Category:

anxiety

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I was hanging out at my desk this morning, waiting on a Zoom meeting to start. I pulled out one of my drawers, just looking around when I saw my Wellness & Relapse Prevention Plan from the Menninger Clinic on top of some papers. I wrote this plan before I left the psychiatric hospital, as everybody does. It’s mandatory before leaving. I was at Menninger for six long weeks, and I was ready. I couldn’t remember what was inside, so I took a gander.

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It started off by saying that triggers and warning signs of relapse will occur, but by preparing the best we can could help prevent another relapse or depressive episode. It urged you to be honest in your answers, share it with you loved ones and refer to it often. It was in question and answer form.

It covered areas of wellness such as Emotional Wellness, Relationships, Physical Health, Work/School, Spirituality, Financial, Leisure, Self-Awareness/Insight and Addiction Management. It asked what did I look like or act like when I looked healthy in all the areas I just mentioned. Under Physical Health I put that I would exercise, eat healthy, stop drinking Diet Coke, not use food as a coping mechanism, I’d have good hygiene habits, and that I’d appreciate my body for what it is. Sounds good, right?

Then I skipped to my Core Problems, my deepest, darkest secrets. I listed all my diagnoses: Persistent Depressive Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder and Binge Eating Disorder. I listed the negative thoughts that too often cross my mind: I’m a bad mom and wife; I’m a burden to my family; I’ll never be good enough; and I’m worthless.

Next I wrote about short and long-term goals I had socially, emotionally, spiritually and physically. For example, for the social goal, I wanted to volunteer for my kids’ school book fair in the following September (I left the hospital in August). Long term I wanted to have a girls’ night at Alamo Drafthouse every month.

I did the book fair (and met a really good friend!) — I was actually in charge of it that year — and the girls’ nights were at least every other month if not every month.

But other things like, “take a daily walk around the neighborhood, go on a healthier diet, go to the gym three times a week, make an effort to go to the synagogue more often,” things like that didn’t become a habit. Not because they aren’t important, but because life happened when I stepped off those hospital groups. I had a four- and two-year-old to take care of. I had to figure out how to be a healthy me — a wife me, a mom me, a friend me, a daughter me and a me me — in just a few hours a day I had to myself. I had just begun blogging, and I knew that I wanted to write, but I was still lost and overwhelmed with all the working parts I was supposed to incorporate into my “new” life.

But, as I look as this wellness plan, I see that a lot of the goals on here I’ve hit. I may have done it in a number of years or taken a different approach, but I still made it. I still go to therapy every week (every other week now because my therapist says I don’t have to come weekly anymore). I am healthier. I work out each week. I eat a healthier diet. I volunteer. I have my own column in the Caller-Times. And that did not come easily. I monitor my self-talk. I check in with friends.

And get this: I can ask for help. I can say, “can you take this off my plate, please?” and not feel the slightest guilt about it.

I didn’t know what to expect when I was filling out that Wellness Plan. I didn’t know what challenges would occur or how hard it would be. I just knew it would be hard. Real hard.

But was nothing compared to hitting rock bottom and being sent to a hospital, away from your friends, husband and children (and other family).

I would’ve never dreamed I’d be this happy. I still have bad days; we all do. That just makes the good ones all the more sweet.

Here is a summary of my strengths from my Wellness Plan:

“I’m grateful for my kids. I’m a good writer. I’m grateful for my husband. I’m compassionate and empathetic. I’m a good friend. My cherished moments include both of my children and my wedding. I have more work to do here.”

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I hear these words far too much, and I’m here to tell you that if you have anxiety (multiple forms), you can’t help but worry.

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For example, I noticed that my left breast had a red spot and I could feel a tiny knot/lump. It hurt a little. This has happened before — I had to get a mammogram then a biopsy. Luckily, it was benign, but the radiologist told me that I should start getting mammograms because my breast tissue is so dense.

