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A Madwoman’s Guide To Overcoming Anxiety

Ok, most of us have heard it─ the typical b.s. that never works:

Just train your mind to think differently, what’s the problem?

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The problem is, that is great for long term over continual months of practicing breathing techniques and retraining your thoughts to go in a positive direction. It’s called cognitive behavioral therapy, and it does work.

But what about when you are in a pinch or can’t afford to see a professional?

How about all the physical feelings you get? The tightening of your chest, or feeling like a stranger in your own skin. I mean the actual feeling of being irritated to be awake, alive, and doing things when you would rather just eat and go to sleep.

Or, my personal favorite─ when you are trained to know your signs, but all the ‘you’re not being a rational person’ speeches in your mind aren’t quite getting through.

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I feel you, I’m there. At least two to three times a week, sometimes more.

 

So, this isn’t fool proof and I’m not a licensed professional, but I can tell you what has worked for me after dealing with anxiety and depression my entire life. I mean actually work, not some bullshit click-bait that every site seems to have.

Hello, hi, we’re a website─ just click on these next 100 pages of advertised products and we’ll never get to the real point. 

Ugh.

Get physical

I’m not going to lie, I work out a lot. Like 5-6 days a week a lot. Not because I want to be thin (but bonus!) but because it keeps my mind preoccupied. The key to not going mental is to keep yourself physically active. It releases good chemicals called endorphins. They interact with receptors in your brain that reduce the feeling of pain. I also love a schedule and repetition, which brings me to my next point:

Repetition

Keep. A. Schedule.

Rinse, repeat. I’m not joking. You will function significantly better when you know what is going to happen from day to day. It’s calming because your body goes, ‘ok, I know this, I’ve got this.’ Having daily rituals has saved me more times than I can count.

For example, when I wake up─ I make myself breakfast and coffee. As this is happening, it gives me time to tidy up and think on what I need to accomplish that day. P.s. this also knocks out two things that need done: cleaning and scheduling.

This doesn’t need to turn into: OMGIHAVESOMUCHTODOTODAYFUCKI’MFREAKINGOUT

It’s more a collection of thoughts. “Ok, today I need to get a project done at work─I have a meeting at 1 with Jeff.” The end. Refreshing your memory, keeping yourself on track. Check your google calendar.

For the love of god, keep yourself some sort of reminder on google calendar, or remember the milk, or whatever app you have. I am the sort that I will forget instantly if I don’t set up a reminder─ and I’m pretty sure most people are. This will also help keep that crazy voice down instead of a self-induced panic attack for forgetting things.

You know the one─ the bitch in your head that shouts shit like:

“How could you be so stupid, why did you forget to just set up one simple reminder, god you’re useless.” 

She’s fun, I take her to parties sometimes─ or dates, or you know, family events.

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Breathe

Ok, I’m aware that not everyone has a fitbit but it’s what I use. It’s called Relax and it makes you practice inhaling and exhaling. Some people can meditate, some cannot. Instead of getting yourself into a tizzy over how to meditate, just focus on drawing breath in and out for two minutes in a comfortable position. (don’t cross your legs, that raises blood pressure) Most people can spare 2 minutes.

Whether you use an app on your phone (like Calm) or the fitbit app, Alexa, Google, or what have you─ these are all wonderful tools for helping to get your mind into a head-space that calms you. You’ll eventually (slowly) start being able to do it on command.

It’s pretty neat.

I’ll share a weird fact with you, since we’re sharing.

I love to visualize when I’m doing my breathing exercises. I think of the strangest thing that would probably freak most people out but somehow calms me: I love to imagine I’m by myself in a ship, floating in space out in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes, I can see a star in the distance, or planet─ occasionally an event horizon ringing beautifully around a black hole.

But I’m a freak so, you know, you do you.

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Clean:

I’m not kidding. Keeping a clean, tidy environment has been known to release the happy chemicals like serotonin and cortisol (much like the runner’s high) and gives you a sense of accomplishment. When you meet goals, even small ones, you feel happier.

