M.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Breaking the Stigma, Accepting Myself

They’re ‘crazy’.  They’re full of ‘issues’.  Someone get them a therapist and keep them away from me.  I don’t want to associate myself with those kind of people.

That’s what many people think of when they hear that someone has a ‘mental health disorder’.  It’s a social stigma and it needs to end. May is Mental Health Awareness month and I want to share my personal story with you about coming to terms with my mental health disorder.

Growing Up
I was raised in a pretty strict household.  The road less traveled always sparked my intrigue, but I could never go down that road while growing up.  When someone asked me how I was, I had to say that I was OK (no one wants to hear a complainer, right?).  I was pressured to always get straight A’s in school and would be reprimanded if I came home with anything other than that.  I needed to get a job that paid top dollar.  I was never allowed to have a boyfriend, yet I was supposed to get married.  And when I finally got married, that’s when I could move out of my parents’ home, or else I wouldn’t be thought of as ‘lady’ anymore.  And when I got married, I should then buy a house, have kids, cook my husband dinner every night, and do all of the chores around the house myself. I should be able to manage all of this with no problem and never with any kind of complaint. In short, I was living a life that was already laid out for me with standards that should never be questioned. I was a programmed robot. And that was my life.

My pressures may have seemed normal to some, but were actually draining to me.  Because the standards were held so high above me, I learned that I could never disappoint. I learned that my every move should be a success and that I had no opinion on what I wanted to do- unless, of course, if it was choosing to be either a doctor instead of a lawyer (which, I should point out, wasn’t the outcome to this pre-planned fairytale anyway).

Since I was told how I should live my life, step-by-step, I never had the chance to find and be my true self.  I did, though (here’s the grand bonus!), grow to be very critical of my own self.  I was raised to be so ‘perfect’ that I never settled for anything less than that. Imagine that.  Living a life where everything had to be ‘perfect’.  It was hard and unattainable.  But I didn’t know the latter part.  What do you mean life couldn’t be ‘perfect’?  I had no sense of reality.

My Consequences
Life isn’t easy (as you probably know), but when I finally got a taste of liberty and it finally came time to be autonomous, I couldn’t make a decision. I was always very indecisive, over-analyzed everything, and freaked out when I couldn’t come up with what I wanted to do. People would come up to me and say “You are so put together, you are perfect, I wish I had your life.” And while the compliments were great to hear, I could never fully accept them because they didn’t know that I, internally, was struggling. I actually didn’t have it all together. They didn’t know the real me. And it wasn’t until recently that I didn’t even know the real me either.

I grew up so poor- confidence-wise. Approval and direction from others were what I was seeking 24/7. I was nothing but insecure (decisions were so hard, was I making the right choice that would make everyone else happy and keep me ‘perfect’?), had very low self-esteem (I’m not pretty, I was never told that I looked like a model, so I must be ugly), had a super low confidence level (I’m not confident in doing things on my own without direction), and was always worrying about my next move- no matter what it would be- to make sure that it would please others. I couldn’t ‘fail’; that would show weakness and would show that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Standing Up for Myself
With such a pressure to live up to, it’s no wonder that I felt anxious all the time and had mini panic attacks here and there. It’s no wonder that I felt like I was going through crazy turmoil.  But, I could never share any of this with anyone because I would be judged. Those times where I felt overwhelmed and felt like I couldn’t breathe were the times that I knew I needed a therapist or something. But how could I ever tell my parents that?  What would the family think?  No, I couldn’t share that about myself because that meant showing ‘imperfection’. They couldn’t know that. My whole life was about being ‘perfect’; so I had to make sure I kept this ‘perfect’ face on for everyone around me… or else.

And it was skiing back in January in upstate NY that it finally occurred to me: or else what?

What if I let someone see that I’m not perfect? What if I let people know that even those you think may have it all together around you actually don’t? What if there were people out there, like me, that were living with such societal pressures and had no outlet or example, could see that it was OK?

I never allowed myself to fall while skiing; I always avoided it and would tell myself that, if I did fall, I was nothing but a useless failure at life.  But it was back in January that I realized that life wasn’t fun anymore, that skiing wasn’t fun.  So I did something crazy and I let myself fall.  And when I finally did let myself fall back in January, I cried. Not because I hurt myself, but rather because I felt FREE and LIBERATED.  Life had a whole new meaning when I let my own guards down… and it felt amazing.

Being My Own Remedy & Finding My True Self
So I started this blog. Because it occurred to me that living a life of not trying to show that I was perfect was so much more liberating and worth living. I never wanted to see myself as someone who had a mental health disorder, because that meant that I wasn’t ‘perfect’, but you know what, I do. And I came to terms with it.  I came to terms with the fact that I do freak out under many circumstances and can’t think clearly.  I came to terms with that I doneed to face reality, I don’t have all of the answers, I will be judged, and that I will fail.  But all of this is OK. Because if I can start to fix this now, my tomorrow will just be so much better and much truer.

mham

As a result of letting myself fall since January?  I have definitely started to recover and get stronger with every passing day. It’s amazing how ever since starting this blog, I’ve wanted to find more ways to let myself continue to fall and learn from it. My confidence level and self-esteem have both increased, genuinely, because I feel like my true self. I feel like I’m not hiding anymore. I feel like I can BREATHE. Because when you have panic attacks, you feel like you can’t breathe. And you probably can’t.  You’re under so much pressure that you don’t know how to do something as simple as breathe. Freaking out isn’t perfect; it’s deemed as an imperfection. And you can’t handle imperfection. But what if that pressure was alleviated a little at a time with baby steps, once or twice a day, just by standing up for who you really are or what you really believe in?

Conclusion
The amount of responses to my blog have not only been overwhelmingly positive, but also such a such a blessing. There have been so many people that have opened up to me and I thank them. Because it takes a lot of courage to come out to even one person. And by doing so, you are actually showing yourself that you are ready for a change; you can handle the new you that wants to come out. It is with a community that we can get through this. And while at times we may feel like we are alone, we are not. There are so many others like us out there that have said “enough is enough” and are making small changes already – for the better.

So this month, reflect on yourself. If you are afraid of the stigma, don’t be. And if you don’t want to stand up and say that you have a mental health disorder to the public that is OK! But make sure you most definitely say it to yourself. Because that’s what counts the most. If you have your own identity on your side, the rest slowly starts to fall in place.

My name is Loren, I have an anxiety disorder, and I’m not ashamed. Instead, I am so empowered. Try to knock me down, you won’t be able to. Try to tell me what I should do with my life and you won’t be able to either. My confidence level has been building up, authentically, like a strong house, made with TRUE bricks made up of my TRUE self.  They are no longer bricks made up of what those around me want. Nope, not anymore.

Help Others
If you know someone around you that is going through the same things I am/was going through, please share this with them.  I may not be a big, popular example of someone with an anxiety disorder, but I am an example nonetheless.  I wish I read something similar to what I just wrote years ago.  I wish I knew it was OK.  Things may have been different today.  But we live and learn, right? 🙂

Help Yourself
Do some research, read up on Mental Health Awareness Month, and find ways to start feeling better. Drink lots of water, get active, eat well, meditate, and be brave.  Remember to be true to yourself because you are great. The better you awaits tomorrow. And he/she starts today. There is nothing wrong with you. Absolutely nothing wrong about the beautiful, strong, no-one-expects-you-to-be-perfect you.  Let’s end this stigma.  Everyone is human.  No one is a programmed robot.  Not even you.

Loren.

___________________________________________________________________________
Resources:
Letter from the President of the United States of America on Mental Health Awareness Month
www.mentalhealth.gov
Jimmy Kimmel – Bringing Awareness in This Cute, Funny Video

F.

Fear of Flying: My Sudden, Unexpected Truth

End of July 4th week.

