Rebound Anxiety

The physical symptoms that can come with anxiety are so bizarre. The past few weeks have been very busy but in a good way. I was not expecting the physical toll that I’m currently feeling.

I decided quite a while ago that I wanted to throw my husband a 30th birthday cookout. Originally it was going to be a surprise. I had it all built up in my head. It was going to be great. I was thinking through how to get him out of the house during the day, where everyone would try and park, inviting his friends from Dayton and making arrangements for where they could spend the night, etc.

Well…on top of us settling into the new house over the past few months, the stress that was coming with getting house projects done, both of our work situations, and him preparing to start grad school it was too much to hold in. I spilled the beans on the surprise but in the end was very happy that I did.

It can often take a lot for me to ask for help because my brain has this odd way of making myself feel like I need to take care of everything and do it all on my own. It is exhausting and there was no way I was getting all the house projects that I felt should be done before the party on my own. Luckily my husband and I make a pretty darn good team and were able to tackle things together. I have to laugh because in hindsight there was really no realistic way to pull a surprise party off.

Aside from him knowing about the cookout, he was still very excited that I had already reached out to some of his friends from Dayton. He doesn’t get to see them often and they too were excited to get together. Them deciding to come was awesome but did mean more house projects as I had offered for them to stay with us.

Leading up to the party I was a little anxious. I wanted to make sure everything was great and everyone had a good time. Our house guests arrived Friday evening and they were a huge help with chopping veggies, decorating, and the other last minute party prep. Those moments leading up to the designated start felt like time was standing still. One of our guests made the decision to take a quick nap and even though I would have benefited from doing the same I found myself sweeping random areas and other little things to keep myself busy.

People arrived and the party was great. Everyone had a great time and I even found myself being relaxed (or so I thought) and spending time with friends. I played corn hole, had some good food, held a baby, things were great. We woke up the next morning and went to brunch with our house guests before they hit the road. I had already decided I was going to take an afternoon nap, but otherwise was still feeling pretty good.

What I didn’t realize, was how much my body was holding the stress even when I was not feeling it. Even though my brain was telling me things were all good and my chest wasn’t feeling tight my body was still holding on to it. I woke up Monday feeling like I had hit a brick wall. I went to work and made it through my day but I was absolutely exhausted. When I got home from work that day I found myself having a mini panic attack. I had to take some medication that I have for those moments when my heart starts racing, etc. I don’t use it all that often but had to that evening.

When I get exhausted I get in my head big time. It can be frustrating because in those moments the things that I do to try and help manage stress go out the window.

I sit here a week later still feeling like I could crawl back into bed right now. However, I’m coming off of a weekend that was relaxing but also productive and one that I got to spend some time with my family and friends.

I’m thankful that I am in a place where I can recognize the “rebound anxiety”, as my husband named it, and try to do what I need to do so that it does not fully consume me. Even though it is tough, I have the ability to pull myself out of that fog and start my walk back down the stress mountain. I don’t have to live at the top.

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Vitamin D

About a month ago I discovered that my vitamin D level is very low. When you say very low sometimes you get that reaction where people are like “you’re being dramatic, how low is low?” and then when you tell them that you came out about 3 numbers short of “insufficient” they are like “oh, yeah..you should do something about that.” Apparently with vitamin D levels, among other random levels of things in our bodies, there is a sufficient category, insufficient category, and a deficient. I somehow managed to get myself into the deficient area. In hindsight this makes sense because I work an office job with no windows and don’t really like to drink milk.

Turns out when you are in the deficient category and start researching to order yourself a vitamin D supplement (while convincing yourself that it will not sit lonely on the shelf next to your multivitamins that you never take…maybe another problem?) the doctor calls and tells you to pick up the prescription they called in for an 8 week round of a hefty vitamin D doses. I realized the little supplements I was researching were not going to cut it because you literally cannot buy this amount on the shelf.

I try not to Dr. Google because it usually sends me down an anxiety rabbit hole of panic. Why does every symptom you ever search for seem to come up with either something very mild or cancer? Why so extreme? Anyways, since the doctor had confirmed this I decided to look it up. I was amazed that I pretty much had all of the symptoms that Dr. Google listed for vitamin D deficiency. Muscle aches, extreme fatigue and tiredness, hair loss, increased depression, and so on. Let me just tell you that losing an obnoxious amount of hair on the day to day and being so fatigued that some Saturdays you wake up for an hour or so and physically have to go back to bed is scary. Even getting an appropriate amount of sleep was not cutting it.