Looking back, it wasn’t a huge deal. Was I worried? Yes. Did I ruminate? Oh, yeah. And now that it’s happening again, it seems like my anxiety disorder is in overdrive. Since discovering it, I’ve Googled everything from “dense breast lump” to “lump in breast” and “breast cancer lump.”

I feel like it’s normal for me to do that, but then my brain takes it to another level. I start to think about getting cancer, and losing my hair, and radiation, and whether I’ll be able to work as I’ve been doing. I texted the picture of the red spot to a friend and kept repeating myself, “It’s probably nothing. It’ll be like last time, right?” Then I awaited her reply, searching for assurance. I did the same to another friend.

I realize that it is probably nothing, that I’m overreacting. I also know that my brain is an asshole, always exploring the worst case scenarios. This is what I hate about anxiety. It’s relentless. And what also sucks is knowing that there are people out there who can really tuck an issue away and worry about it later. Or not at all.

It’s important to know a couple of things: when someone has an anxiety disorder, they can’t control it. Also, it takes a physical toll.

The Mayo Clinic reports the following symptoms:

  • Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
  • Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty
  • Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
  • Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”

Physical signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Nervousness or being easily startled
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Irritability

Some people think that anxiety is “all in our heads,” but for me, and millions of others, it affects our everyday life and relationship to others. It’s difficult to deal with. It’s difficult to control with medicine. Believe me, I’ve tried. I even got addicted to Klonopin a few years ago. It’s pretty easy to do.

The Mayo Clinic also reports the following:

Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs along with other mental health problems, which can make diagnosis and treatment more challenging. Some mental health disorders that commonly occur with generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide
  • Substance abuse

Unfortunately it’s not something that goes away. Learning healthy coping skills helps, as well as therapy. It can be manageable, but it’s still a major bummer to deal with it. To say the least.

My whole point during this rant is that I can’t control my anxiety. I try my best, I take medicine and I go to therapy but it’s still there. It’s like my brain just wont turn off. It’s non-stop intrusive thoughts, and I rarely get breaks. It’s just fucking dark in here, y’all.

I know there are others like me, and I’d just like to say that you’re not alone. I urge you to seek help, such as support groups and therapy.

I’d like to hear from you guys and ask what you do to manage your anxiety?

That’s it for now. Thanks for listening. Stay in the light.

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My family and I were invited to an event during the week. We usually don’t do activities Monday through Friday, but my husband was excited about it. The event would start at 6 p.m., and as soon as I saw that, my chest tightened. I could feel anxiety wash over my body. My son (who’s 5) goes to bed at 7 p.m., and the event would go well past that. I tried to calm down, and rationally I knew it would be okay, but that did not stop the awful nagging feeling that we shouldn’t go. The problem is that my brain, riddled with misfiring neurons, doesn’t always think rationally. It’s rare. Anxiety always wins.

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My thinking is rigid, very black and white. I’d like to think I’m open minded about most things, but I don’t have the ability to adjust my behavior at times. Cognitive rigidity (lack of mental flexibility) is a sign of poor mental health. It’s associated with many mental health conditions, but others can experience it, too. Like when you’re solving a problem and think your way is the only way to go. Rumination also is a big part of cognitive rigidity

Honestly mine’s not so bad (depending on who you ask). After I had my first child I read about what temperature parents should set in a baby’s room. I saw that number (I can’t remember it now) and obsessed. I bought little thermostats for each room in the house, and I watched them closely, adjusting the air or heat to reach that magic number. That’s anxiety at its “best.”

Things aren’t much different now. My daughter, a first grader, has to be at school at 7:50 a.m., so in the mornings I watch the clock and bark “you have 30 minutes” then “five more minutes, stop lollygagging.” I feel like we have to leave at 7:20, even though we’re five minutes from her school. And they don’t open the doors until 7:30. If we’re running behind, each minute passes painfully, and my anxiety ramps up. We’ve never been late though. What exactly do I think is going to happen if we don’t show up 20 minutes early?

