All Apologies

If I’ve ever apologized to you over a message, text, or email, you should know that it most likely took me longer than most people to write out exactly what’s been going on through my head. I tend to write, delete and re-word everything so I don’t sound as ridiculous as my thoughts.

The funny thing is, even though I KNOW these things are ridiculous, they still consume me. Thoughts keep me up constantly, and I tend to over-think even the simplest things. My husband laughs this off, and I wish I could, too. Trying to make logical sense out of my anxiety is time-consuming

I’ve had some friends who get angry at me for apologizing, especially if it’s something that didn’t cross their mind or just for the pure frequency of my self-doubt. There are times when I can control it, but on my bad days, you can find me apologizing for talking too much, for not talking enough, for being reclusive or apologizing for apologizing – my signature.

What people don’t know is that the reason my apologies come out so frequently is that I feel guilty for being myself. I grew up in a toxic environment that made me think I would never be good enough and that no one would ever care for me, so I tend to believe it. Even though I’ve gone through therapy and know that this isn’t true, there is always that little sliver of guilt that likes to bombard itself to the front when my anxiety flares up.  I can drown in self-critical thought, what if scenarios and genuinely believe that everyone will take me the wrong way.

Internal battles are so hard to overcome, especially when you desperately want to control it. I hate that these thoughts are intrusive, keep me up at night and continually makes me worry. I despise worrying what people think of me when I’m honestly trying my best not to care. Years of therapy have brought me a long way, but, I don’t believe that my apologizing will ever truly go away.

I’ll be sorry for the things that happen and for things that don’t.
I’ll be sorry for not being there for you when I’m struggling with my problems
I’ll be sorry for constantly apologizing, thinking that I’m annoying you to the point where you do not want to be my friend anymore.

I’m trying my best to not struggle with this, but please know that these apologies come from a place of love. A weird anxious love that I’m still trying to understand

Grief and Anxiety

Last week was one of the hardest weeks that I’ve ever dealt with, both physically and emotionally. I’ll start chronologically on this one, with the beginning of February when my grandmother, Evelyn, was admitted to the hospital. I kept in close contact with my Aunt and Uncle during this time, we all knew that she would not be going home. We sat on the edge for weeks, wondering when the fateful day will arrive; my aunt & uncle were swarmed in her final arrangements while I held myself back in Toronto, tending to my little bump. My grandmother has always been a strong person, so it was no surprise to us all that she held on for as long as she could. On March 5th, two days after her 94th birthday, she passed away.

Even though I knew that this was coming, it was still a gut-retching thought to know that I will no longer hear her voice twice a week. Losing someone so close to you changes your day-to-day life, leaving you in an extremely vulnerable place which causes anxiety to surface in profound ways. Since I’m no longer on medication due to my pregnancy, it’s difficult dealing with my grief symptoms on top of everything else. Everyone deals with their anxiety differently, but I know that the best thing to do in these situations is to talk it out.

When I lost my mother at the age of 11, I did not manage my grief well during this time, and I bottled everything up. Most adults in this time frame just assumed that I would ‘get over it’ since I was still in school and would have a good distraction. To some degree, they were right, but not talking about it made my grief and anxiety worse. This time around, I was lucky enough to have a huge support system that kept checking up on me and making sure that I did talk about it. Even though this was overwhelming to a certain degree, having this sense of community was lovely.

I took four days off of work for bereavement before I have to go back to “normal.” Funerals and burials can be considered closure for most people, but due to circumstances out of my control, I was unable to attend both. Even though I was in a severe car accident, and worrying about my baby, I kept saying over and over to myself “I can’t believe I’m missing this.” I was unsure if I would get the closure that most people would get and my worrying started to snowball into my anxiety. I became reclusive and blamed it on the back pain from the accident.

I am thankful that my aunt decided to have a Shiva day in Toronto so that I would be able to immerse myself with family and say goodbye in my way. I figured out that anxiety was a normal response to loss, especially when you lose someone so incredibly close to you. Even though I suffer from G.A.D., my feelings were normal and valid. I just needed to remember what I learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and continue with my breathing exercises to know that soon enough it won’t hurt as much.

It still does, though, and that’s OK.
I will never ‘get over’ this, but I can learn to live, heal and re-build.

Standing Up

I live in a townhouse complex that generally gets quarterly newsletters in regards to issues and updates within our community. Yesterday, we received such a newsletter, and I was quite alarmed to see the language that they used within.

