When Anxiety Controls Your Life

The signs had been there since I was a child: I didn’t like having friends over, and I didn’t like going to their houses. I hated meeting new people. I worried about things most children don’t, like nuclear war. Worst of all, I couldn’t give presentations or read aloud without a vicious panic attack, and I lost opportunities due to the hold anxiety had on me. At 39, I was finally diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), and borderline agoraphobia. Once a part-time DJ, I could now barely stand to leave my house.
The funny


thing about anxiety, at least for me, is how many excuses you make for what’s happening. You don’t want to socialize or go anywhere because you’re tired/busy/people suck, etc. Crowds are too annoying. The noise is too distracting. The real reason is that you’re always expecting the worst. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you believe people are judging you. You fear you’ll say or do something stupid, and they’ll remember that one thing for the rest of their lives. They’ll laugh at you, a complete stranger, forever. But you can’t tell anyone these things, because it sounds crazy, right?
Through several months of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), we talked about one of the major sources of my anxiety disorders—my mother. It sounds so Freudian to blame your mother for your issues, but in my case, I was raised by a woman with several untreated mental illnesses. Her anxiety disorders were particularly severe, but when that’s all you know, you internalize it and it becomes “normal” to fear speaking to people or to go somewhere new. In part, I really did learn it by watching her.



It was my normal until I realized I was headed down a path that endangered my marriage and my ability to function. I’m a writer, and it’s important to network not only with colleagues but also with readers. My husband and I want to travel through Europe; I can’t do that if the only place I feel safe is in my house. It was time to seek help or risk losing everything important to me, even if I didn’t want to admit that I too was dealing with mental illness.
It’s been a year since I completed CBT, and medication proved to be a necessary addition to the techniques I learned in therapy due to anxiety-induced high blood pressure and insomnia. I’m also doing art again, using an aromatherapy diffuser, and of course, I have my beloved basset hounds to cuddle whenever I need. I enjoy going out. I love attending book signings and meeting new people. And I’m looking forward to traveling with my husband and experiencing different cultures. Some days are still a struggle—I know I’ll always have those, but I’m proud of myself for breaking the stigma and taking back control of my life.



Ilse Watson

My Bipolar Disorder And Memory Loss

By Ilse Watson
From: https://goodcontentweb.wordpress.com/

I’ve never needed a diary to keep track of things. Not even when I worked as a personal assistant over many years – although back then I did keep a diary for my boss because it would have been very embarrassing if I forgot something important. But what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t need it – my mind was alert and I was on top of things.

I’ve suffered from depression since my early twenties, but it wasn’t too detrimental. There were many times when I didn’t need any medication.

But then, after a divorce in 2009, I slid back into depression and I experienced a constant downward spiral. By January 2014 (when I was 49), I experienced more than just depression symptoms and so I decided to see a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type I and major depressive disorder.

It wasn’t easy to accept the diagnosis, but I educated myself about my mental illness and took my medications religiously.

During a very difficult time in 2015, I noticed that I’m forgetting things – my short-term memory took a hike. I’ve read up about it and have learned to live with it. I now have to make notes of important things people tell me that I must remember. And when I forget to make notes, I simply have to ask again: “What did you tell me yesterday about your meeting?”, for example.

Bipolar and Memory loss can be a real problem. And to make matters worse, sometimes the cognitive symptoms of bipolar such as memory loss, lack of focus, and fuzzy thinking are made worse by medication.

So why does bipolar disorder create problems with thinking as well as mood?

Memory, attention and concentration can all be disrupted by the same neurotransmitter disturbances that cause mood swings. This undermines our ability to study, to work, and even interferes with personal relationships. However, the better these problems are understood, the easier they are to deal with.

“Many people with bipolar disorder are extremely bright, so memory or other thinking problems can be extremely frustrating and confusing.”

So what can we do about bipolar and memory loss? We can structure tasks to make them easier.

* Take the time to analyse tasks and break them down into small steps. Although this takes time and effort we may feel we just don’t have, it will make life easier in the long run. The idea is to structure things into smaller pieces that put less strain on working memory. Do this in writing. Using index cards can be useful.
* It is much easier to store and retrieve information if our brains already have a context for it. If we go through the steps of anticipating what information a task will require, we have some ideas in advance are less likely to get stressed or overwhelmed.

The good news about bipolar and memory loss is that:

1. For some people, the problem is very mild. Not everyone experiences the same amount of difficulty.
2. Bipolar and memory loss is largely episodic. When episodes of mania and depression abate, so will symptoms like memory loss and other cognitive difficulties. We can reduce the number of episodes we experience and increase the time between relapses. Therefore we can also reduce memory loss.
3. Lithium has been shown to increase gray matter in the brain and improve cognitive functioning.
4. We can interrupt the bipolar and memory loss cycle by reducing stress.
5. Simple tools like lists and calendars can make huge differences. Instead of fighting bipolar and memory loss, accept it may be a problem and plan accordingly.

Memory loss is just one problem – overall impaired cognitive function is also an important factor in bipolar disorder.






