Open Topic

Anxiety Makes You Feel Like You Are In Danger.

It’s as if all the horrific worst-case scenarios flashing through your brain were actually happening.

“Picture a place where you felt safe and secure.”

I sat on the small couch across from my therapist, hands clenched in my lap, feet rocking.

It wasn’t meant to be a challenge. It wasn’t supposed to be difficult. She was merely trying to walk me through a visualization exercise, teaching me a tool to help me calm my anxious thoughts the next time they began to spiral.

But at those words, I felt a sense of panic rising. I searched my mind; my thoughts began to race. Tears stung my eyes as I stared down at my whitening knuckles.

I couldn’t think of a single place. Not one.

Let me say this: In my rational thoughts, I know that I have been safe and secure for the vast majority of my days. I have lived a privileged life.

Knowing that rationally does not change the fact that my anxiety disorders have manifested in ways that have infected every moment I can remember, every thought in my mind.

I could not think of a single place or time when I felt safe and secure. At the forefront of every memory of all my favorite places was the worry and fear attached to it.

I can recall more clearly how I felt and what I was worried about in a moment than I can the actual event.

My childhood home? Overwhelming fear of abandonment in every way imaginable.

The peaceful balcony room on the beach in Tulum? Racing thoughts of all the ways I wouldn’t make it home.

My own comfortable bed now? Constant fears that my husband might stop breathing in the night, that someone might break in, that the house will catch fire, that my husband will leave me, that I’ll get sick again.

For a long time, I just labeled myself as a “worrier” and I downplayed how much of an impact these thoughts had on me. In a “suck it up” culture, I felt that acknowledging — admitting — that these thoughts were disrupting my life — that they prevented me from enjoying the moment, that they obscured my memories — meant nothing more than I needed to “toughen up,” that I needed to stop “making mountains out of molehills,” that it was all my fault.

On top of that, I have a deep-rooted need to make sure I am not a burden to everyone around me. A need that, no doubt, grew into what is now the social anxiety disorder in my cocktail of anxiety disorders.

As a result, I became very good at masking my anxiety in front of others, of always appearing to hold the belief that everything was “no big deal.”

I function by performing a role, putting on a mask of a me that handles everything well. But, there is a cost — nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, incredibly tense and painful muscles, headaches, insomnia, and spiraling thoughts for days. When I can’t maintain a performance, I slip into a panic attack — heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, numbness and tingling in my hands, arms, and face, muscle weakness.

Up until I started therapy, I still believed that I had no reason to feel the way I felt. I never recognized a single experience in my life ,  which included great losses and instability in my formative year. Even now, I still feel like I am being overly dramatic to call these traumas. Others have it so much worse. Why am I making such a big deal out of everything?

It was a tremendous help when my current therapist explained, in one of our first sessions, that our brains do not do well with distinguishing different types of traumas — traumatic experiences of varying magnitudes can have similar effects. At her words, I felt I had been granted permission to feel what I have been feeling for years.

I, of course, turned to the internet, searching for further validation. I came across an article by Elyssa Barbash Ph.D. and read these words:

“Small ‘t’ traumas tend to be overlooked by the individual who has experienced the difficulty. This is sometimes due to the tendency to rationalize the experience as common and therefore cognitively shame oneself for any reaction that could be construed as an over-reaction or being ‘dramatic.’

“Avoidance is also engaged so as not to reveal any ‘weaknesses’ or difficulty to others… While the individual’s efforts are intentional with the hope of reducing their psychological distress and not creating concern on the part of others, the literature has made clear that avoidance is the most significant developing and maintaining factor for trauma responses. So ‘tough,’ perhaps yes, but effective, no.”

Validation. Permission to accept that I have experienced traumas. And the knowledge that not properly processing these events — avoiding and concealing how much they truly affected me — only allowed them to be compounded into my varied escalating anxiety disorders.

l, I feel terribly misunderstood, and I struggle with “suck it up” culture. I know there are people who hear the term “anxiety disorder” and roll their eyes. To them, I am a whiner, a complainer, weak. I simply need to toughen up. I need to stop being such a sensitive little snowflake. After all, everyone has anxiety.

