For about 5 years, I dealt with extreme anxiety and panic attacks. It ran my life. I had medication I felt like I needed and would panic (even more) if I didn’t have it. I tried numerous other ways to combat it, but nothing seemed to really help. It was crippling and paralyzing. I lived in fear of having another panic attack. Oftentimes, the panic attacks were paired with an extreme emotional breakdown. It was so embarrassing when this happened and I couldn’t stop it. I remember one time in particular, I had an EMDR session earlier that day, and later went to play in a dart tournament that evening. Everything was going great. There was the slightest pressure to hit a couple specific numbers. No big deal. I loved this! I did it all the time under pressure, in fact, it often helped me play better. I remember sitting in my bar stool chair, looking at the dart board and at my teammate, and was about to go, and then it hit me. I felt the tears well up, and before I knew it I was having a melt down in the ladies room. Then I was couldn’t breathe – I was hyperventilating and freaking out. I was paralyzed by the anxiety and fear.
What happened was something was brought up during my session, a feeling, emotion, thought, something… Maybe feeling out of control and helpless in a terrifying situation as a young kid, maybe feeling pressure, maybe something else completely, but the tiniest something in that moment triggered it and all of those repressed emotions came out pouring out and I was not ready for it. That was a really intense and difficult night. Luckily I had people there who were there for me the best that they could be given everything, and that was so helpful not being alone during those tough times, cause I’ve been there too and it’s much harder to pull yourself out of it afterwards.
The point I’m getting at is, the same situation, playing in a dart tournament with some healthy competition and pressure, though stressful, I often find to be exciting and exhilarating. That particular night, I was plagued by a deep fear brought on by the EMDR session, which turned my normal excitement into fear and then into a full blown panic attack. This is an extreme example, but I urge you to try to see where you might’ve actually been feeling a bit of excitement (at least at first) in a past or present experience that brought up a lot of anxiety.
There’s a fine line between anxiety and excitement. It’s really the same thing when you break it down. They are both simply feelings or emotions. With anxiety though, we tend to take it on as who we are. We say “I am anxious” rather than “This makes me feel anxious” or say “my anxiety is acting up” rather than “I’m noticing I’m starting to feel anxious”. Start by noticing if you do this or something similar, and gently reword it every time you notice it. Here’s a great video about the science behind the similarities between the two and how to turn your fear into excitement.
We’ve become so detached from ourselves, our minds and bodies that we often have no clue where the anxiety stems from or what’s causing it. We just distract ourselves, numb, or detach ourselves or whatever we can to feel better in the moment. It’s become more of a lifestyle: drinking, smoking, binge-watching netflix, obsessive video gaming, shopping, social media scrolling, eating, etc. What we really need is to work on becoming more self aware and paying more attention to ourselves and our emotions, and get to the root of why we are experiencing anxiety in the first place. When you feel anxious, try to pinpoint where you most feel it in your body. What other sensations are you experiencing, such as trembling, increased heart rate, a lump in your throat, or sweaty hands? I encourage you to sit with the anxiety for a bit, as this can be incredibly helpful and enlightening. By that I mean, take some time to go somewhere alone and quite, even if you have to go to the bathroom, close the lid and sit on the pot. Close your eyes, take several long, slow and deep breaths focusing on the anxiety and ask yourself where it’s coming from and what it’s trying to tell you. You might see a glimpse of a memory, have a sudden thought, feel a twinge somewhere in your body, or have an emotion come over you, just to give you some ideas of what to pay attention to. If you are ready, explore whatever comes up for you. Thank yourself for bringing it to your attention so you may become aware of it and let it go this time.
So maybe next time you start feeling anxious, simply say to yourself “I am excited.” We do have control over the thoughts we think, and when those thoughts are fear based we experience anxiety, which feeds it and can lead to a full blown panic attack. You don’t have to go down that rabbit hole. Catch yourself when you start feeling it. Acknowledge how you are feeling and have some affirmations ready for when it happens. Some of mine are: I am safe (I sometimes just repeat this one over and over). I am okay. I am grounded. I am cared for and loved. I am worthy. I’ve got this. I’ve overcome far worse than this.