I remember that time last year very well.  I was in San Francisco with my husband watching the fireworks near the Golden Gate Bridge after driving up from San Diego and exploring all of what California had to offer.  It was the first time seeing the west coast and, inevitably, falling in love with it.  Before that, in May, we flew to the Bahamas for the weekend.  In February, we decided to spend some time in Boston and, prior to that, we went to México for our honeymoon.  I’ve flown to France numerous amounts of times (I’ve even lived there for a semester in college), traveled to other countries such as England, Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Canada (just to name a few).  I took plane rides quite often in my lifetime and felt very fortunate.  I was like a little kid who couldn’t wait to see what was next, was super excited about it all, and day-dreamed about where the next adventure would take me.

Yes, I was quite the travel bug.  I always loved going out to experience new cultures and learn about what makes other countries special and unique (languages, especially, are what intrigue me the most!).

Enter the honest truth.  That trip to California (July 2013) was the last time I got on a plane.  One week after coming back home to NYC, I had my giant panic attack.  I no longer wanted to leave.  I didn’t want to go anywhere far.  I wanted to stay home.  I became afraid.  And just like that, in an instant, I had a fear of flying.  How could it be that someone who loved the smell of airports, the rush of taking off, the excitement of some turbulence, and the eagerness to land and explore new territory was now so afraid of flying?

In November of last year, for my milestone birthday, I wanted to travel but was so afraid.  For my one-year wedding anniversary I wanted to get away, but terror struck again.  And, sadly, a few days after my birthday, my grandfather passed away…in another country (may he rest in peace).

When we heard the news that evening, everyone in my family gathered together, purchased plane tickets, and boarded a plane to the Caribbean the next day.  Everyone left.  That is, everyone but me.  I loved my grandfather so much and wanted to see him one last time, but I just couldn’t get on a plane.  I was afraid of panicking, not having enough oxygen, fearing another terrible attack, and passing out.  If I was all the way up in the air and needed medical assistance, it would take a while to land and seek help.  It was better for me to stay grounded and have an ambulance take me to the nearest hospital ASAP (if I needed it).  I debated with myself: “Loren, you can do this, it’s your grandfather, just suck it up” or “Loren, you are not ready yet, you don’t know how to control your anxiety, you will just make things worse.”  In the end, I didn’t end up going.  And until this day it brings me to tears to think about how something like a fear can stop me from very important moments in life.  Another one on my list: my cousin is currently pregnant and is expecting her first baby girl down in Florida.  I want to go visit her so bad, but I am afraid of getting on that plane.  And while I would want to beat myself up, I don’t.  Because it’s OK to listen to your body and your mind.  It’s about knowing that balance between knowing what you want to do and what you have to do.  And for me, I had to stay.  I had to continue on my slow moving road to recovery.

There have also been so many times that I have randomly broken down and just cried.  I cry because I want to feel my toes in the sand.  I want to go zip lining in Costa Rica.  I want to go on a Safari in South Africa. I want to travel to New Orleans and eat amazing food.  I want to be with family when they need me the most.  I want to be present at very important moments, be it sad or happy.  But I’m being held back.  By my own self.

I know that the fear of flying is common. In fact, there’s a great percentage of Americans that cannot deal with it.  But, it was once something I loved to do.  I’ve always had a passion for it.  And it’s something I want to continue doing.  I know not many people may care for it, and that’s OK.  It’s not for everyone.  But, if it’s causing me to breakdown and cry, then it’s saying something.  Something BIG, something LOUD, and something CLEAR.  It’s something I love to do.  And I still love it.  From afar.

I made that trip to Washington, D.C. last month and broke down in the car sobbing because it was a big step for me.  This big panic attack last summer made me afraid to travel.  Afraid to leave NYC.  Even afraid to leave my apartment.  But because this is something so important to me, I am determined to work on getting back to where I was mentally in the past.  No, I will get there and be even better.  I think my next step may be an even longer car ride (more than 4 hours).  Maybe go to Canada.  I’ve always wanted to visit Montréal.  And then, maybe I’ll continue to build courage and allow myself to finally fly.  It’s all about baby steps, right?

FYI, I’ve been told that there are pills I can take while on a plane to calm myself down or knock myself straight to sleep.  Personally, I don’t want that because I feel like it’s a temporary relief for something that will always remain alive until you confront it.  I’m on a journey to be brave.  I am on a journey to confront myself, find myself, and love myself. My true self.  Naturally.

