Posts Tagged With: anxiety

Overcoming the Fear

The last year has seen very little checking off of bucket list items, but I finally got one. I went out last week with my co-workers and we went to a sports bar where they have karaoke and I did something that I always avoid doing in these types of situations which is actually sing a song by myself.

Besides checking it off the list I had other motives for doing such a thing; I wanted to prove to myself that I don’t care what other people think. I have an incredibly hard time singing in front of people despite my fifteen years of training and musical theatre background. For some reason singing in front of an audience whilst wearing a costume ad bearing someone else’s name was so much easier than just being me. Whenever I try to sing in front of others I start to shake and my voice wavers and all my training goes out the window.

I also have anxiety which causes me to secretly worry, basically at all times, if everyone around me is looking at me and judging me. Over the years I have cultivated an outward persona of not caring what anything thinks or says, while internally struggling with thinking everyone must actually hate me because I’m the worst. So for me, standing up in front of a bunch of strangers, and new co-workers that I just really hope like me and don’t think I’m an annoying weirdo, was a way of proving to myself that, no matter how bad or embarrassing it would turn out to be, that I could do something that me feel judged, and be okay with it, and with myself afterwords.

So I hyped myself up to do it, to sing one song before I went home to future hubby. I picked You’re so Vain by Carly Simon which was a mistake ultimately but I was ready to face anything that may befall me; cracking voice, pitch problems, forgetting the words, getting lost, I was mentally prepared for it all. Which was good because I forgot how low Carly sings. Way lower than I was even remotely prepared for. But I got up there, and I sang, and it was bad, but I did it, and I actually (kind of) had fun. But the best part? When I walked out of there and got in my car, I didn’t even beat myself up. I didn’t over analyze or feel like an idiot, I just accepted that it happened and filed it away under good memory (slightly embarrassing).

Anxiety-1 shy of a billion, Me-1

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Coping with Anxiety-A Practical, and Sometimes Silly Guide to Dealing with Crippling Anxiety

I have Anxiety. It isn’t a shocking fact, at least not to anyone who knows me really well. It isn’t even really an abnormal fact, since it seems that more and American adults are struggling with some form of depression, bi-polar, or anxiety. I have had pretty sever anxiety since I started high school, and it’s only gotten worse the more stress and responsibility I have in my life. I honestly think I’m going to have an ulcer someday since one of the symptoms of my minor everyday anxiety is acid reflux, and nausea. The big thing about living with anxiety when you are also someone who refuses to take medication, like I am, is finding ways to cope with anxiety so you can be a functioning member of society. I was talking to a friend recently who has just started dealing with this problem and I was forced tor really think about the little things I have come up with to handle my everyday anxiousness.

