Anxiety

Every year, during the first week of October, NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) raises awareness of mental illness and those living with a mental health condition. I realized that this would be the perfect moment to share with you something personal in my life.

The other day, I had a great conversation with a friend about my anxiety. Back in the day, I probably wouldn’t have done that as easily or even admitted I had anxiety. Now that I recognize what I have, I feel very strongly that it’s something we should all talk about. Being vocal about mental illness is extremely important because you can relate to people in ways you didn’t expect and it makes you feel like you’re not alone anymore.

Ever since I was younger, I’ve been anxious. Back then, I didn’t realize it very much because, for the most part, I didn’t have many things to be anxious about. I had a great childhood and I have supportive parents. But every first day of school was a TRIAL. I would get so nervous and anxious about starting a new year of school that I would make myself physically sick. I would get nauseous and throw up and would get no sleep at all the night before. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just talk myself out of it. I mean, it was FINE. It was just school.

Don’t even get me started on talking in front of the class or public speaking. Those were other ordeals of extreme heart racing, nausea, and not being able to catch my breath. I dreaded it. Especially if I knew I had to give an oral presentation. I would think about it for weeks and days and couldn’t get it out of my mind. The older I got, I would try to talk myself out of it. “It’s FINE. You’re FINE,” I would say. I knew a lot of people hated public speaking so I just attributed it to that and forgot all about it until the next time I had to speak.

2016 was a really stressful year for me. It kind of was a culmination of all the stress and anxiety in my life. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend, my aunt & cousins stayed with us for a while, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It was the first time I had had a panic attack and my heart rate would be so fast even when I was just sitting on the couch, watching TV. I would pick at my fingernails, my face and my skin. I would keep telling myself over and over, “You’re FINE.” But nothing would help. Luckily, 2016 also happened to be the year I took an Abnormal Psychology course and I learned more about anxiety. This was extremely beneficial and couldn’t have come at a better time.

The more I learned about it, the more I realized I was exhibiting the symptoms. My dad is a very anxious person and throughout my life, I’ve watched him deal with things in ways that I told myself I would never do. For example, I hated when he would stress out about something because it was overall consuming. It was all he could think about. He wouldn’t sleep. He would get angry easily. I was always annoyed and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just get over things. Little did I know, I was doing the same thing. I was doing what I told myself I didn’t want to do. I learned through my class that it can be genetic. If someone else in your family has it, it’s likely that you might develop it as well.

After learning about it, I decided to find someone to see. I found a marriage & family therapist that I talked to a few times and that’s when I realized the benefit of talking about what was going on in my life. I had never poured out my entire feelings to anyone. I had only done it in bits and pieces and usually left out the deeper parts. Ultimately, my therapist and I weren’t a great match so I decided to part ways but I learned a lot from that experience and decided to take what I had learned and move on.

Early last year, I was having a hard time eating. Anything I ate made me sick, including home-cooked meals. When I met with my primary care physician for my yearly physical, I explained to him the feelings I was having. He asked me if I ever get anxious and I was a little surprised. How did he know? He explained that you have nerve endings in your stomach that are connected to your brain so when you’re stressed out or anxious, your stomach receives those signals and can act in response to it. We started talking about my feelings and how easily I get annoyed or I snap at others. We also talked about how sick I make myself when I have to do certain things that I stress out over, like speaking in front of a group. He diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and we finally decided on starting a low dose of anxiety medication.

I’ve been taking it for over a year now and I have never felt better. I’m more confident in speaking in front of others and I don’t get sick! Food isn’t making me sick anymore (unless I eat too much junk food, of course). I don’t get annoyed as quickly anymore and I noticed that my relationship with my family members, especially my sister, improved dramatically.

This year, I also tried hypnotherapy. I decided to try it because I was still having a hard time picking at my face or my fingernails and I was so done with it. She recorded our sessions on audio files that I could listen to whenever I was feeling stressed out. This helped out a little bit but what really made a difference was the new position I started in July. I am not as stressed out at work anymore (which I don’t think I really realized the toll my job was taking on my mental state) and I feel like I notice a complete difference. My face has started to heal and I’m back to having clear skin.

I’m much happier these days and couldn’t be more grateful for the support I had from my friends and family throughout my life, dealing with this issue. I also am super grateful for the advancement of medicine and the ability to help me feel better with a simple solution. I still get anxious and I don’t think that will ever change but it’s more manageable. I know when it’s happening and I know what I can do to stop it.