Use whatever works for you. I hope these ideas are helpful and can help you get out of your fear. Let me know what you found to be impactful for you. =)
Trigger warning: Some material in this post may be difficult for some individuals to work with at this time. And that’s totally fine! If you find the material to be too much for you, do whatever you need to do take care of yourself, whatever that may mean for you.
Someone tried to tell me something along those lines years ago. I scowled and turned my back and walked away. I was an asshole. My thoughts angrily stirred inside as I walked away,
“You don’t have a clue what I’ve been through. There’s been too much pain, sadness, trauma, heartbreak, loneliness, and suffering. I’d love to be happy, but I have this thing called depression and anxiety that won’t let me be.”
“Such bullshit! Maybe that’s possible for you, but there’s just no way. What does happy even feel like? I don’t even remember…I remember feeling happy, like when I make chocolate chip cookies…”
I guess it pissed me off a little when I saw other people being so happy and joyful. How easy they have it. No stress, no worries, no therapy, no medications to take every day to stay sane, no medical bills – nothing! What the hell?! Why can’t I be like that? Why can’t I be happy? Why did I have to get dealt such a shitty hand in life? Why me?
Since then I have dedicated my life to healing and to helping others so they don’t have to suffer like I did for as long as I have. I have done A LOT of self work, in so many ways. I have tried everything I could find, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and I can honestly say, it’s working! I’m a completely different person than I use to be. That darkness in me is probably still there in some ways, but there is a beautiful light now that keeps shining brighter and brighter with each day. I don’t fear the darkness like I use to, nor do I cling to it either. When all you’ve known is sadness, detachment, pain, and darkness, it’s excruciating and terrifying trying to pull yourself out of it. It’s like those shiny black sludgy creatures from Kingdom Hearts or the creatures from the bottom of the lake in Harry Potter, grasping at you, trying to pull you below the endless black water, when you’ve already accepted that this is your home, where you belong. It takes lots of conscious effort, choosing positive thoughts when all you notice are negative thoughts and thinking patterns, and it takes having faith in the universe that you were not born for this, that there is something so much better out there you might not even be able to fathom or believe in right now. With each positive choice, to choose positive thinking, supportive and good friends, following inspirational people on social media and removing yourself from anything that causes a negative reaction, giving yourself permission to pursue whatever you have been wanting to do or experience or try (for me it was singing, piano, writing, photography, belly dancing and painting) and release whatever fear is holding you back.
What I didn’t know then, was I suffered from another illness, called victim mentality, that I imagine many others share in this thinking pattern who have also been through any kind of extremely painful experience or trauma.
Now don’t write it off just yet. Let’s think about it. Every single thought I had after someone told me to choose happiness, love, light, or positivity was a choice, right? I consciously formed those thoughts in my head. I decided happiness, joy, and love weren’t options for me, because of X, Y, and Z. Couldn’t I have made the choice then to be open to it instead? Technically yes, realistically, not at the time. And here’s why:
I didn’t value, care about or love myself. So how could I truly value, care about or love someone else, romantically, as friends, family or otherwise? I wanted to, but I found it so hard to even tell my friends and family I loved them, or even my dog! I lost faith in myself and no longer saw my value and worth. I felt worthless and unworthy of anything, especially love.
I didn’t believe in myself. I had lost myself at this point. I had lost hope in life and in myself. I couldn’t see a future that was anything other than darkness and pain.
I didn’t trust myself. Therefore I kept making decisions based on my negative subconscious beliefs that didn’t align with what I said and thoughts I wanted. My actions were often self-sabotaging and not in my best interest, that was not helpful to what I said and thought I wanted.