  1. I never go anywhere that I can’t leave whenever I want to
    1. If my friends want to go somewhere, I will almost always drive myself so I know that at any moment I can leave if I start to feel overwhelmed. I don’t leave early most of the time, but just the idea that I can leave allows me to enjoy social situations more. The truth is, if I let you drive me somewhere, I really trust and feel comfortable with you. That’s the nice thing about college, most things happen within 500 feet of my room.
  2. I have safe spaces
    1. I am very careful to make sure I have a space that I feel safe in wherever I happen to be. At school those places are my car, and my room. If you know me you know that my door is always unlocked, and that most times of the day, if I’m not in class or at work, I am sitting in my room, and that I am always happy to have visitors. This works really well because I get to see my friends, but I’m not anxious because I’m in a place I feel safe. My car is another place I feel comfortable. Often when I get worked up I will take a drive which helps me calm down.
  3. Crying is not a sign of weakness
    1. Holy Cow I can’t tell you how many times I cry during the week. And that may sound silly or weird, but in all honesty, it’s just a coping mechanism. Sometimes I just get so overwhelmed I don’t know what to do, so I cry. Crying helps release tension and emotion, and often ofter I cry for a few minutes I’m totally fine again. So don’t be afraid to. Who cares if other people think you’re silly or weak? It’s not their body or brain or emotions, it’s yours. Take care of yourself however you need to.
  4. I talk to my emotions like they are separate people
    1. Ok, so this is the slightly coping mechanism I use. I find that if I can personify my emotions and make them into little people (Pixar totally stole my idea) then I can handle them better. For instance, if I wake up feeling really sad, I might have a conversation like this while I get ready: “Now sadness, I know you are feeling a lot today, and that you just want to come to surface and express yourself, but I have a long day ahead of me where I need to interact with people and not be sad or crying. Can you just control yourself for five hours and then I’ll crawl back in bed and we can have a heart to heart?” I know it sounds crazy but it really helps me deal with my emotions if I can separate them from myself and make them something other than a part of me I can’t control.
  5. Incentive
    1. This is one of the most important ones in my opinion. When I am having a bad day I use personal incentive to keep me going. I often have things to do from 8am to midnight and if I can’t find a way to keep my self in check, I would never make it through. So I tell myself something like, “Ok, if you can get through all your classes, and eat a little something, then you can go take a nap until that meeting.” Or “If you can get through all the obligations you have today you can binge watch Netflix and worry about your paper tomorrow.” It is important to have something to strive for you’re likely to get pulled down by the weight of responsibility,
  6. The Room
    1. Lastly, and my personal favorite is The Room. This is something that happened on accident when I was trying to find a way out of insomnia without pill sin high school. I got an app on my phone, which Is till have to this day called Relax Melodies by Ipnos soft. It is basically an app with ambient sounds designed to help put you to sleep. Now I’m a person who usually needs complete silence to sleep, but I was getting desperate and so I thought why not go ahead and try it? After a lot of trial and error I finally found a combination that worked for me; soft rain, ocean waves, and wind chimes. It put me to sleep in no more than a half an hour every night, still does. Well after a few weeks I started to realize that as I fell asleep every night, I was imagining the same thing. It was a room. This room was little, and white, and consisted of a bed, a dresser, french doors, and a little window. I saw it exactly the same in amazing detail every night as I fell asleep. I started to understand that this was someplace  my subconscious has created for me to go to at night so I could sleep. The thing about the room is there has never been anyone or anything in it but me. It is a safe place for my mind to go at night where I don’t have to worry about the coming day or stress over a conversation or interaction from the day before. It was just a place of rest. As I have gotten older I have found I can conjure the room on my own. I simply put on my sounds and think, “You are in a little white room, there is a white bed with a wicker headboard. in front of you is a little white dresser with a mirror and little knickknacks like shells and bottles, there are french doors that open out onto the ocean, and above the doors is a little window that is open, that has wind chimes settled in it. You crawl into bed, and go to sleep.” And simple as that I’m off to sleep with no anxiety.

Now obviously I’m not saying that these things have cured me. They are just simple ways I deal with anxiety and stress, and they won’t work for all people. Everyone’s anxiety is unique to them and their life, but I thought maybe by sharing some of my tips, it might help someone who is struggling with no idea what to do.

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The Reason for the Season

The reason for the season is a phrase that we often hear at Christmas time. As in; “Remember the reason for the season!” It’s a way to remind Christians that Christmas is not just about getting presents and watching christmas movies, it’s about the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. Well I would like to propose that this phrase is applicable in all “seasons” so to speak. You see, we are constantly calling the different chapters of our lives seasons. There is a season for everything under the sun. This is a season of singleness, a season of reflection, ect. And I think that is all seasons of our life, Jesus is the reason for the season, which is something I know personally I tend to forget.

As I embark on my nearly eight month journey across land and sea, I find that I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not taking this adventure just to see what I can see. While, of course, along the way I am going to make memories and see amazing things and spend time with great people, the real reason I am going on this journey is because I have been called by God to serve His people over seas. And even now as I travel around the US, I am in a season (there’s that word again) of preparation.

This month and a half is my time to be preparing myself for what lies ahead in Europe. My trip cross-country is a season of prayer, and of quieting my soul to listen to what God is speaking to me. It is a season of wrapping my mind around inconstancy and going with the flow and making due with the things I am presented with. It is a season of solitude in many ways as I travel from house to house alone, and spend a good deal of time alone when my friends have other responsibilities. But I love that God has given me that chance to rest and be quite and alone in Him. As a wise woman once said, loneliness is God’s way of drawing you closer to Him. In fact the verse that I keep close to my heart during this season is Psalm 46:10 “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Most importantly though, I think this trip is a season of getting ready to change. I don’t think that this trip will change me in any drastic ways, but I know my time in Europe will. It will shape me into the person I am going to be going into the end of my college career and the beginning of my life outside of the education system. I’m like a caterpillar making a cocoon. I’m getting ready to change, and it’s terrifying.

Along with recognizing what season we are in, and remembering that at the center of it all is God’s will for our lives, and for the lives of those we come in contact with, I am realizing that God is revealing things to me, things that will become  a part of my tool box so to speak when I am gone. Today I was at my friend’s church in Georgia, and the preacher said a lot of things that I felt were so applicable to my future journey. Like when he spoke on 1 Corinthians 9, when Paul says, I am all things to all people so that by all means possible I might save one. Paul is talking about a respect for the culture of others, about building rapport and trust, and not disrespecting people because they are different from you, but getting down to their level, while still living by The Word, so that by adapting to their situation, you might bring them closer to salvation through Christ. When I go to Europe I have to abide by specific cultural guidelines, both when it comes to the countries I am in, and also to the groups of people I am working with. Whether they be from the Middle East, or Africa, or Asia, or Europe, I have to adapt to each group in order to speak into their lives. I will have to cover my tattoos, and dress certain ways, and be mindful of who I speak to and how. I have to do this so I can build a sense of mutual respect and trust so that God can speak through me and bring His children home to Him.

Another revelation came when the preacher talked about how God meets us where we are. How when we finally choose to acknowledge him, very often we come to Him as broken people. He doesn’t take us broken, extend His grace, and then expect us to wake up the next day completely fixed and on the right path. He sees our brokeness, and our failures, and He comes alongside us to help shoulder the burden, and He guides us back to the path of rightness whatever that means for us, and however long it takes. That is exactly the situation I will be facing in the mission field. If we, as evangelists and advocates of Christ, cannot come alongside those we are reaching out to and help guide them through their struggles to a straight path, then we aren’t being Christ to the world. You can’t simply say here is the grace of God, accept it, and walk away. Christianity is a community, it is a body of believers leading, supporting, and so many times dragging each other through the troubles of this world.

But I think the biggest thing God revealed to me today was about faith. My Bible professor puts the phrase; “Faith is believing that God keeps His promises” in our notes, on one of our exams, and on our final. It is a point he really seems to want to drive home, and it has taken me this long to truly get it. I have been worrying…a lot. I worry about traveling, I worry about money, I worry about school and my friends, I worry about relationships and change and what life is going to be like when I get to Europe, and what it’s going to be when I get back. I work about trivial things, and important things, I just worry. I have been, in my quite times with God, praying for  a release of anxiety, I have turned over a great many things to Him and said I trust You, I release these worries to You. But then I continued to worry about them. Today God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Jeanette, oh ye of little faith, didn’t you turn these things over to Me?” I finally understood that the more I worried about all of these things, the less faith I was having in the plan God has for me. I said I trusted Him, and then showed that I didn’t by stressing over the things He already promised me He would handle! James says faith without works is dead, and I can tell you that works without faith is just going through the motions, and that is not how I want to live my life.

So ultimately what I’m trying to convey is that I never want to lose sight of my reason for this season of life. I will have a lot of fun, and do and see a lot of things, but mostly I will be serving the Kingdom and loving on God’s people, which is really why I’m leaving everything behind for six months in the first place. So live life, have fun, learn a lot, and never lose sight of who you are living for.

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Anxiety, Underwear, and Edward Albee

This is a post all about being uncomfortable. It is all about that heavy, nasty, sickening feeling of being just downright uncomfortable in a situation. This took form in three ways in my life today; anxiety, underwear, and Edward Albee.

I have anxiety. In fact, I have so much anxiety that I’m almost positive I will be diagnosed with an ulcer any year now from the amount of acid reflux my emotions cause me. Most of the time I handle it very well. I know when I need to make a time out and stop back, and while I have medication, it is only for when I am out of control and that hasn’t happened since this time last year. But as I near the end of the semester with stress levels high, and no free time to be had (though I forced myself to sit down long enough to write this), and my coffee pot working overtime, I have found myself more and more anxious lately. In fact, I haven’t gone to bed before 3am in two weeks because as soon as I fall into bed my head keeps swirling with all the things I need to get done and I can’t fall asleep, and when I do fall asleep I have stress dreams about the things I have to do when I wake up. It’s a vicious cycle of sleep depravation and anxiousness. The week before finals is always stressful, but it has been made more so this week by the fact that, somehow, I have a performance every single night. Oh, and did I mention that I’m terribly ill? Yes, of all the weeks I could have gotten sick, of course it was this one. But enough whining, I digress. The point is I’m a little stressed this week.

Earlier in the day I got into an argument with a friend who was simply being unreasonable and rude just to push my buttons, and that in itself set my teeth on edge. Then, while I was outside, waiting for the stage manager for the show I’m in to show up to work on costumes, I was approached by a friend of a friend who, long story short, very nicely but directly requested that I keep my mouth shut about a certain piece of information I have, as well as make sure my group of friends keeps quite as well. It was a reasonable request, but stressed me out because I started to wonder what my friend had said to his friend and if he thought we were all talking bad about him or something, and then it made me wonder if maybe that’s why he wasn’t texting me back all day, and frankly I began to spiral into a dark pit or inescapable doom that made me feel like I was going to vomit.

Well my stage manager finally showed up, ten minutes later than I thought she would, and I was already late for work, and then she tells me we are going to have to wait longer because she doesn’t have the keys she needs and the person with the keys is busy. At this point I was on the edge of tears and I basically told her that I was sorry, but that I had to get to work, and I left. And then of course I felt bad because it wasn’t her fault I was having a horrible day, it was just, simply, the day I was having.

After work I called my mother and had a very long chat about how everyone in the world seemed hell bent on making me crazy when all I wanted to do was curl up with a box of tissues and sleep until I could breathe again. She very calmly explained to me that I was being too sensitive and that everything was going to be alright, and I felt a lot better. But I still felt queasy.

Every Tuesday I have a night class, and on this particular night I got to class and realized I had forgotten my backpack which had all of my notes, and my homework, and everything in it. I sat there, trying to be calm and trying to just focus on the lecture, but I realized that I felt nauseous, and that I was having trouble breathing, and that the world was starting to a little blurry. My friend next to me, who also has anxiety look over concerned. I texted her;

“I think I’m about to have an anxiety attack, but I don’t want to just leave…”

“Ok, what can I do? Do you want me to walk out with you?”

“No, I’m just going to go outside, and if it doesn’t pass, can you bring my things?”

She graciously agreed and I tried to leave as unobtrusively as possible. I stepped outside and started hyperventilating so hard I felt dizzy and had to sit down. I pulled out my phone and called my mother again, needing someone to just talk to me to distract me from the painful weight in my chest. We hung up and realizing I had no more medication, I mad my way to my car and texted my friend to come rescue me, and I just started to cry. I cried because I was overwhelmed, I cried because I was sick and tired, I cried because I was embarrassed that I had to walk out in the middle of class, but mostly I cried because in that moment I felt so broken. I felt so incredibly worthless, like a watch with no hands. I just started to think about how if I couldn’t even handle a week of responsibilities, how am I ever going to be a wife, or a mother, or an employee? How am I ever going to actually have a productive life when I couldn’t even control my emotions enough to sit through a two hour lecture?

Finally my friend arrived and she just held me as I cried and told me it was going to be alright. She told me about her day and distracted me and never once asked me why I was the way I was as most people do. Se just accepted the fact that I was having a rough day and let me be, in that moment, whatever I needed to be, which was vulnerable and weak. And trust me when I say those are two adjectives I very rarely let myself be. I finally pulled myself together enough to drive my car up to our dorm and brave a room full of woman who were gathered to have a lingerie shower for a dear dear friend. Here is where the second part of my story begins.

The thing about my engaged friend is that she is kind of a prude. Not in a bad way, just in the sense that she gets uncomfortable very easily when people make jokes about sex. She had requested that her shower be kept high brow and that the jokes and references be kept to a minimum. We did just that and had a lovely evening. It did, however make me start thinking about what makes other people uncomfortable. For me, I would love to have a night of my friends celebrating me and the fact that, after twenty something years I was finally going to sleep with my husband. (It’s quite an event when you live in celibacy). I would think it was hilarious if my friends made jokes and we played slightly raunchy games, that’s just how I am. I also would be more than willing to show the gifts I got to everyone in the room, where as my friend was not. I am not saying anything about this friend because I think it is totally acceptable for her to feel that way, that just isn’t how I feel. Sexuality is one of those things that I find so fascinating, and that I think, as a culture, we take to the extreme far too much. We either view sex and sexuality as a sinful, dirty thing, or we make light of it to the point where we openly talk about things that really should probably be kept private. I think embracing and being comfortable in one’s sexuality, and being able to be mature about it is a beautiful wonderful thing. I also, however, have a lot of respect for woman who can be comfortable in themselves, but also have some class and keep to themselves what should be kept to ones self.

My third, and final story was inspired by the play Zoo Story, by Edward Albee. If you have never seen this show (and you probably haven’t) it is a beautiful one act that can make an audience cringe, cry, and laugh all in one sitting. The first thing I should say before I continue is that I go to a Christian College. If you’re not sure why that’s relevant, you’re about to find out. I have a friend who directed Zoo Story for our annual One Act Festival. Now Zoo Story is not family friendly, in fact, I’m not sure I would even take a teenager younger than 16 to it just as a matter of principle, but I also think it is a masterpiece. The way the show is written there is some harsh and vulgar imagery, and some topics that are far from kosher, but it is intended to make everyone uncomfortable, including one of the two character onstage. Because it makes the audience uncomfortable, it is able to have more of an impact later on in the show. Because I had class tonight I had to see the show earlier this week and so I was very excited to see what everyone else had to say after tonights performance, since I had loved it so much. When I returned to my room this evening my roommate, who in many ways is much more conservative than myself, asked me what I thought of the show. I told her I loved it and her only response was, “Really?” She proceeded to tell me about how offensive she found it and unnecessary and vulgar. I just listened, and tried to explain where I thought it reasonable to, but I soon realized that she had been so offended by the show, that she had missed the point. She had done what so many people do when they disagree with something, and stopped listening, and stopped looking for the value and redemption in the show. She didn’t see that everything Edward Albee wrote was intentional, She missed the heartbreaking beauty because she was too focused on whether or not it was appropriate for a Christian College. She said it wasn’t because it talked about pornography and sex and homosexuality. I say that it is the perfect place to talk about all of those things. I think the fact that a room full of Christians watched that show was a triumph. I hope that everyone who saw it walked away thinking about how they could look at the show from a Christian perspective. I also hope that not everyone stopped listening when they heard the word erection. After she left I simply texted the cast of the show and congratulated them on a beautiful piece of art that offended people. Because if their offended, it means they had a reaction. And f they had a reaction, it means they were forced, for 50 minutes to think about something that made them uncomfortable, and that deserves a little praise.

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