Why does it matter if the temperature is one degree off?

Is the world going to end because my son goes to bed later than 7 p.m.?

Again, Rational Heather says no, but it’s hard to hear her over the thunderous voice of anxiety, which gave birth to all this rigidity. I know it’s not healthy, and it can damage relationships I have with others because I think my way is the only way, the right way. We have to do things my way, per my anxiety. Who cares if it’s irrational?

Sometimes I feel trapped in my body and that it’s betraying me. Anxiety is a liar, I know, but it’s hard to differentiate between the truth and lies. It makes me wonder if I can trust my brain. The fact that I really can’t is scary. I try not to pull at that thread too much.

I wish I could relax and go with the flow, but that’s just not who I am. I have to live with the rigidity and try to manage it best I can. There are positive aspects of anxiety (like always being prepared), and that’s what I must focus on.

I need to figure out how I can manipulate my black and white thoughts and add a little color.

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Truth Hurts.

by Heather Loeb

Last week I received an award from NAMI Texas for portraying and advocating for mental illness. It was a huge honor of me, and I felt very validated. I think it was probably the best award I’ve ever received in all my life. But just days after winning, I was sobbing in my therapist’s office.

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I feel like I have overcome something — being suicidal and getting help for my terrible depression and anxiety. I feel like I give good advice in my columns and blogs. I feel like my hard work has been noticed and that people are listening. But I’m a far cry from the “badass” in my columns or the rockstar everyone in NAMI thinks I am. I don’t mean to sound conceited or like I’m bragging; I only mean to highlight the dichotomy between healthy me and not-so-healthy me.

I’ve never claimed that I’m totally fixed or anything. As a matter of fact, I talk about how another depressive episode is likely and that I’ll never be “cured.” But surely I can take my own advice as I’m penning my innermost thoughts. No, I definitely don’t practice what I preach.

You see, today, as I was sobbing in my therapist’s office, we determined it was because I wasn’t being honest with myself. It was like I’d never met the Heather in the paper and on my blog. Red flags warning of relapse were flying by me, but I couldn’t have told you one healthy thing to do to fix it. Except go to my therapist’s, so I guess that counts.

Giving into my eating disorder is me lying to myself. Taking too much anxiety medication is me lying to myself. Cutting, sleeping too much, isolating — it’s all a big fat lie I tell myself to get by. And it never works.

It’s just so goddamn painful being me sometimes that I will find any way I can to escape. So I do. But in the end it only hurts me and subsequently my friends and family.

My therapist says I have to sit with my feelings, in addition to being honest. I can’t just get uncomfortable and run (or overeat or get high). I have to sit there and explore what those feelings mean and find out who I really am. As I’m writing this, I’ve daydreaming of my next meal, or rather, what I can binge eat. That’ll make me feel good…for about five minutes.

I feel like a fraud. I feel like I’ve portrayed myself as a well-adjusted, healthy woman, but that’s just not the case. My journey with mental illness is far from over. Right now it’s very turbulent, and I might puke. It feels like I’ll never stop battling my demons.

I don’t know why it’s so painful being me, but I suspect it’s because I have a core belief that I’m not good enough, that I’m a bad person, and that fuels my compulsions and bad habits. I don’t know how to fix that though. I tell myself that I’m a good, worthy person, but it never seems to stick.

I’ve really got to dig deep right now and give myself some grace. I’m going to try meditating about my core beliefs. I’m going to try to dispel all the negative core beliefs and come up with new ones.

I can do this. I feel so close to a breakthrough, and it’ll be a long time coming. Before when I struggled with my anxiety and depression, I just accepted it and didn’t try to get better, not really. I would ignore all the demons in my head and pay the price of binge eating, abusing meds, etc. I’d cut myself, get new tattoos and compulsively shop. One months the credit card bill was over $10,000. Ludicrous.

It’s time I grow up, experience negative emotions and not ignore them. I have to get this right.

Because now it’s all wrong.