Usually I just did whatever I could to feel better, to feel normal, to feel happy, to forget, to numb the bad feelings, to run, to hide, or to escape. I would go to the local pub and drink excessively til they closed and kicked everyone out, I would shop and spend money I didn’t have and buy things I didn’t need cause I hoped they would make me happy or help me figure out who I was, I’d spend an obscene amount of time playing open-world role playing games (World of Warcraft anyone?) to escape my reality, I’d smoke lots and lots of weed when I could get ahold of it (which wasn’t exactly easy in the Bible Belt – thank you Colorado!). I would constantly either eat my feelings or starve myself and often go to extremes to lose weight and many other worse things for my mind and body I’m definitely not proud of.
I didn’t see the point in life anymore. Some days I felt empty and numb and other days I felt tremendous pain, overwhelming anxiety, hurt and sadness. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t continue to live this way, and feel this way every single day. I saw no light, had no hope, and just wanted the pain to stop. I knew how I wanted to go, by the only light that made sense to me… a bright beautiful light given off by a ray of hope! A train.. a quick and seemingly painless ending and the end to all of my problems, or so I thought.
I stood there in the middle of the train tracks in the dead of night staring longingly at that light as it came closer and closer towards me. I actually felt at peace for once in my life. I didn’t have any worries or pain, there was somehow peace for once. My mind was clear, the chatter was actually quiet and I felt a small glimmer of hope. It was getting so close, not much longer now. Then a hand grabbed mine and pulled me off the tracks right before it reached me by a complete and perfect stranger I had met earlier that night.
When we are stuck in a deep state of depression and hopelessness with our lives run by fear, it sounds odd – but we are actually incredibly selfish! Had I taken my life that day, that would’ve been the end. No goodbyes, no explanation, no do-overs, no nothing. The end.
I wasn’t thinking about the locomotive engineer whose life would forever be changed by the trauma of killing me and witnessing that. I wasn’t thinking about the kind stranger. I wasn’t thinking about my dog or bearded dragon, the friend I was with that night, or even the people I knew that I wasn’t really close to that would still be impacted by that decision to end my life. I wasn’t thinking about my friends or my family and what kind of impact that would have on them; they didn’t know anything really about what I was going through, and what I had shared with only a few people only made me feel more alone, invalidated and depressed. It felt like no one got it, no one understood, and no one even cared. Some people would dismiss what I did share, minimize it, find reasons to blame me, or would just turn it around and talk about how they had it worse, or that it wasn’t that bad and I needed to just let it go and get over it.
They all seemed too busy with their own lives either way and didn’t seem to care let alone just be there for me. And so we’re clear, anyone can be there for someone simply by sharing space and even just silence with them, authentically listening, holding their hand or giving them a long and loving hug (ask first), validating their experience and feelings, or even just by asking how you can help or what they need, etc. Advice in this state often isn’t needed or wanted and will quite possibly just fall on flat ears. For me, I really just needed to speak, to let it out and talk about it, to be hear, seen, cared for, and that the pain I was feeling was valid and mattered. That it wasn’t my fault and nothing I could’ve or should’ve done differently then would’ve changed the outcome by much, if any.
I had often thought, maybe they’d be better off not having to deal with me, that I was a burden. These were all simply thoughts based on my perception – my perception that I was unworthy, alone, unloved, that no one cared about me, that my feelings weren’t valid and didn’t matter and therefore that I didn’t matter, but it goes way deeper than that.
Our perceptions about life and ourselves begin forming when we are only infants. We don’t understand words yet, but we pick up on feelings and emotions, touches, noises, tone of voice, presence or absence of others, and energy for instance. We literally get a sense of the world and how it works and this continues as we get older. Yelling and screaming, abuse, neglect, being dismissed, not being held and loved, not feeling safe – it all shapes how we view the world and ourselves later on in life. It may show up as anxiety as an adult and feeling unsafe. It could present as a deep distrust in men or women or even in relationships if you are subconsciously taught that they only bring pain or abandonment, so you subconsciously push love away to protect yourself. It may show up as a deep sadness and depression when your needs as a child for love, attention and affection aren’t met. Or, you may feel unworthy of these things at your very core and develop self hatred rather than self love and go through life seeking approval, validation, love and happiness outside rather than within. I did all of these things and it actually did get me somewhere – to check in to a mental institution.
