Tales from an Anxiety Superhero – Meet Erin!

photo by Erin 2017

Meet Erin!

Erin is one of my dear friends and a founding member of the AG’s (Anxiety Girls), a peer support group I started a few years back to not only talk about anxiety but go out in the world and take it on. You can read about starting your own anxiety support group here! 

Let me introduce you. Erin is a mother, friend, wife, sister, professional, expert crafter, champion of animals, professional, adventurer and all around cool lady. She also has had anxiety and panic for most of her life.

Background:

So, here’s the story. After enjoying a mostly panic free life for many years, Erin experienced debilitating panic attacks on a drive to Bethany Beach, Delaware last summer. She knew the drive would be a challenge, but the resurgence of panic left her reeling. It took the course of the following year from which to recover. Sure, she went to work, managed her family and kept up a normal life (because she’s strong like that), but inside she struggled with daily symptoms. After some counseling and a lot of work, a year later she made that same drive again. This time was filled with dread and panic, which showed up as expected, but she did not let scary symptoms get in her way. She made it all the way to the beach, got to enjoy vacation with her family and felt triumphant. If you have experience with panic, you know that this accomplishment was like completing an Ironman!

After the trip, she was posting beautiful pictures on Instagram and, as people were viewing and adding hearts, she realized she was just portraying one side of the story.

With a huge amount of courage, she wrote the following post and shared her story in hopes it would help someone else.  Maybe that person is you! Here it is – posted with permission.

Erin’s story:

“Few people know this about me, but I have panic disorder. I was always a worried child, but when I turned 20 I started to have panic attacks. I had to leave college at that time to get back on my feet and ever since then I have struggled on and off with my anxiety. After I moved, I started avoiding going places because of fear of panic attacks. And my world got smaller and smaller. I have worked really hard to overcome this and have made huge strides. I was even in almost complete remission for about 4-5 years but then I had a big set back this past summer. So I am kind of starting over. It is a huge accomplishment that I made it here to this beach. I am immensely ashamed of my battle with this, but part of what holds the anxiety to me so intensely is this shame. So I am sharing now and may share more as I keep challenging myself. I hope it is in some way helpful to someone if I share my story. I made it to Bethany Beach, Delaware and didn’t think I could. I am overjoyed that I got to make some more sweet memories with my boys. Thanks for reading.”

Thank you so much for your bravery, Erin!

 

Weekend Reads

Photo by Matthew Sleeper

Here are a few weekend reads as we roll into the first weekend of July! Enjoy!

*How are people coping with anxiety in 2017? Meds? Therapy? Distraction? Yes, yes and yes. And, more and more research is revealing that the best way of working with anxiety when it pops up is to acknowledge it and let it be! — accept it and keep on doing what you were doing, shaky legs and all. The more you accept scary thoughts and sensations and don’t react like something terrible is about to happen, the quicker your brain learns that – “Hey, this anxiety response is uncomfortable, but I can handle it”. If you’ve tried exposure therapy before, you know that this approach is simple, but certainly not easy. Check out this article in the New York Magazine which focuses on accepting social anxiety – and this one which says that sometimes embarrassing yourself in public can be good medicine.

*A few weeks ago I posted stories about three superstars who travel the world AND have anxiety disorders. I find them to be quite inspirational and found another one to share with you.  Meet Hilary White whose travel anxiety doesn’t hold her back from globetrotting, even when she found herself panicked in the ER right before a big trip to Europe. She says:

“my anxiety reached heights I never knew existed . . . I was convinced that I simply couldn’t do it . . . I couldn’t get on that plane, I couldn’t be far away from my comfort zone, I couldn’t. Except, I could. And I did.”

*Wrapping up, this is an excellent post from Scientific American on embracing our discomfort, the cultural phenomenon of trying to avoid emotional pain at all costs and a variety of resources and tools you can begin putting to use today.

Enjoy the weekend & Happy 4th to those living in the States!

 

 

Don’t overthink it

 

When King Kong Sits on Your House, Invite Him In

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

So, I have this comic strip image in my head where a woman is inside her house on a beautiful day. The sun is shining through the open windows. As she gazes out, she sees anxiety (personified as a little chimpanzee) lurking outside by the back fence, playing and swinging in the trees. At the sight of him, she’s gripped by fear and begins locking the windows, beads of sweat forming on her brow. Compulsively, she peers out from behind the closed curtains. For a moment, he disappears and all is good again until the chimp (anxiety) opens the front door and playfully taps her on the shoulder. “I’m back!” he seems to say with a smile.

