Dear Anxiety, Let’s Be Friends

Dear anxiety,

You and I have been together for three years now. During that time, I desperately tried to get rid of you, and I wouldn’t be lying if I said that I still want you gone. But, like it or not, you are a part of me. So, instead of fighting with each other, can we try to get along? 

I know you want to protect me and warn me of the dangers in this world. But, here’s the thing: you don’t have to warn me all of the time. Not everything, or everyone is harmful to me. You see, the stressful thoughts and feelings that you play on the movie screen in my mind are not helpful. In fact, they cause extreme stress and discomfort on my body. The physical symptoms that you bring exhaust me. They make me feel horrible. 

Perhaps, you don’t quite know what you do to me because you think you’re keeping me safe. But, you’re not. Instead, you make me hide from life, from adventure, from the normal things that make me happy. You tend to take awesome things, turn them into a million questioning thoughts, and cause me to always be on the defense. 

And, I have to tell you something. You’re wrong. A lot of the time. You don’t like to live in reality. Remember when you told me that I could never be a travel agent? That I couldn’t make it through training, and wouldn’t be smart enough to handle it? Well, guess what? I’m doing it. I sold my first Disney trip, by myself! I have a great group of co-workers who are always willing to help me when I need it. You just became afraid because this was all a new experience to you. 

Remember when you told me that I could never go out to dinner again because of that one time when you gave me a panic attack? Or when you told me that my friend was mad at me because she didn’t text me back….only to find out later that she was simply busy! See? You overreact to a lot of things. 

You’re not all bad though. You do have good intentions. Some of your reminders are actually useful to me. I love that you want me to be cautious when I’m driving. I like that you really don’t want me to make a mistake at work. That shows me that you really do care. I can handle that constructive criticism!

But, majority of the time, your endless chatter gives me nothing but heartache. You want me to spend every moment of my life with you, obsessing over past mistakes, or things that could go wrong, instead of spending time with those I love. Trust me when I say that I love the people in my life. They are beyond precious, and life itself is beyond precious. I want to start being there for them 110%. I want to give them a clear mind, clear heart, and I want to simply enjoy the ones that God blessed me with.

That’s why I’m choosing not to believe you anymore. I’m choosing not to listen to you all of the time. I’m deciding how I want to live my life now. I want it to be filled with fun, adventurous things. I want my life to be completely overwhelmed with love, laughter, and faith. When your thoughts come into my mind, I’m simply saying to you, “thank you for your concern, but I am FINE.” I’m choosing to stand up to you. 

I’ve finally realized that no amount of worrying or obsessing with you can change the past or the future. You don’t hold that type of power. You don’t actually prevent bad things from happening. All you do is make me depressed, weary, and stop enjoying the good things that life has to offer. You make me dim my light when all I want to do is shine it for the world to see. 

It’s likely that you will be a part of my life forever. So, to make it easier on both of us, why don’t we just stop the panic, stop the worrying, and let’s be happy together? I understand that you will show your face from time to time, but let’s not make it so often. Let’s relax together, take some deep breaths and be brave. When you don’t fill my mind with anxious thoughts, you allow me to be creative, to be excited, to be the REAL me. You allow me to dream, and to work on that dream. You allow me to take chances, tap into my faith, and think positively. I want more of those moments. 

When you cooperate with me, and stop being in the driver’s seat, you and I can do wonderful things. Maybe things that will inspire us, or others. Maybe things that might change someone else’s life. Let’s shake hands, call a truce, and let me & God take the wheel. 

With lots of gentleness and love,

Your person. 

 

 

 

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Calming Anxiety By Finding My Paradise (And How You Can Too!)

We’re all on a journey toward finding our paradise. What makes us happy? What brings us joy? What fills our lives with purpose? That’s what I have been longing to find.

Most people would say that their paradise is a place….perhaps, a beach, their home, a cruise ship…but, to me, it’s more of a state of mind.

When I think of paradise, I think of a place of pure happiness. Bliss. Where I feel free. Relaxed. Joyful. Energetic. At Peace. It’s a feeling that warms my heart.

Living a life with GAD, and constantly being on an emotional roller coaster is anything but peaceful and easy.  It’s chaotic, frustrating, and often, weary. I’ll admit, it really is difficult to find a place of clarity and joy, but, through all of the muck and gunk of GAD, I’m learning to slowly find my paradise & what that means to me. 

My paradise happens when I’m not thinking about it, chasing after it, or obsessively searching for it. It happens in the most unexpected, unplanned, spontaneous moments.

love a good vacation. I love to be cozy on my couch in my PJs with a cup of Andes Mint Coffee or tea when winter brings an icy, snowy blast.

