Tag Archives: anxiety

My Yearly Battle with SAD.

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It really is a battle each and every year—no matter what I do or don’t do.

You would think after so many years of this same war, I’d be more prepared and aware, but every year it seems to slip up on me, unawares.

It usually starts in late Autumn, but I only can tell that by looking back at it from a few weeks/months later—and only if I’ve somehow managed to get a little better, to climb back up and part way out of the valley. I live in U.S. Mountain Time, and every year right around the switch from Daylight Savings Time, my life begins a descent.

The problem is, though, because the decline is so gradual, I don’t realize anything is happening until I find myself lying at the bottom of that deep well—crumbled, depressed, anxious—unable to even look up, much less stand up and begin climbing.

My Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) manifests as a weird, confusing combination of anxiety, depression, fear and defensive, angry negativity.

I spend whole days wondering where joy has wandered off to, and why I am feeling so listless and hopeless—and so unnecessary and useless, why nothing and no one seem to inspire me anymore. Mornings, as I rise (angry, frustrated, sad), I lament out loud, “Now why am I doing this?”

Where “this” means: life.

Tears burst quickly up and forth, but only briefly, because I tamp them down, knowing from experience that I shouldn’t travel too deeply into that well-known morass.

Why am I once again rising out of my bed in the early dark to start another day? Why am I forcing myself to eat, to get dressed in clothes that annoy and irritate?

Nothing seems to matter. Nothing makes sense.

I feel like I’m in a fog and like I can’t force my mind to make sense of why I am doing such useless, repetitious, soul-sucking, day-to-day crap that only serves to perpetuate my physical existence on this Earth (like that’s somehow the goal? Why is that so highly valued, anyway? Why are we here, working, eating, shitting, sleeping—lather, rinse, repeat?).

I become hypersensitive and jumpy. Everything I put on my body seems to burn and itch and frustrate. I am always cold—except when I am hot flashing and sweating like a pack mule. My skin is dry and feels raw—except when I am drenched in cold sweat.

My clothes are too hot, too tight, too loose, too short, too scratchy; they chaff, they bind, they irritate. Every seam, every tag—everything—is too rough. I tug, scratch, stretch, squirm—have to stop myself, close my eyes and force myself to breathe slowly, deeply, calmly, in fear of doing harm to my skin or to the clothes.

Every noise seems too loud and abrasive on my ears and senses. I jump at normal sounds and shrink from noises. It seems like everyone is shouting and my system can’t handle the overload.

I find myself thinking things like, “This is useless…” about almost everything, because I can’t find good, hopeful reasons for doing anything—it all seems pointless and/or stressful and like too much trouble to bother with.

Then I feel guilty, because I know my life is not a bad life. In fact, when I’m not SADing, I feel my life is fantastically wonderful, and I am happy.

But when I am SADing, I feel like I am somehow babysitting my own irritated, recalcitrant inner toddler who has reached the too-late-to-turn-back stage and is in constant almost-tantrum mode (I am a mother; I know of which I speak).

I torture my poor man with repeated bouts of sadness. I am tired. I am cranky. I am way too sensitive and too eager to find fault, blame and to argue. I catch myself stopping to breathe and calm myself way too often—it becomes debilitating, interrupts our life together.

He evidently has the proverbial patience of Job to deal with me each Fall and Winter. He is my rock and safe landing place.

And I love and trust him to the extreme, blind point that just thinking of him reminds me of why I am here and why I am alive and what I have to do next—which is usually something normal like get out of bed in the dark each morning and go open the dog door for my two weenies (Dachshunds) and one-eyed, feral cat who are usually still sleeping next to me, under the covers in the bed.

Deep in the abyss, several weeks into dark, cold, cloudy weather, I’ll have a good day for some unfathomable reason and realize: “Oh my god, I am SADing again! This is SAD! How did this happen again without me realizing it?”

And I begin to claw my way back out and up, trying with my foggy brain to remember my winter routine, the things that have helped some in winters past.

Some Things I’ve Tried that Help

I click ahead in my Google calendar and put “SAD?” on the calendar for next year on several days in the Fall and early winter, so I am (hopefully) better at identifying it next time.

