teens with anxiety

Reading Helps Me Deal with Life. (This Post is All Over the Place. And Long.)

(This post started as a simple anxiety update and turned into something else. Something really long.)

Do you ever look at your life, at how far you’ve come over whatever hurdles you’ve had to jump, and feel completely baffled that you’ve made it? Maybe I’m still feeling emotional after reading Left Drowning by Jessica Park (if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?), but it hit me today.

I’m starting my third semester of college.

I made it through my first one, even though I missed a week due to my psych ward visit.

I made it through my second one, even though I had to take the spring semester off and start back in the fall.

And now I’m starting my third semester of college. Not only that, but I haven’t had a lick of anxiety. None. Okay, that’s sort of a lie. The only hint of anxiety I’ve had is the first day of class, I was nauseated as I drove there. Once I was on campus, it disappeared. And then there was a flare today because I was going to have to get up and speak in front of the class, but it was gone as soon as I realized it was there. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t had any anxiety because I haven’t had to consciously put forth extra effort to manage it.

I really hope I don’t sound like a broken record every time I do these anxiety updates, but I need them. This is therapeutic for me. But if I do, feel free to ignore me. I won’t blame you.

Anyway, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I feel baffled by this realization. It almost seems impossible to think that I’m here after being where I started. Or impossible that I was ever that way to begin with. I’ve been thinking about the past a lot lately. I don’t know why. Maybe I need to tell my therapist about this.

But I’m happy with life. I’m me again.

Things that used to seem so elusive and hundreds of thousands of miles out of reach. I want to say that I now hold those things in the palms of my hands, but that feels inaccurate. Those things are coursing through my veins again, touching every part of me. I don’t think I could be anything but happy right now. How could I?

One thing, that I think is really getting to me, is that I’m reading again. Not just a book here and there, barely making it to my goal of 50 last year. I mean that craving I had before, that need to constantly have a book around and immersing myself in another reality hasn’t been as strong as it used to be.

When I started spiraling with my anxiety, the magic of reading left me. No comfort could be found between the pages of a book. I had never been without that before and it was devastating for me to lose that. My therapist has said numerous times that reading is just like me attending my appointments with her every two weeks.

The ability to get lost in someone else’s story, someone else’s joys and heartache, to escape my reality, was therapy for me. Always had been to some extent. 

When my life got to be too much, I read. 

When I needed something to make it through the day, I read. 

When I just wanted to enjoy a taste of happiness, I read.

So I was out of sorts when reading no longer did that for me. When I no longer had to always carry a book with me. When I didn’t get excited about going to the bookstore. When I couldn’t fathom sitting down for any period of time to read a book. And I know this sounds crazy, considering I write books and would still read here and there. But it wasn’t the same.

It’s been an uphill battle as I’ve slowly gotten it back. A couple weeks ago, my therapist told me something along the lines of how I need to read. I need that magic as part of my therapy.

It helps me deal.

With anxiety.
With bad days.
With good days.
With life.

Reading helps me deal with life.

Just like writing does.

But writing and reading aren’t exactly the same for me.

Writing helps me be in control. I can escape reality, but I’m in complete control of this other reality in which I’m immersing myself. It helps me cope, heal, and get to a better place.

Reading lets me hand those reins to another person, to that author, and they let me relax, cope, heal, and get lost in another world.

Sometimes, I need to be in control. Sometimes, someone else needs to be. I’m thrilled that both keep me grounded.

Books truly are amazing, magical, wonderful things. I get to enjoy reading, just like I used to. More than that, life is so much better when reading is part of my "therapy". (My therapist doesn't force me to read or anything. It helps me deal, and that's what I mean by therapy.)

I feel like the reader I used to be and I couldn’t be happier.

I'm happy. 
I'm anxiety-free. 
I'm writing.
I'm reading. 
Life is good.

Anxiety? What Anxiety?