I can’t believe that I look at planes like someone back in the 1600’s would; how does that heavy thing fly?  Where are the aliens?  It may be funny to hear, but it’s such a truth.  And it’s such a sudden truth because I would have never imagined myself to be like this.  But, I think it’s all about educating yourself.  Asking questions and finding out the answers.  If you do, there is no room for speculation.  You will not stress out about it.  All will be understandable.  I’m getting there, slowly but surely.  I have to stop crying about wanting to fly and just work on my confidence, and maybe, one day, I’ll fly again.  I’m determined.

oneday

When I look up at the skies, I compare myself back to last summer. I do feel stronger than I was back then, but I know I’m not ready.  Not just yet.  But, when the day comes that I do fly (which I will definitely share on here, and obviously continue sharing my journey to get back on it), I know I will cry.  But they will be happy tears.  Ah, I am excited for that day.  But for now, I know what I have to do.  I have to wait.  Before I take it to the skies and fly, I have to take it by ground.  Isn’t it funny, though, how something happens all of a sudden?  Never would I have imagined this; however, I do believe that everything happens for a reason.

I used to be the little travel bug that could.  I’m currently the little travel bug that can’t.  But know that, one day, I’m the little travel bug that will.

Loren.

ps: If you have any tips or advice on how you successfully travel via air, I would love to hear them!  Please share in the comment box below :).

S.

Spring Cleanup: The Purse, Your Mind

Ah, spring, you have finally decided to enjoy us! Welcome, welcome.

Now that the weather is starting to warm up, we may be putting away some of our heavier, winter clothes and pulling out the lighter garments for our wardrobe.  Today, I want to talk about something that could also get a little lighter: our purses (or satchels ;)) and our minds.

You know, I was in the subway the other day and felt tension and pain on my shoulders.  And with reason!  There were just so many things in my purse that were, literally, weighing me down.  Confession: I usually carry around three bags!

So when I got home that evening, I sat down and emptied out the contents that were in my bag.  And, voilà, it occurred to me just how much anxiety was hiding in there.  Think about it, “Ah! I can’t find my keys!” usually gets you aggravated.  You have to dunk your hand in your bag and dig them up from the land of ‘beyond.’  Or, you might be checking out at a bar or retail store when suddenly you go “OMG my wallet! I know I had it in here!  Where is it?!” and that instantly just fills you up with a great overwhelming feeling of nerves and anxiety because now your ‘entire life’ is potentially gone.  Living like this is crazy (!) (and I’m no stranger to this kind of life).  So I vowed to clean up my purse… and more.

complexity

It does, however, beg to ask the question of “How did my bag get like this in the first place?”  Well, for me, I think it’s because I, and perhaps may others out there, are always in this ‘just-in-case’ mode, where we have to carry so many things around, just for that one time we may potentially need it.  In the past, I’ve tried to leave all of the truly unnecessary things behind, but failed.  I was so nervous that I wouldn’t have that one thing that would save me one day.  So I kept them.

And this actually goes further than your purse; it extends out to your life.  An example could include perhaps an acquaintance, or friend, that you honestly cannot stand, but may keep them in your ‘back pocket’ just in case you need them one day for a favor.  Or maybe it’s that sweater that doesn’t currently fit, but may one day fit, so it sits in your closet taking up space.  Or, maybe it’s that gym membership you pay for on a monthly basis and won’t cancel because, again, maybe one day you will go back to it.  All of these things aren’t farfetched to me, because they are some of the things that I couldn’t let go of.  And, surprisingly, they were all subconsciously something I was holding onto.  They were things that were bringing me back to where I didn’t want to be.  But you have to think: why spend your energy on someone who doesn’t appreciate you or help you ‘grow’?  Why tell yourself that you’re not ‘skinny’ enough to fit into something and then hate yourself for the rest of the day?  Or why spend money on something you don’t currently use instead of putting it towards something you do use?