I sit in direct sunlight with my bare skin. Windows in cars and houses have UV protection. In order to get direct sunlight and the UV rays needed, you will need sunlight on bare skin and the back of your eyes.

I take the screens off my windows in the winter to get more light in the house. Every morning I try and remember to turn off the heat, close my bedroom door, open the window, and sit on my bed in the sun with a bare face and arms. I keep my eyes open (I don’t look directly at the sun, of course).

Yes, it’s cold. I do this even when it’s cloudy, raining or snowing, because the sun’s up there somewhere, even if I can’t see it, and I am still getting the benefits.

I take careful amounts of vitamin D3 (remember, it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, so dose accordingly). I keep to my exercise routine even when I can’t seem to understand why I should. I meditate a lot—at least once a day (usually more)—to de-stress and calm my overactive, over-stimulated nervous system.

I drink water like a fish. I get outdoors and in the sun as much as possible—including riding my bike as much as possible—even in the cold, snowy weather. I eat healthy foods, to include getting the right amount (for me—I’ve experimented a lot) of carbs/starches that insure my brain has the ingredients to make the “feel-good” chemicals.

When I drive in my car, I blast the heater and lower a window as far as I can stand in the cold to get fresh air and as much natural light as possible. I use expensive, full-spectrum light bulbs at work on my desk and at home in several lamps/fixtures—but not too late at night so that my sleep patterns aren’t interrupted.

If you go the full-spectrum bulb route, make sure to research and check for the correct lumen number/count.

Last year it got so bad, despite my best efforts, that I resorted to a natural supplement to help me out. I am taking BriteSide by Solaray as directed. When I went to my local health food store and asked the nutritionist there for help, it was one of the remedies she suggested.

I’ve noticed a brilliant difference since beginning to take it. I stopped taking my individual Vitamin D tabs and only take the BriteSide, which contains plenty of D. I actually feel like myself again—thank God!

When I can come up out of the fog enough to remember to do these things, I feel better. The winter is more bearable. Neither my man nor I like the cold weather where we live anymore. Maybe we are just getting old. I don’t know for sure. We do know, though, that the extreme, ultimate remedy is to move to a sunnier climate.

When, through the fog, I remember our plans to move somewhere warmer and sunnier in the next few years, I am able to get up and keep going again, even while producing and carrying around my own fog

I have researched natural remedies and have my winter routine (when I can remember it through the fog). These ideas are not meant to constitute medical advice or remedies. Do your own research, go see your doctor, get on meds if necessary.

Take care of yourself, even as I try and do the same (she says, from her bed while watching snow fall outside on a cold, dark, grey, windy afternoon…sigh).

A version is also on elephant journal.

 

Managing Anxiety and Why Women Worry More than Men.

DTS_Photography_Movie1small“The amygdala, once triggered, sends distress signals to the other key parts of your brain.”

During an argument this week, my frustrated man asked, “Why are you so negative? Why do you always want to talk about what bad things might happen?”

I did not have an answer for him.

And to prove him correct, I immediately mentally checked-out of our conversation and began worrying that I must be flawed somehow. Something must be wrong with me and my way of thinking to make me worry so much. Is it a childhood thing? I wasn’t breastfed, after all.

I’m just naturally pessimistic? Mercury is retrograde? I’m too old? Too young? The moon is full? Maybe it was the recent eclipse! Is it because I didn’t have enough fish oil this week? Too much B12?

Didn’t get enough sleep? Too much sleep, maybe? My chakras are unbalanced? I ate too much starch? My moon is in Taurus? I lost my keys, my cat ran away, the sun got in my eyes, my shoe came untied, and I was really missing my mom that day?

Oh my gawd! What if I have a brain tumor?!

Ladies, sound familiar?

Enter the Amygdala

“The job of the amygdala is to manage the storage of memories according to the strength of the emotional reaction associated with the memory.

The right amygdala, primarily responsible for action, is generally more active in men than in women. The left amygdala, on the other hand, is primarily responsible for storage of the details of traumatic memories and prompts more thought than action. This amygdala is more active than the right in women, and in persons of both genders who have anxiety disorders.

