Monday, February 24, 2014

15 tips to enjoying a party when you have anxiety

Be yourself.  Don’t try to be someone else because it’s not possible.  You will never be someone else – you will always be you.  So, instead of trying to be someone else, be the best possible version of yourself.

Make sure your head and body are in the same place.  In other words, be in the moment.  If you find yourself worrying about something, someone, or some situation, and it is taking you out of the present moment, schedule a time later in the day, or the next day, when you can worry about it.  Then, when that time comes, you can think about all the things you wanted to analyze or worry about.  This technique keeps you from getting caught up in anxiety and frees you to concentrate on what’s going on around you.

Look people in the eye when talking to them.  I have found this helpful because it keeps my attention on the other person.  If I am not looking directly at them, I am more likely to get self-conscious, nervous about what I am saying, or worry about my appearance or what they think of me.  If I look people in the eye, I remember that they are a human being like me with their own faults, failures, and anxieties.  I guess it levels the playing ground, so to speak, and I no longer feel inferior or not good enough to be talking to them.

Move on from disappointments, broken expectations, etc.  If something doesn’t turn out how you want, instead of focusing on the negative, recognize all the positive things that turned out all right.

Embrace the awkwardness.  No one is perfect.  Conversations and interactions are going to be just as flawed as anything else in this world.  Learn to laugh at the instances that make you feel awkward.  And remember, the other person probably feels just as weird.  So, don’t put the blame on yourself and beat yourself up for not being the most perfect social butterfly.  It’s OK to not always say the right thing.

Smile.  Smiling goes a long way when you are feeling anxious.  For one, it relaxes your facial muscles, releasing the tension from your head.  Smiling also reminds you that it's never as bad as it seems.

Sit down if you feel yourself getting anxious.  If you struggle with anxiety, you know it can be exhausting.  Sitting down can help you calm down.  Find a chair if you feel your heart rate going up, your palms getting sweaty, or your head getting dizzy.  The security of a solid chair will help you remember that you are not as unstable as you think.

If you find yourself getting ultra anxious, remove yourself from the situation.  Sometimes it helps to excuse yourself for a bit, whether you go the bathroom or go outside to get some fresh air.  It helps to take a few private moments to recollect your thoughts and your confidence.

Repeat positive phrases to yourself.  It will help you to recalibrate your brain waves, remind you that you are in control and not the failure your brain is telling you that you are.  Tell yourself things like, “This will soon pass”, “I am not crazy, I just have anxiety”, “A lot of people struggle with this just like me”, “I am strong in my weakness”, “I am loved”, “Feelings are not facts”, etc.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to talk to people.  Get rid of all the rules you’ve made for yourself.  If you don’t feel like initiating a conversation, then don’t.  Anxiety is often the result of shoulds and oughts.  Social anxiety comes from pressures and expectations to be a certain way in a crowd of people.  You don’t have to do those things you feel you should do; who made those rules anyway?

Silence is OK.  Learn to appreciate the virtue of silence, even in a group of people.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to control the conversation or be the center of attention.  If you don’t know what to say, it’s alright, nobody else does either.  Embrace the awkwardness and just smile.

Remember to keep breathing.  It sounds like a no brainer, but I often have to remind myself to take in oxygen or to release the oxygen in my lungs because I’m holding my breath.  The dizziness that sometimes comes from panic and anxiety is often from the lack of oxygen to the brain.  If you remind yourself to keep breathing normally, you will be more capable of keeping yourself from a full blown panic attack.

Move at your own pace.  Don’t put pressure on yourself to keep up with everyone else: if that means slowing down your walking pace, taking your time while eating and drinking, or moving on from one thing to the next.  People who suffer from anxiety often have a difficult time with change, even moment to moment tasks.  It’s OK to take your time and be in control of your transitions.  There is nothing wrong with taking your time.  If people make fun of you for your coping skills, then that’s their problem.  It is more important to stick to your copings skills then to have your peace and calm rocked in order to please some who doesn’t understand you in the first place.

Let the event run itself.  Don’t get involved in the behind the scenes.  It is not your job to worry about whether things are running smoothly or as they are supposed to go.  Make the most in whatever situation you find yourself – meaning, be in the moment not in the “worry”.

