When I was younger and didn’t know how to assess my anxiety correctly, I fell into several thinking traps. The biggest one that I had to overcome was jumping to conclusions.
I was an expert at making predictions about what was going to happen with little to no evidence.
After my first panic attack, I remember when my heart was racing that I was going to have a heart attack. Even though I was young and in excellent health, I honestly thought that this was going to happen even though I had no evidence that this was likely to happen. Worse, it happened in front of people, which caused me to think that I was crazy.
Learning to recognize when this was happening and questioning my conclusions was an actual work in progress. It takes a lot of hard work to switch a negative thinking trap, but there are still ways that you can challenge yourself.
The trick is to view your situation objectively and ask realistic questions:
(1) Ask yourself if you have any evidence to suggest that your outcome is likely.
(2) Ask yourself if you DO have any evidence that suggests it might not happen or if another result is more likely.
(3) What are the chances that an unfortunate event is going to happen?
(4) How many times have you thought of this before, and how many times has your outcome come true?
This WILL be a work in progress, and you won’t be able to switch your brain to this thinking immediately. I still find myself in certain situations where I don’t notice my immediate negativity. Often my jumping to conclusions feels justified and real, which is why it could take a while for me to step back and assess the situation. Remember to prioritize asking questions over finding answers!
Last year when I wrote my reflections, I left out some huge news that I didn’t make public until February. I was PREGNANT! I was ecstatic but reserved the news for many reasons. It wasn’t until my grandmother was admitted to the ICU that I made the news public, hoping that my good news could at least soften the blow.
When we lost her days after her birthday in March, I was gutted. My grandmother meant a lot to me; I considered her a mother when I lost mine at 11. I was unable to say goodbye to her properly while she was in the hospital and felt a ping of guilt. The problem was, pregnancy was not kind to me, and I suffered morning sickness constantly. Making a trip over 500 km by myself seemed impossible, so I did what was best for the baby and me and stayed behind until we needed to go.
When it came time for her funeral, I was anxious to go, but my husband and mother-in-law joined me. We piled up into her car and started our journey, little did I know what was in store for us.
Not even an hour into our drive, we were hit with a freak white-out storm. We started to hear cars crashing all around us, and even though my mother-in-law slowed down, we were smack dab in the middle of a pile-up. We were hit three times, but I can only remember two of the vehicles. I was in complete shock and feared for my unborn baby. I cradled my stomach thinking it would protect her.
An 18-wheeler hit the back, causing the trunk to fold like an accordion and smash the glass within. A pickup truck hit my side, the passengers, which caused the mirror to fly off and dent the door so I badly I couldn’t exit. It wasn’t until hours later when everything settled that I realized, if that pickup truck was an inch closer to the left, I might not even be here. The car was a complete write-off, and people were taken away by ambulances. Several days later, I would find out that my ribs were out of place, but that didn’t warrant an immediate hospital visit. I couldn’t believe our luck, but somehow I knew my grandmother was there protecting us.
I was on high alert and couldn’t even call my family in Montreal to let them know that we would not continue our drive; my husband did it for me. Going to bed that night was difficult as more guilt crept in over missing the service the following day. I was able to call in and hear my best friend read my speech, but it was not the same. I know that if she were still here, she would have been upset if I came in after that ordeal, but that didn’t make the guilt surpass.
My first realization of the year – No matter how prepared you think you are for the death of a loved one, it still hurts.
I was able to say goodbye with a shiva service in Ontario and again at her gravesite in June. At that point, I was close to 8 months pregnant, going through a depression, and trying to find the good that surrounded me. It was hard, and I struggled. People kept reiterating that they were there for me, but they only meant it in a certain way.
To keep myself occupied, I kept working on my first book, Albatross, and was determined to get it published before Eve made her appearance in August. The story behind Albatross is very personal and tells my story of leaving a toxic family in Montreal. I knew that I had to get this published before I started my life as a mom, I kept thinking, “Out with the old and in with the new.” In early August, I was finally able to publish it, and I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I’d been so anxious and doubtful if I should even share my story, but I knew that was the old way of thinking.
My second realization of the year – “Sometimes you have to accept something for what it is and move on.”
I needed to overcome my past, and I did by making it public. I’m hopeful that someone else who went through something similar can find solace in my words.
The days that followed were filled with a bundled of nerves. I was about to become a mom and felt an overwhelming sensation of nerves, joy, panic and love. Even though I still surged with depression, I was ready for the next step. Part of me knew I was feeling this way due to my hormones, so I was impatient with wanting to give birth to her. I was ready to feel elated, to provide all the love inside of me to a tiny human, to finally put my roots into the ground and start my own family.
