Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Dark Passenger

I currently write for a Financial Newsletter at the Company I work for.  Most of it can be pretty dry but I was able to share this story that was given to us in rehab and I just realized that I had not yet shared it with you all.  I hope you all can really think a bit beyond the obvious moral of the legend but realize how the demons we fight inside of ourselves, whether anxiety, depression, only a small portion of who we are and it is important that we do not let that portion consume our being as it easily can. So here is the story, which is a Native American Legend that actually has several different variations out there but here is the one that I like the most;

 "The Wolves Within"

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story.
I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.
But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times." He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.
Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"
The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed."

Is that true or what?  My own worst enemy is by far myself and a dark part of me so badly wants me to fail and to self destruct...even though I have starved this side of me for some time now it is still there just waiting to be fed.  I am quoting "Dexter" but it is my Dark Passenger.  So to end this post with a positive affirmation or the law of attraction (please read "The Secret" or at least my blog titled "Positive Affirmations" if you have not already done so) I am going to try and do this in every post as it will be a good way for myself to never lose sight of this tool at my disposal.

I am grateful that the portion of myself I am going to nurture today is the portion of me that wants to succeed and to strive to improve who I am.  I am grateful to feel calm and that I will have a fruitful and anxiety free day.

Thank you my friends  for reading and as always I hope there is something here that you found helpful.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Breaking Out of Fight or Flight Moments

As promised I am following up on my last post about Re-Defining Failure in regards to the subject of being stuck in the state of mind where we feel that we are struggling at simply surviving the moment let alone planning for the possible pitfalls of any long term goals which  would be like concerning yourself to perfect your breast stroke while being sucked out to sea in a rip tide. 

My heart aches for those of us stuck in this horrible state of mind.  I suggest if you are please read my post titled Positive Affirmation in which I spoke a lot about the tools I used surviving moment to moment during my stay in the hospital to detox and it is such a shame that our brains can get stuck in this fight or flight mode like it does and finding that off switch can be extremely difficult.  I know that my mind was stuck in this mode for years without mercy or any sign of letting up which is what lead to my substance abuse and subsequent addiction.  I know it is much easier to write it then to actually do it, but if you are in this mindset and have not seen a Doctor it is imperative that you do and find a treatment that works for you, identify and be wary of your triggers. Instant Panic Relief Techniques comes highly recommended from it's users and does address coping techniques as well as a lot of data regarding triggers which is key in how to avoid the attack in the first place. I know what just took me ten seconds to write may take years to accomplish so I do not mean to over simplify it at all nor am I trying to discourage those who have recently started treatment and just honed in on the use of the word “years”.  Every aspect of anxiety for each individual is different, so treatment of this disorder may be as simple as your first prescription drug bringing relief, to your struggle not being a lifelong one but rather just a small chapter in your journey through life.   Whatever the case may be I truly hope you are able to get out of the moment to moment survival and get to the point where you can begin to look long term again.

With my particular anxiety falling into the category of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) stemming from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder the way it was treated was slightly different than say someone who has a sudden onset of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) or one of the countless other forms  that exist but I can tell you each treatment is very different and varies quite a bit and although some General Practitioner Physicians are quite knowledgeable about the different treatments out there a specialist (often the one’s with couches) are really the best way to go in finding the right treatment that works for you.

I'll share a bit about my story which may be helpful especially if it sounds familiar and the treatment you receive is not as helpful as you would like then you may want to seek out or at least learn about other treatment options and providers available to you. As I stated previously my anxiety stems from PTSD which I got following an abduction experience as a young teen.  Some of the specific events that took place during the abduction I have been told is what triggered the PTSD and follow on anxiety/panic.  So over the years of being treated for my disorder some if not most of the treatment providers I have seen assume that I have unresolved issues and that the best form of treatment for me is to address the root cause rather than the panic which some say is a symptom rather than the disease. 

Again, I am not a Doctor nor in the Mental Health Field but simply stating my opinion and I am able to tell what helps me and what does not.  But if I am going to talk about my disorder with a professional then I prefer to talk about my feelings or needs today as an adult and my day to day struggles that I have now rather than focus on one event over and over in hopes that someday my episodes will suddenly cease, don’t get me wrong that would be wonderful but I think it would have taken place by now, and the treatment I currently receive is geared like this and as the disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain it is the imbalance that through pharmaceuticals and lifestyle changes we focus on correcting and if I need to talk about what took place when I was a kid then great, I could do so if I wanted but is far from my only option to help get me out of  the fight or flight state of mind and back in control of my life

Thank you for reading and as always I hope that somebody finds any of this content helpful and please feel free to leave feedback or questions.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Re-Defining Failure

First of all I would like to sincerely thank all of you have been reading the blog so far and especially to those of you who took the time to contact me to share your stories and how you were able to relate to what has been posted so far and I am humbled by any inspiration you took away from the posts.  The feedback received has surprised me but was my intention when creating the blog which is still so young that I truly hope the content and/or experiences shared will continue to yield positive results.

What I wanted to talk about in this post is the fear of failure and our perception of what failure is. I realize that this crosses boundaries into those that do not suffer from a type of anxiety disorder but in my opinion or at least from my personal experiences the fear of failure is compounded into the realm of unhealthy or irrational for many of us that do suffer from anxiety.  But this is something I feel that I have recently been able to really put into a healthy perspective for myself and have had to in order to meet my goals I have set.

So, what are people remembered, recognized or classified by?  It is always their achievements or successes that they have had in life, never from their failures or attempts that fell short, for instance you never see an e-mail signature block that states a name followed by “Mediocre Father” or “Failed to get my Real Estate License” or “Holy Balls I think I’m Dying” (for those in the midst of an attack) but of course you see what they are defined by are their successes, such as the fact they are an MBA or DDS or whatever they have accomplished and it is almost a guarantee that they experienced many mini “failures” in getting that title. But when we dwell so much on these little failures that we shut down immediately at the first road block rather than analyze the situation, see what went wrong and then move on logically to the appropriate step we get nowhere and will always look back at the experience as something else we cannot do or are not good at.  This can be due to the self-esteem and the misguided perception one has of themselves when suffering from forms of anxiety, it can also be that we are just so overwhelmed by the anxiety in our life that we can’t take on any new goals as our current goal is simply to survive the moment.  Both of these are crippling to achieving what we want out of life.  Let’s talk about the first instance of self-esteem and fear of failure in this post and then I will go back to the 2nd of getting through the moment to be able to start thinking about what you want from life.

In order for me to achieve my goal for instance of financial independence is going to take being diversified enough to generate many different revenue streams to make a living from.  This is a path filled with what could be considered failures which I have already had my fair share of, a good example of this is building websites that have flopped and gone nowhere for many different reasons.  These could be considered failures but six months ago I had no idea how to build a website as I am not naturally a technically savvy person, but now through these failures I am very comfortable with creating websites of different types and templates as it’s just a matter of trial and error, it’s through these failures I now have a website that has far surpassed my expectations and would have never achieved this without the previous failures and the skills I picked up along the way.  In my particular goal this is a vital tool needed in my journey but if I had given up after my first flop it would have all been for nothing.  The current project I am tackling is the mobile app market and this has a high probability of failure.  I have zero programming knowledge and have just begun to read about the programming skills required and it is going to be a battle BUT even if I do not get to the point where I am able to create an app on my own that generates income I will however be familiar enough to know which parts of programming I am incapable of doing on my own and hire a freelance programmer to just write the portions of code that I cannot do which will be much easier I assume then handing over my entire idea, and all the legal paperwork involved.  There is actually an ad that I put on this blog today that can most likely be easily spotted now that I have mentioned it….but I put it up by writing my first HTML code…it’s far from impressive but I did not know how to do this 48 hours ago.  

