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Kindness

I was checking out the categories and tags most searched for my posts and anxiety and GAD were leaps and bounds ahead of any other categories. This, along with finding out two people I know suffer from severe anxiety this week got me thinking. Why are we all so anxious and stressed out?! 

I know where mine comes from (it runs in my family) and it’s always triggered by events like terrrorism or mass shootings. I think I stated that 9/11 was the first terrorist type attack I can remember feeling anxiety about, but before that was actually Columbine. I was a freshman in high school and I can remember just being in disbelief, shock. Shortly after that there was supposedly a ‘hit list’ found at our high school with specific people and a date listed. We were told we didn’t have to attend school that day if we felt uncomfortable even though it was deemed to be a false threat. I, of course, stayed home that day. A safe place for me had turned into a place I was nervous and anxious in. We had ‘intruder’ and ‘active shooter’ drills along with the normal fire and earthquake drills we practiced yearly. 

In my mind I couldn’t fathom that something like that would ever happen again. But it has, countless times. There are very few places I actually feel safe now that I am an adult. Just a few months ago I went to the grocery store and couldn’t go inside because I saw a man walk into the store with a large duffel bag. My mind raced and I broke out in a cold sweat. I was convinced the duffle bag contained a bomb and that I would indeed die if I entered the store. This is not normal or healthy thinking but it has become our reality. I don’t watch the news and I don’t read news articles online. I can’t. 

After the San Bernadino shootings, offices started having ‘active shooter’ courses. I can remember having to take sexual harassment courses at larger offices I worked in before I became a work from home mom, and I honestly don’t think I could handle a course on what to do in the presence of an active shooter. It makes me sad that American life has come to this and in turn raises my anxiety levels. 

Before my parents divorce, we would get random hang up calls at our house. This was WAY before the days of caller ID and even cordless phones. My dad would tell us it was ‘bad guys’ he had arrested (he was a deputy sheriff and as far as I know still is) calling to try and harass him. Actually, it was the woman he was having an affair with. This lie made me paranoid even as a small child that someone was out to get us. I had a reoccurring nightmare of my dad being shot in front of Safeway. When I finally found out the truth I was angry. And reflecting on this, I’m not surprised that I have developed such severe anxiety. I’ve been dealing with feeling unsafe for most of my life. 


But I’ve been trying to see the good in this and realized this has definitely changed my perspective on how I treat people in life. I no longer honk at people driving like morons for fear of road rage. And the ‘weird’ or ‘odd’ people I come across in life I try to smile at. I try to treat people I encounter with kindness every day. And I won’t say I always succeed, I definitely have my moments of being less than friendly. But I’m working on it. 

I truly believe we could all be a little more kind. A little more friendly and patient. Tim McGraw’s song Humble and Kind has become a sort of anthem for me. What if we could all just be kind on a daily basis. I know it’s a little thing, but I truly believe that something small like that can make a huge impact. Will you join me in trying to make our world just a little bit less scary?

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Some of you may recognize this quote from the always classy and quotable South Park. I kid, I kid! But really, this statement made by Eric Cartman has been on my mind since I decided to start seeking MY passion/bliss/dream. 

I’ve been proud of myself the last few months in that I am slowly (but surely) learning to ignore that nagging voice that says ‘but what will people think?’ and replacing that with the aforementioned title of this post. It doesn’t come easy yet, but I know that with practice it will. 

I grew up extremely self conscious and worried constantly about what other people thought of me. My fear of failing at ANYTHING kept me from doing a lot of things I wanted to do. I wanted to try out for cheerleading, run for student body and maybe try out for a play or two. But my need to appear “perfect” paralyzed me with fear of not making the cut, and that is something I regret. 

This continued into college – I was never one of those girls who rolled out of bed and attended lecture in sweats. I would be late for class before I would ever show up without a full face of makeup and a put together outfit. I envied my friends who were finding themselves and shedding the insecurities of high school because mine were still firmly rooted in my brain. I didn’t know what I really liked or what I wanted because I was so focused on appearing like I had it all together. There were few people who knew the real me and I burned many bridges because of my inability to open up and just be.

