Post Therapy Thoughts // The Thing About Expectations

Hi friends, it’s been awhile since my last post therapy thoughts. I missed it terribly. Lately, the motivation to blog comes in waves and I’m honestly just trying to ride them as they come. Not push myself to write if I don’t feel inspired because who wants content that feels forced?

Today, I went into therapy in a whirlwind. In the morning, I woke up early and gathered my thoughts into a journal – which I realized was basically full, so if anyone has any suggestions for a new one that they LOVE, let me know – so I figured I would be good to go, fully prepared for the session. Wrong-o.

Just when life lets you believe things are headed one direction, it yanks you into a completely different place. I got into an argument over a family situation, and got out of the car pissed, walking into therapy shaken up.

I sat down and basically vomited out all my feelings until I had to slow down and drink some water, it’s tough business sharing.

We changed topics and the theme of nitpicking and overly high expectations came up in conversation. Whether it’s a friendship, relationship, work, or anything really, I’ve always created unrealistic expectations. This can lead to symptoms such as disappointment, anxiety, and fear in the future of being let down.

In all seriousness, it’s been a big issue for me and my anxiety. Whenever something new enters my life, I overthink and build up these ridiculous expectations that will usually always end in disappointment. When I get let down, Anxiety Erica has me right where she wants me: afraid. Afraid of change, afraid of repeating my toxic patterns, afraid of anything unknown.

Because if I’m afraid, I won’t do it. I used to not let the scary stuff in. But now, I’ve learned that fear is just false facts and when I found that searching for the truth triumphs–my anxiety was shit out of luck.

However, it still occasionally pops up. That’s the thing about anxiety. With all the therapy and tools you can learn, your brain still thinks the negative thoughts from time to time. They don’t just vanish–it’s just I have new ways to handling them when they’re here.

I have fears, and from that comes expectations that are rigid and unrealistic. When I explained all this to my therapist, she stopped me and nonchalantly said (as she always does):

“Erica, don’t make it ‘good enough.’ It’s already there. Take it for what it is right now.”

Now, I’ve heard high expectations spoken about in many different ways, but this was a first for me. Don’t make it good enough. That really hit me. That’s exactly what I do.

I sit, fester, and obsess over little details until they are deemed “good enough.” Not even for me first, but for the other people in my life. For family, friends, coworkers. When I’m so focused on it feeling “right” and “perfectly fitting”  into my life, I’m missing moments where I could be present.

And that’s the most frustrating thing of all about anxiety. It keeps you caught up in your own little lies, making you miss what could be a truly wonderful moment. One that is good enough all on its own, without anyone’s permission.

This is constantly something I work on, and this new affirmation from my therapist is what I can repeat to myself when I feel the fear and need for expectation creep up into my bones.

No need to find what is good enough, it’s already there. It just is. 

 

Do you have overly high expectations, or a fear that something isn’t good enough? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

A Look Inside Anxiety Erica

A few months back, my good friend Grace interviewed me for a project she was doing. She wrote an article surrounding a creative person and I was seriously honored–and maybe a little terrified–that she chose me.

Once I had finished answering her questions, she sent me what she wrote and I’ll admit it, I was in tears. Grace has such a way with words, a way of describing the very spirit of someone’s soul that I felt so grateful to be seen by her. Here’s her article below:

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“I threw out my back skiing in ’88. Never been the same since. Going to physical therapy now actually. 1988, that was one hell of a winter.”

“Yeah, just heading to my gyno again. You know, lady stuff going on down there that needs to get taken care of!”

“Can’t wait until these kids are 16 and can drive themselves. I have to pick them up from school, take one to tennis, one to saxophone lessons, get the dog from daycare…You know the routine.”

These are some classic lines you may have told your co-workers as you leave early on Wednesday, like you do every Wednesday, for your weekly therapy session.

Whether its a sense of shame, embarrassment, or denial, many people hesitate to tell others that they are seeing a therapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist. But not Erica Arvanitis.

Erica, 26, is a proud ginger, a dog-mom, a puzzle maven, and take-no-prisoners, speak-your-truth, writing warrior. Her blog, Anxiety Erica, chronicles her journey with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and shares the stories of others living with mental illness.

