Posted in Calming the Voices, Word Therapy

A Reminder

I stopped at the red light, careful to take some deep breaths. In through my nose, out through my mouth. The breeze was icy, even though I was sweating under my oversized olive green sweatshirt. I hooked my right foot under the bike pedal, prepared to go. The light turned my favorite color and I cycled off the curb. Once I crossed the street while avoiding the car who had pulled halfway through the crosswalk, I changed my gears to number one.

I started emulating a hamster wheel, feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere. But as the hill became steeper, I started making headway. It was hard. My thighs and butt hurt. My brain kept repeating how much it hurt. But thankfully my cheerleader was on the sidelines. She told me, “Bitch, you got this! (she looks and sounds like P!nk in case you were wondering).”

I concentrated on close markers. A light pole, an arrow on the pavement, or even just the end of a sidewalk. I didn’t miss the irony of the “No Stopping at Any Time” sign. My brain was still on a mission to get me to stop. “Just because you did it once doesn’t mean you can do it again,” it told me. I kept moving.

I tried to stay close to the ditch to avoid the cars whipping around the corner. But if I got too close to the curb my pedal would smack it. Fallen pinecones from the trees that lined the street threatened to derail me from my ride.

I neared the top. I was tired but knew I wouldn’t stop. I leveled out for about 50 feet and then it got harder until I got to the intersection and had to pump my legs their quickest to make the light. I had made it.

My life is now divided into two parts: before Prozac and after. Everything since I started Prozac has been self-awareness. Anything of importance has a light shone on it. I have learned to not feel bad setting boundaries and sticking to them. I have learned that no matter how much I want somebody in my life out of obligation or love, my happiness doesn’t need to come at a cost. I have learned that being the victim only keeps me standing still and prevents me from achieving life goals. I have learned that taking a job to pay the bills doesn’t mean I’m giving up my dreams, no matter how fucking old I am (the anger and curse words are my fuel). And last but not least, no matter how hard something is, it will be okay (even if P!nk is the one who has to tell me).

And one last thing: to the friend who told me, “I hope you keep writing”, you have no idea what that meant to me. Thank you.

Posted in Not Today Anxiety

No Filter

Ever since I started becoming more accepting of myself on the inside (thanks Prozac), I have started to look at my outside differently. I have come to the conclusion that I am tired of trying to keep up with society’s standards of how I look.

Image result for hannah gadsby i identify as tired

In elementary school you wear what brings you comfort with sneakers, t-shirts, hoodies, shorts, and pants. You don’t care if you get grass stains on them, you just want to play. A good comb through of the hair and a brush of the teeth and you’re good to go. As you hit your tweens, glasses and braces accompany the acne. Your friends start to shave their legs and you wonder if you should too. Your mom takes you bra shopping and you are mortified. All you really want is to look like Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles.

In junior high your hair isn’t straight/curly/long/short/perfect enough and you use way too much hairspray to try and get it right (it never is). You get contacts to replace the glasses but the braces won’t come off for another 2 years. Your chest grows as much as it’s going to and you realize that in the land of big boobs you aren’t even a contestant in the competition.

High school comes and your hair is finally the way you want it but it doesn’t matter because you just don’t look the “right” way. Your twenties is about experimenting and you start coloring your hair, wearing makeup, and getting piercings. Tanning beds, going to the beach, and laying out gives you a glow that makes your unacceptable pale skin acceptable. At least you can still eat what you want.

You get married in your 30s and a month later become pregnant. Two years later you become pregnant again. You bounce back within a month with both kids and go back to working out but that lower stomach fat is here to stay.