I had just suffered a horrendous heartbreak and breakup after living with the abusive fuck for a year. I was lost, alone, broken, hurting, confused, and had hit the deepest state of depression I have ever known, which was badddd. I had to get out of that town so I jumped on a great career opportunity that presented itself as my shining ray of hope to get out of the state, leave it all behind and start over. I ended up running away from everyone and had no one for support. I truly was alone. I knew I seriously needed professional help at this point so I started with group therapy once a week but after various symptoms of a much larger issue started running my life and affecting my ability to work, I was fired and then realized I needed a lot more help and fast.
The outpatient program taught me a few things though, it introduced me to meditation, art for a creative outlet of difficult emotions or memories, mindfulness, music therapy, and yoga – I still to this day find all of these incredibly helpful, healing, and imperative to my recovery. It also taught me that I also suffered from complex-PTSD in addition to major depression and generalized anxiety, which gave me the validation I needed that there really was something deeper and much more complex going on inside of me, cause I just thought I was going crazy and losing my shit. My diagnosis was a hard pill to swallow, metaphorically and quite literally. It took a long time for me to accept it all and make peace with it, but that was the first step. It made me feel so broken and messed up. But I finally did accept it and was able to identify with it. I started to find my tribe, of other “broken” individuals with an equally sad sob story, a “woe is me” attitude and a pessimistic outlook on life. It started to become a part of my identity, my crutch, and ultimately my reason and excuse to not heal, to sit in my misery and not really try to get better. I had developed the victim mentality. I’m not saying it was all bad. It was part of my healing process just to know that I was a victim of someone else’s undealt with shit and the anger, manipulation and abuse that came with that. I about drove myself crazy trying to figure it all out in my head, going over and over everything, what I should’ve done differently, what I did wrong, blaming myself, and so on in a never ending monologue that only tortured me further and solved nothing. I had to learn that it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t do anything wrong, and nothing I thought I should’ve, could’ve, or would’ve done would have changed a thing in the grand scheme of things, because you can’t change people, especially when they can’t be honest with themselves, and hurt people hurt people, plain and simple.
The next hardest thing was learning to forgive myself, as well as my family, and that abusive fuck. I did these all separately in their own ways and on their own separate timelines. I was able to forgive my family by working on myself, and over time I was able to see events and the situation they were in from a different perspective. I could put myself in their shoes and see how they got the way they are. I was able to use an outside perspective without emotional attachment and hurt involved so I could see clearly and have compassion and empathy. I asked myself, what could’ve happened to this person for them to get this way, or for them to act in certain ways. I found this to also be particularly helpful for forgiving the abusive fuck as well. The signs were subtle and hidden when I was with him, but still there. He had suffered too and possibly been abused in his youth. As a young adult, he wasn’t able to stand up for himself to his father and he wasn’t allowed to be his truest self because he had to be who his dad wanted him and expected him to be. It is quite sad really. I learned that forgiveness doesn’t mean you are accepting or excusing any poor behaviors, it doesn’t really even have much at all to do with the other person, forgiveness is for you ultimately. To free yourself from the ties to a person, their actions, words, endless chatter in your mind and hurt in your heart. For me, forgiveness meant seeing things from an outside, unattached perspective and finding understanding and compassion in where and what they were coming from and how they got that way. I was able to forgive myself because I found compassion and love for myself and my younger self, and knowing I did the best I could in many tough situations with where I was and what I knew at the time. I was so hard on myself – why?!! I compared myself and my life to other people so much. Social media is the worst for this reason! We only see snapshots of only what other people want us to see. Do they post all of the bad times, bad days, burnt meals, bad hair days, plain black coffee, microwave dinners, screaming and crying children and all of the other less than stellar things people experience? Generally, no. So of course if you compare all of the real life crap to someone else’s seemingly perfect picture of a seemingly perfect day, you’re likely to find yourself feeling FOMO, anxious, upset, envious, depressed, lonely, unfulfilled, etc. You aren’t doing yourself any favors there.
