Thursday, October 13, 2011

Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back

The anxiety dance goes three steps forward and two steps back. I feel like I am moving straight into freedom and then this learning experience moves me backwards into fear again.

The discouragement hits me like a physical blow, right to the chest making me cry in despair. I lose track of the things I have learned and crumble into a weak heap of trembling frailty. Where did my courage go, where is my determination? Did I learn anything over the past few months? I feel like giving up. It seems I can never defeat this thing that prevents me from doing what I love.

Oh, I feel I have tried so hard and come so far. Only a few days ago I could see the distance I had come and was proud of my new found confidence and growing bravery. But all that was blown away in a heartbeat. One lapse of judgement, one tangled set of emotions and all my progress has disappeared. Or seems to have anyway.

I tried so hard and I wanted it so much and now it is all slipping through my fingers. The illusion that I could change myself, that I could be different. I feel like such a failure. I cry and cry, so sad for myself, so completely in despair. Hopeless.

People who are kind see me fall. They help me up and tell me things will be ok - it happens to everyone. Don't worry, its all part of the learning and healing process. You'll see the sun will rise again in the morning and there will be a time where you will find messages and strength and learning. These backward steps are also part of the learning and will teach you something important you need to know.

I cannot see this now, but I hear what they say and I am holding these words tight against my heart.
Love you all

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Confidence - the critical difference

I heard on a recent sportscast that the element of confidence is the key difference between good and great athletes.

After acheiving a certain critical level of athletic physical and mental skill, sports success becomes a mind game. It's what you think you can do, what you believe you can do that counts.

For myself, I am working on building my confidence so that I can do regular everyday things without feeling extremely self conscious or even deathly afraid.

Sports psychologists work with athletes to help them increase theri confidence levels in order to help them reach their goals. I am working on learning these skills to help myself too.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Things Agoraphobia Stole From Her

I am reflecting today about how agoraphobia can affect lives, in particular that of my good friend Lena and the things she has missed out on due to having this condition.

You won't be surprised that being afraid to leave your house limits your lifestyle. Lena missed our senior prom in high school because she was worried she would make a fool of herself because she had just a panic attack at school.

She stayed away from prom and she basically pulled away from life after that. Yes, she applied for jobs by submitting her resume on line but she never went to interviews. By the fall after graduation she had experienced so many panic attacks she didn't want to go anywhere.

The more she stayed in the worse things got. She became more fearful, more nervous and more alone.

Lena eventually went to a therapist and got on a treatment program, but she dropped out of treatment.

Years later she rarely ventures out of her safe place - her home. We talk on the phone or I sometimes come over but she really doesn't have much to talk about but whatever is on the news on TV.

Truthfully I feel afraid seeing her - I don't like to visit with her because it scares me how little of her life is actually left. She is still so young but her life is going nowhere - not much past her front door step.

Agoraphobia keeps her hiding inside.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fear Anger Panic and Rage - not the best day!

Some days are good days, some days feel really bad!

Today I am angry, anxious, fearful and panicky for no reason I am aware of.

I took a hot shower for a full 70 minutes in an attempt to blast out the anxiety and panic and rage that is exploding from me. It didn't work.

I am tired of losing good days to fear. I need some kind of help to get myself back. I don't want to waste my life afraid to do anything. Agoraphobia, panic attacks, anxiety - who needs them?

Now self disgust, guilt and saddness are waiting for me.

What is wrong with me I have to wonder. Why does this happen?

Sorry I don't want to bring others down - just venting I guess :(

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Conversation Starters For The Socially Anxious

I received a great deal of help with ideas for how a person with social anxiety can start and maintain conversations at parties for instance.

Here are some of the conversation starter tips I received. They are good - these may come in handy.

Start with :
Hi, I’m Lauren, nice to meet you.

Then follow up with any of these:

How was your day?
What funny weather we’ve been having.
What do you think about (Mention an recent newsworthy trend or topic in the news) (not political or religious please)
Do you know many people here?
Have you been here before?
Did you have to travel far?
Where do you work? How long have you worked there?

Keeping the conversation going after that with topics like these:

What TV shows are you into watching?
Seen any great movies lately?
Read any great books lately?
What’s your favourite hobby?
What type of music do you like?
How do you typically enjoy the weekends?
What sports do you play or follow?
I like your tie/dress/jacket/handbag or other item

It is of course helpful to share about your self as well on any of the above topics. Share your favorite movie or your view on a recent news item, or a hobby you love. You don't want to hold a one way interview!