 I hope that hearing of my floundering but still having the ability to stay resilient towards my goals is helpful to those of you that are like me and want to avoid failure at all cost, even if that cost means staying in your comfort zone and not taking a shot what brings you real happiness in life.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anxiety, Addiction and Withdrawals: How Positive Affirmations Got Me Through the Darkest Chapters

A few years back I never would have thought I would be writing a blog regarding Positive Affirmation as anything considered self-help did not fit my personality, I probably would have told you it is because that was for the weak minded but the truth is I was the weak one, always living moment to moment, feeding my body any cocktail it craved to keep an even keel and calm demeanor.  I never thought long term as it was too scary of a concept to tackle because I knew in my heart I was in a sinking ship, years of alcoholism and pill use to keep my anxiety at bay was starting to really take its toll on my health and the lie to myself of cleaning myself up "someday, just not today" had become apparent was never going to happen.  I would die in my 30s and anxiety for once really was going to kill me but for me this was easier to accept than to strip away my tools and face the world sober, it was difficult enough in the mornings to get down enough toxins to get me going. I was fully aware of the demons just waiting for me every time if my body ever caught me sober.  What changed all this and motivated me to change is for another post but what I would like to share is my darkest days and how applying affirmative thinking became my only tool.        

On the night of 10/09/09 I entered into a detox/rehabilitation center.  People who suffer from anxiety know that the thought of their next encounter with anxiety is enough to trigger an attack.  Well, this was no different for me and I was already in full blown panic mode just knowing what was in store for me prior to going into my 5 day long, for lack of a better description, strange& nightmarish land of detox from alcohol, benzos and painkillers.  Thanks to my insurance not wanting to pay for any of this I was brought out of the heavy sedation I was under several days early and moved into the rehabilitation half of the program.   This was my re-introduction to life and I had not felt panic so strong since I was a young teenager when my episodes first began.  Confusion, uncontrollable tremors, disassociation, auditory & visual hallucinations were my life and the scariest part was I knew that it was not all withdrawals but I was facing my new reality and since giving up was not an option I tried my best at functioning with the senses I had working.

 We were brought to nightly meetings and in these meetings I was unable to tell who was speaking as every voice had no beacon of direction from which it was coming and all voices sounded the same to me and had a sort of electronic feedback tone to it as if I was listening to a bad digital recording, this was something that lasted a few months and I remembered hearing people’s voices sound like this as a young teenager when my anxiety first began hitting me and was untreated.  There were a few things I kept hearing over and over again in these meetings however, they were mostly stories told from people who were supposedly once in our shoes and how they came out the other side.  The common denominator for most that spoke was that they were brought to the brink of sanity and when they had no other option they had thrown themselves to their knees and prayed.  A sense of calm came over them, all symptoms ceased and since that moment they have never lost this peace nor had a craving thanks to divine intervention they were given.  In my desire to escape what had become my twisted reality I would have tried anything, had it been suggested that being circumcised a 2nd time was helpful I would have been the first to sign up for round 2.  So, every evening after hearing this I would go into my assigned room and throw myself to my knees and since I was not only on the brink of sanity but I feel a bit past it I asked in all sincerity for help in hopes of this sense of calm to fill my body and mind. Well, something did happen…I hurt my knees, badly.  So for me there was no quick fix blessing.  But at this point I had yet to be introduced to the concept of Positive Affirmation.

I do not know how many days into rehabilitation I was when we were having a group session and the movie “The Secret” was played for us.  I am sure the majority of this audience is somewhat familiar with this movie or at least the underlying concept which is Positive Affirmation.  It talks about believing in something, visualizing it, attracting it and it will manifest.  It sounded as likely at the time as me being cured by throwing myself onto a concrete floor knees first, but since they had not yet suggested circumcision I of course tried it the first chance after our meeting.  It is at this point I am able to remember in much greater detail my experiences in the hospital.  I was the only patient allowed to take showers throughout the day as the rehabilitation portion is meant to teach structure to those who have none in life but it was apparent to the staff that I had been pulled from the detox unit pre-maturely and soaking in hot showers helped with my spasms and shaking.  Rather than visualizing the million dollar check that the movie spoke of doing I began to say to myself in the shower that I was so grateful I feel calm, I was so grateful I no longer had anxiety, I am grateful my body is not tense, it is so nice to no longer feel confused and so on.  This was my holy sh*t moment, because it was really working for me.  I did not feel like I could thread a needle or bob my head on beat but I felt myself take several steps back from that brink I keep mentioning.  The following morning when I woke I said the same things and the Nurse who was handing out meds in the med line noticed I was able to use one hand to put my meds in my mouth without having to guide it with other and was also able to drink from my Dixie cup to wash them down one handed.  I had actually not noticed myself that I had done that but it was my first time since arriving that I had some motor skill function back.  From that moment on multiple times daily I said these same things and pictured myself and the confidence I once had when medicated by my own devices, I said I was grateful for having recaptured that feeling sober.  Again, these were not leaps and bounds but it did have a drastic effect on my mind and body. 