I gained more than the freshman fifteen my first year and felt like a disgusting failure, and then felt a sick satisfaction my sophomore year when I dropped to under 100 pounds and no longer fit in any of my clothes. I had developed a full blown eating disorder which wouldn’t be diagnosed until a few years after college. I NEEDED to be perfect. I NEEDED to be a size 0 and I didn’t care what it took. I wasn’t even concerned after passing out in the hallway during a summer quarter literature class. I had been trying to get to the bathroom and thank God I had the wherewithal to sit down on a hallway bench before I passed out and awoke drenched in cold sweat with a random girl shaking my shoulder. You would think that might be a wake up call for me, but I am extremely stubborn and hard headed. I needed to be skinny and hear all the compliments more than I wanted to be healthy or admit I had a problem. 

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I still struggle every day with thoughts of weight, food and body image. It’s something I will most likely struggle with for most of my life. But on the flip side, I am beginning to care so much less about what people think of that fact. I kept it a secret for many years and was ashamed for what I perceived as being ‘weak’ and out of control. I can now speak about it without shame, because I know I fight daily to overcome those thoughts and I know it’s not easy. I’ve gotten over worrying about what people think of me, what I wear or how put together I am – because the truth is nobody cares about that. People care if you are kind, thoughtful, and trustworthy – not what size jeans you can squeeze into.  

But as I said, I’m slowly leaving those insecurities behind. Maybe this is what being in your 30’s is all about. Coming into your own and not giving an ounce of care about what people think. That and the two day hangover that happens now when I have too much wine…what’s that all about? 

I started a few small businesses in the past year and really seemed to ‘find’ myself. Both required posting A LOT of selfies on social media. At first it gave me a stomach ache when I didn’t get enough ‘likes’ on a photo, but now it doesn’t phase me. I rock bright red lipstick when I feel like it (something I would have never had the guts to do before) and even dyed my hair pink a few times, because I wanted to. I wear what I like and what makes me feel pretty. The funny thing is, the more I let go and stop caring, the more confident I’ve become. It’s freeing to let go of those old hang ups and give yourself permission to just be. 


This is what I wish for everyone. That we could all let go of the hang ups holding us back from enjoying and experiencing our lives. So…in my quest for bliss, I’ve found that learning to love myself despite my flaws and despite my anxiety must be the very first step. 

The Journey Begins

A few nights ago we watched the movie La La Land. I loved it, Chris doesn’t like musicals but he humored me anyway. The storyline really struck a chord with me – not because I’m a struggling actress or jazz obsessed pianist – but because the two main characters are so passionate about their hopes and dreams in life. They really pursue and *SPOILER ALERT* ultimately achieve those dreams through thick and thin. They sacrifice jobs, money and relationships for their dreams. But ultimately they find their bliss in life.

This got me thinking. About my dreams, my life and this blog. I’ve never been one of those people who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their lives or had a career I was so passionate about that I knew it would be my future. I flip flopped majors in college with the delusional idea that I would meet my husband at the University of Washington and be done having children by 25 – this now makes me laugh just writing it. My husband, on the other hand (the one I met when I was 28 and didn’t have a child with until I was 31), is one of those people. He played hockey professionally until injuries forced him to retire, and has coached ever since then. He comes from a hockey family and his dad recently retired after 30+ years in the NHL. It’s in their blood, and there is little doubt in my mind that this passion will pass on to my son and I can’t even ice skate. 

I’ve asked my husband before what it’s like to work every day doing something you love and are so passionate about, but he really can’t explain because he’s never known anything else. In a way, I’m jealous. I’m passionate about being a wife and mother but what about a part of my life just for me? I enjoy my small businesses – one more than the others for sure, but are they my passion? Are they the bliss I have been so fervently seeking? The short answer is no, they aren’t. The things I love in life – my family, good coffee, interacting with and meeting new people, shopping, photography and writing aren’t things I can make a living with. Or are they? What if I just need to let go of what society tells us and just follow my passions come hell or high water?