I met Erica when I was living in San Diego. She was a recent hire to the company I worked at and, truth be told, she was pretty hyper and an oversharer. Despite her incessant peppiness, we became friends and I soon saw that underneath all the enthusiasm, there was an awkwardness, a desire to connect, and a cocktail of insecurities, emotions, and fear. By all means, this was the ideal recipe for a starving artist but Erica loved avocados too much to ever go that route. So, instead, with a little bit of nudging from moi, she started therapy.

It was in therapy that she was diagnosed with GAD and was encouraged to express herself to others, not in energetic bursts of conversation, but on paper. Erica lived in a studio where the walls were lined with books and she never left home without the latest read in her bag, so turning to paper to help her deal with GAD simply made sense.

A year into therapy, she decided to share what she had written with the rest of the world and Anxiety Erica was created.

Now two years into therapy, Anxiety Erica serves as an platform to help herself heal and reflect on her own setbacks and discoveries. And while therapy is the main impact in her writing, she feels that connecting with her audience is something that both improves her writing and her own journey with GAD.

“I write about mental health because not only is it important to bring up, but because I know what it is like to feel alone. When I was first diagnosed with GAD, I felt like I was the only person in the world suffering through it,” Erica said when I got ahold of her to chat. “From writing for this blog and connecting with the people I have, it’s so clear there is a wonderful community that’s sprouted from such pain. If I can make just one person feel less alone in their journey, it’s all been worth it.”

Becoming a mental health author has also pushed her into becoming an advocate fighting against the stigmas around mental illness. Her “Works in Progress” series gives others the chance to share their own stories, both triumphant and not, of living with mental illness. She believes intertwining their tales with her own will help more people see they don’t suffer alone and will help combat stigmas by showing the diversity and breadth of people who struggle with their mental health.

Both Erica’s writing and advocacy have grown thanks to her readers. Many readers have brought up crucial topics that she might not have thought of and they help give new points of views that she never would have understood without them. But, she admits, her willingness to write honestly about her life has taught her some lessons in boundaries and how to balance sharing and recognizing when it’s okay to keep something only for yourself.

Erica is still pretty hyper, I think that just comes with the package, but she no longer fits the profile of the starving artist. Since starting therapy and writing her truth, her awkwardness has turned into elegance both on and off the page, she no longer strives to connect but does so every day through her words, and she has learned how to turn insecurities into confidence, how to examine her emotions, and how to face fear. Avocado in hand, she is a healthy artist which is a cliche that I’m much more keen to idolize and follow.

Erica knows that people aren’t as open as she about their mental health or even about attending therapy as she is. “I’m not ashamed…Therapy is still seen as something shameful to others, embarrassing, or like you ‘need help,’” she said with a Liz Lemon-style eyeroll. “But what if I do? It’s okay to reach out, it’s perfectly okay to need help. We can’t do it all and therapy is there to support us in our own self discovery.”

Thank you for seeing me as I am and writing such beautiful words. I’m proud to know you and I love you. 

 

If you want to read about climbing, mental health and her adventures in Utah, go follow Grace at @gracexplorations

Post Therapy Thoughts // Time To Trust Myself

Hi, friends. It’s been awhile. Man, I’ve missed you all. It’s been a whirlwind start to 2018, but it certainly hasn’t been what I thought it would be.

I’ve learned – and unlearned – so many important lessons. I got into a new relationship, and recently, things ended with that relationship. I was broken up with again, but this time it was very different.

In the past, when I’ve been broken up with, I react in pure, overwhelming sadness and grief. I’m a sobbing mess. I think it’s all my fault. That I’m the burden causing this surprising end.

This time, I felt anger. Pure, healthy anger. Wanna know why? Because I did absolutely NOTHING wrong. I was blindsided, and it wasn’t anything I could have done. He wasn’t ready to be in a mature, grown up relationship with someone else, so he skipped out. It’s as simple as that.