I love my private time when I can blast the music and let my voice echo down my hallway, or in the microphone of my karaoke stand. How I absolutely adore singing!

I love going for quiet walks on a sunshine filled day – observing nature and all of its magnificent beauty.

I love those sweet, sweet moments driving around with my mom. Playing our favorite songs, windows rolled down, (or heat on high), talking, and singing. I love our girl’s weekends in Boston, and quoting “The Golden Girls” on a daily basis. (Yes, my mom and I are today’s Dorothy and Sophia. No, we’re not one bit ashamed!)

I love watching “Last Man Standing” and “Duck Dynasty” with my dad & laughing non-stop through it all. Or, laughing at my incredible ability to mispronounce the names of old 70s and 80s bands! 🙂

I love the sound of a cricket choir in the background on spring and summer nights. Gazing up at the stars in amazement. The glow of fireflies.

I love the feeling of holding a newborn baby. The unexplainable joy I get from simply coloring a picture with my four-year old Godson, or from spending time in imagination land with my seven-year old cousin.

The quiet times spent in meditation and prayer. Drawing nearer to Jesus. Following the path that He designed for me. Resting in the secure knowledge that He loves me unconditionally. Just the way I am, flaws and all. 

The laughter and time spent overnight or at lunch with my grandmother. The memories, wisdom, love, and stories of the good old days shared by her.

Those precious times when I’m hugging someone I’ve missed incredibly. The moments of chatting with a friend.

Reading a book that is so powerful that it takes my breath away. (Thank you, Mandy Hale!)

The first few moments of a thunderstorm, followed by the beauty of a rainbow symbolically showing that no matter what happens, everything will be ok. 

All of those are my happy places.

But, there’s one thing in particular that is my number one form of paradise.  My paradise is found through surrounding myself with animals.


There is nothing in this world that I love more than cuddling with my precious dog. When he sits gently on my lap, sleeps soundly at the foot of my bed, and licks away the sadness and tears off of my face.  THAT is unconditional love. That is my paradise.

Advocating for them, is what I’m meant to do.

When I volunteer at our local Humane Society and am surrounded by the hundreds of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats; I feel at home.

When I blog, to spread awareness of adoption, fostering, spaying, and the tragedy of abuse and neglect – my heart and soul fills with a fiery burst of goodness.

When I read a story of a life that is saved, of a happily ever after for an animal who got a much deserved second chance, there is a joy that comes through me in a way that nothing else can.

That is my paradise. 

Four-legged friends running, jumping, snuggling all around me – there isn’t anything much better than that…in my book, anyway.

When I look into the eyes of my pets, or of any animal, I see a soul. I see love. I see happiness, and gratitude. I see myself in them. 

God has given me a very special gift, a love for these creatures in my heart. He has placed a dream that’s so big, and so powerful in my heart that I would reach for the moon to achieve it.

I consider myself very blessed to have this passion, this form of paradise in my life. And, while I’m still learning to fully appreciate the beauty of having this gift, I will never take it for granted.


How To Discover Your Paradise:

Think about it. Write it down. Then, LIVE it. Make time for your paradise!

Prayer: God, I thank you for blessing me with these fiery passions. Thank you for allowing me to experience the beauty in all of these things – even when I’m sometimes too blind or stubborn to see and appreciate it. I know all things work together for your greater good. Amen

The “S” Word: Why I’m Choosing to Speak Out

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

– Psalm 147:3

Suicide. 

It’s an extremely sensitive, heavy subject that I’ve been debating about touching on for a while now. This is definitely a difficult post to write, but it is oh so necessary. Too often I’m seeing or hearing about adolescents and even adults who take their own lives. That breaks my heart beyond belief.

Why? Because I’ve been there. I am there. I have felt those feelings of wanting to end my own life. It is the scariest feeling in this world. Instead of continuing to silence myself about this topic, I’ve decided to share my story.


I was fourteen years old when I first contemplated suicide. I was a freshman in high school, and I was getting bullied severely. It wasn’t physical bullying, but verbal. The kind that feel is the hardest to deal with.

It all started when I decided to befriend another quiet, introverted, and intelligent soul like myself. People had been making fun of her and her lifestyle since 7th grade – myself included. I’m ashamed to admit that now. Hurting someone in order to fit in with the crowd, to fit in with my so-called “friends.” Ick. 

After some time of getting to know this girl, I discovered that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her. She didn’t party, didn’t compromise her values – or her body – for a one night stand with a boy. She didn’t hurt others in order to lift herself up. She was a straight A student who knew who she was and stood boldly in her confidence.

We’ve lost contact since the good old days of high school, but back then, she really was a beautiful person on the inside and out.

Slowly, but surely we became friends – which meant that I was now part of the “freak show duo” as we came to be known. Every morning I would walk into school to hear a crazy rumor about me that my former “friends” were spreading. I’d find little notes inside my locker that reminded me of how “weird” I was.

I’d receive instant messages from my classmates making empty threats to “beat me up in the parking lot.” I’d log onto Facebook and see my profile picture all “colored” up and spread on my classmates’ public pages. I was called ugly, fat, a dyke…pretty much every cruel name under the sun.

I had the honor of having old, beat up cars named after me. My classmates would frequently pass around pictures of their cars all decorated and captioning them “trying to make Allie look girly,” “dressing up Allie to make her pretty.” They said it was no easy task.

Every day felt like survival of the fittest for me. Everyone told me to ignore the hateful comments of my peers, and I tried. Hard. But, the more that I didn’t stand up for myself, the more I pretended not to hear what they were saying about me, the more they did it.

The hatred I felt toward them burned so deep. The thought of seeing those people made me sick to my stomach each morning. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. My self-esteem was gone. I had nervous breakdowns. I would sob into my mother’s arms after school.

I became severely depressed, dejected, and hopeless. I was rejected, lonely, hurt, and I didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t want to have to deal with my peers anymore. I wanted to escape, and I wanted to escape badly. That’s when the suicidal thoughts began rushing in my mind like a flood.

One evening, when my parents weren’t home, I paced back and forth with a bottle of pills in my hand. I was too afraid to physically harm myself, so I figured that was the best option. I wrote out a note to my family, apologizing for who I was and how much pain I caused them. I apologized for being abnormal.

And then….I cried. Big, heavy sobs. Because I realized that I didn’t want to end my life. I didn’t want to die. I tore out the note and threw it away. 

When I finally told my parents how I was feeling, it was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Granted, they were scared. At that time in my life, the only people who knew about my suicidal thoughts were my parents and grandparents. And thank God they did. They protected me when I couldn’t protect myself.

With their help and their immense love and support, I made it through that incredibly difficult period in my life. I slowly overcame the suicidal thoughts, and was sure that I would never have to deal with them again.  And, I didn’t. For a while, at least.


I’d be lying if I said that I don’t struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts anymore. Because, I do. It’s not an everyday occurrence, but lately I’ve been catching myself in the midst of these dark thoughts again. And, instead of fighting them, I feed into them. Thus, strengthening their powers over me.

I’ve discovered that those feelings are always a product of my reaction and attitude toward circumstances around me. They present themselves the most when I compare myself to others, put myself down, or when I set unrealistic expectations for myself and fail to achieve them. They destroy everything around me – including my friendships and relationships.

This week I had one of my lowest days that I’ve had in a long time. Nothing went right that day. I woke up in extremely depressed, barely having the energy or desire to go to work. My workday was horrendous, my self-esteem was as dry as the desert. I was in a turmoil of self loathing due to obsessive scrolling on Facebook looking at everyone’s picture perfect lives, I could not keep the pesky tears from falling, and I could not find a way to climb out of the endless black tunnel I was in.

My family tried to encourage me, tried to help me get through the day, and in the past, it worked. But that day, I simply wasn’t receptive. I didn’t want to be. Someone would try to light my candle, and I was right there to extinguish the flame. That’s when I realized that I hit rock bottom. My family and friends could no longer “cure” me and I certainly couldn’t cure myself alone anymore. Nothing that anyone was saying was helping me. I didn’t feel human, and for the first time in a while, my own feelings started to scare me.

It was a turning point. I honestly believe that day happened for a reason. I needed it to happen. With a tug on my heart from God, and advice and care from a friend who is one of my biggest inspirations, I decided it’s time to hang on, hold on, and get healthy. 

For the first time in my life, I am seeking counseling. 

While I used to be incredibly embarrassed about that, I’m not anymore. I can’t be. By being ashamed and embarrassed, and living in denial that I don’t need professional help, I’m only contributing to the stigma that I definitely want to end.

Because of all this, I’ve made a decision to pursue my Masters degree, and eventually, my PhD in Christian Ministry and Counseling at Liberty University in Virginia.


I’m sharing this because there really is such power in vulnerability. It is extremely difficult to talk about mental illness, and it can be nerve-wracking to confront the reality of this issue.

However; in my opinion, the thought of other people like me who are suffering in silence is heartbreaking. So, when I invade my Facebook friends’ news feed with mental health articles, when I talk about my own struggles and victories, it is with these hopes:

To reach out a hand to someone, anyone, and let them know they are NOT and NEVER will be alone. 