Further getting to know you questions can include:

What reality show would you go on and why?
Have you travelled much? Which country would you like to visit?
If you could pick any 5 famous people to attend a dinner party you would host who would you pick?
If your life was made into a movie, what would it be called?
If you decided to author a book, what would you write about?
If you were in charge of the world what are the 3 changes you would make?
Who is the most famous person you have met?
What’s the one movie you could watch again and again?
What is your favorite thing to have for breakfast?
What was your first job, and what was it like?
Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Other ideas to follow with after you have been in conversation and there is an uncomfortable lull or silence.

Acknowledge the silence and feeling of awkwardness - "wow I feel really awkward meeting new people and find myself not knowing what to say" (this can endear you to people by being so honest and vulnerable and may start a sharing on the other person part too)

Also see these great tips

More to come...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Agoraphobia - what does it feel like?

Most people think that agoraphobia is "fear of the marketplace" because that is the pure translation of its root words.

Agoraphobia often does cause those who have it to stay away from crowded places and linger close to home. But the driving cause is usually fear of having a panic attack - especially somewhere far from help or where escape would be difficult.

Panic attacks are distressing experiences. Most people report having a rapid pounding heartbeat, dizziness, extreme anxiety and paralyzing sense of doom.

For some these symptoms come out of nowhere - for others there are specific triggers - often related to where previous experiences of panic have occurred.

The key to recovery is to learn to not fear the panic but to go with it.

Have you had success with beating agoraphobia? What did you do?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How To Become An Exciting Person - Part 2

I have been doing a little research on this topic since I last posted, searching the internet for ideas, asking regular people for their opinions and seeking out expert scientific studies.

I have found so much information that I will need to write not just this "part 2" but also several more sequels to the whole story! This is good news for those of us who are socially phobia, insecure, or feeling just plain boring!

A great place to start was in defining the goal -- what exactly is an exciting person?

Here is a summary of what I found.

An exciting person:

  • is someone who is not just enjoyable to be around but someone you really look forward to seeing

  • always has something interesting to talk about

  • whatever they talk about they seem to do with passion

  • always seems to have many things on the go in their lives

  • is confident

  • is interested in you too!

  • draws you into their feelings of excitement

  • is adventurous

  • has stories to tell that are captivating

  • has a passion for something

  • sometimes has a great sense of humor

  • initiates activities and get others interested in joining in

  • is bold and not afraid to express their opinion

  • is unique

  • is proud of themselves but also vulnerable

  • connects with others

  • is someone you wish you could be like

  • always has something to say that isn't boring and listens too

  • has lots of friends

  • spends time doing things with others

  • doesn't seem to worry too much about what others think

  • knows everyone around them either loves them or will once they get to know them

  • inspires others

  • some who lights up the room when they enter

  • is happy

  • is optimistic

  • the party doesn't start until they arrive

These came from a wide variety of sources, but together they paint quite a picture. It also shows I have a long way to go. But at least I know where I want to be.

And yes all you exciting people who happen to be reading this list and cringing - I do know that just by the fact that I am making this list and am so pitiful for actually having to make this list that I have excluded myself from the realms of the exciting -- but not for long -- just wait! LOL

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Worry, Fear and Panic - Stop Avoiding the Things You Love

Part of the reason that I am anxious socially is that I feel as though I have nothing to share with others, because I avoid so many situations I basically don't do much of anything these days.

I am reading about how to change that and let go of my fears and anxieties so that I can actually do something with my life. I am now realizing that I need to do those things anyway - you know the saying (and book title) "feel the fear and do it anyway"?

I cannot just wait until I feel no fear to go ahead and try something. Fear and anxiety are part of everyone's lives. I just need to push up against anxiety and not let it control me.

The following quote is from Women Who Worry Too Much, by Holly Hazlett-Stevens, PhD.
I have found it to be very motivational and want to share it with you too.

If you avoid certain situations because you’re worried about the outcome, you never get to learn what would have happened if you had faced thosesituations. You deprive yourself of the chance to see how you would have coped.

When you decide to avoid, you experience a temporary state of relief, but you’re also left feeling powerless and deflated, as if you can’t control your own behavior. Eventually you become discouraged and disheartened as a vague sense of feeling paralyzed sets in.

