2018 Personal Reflection: Happy New Year

I won’t lie, this year has been a little bit of a struggle for me.

I started the year with a determination that every week I would post on my blog with new and exciting topics that we all encounter. Unfortunately, I forgot how life likes to take control of your plans and got pushed into many directions. I honestly tried my best to keep up with my writing, but there were days that I just needed a break from my thoughts. I took seven full mental health days this year from my blog, and I am not even apologetic.

In May, I took a stay-cation of 5 days to spend with my family who came from B.C. It wasn’t a typical vacation by any means; we spent the majority of our time renovating our basement. Even though we did have several day trips in our schedule, I was utterly exhausted.
I went back to work with the worst mentality, and everything suffered: my workload, my interpersonal relationships, and my overall anxiety. I was heating up over the smallest things, and I had several outbursts that caused my boss to sit me down to relay that co-workers said I was difficult. I burst into tears right then and there – I wasn’t aware of how terrible things had gotten even though I was currently living through it. I felt lost and unsure in my position.

I knew things had to change drastically, so I put on my fake smile and went on with my work day. However, that still brought all of my anxieties and worries back home. I always try my best to leave work-related issues at bay, but I was at a bottleneck point and didn’t know what else to do. Bringing this all home caused a strain on my relationship with my husband, even though he was trying to be the best support system that he could while going through his issues.

Things took a turn when I got into my first car accident, in July, a minute away from my house. This accident was technically my fault, and even though I wanted to seethe through my teeth, I took full accountability for my actions. I still remember the panic that coursed through my body and recognizing how mangled my mentality was becoming. July was my turning point when I took my first mental health day and wrote the following week: Signs When You Need to Take a Break

I was hoping for things to turn around, but both my husband and I got hit with a lot of unexpected changes. A close personal friend of mine was laid-off, and I was so devastated that I excused myself from work for the remainder of the day. Drastic change has never been a positive outcome for me, and I started to worry that I had taken so many days off already. Suddenly, my husband’s mentor passed away, and it was gut-wrenching. I had to remove myself out of my self-consuming issues and be my husband’s rock which was not an easy feat.

I tried my hardest, I honestly did, but when I got into my second car accident in September, I lost it. Not a lot of people know about this accident because I started to become my introverted self again. I was on the highway, slowing down to a full stop (as the car in front of me) when BAM! A car going 120km/h reared into me, which caused me to hit the car in front. I was shell-shocked and in a daze. When the officer came around to check on me, all I could reiterate was “I have anxiety.” From my glazed over eyes, he could tell and kept repeating his name, badge and next steps over and over again. Repetition might seem mundane to most people, but it’s critical when someone is experiencing any form of anxiety. After giving all of the information to our local station, I started to feel a pain in my neck. I called my mother-in-law to come to pick me up, and I went directly to the walk-in to confirm that I had no signs of whiplash. Through insurance, I was given an allocated amount of money towards physio and spent the last week of September and all of October trying to get in a better physical state. Those who cared checked up on me, while others showed their true colours. I lost two significant friendships in this month, one whom I’ve known since Grade 6. I considered him family, and my hurt was beyond that of friendship; I felt as if I lost a brother. My husband couldn’t understand this, and kept reiterating that friendships do fall apart sometimes – I do agree with him, but this was far worse than I could have imagined.

Luckily for both of us, we had booked a MUCH needed vacation to Mexico to spend my Husbands 35th Birthday on Day of the Dead. We spent the next eight days away from our reality. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip with my husband, we got so incredibly close to one another during this trip and our communication excelled when we discussed our plans for 2019. I felt recalibrated and was ready to go back home and face everything that 2018 threw at me. Unfortunately, the last two days of our trip I was sick due to heat exhaustion, but, I’ll take the bad with the good on this one!

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Day of the Dead at Silversands Resort

When I got back, I ditched my old doctor and found a new one closer to my area whom also services my husband and mother-in-law. We spent weeks going in depth with everything that was happening to me, and I was elated to see that he did care for my well-being. I went through many tests to make sure that I was back on track physically and emotionally.
I even stepped out of my comfort zone and did a photo shoot with a friend of mine who brought my spirits up tenfold!

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@175ish Miss November

I finally felt as if my life was back on track after seven months of “whatever-the-hell-that-was.” I know things can’t always be sunshine and rainbows, and I don’t expect them to be either, but when you get into those states of anxiety or depression, it can seem as if there is no end in sight. However, everyone should know that once you hit rock bottom, the only place to go is up (Corny, I know). Anxiety has been rough to live with, but I am happy that I’m making it a part of my life now and owning it. Here I am, at the end of December, stronger than I was at the beginning of the year. I appreciate all of the learning experiences that I’ve had this year and plan on tackling them head-on in 2019.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and for you all to know it’s OK to not have a great year – just know that things eventually do turn out better.

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It’s our Blogiversary!

One year ago I sat myself down and started thinking about my writing career. I knew that I needed to continue with my writing, but I felt a little lost on where to start. My English teacher once taught me that great writers begin with what they know – but after dabbling in so many professions, what did I know? I do consider myself a “jill of all trades” and a master of none, so I felt as if I hit a hard place.

I was already in a personal hard space as it was, my anxiety was flaring, and I found it hard to discuss with my husband what was going through my brain as each day went on. It’s so hard to create something tangible on something that changes regularly. I felt debilitated and knew that the only way I would be able to communicate was through writing again – so, I started with “What is Anxiety?” and “Anxiety is”.

I wrote both of these articles simultaneously – trying to be professional in one and bringing readers into my mind with the other.  When my husband read them, I felt nervous. I’ve never been public about my diagnosis before, and there was still a huge stigma around it. My husband called me brave and expressed how proud he was of me for being a voice when others couldn’t. I knew in that instance that I had something, and up until now, I have shared so many topics on symptoms, depression & other mental health topics that I think are relevant and need to be brought up.

I’m quite happy at the response that I have gotten from family, friends & others who have found solace in Anxious Andrea. I initially started this for myself, but it turned out that others needed this more. It brought back a whole new motivation for me; finishing my first novel, writing (& submitting) short stories to contests and starting a new notebook that’s already half-full of new novel ideas.

So, even though it’s our Blogiversary today – I would like to say thank you to my readers.

Thank you for continuous support

Thank you for liking & sharing those topics that hit home

Thank you for being you

Here’s to another successful year!

Men and Mental Illness

The end of November is upon us, and I’d like to bring up a topic that is still considered taboo: Men and Mental Illness.

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve noticed a trend in more people talking about Mental Illness. Instead of being elated at the fact that we’re breaking social norms, it’s come to my attention that all of these posts have a photo of a woman. With this over-saturation, it makes me wonder how we’re addressing the male perspective of mental illness.

When I look back on my upbringing and the primary gender roles that I’ve experienced, whenever I think of “Man” I immediately think: tough & emotionless. All of the males in my family rarely talked about their feelings and the phrase “man up” was tossed around a lot. Don’t cry, don’t show weakness, don’t be less of a person. Somehow, we’ve skewed the vision of vulnerability as weak, and the fear that subsides within us is too tangible even to admit.

Mental illness is not something that one can sweep under the rug, and it’s imperative that males speak up about it. I understand the fear that is associated with it, especially when it comes to bringing this topic up with your immediate family. “Get over it” still echoes in the back of my head whenever I run into an anxious thought or a depressive state. However, over the years, I’ve grown stronger. I’ve accepted what I’m going through and I own it by discussing it more freely with those who support me.

Everyone’s situation is different, but the fact of the matter is – you’re not alone. Someone else is struggling, too. It’s OK to cry; It’s OK to be vulnerable – you’re NOT less of a person. We’re all trying to live our best lives and some days are going to be harder than others. If someone asks if you’re OK, be honest and say “No” even if you do not want to divulge in its entirety what’s going on. Even though mental illness is considered invisible, it does not discriminate.

Improv for Anxiety

One of the many techniques that I’ve learned over the years from professionals is exposure therapy. The majority of my anxiety comes from large crowds, and my latest therapist told me to overcome the fear and danger I would need to immerse myself in it.

The day after that session, I went to our local mall and just sat in the center of all the hustle and bustle. I could feel my throat starting to close up as many people bumped into me and my immediate decision was to leave and try again at another point. I fought that decision and continued to sit in that spot for roughly an hour. By the end of it, I felt drained, but I was quite proud that I was able to combat my automatic thoughts

Unfortunately, I know many people who wouldn’t even fathom doing something like this alone. I don’t blame you! It took me many years and a lot more sessions to be able to love and trust myself to be self-reliant. There is no harm in needing that extra help, and I’m quite pleased to say that a great friend of mine is helping combat this issue with a remarkable improve class for anxiety.

He and I share many things in common, especially our need to help out our local community when it comes to mental health. I cannot stress enough how improv relates to exposure therapy and how it can make any social situation easier. I know that if you were to join us at one of these times, you’d be in great hands. I’m so incredibly proud of him for starting this class, and I cannot wait to join him in support!44792251_505971553146875_1871752494263042048_n

The reality of Phone Addiction

My husband and I got back from an exciting and much-needed vacation. We ended up going to one of our favourite countries, Mexico and ended up staying one week in an all-inclusive. Usually, when I go away, I try to limit my phone use, since I rarely have my husband all to myself I try to bask in each moment. Since I’m also a freelancer, I know that I do need to check my professional e-mails for potential clients – I will log in each morning, but no longer than half an hour. The rest of the day I lock it away and spend quality time with my husband.