As of today I have had 5 weeks of the 8 before I go get my level tested again. I do think that it is helping. While some days I still struggle I was super excited when I finally had a Saturday that I felt like I got up on my own terms and had a productive day. I even managed to go sit at a coffee shop and finish reading a book that I was enjoying. The struggle I have with finishing books is a blog for another time.

I think the point of all of this is that sometimes when you are not feeling well it is easy to chalk it up to being your anxiety/depression. There are so many things that seem to overlap or can appear to be symptoms that arise simply because of the stress my body is taking on at that given time. It can be hard because you get used to that and have to fight the internal argument of whether or not to make the doctor’s appointment.

I don’t want to go if it is just related to the depression/anxiety. That is embarrassing and frustrating. It truly gives you that “it’s all in your head feeling” as well as feeling bad that your coping mechanisms aren’t quite doing enough because it is impacting your body in this way.

On the other hand, if I do not make the appointment, what if I am missing something? What if there is a simple fix for some of these things such as taking a vitamin D supplement?

In this particular situation I was glad that I made the appointment and tried to lay it all out for her despite feeling that I may just get a response that connects it all to the stress. This time I did stumble upon something that was definitely making me feel bad and assured me that it is something that I can change. I had been so upset because the amount of fatigue was crazy and I wasn’t feeling “so down” that I felt I should be that tired. It wasn’t making sense which in turn was causing more stress.

So while I finish up the big guns and hope that my level becomes “sufficient” I also realize it likely means that I will have to start being more adamant about incorporating a daily supplement into my routine. I am really bad at that and absolutely hate setting alarm reminders on my phone (drives me crazy) but if the alternative is drinking more milk I will suck it up with the reminders. I am certainly not drinking more milk. That stuff is gross. You can ask my husband. I could be eating a big bowl of fruity pebbles or something equally sweet and bad for you and I would still not drink the remaining milk in the bowl.

Commitment

Commitment can be hard when you have anxiety. When you first meet a person you are nervous and have so many questions to consider. “What are they like?” “Will they like me?” “Do they like dogs?” “Will I be able to hold a conversation with them or is it just going to be awkward?” “If it’s super awkward, what do I do?” When it comes to meeting for the first time sometimes anxiety tells you that you should just stay home and watch some Netflix.

Despite the struggle, I am happy to announce that over the past couple months I finally found and committed to a hair stylist.

While yes, big commitments are also hard, all of those little commitments in your life can be extremely difficult. I’m talking about the people you see once a month like the hair stylist, or those people you see every 6 months to a year such as your dentist or doctor. It can also be people in your life that are less permanent such as a counselor or physical therapist that you see for just a period of time.

To most, these things are just what you do. You go to the doctor every 6 months to a year. If you need a haircut, you call the stylist and make an appointment. Simple, right? You would think so, but if someone is struggling with anxiety or depression sometimes these things can feel like running a marathon.

There is the build up to making the appointment. Committing to a certain time on a certain day and hoping that it will end up working. Asking for the time off work if necessary and hoping it won’t be too much of an inconvenience and the courage to actually go to the appointment when the time comes. Don’t even get me started on the uncomfortable feeling of having to call again to cancel or reschedule.

I think this is why people with anxiety are fiercely devoted to someone once they find them.

It’s more than just people in your life. Sometimes any decision can be hard. “What restaurant should we go to?” “If I pick what I want will other people be unhappy with the choice?” It feels like at times we weigh the pros and cons of any given situation that we talk ourselves out of what we truly want or we become so overwhelmed that we don’t do anything at all. It can be hard to turn off the constant internal debates.

The biggest example for me recently involves writing. I have so many things I wanted to get down on paper and I literally could not decide what to write about first. Having to make the decision came with so much pressure that I was putting on myself that I just shut down instead. Instead of choosing I just didn’t write at all which is why it has taken so long to post something new. Maybe this is why we sometimes struggle with procrastination as well?

Sometimes it feels like the best decision is to not make any decision at all. Unfortunately that is not how life works.

So next time you are upset with your “flaky” friend for bailing or frustrated that your family cannot decide where to eat, just remember that you don’t always know what they are going through. Are they struggling? Maybe. Are they just really bad at committing? Maybe. Who knows?