All of this, believe it or not, is code for a fear of ‘letting go’.  Yes, it’s hard, but you need to push yourself to make a change, because it will lead to a feeling of relief, a feeling of freedom, and a feeling of open happiness.  You need to trust yourself that you can do without all of these things and build a life that is better for you.  Here’s another expression that makes more sense to me these days: “Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.”  Right?  It’s real.  And it’s literally on our shoulders.  That bag just gets bigger and heavier, huh?  And it drives us crazier and crazier.  Yeah, wow.

I went out for a run the other day and all I needed was my house key.  But, instead, I started to pack my cell phone, three credit cards, some cash, all of my keys, my pharmacy customer loyalty card, and a bottle of water.  Was I going out for a run for my health and well-being or was I going out to run some errands?  Running for my health.  I was going out to run for my well-being.  So I took my one key off my keychain, dropped everything else on the floor, and left the house without anything else.  You don’t know how hard that was for me.  Because, honestly, I wasn’t just leaving behind my belongings.  I was leaving behind my comfort zone.  But I sucked it up, walked outside, told myself that I was doing great, and off I went for a run.  I let physical things go, but also the intangible feelings of worry and concern.  It was me time, something that we probably don’t get too often, but something that I am learning to really, truly appreciate.  I cannot explain how great it felt to not have things bring me down!  I not only felt a sense of freedom, but also felt a sense of growth in my confidence.  Because if I can do this little thing, I know I can do bigger things.

You know, my dad always teased and said that he didn’t understand why many people (women, especially) reminded him of the ‘mules’ (you know, the animal) back in his home country.  I always laughed it off and gave him a little innocent eye-roll (what a terrible thing to compare a woman to, huh?!)  But, he said it out of fun, and to put across the point that the mules ‘back home’ would be loaded up every morning with the fruit, bread, and merchandise that would then be brought to the local market to be sold.  He didn’t understand why everyone (including me) had to carry so much weight around.  He was sure that if the mule had it his/her own way, it wouldn’t be carrying anything at all!  And I am always reminded of that (oh, dad, haha).

simplicity

So I started with my purse, because it’s a symbol and a reflection of me and my life.  It does hold some aggravation, worry, stress, and neglect.  But, little by little, I will start to let go of other things that bring me down, too.  I don’t need the extra pair of flats every day in my bag – just wear the flats.  It won’t rain every day, so check the weather and leave that umbrella home.  I carry around a small bag in my big bag, just in case I need it.  Yeah, that had to go.  And all of that loose change?  That gets heavy.  And it’s also money that is laying around.  Into a piggy bank you go and off to the bank at the end of the month you shall stay! 😉

As for my earlier examples, I’ve been working on cleaning that up: I don’t have a gym membership anymore, but instead put that money towards my yoga instructions. I also (very hard, but had to) let go of acquaintances/friends that were just bringing me down and didn’t help me ‘grow’ and make me want to be a better person.  And those sweaters that didn’t fit?  I donated them to those who would get a better use of them than my closet and mind would.

Learning to live in the present, and growing a sense of confidence in yourself, is amazing.  Because you truly are your own Superman.  Think of all of the great things you’ve accomplished thus far and just think of all the other great things you will accomplish in the future by slowly working on yourself today, for a better tomorrow.  In order for something to come in you need to make room for it by taking it out.

So spring clean your purse, spring clean your mind.  You will feel more in control, trust me – it’s so relieving!  And trust yourself; you are greater than you think you are.  Spring clean your life and, oh, don’t be a ‘mule’ 😉

Loren.

L.

Letting Others Affect You: DON’T.

I’m not perfect.  And I don’t expect this blog (a reflection of me) to be either.  With that said, I want to share an obstacle that presented itself to me that turned into a real struggle.  And although it comes once in a while, the way it took me over was unacceptable.  And so I learned a new way to test myself to be brave.  Maybe this can help anyone out there with a similar situation, too.

What presented itself:
The other night I went out for dinner with a few people that I hadn’t seen in a while.  And while it was meant to be an enjoyable outing, it turned into something that took my high spirits for a detour – for about a week.

