you I was still struggling for words) is that it’s important not to get caught up in a myth. While myths can help us process the brutality of reality, they can also generate a false sense of safety that ultimately works against us.

Isolated

Oh, it’s very true that we can continue to make our world smaller and smaller, and we can continually limit contact with the outside more and more; but in the end, if we do that, we’re just damaging ourselves in a different way. I know this from personal experience, and that’s how I’ll end–where I began…

By the end of summer 2009, I was essentially confined to my bedroom. I didn’t leave the house for any reason, and people didn’t come to see me very often. My only contact with the outside world was my immediate family and Facebook. That isolation caused a lot of damage that took years to repair. I didn’t trust anyone. I felt paranoid of people’s motives. I worried constantly that I had some serious physical illness, and regardless how small I let my world become, I still didn’t feel safe. 

I hope that something I’ve written here has made some sense to you or offered some encouragement or at least made you think a little. Be well. Be safe. And try to find some light!

My Story

If you’d like to read more about my history with anxiety and panic disorder, click the link below:

Anxiety — Destroyer of Lives, Part I: My Long & Complicated History With Panic

Mental Health Resources

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!

If you are considering harming yourself or someone else, CALL 911!!

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

Struggling, Discouraged, & Generally Feeling Like Something of a Nobody

Yeah….sorry about the melodramatic title, but if you’ve been reading my blog long enough then you know I have a penchant for drama. *shrug* It’s who I am. I apologized for it for years. I’m not going to apologize anymore.

I’m struggling…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. There are a lot of reasons for that: I’ve been busy (not really, but sorta), I haven’t felt like writing anything (totally true), and as hard as this will be to read for many of you, I’m a little miffed that more people don’t read my blog and that the people who do won’t share it (sorry, but y’all said you like my honesty and transparency…that’s just honesty).

More honesty – it’s not only writing that I don’t feel much like doing. I don’t feel like doing much of anything. I’m pretty much phoning it in both with my teaching and with my schoolwork. I don’t have a lot of motivation to do either. Fortunately, I’m naturally gifted at both, so I still do better than most who actually give a damn and try (yeah…more honesty *shrug again*).

So, I’m struggling. I’m struggling to find much of a purpose in what I’m doing or a plan for what is coming next. Right now I’m teaching just for the money. I don’t really care about much more than that. I’m going to school because I set a goal 10 years ago and this is the last step. But, I don’t even know now if it’s a worthwhile goal to have. *shrug 3x*

I’m discouraged…

My anxiety is getting worse, not better. I go to counseling every single week and talk about all the stuff in my life that bothers me and all of that stuff is supposedly the stuff that is making me anxious. But, so far, yacking away….blathering on and on and on about shit that happened when I was a kid, about how out of place I felt most of the time and about how worried I was that people in my family were going to die…none of that psychobabble horsecrap is helping me feel less anxious.

I’m starting to wonder if I can be helped at all. *shrug quadrilateral*

I feel like something of a nobody…

This really isn’t anything new. Growing up a completely un-athletic clod in a town that valued nothing but sports made me feel like something of a nobody from the age of about 10 on. But, it’s intensified now.

Being stuck in the house all the time because of anxiety means that I get to watch my “friends” live their lives and progress and move forward while I sit at a tiny desk in front of a $12 map of the world and pretend like my job teaching ESL online is important….and that taking two online graduate courses and writing discussion posts about semantics and pragmatics and communicative intent and cross-cultural communication actually means that I’m a scholar. Who believes that? Not even me. *shrug quintuplet*

There you have it. That pretty much sums up how I feel about life right now. I’m not going to put any of my usual “Hey let me know what you’re thinking” BS at the bottom because nobody ever does and it’s just a waste of my time.

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!!

 

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