If you have any questions about this or need someone to talk to, please let me know! I think the best thing you can do if you’re having feelings that something is wrong is to talk about it. Once you can relate to someone or open up, you will realize you don’t have to do it alone. Break the stigma and talk about it. It’s the most powerful thing you can do.

Please visit NAMI’s website for more information on mental health or call their helpline if you need to talk to someone:
800-950-NAMI
Monday – Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM ET

xoxo Michelle

 

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7 Ways to Be a Happier You!

There’s a ton of negativity around us right now. You can’t get on Facebook without seeing negative thoughts and comments. Personally, I hate Facebook. If it weren’t for keeping in touch with family, I wouldn’t have one. I think it’s extremely hypocritical of adults to chastise younger generations about how they’re always on their phones and rant about how social media runs our lives when adults are constantly on Facebook, getting in fights with others in the comments section and bullying each other based on beliefs.

This is why I came up with 7 ways that help me be happier in hopes that it helps you as well.

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1. Laugh

I’m notorious for thinking the most random things in this life are hilarious. I know there are always incredibly frustrating situations in life but find the funny parts of your situation and laugh it off! You’re going to think back on this moment in a week, a month, or even a year and wonder why you spent so much time moping around about it.

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I love using the Snapchat filters with my friends, especially Camille

2. Find joy in the little things

I’ve talked a little bit before about how anxious of a person I am so it’s important for me to find things that make me happy because it takes my mind off of things and relaxes me. The thing is, shopping makes me extremely happy but if I did it all the time, I’d be broke. So naturally, you have to find other things. For example:

I love the smell of wet concrete, especially after a rainstorm in the summer

I love the smell of fresh cut grass and the morning air

I love walking into a cool house after being outside in the heat

I love curling up in bed with a book or watching a movie when there’s a thunderstorm outside

I love when everything makes me giggle and I can’t stop laughing

I love waking up on my own instead of with an alarm clock

Make a list of all your favorite things that make you happy! Acknowledging these things will bring you joy even if there isn’t a thunderstorm outside right now that you can enjoy.

3. Don’t stress about things outside of your control

This is such a major one for me because there’s a lot of people in my life that stress so much about things that they literally couldn’t change even if they wanted to. Why get angry or bothered about this stuff? For example, the weather. People that are completely upset because it’s scorching hot outside… Get over it! Unless you’ve figured out a way to change the weather with a machine that you should so kindly share with mankind, it is absolutely & completely out of your control.

If I can’t personally do anything to fix it, there’s no point in obsessing over it.

4. Be the bigger person

This really shouldn’t be something that needs to be defined but certain people seem to have a problem grasping this concept. Grudges, drama, hatred, revenge… all of this breeds ignorance. You can’t say that you’re maturing as a person and still be participating in these things. In 50 years, I don’t want to look back on my life & only remember all the people that hurt my feelings or that I disliked. I want to remember all the fun things I did with the people I loved. That brings me to #5…

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My beautiful friend Eunice who passed away in 2013

5. Don’t spend time with people you don’t like

In 2013, I lost one of my really great friends. It was devastating because it was the first loss I had ever experienced and we were all so young. One of the things I realized when that happened was that I wanted to spend more time with those I loved, and less time with those I didn’t. I realize that there are times where you can’t avoid this but when it’s under your control, you should spend time with the important people that support you and are positive beings in your life. I think one thing you learn as you get older is who is really around because they want to be & not because they need something from you.

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Maybe you should treat yourself to NBC’s Parks & Recreation (photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly)

6. Treat yourself regularly

There are months where there are so many bills to pay or unexpected expenses come up that you’re so stressed out & just feel overwhelmed. Whenever this happens, I like to plan out a little treat for the next month or next paycheck to make myself feel better. You don’t have to spend a lot of money & sometimes, the things that make you feel better don’t require any money. Maybe taking a sick day & spending a day at home on the couch is your treat or maybe finally getting to take a long bath & read a good book is your treat. Whatever it is, don’t forget that you deserve a little break too.

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7. Don’t see happiness as a destination

This is the one that gets me every time. “If    this    would just happen, I’d finally be happy.” How many times have you actually gotten what you wished for and still felt like something was missing? As much I as get caught up in what’s not happening in my life, the best times are when I forget all about it and focus on what’s happening at the moment. It’s so much easier to enjoy the ‘now’ when you’re not obsessed about the ‘later’. This is much easier said than done but I like to consciously make an effort to be grateful for the things I do have and that helps me cut out the future wishing.