Feeling Crappy About Winter, Part 1: Drowning In All The Messiness

I love my blog readers. (Hey, that's you!)

I read each and every one of your comments -- even though I don't always reply to each one. Your comments are very meaningful to me -- I empathize with your stories of shared suffering and shared recovery. I truly love reading them -- they make me feel far less alone!

One recent comment on my blog post called "The Post-Holiday Slump: The Presence Of An Absence", became a bit "stickier" than most -- and I found myself thinking about it quite a bit over the past 24 hours.

The blog post was about how January and February basically suck and feel super dreary in comparison to the brightness and happiness of the Christmas season. Putting away the tree and the lights creates a weird void in not only my living room (where the tree stood), but also in my gut.

The commenter pointed out my lack of positivity.


The Post-Holiday Slump: The Presence Of An Absence

Some people find the holidays to be depressing. And I can easily see why -- there's plenty of "family" this, "family" that, and if you've lost a loved one recently, the holidays can sting.

I, on the other hand, fall into the post-holiday slump.

I mean, let's face it: the Christmas season is the most exciting part of winter, no? There are decorations and family and trees, and ornaments and lights and cookies --  and it's early enough in the winter that people are still excited about snow.

Snow! Snow. It's like this novel thing in December. All the kids are collectively hopeful for a white Christmas, and I don't think most adults would mind (too) much.

You put up the tree, you put up the lights. You get single lines of Christmas songs stuck in your head for days ("...from Atlantic to Pacific; gee, the traffic is terrific...")

You wrap the presents, perhaps in a single marathon-style sitting, bitching about the stupid Scotch tape getting stuck to the carpet or about how the paper is so damn thin that you can practically see the title of the book you've just wrapped right through the paper.

But still, you don't mind. Something about life feels warm even though the world outdoors is bitter and cold.

Then, the 25th rolls around. And in the wink of Santa's eye, it's suddenly December 26th -- just another day.


Anxiety As A Big Fat Jerk: Letting Go Of The Rope

We live our lives through metaphor after metaphor.

Now, don't let the word "metaphor" scare you. It might sound familiar -- perhaps from your high school English class -- or maybe you've never heard it at all.

I like the definition from
A metaphor is a situation (generally a literary situation) in which the unfamiliar is expressed in terms of the familiar.
A situation in which the unfamiliar is expressed in terms of the familiar -- say, a foggy brain or a heart of gold. Fog and gold are simple and familiar concepts. They're easy to picture. And so, we use them to describe slightly more unfamiliar concepts -- in these examples, the unclear thinking that might come after a hard day's work (brain fog), or a person who is incredibly good-natured and giving (heart of gold).

Metaphors can also be expressed (and defined) more simply. They're a comparison without the word "like" or "as". Here are a few examples off the top of my head:

War is hell.
Banana cream pie is orgasmic.
Love is a garden.
His brain is a machine.
Time is money.

We know love isn't really a garden -- it's an abstract concept. But, in order to make it more concrete, we compare it to something that's easily to understand. You can plant the seeds of love. If you water your garden (nurture your love), it will grow.


But I'm not here to drone on and on about metaphor. (Hmm -- was there a metaphor in that sentence? Did I just make a metametaphor?)

I'm here, as usual, to talk about anxiety.

Let's see what kind of metaphor you use to describe anxiety. Fill in the blank: anxiety is ______________.


Help! My Cold Meds Make Me Anxious. What ELSE Can I Do?

Feeling sick? You're probably not alone. It's that sneez-y, cough-y, mucus-y time of year.

So, if you're anything like me, you have an anxiety disorder and you hate being sick. In fact, maybe being sick in and of itself elevates your anxiety level.

Throw some cold meds into the equation and you might really end up feeling bonkers. Medicines for cold and flu can be very powerful, and the side effects of their active ingredients can sometimes include disconcerting side effects, like dizziness or wooziness. (Think Sudafed, for example.)

And that sucks. Because getting relief for a cold is awesome...unless the price for that "relief" is more than a tablespoon of anxiety.

In yesterday's post, I wrote about how I often take smaller doses of OTC cold medication than the bottle recommends. The meds still end up working (to a degree), and save me from some of the side effect-related anxiety.

But what if you're too scared to take any cold meds? Are you doomed to suffer?


Help! My Cold Meds Make Me Anxious. What Can I Do?

'Tis the season, I suppose, for phlegm-y illnesses. Today, one of my most-read blog posts is this: "Cold Meds Got You Anxious? Know Your Ingredients!"

It's a must-read for those of you who:

have an anxiety disorder
plan on getting at least a head cold before winter's end
tend to react with heightened sensitivity to medicines

I'm a huge advocate of understanding what you're putting into your body -- whether it be food, meds, or whatever else. I ask my doctors a billion questions every time they prescribe me a new drug, and I'm one to "test" new meds in a safe place (i.e., my home) to gauge my body's reaction before I begin taking them as directed.