It’s hard, as you may know, to accept everyone you come in contact with as they are.  There are things that people might say or do that you may not necessarily agree with.  And while I am generally good about not letting others affect me, there seems to be a few selective ones that I cannot shake.  And that was my case the other night.  Someone at dinner seemed to have changed within the past year and acted in a way that I didn’t think was appropriate and, thus, tested my tolerance level for it.  So, throughout the whole dinner, I had this anxiety building up, just brewing inside of me.  I was worrying about: what they may say next, how they would say it, or if they were going to do that annoying thing they do again.

My dinner, though, had all the right ingredients for a successful night: delicious food, a great glass of red wine, and an environment that was ready to foster a night of open conversations and laughter.  But there I was: angry, sad, confused and frustrated.  Because out of everything I was doing to make my life better, there just seemed to be that one person that ‘messed’ it up.

So, that was a couple of nights ago.  But ever since then, the way I perceived myself hadn’t exactly been the same.  I noticed that I allowed this other person’s actions come in and encompass me, turning me into someone I couldn’t shake.  I kept worrying about the situation, kept re-living the conversations, and kept letting it get the best of me  Yes, I did go to yoga, but for the first time in a long time, I couldn’t concentrate; my practice was not enjoyable.  And then I noticed, after each passing day, that a little something was starting to chip off of my ‘road to recovery’ block.  It was like someone was taking a sledgehammer to a home I had been building for months.

Breaking us down:
I allowed for all of the negativity to come in and live itself inside of me.  And the consequences were presenting themselves very clearly, I may add.  For starters, my white board wasn’t updated.  My room started to become a mess, followed by the kitchen, and then the living room.  I craved nothing but junk food and my water intake was very low.  I was not in a clear state of mind and, thus, I couldn’t concentrate.  My self-esteem was low and I even started to panic a little on a crowded train (ugh!).  I just didn’t care about myself anymore, it seemed.  Because, why bother building myself up when someone could just come in and break me down?

I was stuck in a rut and realized that I was regressing.  The signs were all clear: I was starting to feel sluggish, I wasn’t as happy as I was throughout the weeks prior, I became more anxious, and I even started taking every day for granted.  Who was this person?  No, this was just not acceptable anymore.  I didn’t like this person; I didn’t like me.  There was no need to be stuck in this rut.  I hated feeling bloated and feeling like I was just wasting my days away.  It was time to wake up and realize that I was heading in the wrong direction.  So I put my foot down and decided that I was going to suck it up, be brave, and change my habits.  I was going to regain control of my life.

Picking ourselves back up:
I tried yoga again the following night and when my husband picked me up afterwards, I burst into tears and told him that I wasn’t happy.  I told him that the dinner from the other night was driving me insane and that it was taking over my life.

So he talked me through it (he’s so kind) and made me realize that I was basing my everyday view of myself and life on one person.  Who, let’s be honest, probably doesn’t even know that all of this internal turmoil was happening.

Yes, there was someone that messed up my evening that night.  And that person was me.  I allowed the outside world take me over and I let myself succumb to being put second.  And so, because I let in the aggravation and held on to it for days, I suffered.  No one else.  My internal suffering isn’t going to change the other person; the other person may never change (they may never know).  And we can’t control that.  Yes, we can try to talk to this person (which I have done so in the past and, no luck), but if that isn’t an option or you don’t feel comfortable doing it, then just let it go.  Don’t let it control you.  I know it’s easier said than done, but I’m saying it and learning how to do it.  So I know the struggle.

Change comes from within, as we know.  So unless I dive into this other person’s soul and live life as them, then there’s no changing anything.  Heck, the closest thing I can get to is thinking of how I married my husband and how we became ‘one’, but there’s no way I can change that man (haha, he’s great actually).  But putting jokes aside, what I can control is how I handle the situation and how I compose myself throughout it.

How to deal in the future:
So, knowing that letting what someone says or does boil up inside of me leads me to gain five pounds, be unhappy, and perceive myself as ‘not worth it’, I think I’d rather not let their actions get to me and lose five pounds, be happy, and perceive myself as definitely worth it.  Next time, I can just nod my head politely and smile.  I don’t need to have an opinion or engage in a deep conversation all the time.  I can still be respectful, but shouldn’t anticipate myself changing them.