Marie Kondo is definitely on to something with this one. Bring in those happy vibes by feeling in control, accomplished, and clean. You would be shocked what that does for you mentally.

 

Morning showers are amazing to me. I feel like a new human being.

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Goal Setting:

Set small goals, and I mean small. You can always plan your yearly stress for long term goals in January. They’re great, but they set high expectations throughout the year and bring you down when you don’t accomplish them.

So, set up daily ones!

Today, I’m going to get through one day without having a negative thought about myself. Go on, try it. It feels good to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing something!

Hey, I got through that meeting and I paid attention and interacted. Way to go me!

I set out to clean the kitchen this morning and I finished it. Great job.

Rewarding yourself daily allows the long process of having a positive mindset to kick in. Keep it up, and you’ll be one of those people you make fun of for being too happy in no time.

Well, maybe.

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I really feel like over the course of just a few more years, AI will be a wonderful tool for anxiety. Alexa and Google are already looking into this. If you missed any of my podcasts, I talk about them in the Grey Space series on Soundcloud you can check out here:

 

Slow it down

Take each day, one day at a time. (much like we covered in small goals) I can’t stress this enough. I’m a huge offender of thinking about everything that needs to get done and get completely overwhelmed. Instead, focus on the day. Focus on tasks instead of the entire day at once.

My mantra on bad days:

3…2…1… time to get out of bed and start the day. 

3…2…1 brush your teeth and take your medicine.

One foot in front of the other, all day if you need it. This has helped me tremendously on very bad, no-good, terribly-awful days.

Big no-no─

Don’t drink while you are depressed or anxious. Alcohol is a downer, a huge one. Avoid drinking during a time you are freaking out.

Steer clear of too much caffeine too. I found on days I had more than three or four cups of coffee, my anxiety was insane. It made me jittery and I was incredibly irritable.

I know, I know: fuck off, Grey.

I am very serious about this one and have seen first hand what it does to your body to drink and suffer from worse anxiety the next day. Crippling anxiety.

Don’t do what dumb Grey did.

 

One of us:

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Try your best to actually steer your mind away from negative thoughts as soon as they enter your head. While this is like, 1000% impossible all the time, it does start to become habit forming.

My inner bitch, “damn girl, your ass gettin thicc AF”

Counter argument? “Damn girl, dat ass don’t quit” Then do a booty shake and take your fine ass into the day with a grin.

Love yourselves.

❤ Grey

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Understanding Child Abuse – An Open Letter To The Public – Part II

Warning, NSFL. Ages 13+ recommended. 

Cue the tiny violins folks, we’re off to Pityville, party of me. If you’ve ever been through this─ my intention is to raise awareness for all of us. Though each of our experiences are different, I hope that by sharing my own suffering we can shed some light on what others have experienced.

Warning, this is raw and graphic and my unfiltered experiences. I recommend getting a hug or watching some warm fuzzy shows after this.

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Alienation

By the age of nine, I had graduated to getting into minor trouble at school. Nothing major, mostly just talking too much and not paying attention with the occasional petty theft of other kids’ pencils or erasers. This was because I had pretty severe ADHD (not the petty theft, that was just me being an asshole and there was zero excuse for that.) but I really struggled hard in school to focus.

I daydreamed, lost focus, and found it incredibly hard to sit still. I would constantly feel trapped in my skin and irritable, my legs would bounce, and I would fidget. Children back then were just classified as kids, and boys had ADHD, not girls according to most doctors.

This is where my mother would talk about me being a difficult child. I would blurt things out, or correct things I heard that were wrong. (I still do this, embarrassingly enough. I was known as the ‘um, actually’ girl at a few of my jobs.) I would talk over others, or jump around excitedly which would often lead my mother to call out in exasperation, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

It got me thinking recently. Especially with it being mental health awareness week.

No one, not even once, asked me as a child what I was going through at home. Other than a child psychologist I was made to see to build a court case against my father.

Did I mention my mother hated my father?