The amygdala, once triggered, sends distress signals to the other key parts of your brain.”

Ahaaaa! Well that certainly sheds some light on the situation, doesn’t it?

With this knowledge, you are already miles ahead of everyone else when it comes to managing anxiety/fear/worry.

Your Personal Toolkit

Anxiety related issues present themselves in nearly all the clients I see. For anyone (not just women) who is experiencing inappropriate anxiety, arm yourself with this amygdala knowledge and come up with your own personal worry/anxiety toolkit.

When the worries/fears begin to get out of control you will want to interrupt the anxiety pattern.

1. Say to yourself, “Stop. This is just the product of my overactive amygdala/brain.”
2. Do some bilateral stimulation—whether physically or audibly. Watch Melissa’s video below to learn how to do it and/or Youtube is full of great music to do this very thing if you listen with earbuds. Listen to it while reading, meditating, checking your emails, etc.
3. Don’t feed the fears by continuing to think in that anxious direction. Distract yourself with other, good, thoughts or activities. Have some ready to go. Make a list so you can have a ready, go-to distraction. Read them. Let yourself relax into the good feelings for a while.
4. Use Brene Brown‘s latest life hack out of her book, Rising Strong: Gently talk about the story you are making up in you own head and get feedback from the other person to clarify and learn what both of you are really feeling/thinking.
5. Consider reprogramming your habits easily with an effective therapy tool like BrainWorking Recursive Therapy (BWRT). It works completely and quickly. It’s my favorite tool—for myself and clients.

For Our Male Counterparts

…women tend to think that whatever bad thing that is happening now will continue forever. While they often think a good thing will disappear in a moment. We lack perspective since the worry part of our brain – the amygdala – is more active than in men. It can make us lose faith. ~The Queen’s Code, by Alison Armstrong

Yes, I can relate to the “make us lose faith” thing—much to the frustration of my sweet, patient man who is always kindly reassuring me. Thank God he is such a good man.

Gentlemen, this is very important!

Just listen. Don’t argue. Don’t try and stop us from getting “out of control.” Don’t take it personally. It is not personal—even when it seems that way.

Well actually, we do think it’s personally about you, and we will present it that way. But really, it is not. Please extend grace to us in these situations.

It’s our bloody amygdala!

Simply let us rant, cry, worry and complain—even if it seems to be directed squarely at you—then take us in your arms, let us cry/yell/sigh/etc. and then resolutely and with supreme confidence, say, “Baby, it’s all going to be alright.”

“One of the deepest feminine pleasures is when a man stands full, present, and unreactive in the midst of his woman’s emotional storms. When he stays present with her, and loves her through the layers of wildness and closure, then she feels his trustability, and she can relax.” ~ David Deida, The Way of the Superior Man

And when we whine (or yell), “No, it won’t be alright,” say it again. Hold us tight so we can feel your strength. Let us unwind in your arms.

An argument will be diverted and our amygdala will thank you.

So whether anxiety is a pattern for you or if you are simply experiencing some stress/anxiety because of a specific, temporary situation, experiment with these tools and let me know how you fare.

A version published at elephant journal.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

Reprogram Your Habits and Fears.

Death_to_stock_photography_Vibrant (10 of 10)smallReprogram your thoughts and reactions to emotionally charged issues to the preferred response of your choice.

Have you ever tried to reprogram your own mind only to find that your mind has a mind of its own? No matter what problem you have or how long you’ve had it, re-configuring neural pathways your can help you go forth into the future without that problem.

Problems just melt away as if you’ve never had them. It is a way to reprogram yourself into the person you have always wanted to be. And yes, it seemed too good to be true to me too, when I first heard about it. But I have been using the therapy for over a year now and have experienced a 100% success rate—for myself and all my clients.

Reprogramming/re-configuring your neural pathways is a fast, easy way to permanently reprogram your thoughts and reactions to emotionally charged issues/beliefs/habits/addictions to the preferred response of your choice.

The benefits are:

1. The therapy is content-free. I, as the Practitioner, do not have to know what you are reprogramming. This is extremely valuable, because some things are so shameful and embarrassing that they cannot be spoken of out loud. This method allows you to repair the issue without ever telling me what you just worked on.