One moment at a time.  Anxiety can be the result of not living in the present; either from worrying about things you cannot control or not having trust in your decision making capabilities.  You cannot control what happens in the next week, the next day, or even the next second.  Worrying about what will happen in the future does no good for the anxious brain.  Just so, worrying or analyzing the past will not help either.  Remember, you’ve made it this far, trust in your decisions.  Have faith that, when the time comes, you will make good decisions and be able to react to whatever unknown circumstances in which you may find yourself.

Monday, February 17, 2014

“Pre-Event Anxiety”

This weekend, my husband and I are attending a family wedding.  Events like this one make me lose my balance and throw me off my mental health horse – which, I should mention, is not very hard to do.  Nonetheless, I still experience extreme amounts of anxiety in the weeks and months preceding special occasions.  Even though I’ve climbed a long way up the slide, I feel like, one of these times, I could easily slip back down to square one.

In the past, before a special event, I would incessantly diet and exercise to try to lose weight.  I would put myself through torture, obsessing day and night over everything I put in my mouth.  Continually, I would belittle my self-worth, bash my appearance in the mirror, and nitpick every perceived flaw.  I treated myself like crap, the whole while telling myself it will be worth it in the end.

You see, I wanted to look good in the eyes of my family and friends.  I was so afraid of people talking bad about me behind my back, “Oh, did you see Mary, she looked like she gained a few pounds”.  I know how people talk.  I’ve heard what people say about others when they’re not looking.  And I couldn’t handle the humiliating reality that they could also be talking about me.

Part of recovering from an eating disorder is learning to not care what other people say or think about you.  Recovery is about being yourself, confident in your self-worth apart from what you look like.  That means making decisions based on what you want to do, not what you think other people want you to do.

Family events, for me, are the most difficult events in and of themselves.  Maybe it is because I want my family’s approval most of all.

These past several weeks I’ve fought and fought and fought eating disorder temptations.  Every day I am tempted to skip meals.  Every time I eat something I’m tormented with shameful thoughts.  It is a constant battle not to slip back into my old ways.

I am not unscathed.  For a little bit, I put myself on a diet I thought would still allow me to eat seemingly normal without anyone noticing.

The tension in my soul is palpable.  I am so afraid of this event that I am beginning to believe the E.D. lies telling me that if I lose weight I’ll be happier, more confident, and able to have a good time.  If I don’t, then the opposite would come true.  I want to practice what I preach, but the other half of me is so desperate, trying every tactic to get me to lose “just a little weight”.  A little bit can’t hurt, right?  Wrong.

Compared to the weddings here in Rural-ville, USA, the wedding this weekend will be extra fancy.  I had a dress I thought would be sufficient, but the more people I talk to about the wedding, the more I am second guessing my original plan.  On top of all my eating disorder temptations, now I am concerned about whether or not I can dress appropriately.

The thought of shopping for a new dress is too much for me to handle.  Trying on things in the dressing room is a recipe for disaster.  Usually following a shopping trip, I get so sad that I give into E.D. behaviors for weeks after.  Also, I have a difficult time spending more money on an already expensive trip.

All this anxiety accumulated and I crumpled into tears while talking to Craig.  I no longer wanted to go.  The overwhelming anxiety seemed too much to handle and I didn’t think it was worth it.  Of course, he was as patient as ever and listened to my thoughts and fears.  He asked me how many of these events I was going to miss because of my anxiety.

Craig helped me realize that I need to take a step back and think about the big picture.  I didn’t want to miss out on things, I really didn’t.  I wanted to conquer my anxieties and fearlessly march into my battles.  Craig was right, if I give in to my fears now then it will only make it more difficult to overcome later.  If I always let my anxieties win, then it’s possible I would miss out on more and more.  It might even cause me to miss my own brother’s graduation or a sister’s wedding.  To me, that sounds tragic.

While taking this giant step back, I need to think about the purpose of this trip.  We are going to support my cousin and his fiancĂ© in this major life decision.  We are going on this trip to pray for their new marriage and to be there for them – showing them we love them by attending their wedding.

It is a lot easier said than done, and I’m still not there yet, but it doesn’t matter what other people think anyway.  If they choose to judge me, then that’s their problem.  I only have to please the Lord.

I just have to be myself.  Sometimes, I struggle to know who this “self” of mine is supposed to be.  For such a long time “me” was all tied up with eating disorders, control, and the “thin ideal”.  It was a road of pain, self-torture, and tears – but I thought I deserved it.  It’s difficult to know who I am without those things.  It is difficult to see my worth apart from my pants size.  I guess I am still trying to figure out who “me” is.

