Monday, June 30, 2014

Anxiety Issues

Anxiety issues. I think we all struggle with them at some point. Different levels, various triggers. Everyone has their own personal experience. 

I didn't think much about "anxiety" really, until my fourth child started having some issues. He'd always been a very anxious child. He had several irrational fears ... water (swimming was a no go, even baths were difficult), elevators (we always had to take the stairs), dogs (I share this fear) and ... Tom Bergeron. That's right - the host of America's Funniest Home Videos. Totally freaked my kid out (those parts where they superimposed his BIG head onto other bodies during some of the videos). Seriously, my poor child would run screaming from the room and we had to stop watching the show for a few years.

When he was in 2nd grade, he developed a weather phobia. He'd nervously check the forecast dozens of times a day. Thunder and lightening would dissolve him into a quivering, crying puddle, but even clouds caused concern. School was a challenge. We had to make arrangements for him to stay inside during recess. I was getting calls and would have to come get him from class when he was distractingly upset. I hung a big quilt over his bedroom window and his room became his little cave of safety ... sometimes I'd have to bring meals to his room as he didn't want to come into the kitchen where there were just too many windows.

I did a lot of reading on the topic. We got some counseling and finally some medication.  He's doing a lot better (he'll be starting 5th grade in the Fall), he's no longer on medication. Although we all watch him whenever it is stormy,  and he still doesn't like it,  he can generally stay in control.

As I read up on the subject, the books said that anxiety and other issues are often hereditary. I looked a little closer at some of my "concerns" and irrational fears and I think they could be classified as such. With the weather phobia, it was so difficult because we had little or no control over that. My issues are a little more avoidable. I do avoid them for the most part, and feel "normal" ... until a situation arises and I have a confrontation with my concerns:
  •  Cars: I hate driving in the car. For small trips around the neighborhood, errands and such, I'm fine. But add in any complications ... unfamiliar streets, driving in the dark, weather, traffic, construction, speed/multiple lanes (I don't do freeways), tricky turns (these continuous flow  intersections, even just left hand turns) and I can have a full fledged panic attack. Often the anticipation anxiety is worse than the actual event ... although it is usually so great that I don't end up doing the driving. For the most part, we've learned to adapt as a family. The hubs has to make up for my lack. If he's not available, I have to make other arrangements or miss out.  I'm struggling even when I'm not doing the driving. Even as a passenger I'm tense and miserable and dread any long drive (and my definition of "long" is getting shorter and shorter).
  • Food: I've also mentioned before about my food issues. I don't know if that is "anxiety" per say, but again, much of it anticipation anxiety. People say "just try it" and I can't. I just know I'll gag and throw up and I can't overcome that. Knowing that I can't/won't eat so many things does create anxiety when going out to a social gathering. Dating was difficult.
  • Social: I was super social when I was young. Heavily involved in theater. I'd perform on stage, singing and acting in front of big audiences, never being nervous. I'd host parties gathering all my high school and college friends.  But now ... I'm uncomfortable at most social gatherings. I CAN still converse with people, but it's a bit of a struggle. I hate crowds. You couldn't pay me to go to a big concert. Disneyland was a disaster for me.   
Vacations are just a total trifecta  ... there will be driving. I won't have access to my kitchen, my home. There will be crowds and social situations. ANXIETY! I've mentioned this vacation anxiety last year. When hubs and the boys went to New York a few months ago, I was invited but did not even consider trying it. With my issues ... it's just SO much easier to stay home.  Home is my comfort zone. I can feel "normal" at home. I tease my hubby that I'm a future shut-in ... except there is some truth to it.

This week, the hubs planned a Lake Powell trip with another family. I have fond memories of Powell when I was a teen (although I don't water ski, or enjoy the boat/waverunners). The drive isn't awful ... five hours or so. So I considered it. I did worry about food, I looked at the menu provided and nothing worked for me (hamburgers, hotdogs, ziti, tacos, fajitas).  Five days without my kitchen, without my home, A/C, bed ...  without my EXERCISE. Like the quote below says, I really believe exercise helps me cope with stress. I need that outlet.I'm sure there would be some great moments, but I also know I'd have some miserable moments. I'm afraid I'd have more of those.

So I've had a little anxiety this past week. Should I go? Should I stay? The hubs is supportive in whatever I choose. Unsurprisingly, I've decided to stay home. It's going to be so HOT there (100°). Even though I feel better about my body, I'm not really ready to live in a swim suit for days. Given the choice, the two little boys have decided to stay home too (#4, my anxiety boy is also a homebody, and I was a little worried about hubs watching the munchkin on his own *Ü*) and even #2 is now saying he is staying (I actually WANT him to go). Even though I feel better having the decision made, there is still some stress in getting everything prepped for those who are going.

My mom and SIL have encouraged me to talk to my doctor about my anxiety issues at my next physical. Although this does feel like anxiety, I do have the panic attacks ... for the most part I'm able to avoid the triggers. I tried some counseling sessions once (different issue though) ... I dreaded them. Having to drive to the appointment, talking/crying, filling out forms. I'd often be more depressed afterward. It seems pills are so easily prescribed, but I just don't know if that is the path I want to take either. Even without the actual anxiety ... I don't know that my tastes (for food or entertainment) would change. I'm just a homebody at heart and for the most part, I'm ok with that.

I do try not to turn to food when I'm anxious ... food logging helps keep me from mindless eating, helps me realize what I'm doing and hopefully stop. I do turn to exercise often, so it's doubly hard when the exercise option is off the table (there are ways to exercise on vacation, but it's hard!)

Do anxiety issues impact you or your family?

Sorry - not a super motivational post for this Motivation Monday. But it is something I need to overcome. We all have issues that affect our motivation ... what do you do? I wonder if anyone even read this whole, long thing. Sometimes writing a post is more for myself ... you know?