It's on a day like today when I realize I've successfully completed another semester of college that I wonder how I've struggled so much in the past. Things since August have been wonderful. So wonderful that sometimes, I forget that I have an anxiety disorder.

I have never felt this good.
Ever.

-Three years, most of it spent being miserable.
-Therapy every two weeks for almost three years.
-Finishing high school through the county's homeschooling program.
-Five different medications.
-A week in the psychiatric ward.
-Three psychiatrists.
-Having to take a semester off from college.

^^^ That's what it took for me to get to this point. A lot of that was not enjoyable in the least. Switching medications and then having to adjust to a new one is terrible sometimes. Not to mention the side effects. (Hello, week-long stay in the psychiatric ward.)

But that's not the point of this post. I'm writing this because I had to go through all of that to get to this point. Today. A time in my life where I've never been happier. I'm on a medication that (in combination with therapy) makes me forget I even have anxiety. That is one of the best feelings in the world.

Since August, I can count all of my panic attacks on one hand and the number of minutes they lasted on one hand as well. If that isn't an accomplishment, I don't know what is. Especially considering my attacks used to last all day long, every day to the week.

So today, I'm celebrating.

I'm celebrating every day this year without a panic attack. I'm doing a happy dance for not missing a single day this semester due to anxiety. I'm singing as loud as I can to my favorite tunes because every day I don't think about anxiety is considered success. I'm celebrating that I easily survived a semester of school and I'm looking forward to the next one. I'm screaming, jumping, and looking a little crazy because I'm in control of my life now. Anxiety doesn't hold me back anymore.

Is my fight over?
No.

Is there a chance that I'll lose control again?
Of course.

Am I worried?
Not in the least.

I can finish school.

I can sit in a quiet classroom with little anxiety.

I can do all those things that produce my anxiety with a little effort instead of a lot of extra effort.

I can do whatever I dream of.

Because I can control my anxiety.

If these past few months have taught me anything, it's that. If I can make it through a semester as I did with this one, then my anxiety is no match for me. I'm prepared to fight, if need be. I have a Plan B and a Plan C. So, no, I'm not worried about it returning later because I know that I can control it.

Trying Something New

I've noticed that I've been a little on edge lately and why wouldn't I be when school starts in two weeks? Yesterday, I had to go to the school with the BFF for a little meeting of sorts and I'm proud to say my anxiety crossed my mind only once. It wasn't any sort of panic, but merely a passing thought.

Over the years that I've been dealing with anxiety as an every day thing and not just a every so often circumstance, I've heard various ways of handling it. Some have clearly worked. Some only work half the time and some don't work at all. But there are some that I haven't tried yet.

Well, it's time to put those things to the test.

Starting today, so I get a head start and in the right mindset, I'm going to change a few things in my life. Hopefully, these things will help and I'll start some good habits along the way. So what exactly am I going to do?
  • Reduce stress. There are a couple things that I can do to reduce my stress. Lots of stress triggers my anxiety and too much in a short time period will start triggering the attacks. Honestly, I can easily reduce my stress by changing a few things. Ignore some phone calls. Stay away from some people. Don't overload myself. Those are the main things I'll do to keep myself a little less stressed.
  • Exercise. That word was tossed around in the beginning. A couple doctors and my therapist told me that regular exercise could both help on the stress part and the anxiety part. The stress only becomes an issue when it gets to be too much. Since I could use some exercise anyway, I'm going to do a little of that and play tennis. It'll be good for my health, both mentally and physically.
  • Drink more water. I love my Dr. Pepper and I gotta have it everyday. However, caffeine isn't too good for me and my anxiety. That's why I stay away from the energy drinks 99.9% of the time and limit my frappé intake. The amount of Dr. Pepper I do drink isn't too much caffeine, but I know it would help if I switched out at least one drink of Dr. Pepper with a bottle of water every day. 
I figured if I start now that I will at least be in the routine of doing these things before school starts. And as long as I keep it up once school does start, I'm hoping that these three things in combination with my medication and all my other techniques will help me last through the semester. Things are still feeling pretty good right now, but I want to try and prepare myself anyway. Not to mention that these are all good things in general and I'm pretty excited to get back into playing tennis. :)

An Anxiety-Related Update (Warning: Long Post Ahead)

It's been a while since I've posted an update on myself and my anxiety. That's mostly because I'm in one of those good periods where my anxiety is low. I've been doing well. It's been a good few months with this period and when I realized this, my anxiety flared a little. It's like when you realize things have been going well and it seems a little too good to be true so you start waiting for the pen to drop.

