Food, Sleep & Anxiety

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Mmmm soup.

One thing that I am happy to say I learned long ago about anxiety is that it is not to be messed with on an empty stomach – nor even on a stomach full of brownies because as tasty as that is, to your anxiety addled brain, that’s really no kinder. When I can be motivated to do it, I love making healthy colourful soups and stews. When I can’t and I have to order in, I try sticking with healthy stir fry’s or supplementing pizza and such with vegetarian protein like veggie burgers, tofurky, and “chick’n nuggets”. It took me about two confused, bumbling,  malnutritioned years and my hair starting to fall out to realize this one, so if there is anyone this could help, I will say it!!

Please be kind to yourself, mind and body. When thinking about food and exercise, the question, in my humble opinion, should always be, “what is the kindest thing I can do for my body? What will make me feel my best? What can I add to my life? (rather than take away)”. Trying to change eating or activity habits, again in my humble opinion, from a place of shame never never never ends well.
I have been thinking about this because lately, mid-panic attack I have started to see my body in frightening ways. My mind will actually distort my appearance, and I become very ashamed. I’m worried. I do not want to change my lifestyle in response to the sense of shame, to the distorted image I see in the mirror mid-panic attack thanks to the cocktail of hormones that comes with it. I must remember that nothing is as it seems mid-panic attack. Still it haunts me a bit, the way (speaking as a person with no drug-related experiences) a drug user may be haunted by a bad trip – I learned that in 9th grade health class and have no further insight into psychedelic drugs, so I may be completely wrong likening the two, haha.

I had several panic attacks within the context of a nightmare last night. I’m also having trouble with flashbacks from this.

I guess my ending point is simply this – things will unsettle us, especially those of us with anxiety. The best we can do is to make ourselves as resilient to what life throws at us as possible. Eating nutritiously is one simple (and delicious!) tool that I treasure – and want to share.

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Into the Jaws of Self-Doubt Doom…

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To me, doom is the sketchy area under my sink where all the water from the counter drains. It has probably become a subterranean swamp by now, but its too dark to see or I’m too chicken to properly investigate. Call me back please landlord….

“You learned your anxiety like riding a bike, like…learning to type. You learned it and the connections got stronger and stronger. One thought to the next to the next to DOOM. Now, you have to learn something different. When you’re having an anxiety moment, you’re going to have to stop and pull out a different thought from your back pocket. Stop and say, thinking this way is not helping me right now.”

The nice psychologist explains, and I swallow the lump in my throat.

I do, I do get the gist. But friends, do you know what I focused on in that sentence? Haha.

I don’t know how to type. Or ride a bike. I’m afraid to try because it’s been so long that I haven’t learned to do it that I feel like it will never get done. Kind of like my coursework that’s long overdue…

And suddenly, see, I was having an anxiety moment. But how could I interrupt? This lady was imparting her wisdom to me (for a fee..one arm plus one leg).

Before she turns to make the next appointment, she stops and looks at me.

“Does this sound too overwhelming? You look a little unwell.” She asks.

“No it’s just..some of the things you were saying sort of…made me a bit anxious..” I shot her a weak grin.

And of course, that was all the time we had for today, haha.

If you were wondering about my therapy homework, it was gym, yoga, and reconnecting with friends essentially, last week. This week I’ve got something innnnteresting – mapping out those automatic thoughts that I jump through like a frog on lilypads before hopping directly into the snake’s jaws of self-doubting doom. I’m curious, would anyone like to know about mine and how the process of learning to interrupt them pans out? If no one answers I might keep it to myself – I don’t want to be oversharing and making anyone uncomfortable!

– C.

Peace at the end of the day.

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Last night, laying in bed, I remembered many things. It’s funny the memories anxiety brain can pull out! Were you ever insecure, ever shy or shamed, ever fearful or shunted from the group? Anxiety brain will track down that memory for ya, donnworryabouddit. 

Do you want to know what those things were for me? *TRIGGER WARNING*.

Well, it was little things that I thought about, as I successfully(! :)) deep-breathed and journaled my way to sleep. I remembered being the last kid to leave my classroom for recess or lunch time. It was third grade. It didn’t seem to matter to my teacher that this was the ONLY thing I did slowly, that I won awards for my grades every year. All that seemed to matter in that moment was that I was late getting my things together. In a flush of shame, I felt that in the moment that was me, all of me – a slow girl.

Wacky, eh?! The things anxiety drags behind it as it runs through your brain. But it makes sense. I’ve got my thoughts and then my feelings, and they inform each other. The bad feelings in my stomach and my breathing from worry lead, through some fancy brain circuitry, to more negative thoughts, and then – boom, boom, boom – to these negative memories, ‘proofs’ for me, that I should be ashamed, that I am not good enough as I am.

Which of course stirs up those butterflies in my stomach..

But here’s the thing. I decided in that moment, that I won’t shame myself for being the last to leave that classroom in the third grade.

Neither will I do it for anything ANYONE has said, for ANY past or present, real or imagined, ‘infraction’.

I will not shame myself for being different.

Changing in a way that pleases others should NOT bring relief, but indifference. Changing in a way that pleases me, that brings me an accomplishment, or enriches my life? That should NOT bring indifference, but JOY.

So today, I am JOYFUL that I acted as a kind daughter, a supportive girlfriend. This day of kindness is a notch in my belt of good that I have brought to the world. If I die tonight, that right there is the beauty that I have added to the world.

That is enough for me.

Today I am JOYFUL that I got some typing and organizing done for my Italian paper without a breakdown, because each day like this makes me a little bit stronger. Tomorrow, let’s be real. I will probably break down again. I will cry again. Soon enough I will see my world as a downward spiral again, visualizing the pieces of me falling away. Tonight I am not afraid of this. Anxiety cannot kill me, and it cannot kill my spirit.

But most of all dear reader (if I ever have one, ha-ha), do you know why it DOESN’T MATTER if we fall down and fail at something, if someone or MANY people dislike us, if we have our hands bitten off by rabid bears on crack, if our S.O. leaves us, if our whole family teleports to another planet, if all life and traces of our existence get erased off the face of the Earth, do you know WHY it is still alright, why we will sleep tonight?

Because we have INHERENT VALUE as human being, and INHERENT POWER as human beings. We can do good. Starting with ourselves.

So tonight, I will be my OWN best friend.