This is how avoidance slowly eats away your self-confidence over time. Push yourself to feel vulnerable – this allows you to learn that you can handle whatever happens, and that even the most difficult of emotions can’t destroy you.

We’re all capable of feeling intense fear so we can escape life-threatening situations. But usually people avoid things that simply make them feel uncomfortable.

I will be putting this up on my fridge where I can see it everyday :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Trainer is Leaving

My trainer is moving. So far away I will probably not see her again for a long time, if ever.

She is a person I admire and have often wished I was more like. In fact, I have often thought I could probably get rid of all my fear and anxiety problems just by trying to become her.

She has been my lifeline. She has mentally held my hand as I worked through my nervousness about riding. She has listened to all my excuses and helped me to move beyond them. All without judgement.

She has seen me through times where I have been so afraid that I am so embarrassed now to even admit it.

Too afraid to catch a horse, too afraid to lead it over icy surfaces, too afraid to approach when it is windy and they are all running and spooky.

Afraid to walk behind horses tied to be groomed. Couldn't ride in the arena alone - even at a walk. Scared to ride when there were too many horse in the arena. Panic about the idea of loping. Terrified to go faster.

Yes, she has seen me through a lot. I think so many people would have just dumped me and passed me by. How boring to be working with someone who is so anxious about every little thing when you could be perfecting a reining pattern with your latest non-pro superstar.

Have you ever been to a riding lesson where you ride around in circles while your trainer has a coffee and chats with her friend, looking up occasionally to tell you to change directions, then again when its time to collect your money?

Not her. Ever.

She would watch my every move. Correcting what needed to be, and giving constant feedback and encouragement.

Some days I was so nervous before my lesson that I would need to walk or run for an hour before going to try to shake down my nerves. A couple times I swigged a quick glass of wine to quiet my anxiety. Many times I have been physically shaking on the drive over to the barn. Many times I just made up an excuse and cancelled the lesson. BTW I know how terrible this is :(

Most people would probably tell me - hey this horseback riding is not the thing for you! If you are that scared just move on to something else. Go play golf, try hiking, learn to play cards.

But I love to ride and I used to be able to ride and I desperately want to ride again.

She is the one who has been with me and helped me progress for the past couple of years (yes it has been years now). I am not sure what I am going to do without her.

But I am sensing that I need to move on and see if I can ride myself. I need to take all I have learned from her and apply that on my own. Reach somewhere within myself for the bravery to do it myself.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where is My "Stop Anxiety At the Party" Plan?


I have just realized that the party I mentioned getting so ultra confident for is coming up pretty quick! Remember how I want to go and not be plagued by anxiety constantly like I usually am?

I am not anywhere near prepared!

I have got to get into high gear with great conversation topics and strategies and ways to relax and BE ME while I am at the party.

This is time to research and get advice.

I will post everything I find out here --- everything I am able to find out from popular party divas and hostesses and from plain old research.

Please send me advice.

How do you stay relaxed in social settings, how to you speak to others so that you hold their attention, how do I meet new people with ease and not go into complete panic if I have no one to talk to for a few minutes....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Medicine For Panic Attacks - Ativan

Ativan is a frequently prescribed medicine for panic attacks.

Have you ever taken it? Then you will know what I mean when I describe what it feels like to take it as a remedy for a panic attack.

For fast action you can put a tablet or two of Ativan under your tongue - don't chew or swallow it - just let it dissolve. It will move fairly quickly into your bloodstream. Somehow the area under your tongue is an expressway to your circulatory system.

At first you don't feel a thing.

Then you start to realize that you feel much less tense. A sense of numbness seems to float into you, and you suddenly notice that you are distant from everything. You feel indifferent to what is going on around you. You notice you are no longer anxious. Whatever caused the feelings of panic appears to have lost its strength.

You try to stand up to get up and walk and find that you are off balance, maybe dizzy. You think you might need help walking.

You feel like the terror and fear have gone somewhere else.

You don't feel sleepy but you could easily drift off into sleep.

You don't have any worries or cares.

You are way too drowsy to drive or to do anything that requires fast reactions or clear thinking. You may notice your speech is slurred.

I loved the feeling of Ativan. Not so much at the time I actually took this medicine for panic attacks to manage my intense feelings of anxiety and fear - but afterwards I would find myself thinking back to the sense of lack of panic and kind of being out of it and I would really want that feeling again.

Ativan is actually one of the many tranquilizers that are commonly prescribed for anxiety and panic. The biggest drawback of Ativan, as a medicine for panic attacks is that it is highly addictive.

