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.

behappybeme

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: I)

White rice, whole milk, frozen dinner entrées, ice cream, lots of soda, beef patties, and cake.

These were some of the things I ate growing up; heck, there were some days that I ate all of these in a single day.  It was definitely a kid’s dream come true.  But ‘kid’ defined me from the moment I could chew my food to, literally, a couple of months ago.  I have been eating ‘clean’ for about two months or so now and, I must say, my anxiety level has gone down and my positive mood has gone up.

But, before I get to the current, positive moment of eating clean, I think it’s good to reflect and see how the ‘bad’ foods helped support the anxiety that was built inside me for many years:

You know, I grew up in a very loving family that taught me a lot about respect, values, and how to love.  But one thing that I was never really taught was how to eat properly.  Yes, there was always food on the table, food in the pantry, and food in the fridge, but they were all ‘quick’ things.  My meals were very predictable, too.  Breakfast was pancakes (from a box), drenched with a sugary (addictive) processed syrup.  Lunch was take-out from the local Chinese food place.  Dinner meant rice, beans, chicken, and maybe a salad.  And then the night concluded with lots of ice cream, cookies, and maybe a second round of dinner.  The only real time I would eat fruits were if we went out to the farms during the summer and went apple or peach picking – but even then there wasn’t any kind of portion control.  I would have about eight giant peaches on my way home because the giant basket (filled with nothing but that) was sitting in the car!  And then I would be tired of peaches.  I would refuse them.  When I got home it would be all “oh, hello, microwaveable bacon!”  And I went on with my life.  ‘Happy’ at the time, sad looking back at it now.

My life consisted of processed foods, filled with chemicals that I couldn’t even pronounce.  They had absolutely no nutritional value, but they made me feel ‘good’ for a quick moment.  The things inside of all of those things were alien to my body and acted like a drug.  Actually, they were my drugs.  Because that time I was seven years old and my grandmother passed away, I held back my tears because I was subliminally told that I shouldn’t be a cry baby and that sharing my emotions towards other people was a ‘personal’ thing.  This emotion was mended with me eating a whole loaf of white, processed bread, toasted with tons of trans-fatty butter and a giant glass of sugary chocolate milk.  And that time I got an eighty-eight on my math test in the eighth grade and was told that I could do better and needed to get nothing but one-hundreds?  Well, that made me feel like I was a total failure.  But there it was, that very fatty fourteen-ounce tub of ice cream and giant bag of addicting chips to help mend my broken heart and mind.  So while I was ‘healing’ my heart and mind with food, I was actually holding a lot of things back (anger, frustration, confusion, etc.) and burying them deep, deep down inside. (That explains those times I’ve cried during yoga, huh?)  So you start to become anxious.  Hating the next time you feel this way.  And it all continues to build up.  Every little bit counts.

My emotions were controlled with eating: failure was rewarded with sugary fats and successes, if I felt I had them, were rewarded with greasy foods (pizza party, anyone?).  And I grew up like this.  I was confused, trying to figure life out, restricting my self-desires to come out, and hoping to make everyone but myself happy.  I found comfort in food.  But the food I was eating didn’t give me any clarity; I couldn’t think things through with a ‘clear mind’.  All it was doing was fogging up my mind.  They served zero nutritional value, but made me ‘happy’.  Voilà, my adolescent (and well-into-my-adult-hood) drugs.

Side note:  you could only imagine how self-image played a role in this.  Why, with all of this poor eating, I wasn’t exactly ‘fit’.  I was ‘fat’.  And the media hated ‘fat’.  They said that that it wasn’t ‘beautiful.’  So, naturally, I also grew up with very low self-esteem, telling myself that I was ‘ugly’, ‘useless’, and a ‘failure’ every day.  My confidence level was lower than a turtle’s.   And this is how I grew up.  For more than twenty years, this was my life.

circa high school graduation - 2006
high school graduation – 2006

After years of suppressing my own happiness, and right before my giant panic attack last summer, I noticed a few months worth of terrible abdominal pain.  Not only that, but I was also very bloated and starting to become a bit overweight.  Worried, I went to a gastroenterologist (tummy & digestion doctor) and found out that I was lactose intolerant… great.

My life seemed to have shattered at the instant of being diagnosed, because it meant that I could no longer have the ice cream, yogurt, pizza, or cake that once mended my wounds.  I did play devil’s advocate and ate them anyway, but felt the consequences within thirty minutes of consuming the stuff.

