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mental illness

Today; A Day In The Life

Today was a good day until it wasn’t. I woke up tired this morning (I’ve been working a LOT lately) but aside from that I was great! Went to Barre, had a great class, grabbed a vanilla almond milk latte from my favourite coffee shop and caught up on a couple shows. Then I napped and my day shifted. I had an awful dream and woke up really anxious. Since anxiety plays such a big role in my daily life I didn’t realize just how anxious I was until I was getting ready to leave the house. I was moving slowly but figured it would pass since I was looking forward to hanging with some cool people and checking out a new local brewery in the process.

I lasted an hour and a half. I was restless the entire time, quiet as ever, and very uncomfortable. I had about 3 sips of beer while I was there and decided I had to call it. So I’m writing this from under a pile of blankets, in the comfort of my home, trying to calm my anxious mind.

I always want to fight my anxiety and prove it wrong, but I’ve learned that this isn’t always the best route to take. As much as I need to overcome a lot of things relating to anxiety, sometimes I need to listen to the messages my body is sending me. Right now I’m very overwhelmed in life and I’m aware of that. I have too much going on but I can’t do much about that at the moment – I also might be fighting what I call ACTUAL sickness. These can lead to anxious outbursts that seem to creep in for no obvious reason.

Since I usually react to anxiety by feeling sick in various ways, as a kid I used to call it “my sickness” which therapists immediately made me stop doing. Though as an 11 yr old kid who threw up multiple times every day and continuously felt nauseous, I can’t blame my young self for dubbing it a sickness of sorts. Even my 27 yr old self agrees – it will always be my sickness. But I also agree with the therapist in that I should be more positive about it. So in my life there’s anxiety sickness and actual sickness.

I really struggle with fighting my anxiety vs. listening to it. I think I did well this evening, staying for a while and then deciding the best thing to do was leave. It was a weird situation because usually when I’m anxious in a social gathering it’s due to a person there or a situation that happened there. But this evening it was just that I happened to be anxious in that space. This helped me not feel guilty about leaving – I knew I needed to get to a comfortable place physically so my mind could hopefully find that comfort as well. On the other hand whenever these things happen, even if there’s no reason to feel guilty, I do. And it never helps the situation. I considered staying a little longer and fighting it, but after the long week I had I knew I needed to leave. As soon as I sat in the car I noticed I was shaking and called my mom.

My mom and I are extremely close and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know my anxiety has a lot to do with it as well. She’s the only person in my life who has been with me since the very beginning of my anxiety journey that began with not knowing what was wrong with me, to sitting beside me in the hospital through multiple tests, to getting diagnosed and finding me a therapist. I’m so thankful and happy that my mum has always been open minded and understanding towards mental health. I don’t know where I would be in this anxiety journey without her but it certainly wouldn’t be this far. (Happy British Mother’s Day Mum! Xo – we’re British, it counts).

So I called my mum. And I kind of talked, kind of cried, and listened to her tell me about the dogs and the new fast water boiling feature she found on her 2 yr old stove today. And then she expressed her frustration with my anxiety because after years of helping me with it to the best of her ability, she knows there isn’t anything she can do. And she hates that. Because she’s an amazing Mum.

I had a conversation about my frustrations with anxiety last week with one of my all-time best friends. She’s also asked me many, many times if there is anything she can do to help.

Today, a couple of people at the brewery that knew I didn’t just “not feel well” asked if they could do anything. One of them, someone who has become dear to my heart, was even offering to rub my back in case that would help to calm me down so I could stay. Another amazing human offered to be someone to talk to if I ever need it. And another was just the most understanding, calm, beacon of support and comfort from the moment she sat in my car and I told her what was going on.

These offers of love, support, and help make me speechless. My answer is always so thankful and appreciative, and I always have to say “No, there isn’t anything you can do to help, unfortunately.” But this kindness being thrown at me in shaky or smiling times are so appreciated. I’m sure I can speak for many anxiety warriors when I say that while I wish there was something you could do to help, knowing that you’re there and that you care enough to offer help means the absolute world. Just being there has me forever grateful for you.

Even I lose track of how often I feel anxious because the reality is that it is my normal. But you people who care – for me or anyone else in your life that has similar struggles – you’re the ones that get us through. You call us strong and you call us brave, and while I usually don’t feel this way, when I do it’s because of you. That strength, that courage – it’s from your hugs, your kind words, your empathy, your support.