I can certainly attest to that.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Positive Thinking

As a follow up to my last post I began looking for positive quotes to help me get over my fearful thinking and out of panic mode. I think thinking (LOL) matters a lot. It is my thinking about situations that has made me anxious about them.

I like the idea of positive affirmations to help remind me of what I want to be.

I found this great website.

I found the affirmation at the top of this post on their website and thought how well it fit with my previous post on changing thinking patterns.

Change your thoughts and you change your world

Today's title is a quote attributed to Norman Vincent Peale.

"Change your thoughts and you change your world".

I have seen this truth in action so many times over in my own life and in the lives of others.

I am sure you as well can think of people who seem trapped in their own bad thoughts about themselves.

I have a friend Jonathon who is miserable and afraid almost all the time. He is so down on himself and his abilities. He hates his job and dreads going to work each morning. All day at work he is in misery and is consumed with thoughts of how terrible his work is and how it is so ill suited to him.

But he is afraid to look for another job. He is terrified that no one else will have him. He is sure his skills are out of date and that there is nothing he could contribute to a new employer. He is fearful to leave and miserable to stay.

He has been like this for 10 years.

What a waste!

Trapped in a job he hates and too frightened to even think about leaving - too down on himself to try anything new.

Of course as outsiders we can all see that his depressed thoughts and miserable attitute cannot be helpful in impressing any new employers or even his current one. How well do you think he would do in an employment interview feeling so down on himself?

I often wish -- if only he would change his thoughts! If only he would pause his thoughts of misery, fear, anxiety and despair and look at what is good in his life. Find something positive to think about, get out of his rut and get self confident and go do something!

Just imagine what could happen in Jonathon's life if he were to change his thoughts - wow how his world could change! And it seems so obvious and easy for me looking in at his life from the outside!

So .......

I also think this about myself. Change those negative, anxious, bad outcome, fearful, worried, panic thoughts to....

Thoughts of confidence, letting go, peace, relaxation, assertiveness, and bravery. Thoughts that things will be okay, I can do this, it will be fine!

I don't need thoughts that make me feel worried, afraid, anxious or fearful.

I need thoughts that make me feel confident, bold, and brave. I need thoughts that make me feel like I belong here. Like I own the world. Not like I am some unwanted scavenger.

I need to focus not on being less afraid or less anxious.

I need to focus on being more bold, more confident, more enthusiastic, more adventurous.

How might my life change if I did this? My world would certainly be a different place!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Of my Best Ways to Relax!

It was fun writing yesterday's post but it also got me thinking that I left out many of my own personal favorite best ways to relax. I'll share them with you now.

Hey, these are my personal favs and they really work to reduce my anxiety!

1) Horseback riding - You may wonder why I list this as I have already confessed that riding horses is something I have become fearful of doing! Yes it is true that I get very anxious often when I ride. But when I actually do go riding and actually make it through and get on my horse and ride a bit, and even challenge myself, I am just so relieved when it is over I feel completely relaxed and get a feeling of euphoria! Best feeling ever!

2) Watching CSI - there is no reason why this should be relaxing given the content, but it's somehow very relaxing for me LOL! I just love Grissom!

3) Foot Massage - This can be one of the most relaxing experiences ever! I have heard that all the nerves in your body are connected to your feet!

4) Shampoo and Blow Dry - Yes, yet another salon method to get over feeling stressed, anxious and panic. I don't like to talk - just feel the sensations and get calm!

5) Blog - I am finding blogging very relaxing. I am not sure if it's the soothing feeling I get from engaging in a repetitive habit or the relief from expressing my feelings, so I can let them go.

Who knows I may have more to add to my list of best ways to relax tomorrow. What about you?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Best Ways to Relax - My Favorites

Finding the best ways to relax are a top priority for me, seeing as I am always plagued by some form of anxiety! And in my case in particular I need methods I can use at home to chill out, and others I can use on the run if I feel a panic attack coming on!

Here is my list of my favorite best ways to relax:

1) Exercise: One of the things I have found to be most effective is to create a foundation of calmness by being sure to go for a walk each day. The problem is I don't always do this. I find it easy to skip if the weather isn't perfect or if I have a really busy day with errands or work. I always pay for this decision later though. If I don't exercise I find that my background state of emotion is always more anxious - giving me a "hair-trigger" response for extreme anxiety or panic attacks!