2013 - before panic attack - after being diagnosed as lactose intolerant
summer 2013 – 2 weeks after being diagnosed as lactose intolerant & 2 weeks before panic attack

So it was true, after all.  I was lactose intolerant.  Two weeks before my I-didn’t-even-see-it-coming giant panic attack, I had to adjust.  And that was hard.  I didn’t really know how to adjust.  I never learned.  And looking back at it today, part of me thinks that the attack maybe came out from being forced to learn how to live with some confrontations and without some of those drugs.  I was starting to be confronted by my own self.

I didn’t know how to deal then.  But today, I am learning how to deal now (next post – stay tuned!).

But until then, be kind to your body.  Think back to those times you maybe reached for that thing you shouldn’t have reached for.  Think of what you were running away from.  Starting to slowly think about these things will help open up and shape you for a better tomorrow.  Don’t resolve to continue suppressing emotions with food.  Eat well.  You are beautiful. Who cares about the media.  They don’t pay your bills, you pay their bills.  They don’t give you a hug when you need it the most.  And this applies to others around you.  There is only one person like you out there and you deserve the absolute best.  The road to a better tomorrow starts with this type of first step… and it starts from within.

Loren.

M.

My first race: the struggles and lessons of being brave

Looking into the mirror these days, I honestly don’t know who the girl on the other side is anymore! 🙂 I would have never believed it if someone told me that I was to run an official race – and finish while at it. Sure, I’ve always had the intention of running. The idea sounded good. The gear looked cool. But I never really did it.

Don’t get me wrong, in my lifetime there have been instances were I would put my sneakers on and go out for a ‘run,’ but the reason was solely so I could feel better about the giant bag of chips and dip I had inhaled while watching T.V. (ah, mindless eating). After fifteen minutes of running, I could no longer do it. I would always talk myself out of it and tell myself that I was a wimp, that I was uncomfortable, that running wasn’t going to get me ‘skinny,’ and that I would never have a reason to wear those cool neon sneakers. Crazy, huh? I had to be skinny. I had to have the latest chips and dip out there. Those were all things that the media was telling me. Those were the reasons why I ran. But no one ever told me that I had to put myself first and feel good. No one ever told me that I should have a healthy mind. No wonder I would hate running; it would remind me of all the things that weren’t true to me. Nothing made sense. And it made it me hate the biggest thing of them all: myself.

I want to share with you what my thoughts and struggles were while running on Sunday, mile by mile. Because it wasn’t just a ‘perfect’ run:

Mile 1: At the start of the race, I was excited and nervous at the same time. I had been waiting for this day and it finally arrived. Smiling here, jumping there, I was a total kid! Being surrounded by so many amazing people who were also running was so motivational. I was so focused on my being. I was living in the present. And at the end of the first mile, I clapped and yelled out a loud “WOO-HOO!” I was in the zone and anxiety wasn’t even a thought!

Mile 2: It was here that I started to notice myself slowing down and realized that I was running on elevations. Ah! Elevations! I didn’t train on any! (I usually avoided them because they were uncomfortable and didn’t think I needed to run on them- serves me right to assume). So I started to reprimand myself and bring myself down. This negative way of thinking made me notice all of the people running with me again. Only this time, I was noticing that they were faster than me. I was starting to compare myself (red flag number one), which then proceeded with a pain on my left torso (red flag number two). At that point, my body was asking me to take a break. So I listened to it and took a thirty-second walk. It did help to catch my breath, but I started to get comfortable walking (this wasn’t a walk-a-thon!). I quickly searched for a motivational song on my phone and had to remind myself that I was not a quitter and that I was, indeed, brave (I was in this race, officially, after all! This wasn’t an accident!). So I got back into it and off I went running again.

Mile 3: As I was running, I started to think about how that short break may have affected my time and how maybe I was going to be seen as a ‘failure’ and a ‘slow poke’ in the eyes of others. It was here that I started to contemplate walking the rest of the mile and convince myself that no one would notice me. Yes, I was giving up. I stopped running and began to walk for thirty more seconds. I gave up. But then it hit me. Someone was noticing me. Me. And at that moment, it all seemed to have clicked. I was focusing on the wrong things since mile two. Just like running to burn calories from the chips and dip, at that moment I was running to be ‘better’ than everyone else. I wasn’t focusing on the real reason why I was doing this. I wasn’t focusing on all of the obstacles and accomplishments that I overcame to get here, mentally. But I had to focus. I had to focus and remember that I was doing this to be healthy. To be brave. To have a better life. I did train for this race. I have been training through yoga. For the past few months I’ve brought balance to my body, strength to my mind, and an openness to my soul. I wasn’t worried about the thousands of people running around me, nor how I felt claustrophobic. No, I felt free. And so, my healthy legs and heart reached my mind and told it to run. They told it to finish. They told it that I was beautiful and that I was going to finish. So I picked up the pace and kept running to that finish line.