As I described to my therapist the night of my breakup, she became more and more proud of me. I’m not used to being direct or confronting my anger, so this was a giant step forward for me

I realized, I’m proud of me too. I’m proud that I didn’t automatically think it was my fault, or that I’m such a burden for having my insecurities or anxiety.

We then unpacked my intuition. Normally, I get a sense when things aren’t going how they usually do. Since I’m an empath, I can get effected by the smallest shifts in emotional behavior. Sometimes, these shifts are so tiny, the people themselves might not even know they are doing them.

But, time and time again – I feel them. Loud and clear. So, when I sensed them in my now ex-boyfriend, I asked him if something was wrong. He kissed my hand, and said everything was fine. This is where my anger started. 

Since I was told everything was fine on that front, I took the “this is my anxiety” path. The one where I go to therapy and unpack why I’m picking at my seemingly fine relationship. I told my ex boyfriend this as well, so he listened as I explained to him my anxiety with this, and let me be misguided. Let me stay anxious about something that was to become my reality. I don’t deserve that. From now on, I need to trust those instincts and let them lead my decisions.

I was disrespected by him, and that’s where the next key point comes in. This is now the third time I’ve been broken up with, and it’s never easy. Yes, I’ll freely admit that I’m always the one being broken up with, but it’s because I put up with a lot of bullshit from my partners.

I’ve recently come to the realization that, in my past, I’ve dated people with addictive behaviors. People that consistently prioritize their addictive behavior before me, and as a result, they are emotionally immature.

When this third breakup happened, I was pissed but when I finally called my friend to tell her, I started crying and said, “Why won’t anyone stay?” 

I told my therapist this and her reply was,

“It’s time to stop thinking no one will stay, and start picking the people who are capable of the long haul.”

Because she’s right. I’ve been settling and tolerating a good deal of bullshit because – in the end – I’m afraid they will leave. And honestly, I have that fear because it happens, and it happened in my childhood. All men did was leave.

But, the time for tolerating is over. The time where I thought I didn’t deserve a higher quality in men is cancelled.

Based on this extremely empowering and productive therapy session, here are my new affirmations:

I am worthy of my own trust.

do not have to tolerate disrespect or something I am not comfortable with in any relationship – I deserve better.

I am loving and worthy of unconditional love.

 

No more forgiving because I’m afraid they will leave. Let them leave. If they don’t want to stay, they aren’t meant for me in the first place. I deserve someone authentic, kind and willing to put in the work for the long haul. Nothing less.

 

What lessons have you learned from a breakup? Share your story in the comments below! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Focus on the Facts

Settling into a new job, new relationship and searching for a new space can take a toll. Recently, it’s been a challenge to find time to sit down and write. Even when there’s time, I’ve found it tricky putting the words together.

So, I took some time away. With much needed rest and self care, I’m back – and I come ready to talk about a new exercise my therapist and I came up with surrounding fear.

With all the new in my life, my anxiety has trouble keeping up. She normally finds a reason to unleash fear – an irrational, mean and overly criticizing monster. Any positive, new landmark in my life, she discovers an innovative way to suck the excitement out of it.

In therapy, we discussed my fear and while my therapist has told me the age-old acronym for it – false evidence appearing real – it was time to find a new coping tool for fighting fear. Here’s what she said:

“When dealing with fear, it’s essential to focus on the facts. Fear is irrational and will latch onto any negative thought, so fight it with what is real.”

I had never heard of fighting fear in this way. My therapist suggested that when I started to feel the fear, I break out my journal and write down a list of facts. Facts that are 100% real for me right now. Here’s an example:

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What I’ve written in my journal above is a list of the facts as they are right now. What this does is three-fold:

  • Distracts your mind from fear anxiety with the task of writing it down
  • Forces reality into your thoughts when put it to paper and read it aloud 
  • Creates new affirmations for the next time fear anxiety strikes 

It’s taken me awhile to find something that actually helps to ease my fear anxiety. When you can feel fear taking over your mind, think of the facts. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into another round of what ifs, or it won’t work out – take back the control with a healthy dose of reality.

 

Do you feel fear anxiety? Share how you fight it in the comments below! 

