Friday, December 18, 2015

Holiday Parties and Anxiety

Christmas is coming and so are the parties.

Here are my 10 popular posts on preventing, or recovering from, party anxiety.

15 Tips to Enjoying a Party when you have Anxiety

Holiday Survival Kit

Post-Party Anxiety

"I can't go to the party! I'm too fat!"

7 ways to make the holidays more enjoyable

Recovering from a Holiday Hangover

How to Make Sure You Get Enough Food this Holiday Season

9 Tips to Help You Recovery From a Holiday

Fear of the Feast

Appearance Smearance

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why I don't drink

I haven't had an alcoholic drink in 3 1/2 years. Why am I giving it up?

I used to drink...not a whole lot really. But, I liked to get drunk. I liked the feeling. Not knock-out drunk, just a little-more-than-tipsy. But, it's hard to maintain just a little-more-than-tipsy when you don't want that feeling to go away. So, I ended up more than just a little-more-than-tipsy more often than I wanted. It wasn't every day or even every weekend. Yet, I'm not sure what would have happened to me had I kept up that old lifestyle. Maybe I would have become an alcoholic, I don't know. It sure seemed like I was on that path. Alcohol, let's just say, definitely wasn't improving my life.

When I was hospitalized for depression, the doctors recommended that I give up alcohol. I was hesitant at first and only committed to a year. 3 1/2 years later, I'm still going.

I don't feel like a recovering alcoholic because I didn't give it up because I was an alcoholic. The main reason why I gave up drinking was because of my depression. I don't know if this is how it works for some alcoholics or not, that there is an underlying condition. I never went to AA meetings or anything like that. I actually don't feel like I would be an acceptable candidate for AA. I feel like the people there would have been through far worse than me. I feel like they'd laugh me out of the room.

Although, from time to time, it would be nice to have some comradery in not drinking.

I've thought long and hard about drinking again. Since I'm technically "cured" from my clinical depression, I've thought about adding alcohol back in my life. It's appealing, I love wine, it feels good...and because everyone else is doing it, of course I'd like to drink as well. Especially during this time of year, settling down on the couch after a long day with a glass of cabernet sounds so good.

But, I don't think I'll ever do it.

Even though it's been a while, I still feel susceptible to depression. I have good days and bad days. I guess everyone experiences these ups and downs. However, I always have to be on the lookout for a relapse. Or, in reality, I never want to have a relapse, so I want to prevent one at all costs.

Would drinking cause a relapse? I don't know.

Alcohol doesn't cause depression, it just exaggerates the symptoms. If you are feeling depressed, alcohol might make you feel better at first, but, after a bit, you will feel more down than before. Alcohol also impairs your decision making skills. So, if you are depressed and having thoughts of hurting yourself, drinking might make you more inclined to act on those feelings.

Or maybe alcohol does cause depression for the alcoholic? Alcoholism is an addiction. And addictions control your life. If you are being controlled by an addiction, that could cause depression. I'm not an expert, this is just me thinking out loud.

All I know for sure is that things have been better for me since giving up drinking. Things aren't perfect, but they're better. Is not drinking alcohol a contributing factor, I don't know, maybe. But, I'd rather not find out the hard way.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Three Things to Help with Anxiety

Anxiety is such a terrible feeling. Often times, you can't see it coming. The calm, peaceful presence that was residing in your soul suddenly wanes away. You are left grasping at things to help you get it back. You feel shaky on the you had too much caffeine. Your mind begins to flit from one thing to the next. You've lost focus and control. You fear there are things you are forgetting to do. Panic starts to set in. You find yourself forgetting to breath properly. Your head can spin and you might end up feeling like you are going to faint because of the lack of oxygen. You go through silly behaviors or routines trying to find the missing piece that will make you calm again.

It may take a long time to come down from an anxiety "high". Sometimes, you don't land softly. Sometimes, it's a hard crash down into depression.

What just happened? I often think hours, even days, later.

It's good to go back in time and try to figure out some initial anxiety triggers. For me, the best way to cure anxiety is to try and prevent the triggers.

But, that's not always possible. Much of this world we cannot my everyday disappointment. So, what can I do?

First, I found it is helpful to recognize my anxiety symptoms: irritability, obsessively cleaning unimportant things, obsessively making lists, doing things with unnecessary haste.

Second, after realizing that I am experiencing anxiety, I try to stop what I am doing, find a secluded, safe place, and sit down (this is the hardest part). Meanwhile, I take deep breaths as I try and turn my mind away from what I was doing. I repeat the Jesus Prayer, breathing in with "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God" and breathing out with "have mercy on me, a sinner".

Third, I think of what it is right now, in this present moment, that I need the most. It might not be on my to-do list, but it's still important.

Taking better care of myself will help me avoid the crash of depression.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Number 1 Eating Disorder Trigger


I've noticed that the number one cause of an eating disorder relapse is gossip. Whether or not I'm participating in it, and whether or not it's weight/looks related, I am still affected.

Where two or three are gathered, gossip lurks.