And why? As I'd mentioned in the above-linked post, understanding your body's reaction to a medicine gives you a sense of calming control:
...[G]etting to know the ingredients in your cold medicine gives you a greater sense of control over your illness.

Knowing the effect that a specific medicine has on your body can be comforting — instead of attributing a mild sense of wooziness to an impending panic attack, wouldn’t it be nice to sit back and say with confidence that you KNOW diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) makes you feel this way? You know it’s the medicine, and it might be uncomfortable — but it doesn’t signify anything. Isn’t that a comforting thought?

If you get to know how each of these ingredients personally affects your body, you can more easily come to terms with how they make you feel.
I won't rehash the entire article for you here, but my intention today is sort of similar -- instead of talking about which cold med ingredients have certain physiological effects, I'm going to talk about ways you can reduce anxiety when you're feeling sick.


‘The Onion’ Confirms What Facebook Leads Us To Believe: We’re In A Rut

Take a stroll -- well, a scroll -- through your Facebook news feed.

Seriously -- go. Go do it.

If it looks anything like mine, it's full of wedding engagements, photos of squeaky little babies, and old classmates who hold job titles like "Director of Planning and Strategic Somethingoranother at Awesome Company, LLC".

Facebook makes me feel...well, behind. Behind in some way. Socially and professionally.

Let me qualify that statement before my husband get angry -- I'm most definitely married (to a really amazing guy, in fact -- one who "gets" the panic thing), but...


Does A Cluttered Workspace Paralyze You?

Here I sit at a very messy dining room table. I've been trying to get down to writing for about an hour now, but the distractions just keep piling up -- and this time, most of those distractions are objects.

Yes, physical objects. Objects within an arm's reach. Objects that I know should be put (or thrown) away.

A small sampling of the goodies scattered about my dining room table at this very moment:

two dead AA batteries
an open sleeve of crackers
seven pens
a pill splitter
two Bed Bath & Beyond mailers
a Calvin & Hobbes book
a cup of pistachio shells
coupon circulars
two empty cups

The rest of my house doesn't look much different, sadly. There's an explosion of unfolded laundry in my living room. A few hangers are scattered on the floor. Same goes for dryer sheets.

And the kitchen? Ugh, the kitchen. Dishes. Some rotting vegetables in the fridge that I swore I'd eat. A cup of colored water on the windowsill from my painting project that I wrapped up six days ago now.


Clutter is a siren call that tries, often effectively, to lure me away from my work. Is it the same for you?

"Organize me!" it sings.

(They're the only lyrics, repeated ad infinitum.)


Why Yoga Is Both Awesome And Terrible, Part 2: Accepting Your Body

What does a panic attack and a yoga class have in common?

If you're anything like me, both panic and yoga can lead you to (uncomfortably) focus on the nuances of breathing.

Yes, breathing -- that thing we do, day in and day out, often without realizing it.

But after my first panic attack in college, I began to realize that I was breathing -- constantly. The awareness was neverending and disturbing. I struggled with the following thoughts: What if I accidentally held my breath without realizing it? Would my body's physiology wake up and kick-start my breathing again? Is it possible to just stop breathing, randomly, and not start again?


Thoughts like this became...well, uncomfortable, to say the least.

I wanted to go back to the way I'd breathed pre-panic: without awareness. I just wanted my autonomic nervous system to do its thing, to keep me alive via breathing, without making me think about it day in and day out. I just didn't want the burden of having to notice my breath any longer.

And then I walk into my yoga class.


Why Yoga Is Both Awesome And Terrible, Part 1: Fighting Your Body

Yoga stretches can feel soooo good sometimes.

Case in point: three days ago, I had a bad panic attack brought upon by low blood sugar at night. (Sometimes, I'll eat dinner early, and get so engrossed in TV or internet or writing or crafting or cleaning -- or anything, really -- that I forget to eat.)

For me, low blood sugar means this: shakes, sweating, and a profound sense of dread. I get nauseous and feel like I am dying.

So I ran to the kitchen, chugged a giant glass of OJ, inhaled a granola bar for good measure, and sat down on the floor. (Waiting for your blood sugar to rise is a very panic-filled waiting game.)


Two Pieces Of Peace From Nervous Suffering

For the longest time, I've been trying to read Peace From Nervous Suffering by Dr. Claire Weekes. My therapist recommended it to me eons ago and, while it's certainly a great read, its reader (read: me) is prone to distraction by means of shiny objects, internet memes, that Christmas box I just had to pull down from the attic today, and...and so on.

But I'm chipping my way through. Slowly, but resolutely.

Nervous suffering. What a quaint little pair of words Dr. Claire Weekes uses to describe the big bad beast of anxiety. While her language might be a tad outdated, her recommendations are timeless.

And the time is obviously right to share with you a few of Dr. Weekes's most valuable tidbits about recovering from "nervous illness", as she also calls the affliction that is panic disorder: