Monday, January 31, 2011

Drowning in My Own Bad Gene Pool

Is anxiety inherited or is it determined by environmental factors? Was I born this way or is it just a result of dysfunctional family upbringing, bullying and teasing at school and other traumatic events?

Most scientists would say it is a combination of both. And of course these factors can be difficult to seperate. Those who are genetically related often also share the same environment.

Most researchers believe that a person can inherit a predisposition to anxiety or other condition, but that often certain environmental events are necessary to actually result in a full fledged disorder.

Some people have inherited a genetic shield that protects them from the onslaught of cruelty, disappointment and trauma a person can face at times in their lives.

Others have inherited a protective coating so weak that even the slightest touch wounds them.

In my family I am the only one who is not on some form of medication for mental or emotional issues. From depression to anxiety, from autism to ADHD we seem to have it all.

And yet I still wonder if I can stop the progress of this bad blood to the next generation.

If I have any hope at all it will be to transform myself so that I can be an example, a model of how to not let anxiety, self doubt and depression ruin your life.

I have a long way to go.

I need to rise above and fight this thing that has such a hold on me.

I really need some help!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Side Of Paradise

I have always had a love for horses. A connection, an awe, an intense wonder.

I love to just sit and watch them in the pasture grazing and swishing their tails. I love the sound of their hooves pounding on the grass as they run and buck as a storm rolls in.

The way they interact with each other, their intelligence, and the unique character each one has.

The curve of their necks and the set of their clean jawlines, flowing manes and flaring nostrils, and beautiful deep eyes.
But they are also bold, and strong, and spirited and sometimes easily frightened.
Many people say that horses are adept at mirroring who we are and how we are feeling at a particular moment. I am finding that I am learning to use this as a means of understanding my own fears and anxiety.

These beautiful creatures are helping me to gain emotional control and to confront and work through my fears, anxiety and panic.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Automatic Negative Thoughts

I have been learning about Automatic Negative Thoughts.

These are things we tell ourselves without realizing it throughout the day, pretty much all the time. All just below the surface of our minds.

Thoughts like "No one has ever really liked me", "I will never get ahead at work because no one really notices what I have accomplished", "If I try to do this I will probably fail", "Everyone at this meeting is repulsed by the way I look", "Everyone will shun me if I have a panic attack".

I have always thought I was an optimistic person.

But after hearing about automatic negative thoughts, I decided to experiment and carefully monitor my thinking for a day.

I was surprised at what I was "hearing" myself say!

One part of cognitive therapy can be to discover common automatic negative thoughts we have and replace them with more realistic positive ones.

For instance, when I hear myself think "I am a boring person with nothing to say - no wonder no one wants to talk to me" I need to tell myself "Stop".

Then deliberately create a more positive thought. "I am a valuable person with my own unique perspective on life. The things I say can be very interesting and refreshing.`

Catastrophizing is another form of negative thinking. Expecting the worst outcome possible and dwelling on those thoughts cause intense feelings of anxiety and dread.

Cognitive therapists call automatic negative thoughts ANTS sometimes, as a way to be cute I guess but also probably as a useful acronym.

Try it ! Monitor your own thoughts today and see if you catch yourself thinking unhelpful negative messages.

Chamomile Tea My Sweet Herbal Remedy!

You may remember that I am experimenting with herbal remedies and anti anxiety herb treatments - in a very small way. I am a cautious person afterall!

My initial venture into the world of herbal remedies begins with chamomile tea.

I am normally a coffee person and love to have at least 3 extra large coffees before 9 am. (someone recently dared to suggest that this might be giving me the jitters - pah!)

Instead, today I have my fingers wrapped around a warm steaming cup of fragrant chamomile tea.

It is very pleasant sitting here looking out the window on this cold winter day with a mug of sweet smelling herbal tea.

Although it has only been a few days I am starting to notice the difference.

The first day was not great. I had headache , but I have heard that is a common symptom of caffeine withdrawal.

But with each successive day I have been feeling not as much on edge. Truly, I am not sure if this is due to the positive effects of chamomile tea or from quitting coffee. Or both?

My anxiety is most definitely not totally cured by just stopping coffee and drinking herbal tea!

But this seems to be a step in the right direction.

And it feels very nice!

Social Anxiety and Facebook

I hate it when I get to comparing my life with the lives of others on Facebook!