Today, so grateful to be reflecting on these moments rather still living them but I still use this technique when feeling anxious as well as in many other aspects of my life such as my current goal to achieve financial independence and to not have to work for anyone other than myself.  Again, I am not there yet but I am so much closer than six months ago.  I know in the midst of a panic attack rational thought is hard, if not impossible to use but I cannot stress enough the effect it has had on my life for the better and I do not think I am an isolated case.  Please, if any of you try this then leave feedback as I am sure the readers would love to get other opinions or experiences weighing in on this or at the very least I would love to hear about your experience.  **I input a link on blog to order "The Secret" through Amazon if you are interested in having this book, I cannot recommend it enough..

Thanks again for reading and please feel free to hit me up with any questions, comments or suggestions you may have.   I am an open book on this forum and would love to help in any way possible. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

There is No Shame in Anxiety

Okay, Post #1…so assuming I managed to get any readers then welcome!  I will be posting links and tying to other feeds that you may or may not find useful here in the very near future as this post begins to grow.  I am excited to be able share about this topic and the daily affect it has now and has had in the past on my life with the countless of you out there who may relate to portions or perhaps all of what I say about my experiences.  I should also get it out of the way and let it be known that I am not a doctor, counselor or in the mental health field at all if you did not read my bio, so any and all advice comes from personal experience from having suffered from anxiety and panic disorder the last 18 years of my life.

There is so much in my life that has revolved and continues to revolve around anxiety, so much so that it is hard to know where to begin and without restating what I have already listed in my profile I will go ahead and dive right into what this blog is for to talk openly about anxiety and panic disorders; coping mechanisms whether healthy, legal or otherwise.  So the aspect of what I am going to focus on in this first post is that there is no shame in having anxiety, period!

Being human it can be very hard thing to admit if we have problems at all let alone with anxiety & is easy to fear that it will be perceived as some form of weakness or mental illness or that perhaps we are afraid it lessens our impact or presence that we need to maintain for professional or personal reasons.  I have struggled with hiding mine for years.  So let me go on public record and tell you that I have anxiety, panic attacks, irrational fears, obsessive thoughts and have in the last 18 years been convinced I am having a heart attack on at least 1,000 different occasions and often these feelings came on for no apparent reason at all (something I want to talk about in future blogs).  For many years I had an easy fix that consisted of 4 beers, 80 mg of oxycodone and a xanax bar for breakfast, then repeat as needed to mask or hide these symptoms but honestly, looking back at all the times I went a little too far and made nothing but a damned fool of myself all in the name of looking and feeling confident I would have much rather admitted to myself and to those around me that I am very afraid and I do not know of what and I do not know why.

It is estimated that approximately 13% of the population suffers from some form of anxiety disorder! Here are just a few names I plucked from a VERY long list of names you may recognize that suffer(ed) from a form of anxiety or panic disorders that may surprise you:
Abraham Lincoln (President - USA)
Anthony Hopkins (actor)
Aretha Franklin (singer)
Barbara Bush (former First Lady - U.S.)
David Bowie (singer)
Eric Clapton (musician)
John Madden (NFL announcer)
Johnny Depp (actor)
Oprah Winfrey (TV host)

So, if these people who have achieved so much can freely admit that they suffer from anxiety it may help us to put into perspective that any stigma that may come with anxiety as a weakness or character flaw is ignorant and outdated. My purpose in finding these names was simply to illustrate that there is no shame in anxiety but found the stories behind their struggles with anxiety all unique and how they overcame or simply learned to live with it all very inspiring and will keep in mind for future posts as most of us will relate and connect to bits and pieces if not the majority of each story.

So, for those of you who did not know, you are far from alone, there are countless people and resources out there willing to help and I would be honored if you follow me on my journey through the newest chapter in my life and we will hopefully be able to learn from each other along the way.  Thanks for reading the first of many posts!