Self Care Club // Therapy Threads

Guys, life has been seriously chaotic lately. With new opportunities and adventures around each corner, I’ve been almost on standby – waiting to embrace the unknown of certain areas of my life.

I had reached out to Therapy Threads – a fantastic, meaningful company that combines aromatherapy and wellness with fashion – to be part of their Self Care Club a few months back because I truly believe in their mission, and the inspiring founder, Dani Singer.

Self care is something constantly discussed in the mental health community and what is so beautiful about it is how different it looks to everyone. While it can be marketed over social media as taking a bath, using bath bombs or a facial – it’s so much more than that.

Whether it’s reading your favorite book, going for a drive without a destination, exercising, or taking a nap – the focus isn’t really on the activity itself. It’s the meaning and purpose behind it.

Whatever it may be, self care is an active way that those with mental illness nurture the practice of putting ourselves first.

While I swear by my own forms of self care now, I didn’t always practice it actively. I still find myself having trouble truly focusing on myself. More recently, while learning about a new flyer my therapist gave me, my first thought was, I would love to share this on the blog – people would learn so much from it! But, what about me? I had to process it and learn too. I was completely skipping myself and my therapist didn’t hesitate to remind me.

It is companies like Therapy Threads that also help to remind me of the real mission. I’m so glad I get to partner with this wonderful brand that has come from such an authentic place.

Delivering hope and healing one thread at a time, Therapy Threads is the product of passion for using fashion as a foundation for wellness. Combating mental illness, their patent-pending aromatherapy scarves aren’t just super cute – you are literally wrapped up in the benefiting power of essential oils when wearing one of these bad boys. Cool, right? 

Dedicated to fighting the stigma against mental illness, Therapy Threads even gives a portion of the proceeds from each purchase to health and wellness organizations near and dear to their hearts.

An impressive woman, entrepreneur, designer, mental health advocate, and psychotherapist, Dani Singer created Therapy Threads to combine “scents of style and purpose.” Making it her life’s mission to introduce alternative therapies that empower healing, Singer is a survivor of sexual abuse, bullying and domestic violence. Spending years struggling with PTSD, depression and anxiety – she was determined not to let her past define her future. Now, she has decided to use her experiences to help others heal.

What is the Self Care Club? 

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Friends, I’m so stoked to talk about this. Not only are the shirts way cute from this brand – these brand ambassadors are kicking ass. A mental health advocacy club curated by Singer herself, the powerful people that make up this group help to build awareness and end the stigma associated with mental illness and sexual assault.

Promoting strength through the struggle, Self Care Club shows everyone that stigma isn’t cool and most importantly – we aren’t alone in this fight.

I’m so proud to have found my way to all of these courageous brands fighting the same cause as what drives this blog each and every day. I could never have dreamed that in starting this blog back in May I would be repping for such an empowering company, but pinch me – here we are.

 

 

Want to be part of the Self Care Club? Click here to share your story! 

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! 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Emotional Reactivity

When I headed into therapy tonight, my heart was feeling different emotions. The state of our country is in complete chaos. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and now a massive shooting in Las Vegas. While I was confused and in pain from all of this death, I had a lot to discuss with my therapist in my own personal life.

The events in Las Vegas stirred some panic and anxiety within me, due to a loved one living in the area. When I found out that she was safe and sound, my fear subsided, but the anxiety did not lessen. I ended up in an argument with another family member over issues somewhat related and regardless of their topic – it was triggering.

I was berated and attacked over the phone, even after I spoke my own truth on the matter. Months ago, my therapist helped me figure out a little trick for when you are unable to handle a conversation over the phone, but don’t want to trigger someone else by just hanging up. She taught me to clearly state – and if you have to speak over the person when they are yelling, do it – that you are done speaking to them about this, and you will give them a call later. For me, it’s usually in less words, but it gets the message across. It’s a win-win – they understand your boundary and you practice enforcing it.

There is normally a level that my arguments with certain family members get to where I know that I’ll have to use this tactic. That happened in this situation. I was direct, spoke my truth on the matter and then I was met with defensiveness and anger. When it reached a level I was no longer able to handle mentally, I clearly stated so and hung up.