Newsletter Snip

Generally, I don’t stand up to these things and would let it slide, but after they discussed mental health previous to the secondary issue, I knew that I had to say something.

This morning, I sent the following letter to not only our on-site manager but to the president, vice-president and executive assistant to the company:

To Whom it May Concern

This is in regards to the Cooksville Mews Newsletter that was issued on February 27th, 2019

I am an advocate for mental health and was quite elated with your “Caring Community” spot on etiquette between our residents.
However, I was quite taken aback with your next section on “Rezoning of the Commerical Truck Parking Lot” where you used improper and inconsiderate language (e.g., “What’s wrong with you?”) to relate how upset you are at 1/5th of our residents.

Now, I don’t speak for everyone else, but the reason why I was unable to attend or even put a vote in for this matter was due to a short-term illness and not being fully abreast on the subject. I will never feel comfortable voting for something that I am not fully knowledgeable on, and due to my short-term illness, I know that I was unable to make any valid decisions.

You have to take into consideration that life happens to a lot of people and issues will arise that are even worse than mine. Trying to instill fear in us by discussing exhaust sickness and kids being hit by a truck is going over the line. These issues are prevalent not only to our little nook but in fact to our whole city as a whole.

As well, after a mindful paragraph on how to address mental health within our community, the language used within this section is unacceptable. If you would like to understand why our units were not able to attend or sign a petition, the correct response is to contact us directly instead of bullying us within a newsletter. The fact that 60 units were able to attend and vote on our behalf speaks volumes and should consider this beyond successful, especially in correlation to our low-attendance to our annual general meetings.

I do not doubt that I am the only resident who was flabbergasted when I read this newsletter and expect a formal apology to all those who were affected within the next issue.

I hope that I made a difference today and that the office will reply within a timely manner to not only me but to my fellow neighbours

5 Red Flags for Anxiety

I’ve lived with anxiety for the majority of my life, yet, I still get surprised when it hits me unexpectedly in my daily routine.

A lot of time it feels as if my anxiety is in control of everything until it just isn’t. I wish I could explain that sentence a little better, but those who are blessed with this ‘curse’ can understand. If we aren’t mindful of how it manifests it’s easier for it to consume our whole being and live in the spotlight.

I’m lucky enough to know what my red-flags are and I try to catch these things early on as I can – when I was talking to a friend the other day about this, I realized that these red-flags, although accustomed to some, can be quite challenging.

I’ve compiled a short list of 5 red flags that anxiety might be controlling your life:

  1. Avoidance

Avoiding too many things that you know you shouldn’t is the number one indication that anxiety is front and center. It’s one of the many coping mechanisms that I use to welcome; “freezing” causes us to run from a situation that could potentially cause something worse for that individual.  You start to avoid that coffee shop that you and your ex frequented, you avoid calling back a family member in fear of judgement over a situation, or you avoid checking your e-mail, so you don’t have to subject yourself to whatever is happening at work. Once you realize that you’re avoiding a lot of things you can tell that your anxiety is taking control over what you can and cannot do. I’m still navigating this one, but I always tend to push myself no matter how uncomfortable it may seem.

2. Worrying

Worrying comes hand in hand with anxiety, but it’s important to know that worrying needs to be within a controlled limit. Anxiety has a mind of its own and once your worrying run wilds, it will become out of control. The proper thing to do here is focus – know when the worrying shifts from something normal to something out of reach, the best thing to do is block your thoughts. Easier said than done, but here’s an example: You start to doubt yourself if you’re capable of something or whether you deserve love – stop. These thoughts are not you, they are your anxiety, and they’re trying to control the way you worry. Daily affirmations have been key sometimes for me in this situation – know that everyone is capable; everyone deserves love.

3. Stuck in the Future

The worst part about our anxious thoughts is that it takes us out of our present situation and sets up shop in our future what-ifs. When you cannot enjoy and be present in what’s happening at the moment, consider this a red flag. This is exhausting and will continue, making us more anxious about focusing what WILL happen instead of what is currently happening. It’s hard to get back into the present moment, but I have found that breathing exercises, along with yoga or mindful meditation can bring you back at peace and start living in the present again

4. You stop chasing your wants

This marries with the previous flag of being stuck in the future when your mind throws you a bunch of “what ifs” and you get so consumed by them that you stop chasing what you want in life. Let’s use this example: You want to quit your job and become a full-time freelance writer…
What if you can’t make enough to pay your rent? What if this means you can never take a vacation again? What if something health-wise were to happen, you now have no benefits! What if you can’t handle all of this and become a shell of a person that you once were?
Do you see where I’m going with this?
You’re self-sabotaging and preventing yourself from the life that you want deep down inside of you. I’m not saying to go and quit your job tomorrow, but you need to start recognizing these intrusive thoughts as a part of your anxiety.