Up to mile 4: Ah, I was so tired! But you know what? I thought about how strong I became throughout the first three miles that it gave me that extra push I needed to continue going and finish this thing! I didn’t train on elevations, but I conquered them. I didn’t run as fast as the others, but the mentality, I conquered it. And so, as I made that last left turn and headed towards the finish life, I let out a whimper, got chocked up, and shed a few tears. I was done. I crossed the finish line. I MADE IT!!

endhappy
I didn’t have to be in first place. I didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to live up to any of those standards. The only ones I had to live up to were my own. And those were to finish the race and to be proud of myself. I wanted to show myself that I
could do it. And guess what? I did it. And I will continue to do it. I lived up to my own standards. And I was happy.

For many years, I had been running for the wrong reasons. And today, today I learned to run for all the right ones.

Loren.

T.

The panic attack that changed my life

Author’s Note: Writing this post was hard for me, because it made me relive what happened to me last summer that shook my world and turned it upside down.  Yet, in sharing this, I am letting go of the past and looking towards the bright future.  In sharing this post, I hope it helps anyone who has personally dealt with or knows someone who has experienced something similar.  It is quite a read in length, but sets the tone for my blog as a whole.  It is the basis of why I am who I am today.

Panic attacks:  I have had mini ones throughout my life before; however, the frequency was minimal: maybe once or twice a year.  To what I can recall, they happened when maybe I was very upset, scared and/or felt helpless.  And so, with these extreme feelings, they came on.  Yes, I went through the motions –shortness of breath, hands freezing up– but they subsided within a couple of minutes.

When I met my husband, he didn’t know this happened to me.  It’s not something I would exactly bring up and mention (it was a bit embarrassing).  But, he ended up learning what it was all about that one fall day (we were still dating at the time).  We ended up arguing about something and I ended up having an attack  —  I felt too overwhelmed.  Panicked himself, he rushed me to the ER and it was there that he learned that I needed to be calmed down and that I just had a panic attack.  And so he calmed me down.  The following year, someone in my family was rushed to the ER for something and there I was, panicking outside of the hospital, because I didn’t know how to take it.  And, again, my husband helped calm me down.  Of course I thought this was scary, but with a frequency of once a year, I didn’t really pay much mind to it.  I thought it was just a fluke I had and off I went to continue living my life.

Fast forward through live events, moments that have made me feel uncomfortable, ideas other people had about me that I let get to me, and me pretending to be someone I wasn’t.  Yes, fast forward to last summer when I was sitting at work and had the hiccups.

I had them for about 2 hours (seriously, they would not go away).  But it was okay and I sucked it up.  At the end of the day, I boarded the train home and sat in-between two people.  However, the car was packed.  It was hot.  I had people breathing down on me.  And I still had the hiccups.

Trying to lessen their [the hiccups’] annoyance, I tried to hold my breath and, when they came, tried to quiet them down.  I knew that my body jumping was annoying the people all around me, not to mention the little whimpers of “hic-cup,”  so I kept trying harder and harder until I felt that I was short of air.  Everything started to close up, I felt like I needed oxygen.  Desperately, I got up, pushed some people to the side, squeezed my way through, and ran to the end of the car and called my husband:

“I can’t breathe!” I said.  “I can’t move, it is too crowded, this train keeps moving, I cannot get off, I am going to pass out!”
“Calm down, you will be okay,” he then said.

And so, there I was, breathing, in a panic, not knowing what to do.  Finally, the train doors opened up, and I ran straight out of there and into a local drug store that had some air conditioning.  Once inside, I walked up and down the aisles; my mind was racing and I was so afraid of passing out that I called my husband again and told him that he needed to pick me up as soon as possible.  I then proceeded to call my father, who tried to calm me down and told me to go into the bathroom and splash water on my face and then the crown of my head.  He could sense the panic in my voice and then said that he was going to come and pick me up from the pharmacy.  I dunked my head into a pool of water I made in the bathroom sink.  I looked like I just came out of the shower.  But I didn’t care.  I didn’t know how to care.  I didn’t know what was going on.

*Takes a moment to take a deep breath*  Just writing about this is making me anxious, but I’m breathing (something I learned) and it’s all going away.  In….and out…..  Okay, I can continue this story.

While I waited for someone to arrive to pick me up, I drank about three bottles of water to hydrate myself.  Finally, my husband came.  When I saw him, I was relieved, but needed a distraction.  I ran inside the car and demanded he make out with me to calm me down (my mind was not processing correctly).  The making out didn’t work.  My hands quickly became so numb.  My fingers started to contour into permanent bends at angles I didn’t even know existed!  My shortness of breath sent a panic signal to my body, so now all of my blood and oxygen was rushing to my core, a body’s response to preserve the internal organs.  And all I could remember was that I was extremely thirsty, extremely scared, and extremely not myself anymore.