Maybe it's just my social anxiety raising it's ugly head again but I sometimes get myself feeling like the whole thing is a popularity contest and I might be the loser!

I update my status and wait for someone to "like" it (and therefore me I guess).

I write something I think is totally brilliant - which gets no response - or maybe one or two likes - if I am lucky - only to find 20 or 30 likes on someone elses mundane ordinary status update.

I start to feeling sorry for myself - "What is wrong with me?" " Why do the things I say not seem to matter?"

Of course this isn't limited to Facebook. I find I am always looking for clues of approval from others - I really care what others think and am desperate for people to not just like me but really LOVE me - as in just can't get enough of me - hang on every word I say - always be the topic of fascination to others.

I have heard that one cure for social anxiety is to stop caring so much about what others think about you.

Caring so much about what others think is damaging because it stops me from being my true self. If everything I do is based on the level of acceptance I think I might receive from others, I end up modifying myself based on what others want or like.

Taken to the extreme, just think about what a loss this is - to give away my "true self" for smiles or "likes".

Of course some degree of behavior modification happens to everyone just because we humans are social beings. Some behaviors are not appropriate or are dangerous or damaging to others and people respond unfavorably - which usually stops the behavior.

But for someone who suffers from social anxiety this constant monitoring of others opinions becomes extreme and ineffective.

You know the saying "You can't please all of the people all of the time"?

I think that is precisely what I and other socially anxious people spend our precious days doing!

"Please like me!" is what my behavior constantly screams.

And this has the opposite effect from what I had intended.

Others view this desperation for attention, affection and caring as a sign that something is wrong. And withdraw from me. It's the desperation, the willingness to change my thoughts, opinions and personality based on what others think or like.

I need to get clear on who I really am and be that person - freely without worrying what others think or if they "like" me.


Getting Rid Of Fear

There are several things I have found are effective in getting rid of fear - for me anyway.

Ironically, the biggest one is to not actually feel so uncomfortable with it and fear it so much.

If I let myself be okay with feeling anxious it is easier to stop feeling so panicked!

I find that it is when I start in with that old mindtape of what a wimpy person I am , how I am wasting my life being afraid constantly, how others are braver and better than me, how I am failing again because I am probably going to have another panic attack that things go straight downhill fast!

Part of getting rid of fear is actually accepting fear.

Ok, so I feel afraid now and even often - it's not such a big deal - and it will go away eventually too.

And if I don't feel like its the end of the world cause I am in panic mode again, it doesn't seem to have such a strong hold on me.

Getting rid of fear is something that seems to automatically happen when I let myself just let go and trust myself and the world around me. I will be ok no matter what happens.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Worst Symptoms of Anxiety

Ok maybe I am a little weird. My unique symptoms of anxiety are not something I talk about too often.

I have had issues with fear and panic my whole life at least from adolescense onwards. It is embarassing to me that I have this condition. I have always tried to hide it from others as best as I could, but recently I realized there is no point in doing this for several reasons:

  1. most people could tell anyway
  2. most people really didn't care about it too much
  3. trying to hide it just made it worse - made me more anxious!

But I do still have a little secret that I am about to reveal.

In addition to the typical symptoms of anxiety like heart racing, feeling like you are about to vomit, breathing too fast, and even sometimes having chest pains I have these other symptoms of anxiety that I really hate.

They are:

  • blushing - my cheeks turn fire engine red and stay that way for hours
  • trembling - shaky hands, jittering limbs
  • sweating - yes the slimy handshake is coming your way!
  • stuttering - this also happens occassionally
  • mental block - my mind sometimes just goes blank and I can't think of what to say

Ok those ones are bad enough, but I have another far worse more horrifying symptom of anxiety that I really really hate.

Ready? Not you - I am getting myself ready to reveal this - it's nasty.

I hate to admit this but when I am anxious I suffer from gas of all kinds - burping, hiccups and worse.

Ok this is an open invitation - share your worse and most dreaded symptoms of anxiety that plague you by writing a comment below. Maybe you will help others know they are not alone!

Herbal Anxiety Treatments

I have been hearing a lot about herbal anxiety remedies such as drinking chamomile tea. They have worked for some people and I have decided I am going to try them out.

It has been quite interesting to see that there are some natural anxiety treatments that are working well for some anxiety sufferers like myself. There is quite a lot of scientific research that validates the growing use of natural remedies that is a current trend as well.
Let me in on this trend! If it works I am all for it!
I would sure love to have something that would help me feel better that is natural too! I figure it's worth a try anyway!