Here’s the thing: yes, everyone experiences anxiety. Anxiety is a normal, healthy emotion. People without any mental health concerns will feel anxious about certain situations. That can make it hard for those people to understand why others struggle so much with anxiety. And it can make those of us struggling question ourselves as well.

I recently tried to explain the difference between feeling natural anxiety and having an anxiety disorder to an empathetic friend.

It had started snowing and my anxiety about driving home was building. Now, it is reasonable for anyone to feel a bit anxious about driving in the snow — to think about how they’ll need to drive more carefully, how travel will take longer and they need to plan accordingly, maybe even think about the possibility of accidents or getting stranded.

For me, I have all those worries and more on a perfectly clear day of driving. Every car I pass, every turn I make, my mind visualizes the accident that could result. I see in gruesome detail that I won’t make that upcoming turn and I’ll plow into that tree, my body slamming against an undeployed airbag upon impact. Thirty seconds after I survive the turn, I see that the oncoming truck will veer into my lane and my body will be thrown from the car lying lifeless on the pavement. Less than a minute later, I worry that I won’t see the car in my blind spot as I switch lanes and we will spin out, flip, and end up in a ditch. Several times over the course of an hour on the highway, I clearly see in my mind that we’ve been in an accident, my husband and I are bloodied and mangled, and I live my worst nightmare by surviving without him.

This part of my anxiety disorders is called catastrophizing. I cannot emphasize enough that this happens entirely involuntarily. It is my default. Believe me, if I could simply stop worrying about these things, I would. If it was as easy as deciding to think happy thoughts, don’t you think I’d do that?

It takes a great deal of effort to stop and redirect these anxious thoughts. A task that becomes even more difficult when I am trying to navigate while driving. Yet, I am able to manage. I still drive (though I do avoid it often and almost never drive with my whole family in the car, anymore). For some, this becomes so overwhelming that they can no longer bring themselves to get behind the wheel.

Now, think about the type of normal anxiety everyone experiences in a multitude of situations and multiply it accordingly for someone with an anxiety disorder. This is not only about driving.

In every situation, nearly every day, my mind feeds me a vivid reel of all the worst things that can go wrong, of every worst-case scenario — people I love getting hurt, sick, dying, saying they don’t love me, they never actually liked me, friends only tolerate me, I am annoying, editors don’t like working with me, I have nothing good to offer, everyone is going to leave me, I’ll get sick again, I am a burden.

It is exhausting.

I knew my anxiety disorders were affecting my daily life. I knew they began long before I recognized them for what they were. I knew they had grown severe enough that I could no longer manage them on my own — even my unhealthy coping mechanisms were no longer effective. That is why I sought the help of a therapist.

“Picture a place where you felt safe and secure.”

But it wasn’t until I struggled with this simple request to think of a place where I felt safe and secure that I realized what, exactly, my anxiety disorders had done. They had me living every single day of my life as if I were in actual danger, as if all these horrific worst-case scenarios flashing through my brain were actually happening.

Though I rationally and logically knew these things were not likely to happen, my body was reacting to the anxiety so much so that it is etched into every single memory I can recall.

I will be continuing therapy in hopes of reclaiming some of these memories and with the desire to better manage my anxieties going forward. It wasn’t always this bad; so I have hope that it can get better.

If you find that you would also have a hard time thinking of a time and place where you felt safe and secure, I urge you to please consider seeing a therapist.

It can get better.

Open Topic

Inside The Mind Of A Worthless Person.

Some of us might not feel it at all, but this emotion can get the best of us in the worst of times. That feeling is often called “worthlessness.” It’s such an ugly word and seems to closely resemble a parasite. It invades your mind and lurks there almost undetected until a moment of weakness welcomes its appearance. You tell yourself that you can get over it, but it quietly remains in the deepest parts of your thoughts. Slowly, it creeps in closer until it consumes you and becomes a constant, everyday idea of how you perceive yourself and life. On the outside you’re smiling, but on the inside, that smile hides what you really feel. Worthless.

I’m being completely honest when I say that I’ve struggled with feeling worth something for quite some time. While growing up I wasn’t the coolest or most sociable person to be around, so I usually kept to myself. Sure, I had a circle of friends, but most of the time I delved deep into my own world. Due to the fact that I felt so comfortable in it, I decided to stay there. In not venturing out of my own world, though, my attitude towards the world grew angry and bitter as trials and tribulations rocked my world one blow after another.