One thing I do know – I know that I am a child of God.  First and foremost, I belong to Him.  Everything I do should be for His honor, glory, and praise.  When I forget this truth, I get caught up in useless anxiety.  When I remember God’s Love for me, I am filled with peace.  And that’s where I want to stay.

While on the subject of perspective, since this anxiety thing runs in my family, I thought that my relatives are probably feeling similar feelings as me.  I highly doubt every single one of my cousins is going to go out and buy a new dress or a new suit.  They are probably just as concerned as me about looking appropriate and avoiding any bad comments flippantly thrown their way.

Just knowing this common fear makes it easier for me to go.

I didn’t care one bit what other people wore to my wedding.  I know everyone wore the best they could to show us that it was an important day.  If their best would have been khakis, then I still wouldn’t have cared.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Discerning marriage while suffering from depression

I won't say I did it the right way.  Everyone has their own unique journey in life.  If you are persistent in prayer and continue to seek the truth through faith in God, you will make good decisions.  Even if you have no sign or no peace – or mental illness keeps you from feeling the consolations from prayer – God will accomplish His work in you.

Eventually, in my personal experience, I got to that place of prayer and discernment, but my over-analytical brain often confused self-doubt with “this must not be God’s will”.  And I think the depression had a huge part to play in that turmoil.

Before I got married, I struggled tremendously with depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder.  While my husband-to-be and I were dating, he helped me see that I could benefit from some counseling.  With his gentle encouragement, I started seeing a counselor, but I still didn't admit that I needed "real" help.  The counselor was not a good fit, so things didn’t get much better.  And I never pursued anything further because I didn’t think that I deserved it.

Craig knew he wanted to marry me.  Because he was a devout man, his conviction meant more to me than my rollercoaster of emotions.  We got engaged and, although it was a happy time in our lives, things continued to go downhill for my mental health.  I had a stressful job, I put an expectation on myself to be inhumanly thin, and the stress of planning a big country wedding didn’t help either.

I had many doubts about whether or not to get married.  My emotions were all over the place.  Even though I looked and prayed for it, I never got that clear sign from God telling me that this was what He wanted.

Even a month before the wedding, I had a terrible depressive episode.  I was supposed to go to work but I kept driving because I didn't know what to do.  It was a hot, sticky, summer morning with no AC in my car.  I felt so lost in my soul that I thought I might as well be lost in the world too.  After many hours, I ended up in Tennessee (I live in Ohio).  I think I was headed to Florida to run away from all my problems.

Overlooking the beautiful scenery of the Smoky Mountains, I realized that I didn’t want to see this place alone.  I wanted Craig and me to see this together.  I had felt so overwhelmed before and thought I had to give up on everything.  But it wasn’t Craig and our future marriage that I wanted to give up.  I realized that my job was too stressful and the wedding planning was too stressful.  Instead of running away from Craig, I can make changes elsewhere in my life.  So I went back home.

I have to admit that I still had hesitations up until the very day.  And even now, I still am tempted to feel like I am not good enough for him.  But I do not regret my choice.

My depression got worse after we got married.  On the outside, I had so many good things in my life.  I felt like I had so many things to be grateful for, yet I still lived in a black hole.  I felt ungrateful, wretched, and shameful.  It was a very despairing thought to realize that not even being married to a wonderful man, living in a nice home, working at a great job, or being surrounded by wonderful family and friends could take away the pain of my depression.  Getting married did not solve all my problems, as I might have subconsciously thought.

Craig began to see how serious my condition was and started researching information and encouraging me to see a counselor.  However, I resisted treatment and medication.  I continued to try to pull myself up by my own bootstraps.

Finally, I had to admit that I had a problem and that I needed help.  Actually, I was so stubborn that I ended up in the hospital.  If it wasn’t for Craig I would not be here today.  In the darkest of moments, I couldn’t live for myself, but I could live for him.  I didn’t value my life, but he did.  I wanted to get better because he wanted me to get better.

Through our relationship, Craig has taught me that it is OK to ask for help.  It doesn’t mean I am weak or unworthy, it means I am a human being.  He has taught me the meaning of unconditional love.  He has stayed with me, by my side, throughout all my failures, all my pain.  I don’t know what I would have done without him.