 

Quoting the fabulous Jen Sincero again, I need my faith to be bigger than my fear. Which sometimes seems IMPOSSIBLE when living with anxiety. But do you know what’s even more scary…not following your dreams and becoming the person you feel in your heart you are meant to be. Now that’s scary. Life is short and none of us knows which day will be our last. I want to live a blissful life – able to enjoy my family and the time we spend and also feel accomplished and proud of what I do for ME. What that will entail, I’m not sure yet. But I’m working on it.

 

As many of you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve had bad migraines since I was in elementary school. My theory is that mine are mostly caused by stress (I know they are also hereditary, if one parent has them their children have a 50% chance of getting them too – so there’s that as well) but when I am at my most stressed and unhappy…here come the migraines. The bad kind where nothing helps and I end up in urgent care or the ER. NOT FUN. A few months ago I started Botox injection treatments to see if it would help. I have tried pretty much every migraine medicine ever made up to this point, and some work for a while, others not at all. 

Yesterday was my second round of injections. My first round was NOT fun. For a full week afterwards, I was in bed or on the couch feeling like I had the worst flu of my life. I mean, I guess that should be expected when you pump 220 units of toxins into your body, right? But still, it was a crappy way to spend a week. Surprisingly, my headaches started happening less frequently this past month. I’ve been thrilled but also a little superstitious – and just writing this makes me feel like they will sneak back with a vengeance just because I said it out loud. I’m knocking on our wooden kitchen table as I write this. 

Yesterday, my neurologist only used 100 units (apparently it’s rare to get EVERY side effect like I did the first time, but I’m just lucky like that) – so we shall see what today brings and if I am hit by a giant dump truck of flu symptoms again. The reason I share all this is because on the way to my appointment (which is an hour away) I was thinking about how therapeutic it is to turn the music up LOUD in the car and just sing your guts out. It’s so weird – I totally sound just like Adele when I sing alone in the car…I also wanted to share this oh so cute photo of me getting ready for my injections: 

Those are numbing pads and a giant ice pack wrapped around me before they start the injections all over my head and upper back. In the words of Hamilton ‘The Babe’ Porter (if you haven’t seen The Sandlot we can’t ever be friends) ‘…ohhhh sexy!’

Mindfulness 

I thought I would update you all on my challenge last week to practice mindfulness every day. I am notorious for starting things and not finishing them…jewelry making, crocheting, working out, dieting, giving myself a budget (well staying on one at least) – you get the point. But practicing mindfulness was surprisingly easy. It had nothing to do with the fact that we were in gorgeous Bonita Springs, either by a pool or by the ocean every day – wait…yes, it did – it had everything to do with that. It was EASY to stop for 5 minutes and think of nothing but what I heard (waves or birds), what I felt (the sunshine or water), smelled (usually something delicious my in-laws were cooking) – you see where I’m going with this. I only practiced during the serene, relaxing times, so I can’t really give myself credit.

The above picture of Greyson just soaking in the sun on the beach perfectly sums up how I felt when I was ‘practicing’ mindfulness in Florida. But I want to be able to feel that relaxation and happiness in the middle of an anxiety attack or while I lay in bed at night – my mind running over a zillion things that could go wrong, and a million hypothetical questions. I worry about Every. Thing. Possible.

I should have practiced when Greyson decided to have a meltdown (but instead I took a selfie to document it):

And I should have practiced when I was thinking about having to fly back to Nebraska even though it was days away. Just the thought of going to the airport or sitting down to buckle my seatbelt on the plane gives me that oh so familiar tightening in my stomach. During those times when my mind can’t stop racing, being quiet and aware of my surroundings is the last thing I want to do.