Look at what she is wearing? Wait, who is looking at me and saying the same thing?

She is so beautiful! I wish I was worthy enough for that kind of compliment!

I don't know how she finds the time to get everything done! When was the last time I took a shower?

Can you believe she said that? I know for a fact there are things I shouldn't have said.

I guess my point (and the reminder I am giving myself) is that gossip is destructive to more than just the one gossiped about. After participating in, or idly standing by, conversations about other people, I am 100% more likely to scrutinize myself.

When I harshly analyze myself, I'm certain to find flaws I'm unhappy about. When I get too down, I tend to try and make myself feel better with destructive behavior; synchronizing how I feel on the inside with how I act on the outside.

Considering my emotions, if I feel empty and worthless, it makes sense to me to not eat or not eat that much so that, physically, I feel empty and worthless as well. If I feel happy and content and full of love, then I tend to feed myself appropriately.

Obviously, this thinking is wrong. I have to find a way to treat myself with respect no matter what I feel on the inside. When it comes down to it, feelings are just feelings. I am not reduced to the sum of what I feel. My actions are what determine my fate.

With Christmas parties approaching and ample time to spend in potentially awkward interactions, I am going to make a commitment not to use gossip in conversation.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


I promise I didn't lie...
Needless to say, I am having a hard time finding the time to blog. I thought I was back in business before, but its been...whoa...almost 2 months since I last published a post. I think about writing often. But thinking about it and doing it are not the same thing...obviously.

I have good intentions. In everything I do, I honestly can say I have some sort of orientation toward "the good". I don't want to get into philosophy here mainly because it's not my point, but, also because, I'm not sure I remember how to logically spell out a philosophical argument anymore. I have flashbacks to those hilarious freshman year classes. What I remember, however, is more about an infamous door as opposed to actual content. :)

If I am going to continue this blog, I have to let go of perfectionism. I don't have time to read and reread my posts over and over until they are "perfect". If I am going to keep this up, I  just have to write, quickly glance, hit that button, and walk away. If I can't do that, then this is over, BlogSpot. Ultimatum.

You're going to love these...
Recently, I've been into TED Talks. Our Apple TV added the "app" and, since then, I've been hooked. The talks do a great job of motivating me to feel motivated, whether I actually do anything is another subject. But it's nice to feel motivated. (You'll get my emphasis later.)

Here are my two favs so far:

Embrace the shake by Phil Hansen
"In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation ... and transcend it."

Your elusive creative genius by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love)
"Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk."

Still struggling with body image...
I don't remember where I first read these tidbits of knowledge, but they have stuck with me for some time now.

"You need love the most when you feel you deserve it the least."


"You can’t hate your way into loving yourself."

When I am struggling with body image, I hate myself - I hate the way I look, I hate my style, my hair, my skin, the way I get the drift. I get caught up in this endless cycle of self-hate which inevitably translates into unlovable. "If I hate myself, then how can anyone else possibly love me?"

It helps me to remember that, when I am feeling this way, indulging in those self-destructive thoughts will not help me feel better. I have to stop them as soon as I realize what I am doing. (Easier said then done.) And get myself back on a positive track.

Its hard to act against your feelings. It seems unnatural. It seems fake. But, if you think about it, it's not.

We often let our feelings dictate what we do. But feelings are not facts, feelings are not truth, feelings are not the end-all-be-all. Sometimes we have to act a certain way despite our feelings.

Acting on feelings is precisely the downfall of our post-modern culture. Do whatever you feel like doing as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. ...But what if hurts you? Are we free to hurt ourselves? I guess so. But why would we want to do that?

Ahhh, Relativism, it always comes back to you...

Feelings do not make a good or bad person. Just because I feel like I am unlovable doesn't mean I am unlovable. Its my actions that determine my fate.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Post-Recovery Counseling

I first started seeing a mental health counselor/therapist my senior year of college.  I've had all kinds of experiences with all kinds of professionals.  My last counselor was through a crisis center.  About two years ago, when I started to wean off my anti-depressant medication, I found myself going less and less to counseling.  It’s been more than year now that I haven’t seen a mental health therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist.

It had been my intention to continue to go to counseling even after I was “recovered”.  I thought it would help me maintain my state of mental health and prevent any major setbacks by catching them early.  But I find myself here, one year later, having not been back.

Part of my dilemma is that I don’t feel like I can go back to place I did before.  Because it was a crisis center, I don’t feel like I deserve a spot there.  There are plenty of people who need the services more than me.  The center was always busy, and the staff was always overworked.  I would feel guilty if I went…like I was taking up space…space someone else needed more than me.

When I think about it, it’s not just that place that I don’t feel I can go.  I don’t feel like I can go anywhere.

I continue to struggle with depression and anxiety, yet I know I’m not as bad as I once was.  I’m not nearly as bad as some people who need counseling more than me.  I hate feeling like I don’t belong somewhere or I am wasting someone’s time.  Even if I am paying them for their services, I am keenly aware of when I am burdening someone.  Counselors and Therapists are human too – how can they handle listening to people’s problems day after day and not get worn out or develop a mental illness themselves?