In hearing this, my therapist looked at me proudly. She told me how happy she was to hear that I stood in my truth, and didn’t let the words of someone else affect me so deeply. She said that because she remembers how I used to be.

Just about a year ago, this would not have been how I handled a scenario like that. I would have responded with emotional reactivity linked to codependency, which more information can be found on here.

Essentially, it means that instead of speaking my truth and actively letting the thoughts and feelings of others go, I would spiral into them. Spinning endlessly and feeling like my feet would never hit the ground, I would ruminate and let it ruin my entire night. Still allowing myself to feel all of the anxiety and emotion within someone else entirely.

Here’s a better definition of reactivity: 

“If someone says something you disagree with, you either believe it or become defensive. You absorb their words, because there’s no boundary. With a boundary, you’d realize it was just their opinion and not a reflection of you and not feel threatened by disagreements.”

Instead of protecting my own mental health, I would let myself be consumed by the need to help people understand. To just get them to see my point of view. It didn’t matter how much of my time it took, how deeply it pierced my heart, or how it skyrocketed my anxiety – I keep getting caught in the cycle.

Nowadays, I can proudly say I get a gold star in positive, direct emotional reactivity. Well, at least that’s what my therapist tells me. Achieving massive growth in that category, it’s incredibly empowering to know that a lack of understanding in others no longer has the same affect on me.

When I’m confronted by these type of people – loved ones or not – I go through this neat little four step plan my therapist and I created:

Listen + engage – When starting off any conversation, it’s important to hear the person out and allow them to state their truth, so they can – hopefully – let you do the same. Engage if and when you feel comfortable and it is necessary.

Speak my truth – When allowed in the conversation, clearly state your own truth. There is no outline for how this is supposed to sound – speak from the heart, be direct and vulnerable. If they don’t react well, that is not on you.

Assess the emotional reaction of the conversation – Once you’ve spoken your truth, there are several different ways a person can react. Listen and assess how they have responded, whether it’s from a place of understanding, empathy and respect or anger, blame and defensiveness. 

React accordingly – If they react in the first way stated above, then you’re golden. They are clearly healthy in their boundaries and respect your truth. If not, and you are being bombarded by anger and projection – establish your boundary and display healthy emotional reactivity. This can look different too. While my way is stating I cannot talk anymore and hanging up, yours might be redirecting the conversation to another subject or clearly stating you don’t want to talk about this any longer. Do what is right for you in the moment, but don’t be afraid to create boundaries. 

 

I’m so proud of how far I’ve come in this specific area of codependency and establishing clear, healthy boundaries. I cannot state how important it is to protect our mental health and our hearts. Do not allow the thoughts and feelings of others consume you – speak your truth and move on. It’s not our responsibility to show everyone exactly how we feel. Most aren’t listening. Cut it off and let it go.

 

 

 

Do you have trouble with healthy emotional reactivity? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

 

 

Works in Progress // Michael

Experiencing a panic attack for the first time back in 2007, Michael didn’t make the decision to get help until 2012. Living alone with his anxiety for five years, he welcomed this new chapter of life.

Recovering from anxiety, depression and agoraphobia, Michael has come out on the other side a kinder, more understanding, and stronger human being. Read Michael’s full story below.

 

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Name: Michael

Age: 26

 

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

In 2007, I experienced a panic attack for the first time. It wasn’t until 2012 that I decided I needed professional help. My decision to leave it for five years and to live alone with it, was one of my biggest mistakes during my battle. The first few years, I would have panic attacks and be able to get on with my day as normal, it wasn’t stopping me from traveling, working, having a social life. It was always with me but didn’t have a hold over me. In 2012, I went through a bad break up – this is when my anxiety went from 60% to 110%. This was the stage I first started to experience depression, even though the relationship was very negative and a big cause of most of my anxiety.

It was the first time I felt alone with my anxiety, even though I never told the person I was in a relationship with. I always just felt safe having her by my side. So now, I am alone, anxious, and depressed. I decided this was the time I really need to sort my life out and number one on my list was professional help for my mental illnesses.