A quick weekend recap for MIMM (the Marvelous In My Monday link up with Healthy Diva Eats).  Zumba has actually been really good for me and my anxiety issues. I've pushed myself to try new classes, driving to new locations (carefully mapquested out beforehand) and meeting new people. I went to a new class on Friday morning! Saturday, there was a neighborhood social. Even with people I know, it can be an uncomfortable situation for me. I did go, and pushed myself to talk to people and I actually enjoyed it. Sunday, we went to a big family gathering. It did require a drive on the freeway (I was just a passenger) and crowds, and food that didn't necessarily work for me. Again, I did fine and enjoyed it. Baby steps!


  1. Jen,

    I think it is great that you wrote on this topic because it is real!!! I have struggled with fear and anxiety for a long time. I remember worrying about something happening to my mom and pacing the floor for hours until she got home. I have used medication at times, and I have been in counseling. It helped, but it didn't take away the anxiety or fear. I finally ended up getting off medication. For me what has really helped has been prayer, meditation, and acceptance. Acceptance that this fear is a part of me. I use to try to make it go away, and maybe someday it will. For now, however, I just try to be friends with it so to speak. I do that in several ways. I acknowledge the fear, if there are practical things I can do to ease the fear I do them (such as plan a driving route in advance, not turning in front of traffic, not watching the news), and then if fear still exists I try to continually get myself back in the present moment. Fear cannot exist when we are living in the present moment (but staying there is hard as heck for me). The other thing that has helped me over the past few months was that I read something once in this book called fear, and it had these five statements that we should make to ourselves each day. The book was called Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting through the Storm. The statements were as follows: 1) I am of the nature to die. There is nothing I can do to escape death. 2) I am of the nature to have ill health. There is nothing I can do to escape ill health. 3) I am of the nature grow old. There is nothing I can do to escape growing old. 4) Everything that I love and hold dear is of the nature to change. There is nothing I can do escape the fact that eventually I will be separated from the things I hold dear. 5.) I inherit the results of my acts of my body, speech, and my mind. My actions are my continuation. I know some of those things seem like they would have the opposite impact, but they helped me begin to accept life on life's terms. I know I wrote a lot here, but I just relate so much to your post. I am not saying any of this will help your situation, but just wanted to say that I think we can find peace even in the fear. I try to find the good aspects of my fear. Sorry I rambled a lot :)

    1. Thanks for taking the time to reply. There are the things I can do to cope, and I am able to avoid things for the most part ... then it rears it's ugly head. Besides the anxiety and the feels that creates, then it does go into a spiral of self-loathing as I feel worthless and abnormal. No one really get after me, making me feel bad except myself ... but I can sure do a good job of it!

    2. I know what you mean. I hate those feelings of worthlessness and feeling different from everybody else. I am like you in that it seems to have gotten worse as I have gotten older. But I will say the last few months have been better. I just keep focusing myself on the present moment. Anyway, sending hugs your way :)

  2. I don't suffer from anxiety issues, but I've had a few friends who have and I know from watching them things are hard to overcome. One of my friends received a great tip, and they told her just to do one thing each day that makes her feel uneasy, just one and it doesn't matter if it is little or small. That has helped her quite a bit to come out a little more and not get overwelmed.
    As for the food, I don't have anxiety, but I am the pickiest eater, when I go to new places or to eat at peoples houses I don't think I want to eat the food, this will sound terrible, but I tell them I have major food allergies. It pretty much gets me out of it, LOL I know terrible, but its that or be sick to my stomach at the thought of eating something I dont like.

    1. ... and besides not wanting to eat something (for fear of being sick), but when I'm counting every calories, I want to ENJOY ever calorie! I know that isn't necessarily the best way to approach food, that some food (especially good for you food) will only be an acquired taste for everyone ... but that is how I feel. I'm been picky for so long, and I'm actually rarely in situations where I'm actually put on the spot to try something. It's never really been made into too big of a deal ... :)

  3. Replies
    1. You are very sweet to put up with me and all my issues! :) ♥U

  4. Oh Jen, where to start?! This post really hit it home. And the fact that your son started having these anxieties at such a young age almost made me cry. Because I so get that, I've lived with anxieties ever since I can remember but when I was a kid I never ever talked to anyone about it. So glad to hear that he has his family's support and love. I know my mother would have done the same but to me talking about it was akin to making all my fears come true. So I kept it all to myself for many years.

    My anxieties center mostly around terminal illness, tornadoes (bad weather) and wars - all things that are pretty much out of my control. I also don't like elevators and will only use them if I absolutely have to and then only if someone is with me. Interestingly glass elevators are fine. About 15 years ago I also developed fear of flying which is the most irrational of all fears as I used to be a flight attendant and have spent many thousands of hours on planes. I have actually canceled vacations because of this which always makes me feel awful because I feel like I am "chickening out." Thankfully I also have a very supportive and understanding husband, that helps a lot.

    It is interesting what you say about anxieties being hereditary because mental disorders such as neurosis are prevalent on both sides of my family. My mother hasn't driven a car in more than 20 years because of anxiety, luckily she lives in a big city where she can use her bicycle and public transport to get around.

    Eating has always been my "safe room", it's how I numb my anxieties. Which is why it's so hard for me to feel more neutral about food and to not view it as my safe keeper.

    I find that I feel better about my anxieties the more I face them. "Feel the fear and do it anyway" has been my mantra for many years. Becoming active and doing things rather than being lethargic and stuffing myself also helps. I also like what Leslie says about accepting our anxieties as a part of who we are. And lastly, I am more open about my anxieties these days, I no longer hide them inside. THAT is helping a lot and I will for instance ask a stranger to ride in the elevator with me and no-one has ever made me feel bad for that.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!



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