So THANK YOU! Thank you for reminding me that it’s ok to admit that it is SO FUCKING HARD to live with anxiety. I always undermine it, and it’s probably a pride thing. But it feels good sometimes to let that wall down and admit that it’s a life that is often terrifying and involves constant worrying, physical sickness, panic attacks, and tons of doctor visits and question marks.

And thank you so much for reading this and understanding a little more about me and the world of anxiety. Thank you for the hugs, for the kind words, for reminding me that I’m strong, that I’m brave, that I’ll get through this each time. Thank you for offering to rub my back, to talk, for putting up with my texts asking if you’re mad at me (without any reason for doing so aside from my own worry), and for being so understanding. Just, thank you.

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Just Can’t Shake It

I definitely always constantly find myself dwelling. I dwell, I worry, I freak out. I dwell. I dwell, then I worry. I worry then I dwell. I freak out. I worry and sometimes really and truly let it go. I worry and dwell and repeat. Are you annoyed yet? Because, SAME! This is my brain 24/7 and usually about the most ridiculous things.

For anyone who knows me even a little bit, or for anyone who actually reads these things, you know that I struggle daily with anxiety. Sometimes I think I should be an actor because I can be really good at hiding my crumbling emotions when I need to. And then again, people who I never thought would, have seen me cry or run to the bathroom to throw up. So there’s that.

Lately though, there’s been one thing that’s been eating away at me and I can’t let it go. In every moment my brain is not otherwise distracted, it’s right there in the forefront of my thoughts. Here it is, folks: I cannot let people in.

Growing up, I always thought I was an open, trusting person. However, upon reaching something some may call adulthood, I’ve realized that I am quite the opposite. I’ll tell you about my life, my friends, funny and embarrassing things that happen to me, and even what it’s like to live with anxiety. But I’ll never dig very deep. I have a lot of friends and I really do love them all in different unique ways. My brother always says “you have too many friends” and it makes me think about how I’m so thankful to have the personality that I do. I absolutely love speaking to strangers, even though I was taught not to, and I love making connections with people.

On the surface I seem confident and inviting, but on the inside there is a huge wall up, and behind that wall there’s a maze (similar to the last challenge in the Triwizard tournament) and then there’s a bank vault that takes a certain kind of key to unlock and voila, I’m hanging out inside deciding whether or not I can let you in. But it takes two. You have to have the right key and I have to want you to come hang out with me in my vault. This is super rare though because I get my yoga on, nap, read, and bake a lot in there so I’m not always paying attention to the outside world. I don’t even mean digging deep all the time – this blockade is present even if I’m going to grab coffee with someone. Have I said “Yeah that would be awesome!” to plans with people, or bailed at the last minute due to insane anxiety? Yup. And it stinks because I’m genuine and then I start to worry that people I care about might think I’m less genuine than they thought.

Tonight in the shower, despite loving the hot water and having an amazing playlist going, I was worrying and dwelling about not being able to truly let people in. I always find the positive in a situation, but this is just also a daily, hourly occurrence for me and many, many others. Though it is extremely hard to live with and manage, it’s not always this horrible monster. It just is what it is. And it is a part of me.

So basically, I’m really, really bad at letting people in. But I want to be good at it. Or at least able to do it. And sometimes writing helps, so here we are.

I’m so excited to have been accepted to an anxiety research program that involves group therapy. I’ve said for so long that I think I would really benefit from group therapy – if anyone wants to talk anxiety any time, holler at your girl!! As common as it seems to be these days, it’s rare to find someone who deals with it and talks about it.

When life gives you Monday…

Today did NOT go like this. There was no sparkling to be had, no glitter left lying around.

Anxiety comes and goes in waves. Sometimes they’re just creeping up on the sand enough to touch your feet, making sure you know the ocean of fear is still right there. Other times it’s a bigger wave that catches you at the knee and pushes you over. And sometime it’s a massive wave, one that pulls you under tumbling around, unsure which way is up.

Today is a massive wave.

Even when I’m feeling so anxious that I can’t talk on the phone, I still resist taking calming medication, and I resist changing anything for or because of the anxiety. This isn’t always healthy though, and today I had to push my competitive instincts and pride aside to not only take that extra help from medication but also to call in sick to work.