My first job out of college was as an Administrative Assistant for a commercial lending company in downtown Seattle. When the housing market took a crash in 2008, I was laid off. It was a small company and I wasn’t expecting it at all. I didn’t know what to do with myself – I felt like a failure and didn’t know what I was going to do with an English Lit degree and 2 years of basically sitting at a front desk and keeping up on my celebrity gossip. I was making just enough money to rent a studio apartment on lower Queen Anne with a view of Puget Sound and I had just bought myself a brand new car. Needless to say, I was terrified. So I did the only thing that made sense to me – I moved to Texas.

Lubbock, Texas to be exact. I started seeing a therapist while I was there because I just wasn’t dealing with things very well and he gave me a super simple but powerful dose of reality. He asked me why I had moved. What I thought I would find there in West Texas that I didn’t have in Washington and then pointed out that everything I had been running away from in Washington was just an excuse. 

‘Did you think you could run away from yourself?’ he asked one day. I shook my head no and he replied, ‘because here you are.’ That statement ‘here you are’ was sort of a mantra I took with me from those sessions. I focus on those three simple words often, so in a way I guess that was my first experience with mindfulness. When I start getting too worried and bogged down with anxiety sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that in that moment, I just am.  

Sometimes I wish I could imprint this phrase into my brain, face the sunshine like my son and just soak up all the good and happiness in the world.

Look! A Squirrel!

I recently started reading the book You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and…wow. Just wow. When I read I’m an underliner or page marker (English Lit major, remember?). I dog ear the pages I want to come back to and read them over and over and I’m telling you now, if you haven’t read this book – you must. The one quote I keep coming back to is the following:


When I read this I thought ‘THIS is anxiety in a nutshell!’ At least the mental part of it for me. As I write this I’m sitting on my in-laws gorgeous back patio in Florida next to a pool glowing turquoise blue in the night and listening to one of my favorite sounds – crickets chirping – in the background. The temperature is a perfect 77 degrees and we had a great day taking our son to the zoo and later watching him get to really experience the pool and water for the first time with the joy that only children seem to be able to express. And guess what, my anxiety is kicking into hyperdrive. I want to ask my brain why. Why now? 

But that is the nature of anxiety. It pops up at times I can expect it to, like a few days before I travel, going to the airport, FLYING. Then there are the days it comes out of nowhere. Like right now. I stare at my iPad or phone so no one can tell my insides feel like they are trying to crawl out of my body and my hands are shaking ever so slightly. Tonight I’m hiding the discomfort and craziness in my brain.

I hate to admit it but I’m embarrassed of my anxiety sometimes. I know this blog is supposed to be about not being ashamed, and trying to live with and ride out the anxiety – but sometimes it just gets so tiring. I’m tired tonight of not being able to enjoy an evening after a great day. I’m honest to a fault, and that is what you can expect when I write too – I share the good and bad because no one’s life is perfect and people rarely let down their guards to be vulnerable and share something as personal as an anxiety attack. I would love nothing more than to curl up in a ball right now and focus on my breathing, but sometimes I have to power through. I’m afraid people won’t understand or will think I’m weak. So I sit here, consumed by worry and anxiety about all the ‘what ifs’ and trying not to appear rude because I just can’t participate in the conversation. 

So back to the quote. It struck a chord in me when I read it. How much of my life do I waste letting those squirrelly thoughts race through my mind? And why can’t I stop them sometimes? I’m halfway through the book, and this is how many pages I want to go back through and underline passages from:


Like I said, if you haven’t read this – you should. My husband can always tell when I have bad anxiety. I wring my hands or rub them together or move my feet, usually rubbing them on the couch, carpet, anything to feel like I am grounding myself and I bite my nails down as far as I can. If you want to know how I’ve been doing with my anxiety, all you need to do is check out my hands. I feel like I need one of those calming coat/sweaters they put on high strung dogs during fireworks or thunderstorms. I know it’s impossible but my body feels like it will fly off the earth into nothingness if I don’t do these things. And that makes me feel crazy and scared.  But the truth is, I’m not crazy. No one who suffers with anxiety is crazy. But sometimes we think we are. 