2. It is fast. The education/prep for the process actually takes longer than the process itself. You can expect to be permanently done with most issues in less than one hour. Indeed, the process itself usually takes about 10 minutes.

3. You get to choose your new reaction to the formerly troublesome (traumatic) memory/habit/belief. Some folks choose to be neutral. Some choose happiness and peace. One client programmed herself to want to exercise, so that she now gets up every morning cheerfully looking forward to her workout.

A partial list of problems this therapy has cured:

~Addictions
Smoking
Porn
Binge eating
Hording
Hair/eyelash pulling
~Phobias and fears
Spiders
Claustrophobia
Public Speaking
~Confidence issues
~Sexual Issues
~Anxiety and Panic Attacks
~Post Traumatic Stress
~Future Traumatic Stress (worry about bad things that might happen)
~Depression
~Relationship issues
~Past Abuse Resolution
~Habits
~Destructive/Negative Beliefs
~Weight and Health Management
~Performance Enhancement
Dance
Sports/Athletic
Public Speaking

This is my favorite tool for resolving issues—both for myself and for my clients, because it is quick, easy and content-free. As a survivor (thriver!) of past abuse, I use it for myself all the time and love it. It is just so nice to be free from worries, fears and memories that used to cause me so much anxiety, fear and pain. That it was so easy and fast to fix them is such a relief to me.

I have also used it for myself and others to enhance dancing/athletic confidence and abilities, so that now I am enjoying an anxiety-free experience in Argentine tango dancing.

Contact me for more info or to set up your in-person (Fort Collins, CO, USA), phone or Skype session.

No matter your tools and path, may you know happy, easy, peaceful self-growth! Godspeed.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

Why I May Have to Break up With Santa.

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As a child, it was almost too painful to bear when I realized that no one was coming to rescue me.

I think in all the attention given to the Divine Masculine and Feminine these days, we often overlook the paternal/maternal aspects of these archetypes.

I like what Sunyata Satchitananda has to say about the King (Father) aspect of the Divine Masculine:

“His wisdom carries a transpersonal selflessness—like a kind father. He is an agent of the divine having reverence for all life. He is benevolent, evenhanded, calm, caring and thoughtfully present…”

The same aching anxiety woke me this morning. It made my chest hurt. It has been waking me earlier and earlier every morning now—it’s the same pattern every year as we approach the holidays.

As an adult, Christmas has always been a time of dread for me.

This morning when I looked at the clock, with my hand over my heart hoping to calm the frantic, heavy beat and ease the pain, it showed 3:52 a.m., and I quickly rounded up to 4:00 a.m., so as not to make the panic worse.

That’s only one hour before the alarm would go off anyway, I reassured myself.

Instead of adding more fuel to that tight, painful fire, I have learned that when I wake up like this, I do better if instead of trying to force myself back to sleep, I make a decision on how best to see it as a gift of more time.

So I sat up, adjusted the pillows and attempted to meditate. I attempted to explore, once again, and find the source of this yearly, seasonal panic. I know it is connected to the holidays—mainly to Christmas.

Being a hypnotherapist, I have traveled to and opened so many Christmas-related recesses of my own psyche that even I roll my eyes when I begin this process all over again, when I think of even more spelunking through those twisted, dark, mind caves.

In the past and in hopes of healing this issue, I have dredged up gut wrenching, Christmastime past lifetimes of being so poor that I can’t afford anything for my children—so poor that I watch my children die of starvation while I hold them close, already grieving.

The good news about all those lights turned on in all those formerly dark caves, is that I’ve done a lot of healing around the holidays. The bad news? I’m apparently not done.

santa5As I sat in bed in the dark, I tried to distract myself with good Christmas thoughts—the magic, the lights, the hope, Santa…

And that is when I suddenly understood the problem. I opened that mental door and Santa stepped through it in all of his kind, gentle, paternal energy, and I felt absolute rage and betrayal at his smiling, normally benign presence.

I felt betrayed by him. How dare he look so innocent, so loving, so fatherly?

