It’s completely fine to cut out family members from your life

Ever since my last therapy session, I took a lot of things into consideration when it came to my relationships with those surrounding me. I had a hard time struggling with the fact that I had to distance myself from certain people because it wasn’t benefiting my health. I already deal with a bout of loneliness, so whenever I know that I need to cut ties, something inside of me twists and turns into this form of guilt that I wish could go away. When I tried to lean on certain friendships and family members with my struggles, I was met with so much resentment that it honestly made my anxiety worse. I would try to communicate with them the best way that I could, but when there’s nothing that you can do to change a mind, you are left with defeat.

I stopped apologizing for cutting ties a long time ago. When I left Montreal to come here to Toronto, a lot of people tried to make me feel guilty for cutting out a significant family member in my life – my adoptive father. Even when I would explain the whole situation to them, especially the fact that he was causing harm, they could not see past him being my father. Those people did not last long in my life, and I wasn’t even apologetic for it. Why should I be? This man created such a toxic atmosphere that I needed to leave for my mental health. It took me YEARS of therapy to get over, yet, “he’s still your father.”
We are brought up to think that family bonds are eternal and these family members are always supposed to be there for us – you never expect them to hurt you; I never expected to be tossed aside.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only person to make that list. I honestly thought, as a naïve little girl, that everyone else that I would bring into my life would be trustworthy, loyal & overall understanding. I don’t mean to sound negative here, but there are a lot of “friends” out there who feed off of others, suck a lot of energy out of you – yet, you still tend to keep them around because no one is perfect, and there are things that you can overlook. I refused this theory a couple of years ago and quite honestly, am in a much better place than I’ve ever been. Any toxic relationship can drain you emotionally and impact your overall mental health.

I’m a big believer in tribes, and everyone who you bring into your circle should give you a feeling of empowerment, trust and happiness. We’re growing at an alarming rate, and soon enough, with the blink of an eye, we’ll be older. I don’t have time to deal with all of this “high school bullshit” (as I put it) and neither should you, especially if you are dealing with depression or anxiety. We already beat up ourselves quite well; we don’t need another person to do the same. Whether it’s a family member, an older friend or just someone you met the other week – don’t let that guilt consume you. Free yourselves so you can get to a better and healthier you in 2019

Symptom: Sleeplessness

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had some trouble with my sleeping. It started when I was in elementary school; I would excuse myself from morning class and go straight to the administration office and ask if I could take a nap in the nurse’s room. They always obliged, but when it became more frequent, they called up my mother and started asking questions about my schedule at home. Even though I followed the same routine nightly, I never could get the full amount of sleep that my body was craving (At the age of 32 I can still attest to this statement!)

I remember trying to doze off to the radio that I was permitted to listen to for a little while before my mother came in to shut it off. Once those tunes stopped, my brain would start to race. Even at a young age, I was still spinning with ideas and thoughts – not knowing how to turn it all off. Sometimes I would try to ignore it, pinch my eyes tightly and wait for them to subside. Other nights it wasn’t so simple, and I would lie awake in my bed trying to “count sheep” as my mother asked me to do so often.

Once my mother passed away, I was stricken with insomnia. I was barely a teenager at this point, and the anxiety was starting to grow more within. My usual method to try and combat this was to stay up and read, however, most of the books I got my hands on were too good to put down, and I wouldn’t end up sleeping. I never confided in my adoptive father about these issues; it was hard enough to talk to him about everything that was happening inside of me since he saw me as a weak person. He would sometimes see me up at the wee hours of the morning and demand that I go to bed, never asking what I was still doing up or if I needed anything. I would turn off my light and pretend that I would, but I would always lie awake staring at my ceiling fan while my thoughts took over.

When I started college, I mentioned how bad my insomnia was to my then doctor, after I was up for 72 hours straight. He decided to prescribe me sleeping pills instead of asking me any other questions, and I thought that would be my solution to it all. After several months, I noticed that I would take my pills every night even when it wasn’t warranted. I was scared that I was getting addicted to them, so instead of discussing it with my doctor, I went off of them entirely. It was tough to adjust back to a full night’s sleep at first, but after several weeks I was starting to sleep better. Months went by, and my insomnia seemed to be at bay – but, I would still only pull 4-5 hours a night at best, no matter how early I went to bed.

During this time my anxiety was developing tenfold. I was still unaware of what was happening to me since I was consumed by my toxic atmosphere. I would lie awake, pleading with my body to go to bed, but instead, my mind was on full blast:

I forgot to put that one dish in the sink tonight; they’re going to be so mad at me for that. Do I need to remember tomorrow to write them a note so they don’t think that I’m mad at them for no reason, which reminds me, maybe I can offer to take them out for dinner? I know I barely make any money as it is, but they’re just always so mad at me, maybe I can show them that I can be responsible and they’ll change their mind? Who am I kidding myself, no one likes me and no one ever will. They’re entirely right when they say that I’m a loner and have no friends. I’m just going to die alone; I might be dying right now and not even know. Would they even be sad? Yeah, right, Andrea.

Even though I got out of that toxic environment late, I still battle with some form of these thoughts some nights. Recently, I couldn’t even tell you what’s been going on in my mind; I feel as if I’m being pushed in so many directions that it doesn’t even make sense to me at this point. Last night, I was in bed worrying about paint colours. PAINT. COLOURS.

The thing is, I know that these thoughts are contributing to me not sleeping and no matter how many hot baths, essential oils, teas, etc. I try – nothing can calm my anxious mind. But as you can see, since I was a little girl I’ve just been adapting to my sleeplessness. I have better nights than I used to, and I can honestly say I haven’t been hit with insomnia in several years (yay!), but my sleeplessness will always be around the corner since I’m stuck with my ever gracious anxiety. Luckily I have fur babies to cuddle to make me feel better about it

If you suffer from the same symptom, know that you’re not alone – and there are SO many options that you can try to help combat it. Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you!

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.