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Lately I’ve noticed that I’m starting to struggle mentally. It’s frustrating because I’ve been doing well and been very productive, but that all seems to be slipping away.

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I haven’t been eating a healthy diet, I haven’t kept up with my blog, I haven’t showered as much, and everything seems a more daunting and harder than usual. It’s frustrating for me because I feel like I’ve made so much progress. Sometimes I’m able to get so much done and now not so much.

It’s probably because I’ve been putting too much on my plate. I’ve been highly functional this past year, and I’ve tried to say yes to every new opportunity I have, but I’m starting to think it’s more important to say no. At least right now when I’m struggling.

Room mom at my son’s preschool? Yes.
Volunteer with NAMI Greater Corpus Christi? Yes.
Make mental health videos for my favorite state representative? Sure.
Become Communications Manager for NAMI GCC? Absolutely.

There’s a lot more, at least it’s a lot to me. I have to remember that while saying yes is good, I have to recognize my limitations. I can’t just do it all. My anxiety and depression are hard to manage, and I never know when it’s going to get worse, like now. I try to make hay while the sun shines, but it’s so much harder to do right now.

The only thing I can do is set boundaries — this is especially important now that the holidays are coming up, and it’s going to get more stressful. I need to be honest with myself, take breaks and focus on what I can do (in a healthy way).

I know these feelings I have are overwhelming now, but it’s just temporary. All the bad moods, anxiety and depressive episodes are all temporary. My true state is happy and productive even though it doesn’t feel like it at times. It’s OK to not be OK.

“Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It’s always there, though.”

― Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

And right now, I’m just not OK.

Now’s the time to fall back on healthy habits I put in place while I did feel better: going to weekly therapy, taking all my medications, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, practicing self-care and asking for help when I need it. And taking breaks!

I have to put the work in, especially now. That’s hard to do when I just feel like giving up on everything, but I’ll never get better if I don’t do the work.

I can do this. I can do hard things. I’ve done them before, and this time is no different.

Stay in the light, my friends.

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I don’t like getting out of routine. I plan things, I never fly by the seat of my pants, and I can be rigid with my schedule. I blame my anxiety on all that; I just can’t handle change, and I hate the unknown. It can really send me in a tailspin.

For instance, Eli has always had a super early bedtime. When my kids were babies, I got them into a bedtime routine, and his just stuck, even though he was going to bed at 6:30 p.m. at 4 years old. It wasn’t a problem until the pandemic hit and he inexplicably started waking up at 5 a.m. Family members and friends told me to put him down later and he’d wake up later, but that was not the case. It didn’t matter what time I’d put him down, he always woke up early. Eventually I got used to waking that early.

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But then Eli started waking up in the middle of the night or earlier than 5 a.m.

I knew I had to change his routine and get him down later, but I procrastinated. The idea of changing it up was so daunting. If he went to bed later it would affect my chill time, which is sacred to me, and also my bedtime. It would change when David and I ate dinner, usually right after Eli went to bed when I could enjoy it and not worry about him.

The more I fretted about it, the more impossible it seemed. So I kept doing the same thing, and Eli kept waking up at all hours, and I kept ignoring the problem until we went to see my parents a week and a half ago. My dad, trying to be helpful, nagged me to push his bedtime back and to do it consistently until he stops waking up early.

Not wanting to hear any more about it (no offense, dad), I let Eli stay late every night while we were visiting. He didn’t wake up at 5, but around 6 or 7. I started to think it was doable.

When we returned I kept him up later than normal, putting him to bed around 7 and 7:30 p.m. This made it easier for all of us to have dinner together, which the kids were first excited about until they learned they had to put away their phones. It was nice, though, once we got past the crying over the phones.

I started to realize that it wasn’t so bad changing things up. We still need to perfect the new routine, but I’m trying to be okay with that. It’s a big step for me, but my whole point with telling you this is that people with anxiety, like me, can build up problems or situations and make them into seemingly impassible mountains. Usually, I have to think everything over, analyzing everything to death and then wait until conditions are right — which is hard because if you have anxiety, you never think conditions are right for change and stepping outside of your comfort zone.