Your 43rd birthday brings shorts that are too tight. All your clothes make you hot. You accept that you aren’t going to be as small as you were in your twenties and that going up a size isn’t the end of the world. Pilates, jogging, biking, weight lifting, and yoga give you strength and health. You see yourself being active to the day you die and that will always be the motivation. Big hats, as much as you don’t want to wear them, are a necessity. You bring bangs back to cover up those forehead lines but decide to join the Grombre movement because your hair color no longer defines you. Green and cruelty free is your motto with skincare and makeup. The less chemicals on your person, the better. Fashion will always be fun but you feel yourself moving closer and closer to Julia Louis Dreyfus’s character in Enough Said as your aesthetic:

Natural hair, casual but stylish, minimal makeup-she is a goddess

You’ve always presented yourself the way you want but now you have confidence in your decisions and that is freeing. And even though magazines like Cosmopolitan and Vogue are becoming more inclusive, there is still Facebook and Instagram. Social media is the new magazine with the airbrushed model on the unrealistic cover. It’s a standard that is impossible to live up to. You know that. But your brain still insists on telling you that you are less than. And rather than give up scrolling, you start telling yourself that you are good enough and that you don’t need no stinkin’ filters to present who you are to the world.

Posted in Not Today Anxiety

Sleepover Mania

Since Curls and Red have birthdays five days apart, this year we did back to back sleepovers the first weekend after school started. Our friends told us we were crazy. They weren’t wrong. But we were crazy armed with our medicine. And that made all the difference.

Before Prozac, just one kid sleeping over would make me anxious. A series of questions would run through my brain. How do I tell a kid the rules in our house without upsetting them? Will they tell their parents and then an angry parent will call and yell at me? When is it okay to tell them to go to bed? Should I just let the kids stay up and resign myself to a night of no sleep? Anxiety doesn’t just attack my social skills. It also tells me that I am uptight because I can’t stop cleaning while the party is going on. Just leave the damn food, plates, and anything else alone because people are having a good time. Don’t make them feel bad for enjoying themselves while you pick up.

Now that I am taking my Prozac, I am equipped to handle them. This past weekend’s sleepovers consisted of 4 kids staying each night, not including Curls and Red. But instead of my subconscious bullying me, I was able to enjoy their personalities (funny, polite, and sweet) and let them do their own thing. I let them know when they needed to wash their hands before meals and dessert, throw away their own trash, and keep food and drinks in the kitchen. I also made it clear that if they needed anything at all, to just let us know. They were there to have fun and we wanted to make sure they were comfortable in our home. I also didn’t stress about what time they went to bed as long as they played quietly past 10 pm so the neighbors wouldn’t call the cops (let them save that ruckus for their twenties and college).

If I started to feel my body hum with nerves, I would throw away used paper plates and napkins. I would wipe down counters, put shoes by the door, pick up stinky socks, and wipe down bathrooms. Cleaning calms my brain and centers me and I need all the tools in my brain arsenal that I can get.

Were back to back sleepovers still tiring and difficult? Hell yes. But hubby and I teamed up, planned well, and tried to have humor and patience. I hope the kids remember the party as a great time and not crabby parents asking at 2 am to keep it down.

If you’re a parent, do you do sleepovers? Do you love or hate them? My BFF does sleepovers pretty much every weekend for my niece and nephews and I would like to nominate her for sainthood.

I hope you find passion and happiness this weekend!

Posted in Calming the Voices, Not Today Anxiety, Wellness, Word Therapy

Today

Last week marked the one year anniversary since I started taking Prozac. I have changed so much in that time. My brain before Prozac was the house that lay dormant with sheets covering all of the furniture. Prozac has gone around and turned on all the lights, removed the sheets, and aired it out by opening the windows. The more sunshine that comes in, the more I feel myself. I feel as if the parts of me that needed fixing are starting to mend. I have more patience, I am more open, and I am not beating myself up on a daily basis. When anxiety starts to build up I am more often than not able to reign it in.

It’s exhausting being defensive and thinking that when a friend, family member, or even a stranger acts negatively towards you that you automatically think you did something wrong. But I did just that for 42+ years (and honestly don’t know how I’m not taking a nap right now). Having that disappear gives me the opportunity to be empathetic. I’m taking my time back and using it for more positive things. Prozac and mindfulness have done that for me.