To tell them over, and over, and over again how beautiful and purposeful their lives are. 

To have a chance to introduce them to God, and build a special relationship with Him. 

To show them love, compassion, and acceptance for who they are. 

To bring back joy and freedom to their lives. 

To help them heal – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

To tell them to NEVER give up. Never give in to darkness. Because it WILL be okay. You WILL get through this. 

and…

To educate the public that mental health is a real and important issue in today’s world, and the stigma against it, needs to stop. 

So, I will be writing about my journey. I will be reaching out, and hopefully, just hopefully, touching a few lives and hearts in the process.


Prayer: Lord, I know you created me, and every human being in your own likeness. I know that nothing in my journey will be wasted. I trust there is a purpose for my struggles. Please help me be a beacon of hope to someone out there. Help me to spread the Word of Your unfailing and never-ending love. Help me to do Your work, and to use my story for Your greater purpose. I pray for those who are struggling in darkness right now. Show them your brilliant light. Wrap them up in your humble and most Holy arms. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


If you or someone that you know is having suicidal thoughts or are in crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

 

 

Lights. Camera. Anxiety.

There are many things I am proud of in my 22 years of life. Having anxiety and panic attacks doesn’t exactly make the top of the list, but it is what it is. Living with anxiety has been far from easy, but after three years of battling it, I am finally comfortable enough to share my story.

I suffer from GAD – General Anxiety Disorder. While I used to be incredibly embarrassed by that fact, the more research I do, the more I realize that I’m not alone. Most people don’t see this as a big deal because it’s not life threatening, (thank goodness!) but, because it can’t be “seen, it’s hard for people to understand.

Unfortunately there is such an unfair stigma against any mental health condition. There’s so much more to it than what meets the eye, and I’m ready to share that without ANY shame. So, let’s dig just a little bit deeper shall we?

What Does It Mean To Have GAD?

Firstly, what does it mean to have anxiety? Well, to be honest, there’s a different definition for every sufferer out there. For me, having anxiety means chronic worrying, self-doubt, and over exhaustion of nerves. The simplest of tasks are daunting and we simply have no control over those feelings.

What are Panic Attacks?

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming – and often debilitating, fear and anxiety. Panic attacks occur randomly, without warning, and strike with a force of vengeance. Some of the symptoms include: fast-beating heart, sweating, chills, shaking, nausea, shortness of breath, light-headedness, dizziness, and more. Everybody is different and experiences many types of different symptoms, but these are the general feelings.

How Does Anxiety Start?

There’s really no concrete answer to this. Anxiety can occur at anytime to anyone, for any number of reasons.  Sometimes, anxiety is genetically inherited, other times it literally just happens.


My Story.

I experienced my first panic attack on my 16th birthday in Disney World. I was having a FABULOUS time and my family and I were waiting for dinner at Planet Hollywood, when all of a sudden, this overwhelming sense of terror consumed my body. At the time, I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was that I had to escape, somehow, someway. My aunt, who was with us at the time, went to take a breath of fresh air with me. We talked it out, she prayed with me, and was just there as an incredible support. When it finally passed, I was exhausted, mentally and physically. I hoped to never experience that again.


Flash-forward to a Friday evening in November 2014. My family and I were headed out to dinner to enjoy what was supposed to be a lovely evening with friends. I had been to this restaurant numerous times before and it was one of my favorites. I loved the people I was going to be spending time with. What could go wrong? 

We were seated pretty quickly, and as soon as we got to the table, it hit me. A panic attack. I tried to calm myself down, tried to get some air, tried to occupy myself with conversation, but nothing worked. I appeared fine on the outside, but inside? It felt like everything was crashing down on me. I needed to get out of there. I needed to go somewhere. Anywhere. Mainly, a place without food because the sight and smell of it made me physically ill. Panic attacks really play havoc on your stomach, and with your appetite.

I sipped on some ginger ale waiting, and hoping for that feeling to go away, but it didn’t. Instead, it grew worse. The nausea was so overwhelming I felt like I was going to lose it right there at the table, in front of a room filled with people. I felt light-headed, weak, dizzy, and paralyzed. I turned to my mother, who clearly recognized what was happening to me, and told her that we needed to leave, now. Right now. 

There was no way I could make it through dinner, so I took the walk of shame out of the restaurant ready for my mom to drive me home. Home was my safe haven. My father, as well as our friends had no clue what was going on – I just passed it off as a stomach bug, but, nevertheless, the embarrassment of leaving my father and our friends in the middle of dinner almost killed me. 