Craig helped me realize the invisible reality of the love of God.  By his example, I was able to see that God loves me and wants what’s best for me too.  Looking back, I can see that God put Craig in my life for a reason – to help me get to Heaven.  And in turn, I will help him get to Heaven as well.

Our culture is very focused on independence.  We are taught from a young age to fend for ourselves, never to depend on anyone, and to seek out a career to support our selves financially.  But, our faith is one of dependence and trust.  Just as so, our marriages must reflect that reality here on earth.  The family is the image of the Trinitarian God.

I don’t know, maybe it might have been better for me to get help for my depression before I got married.  If I had been less stubborn, at least the path would have been less dramatic.  And maybe this is the path some people take while dealing with mental illness.

However, for me, I don’t think I would have been able to get though it on my own.  God used our marriage to show me how much I did need help.  He brought Craig and me together to let us know that we don’t have to do it on our own – we have each other and we have God.

I know it is not Craig’s job to solve all my problems.  And if I believe that, then I’ll never be happy.  But he has helped me to discover that I am allowed to depend on him and rely on his love.  And likewise, he can depend on me and my love.  So, in that sense, marrying him did help me begin to heal from depression.

So, should you get married if you’re dealing with depression?  I don’t know.  Should you get help for your depression?  Yes.

Mental illness can be debilitating.  It affects all areas of your life.  It can inhibit you from making good decisions.  Through the foggy lenses of depression and anxiety, reality is often distorted.

Considering marriage, if you are struggling with mental illness, the self-doubt and low self-worth may cause you to be attracted to scumbags or men who are not good for you.  These types of men don’t appreciate you or make you feel loved.  But deep down inside, you feel like you deserve this treatment, so you don’t get out of the relationship.

On the other hand, the depression may also cause you to doubt that you are good enough for the man you are with.  If this second scenario is the case, he is likely a really good person.  This man will take care of you, put your needs before his, and show you he loves you without getting anything in return.  He will make you feel valued beyond compare and worthy beyond your belief.

He doesn’t have to understand depression completely, but he does have to be willing to stay with you in good times and in bad, through the joys and the depression, the pleasures and the sufferings, the easy roads and the difficult roads.  This is true for any couple who is discerning marriage no matter what their crosses look like.

Another important aspect is to have open lines of communication.  It has to start when you’re dating, otherwise, it will be really difficult to create it when you’re married.  Tell him you’re struggling with mental illness.  Depression recovery needs a lot of talk time, so he must have an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.  But, again, any good marriage needs lots of communication.

Don’t wait until you’re perfect to start living, because it will never happen.  Start living now, despite all your faults.  Through our weakness, He is made strong.  In our humility, God’s works His will.

I guess the point is, if you set yourself up for good marriage altogether, striving for holiness and oneness, then the marriage will benefit your mental health.  Like all marriages, there will be bumps on the road.  But if you are committed to staying together and helping each other, then it will be good.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Going off the anti-depressant medication

An S-P to the A-M site got a hold of one of my post links.  I’m no website expert so I can’t figure out how to stop it from getting all up in my grill, inflating my stats, and messing up my comments.  After my bout of amateur researching, I am going to delete that link and re-post the article here, to a new link, under a new title.  In the most professional way, I’m crossing my fingers and toes on this one.  While you’re waiting on me, enjoy re-reading my “most popular post”.  Oh yeah, and I'm going to have to enable the comment filter for a while...sorry.  But feel free to still comment!  I love hearing from you!
Tapering off the medication: Curing Anxiety, Part 1 -

My one sentence answer: “So far so good.”

I am not going to lie and say that there haven’t been any bumps in the road. But I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect because life never is…

Some things I’ve noticed:
I am more tempted to get stuck on obsessive thoughts
Calorie counting and weight paranoia returning more frequently
I am hesitant to do too much at once (which is a good thing, I guess)
I have to choose my coping skills deliberately and more often
Leaving the house is more difficult because I am afraid something bad will happen
I’m afraid I’ll forget to do something and I obsessively make lists
It’s still sometimes difficult to get out of bed in the morning if I have a lot to do that day

If I had to make a generalization, I would say that I am struggling less with the depression side of things and more with the anxiety.

I am not surprised by this realization. I’ve been doing really well with treating my depression and my eating disorder overall. However, since tapering off my medication, I can see that my anxiety seems to still be present in my daily life.

