The Joys of “Schlafentrinken:” Christmas Without the Anxiety

Four years ago, at about this time of year, I sat in a Starbucks with my husband, stressing out about Christmas. I was in the midst of battling through the toughest period of anxiety I’ve ever experienced, and the thought of preparing for Christmas overwhelmed me. “Can we just skip Christmas this year?” I asked, only half-joking.  Continue reading “The Joys of “Schlafentrinken:” Christmas Without the Anxiety”

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Breaking Free of the “List of Can’ts”

As I travel along my journey of recovery from anxiety disorders, I’ve been finding that a lot of my battle is about questioning the limits that I feel surrounded by, limits that feel fixed and impossible to overcome. For example, when my anxiety disorders kicked into high gear a few years ago, I found myself making a “list of can’ts” in my mind. This list was made up of the things that made me so anxious I couldn’t even contemplate attempting them. Things like “I can’t drive over that long, narrow bridge.” “I can’t drive on a busy highway.” “I can’t eat this food or that food” (that was an eating phobia thing). To me, these things didn’t feel like stuff I was choosing not to do – they were things I was truly incapable of doing. The possibility of doing them seemed as likely to me as slam dunking a basketball or performing an opera – it just wasn’t gonna happen.  Continue reading “Breaking Free of the “List of Can’ts””

How Making a Bracelet Helped My Anxiety

I do not, in any way, think of myself as a “crafty” person. Aside from elementary school art classes (from which I do not have particularly fond memories), I’ve never painted a picture, knitted anything, or made a piece of pottery – and never felt particularly inclined to, either. My thing is brain stuff – if it can be turned into an Excel spreadsheet, I’m your gal. But I’m all thumbs when it comes to handy stuff. So no one was more surprised than me when I suddenly decided I was going to make myself a bracelet.  Continue reading “How Making a Bracelet Helped My Anxiety”

Let’s All Get this Straight: It’s Called Generalized Anxiety Disorder and It’s Real

As I was listening to a podcast the other day, I heard the mom of a troubled young man mention that when her son was 10, a therapist had diagnosed him with what the mom called “the very vague ‘general anxiety disorder.'” She said it with a dismissive, frustrated tone that conveyed her belief that the diagnosis had been meaningless and useless. She went on to talk about her son’s various behavioural issues in the years that followed, without mentioning his original diagnosis again. I was saddened and somewhat alarmed that this child’s own mother didn’t seem to understand what Generalized Anxiety Disorder is (or even what it’s actually called). Whether that was a result of her own misunderstanding or an inept therapist, I don’t know. I wondered if her and her son’s story would have gone any differently if it could have been accurately conveyed to her at the time of that diagnosis what Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is, and that it’s a real psychiatric disorder with real impacts (but also that it can be treated).
Continue reading “Let’s All Get this Straight: It’s Called Generalized Anxiety Disorder and It’s Real”

Me and My Meds

I’ve been a bit reluctant to talk about my anxiety medications on my blog. One reason for that reluctance is that medications are a very individual thing, and something that works for one person may not work for another (or may make their symptoms actually worse), so I didn’t see much value in sharing my medication experience, as it is just my experience, and doesn’t necessarily provide valuable information to anyone else. And I really didn’t want to imply that I was in any position to provide advice on something as serious as prescription medication.

The other reason I haven’t really talked about my meds is that the subject of psychiatric medication is a bit of a controversial one. Some people believe psych meds are an evil tool of big pharmaceutical companies who want to get us all addicted to meds we don’t need. On the other side, we have people who say that psychiatric medications have saved their lives and are essential to their ability to function. I’ve been in anxiety support groups where the subject of medication is virtually banned (sort of like the way you might ban topics like politics and religion) because it tends to cause such heated disagreement.  Continue reading “Me and My Meds”

Thoughts on Talking to People with Anxiety (Minus the List of “Shouldn’ts”)

I just googled the phrase “Things you shouldn’t say to someone with anxiety” and I was amazed at how many articles came up. There were seriously something like 50 stories! Mostly numbered lists, with various numbers: 11 things you shouldn’t say, 4 things you shouldn’t say, 20 things you shouldn’t say?! Who can remember 20 things you’re not supposed to say? I’m pretty sure I’d accidentally blurt one of them out when talking to an anxious person, because that list would be all I’d be thinking about!  Continue reading “Thoughts on Talking to People with Anxiety (Minus the List of “Shouldn’ts”)”

Continuing on my Bereavement Journey (and Avoiding a Procrastination Detour)

I find myself suddenly immersed in the world of pet urns. As I discussed a few weeks ago, my beloved dog Tucker died in mid-April. A week after the vet came to our house to euthanize Tucker at the end of his struggle with a brain tumour, my husband and I went to the veterinary clinic to pick up Tucker’s ashes. They were given to us in a small, plain, cardboard box (a “scatter box,” they call it), exactly as our first dog Duffy’s ashes had been given to us four years ago, following his passing at the ripe old age of 15 years (that’s Duffy on the left in the photo up there, Tucker’s on the right).  Continue reading “Continuing on my Bereavement Journey (and Avoiding a Procrastination Detour)”

Fessing Up about My Phobias

[Trigger alert: this blog post includes discussions of a phobia of mice and a phobia of choking, so please bear that in mind if that might be a trigger for you (and virtual high-five if we share the same phobia!)]

OK, I’m going to start by coming right out and saying it: the idea of writing and posting this particular blog makes me very, very nervous. That’s because I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past few years worrying that people would find out the truth about my foolish, embarrassing phobias, and I’ve made quite a lot of effort to hide them. And now here I am, about to actually share it all, every ridiculous detail, with anyone in the world with an internet connection and an inclination to read it. It goes so completely against my natural instinct for concealment, for relentlessly maintaining an exterior of “I’m fine,” when sometimes I’m not. But at the same time, I believe this is something I have to do, an obstacle I need to overcome if I’m going to make the kind of progress I want to, and live my most authentic life.  Continue reading “Fessing Up about My Phobias”

My Grief and My Anxiety

I’ll let you in on something – the last blog I posted, the one on CBT and ACT from May 1, was mostly written by about April 14 (it just needed a bit of polishing and layout work). I was planning to post it sometime the week of the 17th. But during that week of the 17th, I suddenly felt the need to start writing about another subject. That’s because on Saturday, April 15, the day before Easter, I lost my beloved dog Tucker to complications from a brain tumour.  Continue reading “My Grief and My Anxiety”

Anxiety Therapies: How Changing from CBT to ACT Changed Everything for Me

Since I started this blog a few months ago, I’ve been meaning to write about my experiences with two particular kinds of therapy used to treat anxiety disorders. That’s because the first I tried, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular forms of therapy among mental health professionals, and at one time I believed it was the only path to mental health for me. But during the years that I applied the principles of CBT, I ended up with little more than feelings of frustration and failure, and no improvement in my anxiety symptoms. I assumed this was just the inevitable course of my illness, and my only choice was to keep on trying with CBT. I thought I had no other treatment options – until I discovered that there was something else out there: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT has worked for me in a way I’d given up hope any therapy could. And I’m here to tell you, if you’ve tried CBT and it hasn’t helped you, there are other options.
Continue reading “Anxiety Therapies: How Changing from CBT to ACT Changed Everything for Me”