On August 13th, I met the new love of my life and best friend, Eve.
Even though I read all the books, I wasn’t prepared for the first couple of months – and I think that’s normal. You need to learn along with your baby what’s best for both of you, and even though I was tired as hell, I was ready for this chapter.
It’s true what they say about becoming a mother and losing some friendships. I didn’t care, which is a massive step for me. I usually would overthink and be a worrywart, but my perception has changed drastically, and I now have other priorities. I didn’t have the energy to fight or put in the effort when the other party didn’t do the same.
My final realization of the year – Everything happens for a reason, and you’re not always going to get the closure/explanation you think you deserve. That has been a hard one to grasp, but once you stop caring, you can truly live your life.
I am thankful for my real friends who called, visited and stayed on top of my mentality throughout the full year. Even if it was just a quick “thinking of you” message, it was much appreciated in my down moments.
As I think back on this year, I could easily say that it was hard and trying, but I needed to go through the rough times to get to the better ones. I’m still not where I want to be emotionally, but I am getting there and can say that I am hopeful for 2020 to bring more good moments than bad.
To all my readers, thank you for letting me be a part of your life. Writing out my feelings, reflections, and everything in-between has always helped my anxieties, and I hope I have helped in any way, shape or form with yours. Happy Holidays and cheers to the New Year
Do you ever find yourself reacting negatively?
I hate to admit that I’m my own worst enemy, and will always put myself down even if there’s no reason to.
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m a disappointment.”
“Everyone thinks that I’m annoying.”
“I’ll be fired over this little thing.”
I am also guilty of overgeneralization, emotional reasoning and jumping to conclusions. I could go back to my years of trauma for blame, but even though I’m in a much better place (and quite happy), I am conditioned to thinking negatively. It interferes with my self-esteem, confidence and performance.
It’s been hard to change my way of thinking since it affects almost every aspect of my life,
An example: I’m always nervous and scared when it comes to my work evaluations. When my boss compliments me, I am still utterly anxious because I feel that he is noticing my work. Why am I anxious? Because there’s a possibility that he may find a mistake, fire me and I won’t be able to get another job.
I jump to the worst conclusions and don’t even take the genuine compliment to heart.
My automatic thought was a quick and strong reaction that comes through words, images or memories. To help identify my automatic thought, I need to take a step back and figure out why I am currently feeling this way.
What are some questions to help identify automatic thoughts?
Some of these questions won’t apply to you, and that’s ok. This is a general guideline on identifying your thoughts associated with your distress. These are here to help you understand your emotional reaction/moods. Different moods can be related to your situation: Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Guilt or Shame.
In my example above, I’m anxious.
My therapist would ask me to associate a percentage towards my mood; I would say that I’m 80% nervous and 90% anxious.
It took me years to figure out how to re-wire my brain, but I am pleased to confirm that I can now stop mid anxious thought to bring down those percentages to at least 40% (Any number lower than 90% is a win in my book!)
Sometimes though, I will still focus on one negative detail of an interaction instead of seeing the whole picture. I feel like most people are guilty of thinking this way – and I’m just here to say that it’s ok! The point is as long as you recognize what you’re doing, you’re one step closer to changing your automatic thoughts. This isn’t something that you can fix overnight. This requires a committed effort to change.
Now when I go into a performance review, I am still a little nervous, but I do accept a compliment even though I am red in the face. I’ve tried to change my perspective as well as trying to visualize the situation beforehand. Preparation has usually helped; when I feel in control of my words, I feel as if I’m being heard not only from others but from my inner voice.
If you’d like to learn more or gain worksheets to outline your thoughts (these have helped me!), I highly suggest the book “Mind Over Mood.”
I recently went to see a new psychiatrist. I’m not always keen on seeing someone new, as it usually takes a lot out of me going over what has happened in my past. Even though I don’t feel those emotions today, reliving them bubbles up how I used to feel, and I generally become overwhelmed with emotion and completely drained. I initially put in a referral for this psychiatrist when I was 6 months pregnant and feeling incredibly low. Unfortunately, the earliest appointment that I could get was the last week of October, almost three months postpartum.
“Why haven’t you seen me sooner?” was her first question, and I scoffed. I reiterated that I have been trying to nail down an appointment every time I saw my general practitioner and my OB, but no one from her office contacted me. She apologized and said referrals get lost, but I brought along a note from her office, dated in June. I knew it wasn’t lost, but I was waiting for my turn, getting a free service in Canada has its downfalls.