OK, now to figure out how to cure my anxiety…

Thank God I was recently given this wonder program for dealing with anxiety. (The program is called Attacking Anxiety and Depression by Lucinda Bassett. It’s a series of tapes with a corresponding work book. These tapes came at the best possible time because they are exactly what I need right now. If you struggle with anxiety on a regular basis, I highly recommend that you look them up and try them out for yourself.)

If you aren't ready to try the program just yet, you're in luck! For the next few weeks, I am going to be blogging more frequently about how to cope with anxiety because…well…that is what I am dealing with right now.

Everyone, (repeat with an emphasis) EVERYONE, experiences anxiety or panic – it’s a part of life you cannot escape.

How you deal with stressful situations is the defining factor.

People learn how to deal with stress at a young age. Everyone learns how to cope with anxiety and panic from their parents, or the people who raised them – good, bad, whatever…

Ever since I was a kid, I learned to deal with stress by constantly worrying, fretting, and reacting as though it was the worst possible situation. Seemingly insignificant situations were cause to panic.

Spilling juice on the carpet felt just as bad as if a tiger got loose in the house and was chasing me around.

When I was young, really young, I made up this rule that I had to worry about bad things happening because then they wouldn’t happen. Or if the bad things did happen, I could be prepared and in control (clutch). I still catch myself trying to follow this rule.

Now I am older and wiser. I don’t want to live in constant anxiety anymore. And I realize that I don’t have to live in constant fear anymore either.

If I learned how to deal with anxiety in an unhealthy way, then with time and practice, I can learn to deal with anxiety in a healthy way.

“So, now what? What do I do? How to I cope with stress and anxiety in a healthy way?”

To cope with anxiety and depression in a healthy way, I can’t just flip a switch off and “not”be nervous anymore. “Don’t be nervous,”they say. OK…yeah…that’s not going to help. You can’t just change the way you feel because you want to. Have you tried that? Yeah, it doesn’t work.

To Cure Anxiety: You have to change the way you think and respond in certain situations. To deal with stress in a healthy way, you have to re-train your brain and your thinking process.

You might not believe me at first, but YOU are the main cause of your anxiety. And YOU are the only one who can calm yourself down.

Understanding this fact is a major key in recovery.

One reason why I want to recover from my anxiety attacks:
You may or may not already know that Depression and Anxiety have physical symptomsas well as mental and emotional symptoms.

Poor mental health can cause lack of motivation, extreme fatigue, upset stomach or digestion, insomnia, headaches, and other ailments.

I originally thought I was gluten intolerant or lactose intolerant because of all the stomach issues I had. Anything I ate seemed to bother my stomach. I had poor digestion and elimination (sorry, this post is not for the faint of heart). Before I even ate anything at all, I sometimes started to feel bad because I thought, “Is this going to bother me?” or “what if I get sick and have to go home?”

I was convinced that there was something physically wrong with me. And I worried myself into more anxiety and more depression because I didn’t know what was wrong. As a result, this worry aggravated my physical symptoms.

When giving up wheat and dairy didn’t help my situation, I was certain that I had stomach or colon cancer. I went to my family doctor several times hoping that they would find somethingwrong. I even had tests done at the hospital to see if they could find anything…anything! I knew, for sure, that something was wrong. However, the doctors said I was perfectly healthy.

I didn’t believe them, those doctors, even though they were professionals. I was afraid that they didn’t know what they were doing. They had to have missed the giant tumor in my stomach. Maybe the doctor was just too busy that day and didn’t give me a full and proper examination. I began to worry that I had a terminal illness.

I had no idea (or maybe just didn’t want to believe) that my symptoms could be the result of poor mental health.

In case you don’t believe that the brain and the stomach are connected, let me give you an example. Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach because you were nervous about something like a big test, an interview, or speaking in front of a lot of people? Maybe you get sweaty palms or feel a little dizzy or fuzzy in the head. Or maybe you’ve had worse. Maybe you know what panic attacks are. Or maybe you have IBS. Or maybe you are generally a nervous person and have poor digestion overall.

Looking back, I can see that in the midst of all my digestive issues I was also stuck in an anxiety circle of fear. Because of this fear, I had more stress and anxiety, which in turn, caused more stomach/digestive issues.

Once I started learning more about depression and anxiety, my eyes were opened. Other people had some of the same symptoms I did. The similarities were uncanny. Lots of people who struggle with anxiety and depression have problems with digestion.