The woman, already hyper vigilant and on guard for any sight of the beast, tackles the chimp to the ground, puts it in a head lock and kicks it back outside. She throws all the locks, as she trembles and shakes, and puts a chair beneath the doorknob to keep it from coming back in.

The more she tries to protect herself, the more frightened she gets. The more she scares herself, the bigger the chimp becomes until it’s as big as King Kong sitting on her house – its eye filling up an entire window as it peers inside.

Finally, after trying everything she can think of to force him to leave (distraction – “Hey, is that a banana tree over there”?, pleading, calling a safe person to rescue her, turning the music up loud, googling expert advice, getting down on her knees to pray), she gives up and opens up the door.

“Come on in”, she gestures with exhaustion.

As soon as the door opens, King Kong shrinks back down to the size of a baby chimp, and jumps onto her lap. The woman strokes his soft fur and smiles. “I’m not afraid of you. In fact, you can stay as long as you like.”

Disappointed and bored now that the game is over, the chimp slips out the back door, swings over the fence and moves to play in the trees next door.

*How are you greeting the chimps playing just outside your window? What are you fighting and resisting that’s growing bigger and stronger as a result? Where can you give up the fight?

*Anyone who is an illustrator and wants to draw this, I’d love to see it!

*Edited and reposted from 6/22/08

Saying Yes! Two Podcasts for Your Commute

Start Saying Yes

Check out the inspirational & incredible story of Katie Crafts who not only bought herself a ticket to Antarctica for her 30th birthday, but then took on the hard work of learning essential skills to make her dreams a reality. (30 minute listen)

Start Saying Yes

The Fear is Real

Not many of us set out to face our fears buy riding a horse over 350 miles through snow covered mountains & grizzly bear country. But that’s exactly what Kat Cannell did. Here’s the story of her grand adventure and how she was able to find self acceptance along the journey. (30 minute listen)

The Fear is Real

Anxiety Superheroes – The Travel Edition

Pexel photo by: Nikolaj Erema

 

Most of the time we don’t think of anxious people being big adventurers. Media images tell us that agoraphobics stay close to home. People with panic disorder tend to have day jobs with a high degree of control and predictability, right?

Well, these three anxiety superheroes shake up stereotypes and have found a way to be both anxious and adventurous in the world.

*Tim Cahill – founding editor of “Outside Magazine” – has traveled all around the world, set a world record for driving from Southern Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in just 23 days, has climbed up El Cap on a single rope, almost died while white water rafting through the Grand Canyon and has also dealt with panic disorder. Check out his story here or in his book, “Hold the Enlightenment“.

*Lauren Juliff – author of the travel blog, “Never Ending Footsteps” bought a one way ticket to Croatia in spite of an anxiety disorder so debilitating that at times she didn’t leave the house for months. Lauren has continued to travel all around the world, journaling her missteps and crazy adventures, while also dealing with panic and anxiety that pop up from time to time. You can read more about her travel and anxiety here.

*Tara Lepore – paleontologist, writer, world traveler, self proclaimed geek and anxiety superhero. Check out her anxiety story and how she faced her fears by climbing to the tippy top of St. Peter’s Basilica!

Tara Lepore of Outbound Adventurer

Are you an anxiety superhero that packs anxiety along for the ride instead of staying home? I’d love to hear about your adventures! And here’s a trio of posts I did a few years back about my travels to St. John – part one, two and three.

“I will not run from me”

Ok, so the screen grab is kinda crazy, but this video is so powerful! Watch as Steven Hayes, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy psychologist and researcher, tells the story of his journey into and through panic disorder.

 

 

I am excited!

 

Video from The Atlantic

What do you think? How powerful can a change in attitude be? Will saying those three little words help you in moments of anxiety?

“A deep breath and a leap”

Nevertheless She Persisted

Artwork by Katie B.

A few days before my flight and after many supportive texts between my Anxiety Girls, this beautiful collage showed up on my doorstep with a note that said, “Just a reminder of how lovely and strong you are!” Another morning this week, a friend left a bouquet of daffodils after hearing that my Grandma had passed away. Messages of love and support and strength came pinging in all week, in fact. Even though I blog about anxiety, I don’t share it with everyone in my day to day life. But the friends & family who knew I was struggling this week came out in force and I couldn’t be more grateful.  Spoiler alert – I made it home safe & sound after two good flights! Worst part- the anticipation. More to come soon.