Sobbing in the car on the way home, desperately trying to regain my sanity, catch my breath, and keep my heart from beating out of my chest, I was five minutes from home when my mom had to stop the car, pull over to the side of the road, and the intense nausea finally got to me. I don’t remember much after that, but I remember thanking God that there was no one around to witness this spectacle. 

The entire attack lasted about two hours. When it ended, I was exhausted.  Mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Then came the guilt, shame, embarrassment, and depression. What was wrong with me? Why did I have to have an attack tonight? What is the reasoning for it? What could it POSSIBLY teach me?

I didn’t have any of the answers to those questions, but I did know that I ruined the evening. Forgetting about myself, I felt like I ruined the night for my parents and our friends. I felt like I prevented my mom from relaxing; enjoying what should’ve been a delicious meal, so that she could  take care of me. I felt like I upset my father because I kept him from enjoying the night, and I’m sure I confused our friends, too. 

There it was. Guilt. Shame. Pure embarrassment. Self-depreciation. Sometimes, I wondered what was worse – the actual attack, or the aftermath of the attack. I beat myself up for months on end after that night. I apologized constantly, explained myself numerous times, and obsessively worried over what our friends thought of me. (Of course, they probably didn’t think twice about what my issue was, but I knew. I knew what happened and I realized that I must’ve looked like a lead actress in a soap opera to them. Surely, they would forever remember that incident, and think of me as a freak show.) 

After that night, I became afraid of life. I wasn’t living, but rather, existing. I was simply guiding through life like a ghost. The fear of having another panic attack in public made me queasy. So, I went into hiding.

I distanced myself from my family and friends. I lived in constant shame and self-loathing for having this medical condition. Anxiety was like the big bully on the playground, just lurking around every corner waiting for me. My biggest fear was people finding out what I was going through and judging me. I was  too embarrassed to ask for help, and I thought I could handle it on my own.

It took me a while to realize that if I wanted my life to change, I was the one that had to change it. Nobody could do it for me. If I wanted help, I first needed to help myself. Step one was recognizing that GAD was not only hurting my life, but it was starting to affect my health in ways I NEVER expected.

The time came for me to get some help and begin to heal myself. I began to seek counseling and start medication. That moment was the best decision of my life.  I now had the power to shift anxiety into my favor. I could make my anxiety disorder work FOR me instead of against me. 

The medication helped me and for the first time in the LONGEST time, I could breathe. I could resume a normal, healthy lifestyle again. I could go out with my family and friends. I could do all of the normal things that I wanted to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with anxiety and panic attacks; they do not just go away overnight, however; I’ve learned to accept it. Anxiety and I are by no means friends, but we are no longer enemies either. There’s so much more I could say about this illness, but each and every person experiences it differently. I will say this though; the journey I’m on is unique. Anxiety will always be a part of it, but I know I can overcome it. I know I can survive it.


What I Want All Anxiety Sufferers to Know

I’m sharing my story in hopes that it will help others. When I first was diagnosed with GAD, I felt very lonely. I felt like I was the only one in this world going through this. But, I’m not, and you’re not either. And I truly hope that fact brings you as much comfort as it did to me.

Anxiety is just as real as diabetes, or high blood pressure. Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior because they can’t “see” what is going on inside of you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for counseling, or even for medication. Those are tools that can help you establish a better quality of life. At the same time, don’t rely solely on medicine to take your pain away. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and explore other options that can help you, such as; prayer, meditation, yoga, writing, essential oils, reading, etc. Find something that makes your soul happy.

I want you to know that you are loved by so many people, in so many ways. You are important to someone. You matter to someone. Unburden yourself and open up to someone about what you are struggling with. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed because there’s nothing to be ashamed of! Don’t hide or try to isolate yourself. Don’t be  afraid to trust anyone with that information.  Opening yourself up takes an incredible amount of courage and bravery.

I want you to know that maybe our anxiety and panic attacks are gifts that will one day show us a clearer purpose. You might not see it now, but someday, you will. Be patient with yourself. Be gentle on yourself. Love yourself and give yourself the compassion that you would give a child. You are worthy of everything good. Anxiety can’t rob you of your joy, unless you let it. Don’t give in and don’t give up.

Lastly, I want to recommend that you stop fighting the anxiety. Let yourself feel the anxiety, fighting it will only make it worse. Let the feeling come, and let it pass. Acknowledge it. Perhaps by becoming more aware of your anxious feelings, you are better able to identify the trigger and move forward.


Prayer: Lord, I ask you to bless all those who are struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, and other mental health conditions. I pray that You walk beside them, showing them the gift of Your light and love. Help them to see the beauty in their pain, the purpose in their struggle. In Jesus’s name, Amen.