As we walked around our resort, I was astonished to see that the majority of vacationers were glued to their phones. People who are trying to get away and spend time with their loved ones are doing the exact opposite. Reading articles, listening to music, even face timing someone back home was amongst the things that I observed. I also witnessed one woman grab her caseless IPad into the party pool to snap a picture. (I kept thinking in my head, why not enjoy the moment?) I can understand that it might be tough to put down your phone, but I never felt that we as a society were THAT addicted to them! Unfortunately, this vacation just proved that we are.

I notice when I limit my phone usage, I’m less anxious. I’m not worrying about the perfect instragramable photo, the witty Facebook post or liking that political tweet. I know that I need this break in my life so that I can recharge and live in the moment. I’m glad that I did, I was more sociable with my husband, and we met another incredible couple from Ireland (Gemma, we’ll be there I promise!)

I think a lot more people would be happier and less stressed if they put their phone down. Look up and notice what’s happening around you. I urge you all to try – especially on vacation when you want to soak in all of those moments with your loved ones.

‘Tis the Season to be Anxious

With Halloween parties almost at an end, the dreaded holiday anxiety is right around the corner. Busy schedules are bombarded with travelling, decorating, cooking, wrapping, and parties. It’s easy to get overwhelmed during this time of year and attending an office party in most cases doesn’t alleviate the stress.

Work parties can feel different for others, instead of excitement you feel stuck out of obligation. The social expectations that you should feel joy clouds with over-thinking:

Who would want to talk to me anyway?
Will there be enough seating for everyone?
Should I eat beforehand, so I don’t look like a goblin?
Will they judge me for having more than one drink?
Where do I put my hands?

One of the ways that I combat work party anxiety is by making a plan ahead of time. Being in control of any situation will decrease your anxiety. There are several ways in how you can prepare:

  1. Set a Goal for yourself
    Take the pressure off your expectations and give yourself a timeline. If you’re not comfortable with forcing yourself through a full night then why do it? Give yourself an allotted time frame, and check in with yourself to see how you’re doing. You can then base your decision off of that. No one will judge you for bowing out early
  2. Find your exits
    If your office party is at a different venue, I recommend scoping out the area to gain familiarity. I always need to know where my exits are, in case I need to go outside for a quick breath. Don’t be afraid to take breaks when you need them, too. Realigning yourself after any symptom of anxiety is always better with fresh air.
  3. Confide in someone
    If you’re lucky, you can bring a plus-one with you but what happens when you don’t have that safe person? If you’re on friendly terms with anyone at work, it’s best to let them know that you find these parties challenging. This way, they’ll be able to check in on you and keep an eye out for any symptoms that you may experience. Just knowing that there is someone there for you can be a lifesaver
  4. Prepare Questions
    In my experience, I know people love talking about themselves. I try to bring up specific personal questions to avoid the common workplace talk: Where they’re from, pets/children, vacation, bubble gum preference, etc. Asking questions is a great way to take the spotlight off of you and find out interesting things about your co-workers you wouldn’t generally know.
  5. Go
    Some people with anxiety would think its best to stay home and avoid the office party altogether. This is probably the worst thing that you can do – it’s important to acknowledge and understand your anxiety but avoiding situations will only cripple you. Even if your anxiety does make an appearance, at least you’ll be prepared and in control. Know that It’s best to push through your comfort zones so you can grow as a person.

I wish everyone luck in the forthcoming hustle & bustle!

Inside an Anxious Mind

When my husband and I started dating, he didn’t understand what anxiety was. I tried my best to communicate with him what exactly was going on in my head, but even that thought alone would cause me to stay silent. No one ever understood what I was going through and whenever I did try to open my mouth, I was shot down by several people. It was exhausting, so, I just stopped engaging. I kept that fake smile on for so long that even when an intimate partner wanted to break me free, I immediately couldn’t. It was frustrating on both of our parts.

Over the years, I have tried to jot down my ideas on my anxiety – hoping that others could take away at least some knowledge of an anxious mind.

  • Anxiety & worrying are entirely different from one another.
    It’s normal for people to worry from time to time about finances, health, etc. but with GAD these worries are constant. It feels as if your suffocating within yourself, others call it drowning.
  • Even though I look normal or OK on the outside, my anxiety is wreaking havoc. I can’t just stop or turn it off; this is not a choice. Anxiety is an illness, and you can’t get over mental illness
  • I’m not overreacting. I’m not dramatic. I’m not ridiculous. I’m reacting to something that is attacking me from the inside, and I cannot escape from it. All the logic in the world cannot deter an attack.
  • I don’t always know why I get anxious and even a simple task can be overwhelming for me at times. I don’t need you to look at me like I’m crazy and say I’m irrational – I need someone to be compassionate.
  • I will always need to recharge after a long work week, an extroverted night out or an unexpected confrontation. This has nothing to do with you but everything to do with me. I will not be myself unless I’m 100%

Always in an emergency state

I’m sure that I’ll be adding to my list as the years go on but are there any points that YOU would like others to know about your anxiety?

Add them in the comments below!