...Just some of the thoughts that go through my head.

Even though I think I need regular counseling, I talk myself out of it.  I don’t feel like I deserve counseling.

The fact that I said “I don’t feel I deserve” should raise some red flags.  Part of the reason why I ended up in a mental hospital was because I had such a poor self-worth and didn't take care of myself...symptoms of my depression.

I need to remind myself that I am deserving, I am worthy, and I should not feel guilty for trying to take care of myself.  If anyone tries to make me feel bad for doing what I do, then that is their problem…not mine.

Easier said then done...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

It's Not Poison

Nursing makes you really hungry...really really hungry.  I think I have a bigger appetite now than when I was training for my marathon.

Being able to eat a lot can be fun...if you let it.  However, if you struggle with an eating disorder, being uncontrollably, perpetually hungry can be terrifying.

Since having a baby, some eating disorder thoughts have crept back into my life.  I was anticipating having minor setbacks because of post-pregnancy body image issues.  I also knew it would be difficult to control negative feelings with not being able to use my coping skill because of the responsibility of taking care of a baby.  For the most part, though, I've been ok.

The other night I was really down because I ate a huge dinner.  I was beating myself up and having a hard time moving on.  I was upset, tearful, discouraged.  I felt ugly, worthless, defeated...all too familiar feelings, making things worse.

Craig reminded me of an important fact.  He said, "You ate food, Mary.  It's not like you drank a gallon of poison.  You body will use it as energy and food for Dominic."

Food is not poison.  Eating food does not make me a bad person.  And repeat until it sinks in.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Post Baby Post

I’m back!  …for anyone who is still out there.

I thought maybe I was done with the blog.  It had served its purpose.  It helped me get through some tough times.  And hopeful it helped others in the process.

But now I’m thinking it might have a little more time left.

Our little miracle, Dominic Michael, came into the world on November 23, 2014.

Having a baby changes everything.  I could write and write about the wonderful and terrifying experiences of being a mom.  But there are much better mom-bloggers out there doing the job.

I’ve had up and down moments with my mental health since that day.  More down than up…but the ups trump the downs 100 times over.

Subconsciously, I was hoping to be forever cured of all things depression, anxiety, and eating disorder related after having a baby.  Unfortunately, that has not been the case.  I was hoping that becoming a mom would ultimately fulfill my destiny and, therefore, motivate me to be that better person I want to be.  Not that that was the reason I wanted to have a baby – I just had underlying expectations of myself.

But I’m still me, I’m still human, and I’m still struggling with the same-old-same-old.

Having a baby challenges both parents, yet the mom takes the brunt of it early on – especially if she breastfeeds.  For the dad, his life is changed in the fact that something is added.  His life generally stays the same except for his new little “addition”…literally.

For the mom, her life is completely changed.  Nothing is the same.  The smallest tasks become difficult.  Showering is a luxury.  Even going the bathroom has to be properly timed.

For someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, the demands of motherhood can be extra challenging.  It’s so much harder to take care of yourself.

I know it will get better with time and experience…but, true to my nature, I am caught up in the “its-going-to-be-like-this-forever” thought.

The fear of not being able keep up causes me all kinds of anxiety.  Instead of just taking it one day at a time, I'm getting overwhelmed by all the days to come.  I don't know what it's going to be like tomorrow or next week or next month, but I imagine the worst case scenario.  I'll never get to do anything ever again.  I'll never feel like a normal person ever again.  I'll never get more than two hours of sleep put together ever again...

I'm afraid of failing my son.  I’m afraid he won't trust me if I let him cry.  I'm afraid of making mistakes and causing him to be scarred for life.  This little tiny person, who I love so much, scares me to death.

Living with all this anxiety can be debilitating if I let it get out of control.

I hate the catchphrase "God won't give you anything you can't handle".  It's not true.  He certainly does allow things to happen to you that you can't handle.  It happens all the time all over the world...on a much more dramatic scale of course.  You can’t say that line to a person living in a country stricken with famine and war.  You can’t say that to someone who lost a loved one in car crash cause by a drunk driver.  You can’t say that to a women who has been raped and beaten.  No, God doesn’t expect us to handle our problems on our own.

More accurately, “God won’t give you any trial to handle that you can’t ask Him to help you with.”

My little problems are nothing in comparison to what some people have to go through.  However, I still struggle with what I have been given. God allows me to struggle because good will come from it - even though I can't see it now.

Feeling so helpless and out of control makes me pray more, ask God for help more often, and put everything in His hands because I can't do it any other way.

It’s easier if I lower my expectations.  I tell myself that I don't have to do anything else besides take care of Dominic's needs.  If I don't expect anything more then I won't be so disappointed when I can’t get to the dishes or the laundry or the countless other things I want to do.

“Lord, help me let go of control.  Through the intercession of Mother Teresa, help me get done today the things that you want me to get done.  And help me to let go of the rest so that my mind can be free of anxiety and stress.  Fill me with your peace."