I am hoping that I can get my everyday level of anxiety down so that I am not feeling so hyper all day. It seems like I have a regular baseline that has me feeling like I am wound tight, so if I can get this to a more sedate level I should feel more in control and more steady.
If herbal anxiety remedies can help me I will be thrilled!

Things like chamomile tea are supposed to help a person relax and be a little more chill.

Other herbs I have heard are good are lemon balm, and passionflower.
So wish me well! I am off to the store to stock up on chamomile tea and to look for organic herbal anxiety treatment products!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Social Phobia and Parties

Another party disaster.

My friend Jana had a house warming party at her place.

There were a few people I recognized. I thought I would be ok to talk and enjoy myself.

I deliberately came late thinking that I wouldn't be anxious about people looking at me when I came in the room if the party was already in full swing.

Coming in the door, Jana and her husband welcomed me and offered me a gin and tonic, showed me where the food was and said they were so happy to see me.

"How are things going with you? " Jana asked.

"Oh great!" I said smiling. "I love your new house!" I replied smiling.

"Thanks very much" said Jana "We are enjoying it"

"Yes it's such a nice neighborhood - you must be very happy here" (me)

Then as this conversation dwindled the doorbell rang again and Jana had to leave to greet new guests.

Anxiety Takes Over

I was suddenly alone and vulnerable - standing there clutching my drink.

Sipping, glancing around, sipping, glancing around, smile at no one in particular. Sip. Sip.

Deep inside I start to panic. I just got here. I have no one to talk to. I can't leave yet and this party is going to be going on for the rest of the evening.

Ideas flood my head:
  • I could suddenly leave saying I had just been struck with an intense migraine headache.
  • I could excuse myself saying that I had just gotten an emergency call on my cell that my elderly mother was in the hospital.
  • I could go to the washroom for a few minutes to check my hair and makeup and hope things will change when I come out.
  • I could go to the food table and try to mingle with anyone else who is there.

I decided on the last option. It was more "normal" and at least it bought me a little time.

I walk slowly to the food table with what I hope is a friendly, relaxed, casual, interesting and very friendly look on my face.

I take a plate, and chat with the person next to me "Wow doesn't this look good?" (me) "Yes she's such a good cook isn't she? (them)

Then I remember something I think people suggest you say at parties where you don't know anyone.

"And how do you know Jana?"

"I'm her sister" she replies.

"Oh wow , nice, very nice to meet you"

"Yes you too" She smiles kindly and excuses herself and moves away to carry food plates back to her husband.

I am alone again. My heart is racing, I feel like I might pass out, I need to calm down and relax. Social anxiety has it's ice cold grip on me.

The room seems to be filled with people laughing, singing, talking and having fun. They all seem to know each other.

A roar of laughter erupts across the room. These people were having a fun time they would be talking about for days.

Why can't I be like that?

I have issues with social anxiety.

Gotta get this cured.

Horses, Riding and Anxiety

Horses have always been a part of my life.

I used to ride bareback at a full gallop, wind blowing through my hair, energy surging through me, free and brave! Riding was something that relaxed me.

Now things are different. Its too windy to ride. I feel a migraine headache coming on. My horse seems a little hyper today. The arena is too crowded. I don't know anyone here.

Better not ride today. I will do it tomorrow.

I can make more excuses than the day is long. More promises to myself.

More letting myself down.

No more -- this has to end.

I will not let fear rule my life.

I will not let myself down.

It's A Beautiful World!

It's a beautiful world and I want to enjoy it again.

Somewhere in my life, I am not sure exactly when, I slipped off the pathway.

When I take inventory of my life these days I am horrified. Socially anxious, self conscious, easily intimidated with few "personal boundaries" I find myself withdrawing from most activities I used to enjoy and doing what seems safe and easy.

The trouble is the safe and easy route brings me no joy.

I can see I am becoming more isolated and tentative and controlled by anxiety.

I feel my life slipping by in a slew of excuses, rationalizations and timidity. I need to change. And now is the time to do it. I am hoping that this blog does not end up like one of those where the author stops after just a few posts. I want to win my life back again.

I am going to try new things, to research treatments and self help systems and read books and try everything and push myself to become adventurous and brave and to enjoy life again.

This blog is a journal of my travel to a new place in my life.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me!