I do know that as for Tabetha, she better not even think about giving up cutting hair or decide to move. Ever.

 

Irrational Fear

Last night I was thinking a lot about irrational fear. Probably because my brain was swarming with it. I’m not sure what exactly started the thoughts but I will tell you it ended with thinking about what exactly I would do and how I would try to get out of the house if it were on fire and I was there alone with our two animals.

Would I have time to make it to the front door? If not, would I be able to go out the bedroom window and wait on the little roof overhang until someone could get me to safety? How would I grab Charlie and Chloe to do so? Charlie would probably be okay as long as I kept a hold of him but Chloe only likes to be held when she wants to be so she likely would be trying to bite me…if I had on long sleeves maybe it would be alright? She also is more resilient to the jump but then what? She is an indoor cat? OMG why am I thinking about this?

Those were some of the ramblings in my mind last night as I lay facing the door even though I desperately wanted to lay on my other side. I do so because I am home alone and if I lay with my back to the door who knows what kind of boogey man is going to show up in the shadows? Because facing the door is really going to change anything if there were an intruder? Sure.

Fear is such an awful thing. I think about all of the people in the world right now who are constantly living in fear. That fight or flight (or even give up) response takes a toll on you. I can’t imagine how it must be for those who are facing fear every day for reasons other than their brain being irrational as they lay in the comfort of their bed.

Fear is also one of those things that is stressful for someone who is a person of faith but struggles with anxiety. It’s hard for a couple of reasons.

First, people without anxiety cannot even comprehend this level of irrational thinking.

It blows their mind when you try to explain it to them and you just really hope they won’t think you are crazy and stop being your friend. Also, they can’t really give a whole lot of input because they truly just do not understand. It’s not a bad thing, they just don’t.

Second, you get a mix of “go-to” phrases from those in the faith community when you try to talk about these fears and how they impact you.

I think the most common response is going to scripture. Hey, that is a great place to start and trust me I have 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” on my bulletin board right now. I know this and it is something that I continue to work on in my day to day life, but it can be so hard. It is much easier for someone without anxiety to quote scripture or tell you to just “turn it all over to God” than it is for someone with anxiety to do so. When you also add in the person with anxiety beating themselves up over the fact that scripture says it so why can’t I just do it? What is wrong with me? Have I done something to make this happen? And so on. So while reminding of scripture can at times be helpful it may be more helpful to just provide a listening ear or offer to pray with/for the person if they would like.

Another go-to seems to be to remind the person that God created them and loves ALL of them just the way they are. Okay, so now the person with anxiety is like okay, God knows about the anxiety obviously, but why did I have to be created with that? Could I maybe get a pass in some seasons of life? Is there a reason for the anxiety? Is it going to help with my mission or plan God has for me? Wait, I thought this anxiety was a bad thing and I was supposed to cast all of it out and give it all over because it is not a good thing? Does God love my anxiety brain or does he love my brain but I’m supposed to let the anxiety part go? It’s extremely conflicting. These are clearly things that no one on earth is going to have an answer for and all I can do is continue praying.

Lastly, my all-time favorite response is that those thoughts are the devil and we just have to get them out of there as quickly as we can. Thank you kind sir for telling the person with anxiety that they have the devil in their brain. Enough said.

In reality, some of my thoughts last night are probably stemming from a few different things. I had a stressful day which tends to influence it. We recently had our furnace repaired because a piece of it broke while we were on our trip during the freezing temps (luckily my family was watching the house/animals and able to get it fixed for us!). Also, we have noticed that in our downstairs bathroom you can sometimes smell a burning candle or something of that nature that I believe comes from the neighboring townhouse. There must be something that causes that to carry over for some reason. I smelled it yesterday evening so I can only assume that all of these things in some way impacted my fire scenario.

I was also just extremely tired. When you add all this up it is the perfect recipe for an irrational cocktail. Which makes me want an actual cocktail…but for this morning my Starbucks that I picked up on my way to work will have to do.

Sleep

Sleep is such a weird thing. As humans we need sleep. However, too much or too little sleep can really impact us day to day. It’s interesting to me how different sleep is from person to person. I know people who talk about the fact that they can sleep anywhere and can fall asleep as soon as they lay their head down on their pillow. They can sleep in the car, on a plane, doesn’t matter. Some of these people also talk about the fact that once they are asleep they stay asleep. It takes a lot to wake them up and they might even need several alarms to make sure they are not late in the morning. These people annoy me…

Please don’t be offended if the above describes you. I will still love you the same. It’s just that more often than not anxiety can get in the way of sleep.