That's where I'm at right now. One sign of my anxiety rising is having trouble sleeping. None of that, thank goodness. However, another sign is that I have a reading/writing slump. The last time I read a book was July 12th, which was a little over two weeks ago. Writing has been a bit of a struggle as well. Some scenes that shouldn't take long to write are taking forever. Why? Because most of the time, my mind goes blank and I stare at the screen until I can get my thoughts together long enough to write another paragraph. Then my mind blanks again. Sometimes, I even stop mid-sentence.

Talk about frustrating. Especially when I have a goal that I would like to meet this year. Part of me is pretty sure that these little signs are due to the never-failing reason behind 96% of my anxiety.

School.

It's almost August and I register on the 13th and start on the 19th. I'm still pretty excited to be going back. I'm ready for the work, the routine, the stability of knowing what I will be doing two days of every week while doing the rest online. I am a little worried about how taking 7 classes (3 face-to-face, 4 online) will interfere with my writing time. Like I said, I have goals I want to meet.

That's my biggest worry at the moment. I'm feeling good about the classes at campus because my BFF will be in those classes too. I'm not the least bit concerned about the online classes. Nevertheless, the process has started once more. I'm not reading and my writing is a constant struggle lately.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it before, but those two things are crucial to my everyday life. Both are therapeutic escapes that I need, especially in regards to my anxiety. If I'm not doing either, then my anxiety is not in a good place and there is a good chance that I'm on the train to Crazy Town.

For now, I'm happy that I'm aware of the little changes that I need to keep an eye on and I'm going to push myself to read a little and keep writing. Once I really get going, then it won't be such a struggle and I'll be happier.

These posts are always so long, but I wanted to write an update, especially since it's been a while since my last one. Until next time, happy reading y'all!

About the Songs Mentioned in Don't Panic

As a reminder, these are the songs mentioned in Don't Panic:
  • "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith
  • "Miss Me" by Andy Grammer
  • "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On You" by N'Snyc
  • "Without You" by Keith Urban
  • "God Gave Me You" by Blake Shelton
  • "Fall into Me" by Brantley Gilbert
  • "My Kind of Crazy" by Brantley Gilbert
For those that have read Don't Panic, did you wonder why I chose those songs? If you did, I'm here to tell you why!

The songs served a purpose. It wasn't about how it was Eli that was singing those songs. It wasn't about the fact that love is involved in those songs. It actually has nothing to do with the lyrics at all. I chose those songs because those are the few that I listen to when I'm having a panic attack. It was about the ability those songs had to relax me. How I could get lost in them and my worries would fade away.

That's why I chose those particular songs. They are on my phone under a playlist that I have just for attacks. Hopefully, you now understand why those were chosen. Not because of anything other than the fact that they can relax me during my attacks. In turn, Sam found them relaxing as well. The songs provided just the right amount of distraction we needed to bring the attacks down from it's climax.

You can look at my Don't Panic playlist on YouTube to find more songs that I find perfect for my anxiety attacks.

Am I Willing?


I'm unsure why, but my brain has been on anxiety lately. Not mine, really, as it has been in hiding since I started a new medication back in March. I'm sure it will rear it's ugly head come August when I return to school, if not before, but I feel good about facing it.

That's not the point of this post though.