My stomach gets very upset in stressful or anxious situations, and then I, well, I get “sick”. Because this ailment became common, I was afraid of going places because I was afraid of where I would be when I had the next diarrhea attack. And because I was focused on how I was feeling, I would get more anxious and, thus, my stomach would start to gurgle, toss, and turn. Seemingly stress-free circumstances became problematic. But I never told anybody because who wants to talk about diarrhea?

If you are like me and the majority of the human race, it is difficult to admit that your suffering is “all in your head”. I’m notsaying that your suffering is fake. NO! Your constipation, diarrhea, or upset stomach may be the result of poor mental health. However, it doesn’t make it any less real. Quite the contrary, actually. The physical symptoms that are the result of anxiety or depression can be just as much of a problem and health risk as the symptoms of someone with celiac’s disease or cancer.

Ever since I started confronting my fears, treating my depression, and taking better care of my mental health overall, my digestive issues have been almost non-existent.

Want to know how I did it?

Friday, February 7, 2014

How is your relationship with food?

Food is a big part of our lives.  We need to eat to keep living, it’s pleasurable, it’s social, it’s spiritual.  Needless to say, food is very important.

As with all good things in this world, the enemy has found a way to twist the good of eating food into something disordered.  Because we encounter food on a daily basis, a disproportionate view or an improper relationship with eating can affect you every day.

We live in a fallen world, and because of this reality I think everyone has some degree of disordered eating.  No one is perfect, right?  We are human and we have many flaws.

The difference between disordered eating and an eating disorder is the extent that it disrupts your life.  If your relationship with food is so bad that you can no longer function, take care of yourself, or continue living the way you are, then you most likely have an eating disorder.

However, in between a good relationship with food and an eating disorder is what I call disordered eating or an unbalanced relationship with food.

You have a poor relationship with food if:

You are controlling of what you eat and what others eat (your husband, children, etc).  You influence other’s food choices by your comments.  You might have bizarre eating habits and rally others to join you.  You may be considered picky, restrictive of your choices, and only eating certain things certain ways.  You could be a chronic dieter.
You talk about food a lot.  You talk about how eating affects you personally, how it makes you feel, how it tastes, and digests.  You talk about what it is and why you are eating.  You feel the need to explain yourself every time you put something in your mouth.  You might need other’s validation or encouragement in order to eat something.  You also might ask about what others are eating to compare yourself to them.
You do not, or rarely, share your food.  You might horde food, hide it, or eat in secret so as not to explain yourself or to share.
You are afraid of food, eating makes you nervous.  Being around food, at meal times, or at parties gives you anxiety because of the food that is present.  It is difficult for you to make eating decisions, for example: choosing a restaurant, making dinner on the fly, or choosing snacks at a get together.
You find yourself constantly thinking about food, eating, or not eating.  Your thoughts about food take up a lot of space in your head, often leaving you disengaged from the moment.
Click here to take a short quiz to see if you have disordered eating tendencies.

While you may not have a full blown eating disorder, you’re relationship with food is still not healthy for you or those around you.  Whether or not you also have concerns about appearance, weight, or weight loss, if you could see yourself in any of the above descriptions, then you have an unbalanced view of food.

You may not be unhappy or even know that your relationship with eating is distorted.  Like I say earlier, I think many people experience disordered eating.  But, like all shortcomings, we are called to self-awareness in order to become the best version of our selves.  Just because it’s normal doesn’t make it right.

It is really important, especially in this day in age, to work toward having a proper relationship with food.  Eating disorders are more prevalent now than ever.  The way you approach food and eating can have a huge impact on those around who might be susceptible to, or currently struggling with, an eating disorder.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever talk about food.  It’s fine to comment on how something tastes good, and if you like this or that.  Everyone has their own unique, subjective tastes.  It’s fun to share recipes and trials and errors when it comes to cooking.  I think it’s OK to talk about food – what I think is harmful is when it goes beyond this.  I’m talking about keeping food in its proper place.

Yes, food is a big part of life, but it is not all there is to life either.

It’s really challenging for me to be around people who have a distorted view of eating, especially those who are very controlling and vocal about it.  I’ve made a lot of habit changes that have helped me overcome my eating disorder tendencies, and I can stand it when someone questions my choices.  It’s also difficult to be around people who constantly talk about why they are eating.  “I worked out today so I earned this piece of chocolate”, or “I can’t eat any of that bad food because it makes me sick”, you know, comments like that.  Its fine if you choose not to eat certain things because they make you feel bad, just don’t broadcast it or brag about it like you are superior.  It makes people with eating disorders feel like never eating again.  I have a brother who is lactose intolerant, but you’d never know because he never complains and never makes you feel bad for eating dairy yourself.