But I was able to do this. Usually if I let the kids stay up past their bedtime, I became tense and punchy. I worried about how much later it was and what was going to happen in the morning. I’d stay tense, which led to no chill time once the kids actually went to bed. And see, I need chill time everyday. I have to take breaks and practice self-care because I get very irritable when I can’t relax and the children (as well as my husband) pay for that. And that’s not fair.

But letting go of the rigidity was so freeing. It was amazing not freaking out Eli’s routine, and even though I have some work to do to get the new routine right, I’m happy I did it. Plus, I don’t have to hear anymore nagging from my dad, lol (I love you and I’m grateful to you, dad).

So my friends, the next time you’re facing a problem, I urge you to buck your anxiety and just do it — make a decision and move on it. I know it’s hard but sometimes you just have to say screw it and make the rules as you go, especially if you’re a parent.

Will I do this the next time a problem occurs? Knowing me, maybe, but I’m going to work on letting go real hard.

If all else fails, I’ll just call my dad.

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I start sweating.

My chest tightens, then relaxes briefly before tightening over and over.

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My heart beats faster, and there are butterflies in my stomach.

Intrusive thoughts take center stage in my brain. I start telling myself elaborate, worst-case-scenario stories that defy logic.

My hands start to shake. When I stand up it feels like I have eaten in two days because I’m so lightheaded. I try to find somewhere quiet where I can be alone, but thats not always feasible. I try to hide from the kids, but there’s no hiding my swollen eyelids, blotchy cheeks and how hard it is to take a breath.

I try to quell the intrusive thoughts and stories, but rational thought is no match for my anxiety.

Tears brim my eyelids and threaten to fall.

I start to lose my breathe and with that I start to cry. Big sobs escape in between ragged breaths.

I have an even harder time breathing between sobs, and I swear my heart is pounding in my throat like a jackhammer.

It’s too late for an anxiety pill; I have to ride this out for now. I try to catch my breathe, but it seems impossible. I deep breathe like they say. I try grounding techniques, but I’m already past the point of no return.

Once I’ve sobbed uncontrollably for what feels like hours, I start my descent to rational (or as close as I can get) thoughts. I try a grounding technique now that I’m more calm. I search for five things I can see, four things I can feel, three things I can hear, two things I can smell and one thing I can taste. It sorta helps.

My heart keeps pounding in my chest. I still feel the chest tightness and butterflies, although they’re calming down.

I struggle to remember what triggered this attack, but sometimes I come up empty handed. It could be anything, but like I said, no amount of logic can stop an attack. My imagination, a vivid as it is, runs away from me, never with me.

I calm down further but have intense feelings of guilt or shame — shame that I may have inconvenienced someone during my attack. I start worrying that I’ll have another.

People don’t understand. They think I’m weak, that I can’t handle things. They don’t realize that this is part of my anxiety disorder, and I can’t control it any more than an epileptic can control a seizure. I can do everything right — take my medicine, avoid certain triggers, meditate, get enough sleep, etc. — but I could still have an attack any minute.

I am not alone in my struggles: Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), people with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events. Women are affected by the disorder more than men. It’s not uncommon for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Also, nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Is what I described similar to what you experience during a panic attack? Feel free to describe yours in the comments.

Thanks for reading, and as always, stay in the light.

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I was scrolling on Facebook yesterday and someone had made a comment that they waited until the last minute to buy a garter for Homecoming, which is coming up this week.

Just reading that post made me anxious. I felt a knot in my stomach, and I felt a tightness in my chest. I don’t have kids old enough for Homecoming. I think I have one mom friend with a kid in high school. I have no skin in the game, as my dad would say, but it freaked me out nonetheless. The words “last minute” were enough to get me ruminating about chores or tasks I have to get done.

I never do anything last minute, ever. I prepare for events months in advance. For instance, I already have Hanukkah presents for my kids and enough holiday decorations to fill a museum. When my kids have a party or start school, everything is purchased and organized in advance. Not only that, but I mentally rehearse every situation I’m in and even practice what I’m going to say (i.e. during a dinner party). Don’t get me started on last minute plans.

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When the pandemic hit we didn’t run out of toilet paper because I had already stocked that, paper towels and hygiene items. I have enough toothpaste to last a couple of years.

That’s anxiety for you. I’m practically a doomsday prepper the way I prepare for things and worry. One, I don’t know when a depressive episode will hit so I make sure my family has everything we need. Two, preparing for things in advance gives me a sense of control. It feels like I’m not in control when it comes to anxiety, so the only thing I can do is just work around it.

I recently read that there’s a purpose for anxiety, that it helps us deal with stress and meant to sharpen our minds to the flight-or-fight response, meaning it protects us from danger and allows us to react faster to emergencies and alert us to potential threats, according to MentalHealth.org.uk

That’s all fine and good, but I feel that’s speaking to normal anxiety that everyone faces, not a condition like 40 million other Americans and I who have an anxiety disorder. Not-so-fun fact: About 7 percent of children ages 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year. Most people develop symptoms before the age of 21, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). These are also outdated numbers; I imagine they’ll be much higher because of the pandemic.

For those with this condition can be such a burden or hinderance to everyday life. I experience intrusive thoughts along with my anxiety which basically means terrible thoughts invade my mind, and I can’t do much to stop it. I get panic attacks. I worry about stupid things like lightbulbs burning out and the air in my tires. I worry about things I’ve done and said in the past. I worry about loved ones dying and making mistakes in my writing. I worry way too much about my weight and what people think of me. But that’s the “anxiety version” of me. The real Heather doesn’t care what people think. She’s easy going and preps to make sure her family has everything they need — not fueled by anxiety but out of love and diligence.

As I’m typing this I’m starting to see that there are advantages of having anxiety. It does ensure I’m ready for every possible scenario. My house is already decorated for the holidays, and I won’t have to rush to get gifts this year. My family has everything they need and that’s because I work hard to give them the life they deserve.

That and I’m certainly not going to run out of toothpaste anytime soon.

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My daughter has been complaining about stomachaches. At first it seemed she was saying she was sick so she could stay home and play Minecraft. The girl is addicted. But after having a talk about fibbing, she still complained every few days. I took her to the doctor, and after ruling common ailments out, the doctor concluded it was stress and anxiety. Not surprising given my severe anxiety disorder.

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After the appointment I called my parents to fill them in. My concerned dad asked what is she stressed about? It’s a fair question, she’s not even seven yet. I thought about it and said it’s probably from starting a new school and not knowing anyone in her class. She’s been at the JCC preschool since she was two so it has certainly been an adjustment. Then it hit me — you don’t have to have stress to have anxiety. I could have the best day of my life and still have anxiety, and I don’t think it’s any different for children who experience anxiety. Unfortunately, my daughter might have anxiety even as an adult. I hope not, but if she does, at least she has a mother who has experienced it all when it comes to anxiety and depression.

I know what you’re thinking — isn’t she a little young to have anxiety? — but it’s more common than you think and the number of children with anxiety and/or depression is increasing each year. No doubt it will be exponential when data is collected for 2020 and 2021 because of Covid. The most recent numbers show that 7 percent of children aged 3 to 17 years (about 4.4 million) have been diagnosed with anxiety. And 3.2 percent of children aged 3 to 17 (about 1.9 million) have been diagnosed with depression, according to the CDC.

Anxiety in children manifests in different ways than in adults. Here’s what to look for if you think your child could have anxiety:

  • Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety)
  • Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)
  • Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)
  • Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)
  • Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder)

Something I noticed that’s not on the list is intrusive thoughts. When I was young (about 12), I would have these grim and scary thoughts invade my brain, such as you’re going to die, your family is going to die, you’re worthless, etc. I didn’t realize that wasn’t normal, so I never spoke up. But if is DEFINITELY not normal.

It’s helpful that I’ve experienced stuff like that, so I know what to look for, but that’s also why I’m sharing with you now. Everybody is different and one child’s anxiety might look different than what’s generally written about.

If you think your kids are struggling, contact your pediatrician. Ask about therapy, research methods of coping, be open-minded and withhold judgement. It’s scary enough to deal with all this, much less a parent who brushes you off or doesn’t make an effort to understand what’s going on.

Other things to know:

  • An estimated 31.9 percent of adolescents had any anxiety disorder (National Institute of Mental Health)
  • Anxiety disorders affect more girls than boys
  • 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder and 60 percent of kids with diagnosable depression are not getting treatment, according to the 2015 Child Mind Institute Children’s Mental Health Report.
  • Anxiety disorders are treatable

Early intervention is key. Had I had help when I was younger, I believe my life would be different. Not that I blame anyone for what’s happened to me, but the coping mechanisms I adopted were unhealthy ones and only added to my depression and anxiety (like binge eating).

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at heatherannloeb@gmail.com

Stay in the light, friends.

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istock-1208490503-1024x725-5482298

Anxiety Flies Free

by Heather Loeb

Note: This blog was written last week. No airbag sickness bags were actually used, lol

I’m on a plane as I’m writing this, on the way to enjoy a much needed getaway with my husband, but I just can’t get in vacation mode because of my brain. Always my brain.

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I’ve been on at least 20 flights in my life, and they’ve always gone smoothly. But that doesn’t stop my anxiety from putting a damper on the trip. Apparently, anxiety flies for free along with my bags.

Here I sit arguing with myself whether the plane is going to crash. This is what people misunderstand about anxiety — these aren’t fleeting thoughts I have as I’m boarding. No, this is my brain telling me over and over again that I’m going to die despite part of me knowing I’ll be just fine. It causes a physical reaction, and my body becomes full of tension. My head starts to hurt, and despite the comfortable temperature, I’m sweating. I look for the air sickness bag but can’t find it..

I did find a seat in the exit row because my husband wanted more leg room, so then I worry that I won’t be able to get the door open in an emergency. That I’ll accidentally touch the door and get sucked out into the air, and again, die. That’s not a logical thought, and I’m clear enough in my thinking to know it’s illogical. But I can’t stop that stream of thinking. Even with three anxiety pills I may or may not have taken.

I kid, but it’s important to know that anxiety takes over your thoughts and catastrophizes. It’s not like I’m nervous about a job interview or going to the dentist. This is my own treasonous brain, betraying me and making me wonder how my kids are going to live without me with every bout of turbulence.

I can learn tricks to distract myself. I feel I have an arsenal of coping mechanisms, but it’s still hard. My anxiety doesn’t just manipulate me when it comes to death and disasters. There are times I hear that nobody likes me, I’m unlovable and unworthy. It exploits me in almost every aspect of my life. And at times, it’s debilitating.

I can do everything right when it comes to being mentally healthy, but my anxiety will still be there, waiting to pounce. I haven’t been able to escape it since the seventh grade.

Anxiety is all-consuming and causes pain. I know being a friend to someone with anxiety is at times exhausting. I know those struggling need lots of reassurance, among other things, but please know they’re needy for a reason — it’s uncontrollable and scary. Please know that people with anxiety almost always have another diagnosis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), some estimates show that 60 percent of those with anxiety also have depression. Some of us are dealing with a lot of demons, and patience and understanding is a must. It isn’t always talked about, but it needs to be.

And just like that we’ve cleared 20,000 feet, and it’s smooth sailing. It’s peaceful, even. A brief respite. I can see everything on the ground, looking so small and far away. I’ve stopped sweating. Worry has loosened its grip on me as we cut through more clouds clouds. I can finally look forward to my vacation.

Right after we land.

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