Post Therapy Thoughts // Fighting Fear

The thing about fear is that it consumes you. Wrapping it’s claws into your mind, it doesn’t let go until you’ve cut off the things you can’t control.

Last week, I had some pretty intense fear anxiety. With new situations popping up in my life, it can be easy to resort to the old way of dealing with anxiety. When I reached the middle of last week, I was so anxious that I broke down crying to a coworker, and quickly realized I needed to ask for help.

Texting my therapist for guidance, it was like the universe aligned. She had an opening that afternoon, so I took it and went into an unexpected session. It was hands down one of the most helpful sessions I’ve ever been in.

Heavy with fear, I sat down on the couch I’m so familiar with by now. Just making eye contact with my therapist at the start, I broke down into tears. She is my safe space, and I knew I could let it all out here.

I poured out all the feelings of anxiety that had been clinging to me all week, and when I was finished my therapist replied: That’s fear. 

She went on to tell me an acronym for fear. Heard of it? Well, you’re about to:

F – alse

E – vidence 

A – ppearing 

R – eal 

 

Fear is false evidence appearing real. It’s exactly what anxiety does to our minds when we are scared of uncertainty. We cannot control the outcome, so we create irrational scenarios that look and feel so, so real to us.

My therapist went on to say that fear is used to controlling us. She said the perfect description of how my own fear anxiety works:

“If fear can’t use anything new, it’ll grab the old ideas.”

Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, or for something to go wrong – what if we threw our hands up and embraced what was new? 

My anxiety hated this idea. She’s a selfish, immature, controlling bitch with a serious attitude on breaking out of my old patterns. She reacts with defensiveness, fear, and doubt when challenged, but she is not Erica. And this is how my therapist showed me just that.

In a sort of therapy exercise, she had me speak as Anxiety Erica. In that time, she noticed that I was wavering in my voice – from crying – and my body language was very severe. Making rapid movements with my hands, and shifting in my seat uncomfortably, touching my neck and shoulders. That’s what my anxiety looks like. 

She then asked me to speak as what she called “my authentic self.” She said, speak as Erica. This wonderful hearted soul who you have spent so much time cultivating. And I did. Immediately, she told me she noticed a difference in my body language. My voice was calm, I sank into my seat and seemed very sure of myself. It was something very interesting and motivational to experience. I’ve come a long way, and it’s amazing to see how much of a difference there really is between my anxiety and who I’ve grown into as a person.

Lastly, she asked me where I felt my anxiety when I spoke during it and I immediately replied with my neck and shoulders. She said that we often carry our anxieties on our shoulders, and it’s a common place to feel in the body. It had been so tense that day because I was actively fighting my anxiety, my self critic.

She also asked where I felt it in my body when I spoke as my authentic self, and I couldn’t give her an answer, so she asked me to say a certain phrase again and pay attention this time to where I felt it. To be honest, I’ve never truly believed in things like this, and didn’t think I would feel anything anywhere. But, the moment I started to speak, I could feel a warm, emotional light right smack dab in the middle of my chest. Experiencing the moment together, she saw me realize this and it was magical. That was my authenticity. My soul, my fire. I’ve been kindling it for so long and now I can feel it.

For so long, the house that is my mind belonged to fear and my self critic. It’s time to give my authentic self a couple rooms to breathe. She needs to stretch her legs, watch some TV and claim that space. It’s been long enough. 

When we ended out the session, my therapist left me with a new way to maintain these fearful thoughts. She told me to let that critic self have her time with all the what ifs, and not controlling the outcome, but always end with my authentic self. What is she telling me? 

Right now, she is saying this crucial phrase:

I may not know what will happen, but I’m going to find out by letting myself be in the moment. 

 

While that may not be your specific phrase for your own personal life, take the time to make up a mantra for yourself to say after you’ve had your time to ruminate. The thing about fear is that it fades, if we no longer allow it to control our minds. 

Greet that fear anxiety with your authentic self and cast it away with courage, confidence and the ability to embrace the new.

 

Are you feeling the fear anxiety? Share your story in the comments below! 

Works in Progress // Andy

Diagnosed with anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder, Andy was growing more and more distant from his wife and daughter. Believing he wasn’t worthy of their love, he turned to meaningless online relationships. When his wife confronted him, he hit rock bottom.