I’m going to quote Jen one more time, because this quote also smacked me right upside the head when I read it:

At the root of anxiety is fear and when I read this quote I think about how absurd it is to worry. What is going to happen will happen. My brain knows this, but my anxiety disorder does not. It’s that constant battle between what we know and what we think that drives us crazy. How amazing would it be to just let go. To let the worry and anxiety cross my mind and then float right through. I want to live a joy filled life, not only for myself but to be a light to those around me. Because who knows how long each of us has on this earth? My challenge to myself this next week is to practice mindfulness. I’m determined to find a way to overcome anxiety attacks without xanax. I want to experience life with all of the joy that my son does. Because how amazing would it be to feel like THIS the majority of the time:

This is the face that I will focus on when my brain gets squirrelly on me. Pure joy. 

I don’t know how many of you watch Parks and Recreation, but the above quote is from my favorite episode ever. Treat yourself. It sounds so simple, but it can be so incredibly hard. We live busy lives, and when we aren’t busy with actual activities we are busy on our phones and iPads – our social media lives sometimes as busy as our real life lives. 

For example, between this blog, me, and my three small businesses (did I mention I started a third? Yeah, I’m officially crazy…) I have 4 Instagram accounts and 6 Facebook groups/pages. Just writing those numbers gave me anxiety. It’s a catch 22 because in order to help with my anxiety I know I need to stay busy, but sometimes being overly busy gives me anxiety. It’s a fine balance, but I love what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else. My solution to all of this has been to schedule “me time” and to treat myself. 

I felt so guilty when I first started scheduling little things, like a quick mani/pedi or massage but then I started to realize – I NEEDED this time and so do you. Our minds are constantly filled with stimulation – t.v., smart phones, internet, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – it’s a bombardment of information and constant news. We see our friends and acquaintances on social media and fall into the comparison trap, and this adds even more unneeded stress and anxiety). We forget that social media is just a snapshot into people’s best times of their lives. Do I post pictures of Greyson grabbing his dirty diaper and flinging poo everywhere like he did a few days ago? No. I post the cute picture of him with our dog. Do I post on the days where I stay in my yoga pants all day and don’t take a shower? No. And neither does anyone else. We forget that social media is rarely ‘real life’. 

This is why I have decided to start making more time for me. Typing that, I get a twinge of guilt. Shouldn’t I be using this spare time to spend time with my son and husband or to work? The answer is NO. You can’t be your best self when you are running on an empty tank. For me, an empty tank means HIGH anxiety. And you owe it to yourself to fill that tank and take time for self-care. This only increases your ability to care for others, your family, your friends and not get burnt out. 

Last week I got a makeover. Something I have wanted to do for a very very long time and it was amazing. An hour and a half of no phones, no interruptions – just relaxation and pampering. My makeover was done by Celene of CK Artistry here in Lincoln. She is amazing, I brought in a photo of my dream look (the look I wish I could rock every day – and a nod to one of my all time  favorite beauty icons, Marilyn Monroe). This is the photo I brought in:

And this was the final result:

We started with a relaxing cleansing of my face, then got right to the makeup part. Celene is amazingly talented at what she does. She asked for my feedback throughout the process and I was so thrilled with the outcome. If you have a special occasion coming up, or just want to ‘treat yo’ self’, definitely make an appointment with Celene. She also offers lessons for an hour and a half on makeup application with products you get to take home that day – I am most definitely scheduling one of these! 

So what does your ‘me’ time consist of? I know some of my anxiety triggers, but I also know a few ‘treat yourself’ activities that help when my anxiety starts to get bad. Going for walks (when our Nebaraska weather isn’t being crazy), yoga (when I can actually make myself get to the gym – this is a goal I am really working on), massage (we have a massage school that does them for $35 – check and see if you have one available in your town), shopping, practicing mindfulness and sometimes just smelling certain essential oils. I diffuse peppermint or lavender in our bedroom every night as well. 