I had a really great day on Saturday with some people I am so thankful to call best friends, and some others that I’m really excited and happy to call new friends. If anyone had met me for the first time on Saturday, they would have no idea anything else is going on inside that brain of mine, aside from a normal, fun, 26 year old’s thoughts.

But then Sunday rolled around and I was hungover in the morning. Whenever I’m sick, hungover, injured – anything that makes my body vulnerable – anxiety creeps in. As if vulnerability is a crack in the ceiling, allowing water to seep in, allowing waves to form and knock me over.

On Sunday I couldn’t talk to anyone. My own mother called me and I rejected the call, texting her instead to say “I’m ok but I’m super anxious, I’ll probably call you back tomorrow.” – luckily I have an amazing mother who completely understands. Or at least really tries to.

One of the hardest things is that “completely understanding” would mean having the same diagnosis with similar triggers and reacting in the same ways. Unfortunately to find someone like this is near impossible. I understand it’s a foreign world to many, but I’m always so appreciative when people try. Ask me questions, try to understand my thought process, lack thereof, or intense fear and worry.

Today though. Today is Monday. When I went to bed anxious last night I decided that tomorrow would be a new day and I would be productive at work. Well, I ended up going to babysit before work, forced some cereal down my throat and realized that I am 100% not okay. When my favourite little kid can’t make me laugh, I know I’m not okay. I dropped him off for a day of fun with friends and he gave me such a long, warm, loving hug which made me truly smile for the first time all morning.

Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my favourite things on this planet is hugs. You can say so much in a hug. Language doesn’t matter. You just close your eyes and connect with another person in an intimate, vulnerable way. You can tell a lot about a person from their hug, and you can create a lot of smiles giving them. My little friend who still counts his age in single digits knows this without me telling him anything, and boy oh boy his hugs are the best!

I decided I wasn’t in a state of mind where I could accomplish anything at work today, never mind answering a phone, or even driving there, so I emailed my bosses and told them I wasn’t going to make it in. But what do you say? I’m not physically sick, I don’t have anything that I can get a doctor’s note for – in fact going to a doctor may trigger everything further. It’s my first time ever staying home from work solely due to anxiety but I’ve certainly left work because of it, countless times. I’m starting to get better at knowing when to push my pride aside and giving in to not being mentally okay every single day.

It’s hard not to hate Generalized Anxiety Disorder with every part of my being, and in other posts I’ve mentioned some great positives that I’m fortunate enough to have received, learned, or realized due to my diagnosis and struggles. However today I write honestly in my present (frustrated) feelings.

It’s exhausting being anxious all the time – physically exhausting because your emotions and sometimes your physical body have gone into overdrive. I imagine most people with anxiety are the same in the sense that even though I might go to bed smiling tonight, it doesn’t mean I’ll wake up smiling tomorrow. I will likely be anxious again tomorrow but the waves will be smaller than today. Each day this will progress until they’re just touching my toes. And that’s where it will stay until the next wave breaks.

Today a wave knocked me down and pulled me under. I couldn’t just get up, and swim away – I was caught underneath, spinning around, helpless. I needed helping hands, understanding hands, loving hands, to help pull me out of the water. And for all those hands, I am absolutely grateful.

Let me tell you a story

I usually live an extremely busy life. I love it and I know it will never change. It’s part of my personality; who I am. I get restless quickly and keeping busy is fun to me. However, it’s only natural that every once in a while I need to take some time for myself and just be. I don’t usually realize how busy I am until someone points it out to me. I also don’t do it on purpose – I just love using all of my non-working time to do things that I love. This to me is living life to the fullest. But it’s not always so easy.

When I take time for myself it gives a chance for some weird emotions to surface. It’s also when I’m even more hard on myself than normal. I’m sitting here writing this in what feels like a super weird emotional state – almost ready to cry, a little inspired, angry at myself, laughing at myself, but also relaxed and a little anxious.
When I have “lazy” days, evenings, afternoons, or mornings, I get really anxious even if there are no apparent triggers. Aside from being a very energetic person, this is a huge reason why I stay busy – as much as I want to, I won’t pretend it isn’t. But it also makes sense, think about it: when you go through something traumatic like a break up, or death, advice that’s almost always given is to stay busy and it will help you get through. This is true. It works. But only temporarily. It only works until you need that few hours of chilling on the couch – and then your brain has the opportunity to go nuts!
I’m sure we all know by now that anxiety is a daily struggle for me. It’s part of who I am, and I accepted that a long, long time ago. But this doesn’t make it any easier to deal with or handle. Much of what makes me anxious is a mystery, but a major trigger for me is relationships. Because boys are dumb.