Not wanting to hide his pain anymore, Andy reached out for help. Gaining a deeper understanding and patience within himself, he has a newfound purpose to help others not go through the same mistakes. An honest, authentic man dealing with the demons in his mind, meet Andy.

 

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Name: Andy Wagner

Age: 41

 

Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?

I have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and borderline personality disorder. I also believe I suffer from PTSD due to my experiences in the Navy, but that’s undiagnosed. I was growing distant from my wife and daughter. I started isolating myself at work. Even though I have a wife and daughter who love me very much, I began looking for meaningless relationships online. I didn’t believe I deserved their love. I didn’t believe I deserved anyone’s love. I was doing my best to shut everyone out.

  

 

What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?

I call it my bottom. I hit my bottom when my wife confronted me about an online relationship. Of course, I was guilty as sin, but I did my best to make her feel like the bad guy. She refused to budge. She held her ground. I was in the Navy at the time, so I couldn’t just call in sick. I eventually made it in, and my Department Head asked me if I was OK. I said no, I wasn’t. He then asked if I might harm myself and/or others. I knew I just had to say no, fake it a little, and I would be off the hook. He would leave me alone. Instead, I replied, “You know, I’m not sure.” That was the moment I decided to stop lying to myself and others. That short statement was my scream for help. I didn’t want to lie anymore. I didn’t want to hide my pain anymore. I was so tired, both emotionally and physically. I just wanted to be OK.

 

 

How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?

Communication. Communication is key to coping with the demons in my head. I’ve learned that it’s OK not to be OK. Instead of putting on a brave face, sucking it up, and hiding my struggle, I deal with it in the open. It’s allowed me to discover who I can really rely on in these situations, which is a lot more people than I thought. It amazes me that all of us who struggle with anxiety/depression think we’re alone. We’re not. There are so many others who face the same struggles. Most importantly, I’ve learned that when I’m having a bad day, I reach out instead of internalizing. I’ve found that I have so many friends who understand and share my struggles that I never knew were there before. Just being open about how I feel has been liberating for me.

 

 

How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you? 

It has given me a better understanding and a whole lot of patience toward others who fight the same battle I do. It has given me a desire to help people not go through the same things I did. I don’t want others to feel the same pain or suffer the way I did. It’s also brought me closer to my family. Understanding what is going on in my head has led to a lot fewer fights. I’ve been able to acknowledge what I’m thinking and feeling, express it, and therefore deal with it in a healthier manner.

 

 

What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness? 

It’s OK to talk to someone. It’s OK to reach out for help. It’s OK not to be OK. You don’t have to be happy all the time. It’s OK to have a bad day. More people understand and share what you’re going through than you realize.

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a work in progress? Share your story in the comments below to potentially be featured on the blog! 

Anxiety Erica // 1K Giveaway!

When I published my first post on this blog, I really didn’t think it would get much attention. I started this blog to heal myself through the power of words, and if others related, awesome. Watching this blog grow from four to five followers (who were technically family, friends and amazingly supportive coworkers) to the popularity it’s receiving now is more than rewarding.

It’s scary, exciting, thrilling, and motivating. Some days I want to write for hours and hours, while others I feel nauseous at the thought of it. What I do know is that I truly love this community. I knew of it when I began, but I didn’t fully understand the love that surrounded it. Unconditional love, support, and safety. A safe space where I can share my heart and feelings without judgement. Therapy is my sanctuary, but this mental health community is where I thrive. It’s where I turn to on my worst days for support – you are my home. In the last few weeks, I’ve had some rough family issues and more than anything else, you all have felt more like family than my own. Thank you for listening, for encouraging, and for just being there. 

While a “thank you” in words has power, I wanted to do more than that. Since I recently hit over 1,000 followers on my Instagram – you can’t see but I’m doing a happy dance while typing that – I thought I would host a giveaway! I so appreciate all that you do, so here are the details on what you can get, and how to get it:

What are the rules? 

While you can head to my Instagram to see all the details, here are the rules for entering this super cool giveaway:

  • Like the post 
  • Subscribe to my blog (tap the link in my profile + and click the “Follow” button) 
  • Follow @anxietyerica, as well as the Instagram accounts of the brands and artists included in the giveaway (@the_eudaimonic, @moodboosterjournal, @wisteriafoxshop
  • Lastly, comment on the post with one reason you decided to follow my blog or Instagram page! 