 

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

Anxiety is now apart of my day to day life. From the moment I wake up, it’s on my mind until the moment I go to sleep. On bad days it keeps me up. My anxiety over took everything at one point – I moved back home with my parents, left my job, slowly distanced myself from all my friends and I went through a stage of about six months where I didn’t even leave my home. My anxiety and depression now had agoraphobia to add to my mental illnesses.

My life felt like it was done. I was very suicidal. So many suicidal thoughts, but I never really had the intention to follow through. I was at the point where I was so afraid of dying I stopped living. Help wasn’t coming to find me, so I found out you could have therapy session via Skype. My therapist was the first person that made me believe there was a way out. After an hour session I actually had hope. The first thing we worked on was my anxiety – how to cope with a panic attack. I was told to accept the panic attack, reassure myself I will be fine, like the other times and let it pass. Such a simple coping method, but for me so effective. Taking my phone out and playing a game is a coping method I still use now. Distracting my mind during an attack is the most effective way to stop me sitting and overthinking and making it a full blown attack.

I have social anxiety and healthy anxiety. The health anxiety always becomes effective during an attack. I always fear a heart attack, so I use a app called Calm and do some breathing techniques to bring my heart rate back down. My agoraphobia is something I’m still working on, but I have a few methods. I used to drink alcohol just to get me out the house, but this was helping my anxiety for that afternoon. The next day, my anxiety was 100x worse, so I stopped that.

My agoraphobia recovery is simple – I have to face it. It started out with a three minute walk to the end of my street – small steps nothing crazy. Some days I would turn back after 20 seconds. Walking with someone makes it easier for me, walking my dog or having my headphones in. All of these mental illnesses are still in my life, but I don’t fight them anymore. I accept them and let them pass. I face them, the more I meet them, the weaker they are become.

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

It has made me kinder, more understanding, and more grateful for my life. It has helped me become closer with my family and I have made some new amazing friends that understand and support me.

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

Talk about it. Get help as soon as possible. Don’t be ashamed that you have a mental illness and don’t be so hard on yourself – you didn’t choose this.

The dark hole you are in now is possible to get out of. I have seen and heard many people doing it and I am half way out myself. 

 

 

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

Post Therapy Thoughts // Understanding Codependency

Heading into my session, I had something weighing on me, and it wasn’t until I sat down and blurted it out that I realized it was affecting me so much. Over the weekend, I had found out some disturbing updates on a former boyfriend and while he hasn’t been in my life in years, I was worried about him.

Discussing it in more detail, I explained to my therapist just how concerned I was and how I felt compelled to reach out and help. With this blog and writing about mental health on a daily basis, I truly believe that I’ve started to lead with my heart more. I care unconditionally.

In the middle of my story, my therapist suddenly said, “that’s codependency.” And it hit me. That’s what it is.

Let me be clear, codependency is not equivalent to kindness. It is in my personality to be caring and kind, but what my therapist explained was that codependency feeds off of this quality.

It pulls you in, weighs you down. A whirlwind, hurricane swirl of that intense desire to be needed by another human. To make an impact in someone’s life. Their choices, their self worth.

Most people have this notion that codependency means you’re “addicted” to each other in a relationship, but it can mean that you’re addicted to helping. Always the cheerleader, encourager, or even mother in any relationship, you are the healer. They come to you for solace, comfort, and contentment.

My overwhelming desire to help others has always led me down a difficult path when it comes to relationships and men. Picking slightly broken people with addictive personalities, I believe I subconsciously had the desire to be needed, to help others heal. It was in this session that I learned I need to let that feeling fade.

My therapist truly understood my emotions, because with her own profession, she wants to help everyone heal – but she can’t. I can’t help everyone, she says. People like her and I, who fully understand how rewarding and fulfilling the other side of pain can be, just want others to see it too but sometimes, they don’t. She went on to describe how frustrating and emotional it can be to see someone’s self worth and have them be so blind to it, and that struck a cord with me.

I just want him to see his worth. That’s what I immediately thought. My previous boyfriend wasn’t the best boyfriend I’ve ever had, but he’s a good person. He has worth, more than he knows. More than anything in the world, my codependency wanted to help him realize his meaning, his purpose but in reality, I have no control over whether he sees it.