Ha! I wish that was why. The real reason is that I’m terrified. I’m terrified all the time about a lot of things. Like relationships – mainly with potential boyfriends, but also with friends and family members.

Let me tell you a story. About three years ago, I was talking with this guy online (from one of those many apps we all know of). We talked for a while and I avoided meeting up with him twice. My anxiety was so bad that when I even thought about meeting him I couldn’t eat, and I felt like I was going to throw up. I gave in on the third ask to go out, and my thoughts going into it were this: “This guy seems like someone I would like. He’s athletic, smart, seems potentially funny, and he’s cute too! I’m going to make myself go on this date with him so I can prove my anxiety wrong, and win.” I’m not sure trying to beat my anxiety like it was a game was such a great approach, but to this day I’m proud of myself for following through.

On the day of, we were to meet at a restaurant at 2pm and I was great with this time knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to eat, so I could say I already had lunch and wasn’t hungry. Already planning and worrying ahead. I stayed in bed all morning because my anxiety levels had shot through the roof. The date was fine, nothing amazing and nothing awful – and it turns out I wasn’t really attracted to him after all. However, mid-date he asked if I wanted to walk around… I said “Sure” – no emotion because moving sounded like an awful idea to me since I had JUST shaken my nausea. Not for long though! We proceeded onto the escalator and along came a huge wave of nausea. As if it were in slow motion I had this full vision in my head of me throwing up right on him, in front of tons of other people and being completely mortified. I stepped into the escalator, stepped off, and when he asked if I was ok, I stepped back on and said “yeah!”. We both (I’m sure) knew I wasn’t exactly ok. I immediately asked where the washroom was and beelined to it as soon as I stepped off the escalator.

Well, it was a good thing I didn’t have an appetite earlier because I threw up the contents of my stomach and then some, and came out pretending to be freshly powdered, if that’s a thing. To this day I have no idea if he thinks I was running away from him, if he knows I threw up, or if he thinks I took a poop.

I couldn’t handle any more of this and after another 10 minutes I (more bluntly than it sounded in my head) asked where he parked. And thus ended the first date I ever puked on.

Maybe you relate. Maybe you’ve been through this exact thing. Maybe you think this is hilarious.

I’ve told this story plenty of times before and every time without fail it comes out like I’m a comedian standing on stage telling a funny story to the crowd. That’s how I want it to sound. Might as well make it funny, right? I truly do believe that laughter is the best medicine, but this digs a little deeper than that. So this version is more matter-of-fact than funny.

I joke all the time that I’ll just be a crazy dog lady and travel the world whenever I can, and eventually build a life with adopted kids. In all truthfulness, this is the worst case scenario of my future that runs through my head to make myself feel better when I’m feeling down or off or out of sorts. It rolls off my tongue like a well-oiled joke when I say it out loud, but in reality I’ve thought this through and come up with the idea that this wouldn’t be such an awful life so I need to chill out and stop worrying that I’ll puke on every potential suitor. Easier said than done.

I share this because I was just sitting here thinking pretty negatively about myself and then the angel on my other shoulder chimed in and said “Hey! There’s NO WAY you’re the only one who is a) going through what you’re going through, and b) struggling in the same areas of life.” And I think the angel has a point here. So rather than sitting here dwelling on things that I wish I could be courageous enough to do, I choose to share my thoughts, feelings, and struggles with the hope that someone reading this will relate. And whether you relate with a grin and a nod as you exit this webpage, or whether you relate with a message to me, it is a relation nonetheless – and that is two thirds of ‘relationships’.

At the least, enjoy the things you may find easy or stress free. These are the things we take for granted and it may not be so easy for others.

Welcome to the World, Just Breathe Yoga

ForOneMinute

I went to the University of Ottawa for 4 years after high school. I loved everything about Ottawa and still do – I love visiting those places that carry memories in a way that put a smile on your face before you even realize you look like a happy goof to the world around you. Those are the places I miss, but I suppose it’s really the memories from those places that I miss.

University is certainly no walk in the park – growing from a teenager to a young adult is not an easy feat, and though I’m now 25 and perhaps considered a “real” adult, I am still growing and always will be.