After 40 minutes of talking to her and putting my heart out on the line, she was quick to judge that I was misdiagnosed years ago, and I may be bipolar. She rushed through different dates to come back, what type of things I should expect from the next appointments and briefly touched on medications. I left the office feeling deflated and cried my way to McDonald’s, where I ate my feelings.
After discussing it with my husband and some family, I figured out the reason I was crying was not due to a misdiagnosis but due to her lack of empathy and arrogance over knowing me after 40 minutes. When I talked to my friend (who I know was diagnosed bipolar years ago), she mentioned I should go to CAMH – Center for Addiction and Mental Health – for a second opinion. After my appointments in November, I will. I don’t agree entirely with her on this quick diagnosis, and if I am genuinely bipolar, I would preferably someone there give it to me straight.
I’ve been festering with this information for a week now, and it made me think of all the times that I went to seek out professional help and how upset I was at not finding the right person for me. It took me over 5 years to find my last therapist!
After talking with some friends and going through my own history, I’ve made a list of reasons why we stopped or changed our therapists/psychiatrists:
Even though I’m unsure if she’s the right fit for me, I will still go to those appointments in November. I have no problem revisiting my old trauma and going over my behavioural patterns; I would just rather fully immerse myself in a doctor I know I can see for an extended period. If I am not fully satisfied by the end, I will definitely put in a call to CAMH and get a second opinion.
If you happen to go through any of those issues listed above, I do recommend seeing a new therapist. Just remember, if you do feel stuck in divulging your past or present, changing a doctor will not likely help. Reliving things are uncomfortable and can hurt in many ways, but it’s the only way you can potentially move forward and heal yourself.
Nothing really ever goes according to plan, I’ve realized over the last couple of months. I had every intention to breastfeed my daughter until she turned one, but everything changed when I gave birth to her.
We had issues with her latching onto me, and I sought out help within the hospital. After nurses forcefully handled my baby onto me, I asked for formula. They were baffled I would even ask for such a thing – I disregarded their glares, she needed to be fed.
I’m lucky that I bought a pump and started exclusively using it to bottle feed her through her cluster phase. I would still try to bring her to my chest regularly, but her screeching cries would deafen our household. She preferred the bottle, and I had to accept it. I lived by that pump for weeks, waking up almost every 2 hours with little to no sleep, squeezing as much liquid gold as I could for her. My body didn’t react well, and my G.A.D flustered. Even though I was topping up with formula for what I couldn’t provide, my supply started to lower drastically.
After researching and talking to doctors, I figured out that my low milk supply was due to my G.A.D. I felt like a failure for a minute. Seriously, I only felt guilty for maybe a day or two; it didn’t last long. The thing is, I know that I can’t change my G.A.D now matter how many times people tell me to “Just Relax!” “Drink some Beer!” or “Take Supplements!” – Trust me when I say I tried EVERYTHING. This is just how I’m wired. Accepting this doesn’t mean that I LIKE it – I’m acknowledging that this is valid.
Since she was getting bigger and on a better schedule, I made a decision to pump every 4 hours, except for a 3am one so I could try to sleep. ‘Try’ is the keyword here; my mind races almost nightly with things associated with her, the house, my relationship with my husband… nothing has been easy on my anxiety. What I did notice is that after some sleep, my first-morning pump would be almost a full dose of what she needed. After documenting her intake for a week, I decided to change up my pumping schedule to give her more. It worked for a little while but started dwindling again.
My husband and I were formula-fed, and we turned out (somewhat) normal. I wasn’t that worried over making an executive decision to stop breastfeeding once it dwindled down more. As I type this out now, she’s almost at 10 weeks, and I pump 3 times a day, extracting 60 ml each time. It can be infuriating at times, but she is still being fed, and that’s all that I care about.
I’ve had some backlash over wanting to stop, and one commenter in a support group said that I wasn’t bonding with my baby properly. I wish I knew this person so I could slap them. I don’t need that bond to be defined by breastfeeding, it’s more than milk – it’s when she smiles at me when she hears my voice, it’s when she grabs hold of my pinky finger when I’m feeding her close to my heart – just because she rejects a body part of mine doesn’t mean she rejects ME.
Even though my breastfeeding plan didn’t work the way that I hoped for, I’m making the best choice for my daughter to ensure she gets the nutrition she needs. This is my commitment to my child, and that shouldn’t be based on how much milk I was able to produce for her. Am I successful breastfeeding mother? Absolutely. Success is different for everyone, there is no right or wrong way, and it should not be measured in millilitres.