That’s it! If you do all those things, you’ll be entered to win – but what are you winning? I won’t lie, these brands and products aren’t just close to my heart, they are so, so cool. Check it out:

What will you win? 

 

Wisteria Fox  // “Wild Spirit” Bath Bomb

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I wrote about this awesome essential in my previous post on Wisteria Fox, but seriously – these bath bombs are…well, the bomb: 

“Scented with lemongrass essential oil and topped with dried lavender buds, this bath bomb is the perfect recipe for a Saturday night in. Notes of eucalyptus and spearmint are included for the utmost of relaxation.”

 

The Eudaimonic // Stickers + Pins 

 

A truly talented artist and supporter in the mental health community, I adore Jessica from The Eudaimonic! I have both her pins and stickers and can honestly say, when I wear them, I feel empowered. Give her page a follow, and even buy her art – it’s a $1 off right now with the discount code SUMMERSASSLet’s all be sassy and sensitive together! 

 

Mood Booster Journal 

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I came across this wonderful, insightful journal on my Instagram feed and boy am I glad I found it. Run by a boss babe, this mental health resource is filled with inspirational, positive writing exercises and prompts to help you stay on track with your thoughts. As an added bonus, there is a section for notes as well as a full planner at the back!

 

Well, there you have it. Head over to my Instagram page and enter my 1K giveaway for your chance to get these mental health goodies! Hurry though, I will stop accepting comments and submissions on Friday, August 18th.

 

Do you want to win these mental health goodies? Check out my Instagram for more details! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Recognizing A Narcissist

When I got into therapy on Tuesday, it was a regular session. We discussed smaller triggers I had experienced throughout the two weeks, such as the fight about money with my father and even former hook-ups of mine starting to message me again, and not really being ready for that kind of male attention.

However, it wasn’t until I began to discuss a certain person in my life (who I am choosing not to name due to sensitivity) that the real discussion started. We’ll call her Sally. I had been in several fights with this person over the last month, and for me – it’s always difficult to handle.

I needed space, and Sally just hasn’t been able to respect that. Calling and texting me every single day, I would grow more and more anxious and angry at even the thought of picking up the phone. Writing a new blog post on money anxiety, Sally texted me with her opinion of what she read, and it was borderline emotionally abusive – according to my therapist. I was shamed for even having money troubles to begin with. Rather than seeing how much vulnerability it took to write the post, she focused on tearing me down. The relationship can be described as my therapist states,

“They pull you in with charm, only to slap you then kiss you.”

This is a narcissist.

Whether it’s a friend, partner, or even family member, narcissists can have a serious, negative impact on everyday life and relationships. We tend not to see narcissists in our lives until confronted with the cold, hard facts about their personalities. Sometimes, we are just too close to see, but once you do – it all becomes very clear. You stop feeling the shame and guilt, and start seeing that this is their problem, not yours.

After the session, my therapist emailed me a handout that helped me to better understand narcissistic behavior, and validated my experience all these years. The information below is loosely based off that handout by Elisabeth Caetano.

 

They’re likable, at first glance. 

Narcissists tend to be well versed in first impressions, coming across as personable and charismatic. In the beginning, all you see is the positive, but over the long term more and more negativity seeps through.

They always manage to make it about themselves.

While they engage initially, they always eventually turn the conversation around to talk about themselves, their accomplishments and achievements and typically don’t ask about you and your life or interests.

Not all stories are victorious ones. 

Narcissists often tell stories about themselves – sometimes even repeating the same story over and over again – and many times, the story will be surrounding an instance of personal heroism or an exploit. But, even when the story is something negative, it will never be the narcissist’s fault. There’s an air of entitlement in the victory story and victimization in the failure.

The key is seeing through the facade, as they never take responsibility for anything negative.

Appearance is everything. 

While they aren’t necessarily more attractive than other people, they do take care of their appearance and place an importance on looking good. This doesn’t just apply to physical, the emotional has to seem perfect all the time as well.

Making sure everyone knows how hard they work, how much they make money-wise, how much they have, and how deserving they are of it is essential.

They are hyper sensitive to criticism.

Fragility of the ego is paramount in narcissistic behavior. They simply cannot be wrong, or responsible, therefore – you cannot give them even constructive criticism without it turning into an argument.