Whether you like it or not, people are affected by what you say and do, especially those younger than you.  How we approach eating can either help put an end to or encourage eating disorder tendencies in those around us.

Want to overcome disordered eating?

Stop controlling what you eat.  Give yourself permission to eat without punishment.  Let your hunger be your guide.  Don’t talk about “why” you are eating, you don’t need a “why” to eat.  Un-moralize food, eating is a subjective experience.  Let others make their own food choices – they must learn for themselves what their likes and dislikes are, and what hungry and full mean to them.  Cook homemade meals and share them with family and friends.
Eventually, your mind will put food back in it’s appropriate place and you can use the extra space in your brain to think about other important things.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Proof that talking through your problems really does help you

The other day, Craig and I were talking about my returning depression symptoms.  He recognized some early warning signs and brought his concerns to me.  Remember the Google doc I linked up last year?

I am so thankful to have my husband.  I know he does not understand completely.  Yet, he still makes an effort to understand the best he can.  He is a hundred percent male; he thinks, talks, and acts like a man…obviously.  But he does not summit himself to stereotypes.  Because he loves me and wants what’s best for me, he continues to die to himself and to his own desires.  He is patient.  He will listen when I need to talk.  And he constantly offers loving support and affirmation – not only just during the tough times.

During our conversation, I was lamenting that nothing was working anymore – none of my coping skills were helping me cope.  I felt broken, hopeless, and discouraged.

We came to the conclusion that I need to update my list of coping skills.  Why didn’t I think of that?  Clearly, if they’re not working then the list needs updated, right?  I love my sensible, logical husband.

After this a-ha moment, I realized once again how important it is to talk through my problems with other people.  Sometimes, all my focus is on the road block and not necessarily how to get past it.  Talking to other people helps put things into perspective, or helps to get a new perspective altogether.

Craig and I discussed many helpful things to try.  For starters, I’ll come up with some new coping skills to help me deal with my depression during the winter months.  Most of my really good coping skills are centered around being outside and sunshine…things everyone is lacking right now.  But if I can come up with a list of five or six things I can do inside during the winter, it could dramatically reduce my anxiety about my depression.  (Wait, what?  Who talks like this?  …reduce my anxiety about my depression?)

Below are some options I am going to try.

New Winter Coping Skills List:
Hot Bath or Shower
Listening to music
Confession or Spiritual Direction
Exercise DVD
Going to the Library
Reading or listening to a book on CD
Watching a funny movie
Make a cup of Tea/Coffee

Well, it looks like I’ve got more than five already.

It’s been a cold winter and exercising outside is unrealistic.  Yet when I need it the most, it’s too difficult to get myself to go to the gym, the YMCA, or anywhere else where I could exercise inside.  I have a few workout DVDs (Pilates and Stayball routines), but they only make me more irritated.  To get that endorphin high, I need something that keeps my heart rate up and gives me a good sweat.  I was talking to a friend about this exercising dilemma and she offered her Insanity workout DVDs for me to borrow; more proof that talking through problems helps you solve them.  (If you’re not familiar with Insanity, the name alone should clue you in.)

I also met up with a good friend who has been through a lot of the same things that I have been through.  It is always reassuring to speak with someone who understands what it’s like, first hand.  From time to time, I need that affirmation that I’m not going crazy, I’m not losing my mind, and it’s not the end of the world.  There is no comparison to solidarity in suffering.

On another occasion, I met with a different friend and we exchanged good book recommendations.  Just the thought of having a list of new good books to read makes me smile.  She also helped me tap into the abundant digital library resource where I could have new books with the click of a button.  Um…where have you been all my life?!?!

The reason all my friends are getting shout outs today is because I’m trying to prove a point that talking to other people really can help you deal with your problems.  I am saying this to myself as much as I am saying it to whoever reads this silly blog of mine.

I could not have come up with these solutions on my own.  My brain gets stuck like a broken record, a one track mind kind of thing, and I can’t move past it.  Only by talking to other people can I move beyond the problem and work toward finding an answer.

If I keep reminding myself that I am not being a burden to them, then I will be more likely to reach out to others when I need it the most.