Letting others affect you?  Don’t.  I know, sometimes it does hurt to take things in, but if you’ve been working so hard on yourself for a better you and a better tomorrow, then there should be no one that can be able to tear down your walls down and make you regress.  Not even you (ah, that quote that says “you are your own worst enemy” is starting to make sense now…).

And I came to this realization when I was taking a hot shower yesterday. Because it was in the shower that I noticed that the person wasn’t there.  The other person was just another event in my life.  The other person was about a week ago away.  So I let the water cleanse me, I started to clear my mind, I breathed in deeply and let out a huge sigh.  I was telling myself that I really do deserve better.  And that I should not let another week of self-pity and anxiety control me.

To summarize:
It’s hard being brave.  But it’s not impossible.  I’m sure the first few times will be a little difficult, but there is always a challenge before being presented with the greater success.  So my plan for today is to pick up my home, clear up my mind, and clean up my act.  I am going to update my white board, go out for a run, and be happy again.  Because at the end of the day, it’s me that counts.  And no one should ‘mess’ that up or take it away.  Because, honestly, the only one that ‘messed’ it up or took it away was myself.  And that’s just not right.

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Last thought:
I remember when I first started telling my parents a few years ago that I wasn’t going to continue to eat white rice and oily chicken every night for dinner anymore.  And I remember telling them that I would prefer a healthy piece of salmon, some brown rice, and a baked sweet potato instead.  It wasn’t something that was exactly accepted at the time with an open mind (because, who was I to go in and change them and how they did things?  Who was I to say how they should raise their family?).  But, had I let their actions, comments, and traditional ways get to me and anger me internally at the time, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  I casually pushed for that salmon because that’s how I wanted to live my life.  Happy.  Healthy.  With a piece of salmon.  And, in the end, I got my salmon.  On my own.

And that applies to many things we may encounter in our every day life.  And it’s in these situations that I have to remind myself to either take it easy or not care at all.  My parents, by the way, did accept this new way of eating (they practice it themselves today and were actually the ones that introduced me to quinoa!).

So, with that said, what do I say to my next dinner outing with that person that I can’t really tolerate?  Life is wonderful.  I am wonderful.  No one is tearing me down.  Not even me.  Bring. It. On. 🙂

Loren.

A.

Anxiety & Eating: How they go hand in hand (Part: II)

Putting all of the reasons why and how the food I had been eating all these years supported my anxiety behind, it’s time to focus on today and how I am feeling so much better.

For about the past two months or so, I’ve been eating smarter and healthier.  I didn’t just go cold turkey one day and change my whole routine.  Oh, no.  I don’t believe in extreme changes.  I do believe, though, that it’s all about those baby steps and patience that will get you to where you want to be.  My small weekly changes turned into daily ones that, today, are changing into my lifestyle (read: not diet, lifestyle).  So to start things off, I started drinking more water.  I found that when we are ‘hungry’ or have a ‘craving’ for something during snack times (think not breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but rather those times in between), we are actually thirsty.  So instead of reaching for a chocolate bar (which, ha, I can no longer have unless it’s dark and contains no dairy), I reached for a glass of water.  I then started to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.  I would eat a nice juicy apple as a mid-morning snack.  And those three o’clock cravings?  I nabbed them with some carrots and peanut butter (which I make myself (very easy)).  When you feed yourself every couple of hours or so with good things and keep up with your intake of water, you actually lose some of the cravings for the ‘bad’ stuff.  And this is how I started to increase my ‘good’ foods and move away from the ‘bad’.

Being told that I was lactose intolerant was a blessing in disguise, I feel, because it did force me to find better foods for my body.  I was now sensitive to a lot of things that I would have never imagined I could be sensitive to.  One example is any kind of those processed sandwich breads, even the ‘whole wheat’ or ‘whole grain’ ones.  You know, the ones that stay fresh in the plastic bag for weeks.  Red flag: that isn’t normal.  Fresh bread has a very short lifespan.  What’s keeping it fresh are the extra things they put inside of it.  When I used to eat it, I would feel excruciating abdominal pain.  And that’s when I learned to look at the ingredients list and, surprise, surprise, it contained dairy (sometimes found under its derivative names, such as ‘casein’ and/or ‘whey’).  So I stopped buying it and switched to a more ‘natural’ bread (like Ezekiel Sprouted Bread), the kind that needed to be frozen (makes sense).  When eaten, I found no pain.