2) Yoga: I love yoga because it seems to have a relaxing effect on my body as well as my mind. There is something about the yoga poses and the stretching of your muscles that seems to relax my mind. Or maybe it's the calming music in the background? Not sure but yoga is definitely one of my best ways to relax!

3) Music: I find that music seems to have a direct link to my emotions. It seems to bypass the thinking part of my brain and go straight to how I feel. Certain tunes can make me instantly happy, others make me tearful, and others imbue a great sense of calm. Some classical music works especially well for inducing relaxation.

4) Self Hypnosis: Another method I find really effective is self-hypnosis. I use this before I go to sleep. It is a great way to wind down after a busy day. I find it super easy to do and over time I can tell it is helping me to quiet my mind. The biggest benefit though seems to be that I can use some of the key phrases I have heard during hypnosis during the day to instantly relax myself on the go! For sure one of my best ways to relax!

Now you've heard mine. Tell me, what are your best ways to relax?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How To Become An Exciting Person! (Part 1)

You may remember that I have a party coming up, and am scared pantless about it!

I really want to enjoy myself so I am trying to get a bunch of strategies together to help me fight my anxiety - in this case I think it's called social anxiety.

I was sitting at the kitchen table mulling over my pathetic life and realized that one of the big reasons I am afraid of this party is that I AM BORING !

And if you have social anxiety issues I bet you are boring too!

Why We Are Boring

Mind Too Busy With Negative Thoughts

If you are like me when you enter a new social situation your whole mind is constantly wrapped around thoughts like:

  • "I feel really uncomfortable here"

  • "I bet no one will like me here"

  • "Why am I so weird?"

  • "I will probably start blushing or stuttering"

  • "He hates me"

  • "I am not as good as these people"

We are so "busy" inside mentally that there is very little room left for interacting with others.

In fact there is very little room left to even think about what to say to this other person.

This causes us to be at a lack for words - which equals boring!

Not Connected

People like people who are interested in them!

If I am worried about what people will think of me or what I should say next or how they might be judging me or how unattractive or unlikable I must be I am not really in tune with the other person at all.

When our heads are filled with negative nonsense about ourselves we are focused on OURSELVES - not on getting to know others - which also equals boring!

Worried About What Others Will Think

The negative thoughts keep me from taking a chance. I am worried this person will dislike me because I am blushing, or because I like knitting, or libraries or because I am afraid to do normal things.

I tend to try to quickly figure out what this other person might like and say those things - or just agree with everything they say.

I can almost become a clone, an average with nothing that might cause others to disagree with me or to not like me - which also equals boring!

How To Become An Exciting Person

It's actually easy (to say anyway) !

As a starting point -- just reverse the above traits that make us BORING.

Start Thinking Positive Thoughts About Yourself

Be proud of who you are.

Tell yourself that everything about you (including how you blush or stutter or feel anxious) are all part of the wonderful bundle of uniqueness that is you!

I have a friend named Tomas who is the geekiest looking guy with a face and body that you can only call unique. His personality is way out there too - never holds a thing back and just blurts out the strangest comments.

All of the things about him make him who he is. Yes he could get plastic surgery on his large nose and tiny jaw to make him look more traditionally "manly". He could tone down his thoughts and filter most of the unusual stuff out. He could slouch his tall gangly frame and hide his thin biceps.

But if he did - what a huge loss to the world that would be! All of these qualities are part of what I find so endearing and special about Tomas. He wouldn't be as great as he is if he "fixed" or hid these aspects of his true self.

So if I am a bit anxious or nervous that is ok - right now that is part of who I am. Shy and nervous can be endearing. I am ok now while I am anxious and I will be ok if I become even more anxious or if I become more relaxed.

So there!

Connect With Others

Pretend you are a journalist and have the assignment of really getting to know this new person you are meeting. Your mission is to find out what is going on with them, what makes them tick.

It doesn't really matter if they "like" you or not. This is about connecting with and getting to know what makes this unique person who they are.

Stop Filtering Who You Are

Walk into that room like you own the place. You have a total right to be there. Be proud of yourself and show it in the way you hold your body as you walk, stand and talk.

Be who you are. So many people - especially those with social anxiety, filter their opinions and personality and thoughts until they become so watered down and so average and so in offensive that it is hard to tell who they are.

I am one of these people and I need to stop!

Are you guilty of this too?

The world needs you , and the world needs me! To be who we really are, to be unique, to contribute and to connect.