5. You’re no longer you

This is probably the most important one because your anxiety is starting to make you feel like “less” than you are. Once your self-esteem takes a hit, you start to doubt everything and accept that you’re not capable of handling anything that comes your way. You start to feel inadequate with those surrounding you, making their everyday struggles seem so easy to yours. Its normal for self-doubt to come out once in a blue moon, but when it starts to appear and happen more frequently, this is a major sign that anxiety has not only taken over your life but your perception of it as well.

When we start to feel that anxiety defines us as a person – that’s when you know it’s too dominant in your life.

Do you have any other flags that you would like to add to this list? Feel free to comment below!

Pregnancy and Anxiety: First Trimester

It’s been roughly a week since my husband, and I made out news public: we’re expecting!

When I initially found out that I was pregnant, all I wanted to do was scream it from the top of my lungs to anyone who would want to hear, but I knew better and tried to keep it hush as long as I could. We told our family members as soon as it was confirmed at five weeks but keeping it from so many other people has been a challenge! I’m happy that it’s finally public and that I can write about what’s been going on in my mind for the last little while

I have been off my medication for quite some time, and just that in itself has been an adjustment. Between weeks 5-12 I was drowning in several symptoms from pregnancy which seemed to have amplified my anxiety. The most severe one was morning sickness, which crept up on me every morning at least once or twice. Even though I was shoving food down my throat, I wasn’t gaining any weight and even lost two pounds. The over-thinking ensued at this point, and I already convinced myself that this was not normal. I also was struck with severe exhaustion and couldn’t even do my side business, let alone a sink full of dishes.
Luckily I have an excellent doctor who reassured me that gaining no weight in this time is completely natural and exhaustion is just one of the normal symptoms of pregnancy. Hearing this was great but if you knew me personally, you’d know that I hate being unproductive.

Since I was growing a tiny human, I knew that I had to change a lot of things both mentally and physically if I were to keep my anxiety at bay. The sleeplessness that I usually encounter seems to have disappeared – a blessing in disguise mostly – my husband has encouraged me to start napping. I scoffed at the idea since I haven’t been able to take a nap since I was a child (my mind is always racing!), but to my surprise, at the end of a long workday, both my mind and body were elated for me to plunge into a nap.
Due to my exhaustion, I have been unable to do my normal routines and have been slacking in working out. I convinced myself that the full pregnancy will not be this way and to do what I can: I started doing some stretches throughout the day, and even some basic yoga poses. Every inch of me is cracking when I do this, instead of being angry at myself I am trying to be happy with what I CAN do. Not an easy feat but changing my perspective has been helpful.

Aside from this, my mind has been racing from day one on everything associated with this little one. I am already in full mom-mode, worrying and over-thinking of every aspect from a baby, toddler and teenager. I have poured over all resources & books and lucky to have close friends who have gone through this already, so I feel as if I am prepared even though nothing can prepare you for something like this. My BIGGEST concern at the moment?
“What if my child is an extrovert”
Yes, I am seriously contemplating what my life will be like as a Highly-Sensitive-Introverted-Mother to a Popular-Extroverted-Do-All-The-Things-Kid.
Hopefully, all of my naps will cumulate and pour into this overstimulation if it happens (Yeah, right!)

*To those wondering, I will not be doing a mom-blog, there are many out there already that even cover the topic of Anxiety so I will not bother. Instead, I will be updating semi-regularly (by trimester most likely) and will continue with other topics as planned.

World Cancer Day

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, one in two Canadians will get some form of cancer in their lifetime – whether we like it or not.

Hearing that statistic makes me think of all the family members/friends that have survived their battle plus the others that we have lost. My mother battled different forms of cancer between 1989 and 1998, with a short ray of hope in between, thinking that she beat it. Even though she tried to keep me busy during these years, I saw first hand how cancer could change every aspect of your life. She had a lot of friends who would come over and try to discuss what was going on with her, but she was drained.   A lot of people in these situations don’t know what to do, so I’ve compiled a short list for those who are curious:

What do you say when someone tells you they have cancer?

You don’t. You listen.