Social media is still and probably always will be a struggle. There are days where I want to share my life, good and bad. I want to engage with others, other days I just want to hide from it all so I can’t be judged (which is mostly coming from inside my own head).

I want to be an author first and always. I have focused on getting through my anxiety by writing. When I get overwhelmed with mindfulness, putting thoughts down on paper has helped. But I also have felt selfish and self centered by writing about this. Who am I to play the victim and be sad about life? But ultimately I have realized I needed to go through this to come out on the other side. I sometimes still feel alone in my feelings. Prozac has taught my brain that is not the case but my heart still feels different. I am not pushing for a change of heart as I know that wall will become even stronger the more my brain tries to huff and puff it down. It will change in time and that will have to be enough.

The Should and Shouldn’t Have families are starting to wear out their welcome as I am putting on my pajamas to give them the hint. Just in the last few weeks I have started asking, “Well, why can’t I do that?” or “Why do I have to do that?” It sounds so corny and cheesy but I am starting to like myself. It’s a foreign feeling for someone who is constantly thinking of new ways to improve herself. I definitely should have sought help sooner but strangely I don’t have any regrets. I am just so happy that I finally feel “normal.”

I have learned that my emotions will change day to day. One day I will feel on top of the world, ready to accomplish anything. Others I will be frustrated with life and feel like I will never achieve anything. I know I am not alone in this and that in itself is huge. Now I can focus on finding the strength to keep going. I know I can write a book that will be successful. It’s holding onto that thought day in and day out, that is my goal.

I don’t know if I will change anybody’s mind about mental health, but getting the help I needed has been life changing for me. Thank you for reading.

Posted in Wellness, Word Therapy

Happy Mindfulness

Today I turn 43. Not a special birthday. A day where I think about all that has happened since the last April 12th and the changes my family and I have been through. So much changed for the better in this last year. We are back at home, I can say with confidence that I am a writer, and I feel the most settled than I ever have.

Mindfulness is definitely the word I would use to describe this year. I’m learning more why I act the way I do and the actions of others around me. I stop and think more, which has made me a better parent and wife. I take life one day at a time with a lot of letting go and deep breaths. It has brought peace to my soul that wasn’t there before.

It is easier to be grateful these days. I appreciate the outdoors when I walk my dogs, go on Sunday bike rides with my family, and sit in my backyard and write. Listening to music helps me to sit still and relax.

I am taking a hold of aging and attempting to be graceful. I got bangs to cover my forehead wrinkles but I don’t think I can rock a beard like Keala Settle to cover up the jowels. I refuse to subscribe to the thinking that I should dress according to my age and wear what I love, jeans and pop culture t-shirts (with a little bit of preppy thrown in). I haven’t found the perfect Mrs. Roper’s muumuu yet but I will track down that unicorn.

My brain tries to sabotage me weekly. It seems the harder I work to overcome my obstacles, the louder the negative feelings become. But I know that these are only temporary and will pass.

I don’t know if my writing has gotten better. I have become more truthful, which is just as important to me. I have found my process. I have worked my way past the voices that tell me everything I write sucks, and just write what it is I need to say. I know I am going to have to read a piece at least five times and edit the hell out of it before I can feel satisfied with it. I feel freer to write and the judgment I imagine that is forthcoming is not as scary.

I write this blog to process what I am going through. I want others to be able to understand what somebody with anxiety is going through. Or maybe they see themselves in a post. The more people I interact with those that have anxiety, the less alone I feel. Social media (particularly Instagram) has helped with that. And sure, I would love to have followers in the thousands. But it is also exhausting to make yourself relevant in this world. Going viral, using the allotted 25 hashtags, and following someone back because they follow you are all tricks of the trade but once you are in the spotlight the question is for how long?

I have accepted that when I have highs they are in the sky and when I have lows they are below the ocean bed (Kind of like this post). Prozac has brought me closer to the middle and given me balance. I also think feeling at home has been a factor. Happiness is achievable and I intend to keep running towards it.