First, it can be extremely difficult to fall asleep. When it is time to go to bed, the quiet sinks in. If you struggle with anxiety or depression you know that during that quiet when you are finally trying to relax from your day, your brain begins to start thinking about EVERYTHING. Whether it is reviewing the day you just had, thinking about tomorrow, remembering something from years ago, or thinking way ahead in the future it takes those moments to start running full speed. This means that often I will have the TV on or be scrolling on my phone as a way to continue to try and distract myself from thoughts or make my eyes tired enough to fall asleep. In my profession I know that having the screens on does not help with sleep but it is not a habit I have been able to break yet….I have hopes for 2018.

Second, at least for me, the littlest things can wake you up. It could be the wind hitting the window from the cold front moving in, that TV that I fell asleep before turning off, the dog jumping off the bottom of the bed. Sometimes it is not even a noise or something that I recall. I simply wake up. Thankfully for me I can fall right back asleep. Sometimes I can do so even without my panicked “someone is clearly breaking into the house moment”. Not always, but sometimes.

Third, this problem just makes me ridiculously tired. For instance, this morning we are up and preparing for our next big adventure to Australia where we will be visiting my sister-in-law. With travel or something else big coming up my sleep really suffers. Whether it is the nerves, excitement, worries about what needs done/what will happen when we’re gone or some combination, I get very poor sleep.

This time around I have been having crazy dreams as well. Not all of them are nightmares but things that are so insane that they cause you to just be restless and wake up a lot. As I sit here today I am very tired and feel that I will likely need a coffee on the way to the airport. Maybe this means I will actually sleep on the plane?

Point being, anxiety/depression can = awful sleep patterns. There are plenty of things out there that try to help promote sleep whether it is making sure you have the “right” pillow, turning off those pesky screens, or even trying something such as Melatonin. I know of these things and will continue to try and find what might be the right fit for my evening routine. In the meantime, if you know of someone who struggles with anxiety/ depression or anything else, cut them some slack on being tired all the time. Give them a break if they occasionally need a nap or to go to bed super early so that by the time they actually fall asleep they may get a decent amount. If you want extra points maybe even buy them a coffee? Because sleep is weird.

Turkey and Seesaws

This past Thursday my husband and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house for the very first time. We decided to have his parents over and finally bust out some of the china that we received as wedding gifts. My husband had worked the night before so I knew that I would be the one getting up early to try and get started on cooking while he got a few extra hours of sleep.

I was eager going to bed that night and found myself having that little kid anticipation (sort of like we all still get on Christmas Eve. I don’t care how old you are, you can’t tell me you don’t still get a little bit of that “Santa comes tomorrow” feeling on Christmas Eve). I was suddenly wide-awake thinking about the prep, how excited I was to host, etc. I wasn’t too worried about the food, because we had already decided that if the cooking turned out awful we would order pizza.

On Thanksgiving morning, I promptly got up (despite my lack of sleep) and decided that first thing was first. I must walk across the street to the Circle K to purchase a newspaper so that I could see all of the Black Friday ads (a tradition in my family…the ads that is..not walking to the gas station).

Once I had my paper, coffee, and had turned on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (another tradition) it was on to cooking. I slowly began making things in whatever order I felt would be best for timing while looking at some ads in between. I learned a couple things that morning.

First, cooking turkey is quite disgusting. I went with a turkey breast since it was only going to be four of us and I am sure glad that I did. I am not sure that I am mentally prepared for the whole turkey yet, baby steps.

Second, when you are the one cooking, you really don’t get to watch the parade…

Why am I going on about my Thanksgiving? It’s because it was such a great day. The food turned out great (pizza was not necessary) and we had a wonderful time with my in-laws just hanging out and watching a movie. My husband and I ended the night by making a quick run to Target in attempt to purchase a few Black Friday deals. The mission was not super successful but fun regardless.

What I am getting at is that the day was filled with so much love and joy that I was blindsided by the depression that would come with Friday.

You see, I am finding that depression and anxiety make it hard to find middle ground. It seems that the highs are high and the lows are low. Finding that sweet spot in the middle can be extremely difficult. At times it feels like riding a seesaw where one-minute things feel so wonderful and you feel like you finally have everything together and life is great! And then suddenly “drop” you feel exhausted and like you can never do anything right. Insecurity finds it way in. Once you find yourself hitting the dirt, it can be challenging to use your legs and push off again.