In my second year of university I couldn’t do a lot of things I wanted to. Nothing was physically holding me back, except that it was. I was diagnosed with Anxiety when I was 11 years old. Though it’s considered a mental illness, I don’t consider it as such. Anxiety is not an illness to me, but a part of of who I am. Having anxiety is technically something off kilter with chemicals in my brain, and let me tell you it is certainly a struggle to live with. But you do. You just do.

In my second year of university my anxiety was the most intense it had ever been up until that point. I had my first panic attack and I am forever grateful for my darling roommate at the time for spooning me that night until I stopped crying, fell asleep, and as my alarm went off the next morning.

But there is so much more than just the bad stuff. The personality traits that I love most about myself come from my anxiety – my outrageous sense of humour, my unbelievably realistic ability to stand in anyone else’s shoes and feel with my whole heart and soul what they’re feeling, my uncanny ability to observe and respond to people’s feelings without their saying anything at all, and my ability to feel and explore every feeling of my own, to live every moment, and to appreciate the simplest things – such as waking up in the morning and feeling normal rather than feeling as though I will vomit at any moment, or waking up and actually vomiting.

Yes, life is tough – and don’t we all know it! But we find ways to get through. And for me anxiety has been, and most likely always will be, my hardest battle.

 

MomandS
My beautiful, supportive mother with my fluffy sister.

So – in my second year of university my beautiful, supportive mother gifted me a yoga mat during the holidays that came with a miniature DVD which had an extremely basic 20 minute yoga practice on it. As cheesy and drastic as I know this will sound, this little DVD and yoga mat changed my life.

I used to squeeze the mat diagonally in the small space between my bed, door, and desk, and I would place my laptop on the end of my bed for optimal viewing. I went through the practice and felt more calm than I had in months. I decided in that moment that I would do this 20 minute yoga practice every night before I went to bed. I promised myself that even if it was too late to function anymore, I could certainly spare 20 more minutes of sleep to feel this sense of calm.

 

Grad
Graduating from the University of Ottawa – my favourite picture which happens to have been taken by my spooning roommate’s mother. 

A couple months later the panic attacks had subsided, I was less of a hermit and able to enjoy social gatherings again. As a bonus, as I resurfaced in my friend groups people were complementing my physical appearance left and right. I felt better than ever.

And thus began my yoga addiction.

Two years after graduating, and having caught the travel bug, I ventured off on the trip of a lifetime (though I didn’t know it until I came home) to Montezuma, Costa Rica where I lived for one month among the most amazing group of women, and the most knowledgeable, inspirational, energetic, determined yoga instructor and teacher I have ever had.

Every single one of those people left a beautiful mark on my life, and after gaining many friendships, a ton of knowledge, a certified yoga teacher certificate, and an appreciation for the talent monkeys have for stealing objects from humans, I was off galavanting the Pacific coast for a couple more weeks before I returned home.

FirstClass
The first yoga class I ever taught. It was such an amazing feeling to be able to teach these two beautiful humans, and I’m so lucky to have shared this accomplishment with them. They are in Savasana after a successful 2 hour yoga practice.  

Everyone said I would come back to Canada and be “all zen-ed out”. In fact I felt a little bit sick of yoga, having done it for at least 6 hours a day for 4 weeks straight. I went back home and went wholeheartedly back into the exercise routine I had left behind – CrossFit and boxing. After about a month I started going to yoga classes again and that’s when I realized how well yoga co-exists with life. Rather than returning home in a zen state, I came home changed. I had found an even deeper appreciation for the practice, and had such a full brain but I didn’t know where I wanted to go with everything just yet.

Another year and a half later, I am now living in a different city than the one I grew up in, I have new friends, a new community, a completely different job, there have been changes within my family, I have more experiences under my belt, and I am finally really excited to announce that I will be a regular, 3-days-a-week yoga teacher. As I continue to explore life as a 25 year-old woman with much behind me and even more in front of me, I look forward to sharing my story with strangers and friends, and strangers who become friends, in my own yoga classes.

Crow pose

My main goal in life is to help people in any way possible; to be part of the reason someone’s smile appears on their face. Through Just Breathe yoga I intend to do so as often as possible. And who knows, maybe even be an inspiration to someone out there!

I hope to see you in my classes soon! Just Breathe.

From my mat to yours – Namaste.

 

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