Let me tell you how much. She wanted him to be out of her life so bad that she convinced herself that he was horrible. Bipolar does that to you. It makes you paranoid (at least the type my mother had) to the point that they feel people conspire against them.

Someone was always out to get my mother, or harm her. She was forever a victim of something.

So for the entirety of my childhood, my mother kept me from my father whenever she could, built up a false court case against him and sent him to prison on circumstantial evidence.

Do you know how long an innocent man got sent to prison over evidence such as, ‘spoke crudely to a child, threatening a child, and inappropriately touching child (this was based off of some redness my mother had found when she was bathing me and something she cooked up in her mind)?

Twelve years. He was originally sentenced to twenty. 

For being suspected of doing those things.

The justice system used to take women’s word against men’s (still bias in this department in a lot of states) without solid proof of it ever happening. And while, it’s horrible that things like this exist with the opposite and men get off the hook that have done vile things, this was not the case with me.

My mother had convinced me that these things happened. Had me testify in a court against him. I was a child, with a very impressionable mind.

She thrived on this sort of attention─ everything had to be circled around her.

I can’t stress this next part enough. The only reason my father was able to get all of these charges against him expunged was because I had to go on trial a second time as an adult and explain what really happened.

Even then, my mother said she thought he did it─ After I had repeatedly told her otherwise. I mean that I told her directly after it happened, in tears saying he didn’t do anything. I had no idea what I had done until my grandmother called me in tears and told me I’d never get to see her or my father again. I was six years old.

This all came full circle to her plans of excluding me from others’ life.

While all of those things went on, my grades, much like my social life, slipped from my grasp. I became alienated with very few friends. I wanted desperately to make friends, but had no idea how. My mom would make that more difficult by yelling at me or beating me in front of other children, like neighbors.

Which is key to my next point: Abusers like to alienate their victims and have complete control. My mother would always make excuses to taking me anywhere, especially to sleepovers, or allowing me to have play dates. She didn’t like me being anywhere that she didn’t have complete control over.

They start by making it seem like it is in your best interest, ‘oh so-and-so is a bad influence’ or, ‘I don’t like how they behave.’

I once dated a guy that I never realized did this until he got jealous of me hanging out with friends. That was a huge red flag and I left him immediately.

p.s. he showed up at my house after that and it took calling the police to get him to leave. Watch out for these personality types and don’t be dumb like Grey.

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The Day I Accepted Death, I Was 12 Years Old

There are hundreds of times that stick out in my mind, but the biggest one is the day my mother tried to kill me.

I was in seventh grade. My stepfather was working a full time job and going to school. It was a stressful time for all of us.

My mother had come out to tell me to do the dishes and to be quiet because my stepfather was sleeping until his shift. Now, my mother was someone that put the fear of god into you.

Nothing trumps that, except one thing:

Teen angst.

What any doctor that has majored in Biology will tell you, is that the pre-frontal cortex of your brain is not fully developed until your early to mid twenties. This is the part of brain that develops logic and reasoning. I apparently had none of those as I muttered things and put the dishes (softly, but still clanging occasionally and probably on purpose) because I hadn’t had a chance to do anything except clean that day.

I have no idea what she said, or what was yelled at me other than, ‘you ungrateful little bitch’ and suddenly I was bent backwards over the sink. I couldn’t move, but what was going on didn’t fully register until I started getting that famous tunnel vision.

When you’re getting choked out, you don’t necessarily feel that you are being choked. It’s a lot of pressure. Things start to go black, or you start hallucinating.

What I do remember is that as she squeezed and I could no longer make gasping or crying noises, one thing stuck out in my head:

Maybe I won’t wake up this time.

That thought gave me a complete sense of calm and everything felt right.

At the age of twelve, I was ready to die.

My stepdad rounded the corner and pulled her off of me. I remember bolting around the corner and catching my breath as she screamed over and over again that she hated me as he calmed her down.

That day, I learned that mothers really can take the life that they give.

I always thought that somewhere within her was the capacity to love me. After that, I knew she couldn’t.

Get lots of hugs today and hold your children close. Tell them what they mean to you.

❤ Grey