It can be hard when you are trying to turn your seesaw into a steady balancing beam. Especially when you are wanting to do so but also working to not let the pressure of perfection make things worse. No wonder it is exhausting.

When you think about the mechanics of a seesaw, to make it balanced and bring that low end up, you will likely need some supports to keep it in place. Luckily for me one of my biggest supports is my husband. I am so thankful for him. He knows that on days like Friday or even today when he asks “what’s wrong?” there very well may not be anything specific wrong. Today I simply responded “it’s just crappy depression” (except I didn’t use “crappy”). He seems to know that on days like today I may not be super energetic or feel like doing much but he loves me anyways. It can be so frustrating and sometimes takes a day or two to strengthen my legs before I have the ability to kick off again.

For whatever reason, the holidays seem to particularly good at sending you soaring way high and then dropping you very low very fast. There is just something about them and yet despite the struggle, the holidays remain one of my favorite times of the year. As rough as I may feel today, I am still little kid excited to put up our Christmas tree tomorrow… Riddle me that?

As this holiday season continues enjoy your traditions, food, family, and friends. Fully take in the joy of decorating, celebrating, and gift giving. Do whatever makes you happy and let yourself truly be happy. Don’t like the busyness get in your way. Strive to slow things down and take it all in.

If you see someone struggling or having a rough day, remember that they may be riding their own seesaw and you don’t know how high or low it goes. Instead of rolling your eyes and commenting that they are so emotional…or deciding that it is up to you to fix it…simply step in to be a support. That is all they need.

Daylight Savings Time

“Daylight savings time is the worst.” That is what one of my friends said when talking about the effects daylight savings has on their children. Apparently gaining an hour does not always sit well with the little ones? Something about the change in schedule. It seems that the extra hour of sleep that I cherish may not be the same for everyone.

I have been thinking about this a lot over the past week as things slowly changed from walking out of work at dusk to it being pitch black on my 5 o’clock drive home. It made me think that daylight savings time not only wreaks havoc on young ones but also those who experience anxiety and depression.

Shoot, you don’t even have to have anxiety or depression to experience some form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Whether you feel that you experience it to that level or not, I think it’s safe to say that during this seasonal transition most people have that meh or blah feeling.

Suddenly our warm sunny evenings are replaced by cold, wet, darkness. It can be really easy to not want to leave the house once getting home from work. That first week or so it pretty much feels like it is time for bed because outside it looks like it is already 10pm.

It is not 10pm however, which means there is still dinner, sometimes walking the dog in the dark, and anything else that is left to do before actually crawling into bed. Don’t even get me started on how hard it is to keep up with the laundry..how on earth do we always have so much laundry to do? The point is that it can feel extra exhausting during this time.

On the flip side, it can be nice waking up to the sun and having that bright morning to look forward to. There is something to waking up with the sun on your face that can be relaxing. It can be uplifting, but it is sometimes hard to let that feeling win when you realize that it is just going to continue to get darker in the evening.

I think that this can really impact a person’s motivation. I sometimes wonder how much this affects a person’s vitamin D or other areas of their physical health as well. It potentially affects both our mind and our body.

Today as I had this on my mind, and after I left work early to finally go to the doctor (yes, I am still sick 2 and a half weeks later) I was scrolling through Facebook and stumbled upon a picture that read “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first”.

This idea has been coming up in my life a lot recently. The same idea of when you are on an airplane and the oxygen mask comes down. They emphasize putting yours on before helping someone else. If you don’t put yours on you may not have enough strength to help anyone.

That is something that people have been telling me forever, but today it finally began to sink in. It is okay to recognize the struggles during the season change for what they are, and know that taking care of yourself is not a weakness. If I choose to stay in during the evening because that is what I need, it is okay. All I can do is give my best each day and know that “best” does not mean perfect.

As I sit here this evening I have decided to challenge myself to put my best foot forward and focus on what my mind and body are telling me. It’s important to listen to yourself and put that oxygen mask on so you are not trying to pour from an empty cup. We all deserve to be full! It may take some thinking and/or practice but I plan to figure out what things will help to keep my cup full this winter.

With that being said, don’t be fooled, I may not be 5 or 6 years old, but I can still say wholeheartedly that daylight savings time really is the worst…like really.