Another thing that I moved away from was coffee.  I first limited my intake to one cup per day (instead of two or three) and substituted cow’s milk for almond milk.  I then found that not only was coffee making me very dehydrated, but that drinking it made me very jittery and added that extra anxious effect I didn’t need.  So I stopped drinking coffee (yes, you can survive without coffee!) and found that I didn’t need that boost in energy because I was already finding it in the good foods I was eating – the natural way.

Today I eat clean.  I eat broccoli, spinach, carrots, celery, strawberries, red quinoa, sweet potatoes, and other natural, organic, good things.  I shop the outside perimeters of the supermarket and don’t go into the middle aisles.  Or, when I do my groceries online, I only buy fresh things and rarely go into the ‘grocery’ section.  I’ve lost about ten pounds due to eating so much better.  Not only that, but my complexion now has a bit of a glow and my mood has been absolutely positive.  I should add that a friend of mine shared with me that she, too, had become lactose intolerant and found a shake (Shakeology) that was vegan, all natural, and helped with digestion.  Willing to give it a shot, I ordered it and, within a week, loved the effects it had on my body.  While it took the guess work out of my breakfasts, it gave me the chance to focus on other meals that I could improve on: snacks, lunch and dinner.  Yes, even a little dessert here and there ;).  And that’s how I started.

I have seen, first hand, that when you eat ‘clean’ you feel amazing.  And that same feeling goes to your mind and lessens anxiety.  Think about it: when you eat poorly you regret it and start to bring yourself down.  “Oh, I shouldn’t have had that extra plate of pasta, I’m so ‘fat'” or “Gosh, I hate myself.  I ate that giant piece of cake and now I suck.  The world sucks.  Everyone sucks.”  However, after eating a delicious, healthy salad (low on the dressing!) we don’t go around thinking negatively.  No, we say “Wow, I just did something amazing for my body, I am great.”

Now imagine if you continued doing this throughout the day?  Your outlook on life would be better because your outlook on yourself becomes better.  Through my own experience, I’ve learned that there is an even exchange between eating for the body and the gift of a better mind.  When I ate poorly I was, really, abusing my body.  So my body decided to abuse my mind.  I grew anxious.  None of the foods that I was eating helped me think clearer or feel better.  Yet, when I ate healthy, my body thanked me by giving me a healthy mind.  And with ‘clean’ eating, you gain a sense of clarity.  So I am eating healthy to reduce anxiety.  And it’s working!

I did lose some weight, but that wasn’t the intention.  Nor did I ever see it as ‘dieting’.  Heavens, no.  I saw it as a lifestyle change. And it started slowly, making small changes until they occurred like second nature.  I never felt like I was sacrificing anything.  Ever.

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My table shows what I have in my fridge and pantry pretty much all the time – how colorful! PS: Pineapples are yummy!
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Carrots and herbs (along with 1 cup organic chicken stock) can make a mean side to any meal!
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Almond milk, limes, eggs, lettuce, kale, cucumbers – all organic, all delicious!

I’ve been told that there are medications out there that can help my anxiety and my mood.  But I refuse them.  Because I want to learn the real way of living: facing some of my fears and controlling my mind.  Taking drugs is letting something control me.  And we don’t really learn that way.  Educating myself on the natural, good things will lead to a natural, good mood and way of life.  I am about two months in and am feeling an amazing difference.  I will make sure to share some of my favorite meals and tips in future posts, because I think it’s so important to help each other and see each other succeed!  Change starts from within.  I am really learning what that means now.  Amazing.

And remember: drink your water, eat your veggies, smile, meditate for even two minutes, and enjoy life.  Like many things in life, you will get out of it what you put into it.  So put lots of love and care into yourself and the result… well, the result shouldn’t be a surprise. 😉

Loren.