Please celebrate my birthday with me by reading about and/or donating to

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/#sm.0006isoco1aj1es6wm62lmqtzuku9

https://www.aclu.org/

https://everytown.org/

Thank you!

Posted in Word Therapy

Am I a Narcissistic Asshole?: A Rhetorical Post

Anxiety disorder: A group of mental disorders characterized by significant feelings of anxiety and fear.

Social anxiety: Chronic mental health condition which social interactions cause irrational anxiety.

Narcissism: A disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self importance.

Since starting Prozac, I recognize that a lot of my past actions have been due to anxiety. Control, trust, and anger issues all came from deep rooted fear. Medication and a whole lot of thinking are helping to correct these problems as understanding why is key. But then because my brain can’t leave well enough alone, I start to question this. Can I really blame my negative behavior on my anxiety? Or like the villain in your favorite book, am I just an asshole and don’t realize it?

Over the years I have had a string of female friendships that ended badly. I’ve tried to figure out what I am doing wrong and why I am unable to maintain these friendships. Don’t get me wrong. I am lucky enough to have a BFF that is also my sister-in-law. I have a college buddy who I consider family. And one of my oldest friends is somebody I don’t see often but know I can count on.

I have written and rewritten this post over the past few years. I feel exposed and weak when I think about putting it out there for all to read. But I want to deal with this head on so I can start to embrace that camaraderie, get this village that everyone talks about, and be more open to friendships that I would normally shy away from.

When I was in sixth grade my core group of friends told me flat out that I wasn’t cool enough to hang out with anymore. In junior high I was a loner who was constantly bullied. In high school I finally made a few “friends” who always made snide comments about me, played practical jokes on me, and were rude to my family when they were at my house. Then I met Jen. She was a junior when I was a sophomore. She was athletic, funny, and didn’t take crap from anyone. She was six feet tall with an Afro of blonde curls (picture the McDonald’s Fry Guy). She took me under her wing and showed me kindness. Two years later our friendship ended because I was either being an asshole or my anxiety had sabotaged the one true friendship I had. Since then I have gone through an assortment of relationships.

So am I ending these friendships because I am afraid of getting hurt? Am I setting standards so high that nobody could possibly live up to them? Or have I just had bad luck with friends? And to complicate things further, I had an epiphany right before my 40th birthday. I finally saw that I wasn’t the awful person I had always made myself out to be. The hard work then became a matter of distinguishing between the voices of anxiety and my gut telling me, “You don’t deserve to be treated like this.” In the beginning I would stand up for myself by being aggressive and blunt. The more accepting I have become of myself, the easier it is to be firm but nice.

So am I a narcissistic asshole? Probably a little bit. Right now I am happy and content with the small group of friends I have. Fear may prevent me from reaching out for now. I have learned that I can be “too much” for most people. But that’s okay.

Posted in Not Today Anxiety

Breathe, Smile, Repeat

Focusing on the positive and what lays ahead is an exercise I use to keep out the negativity and dark voices. In the Spring my daughter Curls and I are taking a jet plane to New York City. Back in October I scored two tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway at the Lyric Theater. This will be both of ours first trip to the Big Apple. I am feeling grateful, happy, and terrified. Because with all things in my life, anxiety looks for a loophole into my psyche to trash the place. It imagines worst case scenarios:

What if you lose Curls in the crowds?

What if you get lost together?

What if we get mugged (A big thank you to the Different Strokes episode that has lingered in my brain since childhood)

What if you get to will call and your show tickets aren’t there?

What if you miss your flight home?

This is where my Type A personality kicks in. I start to plan, plan, plan (translation=control, control, control). My best friend Google and I start searching for what we shouldn’t miss, what is overrated, budget friendly food, accommodations, and what’s fun and free (Central Park and New York Public Library are already at the top of the list). I checked out City Pass to see if it is worth it (Not for this three day trip). But researching even for a short amount of time leaves me feeling overwhelmed. Am I planning too much? Is the show going to be good? Will Curls get grumpy when she gets tired (most definitely)?