When I finished Don't Panic, I thought about giving it a sequel. I wanted to show what comes after getting a handle on anxiety, because it doesn't just stay away forever. Happily ever after doesn't last long for someone who suffers from severe anxiety. I don't want that to come across as discouraging to anyone else out there with anxiety. I'm just saying that, at least for me, anxiety is a cycle of vicious attacks and then calm waters before the storm returns. Even my therapist said that the cycles are different for everyone. She, for example, can go years without having an attack and when it does return, it doesn't stay long. I don't believe for a second that everyone's anxiety is the same. Anything I say is based on my experience mostly.

Anyway, I've been avoiding even thinking about a sequel because it was absolute hell to write DP and I can only imagine the horrors of going back and telling more of Sam's story. I want to do so. Even feel like I need to do so, even though it can stand alone as it is.

Then something even worse happened. I got an idea for another book featuring another character dealing with anxiety. I thought, "Aw, hell. Not again! I don't know if I can survive another anxiety book." It takes a toll on me mentally to write a book like that. I seriously thought I was losing my mind while writing DP. Telling that story caused a lot of unwanted memories to surface and there I was, back to having full blown anxiety again. Just from writing. I lived through every attack Sam has in DP. I suffered through it right there with her and it was twice as bad because I had to stay sane enough to get the words on the screen.

My question to myself is am I willing? Am I willing to dive into even darker parts of anxiety to write another book with a new set of characters? Am I willing to return to Sam and wreck havoc on her carefully reconstructed world? To tear it down just so she can rebuild it again?

Hell, yes.

Okay. Maybe that should be a squeaky affirmation because that mirrors how I actually feel.

I don't know for sure about Sam's story yet. That is on hold for a while longer still. However, that other set of characters? They are clawing their way out of me and onto the screen.

Let the panic begin.

DON'T PANIC! I have a teaser for you!

See? I think that was pretty clever of me, that title. Anyways, every Saturday between now and October 8th, I'm going to share a teaser from Don't Panic. I really hope y'all enjoy this feature and that it gets you excited about the book. Don't forget to add it to your shelf on Goodreads!

I'm thrilled to be writing this book because I have so many expectations for it and I want it to be a tool to show other teens with anxiety that they are not alone. Plus, I have enjoyed writing this book. It has been helpful for me and my anxiety as well.

On to the teaser!*



Every single day, I walk into my classroom and get this urge to leave. It’s impossible to ignore. The longer I ignore it, the more prominent it is and the harder it is to pretend it isn’t there. It’s even worse when I have to speak or stand in front of everyone. All of a sudden, these things that didn’t bother me do. I have no control and I barely want to leave the house to go to school.
I freeze as I hear water rushing out of a faucet.
What are you doing in here,” a boy asks as he rounds the corner and sees me. “Are you okay?” he adds seeing my frantic expression.
Oh, no. I’m in the boys bathroom.


*Please note that these teasers are may not end up being in the final product of this book. Changes may be made. Please do not quote these teasers until you have checked against the final version.

Techniques

Since I'm sharing with you my triggers, I figured that if anyone else with anxiety is reading this, I don't want to discourage them. Therefore, I have to share some techniques on how to deal with it. All of the following help me deal with anxiety. They could help you too. It's worth a try.
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When I was in school and struggling, my "technique" was to dig my nails into my skin, using the pain as a distraction. While it worked for like 2.5 seconds, depending on the pressure I placed, it isn't a good technique. But here are some good ones:
  • Counting. I'm dead serious. Counting saved me one day. This serves as a distraction and allows you to calm down. I would count in sets of ten or one hundred depending on the severity. It didn't always get rid of the attack completely, but it helped. Even just a tiny bit is worth a try.
  • Positive Self-Talking. Throw away all of those negative thoughts and start thinking positively. Tell yourself that you can make it through this. Remind yourself of any accomplishments you've made with your anxiety. This also distracts your mind from the attack and could help.
  • Believe in yourself. You can't just tell yourself these things. Believing is part of the trick!
  • Cut back on the caffeine. You wouldn't believe how much caffeine plays a part in triggering attacks. Cutting back on this could mean cutting back on attacks.
  • Eat right. Being healthy plays a part too.
  • Massages. My personal favorite technique is to go out, once or twice a month, and get a massage. This is the ultimate relaxation technique for me. Being relaxed means not being uptight as often which will help you stay in control.
  • Breathe. Make sure you are breathing normally. Heightened breathing or slowing down how often you inhale and exhale can effect your attack as well. Take nice, slow, deep and even breaths.
Those are just a few techniques. Hopefully, they will help you. 