My family ended up taking me home.  The elevator in my building complex wasn’t working, so my dad ended up carrying me up two floors via the stairs, and then my husband for the remaining three floors.  They plopped me in front of the air conditioner and tried to get me to calm down.  I eventually did so about three hours later and everyone went home.  But there I was, no longer pale as a ghost, but scared.

*Taking another deep inhale in here*

The following day (and the next couple of weeks were just horrible).  I demanded my husband stay home from work because I could not be alone (think hardcore tears, bloodshot eyes, and lots of screaming).  I was afraid of being alone.  Better yet, it had seemed that I scared myself so much, that I was afraid of leaving my apartment.  I could not face stepping foot into the hallway.  I would cry and run back into the apartment.  My husband practiced with me for hours on end taking one, two, three steps away from the door and then walking down one, two, and then three steps down one staircase.  I was afraid of the outside world.  I was afraid of this thing happening to me again.  I cannot begin to tell you how many attempts I made trying to leave my building complex.  I had to take off from work for about two weeks.  I needed to be driven into work when I could finally walk outside, and then escorted for the remaining days of summer.  It took about another month for me to finally be able to walk around the block.  I did not know who I was anymore.  I seriously had something wrong with me at that point.  I could not believe how my world was flipped upside down with that one incident.

And that was the problem.  I thought of it was a one-time thing that changed my whole life.  But it wasn’t.  Truth be told, all those mini panic attacks and fears I had were all warning signs.  I just always chose to ignore them.  I always told myself that it was something that would pass and that it didn’t define me.  I made it part of my life, this discomfort.  Which was so wrong of me.  Because I neglected myself.  I never made the time to take care of myself and learn to let go.  I always had to be an independent person and live up to other people’s expectations.  I could never let them down – oh, no.  I had to be ‘perfect.’  And through all of this, all of the lying to my own self and not speaking up for who I was and what I wanted to do, led me to this giant explosion and state of panic that I wish I never, ever, have to go through again.

And so I let my guards down.  I opened up to who I was inside.  I started to see a therapist.  I sought valuable advice from those very close to me. I decided to take control of my life.  And I am who you see before you today.  I took up yoga and think it’s amazing because it forced me to slow down and listen to my body, mind, and soul.  It has opened up a sense of greater clarity that I never saw inside of myself before.  It has made me start this blog to track my progression.  I am not one hundred percent ‘healed’ yet, but I am slowly getting there.  The panic attack last summer made me afraid of the heat (but I got through some of that fear (yay!) which you can read about here), it made me fear moving fast and making my heart beat fast because it reminded me of the attack (which you can read about here), and it also made me afraid of traveling far distances away from home.  I can no longer see myself getting on a plane because I am afraid (I loved to fly, I was on at least 4-6 flights a year!).  But, I know that one day I will get there.  (I will post about my Washington, D.C. trip in my next post, because it was emotional trip that helped me see that I am progressing).

Point is, if you see the warning signs, don’t ignore them.  Yes, the past is the past.  But we shouldn’t ignore it.  Instead, we have to learn from it.  We need to live in the present and build ourselves up for success in the future.  Which will be an amazing life of less anxiety.  I made a promise to myself that I would give myself a chance and take care of me first and foremost.  I still have daily headaches and things to take care of (think responsibilities), but I am learning how to take it easy and organize it all.  How to live life to its fullest.  Because we only have one life to live on this beautiful planet.  And it’s only up to us to make it better for ourselves.  The hard work comes from deep inside of ourselves and the benefits.. oh the benefits.. they will set you free.

My giant panic attack last summer was a real eye-opening event.  I was putting a lot of stress on myself throughout the years in terms of body, mind, and soul.  So much that they all finally retaliated.  I wish this experience on no one, but what I do wish is that we all take care of ourselves.  Be brave with me.  See the warning signs, and see that we are worth it.  See that a good life is a happy, balanced one.  We will all get there.  It takes time.  And in the end, we will all laugh and enjoy life together.

Don’t worry about annoying someone else with the hiccups, because at the end of the day, they are happening to you.  Take care of you.  Take care of your life.

August 2013 – weeks after my giant panic attack. I was comfortable being outside again.. my husband captured me doing a twirl.
August 2013 – weeks after my giant panic attack. I was comfortable being outside again.. my husband captured me doing a twirl.

Loren.