Realizing my hurt and confusion over this new notion, my therapist told me how she handles it.

“Once we get to a level where we can no longer affect change with another person, we must learn to trust in something bigger than ourselves. I pray, but it can be anything you feel comfortable doing – meditation, sending out positive vibes, etc. Let go and let the universe take over.”

These words not only gave me comfort, they made me feel like I was doing something for him, anything. While it might be small, I truly believe that sending out positive energy of love, self worth, and kindness can have an affect on that person.

I’m still struggling with the realization, but it’s crucial that we embrace this concept that we cannot help everyone. Even my close friend, who is also a healer in her personality, told me that it’s important to know when to step back and heal ourselves. Learning to protect our hearts rather than pour them out to others can be more beneficial than sharing it with someone who is deaf to the impact. My therapist gave me a list of books with topics surrounding codependency, and I plan on researching them and reading a few. I’ll be sure to give you all updates on those!

Let’s save our strength and compassion for the right people, and for ourselves. We can’t help everyone, but we can control how we use our kindness towards others. 

 

 

 

Do you have issues with codependency? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Works in Progress // Dani

Initially misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder and OCD, Dani was struggling at school and other aspects of life. Finally officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder and GAD, she was prone to rash, impulsive decisions such as walking out of class and quitting college entirely.

It wasn’t until January of this year that she took the leap and sought therapy. Grateful for her growth, read Dani’s story of fueling her space and dealing with her mental health.

 

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Name: Dani Pope

Age: 28

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 was initially misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder and OCD. After, further assessments, I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I was aware of something going on at an early age; certain behaviors, emotions and actions just became “normal” to me for so long and I felt as if I was sinking into a dark hole and losing grip of myself. I would make such impulsive decisions, I was in my last year of undergrad and I literally walked out in the middle of class, stormed down to the admissions office and withdrew myself from college. I quit school.

I was feeling on top of the world and like ‘PFFT. I don’t need this. Fuck school.’ Now, I am actively pursuing my Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and Integrative Health with a concentration in Human Clinical Nutrition. The taste of impulse is still there, but I check in with myself multiple times throughout the day. By the way, that was just one of the many rash decisions I’ve made in my life. I am committed to a healthier and happier me.

 

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

My wife and I were living in Moab, UT when I began experiencing severe anxiety and ongoing depression. I’ve lived with anxiety and depression throughout my entire life, but I reached my breaking point with the daily suffocation of anxious thoughts, major depressive episodes and draining emotional outbursts. January of this year is when I decided that it was time to seek professional help. I’m not going to lie, I was scared shitless at first, but I needed to do this for myself.

 

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

My life will never be the same. Not in a negative way, but in a rejuvenated and enlightened type of way. I have a deeper appreciation for the smallest of things. I take joy in things I easily took for granted before. Every day isn’t perfect, but I am grateful for my growth.  

 

I am more patient with myself, my mental health condition and my healing journey.

I am more aware in dealing with depressive and hypomanic episodes.

If I am feeling a lack of energy or in a low mood, I will not force myself to interact or be a part of activities, conversations, events. etc. for the sake of others. My mental health comes first, no matter what. 

 I am opening myself up to real and raw conversations to those around me. I am working on expressing myself in a healthy manner, without closing up or painfully pretending. 

 

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

Living with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder has benefited my life in a number of ways. I now have an entirely renewed perspective on life and living. Some days, I’ll just want to stay in bed. Some days, I won’t have the energy to take our dog out, shower, put away the dishes or wash my hair, and that’s okay. Every day won’t be a walk in the park and some days will bring their own set of challenges, but I am strong as hell and I know that I am able to push through those low times.

Living with multiple mental illnesses has forced me to take better care of my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. I feel as though I am a part of something bigger than myself and my voice is needed to help fight the stigma against mental illness. I’ve gained a sense of confidence in my friendships, relationships and taking time for things that positively fill and fuel my space.

 

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

It may seem impossible right now and the days may seem so dark, but you will not fail. This struggle will only make you stronger and build you into the imperfect perfect person you are meant to be.

 

 

 

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