I want to enjoy life despite of my anxiety. I don’t want it to control my happiness or quality of life. Maybe someday I will find the magic answer and be anxiety-free, but until that time comes you can find me making the time to treat myself. 

I found my elementary/middle school diary the other day and let me tell you, I was a weird kid. But I’m still a little weird, quirky, odd – whatever descriptive word you want to use, and that’s just fine with me. Sometimes it’s my anxiety that causes the weird behavior (not interacting with people or going out because my anxiety is so bad it actually feels like I could crawl out of my own skin) or sometimes it’s just me being a spaz. When my husband and I started dating we were having a conversation and I asked him who Joe Biden was. I honestly didn’t know. He married me anyways.

In college, I thought everyone had to take a placement test for any foreign language to get placed into the correct level so I took the placement test for Spanish even though I had taken French in high school. It never occurred to me that taking a placement test for a language you had never been taught was absurd. I sat through the two hour test and when I turned it in to be graded the woman behind the desk placed me into a 2nd level class, “that’s impossible!” I told her. She looked at me blankly and I tried to explain. “See, I’ve never ever taken Spanish so I need to start with Spanish 101.” As I said these words, things started to click into place in my brain and my instinct was to grab the graded test and run away, but I stayed. “Well you can’t take Spanish 101 now because you have placed INTO Spanish 201,” she glared at me. I am sure she was probably thinking she had never met anyone so dumb in her life or that this was some kind of joke. It wasn’t. I ended up taking Norwegian because 1) I had never taken it before and 2) I had not taken an unneeded placement test for it. Jeg kan snake litt norsk.

I used to hide the key to my diary in the back of a picture frame in my bedroom and was so concerned that it be kept locked at ALL TIMES. Reading through the pages now, it’s a good thing I kept it top secret because everyone was looking for juicy entries like the following:

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Uhhhh…..we had fun talking about burns? See, I told you – weirdo. I also noticed as I read through the pages that I got sick, a lot (and that I had terrible handwriting). Headaches and stomachaches tended to happen every week. I was on a first name basis with the school nurse and I can still feel the crinkly paper like they use on doctors’ office tables on my head covering the pillow and the scratchy paper towel she used to wrap the ice pack for my forehead. So many times I wished I could hide there in the quiet nurse’s office and not go back to class.

I had a weird aversion to people seeing my lunch while I ate. I hid everything in my lunchbox or lunch sack until I took it out to eat it. I was so afraid of being judged, even on what I was eating for lunch. Things that should not have been stressful, filled me with dread every day.

I do know I started to get migraines when I was really young, but I was also sick and threw up A LOT. I missed a lot of fun field trips because I would get worked up and make myself sick. I worried about everything. I still worry about everything, but now I know what that worrying is: ANXIETY. I see a neurologist now for my migraines and he has explained that anxiety and migraines many times go hand in hand. He has explained that getting rid of my anxiety would help the frequency of my migraines. But that’s the problem with anxiety – it doesn’t just go away.

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By the way, the above entry was after my dad had taken my sister and I to a buffet for dinner. I didn’t generally eat such an odd combo of foods for dinner.

It’s fairly recently that I have decided I just want to be happy and not care about all these things.  I have always been worried about what people think of me. I thought no one liked me in elementary school, I was so extremely self conscious and this continued for such a long time. It still creeps into my mind sometimes when my anxiety gets bad. That doubting voice in the back of my mind that tells me I’m not good enough and that no one likes me for me. But like I said, I’ve started to ignore that voice and it is so FREEING. It has taken over 30 years but I feel like I have finally let go and accepted myself and all my quirks and hang ups.

I know dealing with anxiety will most likely be a lifelong struggle, but I feel like I have crossed over the first large hurdle that was holding me in that anxiety shame spiral. I just had to let it go. I had to laugh at myself, to share these stories and laugh with other people. Anxiety isn’t funny, but dealing with it can be sometimes. And if my embarrassing stories can brighten one person’s day who is struggling with anxiety, then that is all I can hope for. And that makes all this worthwhile.