Eventually the Prozac brings his Dr. Feelgood vibes and I start to take deep breaths. I tell myself prepping three months before the trip is the first step to making it great (Thank you Type A). I remind myself that I am skilled at finding deals on ANYTHING ($130 round trip total for Curls and I with the help of credit card points and travel savvy friend livyourlifeyourway). Social media is a great tool at finding places for us to go and eat (Instagram has introduced my family and I to a number of delish restaurants). And I am leaving time for us to explore and find things to do that we normally wouldn’t think of (like ice skating at Rockefeller Center in April).

Come this summer my family of four will be flying up to the Pacific Northwest. We plan on enjoying Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver. I will employ the same tactics I am using for NYC but I have an ace in the whole: my husband. No matter what happens with our trip, he is the human version of Prozac for me. He keeps me calm and ready to face anything.

Do you have any exciting trips planned for 2018? How do you plan your vacations? What do you look for in a new place? I love finding restaurants where people rave so much about it online that I just HAVE to go there-like Gourdough’s in Austin, Texas. For New York that place will be Serendipity (frozen hot chocolate, anyone?).

And because Curls and I are going to a city that is revered as much as New York, friends and family have been generous with tips and recommendations. How could this mini vacation be anything but a blast?

Knickerbocker Hotel

Posted in Word Therapy

Does My Anxiety Make Me Type A or Does My Type A Personality Give Me Anxiety?

Happy New Year! (2 weeks late, I know I know) Instead of making New Year’s resolutions this year, I have made a to do list. As a Monica-from-Friends Type A personality, I love checklists and making my little checks, stars, or cross outs once I have completed a task, no matter how small. Instead of making a list of things I feel I “should” do, I want to do things that will keep me on Happiness Highway. This ranges from writing a book, to expanding my blog, getting outdoors more with my family, and letting go of what I can’t control.

I have written a couple of short stories, one young adult novel, and started/stopped many other tales in the 10+ years I have been writing. This year I am going to put my heart and soul into a children’s/tween book that has been taking up rent in my brain for a while. It is a fantasy with humans and animals interacting and takes place in a library (my home away from home). I am inspired by Neil Gaiman and Guillermo Del Toro and hope to incorporate their way of using darkness and fairy tale themes. This will definitely be geared towards the audience of Curls and Red but I hope I can pull the Pixar trick of making adults love it also.

I am now in my seventh year of this blog. As you can see we have gotten a new suit and tie (unless you are a new reader and to that I say Hi!). I will continue to write about: Staying ahead of my depression and anxiety, my family and the things we like to do in Southern California, pop culture, and politics. As for you the readers, I always want your feedback. Please tell me what you want to read more of and what you don’t. I will always try to stay positive here (there is so much negativity out there these days) but I have my bad days too and writing helps me work through it.

Now that my family and I have adjusted to our new surroundings in Orange County, we are trying to get outside more. We all have bikes and teaching the kids how to ride safely in a high traffic area has been a priority (my son is going to give me a heart attack before I hit my next birthday). We like to go to our local hiking trail that even has a lake. Being outdoors is great for my mental state, gets all of us off our electronics, and increases my love for Southern California weather. Taking our bikes to the beach and mountains is on the agenda in the next few months. We also want to go paddle boarding and kayaking this summer.

Letting go is in bold on my checklist for 2018. Prozac has helped me achieve this little by little. I watch my kids make their own decisions and I catch myself from saying, “But do this..” I realize each day that I am not here to walk them down my path but help them find their own. I have gotten better at accepting things I can’t change, which makes me lighter and more open to what life brings (my lord I have turned into such a hippie).

Today I am going to drop kick that anxiety across the football field of life and run toward my goal (posts). Hope you are kicking that Hump Day’s booty!