With no ability to see themselves as less than, or flawed, they are almost delusional in their “truth” of who they are. It’s not your fault if you can’t help them see.

They love to make excuses. 

Tending to externalize blame, pinning the blame on everyone but themselves, narcissists are skilled at making excuses and not taking credit for mistakes.

They even tend to get extremely defensive and then go on the attack – sometimes in an aggressive manner – to prove it’s not their fault. This usually involves tearing others down to make their “point.”

They do not honor boundaries. 

This one I have experienced all too well. While this is more of an informational post helping others to understand when a narcissist might be in their lives – I still think back to my own situation. I have someone very close to me who fits the bill in most of these traits. While I love her, it’s incredibly hard to handle. She has always been problematic with this specific behavior.

Narcissists do not honor boundaries because they simply don’t believe it applies to them. That’s where the sense of entitlement comes back into play. Healthy emotional boundaries are essential for any relationship – especially for people suffering with mental illness. To disrespect that is toxic, inconsiderate, and potentially dangerous for another person.

It’s likely they have no clue they are a narcissist. 

With no real insight or ability to see themselves at that level, it’s likely they will never understand how their behavior effects the people around them.

Because they feel so superior and may even have some success, they’re unlikely to seek treatment. In itself, this issue is a double whammy because the things they see in themselves prevent them from seeing they have real problems that need to be dealt with.

Flattery maintains the peace.

Have you found yourself resorting to flattery to maintain the peace in a relationship? You’re dealing with a narcissist. While it’s the best way to avoid conflict, it can cause you to doubt yourself – your feelings, perceptions.

 

Did any of these situations above feel all too real? If so, it might be time to make some changes. If you don’t feel emotionally safe with someone, cut the cord.

While it can feel like being in a relationship with a narcissist is necessary for survival, your mental health is worth more.

It’s a long process to recover yourself after being in any type of relationship, but it can be done. You can rebuild your life, emotional health, and come back from being lost in the toxic world of a narcissist.

 

Have you dealt with a narcissist in your life? Share your story in the comments below. 

4 Tips on Removing Toxic People From Your Life

One of the first things my therapist taught me was this:

Erica, you’re an adult. You do not have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable or anxious, regardless of the circumstances. 

While this has been a harder one to learn, this lesson has stuck with me over the year and a half I’ve been seeing my therapist. Whether it’s a relationship or a friendship, toxic people are like a thorn in the side of our already challenging mental health.

Toxic people force you to get stuck in the past and focus on the negative. They are selfish, and normally not able to fully see our mental illnesses, the issues that you suffer from every day. For years, I put up with friends like this, friends who only focused on themselves and played the victim when called out on their behavior. Blame placing, projection, passive aggressiveness. Then, after a really triggering argument with someone I thought was a close friend, I paused and asked myself:

Why am I giving so much of my time and energy to fix a relationship that is broken to begin with?

Why am I sitting here doing 90% of the compromising? Bending over backwards to please, and for what? So I don’t have to have a confrontation? My anxiety fears these forms of arguments with friends because it digs into my own self worth, and the need to be liked. I found it was when I pushed past that fear that I came to this realization – I don’t need these people in my life. 

I don’t need people in my life who refuse to understand my anxiety. I don’t need people around who attack and project their own anxieties onto me, and aren’t able to own up to it. I don’t need inauthentic friends who shy away from being real with me. What’s the point? It took a few emotional breakups to teach myself that saying goodbye to one thing can sometimes open the door to self preservation, growth, and a deeper understanding of our worth.

Here are a few tips on cutting toxic people out of your life, once and for all:

Establish & maintain boundaries 

The more you try to please them, the more you drain your mind, energy, and spirit. Compromise after compromise will just leave you exhausted – it’s time to set some healthy boundaries.

Now, there are circumstances where you can’t completely remove a person from your life, or with the help of boundaries, the person can remain.

Give some serious thought to what you will tolerate and what you won’t, whether it’s from partners, family members, coworkers, or friends. When your instinct tells you something’s not right in your interactions with someone, refer back to your already established mental boundary checklist and enforce it.

Reduce their power over you

Part of removing toxic people is understanding projection – recognizing that they’re not actually seeing you when they hurt you.