It' s really a big waste of the beauty of recombinant DNA for us all to be the same!

Let's you and me go get that world that needs us so badly!!!

(PS - I have begun to try out these tips at a recent gathering at a coffee shop - they work!)
(PS again - there is a Part 2 and 3 or more coming as well - stay tuned!)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Horses and Emotional Control of Anxiety

One thing I am working on in managing my anxiety levels is to try to replicate the methods I use in riding and training my horse.

Horses are amazingly sensitive creatures with a well developed prey instinct. They have an acute awareness of all that is happening around them. This is by necessity of course as they need to be ready to spring into action if a predator is nearby.

(photo credit Adrian Parnham)

If they are startled by a plastic bag blowing in the wind, or a noise in the bushes I want them to be aware of that event but to HOLD OFF on their behavioral reaction, and wait for direction from me.

If my horse's normal reaction would be to spin or bolt or rear at the sight of a scary object, I need them to stay put and wait to hear from me what I want them to do.

This requires significant emotional control over their anxious feelings. They need to learn a new way to react to an alarming stimulus. And part of training and riding a horse is to help them to learn emotional control.

These same principles apply to humans with a tendency towards panic attacks, anxiety attacks or overwhelming anxious feelings.

As one of these people, my goal for myself is to also acheive the same expectation I have for my horses - that of emotional control.

I do not need to be simply reacting to every stimilus in my environment. I can also take control of my fearful thinking, my skyrocketing emotions and channel my behavior in another direction.

Oh my gosh, this is so much easier to say than to actually do!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Anxiety Attacks Symptoms

Anxiety attacks symptoms can vary from person to person but I have listed the most common ones below:

  • speeding heartbeat

  • breathing too fast

  • feeling sick to your stomach

  • shaking or trembling

  • pale face OR blushing

  • racing thoughts

Many people also report having thoughts of catastrophe or even a suddenly blank mind.

Having an anxiety attack is something that can come on when you are in a situation where you feel unsure about what to do , or in a situation where you have previously had a traumatic experience.

My own anxiety attacks symptoms most noticeably involve my chest and abdominal region. I can feel my chest tighten and sometimes even experience mild chest pain.

The most pervasive sign of an anxiety attack for me is this feeling of cold dread deep in my stomach. And then my legs and arms start to shake. My legs will feel rubbery and cold and although they are perfectly functional they feel like I can't move them correctly.

Noticing anxiety attacks symptoms seems to make them worse, it is as though I am worried about something, then I start to feel worried about how anxious I am getting!

Actually even writing about it isn't so great!

Got to go -- talk to you later!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Club for the socially anxious - one member!

I have been invited to a party!

Well, I really want to go. I really want to have fun but already I can feel my enemy closing in - those feelings of anxiety - chest tightening, my legs get shaky, my heart starts to beat harder, my mouth feels dry.

I know I will go but for once I would like to actually have a good time!

Here's what usually happens:


  • I go to the party with big hopes that things will be different this time.

  • I spend ages on my clothing choices - getting it just right.

  • I try to think of a few interesting things to say.

  • I try not to feel worried or stressed or anxious.

At the Party

  • I arrive and desperately look for anyone I know.

  • Yes I am in luck. There they are - laughing and talking with a group of other people.

  • I head straight for them hoping to be included in their conversation.

  • I say hello and stand on the outside of their circle nodding and smiling, drink in hand.

  • I have nothing to say.

  • If some kind soul tries to include me I have very little of value to add - maybe a word or two.

  • I am nervous, and self conscious of my face and my body.

  • When I smile my lips stick to my teeth.

  • When I speak my voice kind of chokes.

  • I stand on the outside trying not to panic.

  • It seems like I am alone even though I am in this big crowd.

  • I feel so awkward I move away and hide in the washroom for as long as I can without looking weird.

Rinse and repeat!

Pretty pathetic isn't it?

Before this next party I am going to find out what I can do to help myself have a better time. Although I do love it just sipping chamomile tea isn't going to be enough to get me ready for this! - Yikes!

I've got to go looking for some big time anxiety busters for this one!

This is a big party and I have about a month to prepare.

I'll document the anxiety reducing strategies I find here on this blog and then report back to you on how I do at this next gala event.

I hope I can do better because I am really tiring of being permanently social anxious and awkward.

I desperately want to be one of those girls who has a fun fantastic fabulous time at a party!

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!