I wrote in my last post about how I was going to wean off of caffeine and nicotine. So far, I have significantly reduced my caffeine intake. I am down to a half a cup of tea per day. Not bad! Very excited that I haven’t triggered any migraines as well.
I have been cigarette free for 4 days now. Using the gum and smokeless device, so not completely nicotine free yet, but feel so much “cleaner” than when I smoked the real things (due to the taste, smell, etc.)
Feeling calm and encouraged. More to come…
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I’ve suffered severe multiple migraine pains this week, knowing that stress, a milk allergy and hormones are to blame. As I reflected on this I started to wonder to what degree other outside factors, such as nicotine and caffeine, are affecting the way I feel physically, mentally and emotionally throughout the day.
I find myself feeling sick after my morning coffee and cigarette. I experience flu-like symptoms everyday starting around three o’clock and lasting through dinner. I’m trying to lose weight and believe the light-headedness and fatigue, achiness and depression are the results of low blood sugar levels during this time of the day. I also suspect that caffeine withdrawal is at work here.
I really want to be caffeine and nicotine free so that I can be more mindful of my body and mind’s sensations without the influence of these drugs (and more so, their unpleasant withdrawal effects.)
So, wish me luck as I wean myself off. I pray that the migraines stay away.
Have you ever been addicted to nicotine, caffeine, alcohol or other drugs and were able to quit? How did it affect your mental illness? Or if you are still using, what effects (negative and/or positive) do they have on your moods?
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Hi, guys. Here is a very short video post on the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Distress Tolerance skill (developed by Marsha Linehan) called Self-Soothe through Five Senses.
After watching the video, let me know what you do to soothe your senses by leaving a comment below. Thanks, and I hope you have a soothing day!
Hi, everyone. Here is a video post on the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Distress Tolerance skill of “Distracting.”
Racing thoughts. Obsessive compulsive behaviors, such as cleaning, organizing, exercising. Increased negative coping behaviors, such as overeating, smoking, and drinking. Physical pains, such as upset stomach, migraines, muscle aches and fatigue. Early morning waking. Increased irritability. Forgetfulness. Tightening chest. Racing heart rate – literally hearing my heart pounding in my ears. Shallow, rapid breaths. Dissociation or feelings of having an “out-of-body” experience.
These are common occurrences for those of us with anxiety disorders. This week, I experienced all of them (except for the drinking.) Only after forcing myself to sit down long enough to do some journaling was I able to identify the source of my anxiety…
There is always a cause for anxiety. Did you know that? It just doesn’t come because “we are crazy.” There is always a root cause, and it serves me well to sit down and face the fear of finding out what it is, because once I realize what is causing it, I can deal with it, and the symptoms will subside.
Sometimes finding the cause isn’t as simple as it can be with straight-forward Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms, which are caused by specific events such as accidents and natural disasters. Sometimes the events are actually an accumulation of events occurring over a period of months or years, where the person is subject to long-term, repeated trauma as in the case of child abuse. In such cases, the term “Complex PTSD” is often used even though it is not officially a diagnosis included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
This week my three-day anxiety attack which culminated into a full-blown panic attack was triggered by a few things. First of all, I posted my BPD story last weekend, which set my anxiety level higher than normal, but in and of itself didn’t cause me too much stress. However, add that to the fact that on two different occasions last week I unexpectedly ran into different individuals with whom I went to high school, and then the kicker was an unplanned evening of looking through my high school yearbooks (at my daughter’s request.) She wanted to see what her dad and I were like back in the day, and I didn’t think twice about taking a trip down memory lane. Next time I will.
High school was a very traumatic time for me. My parents’ alcoholism was at its peak; dysfunction and emotional abuse and neglect were at an all time high in our home. Memories of those years are clouded with my own drunken states filled with self-harm behaviors and untreated bipolar and borderline personality disorder symptoms, which I talk about in great detail in this video post.
Before going to bed that evening, I made a passing comment to my husband about feeling a little anxious after looking through those yearbook, and then I thought nothing more of it.
Three days later, I had my first panic attack in many, many months.
After quickly figuring out the cause of my anxiety (due only to writing about my feelings, which is why “Write into the Light” is my mantra) I began to ask myself many questions:
- Is knowing the cause of my anxiety enough to make it go away?
- Do I need to worry that these memories triggered me the way they did?
- Is this a sign that I need to work out some more stuff in therapy with my counselor, who I haven’t needed to see in six months now?
- Does this mean I am not healed all the way like I thought I was?
Healthy Coping Skills
I was a mess at this point. But, here are the skills I used to cope with my state of mind at the time. My hope in sharing these is that it will give you some ideas to try when you find yourself experiencing extreme anxiety.
First, I left messages for two friends who I knew would understand, and I also left a message for my therapist.
Next, I tried sitting with and observing my feelings, thoughts, and body sensations without judgment; trying not to push anything away nor hang onto anything. Just noticing and observing as if I was an outsider looking in.
I tried soothing myself by rubbing scented lotion on my arms and hands, which didn’t help much.
Then I decided to call my doctor to get an emergency refill of my PRN anti-anxiety medication. Luckily, the pharmacy filled it in ten minutes and also luckily, my husband was due home for his lunch break and was able to pick it up on his way.
While waiting, I wrapped myself in a warm blanket and sat in a fetal position on the couch in a quiet room. This helped calm me immensely.
I also said some simple prayers.
I took my medication at the same time my therapist called back. After telling her what happened, she said that I might need to try some “exposure therapy” meaning that I look at the yearbooks when I am in a good place emotionally and mentally, and even then only for a short time, and maybe not with my young daughters.
I made the comment to her that I thought I had gotten past this part of my life, that my negative feelings about it were gone. She said they are always going to be there; that the goal is not to get rid of the bad memories, which is impossible, but to instead integrate them. Integration is the goal. (Integration: The organization of the psychological traits and tendencies of a personality into a harmonious whole.)
She also said that I should try to dig up a few good memories from that time. She said they are probably there, but are just overshadowed by the bad ones. At first I didn’t think she was right, but then I made a conscious effort to get out of my black and white/all or nothing thinking, and started thinking dialectically – where good and bad memories can co-exist. And guess what? She was right!
When you’re anxious do you dig deep to find out what the root cause is? It may be something more than what it appears to be on the surface.
What physical symptoms do you have when you are feeling anxious? Do you take the time to sit and notice your body’s sensations and your mind’s thoughts during these times? Why or why not?
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Until next time…
There are several reasons why I choose to maintain my anonymity on this mental illness blog.
The primary reason is to avoid hurting family members, specifically my parents. Many of my mental illness symptoms, in particular my anxiety, are directly related to childhood events. For me to publicly identify myself while revealing facts about my upbringing would be harmful to my parents and other family members.
Even though there are benefits of adding my face and real name to the content of this blog, such as increased credibility and to support the cause for an end to the mental illness stigma, I will not do so at the expense of another’s peace of mind and privacy.
The second biggest reason I choose to maintain my anonymity is to maintain a sense of humbleness to my message. Money, power, and prestige are not my goals. Sharing what it is like to have mental illnesses and what I do to strive for healing and peace are my goals, with the hope to inspire others struggling with similar issues.
My greatest wish is that no one ever feels like they are unique. People need to know that they are not the only ones who feel the way they do, that someone else understands how they feel and has gone through what they are going through.
Another reason I choose to maintain my anonymity is because just as I would not announce at my job or highschool reunion or in a restaurant, whether it be to a large group of people or just one or two persons I didn’t know well, that I have a mental illness, why should I do so online?
I tell those whom I am close to, to those whom I trust, when the time is appropriate and when I believe it would be helpful to the situation. Anything beyond this is not necessary for me.
This is what works for me. It may be the same, or different, for you. What are your thoughts on online anonymity and mental illness?
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Today, I watched the movie Greenberg, which was released back in 2010, but I had never seen it until now. It is about a 40-year-old man named Roger Greenberg (played by Ben Stiller) who recently suffered a “nervous breakdown”, and takes some time away from his New York life to house-sit for his brother in L.A.
My educated guess is that Greenberg is bipolar, although a brief “stay in a mental hospital” is all that is mentioned. His erratic behavior, self-obsession, hypercriticism, mania, impulsivity, and anger issues cause many problems in his relationships with others and with his own peace of mind. Sound familiar?
He hooks up with his brother’s assistant, Florence, a passive somewhat flighty 25-year-old, who offered the most memorable line in the movie for me as she was talking to her friend about Greenberg:
“You can tell that a lot of normal stuff is really hard for him.”
…like maintaining friendships, hosting a get-together, shopping, driving, and taking care of the family dog when it becomes ill, to name a few.
As big of an A-hole as this Greenberg could be, I felt bad for him because a lot of normal stuff is really hard for me, too, and I often get frustrated with myself…the same way Greenberg’s brother and friends get with him for “not trying harder” or “not being able to control his emotional outbursts” or “obsessing over things.”
Florence seems to see beyond Greenberg’s neurotic behaviors. She sees him not as the jerk he is on the outside, but as a person who is victim to a disease he can’t completely control.
It was a weird movie that left me feeling unsettled because it wasn’t one of those feel-good endings like he conquered all of his demons and was cured. He was still the same…just a bit more grounded with her in his life.
This post isn’t meant to be a movie review. It is meant to process the take away message I gathered, which is that Greenberg’s an ass because he has a mental illness and he’s lucky he found someone who understands that.
Seems rather depressing to me, but is this reality for some of us…if we are lucky?
What are your thoughts? How many rude, obnoxious, mean people do you know? Have you ever considered the fact that they may have a mental illness whose symptoms are flaring up? And that if they didn’t have a mental illness, they might be fairly tolerable and decent to people the majority of the time? Is mental illness an excuse for bad behavior or merely an explanation, or both?