The doctors said the diagnosis is a permanent condition. The doctors said I will be on medication my entire life. The doctors said it will affect me the rest of my life. And I believed them all. What they didn’t tell me what how incredibly powerful and resilient our minds are, how strong willpower can be, and how the human body is designed to heal! How much it really just wants to heal! But it starts in your mind. If you believe you are broken, guess what.. you will feel like you are. If you believe you can’t do something, you won’t. It’s that simple. Your life, your body, mind, thoughts and feelings might feel completely out of control right now, and that’s ok. We all start somewhere, but you do have some control. You have a choice in what you choose to believe and if you choose to listen to naysayers or choose to carve your own path. You choose what you fill your mind with, what kind of content you let influence you, what kind of people you keep space for in your life. You decide what you will put up with from other people and how you will be treated. You can choose to set boundaries for honor your needs and you can choose to communicate those needs with others or you can choose to let things slide and not speak up for yourself. You can even decide today, right now even, that you are so sick and tired of being sick and tired. You can decide that you want a different life than what you’ve been living. You have the power to decide that you’ve suffered enough, done enough damage to your mind and body, and have wasted too much of your precious life wrapped up in your misery, blind to the light that resides in you and the beauty and wonder of life and this vast wonderful world. You have everything within you already that you need. You have love and light, confidence and a strong heart, and I’m willing to bet you also have something to say, something to share, that others desperately need to hear. Because we all just want to feel connected. Your pain can be what destroys you or what connects you. You can bury the pain and allow it to isolate you rather than using it to connect to others, or you can begin to open your beautiful vulnerable heart to others. When you share your story and your truth, others begin to feel more comfortable sharing their hearts, and through this process, we start to learn that we really aren’t as alone in our feelings as we thought. We meet others who can relate to your experience and real connections form. Remember to connect from a heart centered place rather than from that inner child that may still be seeking validation and acceptance. You know your story. Any and all hurts are real, are deeply painful, and only you know how it felt and how it affected you. Your validation, acceptance, and forgiveness is the only one you need. Your own health, happiness, hope, joy, and love is the most important thing you can ever give. When you let go of all the things weighing you down, you create room and space for new things, new people and experiences to come in!
Deep down I always felt I was meant for something much greater; my big ideas and thinking were often too much for others to wrap their head around, but not me, I lived for that. I think part of why I was so depressed for so long was I wasn’t living life the way I knew I wanted to be, and craved so desperately to be. And honestly, I’m still not quite there. But I’ve learned something… your pain is your power. And if you run, hide from, and numb it, you will never be free of it and you will never discover your power. You have to feel it, sit with it, sit with the feelings and emotions of your past traumas and really feel them if you ever hope to be free of them.
So you may be wondering, what is Mental Mind Morph and what is this blog going to be about? Well, everyone has a story. Most people have experienced heartbreak, anxiety, grief, loss, depression, physical or mental pain on some level. I’m here to share my story and experiences with having Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety, and Complex PTSD. It has taken me a long time and a lot of self work to get to this point. Mental health is practically a taboo topic; no one wants to talk about it, but it’s a serious issue that affects millions of people. Many people that struggle with mental health are afraid to even admit it much less reach out for help. I was once one of these people, scared to admit even to myself that something was wrong, even though all the signs and symptoms were there. I didn’t want to appear weak or be wrongly judged by others and I didn’t think anyone would understand or even care.
I have spent many years trying everything to get better; I’ve made it my mission and have been consuming as much knowledge as possible from numerous books, various online resources such as TED talks, doctors, counselors and therapists, holistic healers, friends, podcasts, and many other suffers with a wide variety of mental illnesses. I hope by sharing my journey of self awareness, growth and healing as well as what has helped make a difference for me and some of the tips, tricks, exercises, and habits I’ve been using, I can spare you some of the agony and torment I went through. I gladly welcome you to this journey we embark on together; I hope to help you succeed on your path to a happier, healthier, fulfilling and purposeful life that everyone deserves to have!