In meditation mode already, I took my foot off the ranting throttle and attempted to coast, to simply let myself feel the pain, the loss, the rage—just observing, on some level, to see where it would take me, what it would present to me for healing. I felt, again, the devastating despair of learning he was not real.santa4

Because you see, as a child, Santa was my last hope.

Growing up an abused and neglected child, Santa represented the hope that I would one day be saved. Even as a child, I had already given up on God. All that praying had not reaped one bit of difference in my life that I could see.

But Santa was God to me—only a much more jolly, happy version.

So Santa, in his all-knowing capacity would hear me asking for rescue. I knew he would save me. I mean it was right there in the song, wasn’t it? “He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”

If he knew all that, then he knew I was in big trouble. He knew that I really needed his help. He knew I deserved a better life. And he delivered goodness and gifts. Surely he could deliver me from this.

As for the requisite “goodness” needed: I was good—as good as a very intelligent, quiet and creative girl-child could figure out how to be in a perverse world where the definition of that word was constantly being twisted to fit the dysfunction du jour.

“Being good” was part of the sick, crazy-making game played by the abusers. “If you’d just be good, then I wouldn’t have to do this.”

So if Santa always knew what I was thinking, then he knew I needed his help. For me he represented all that was good and normal and magical and possible.

He was Father Christmas.

I could easily slide right down into the magical, cinnamon-y, shiny, red-velvet-with-white-fuzzy-trim happiness of Christmas, the hope. I longed for a life like I imagined he could provide—firm but loving, gentle and kind.

And then came that dark, devastating, crushing time when I learned that not only would Santa not help me, he was not even real.

As I lay in the dark, trying to ignore the bright clock display across the room, I let the sense of betrayal and sadness and despair walk all over and through me again, trampling me.

It was hopeless then, final; there would be no one coming to help me.

That same crushing hopelessness I felt upon learning the truth as a child mixed with this new sense of betrayal. I had been betrayed by the archetypical Divine Masculine father figure.

You could very easily think that my problem is not with Santa/Father Christmas. And years ago I would have agreed with you. But I have done the work on my childhood and have even forgiven the abusers, have seen and grasped the bigger, cosmic design of this sad but very informative plan.

I don’t want to be around such dysfunctional people and haven’t spoken to them for years, but I am a survivor, not a victim. I have a damned good, and normally happy, life—except at Christmas time.

Later That Same Day

So now it is almost noon, and I have been awake and aware of this issue for eight hours. And I am switching tense, which as any real writer knows, is verboten. This morning I have let the emotions wash through and over me, wanting them to come up and out.

They’ve been fermenting in there for over 40 years; I don’t feel the need to hang on to them anymore.

Indeed, I’d like them to go away—not just away as in still stuck in here somewhere bumping around and bruising but buried where they can still yank me around by the proverbial nose ring, but away as in healed—done.

I’ve been through anger, sadness, loss of hope, betrayal, rage, despair—all because I feel I have lost my trust, not in men, but rather in maleness itself. And I am having particular issues with the protective, paternal type of energy.

And am I deluding myself? Have I ever had trust in maleness? Will I ever be able to look Christmas in the eye again? Will I ever be able to trust the father aspect of maleness? Or any aspect thereof?

These are the questions I am dealing with right now, as I sit and type.

I am searching for a passage inside me that leads to the place where I forgive Santa for not being real. I want to be able to forgive him for not rescuing me, a helpless child in such dire need.

Some of my favorite people are men—many of them fathers.

A Few Days Later

It’s been several days since I began writing this. I walk the talk of alternative healing in my life. I have spent those days meditating, praying, processing and ended up doing some EMDR and then also some EFT on the issue.

I have found that these tools work wonders for me.

In my quest to heal this, I have also watched several classic Christmas movies—many of them deal with father issues, I’ve noticed. I never made that connection before now.

I want to be comfortable with maleness. I want to be comfortable with the paternal aspect of maleness. More to my heart, I want to be able to love and trust maleness—of all types. I want to let go of this anger, this sense of betrayal. santa1

I will continue to do the work, the digging, which will finally, at some point, release me from this annual, holiday-induced panic. I know I can heal this, because this is what I do.