In this I grew to hate the real world because I thought it hated me, too. Of course, friends and family offered a helping hand, but I just put on a smile and said that I was fine. I wasn’t. I felt alone because I pushed everyone else away to protect myself. In doing so, however, my feeling of worthlessness developed. It kept me awake at night and feeling lost. I let it eat away at me for the longest time after that, but it seemed to recede the more I came out of my shell in high school. For the first time in a while, I felt like my smile could finally mean something. I wanted others to feel the same, too, so I decided I wanted to be happy. And so I was.

This long journey has made me realize that it’s okay to feel worthless, sad, alone, lost etc. Don’t hide it. Recognize it. Wallow in it for a certain period of time. It’s okay to feel emotions because it’s what makes us human. In doing so, you’ll discover parts about yourself that you didn’t even know existed. Seeing that I felt worthless gave me a new perspective on life. Sometimes it can even get the best of me, but your demons create you into the person that you are right now. That’s why they shouldn’t be ignored.

Instead of letting whatever is bothering you consume you whole, notice what it is and make a difference. I found my light through the world and people in it. Find what makes you happy, what makes you smile, or makes you feel like dancing. You owe yourself that because you deserve it. You’re a beautiful person with an awesome life ahead of you. You should live it to your fullest potential because you only have one life to live. Follow your own path and see where it takes you. And if you get lost along the way, that’s okay, too. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

In the words of Captain Silver from Treasure Planet:

“You got the makings of greatness in ya. But you gotta take the helm and chart your own course. Stick to it, no matter the squalls. And when the time comes you get to really test the cut of your sails and show them what you’re made of… I hope I’m there, catching some of the light coming off of you that day.”

Open Topic

When Anxiety Strikes.

When people tell me I’m over-analyzing things or overthinking it or reading too much into the situation, I want them to be right. I want to dismiss this little thing that is overcoming my thoughts and emotions as me being a paranoid fuck.

When anxiety strikes, I would love nothing more than to be completely wrong.

I would love to categorize this as just another thing I thought too much about and the scenario I played out didn’t come true before my eyes.

But every once in awhile (actually more than once) I’m completely spot on and I hate it.

There are times where my friends tell me this conclusion I’ve come up with is crazy and there is no way it could come true. But I just have this uneasy feeling I can’t explain. It’s the red flag that goes off in my mind that I know something isn’t right.

Then I watch in horror as my predictions become a cold reality and I’m left in tears over some ending I completely saw coming because of a simple change in tone with one sentence.

People with anxiety have an innate ability to read situations and read between every line most people look past. People with anxiety have an ability to read others so accurately that a lot of these things they think about do come to life. 

When your senses are heightened and you are constantly thinking, you avoid bad situations that can cause danger or a threat in your life.

There are two parts to the brain that help us to understand anxiety disorder. The amygdala and the hippocampus. 

“The amygdala is an almond- shaped structure deep in the brain..It can alert the rest of your brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response. The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders,” (Henry, 2013).

This is why people with anxiety disorder can sense more so than the average person when something might be repeating itself from the past in a situation. It’s the breakdown you might have had for whatever reason. Your emotional response to that is stored in your memory.

“The hippocampus is the part of your brain that encodes threatening events into memories,” (Henry, 2013).

When you connect the situation you are dealing with at hand with something that’s gone wrong in the past, you have that example to look back at.

For example, if someone has been cheated on multiple times they look for any sign their current partner may be acting the same way their exes have to avoid being as blindsided as they were the first time it happened. The emotions and the memory scar to a point where you’re anxious about everyone. It isn’t just a lack of trust or confidence, it’s in every person in your past who has again proven this will happen again.

When my brain starts churning I want to be wrong. Whether it’s my judgment of a person or a situation, I want to trust people. I don’t want to analyze every detail wondering if there’s more to it. I don’t want to reread texts or wonder if what I said or did was wrong. I don’t want to come up with three scenarios just so I’m prepared for the worst possible outcome. But when that worst possible outcome comes to a head, all I can think about is how I wasn’t crazy and I was right.