As an extremely sensitive person who has a great deal of emotion, I used to let most of my toxic friends control my entire mood. The truth is, it’s likely they are projecting onto you the parts of themselves they aren’t so stoked on accepting. See their immature behavior for what it is – weak. 

Once you start to see this, it won’t be so difficult to move on.

Pick your battles

This is a big one. I’m still learning this one every day. In the past, I would charge into every argument guns blazing – big or small. More recently, I’ve learned when to stick up for myself and when to let it go. Sometimes, saying no is a positive thing. It’s okay to protect your emotions and walk away. 

Know it’s not your job to save them

As a people pleaser, I’ve had trouble accepting this. Toxic people are really great at showing up in times of need, or in a crisis. For example, I had a friend who would come to me for anything and everything from advice to a shoulder to cry on, but when I called her out on her toxic behavior, I suddenly did nothing for her and only talked about myself, which just wasn’t true.

Not only is this blame placing, it’s problematic. Solving their problems is not our responsibility, it’s their own. Even in my own breakup recently, I’ve come to this realization. It’s not my job to save him from the issues he is facing, it’s his.

A wonderful quote that I actually heard on my drive to work recently, listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Last Podcast on the Left, said:

“Mental health is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.”

While I never judge or blame someone for having mental health issues – I clearly have my own – I do consider them responsible with managing it. If they’re not able to do that, or at least trying, I have to remove myself. 

 

Distancing yourself from toxic people seems like a no-brainer, but it’s really not. It’s taken years for me to come to this conclusion, but I’m so glad I’ve seen the light because once you cut off these friends or partners who do nothing but trigger you, you make room for all the people who deserve to be in your life. The people who respect you and take joy in watching your growth, and vice versa. The people you can be completely raw around – mental illness and all.

Surround yourself with healthy, like minded people – you deserve it. 

 

 

 

Have you had to remove toxic people from your life? Share your story in the comments below. 

 

A Lesson in Loss // Christy

Loss of a loved one – no matter how they are lost – can be the most debilitating pain. For Christy, loss came all at once. When she lost her father in 2011, it wasn’t something she saw coming.

Recovering from two surgeries with the doctors happy with his progress, he passed from a genetic blood cotting disease no one knew he had. Surgery had made the risk even higher.

“He was here and then he wasn’t. None of us got to say goodbye. I think that was the most difficult thing to deal with. I had so much more to say and it didn’t help to say it to him in my head.

I was angry. I was bone-numbing sad. I cried. A lot. Then, just when I thought I was getting a handle on it, something would trigger another bout of grief. Sometimes it was nostalgia, but sometimes it was more like depression. I needed to write my feelings down so I could let the deepest part of my sadness go.”

First drafting a poem about how she wanted just one more day with her father and what specific day or memory she would return to, Christy went through several different versions before she found her voice.

Wanting to express her own interpretation of the stages of grief and how it changes, grows, her poem resonates with any kind of loss we may suffer.

 

 

Loss

 

At first it steals your breath –

your very reason to live. 

It feels like you’re trapped in a box. 

Your heartbreak closing in and making you feel claustrophobic. 

You can never seem to catch your breath 

and you gasp between sobs. 

Your heart hurts like someone reached inside your ribs 

and easily sliced a section of your soul off while you were sleeping. 

 

One day, you wake up and awkwardly say hi to your loss,

like a new neighbor who’s just moved in next door. 

You wave and begrudgingly acknowledge 

the ever-present nature 

of the new guy next door who wants desperately to be your friend. 

“Let’s chat! How’s life? Pretty sucky, right?” 

he seems to say every time he gets a chance. 

You hate him and his friendly smile. 

 

Then the loss seems to come in waves. 

You’re fine one minute and then crying the next. 

Who knows what sets you off:

the movie you wish you could talk about together,

the memory of a debate about a book character,

the intense need to hear a voice because you can’t quite remember the timbre of it,

the ache of needing one more hug.

 

Eventually, with time, love surrounds you

like a soft, warm blanket. 

You don’t hurt as much;

you think more about the good times. 

You smile as memories dance before your eyes. 

Loss doesn’t feel so lonely anymore

because love keeps you company.

You don’t sit in the dark

because now you can walk out into the light and feel alive again.

 

 

How do you handle loss? Share your story in the comments below.