I am the bulldog in my own life, holding onto to each process, each false belief that comes up until I have shaken it to death—until it no longer holds power over me, and I can spit it out, always surprised to see it laying there so small and limp in its benign shapelessness.

I really want to believe in the magic of Christmas again, the magic and power of fathers. I don’t want to be that cynical, bitter adult who gives up on magic and trust.

I don’t want to be Scrooge.

I am angry

I am angry.

I am angry at my friend for dying on Xmas eve. Angry at god, angry at the Universe. Angry at myself for being angry. Angry that now her family will always think of Xmas differently. And so will I. Angry that I have to adjust my holiday schedule for her death. Angry that it bothers me. Angry that I am thinking of such stupid, selfish stuff as this.

Angry that as a single mom, I have never felt financially able to give my daughter what I wanted to be able to give her for Xmas – for 22 years now. Angry that I’ve bought into the idea that I must give her material things at Xmas. Angry that I might have raised a child who expects that. Angry that I never got what I wanted as a child for Xmas. Angry that I am so angry about these things – angry that I am so very petty and selfish to be so angry and so ungrateful.

Angry that there’s no significant other in my life right now and hasn’t been in the nearly two years since I broke up with my boyfriend. Angry at myself that I think I need/want a boyfriend. Angry that I don’t need/want a boyfriend. Angry that I couldn’t make that work even though I loved him. Angry that now he wants me back and that I sometimes even consider it b/c I am so lonely and horny. Angry that I am so picky in my choice of men. Angry that any old Joe-smoe won’t do for me. Angry that being a single mom and independent woman has caused me to become so very masculine in my life b/c I’ve had to do so much for myself that I will never be able to find a man more masculine than I – may never find a man so secure in his masculinity that it polarizes me back into my feminine. Angry at the world. Angry at Santa. Angry at the father aspect of the Divine Masculine who has let me down in every way throughout my life.

Angry at everything. Angry that my employer has scheduled a fucking “retreat” for all employees during the holiday season. Angry that “retreats” are never that; instead they are boring, annoying, stupid “workshops”, out of which nothing lasting and good ever comes. Angry that I am supposed to just go to this retreat and act like I’m okay with my holiday season being hijacked by a fucking “retreat”. Angry that he insists on calling them “retreats”.

Angry that my gut is still leaky and causing all sorts of body/life style issues that I am having to deal with even though I have been on a boring, restrictive, expensive diet for months now. Angry that I can’t eat out with friends in restaurants, therefore. Angry at the physical pain this gut thing is causing me.

Angry that my birthday was just another day this year. Angry that I couldn’t seem to make it more. Angry that I can’t eat chocolate, bread or sugar any more. Angry that my comfort is tied to food so much. Angry at my body. Angry that I am so old and so unsatisfied with my life and myself. Angry that I can’t seem to change my life fast enough. Angry that I am not making more money. Angry that I put so much importance on money. Angry that I can’t just get over myself and be happy for more than a few weeks at a time. Angry that I can’t be satisfied. Angry that I can’t just rest, can’t give up and stop working and growing and expanding – why can’t I just BE?

Angry that all of this is coming up now – during the death of someone I know, during the holiday season. As if everything is supposed to be put on hold for the holidays while we make-believe that everything is merry and bright. Angry that I am so very angry. Angry that this leaky gut is probably actually producing all this anger as it is clearing. Angry that I can’t sometimes tell the different between real anger and clearing, healing, really-connected-to-nothing-and-therefore-false anger that happens as this gut issue is healing.

Angry that I can’t seem to find myself inside this anger – I’d like to be able to own it and use it constructively. Angry that I am also sad. Angry that I want so much. Angry that Earth is so slow and patient when I am not. Angry that I’m alone. Angry that I doubt myself. Angry that I doubt everything. Angry that I let the healing-gut anxiety talk me into being anxious about things I’m not really anxious about. Angry that I’m angry. Angry that I’ve typed and looked at the word “angry” too many times now and can’t even tell it’s a word anymore – thank gawd for spell check.

I am angry.