There is no worse feeling than that moment you feel something off inside you and you can’t shake it. You can’t stop thinking about it.

It’s an increased heart rate, it’s over-thinking, it’s muscles tensed up and a heightened senses of reflexes, it’s a loss of breath or some breathing exercise to get oxygen into your lungs normally, to prepare you for whatever situation is about to occur. Anxiety is your body physically responding when there is a threat.

And while I wish I could control every rapid thought or just not think so deeply or so much I think the only thing I can do is learn how to manage it.

While I know anxiety will affect every relationship I do have, I hope the people I choose understand and leave me with confidence over doubt. I hope the people I choose constantly are there to remind me they won’t leave. I hope the people I choose remind me what I deserve in those anxious moments I think it’s less and I’m too critical of myself.

I can’t control anxiety disorder and if given the choice, it isn’t something I’d pick, but all we can do is play the hand we’re dealt in life as best we can.

Open Topic

If I Had To Choose, I Rather Be The One Hurt Every Time.

How do you explain to someone you’re everything I could want in a person, only I don’t want you? 

You don’t say it, but you know you could have that person if you wanted and that’s just too easy and too simple. And the truth is, the feelings just aren’t there. 

So you go for someone else who doesn’t have the qualities you admire in this person, but it’s the challenge that makes this other person appealing. 

How do you explain to a person you care about just not enough? And you’ve thought of them that way but you’d rather not. 

You don’t say that because it’s easier for you to choose silence. 

How do you explain to someone I like having you there when everything else goes wrong and you’re the one person I know I can rely on? 

You don’t. Because any right person with self-respect would walk away if you said that. So you keep them at arm’s length when you need them because that’s what is easier for you. 

How do you explain they are just some second thought when someone else cancels or you’re bored? 

Because when you cancel on them, it doesn’t affect you and you know they’ll still be there understanding. But it’s easier for you to live according to your own agenda. 

How do you explain the comfort in attention and texts answered every time when you can’t reciprocate it or care enough to. But you like knowing someone does?

Everyone likes knowing someone cares, so you keep them close enough because that’s what is easier for you. 

How do you explain to someone you’d like to keep acting like you’re a couple with the movies, the dinner and drunk nights ending at 2am where you know the person next to you wants more, but won’t do anything about it and you don’t care enough to make what you think is a mistake? 

You don’t. Because it’s easier to say nothing and float around with the idea of maybe then admit any of this and make things awkward. Because it’s easier for you.

How do you say I’m just not interested? 

You don’t. So you make up another excuse because it’s easier to say you’re busy or BS someone you know would never do the same. You think you’re sparing their feelings.

How do you explain to someone I didn’t answer your text because at the time I didn’t want to talk to you or I was too busy? Because honestly, you just don’t care enough to make them a priority.

But you don’t say those things because it’s easier to say a text didn’t go through, then admit you didn’t care enough to text back when they answer you every time. 

How do you explain the reason you’re sending mixed signals isn’t because you’re confused about them, but rather you are so sure you don’t care but you don’t want to hurt their feelings?

How do you explain that long conversation you had meant nothing to you as you talk to a lot of other people the same way? 

You don’t say that because you know that one conversation might have made their day even though all you did was answer. 

If given the choice, I’d choose being on the other side. I’d choose getting hurt every time.

Because I don’t ever want to be that person who leads someone on. I don’t want to be that person who causes someone else pain. I don’t want to be the reason someone isn’t sleeping at night or walks around with their head down. I don’t want someone to fall for me and mistake love and infatuation as I’m fumbling and confused for the real thing. I don’t want to be the reason people disbelief in love. 

Because I’ve been on both ends and as much as it hurts to be the one hurt, there is a greater pain in looking at someone who you know cares, who you know would do anything for you if you asked, who you know would always be there. 

There is a greater pain in hurting someone who you know would never do the same.

You look at them and there is a pain you see behind their smile because you aren’t giving them what they need. And they look at you and think they are the one not good enough. 

There is a difference between not good enough and not right.

But you can’t even explain that because you know what it’s like to try so hard and try to be good enough for someone. 

You know that defeating feeling of looking at yourself in the mirror and wanting to change for that one person.

So when the ball is in my court and I’m questioning for a moment whether I should play, I put it down and I walk away. Because toying with someone else’s emotions because I’m unsure of my own is the most unkind thing I can do for someone who I know wouldn’t do the same. 

And as we part ways and I slowly fade out of their life, the pain they feel will first come out as anger. 

It’ll be the unanswered text as they send another. It’ll be the message I couldn’t answer. It’ll be the unfollow or unfriend that hurts me to do so. 

But the kindest thing I can do for someone who I don’t care about, is let them go find someone who can.

And we’ll cross paths and it’ll hurt as we walk past one another like we don’t each other at all, but it’s what needs to happen so they get what they deserve and I would have loved for it to be me. But you can’t control how you feel about people. 

So I’ll let them hate me. I’ll let them think I’m some cold-hearted bitch. I’ll let them bad mouth me if that’s what they need to get over me.

Because I would rather hurt someone with the truth then paint lies just so it’s easier for me. 

Open Topic

Depression: A War With Myself.

My name is Carla Williams and I am a WARRIOR.

I fought in the heat of a serious battle. I have scars that are internal. Sometimes internal scars are even worse than physical scars. This battle lasted for 25 long years and it nearly took my life. However I came, I saw, and I conquered. It was not easy in any sense. Let me tell you about a battle I’m fighting called “Major Depressive Disorder”.

Major depressive disorder is a serious mental illness. However many still do not see it as such.

If you try to tell someone who hasn’t got a clue about depression, they will often times tell you…

You’re just going through a rough patch. Think more positive and be strong.

Or they may tell you something like…

Don’t be weak. People have it a lot worse than you.

What they really should be telling you to do is

GO. GET. HELP.

Many people still don’t comprehend that depression is an illness and not just a sadness. They don’t know about how you can’t sleep at night. They don’t understand how you can’t concentrate or even function with normal day to day activities. They also don’t know that depression can also cause physical stress as well. That people die from this illness every year.

If the stress from depression doesn’t give them a heart attack or a stroke… they may take matters into their own hands and kill themselves. After all suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States (Nami).

When I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder at age twenty I was in denial. I knew I wasn’t myself anymore but the social stigmas of mental illness scared me. People made fun of depression. Many even deemed those who suffer with it crazy. However, I wasn’t crazy. I was your average twenty year old. Just graduated high school, working a part time job, looking for love in all the wrong places. Nobody knew how much I suffered.

Out of fear I refused help. I chose to keep suffering silently and alone for years until I could no longer take it. Darkness swallowed me whole. “Dementors”. Dementors basically look like the grim reaper. A demon that wants to suck the happiness and life out of everything and everyone.

People who get around Dementors even describe “I felt I would never be cheerful again”. This is exactly what depression feels like. This is exactly how I felt for so long. A week before my seventeenth birthday I majorly overdosed on four prescription medications. While I should have died God decided to keep me here. I spent a week in the hospital.

At this point I was tired. Tired of suffering. Tired of being ashamed and afraid. So finally I decided to get help. I’ve been to therapist and have taken anti depressants in the past. However medication often times made me feel worse (even though for some people it works great).

I had to find alternative therapeutic methods to get me back or track. Such as writing and exercise. I also felt better when I talked about what was going on with me instead of keeping everything inside. That was my worst issue. I would hold everything in until I felt I would explode. That started to change.

I finally started to get my life back on track little by little… but it didn’t stop there. I never wanted anyone to feel afraid or ashamed of depression. Help was the answer to recovery. So I became an advocate. I shared my story on social media. I started posting facts and statistics to prove to others how serious this Illness really is. It started to get some attention.

This is why I am a WARRIOR. A battle that tried to take my life didn’t kill me as hard as it tried. I now fight for others still in the heat of the battle. A battle so many feel they will lose. However I’m here to tell them do not give up. Keep fighting because your life is worth living.

Open Topic

This Is What 'I Do Not Love You' Feels Like.

“I love you.” 

“I know you do,” he said.

What I thought would bring a sense of relief when three words that kept me up at night finally escaped my mouth, really left me feeling even more vulnerable. There’s a sting to ‘I love you,’ when the feelings aren’t reciprocated. There’s a pain in walking away that moment you realize your love just wasn’t enough.

It’s looking down at a screen and a silence that kills you.

It’s staring at a door just hoping they walk back in.

It’s the apology you’ve heard a thousand times. But you want to believe the excuses.

It’s looking at your reflection in the bathroom mirror and seeing a pretty face, but under the layers of makeup is self-doubt, criticism and a feeling of being inadequate.

It’s fixating upon flaws you wish you could change and you tell yourself it’s them. And you’d love nothing more than to believe it. But you don’t.

It’s hearing the words ‘you deserve better’ but in your mind, you build this same person up who knocked you so far down and you wonder, ‘is there anyone better?’

It’s the look your best friend gives you and the exchange simply says, ‘drop it. Don’t ask.’

Its tears as your pillow absorbs each drop and you’ve never felt so lonely.

It’s being met with darkness at 2AM as you lay there wondering how you even got here?

It’s being emotionally exhausted because for some reason, your best wasn’t good enough and you’re still trying to figure out why.

It’s people asking how you are, you simply say fine because no one wants to hear that it feels like you’re drowning.

It’s the moment you stop. Stop trying. Stop caring. Stop everything. And it hurts you to do so, but it hurts more standing in a place looking at a person and never being what they need. 

And it kills you to walk away and try to move on.

And you look for any reason to turn back around. But the truth has been clear for so long, it just took until now to see it.

Sometimes things end much sooner than goodbye.

The ugly truth is, you can’t love someone into liking you.

But the hardest part isn’t some unrequited love story.

The hardest part is, standing in front of them and pretending this doesn’t hurt like hell.

So you’re forced to smile instead of cry. You’re forced to answer with a fine when they ask how you are, but the reality is you haven’t stopped thinking about them, you haven’t slept in days and it physically hurts all of it and the thoughts haunt you of what you’ll never be.

You’re forced to walk away without looking back. The hardest thing you’ll ever do is, letting someone you love go. Falling in love is easy. Staying in love takes work. But convincing someone to love you, is a lost, cause that ends in your own heartbreak and tears.

Open Topic

Jealousy Is Self-Destructive.

Jealousy is going to kill your confidence. It’s going to make you feel like you’re falling behind. It’s going to make you feel like you aren’t good enough. It’s going to make you feel like you’ve been doing something wrong. Your jealousy is going to trick you into believing there is something wrong with you, when really, the only thing wrong is your mindset.

Jealousy is going to kill your motivation, drive to succeed. It’s going to make you feel like giving up. it’s going to make you wonder whether there’s any point in trying, since there are millions of people out there who are smarter than you or prettier than you or more talented than you. It’s going to make you doubt your own abilities until you do something you regret, like quitting.

Jealousy is going to kill your kindness. It’s going to turn you into someone cynical, critical. It’s going to convince you to start dropping snide, backhanded compliments to people who intimidate you instead of admiring their beauty and recognizing their worth. It’s going to turn you into someone who views everyone else as potential competition, instead of potential friends.

Jealousy is going to kill your friendships. It’s going to push you away from the people who mean the most to you. It’s going to make you feel like the friends you should be celebrating alongside, are actually your rivals. It’s going to make you resent them during the times when they need your support the most.

Jealousy is going to kill your romantic relationships. It’s going to insult your person. It’s going to make them think you don’t trust them when they say they love you, they find you beautiful, and they want to spend the rest of their life with you. Jealousy is going to put a wedge between the two of you. It’s going to make it hard for you to form a sturdy bond, because you’ll always worry about it breaking.

Jealousy is going to kill your chance at self-love. It’s going to make you feel inadequate. It’s going to make you wish you could change your face, your body, your weight, your personality. It’s going to trick you into feeling like you aren’t beautiful, like you aren’t worthy of love and success.

Jealousy is going to kill your reputation. It’s going to make you come across as cold and bitter. It’s going to make you look selfish and insecure. It’s going to make you seem unapproachable, untrustworthy, and unlikable because no one wants to spend time with someone who is going to get jealous and lash out. No one wants to spend time with someone filled with so much hatred and negativity.

Jealousy is going to kill your happiness. It’s going to change your mood. It’s going to raise your stress levels. It’s slowly going to eat away at you. It’s going to harm you in more ways than you can count. It’s going to make you more miserable than you deserve to feel.