HumanCharger

The Evolving Red Lotus

Recently, I reached out to The Evolving Red Lotus  for a different perspective on the use of alternative medicine to heal mental health. Please visit her website for our interview on her journey. My interview is as follows:

What mental health illnesses have you been diagnosed with?

Bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, panic disorder, Anorexia B/P sub type, OCD

In what ways have these illnesses changed your life?

I often avoid situations because of uneasiness. I have spent times of my life wanting to do nothing more than sleep all day. I have also had suicide attempts causing me physical injury that resulted in hospitalization.

When did your symptoms first begin? Were there any triggers?

I remember being extremely OCD about my appearance around 10. Around 12 I started finding it hard to eat meals in front of anyone and began my first diet. My mother has extreme anxiety and I may have fed off of her panic and anxiety.

Are you prescribed medications? If so do you feel they are working?

Yes. I take 2 antidepressants, a mood stabilizer, and an antianxiety medication. I feel like they help to an extent. However, I only feel like they allow me to survive and not to actually live.

What outlets do you have that help you control your symptoms?

Sleep is a big one, although I’m told not helpful. I like to exercise and dance, however, also not a great outlet if dealing with ED symptoms. Sometimes I journal or write poetry.

Are you an advocate of Alternative Medicine and if so what practices have you tried?

Yes definitely. I started meditating nightly, which I have found is beginning to calm me down. I have tried acupuncture in the past which helped with pain issues I was having. I recently tried Reiki and was amazed at the pain relief I received.

Do you think there will ever be a time when you are free from pharmaceuticals/ therapy and can live free from your illnesses?

I hope so. This is what I am attempting with this journey. I don’t want to live on medications forever. I want to be healthy and I truly believe that can be accomplished in a natural way.

How do you feel your blog will benefit others with similar problems?

I want to share experiences and give hope to others who are not finding the relief they seek. I want to show that life can get better and become normal and happy again.

Where do you see yourself in five years in terms of your mental health?

I honestly see myself off of all my meds and living a very happy and fulfilling life where I take the time daily to reflect within, do meditations, and take time out to focus on my own wellbeing.

If there is any advice you could give others with similar issues, what would it be?

Never go off of your medications or ignore your doctor’s advice. However, you need to question EVERYTHING. If you aren’t getting the results or answers you need, seek them out, find another doctor, don’t be afraid to ask for a medication change. Look into holistic alternatives, but don’t start or stop anything without consulting your physician.

Overall, in trying to transform your life, what have you learned about yourself?

I’m just starting. Sometimes I feel like I’m stronger than I thought I ever could be, other times I feel like a frail puddle of water. I’m not sure what I’ve learned as of yet. I want to think I can do anything, but other times I just want to curl up on my couch and sleep.

Any final thoughts?

This journey is hard, and not fun. You have to want a change for yourself in order for anything to work. If you don’t want it, no one can want it for you.

Reiki

I’m trying this tomorrow. I have to admit I am extremely skeptical. It seems strange to me and I’m not exactly sure what to expect. There are supposed to be all these rules to follow before a session. Of course I’ve followed few of them. No chocolate? That’s not even right. Who makes these rules? I have meditated though and limited eating animal products. Not drinking coffee is a no go. Anyway let’s see how this works. 🤔

Dancing! Dancing! Dancing!

I’ve decided not to weigh myself. I ate like a pig Sunday after my last show and was fine with it. Yesterday,  however, I purged. I haven’t been meditating because I’ve had no time. Back to it tonight. I’m thinking about trying the serotonin diet. Any thoughts? I can’t be addicted to pharmaceuticals forever. I just want to be normal, natural, and healthy. Ugh! I’m trying!

I’m done

Yesterday I woke up and did my daily ritual of weighing myself. I was 3 pounds heavier than the day before. The kicker is, I practically starved myself the day before. I’m done with this. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t let a number on a scale determine my happiness. So I ate pizza. And today I ate healthy, but I ate. I’m not fat and I’ve never been fat. I feel really good about my body right now. Will this last? Meditation and exercise must be working. Fingers crossed.

Catching up

Omg so busy, but I love it. I have dance everyday for a big performance coming up. No time for yoga this week but plenty of exercise. I’ve been able to fit in my meditation. It’s been tough though. I’ve had to eat with my fellow dancers almost everyday. It’s so hard and definitely requires a clonapin 😢.  I hate it! Also been purging daily. I’m so nervous I’ll look fat in my costume. I’m striving for that one number on the scale. Once I reach that number I’ll stop. Right?

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

Ok so much better today. I’ve been exercising and haven’t stopped the 21 day meditation.  I forgot to take my antidepressant in the morning and afternoon yesterday so I’m sure that had a detrimental effect on my mood. But I want to go off meds completely. Obviously meditation won’t be enough. Or I’m rushing? I am going to start Acupuncture as soon as I get some more money. And Reiki! I just need the time and the money 😢. Becoming healthy is so hard. I purged once yesterday and felt better. That can’t be my coping mechanism I know. But it did help. And it’s addictive. I will try my best to refrain. Anyway…..soooooo tired. I’m not sleeping well. Trying to at least not take my sleeping pill. A lot of luck that’s been. Caffeine, caffeine, caffeine! Blahhh! I’ll sleep when I’m dead!