Avoid saying things like “Don’t worry!” “You’ll be fine!” “Snake Oil will help!” – Blind encouragement and/or advice will make that person close up on their real fears and not divulge what’s going on in their mind.
Try active listening and comment in a way that will affirm that their voice is being heard

“That must be scary for you – would you like to talk more?”
If they don’t want to talk more, that’s OK. Make it apparent that you will be there for them if they need. There’s no shame in joining a support group, either, if you feel the need to understand the disease or how to cope

Who do I tell if a friend or a family member has cancer?

No one.

Cancer will take away many aspects of this person’s life, and their privacy shouldn’t be one of them. If they want it to be made public, they’ll do so on their terms and in their way.

How do I refer to their condition?

Every cancer is individualistic to the person, so there’s no one answer to this question. However, I’ve noticed that mirroring their language to be beneficial. Don’t be afraid to ask! Letting them define the terms give them more power and you can avoid any issues with bringing up words that they despise like “Victim,” “The Big C” or “Journey.”

Today, on World Cancer Day, we remember those that are fighting, those that we’ve lost and those that have survived.

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What not to say

Ever since I’ve come out publicly about my anxiety, I’ve had several people come up to me with their comments on the issue. While I’ve gotten continuous support from those that share these experiences, I still have to explain myself to those that don’t understand. That’s fine with me, but it’s not a secret that people with anxiety are more sensitive than others, but that trait seems to get lost whenever these conversations seem to happen. I know that a lot of these people have the best intentions, but some of the things they say can come across as harmful without even realizing.

It may be hard to distinguish what and what not to say, and to be fair, a lot of these things can be situational. Below is a general list of what I have encountered within the last several years:

“Are you SURE you have Anxiety?”

Let me check… Between 2008-2018: I have seen several counsellors, three therapists, one psychologist, tried a plethora of medications before I found one that stuck… so, yeah. I’m pretty sure I have anxiety. Thank you for doubting my diagnosis though!

Alternatively: Why not try saying “I’m sorry that you’re going through that, would you like to talk about it more?”

“But you look fine!”

Of course, I do. I hide behind my fake smile and makeup. If you’re not close to me, I will never divulge the full-on chaos that’s going on in my mind. Anxiety isn’t always being in a panic, crying your eyes out & hurdling in the fetal position. It’s a silent, festering, illness that puts my body in a fight or flight mode CONSTANTLY.

Alternatively: There’s no reason to diminish their symptoms with their physical appearance, others may look fine while others don’t, and there is no standard for anxiety.

“Other people have it worse than you”

I don’t understand the need to compare oneself to another. I also believe that it’s unfair to do so. Just because I am going through something that might come easily to others doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t feel emotionless. My feelings and anxiety are valid.

Alternatively: Why not try saying “What type of symptoms do you experience?” if they want to discuss it further, they’ll happily discuss their emotions and struggles, which will open your eyes to how different each person can go through anxiety.

“You don’t put effort into things”

I hate when people say that. Whenever I struggle with something that comes so natural to most, I am left with the chatter and judgment of others that I cannot complete something ‘so simple’ in their eyes.

Even when I try to explain my anxiety, they automatically assume it’s just worrying – something that they too get from time to time. It’s not the same, but my opinion is lost on their already made up mind. I’m glad that it was easy for you to get up and start your day – for me, it took me half an hour to get out of bed since my mind was racing.

Alternatively: Why not try to give positive reinforcements? If it did take another person half an hour to get out of bed, I would say “I’m so proud that you were able to get up today!

“We never invite you out anymore because you’re flaky”

That’s fair – but please keep in mind that’s not my intention. I will have good days, and I will have bad days. Unfortunately, I cannot schedule my anxiety weeks in advance. If I suddenly leave early or don’t show up at all, it means that I don’t want to ruin an event with my symptoms. I’m really looking out for all involved, but people take it quite personally and don’t invite me out anymore. That’s ok if you can’t handle my anxiety – you’re not responsible for my emotions.

Alternatively: I would continue to invite those that struggle out, even if we don’t come out just the fact that we were asked makes us feel wanted and welcome.

“Just calm down” / “stop freaking out” / “again?”

The last thing that I need to hear when I’m going through some of my symptoms are these jabs right here. Believe me, if I could “calm down” or “stop,” I would do so. The fact of the matter is, I can’t at this moment, and if you can’t understand that, that’s OK.

Alternatively: Don’t tell anyone these jabs. Come in for a hug, or leave the room if it’s better for YOUR mental health.

I could go on with more, but I think you get the idea. All I want is for others to be more understanding before saying hurtful comments to those that do not need it.