Posted in Calming the Voices, Word Therapy

Anxiety, Panic, and Pessimism: Take A Seat

Back at home.  A house, while smaller, has character and a tranquil backyard (my kids are so tired of hearing about the character of Fullerton houses but I am in serious architectural hog heaven).  There are so many places we want to visit in the OC that I have to keep reminding myself that those places aren’t going anywhere and neither are we.  And for the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m not stressed about bills.  That is when the voices start to close in and try to sabotage my brain.

I have had a good life.  I grew up in a nice home, have loving parents, and was never really told no.  In adulthood I met the love of my life and we have two great kids.  But I also grew up feeling less than, was bullied relentlessly, and never felt pretty.  My husband and I have survived hard times but they have left their mark.  They put me in the lowest place I have ever been.  Those times made me stronger, weaker, and made me appreciate what I have.  But it also introduced me to my greatest fear: a feeling I never want to revisit.

These days I am the manager of our household, making sure everybody is taken care of and is getting what they need from their life.  That ranges from making sure hubby is getting the time to study calculus after work, to the kids having an after school activity to work out their energy, to Oscar getting his daily walks to stretch his old legs.  I exercise, write, clean, and read.  I of course always want more time to write but how can I complain?  I know how lucky I am.

Then I start to hear, “This can’t last.  Happiness doesn’t stay.  The happier you get, the harder you will have to fall.  Before Prozac those thoughts would make me believe I was alone in this feeling.  I now know that isn’t true.  But Prozac hasn’t chased away the “happiness is fleeting” thoughts.

I’ve never considered trying to calm or manage those destructive thoughts before.  Being rational wasn’t an option and all I did was let the panic take over.  I know I can only control so much and the rest is life telling me who is in charge.  Deep breaths, being responsible, and continuing to work hard is my new way of combating the negativity.  And try not to be so hard on myself because I have recently learned a lesson: Being nice to myself is not only good for me, it is also good for the ones I love.  Such a hard lesson to learn and continue to believe.  I feel like I have to train my brain like writing it on a chalkboard over and over again.

Posted in Calming the Voices

Prozac is my Stacy London

Today is day 38 of me taking Prozac. I have tried over the counter antidepressants, Xanax, and Buspirone before I was finally prescribed Prozac for my anxiety and depression. And just like that it was like Stacy London from What Not To Wear came in and showed me how to live my best life.

For those who don’t know, What Not to Wear was a reality show in the early 2000s where Stacy London and cohost Clinton Kelly would help out a person who was nominated by their friends/family to have an overhaul of their wardrobe. I always thought that was kind of mean for friends and family to do that but the nominated person was always thrilled by the end of the episode so what do I know?

The first thing they would do is to clean out their closet, getting rid of outdated clothes and/or styles that don’t flatter them. With Prozac, it has cleared the cobwebs from my brain. If something is bothering me but doesn’t have a major effect on my life (i.e., the little things), away they go. If a negative thought doesn’t serve a purpose (and what negativity does?), it is shown the door.

Next stop is to give their subject a budget and guidelines on buying a new wardrobe. These clothes ultimately should make this person feel good about themselves and help them accomplish a life goal. Prozac has become the cheerleader voice in my head. If I think that I suck at writing (which happens on a daily basis), Prozac replaces that with, “No you don’t. You just need to work hard, stay focused, and not be so hard on yourself.” If I think to myself, “I will just write tomorrow”, Prozac tells me, “You need to do it today because you can.” If I beat myself up over my parenting, Prozac tells me I am doing the best I can.

At the end of the episode Stacy and Clinton give the person a makeover and show her how to to make the most of her new wardrobe. Prozac has set me on a path where I believe I can be happy even when there are challenges. On the horizon there is the possibility of major life changes: a new job and moving to a new town. I know it will be hard and stressful. But now I have a voice in my head telling me I can handle it. And I can’t ask for more than that.