Please note that I'm not a professional and that taking my advice should not interfere with getting/taking professional help. I'm only trying to let other gain a better understanding and to help others know they are not alone. 

Cycle of Anxiety and an Example


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Anxiety starts as a simple thought. It then grows into more thoughts until it's all your are thinking about. Next, it stirs negative emotions within you and then you take action. Here is an example to help you better understand the cycle.

I'm sitting at my desk in school and the teacher is lecturing on some topic. A thought of how it's quiet and there's a test coming up. (Thoughts) I don't like silence. What if people can hear whatever noise I'm making? Why is everyone looking at me, even though their backs are turned? My stomach hurts. I don't feel good. I'm ready to get out of this room. (Emotions) The intensity rises and soon, I can't stand it any longer. I have tried and I can't do it any more. I get up and bolt out of the room. (Actions)

That's a sucky, but hopefully, good enough example. If you have a better example, please share!

Day One of Triggers

imgres.jpgI did a post a while back on a few triggers of mine. The triggers included silence around others, drive-thrus, pumping gas, and crowds. That post was done during a time when I had hardly no anxiety going on. I figured it's time for a more in-depth post about my triggers. This is to help others understand me and my anxiety more and as a mechanism for me to better know exactly what I'm scared of. Each day, I will go in-depth about a trigger of mine.

First, I thought it would be beneficial to see a generalized list of triggers that I found from The Reality of Anxiety, a blog I have become addicted to.


  • Play the What if Game and other negative self talk- Setting Ourselves up for Failure
  • Poor Self Esteem- thinking we're not worthy enough to be around others and be liked for who we are
  • Put too much pressure on ourselves to be "perfect" for others or not to have an attack
  • Focus on ourselves more than those around us
  • Eat poorly, drink a lot of caffeine
  • Do not exercise and or meditate regularly
  • Full Exposure to our phobias instead of baby steps
  • Do not get enough rest at night
  • Hold in our feelings
  • Do not focus on breathing deeply

  • All of the above are triggers that help set my anxiety in action. You'd be surprised at how often I've had to skip my caffeine love of energy drinks because it would cause me 3 days worth of anxiety. Let's get started, shall we?


    No_School.jpgSchool environment. As you may have noticed from my last two posts, school is an enormous trigger for me. Sometimes, I can't handle driving by one, much less going into one. Just yesterday, I felt sick to my stomach because I was in the parking lot of a local high school, waiting on my nephew. I feel like I could throw up just mentioning it! 


    High school was unbearable, especially my last year. I missed three weeks in a row because I couldn't find the energy to get out of bed or move. Anyways, being in the school environment causes me to panic.


    I start wondering if the students around me can hear the not always audible noises I'm making. The click of my pen, the scratch of my pencil on paper, the creak of my chair as my legs continue to bounce up and down and I continuously rearrange myself. All these noises and some that aren't really there are so loud in my head. My head starts pounding; my heart beats faster; my ears hurt; and I feel faint. All of those things begin happening at once with such intensity. 


    I've always been the child to make good grades. The pressure I placed on myself to excel in school did not bode well with my anxiety. Especially when I took two AP classes at once. Never again will I take an AP class. 


    Me+AP classes=tons upon tons of anxiety. 


    I remember one day, I got my report card and had to keep myself from crying in class as I looked it over because I had a couple of C's. There's no telling how much stress I had over that. I finished with a 2.6 GPA. Before my anxiety started becoming so severe, it was a 3.7. I don't know how to explain how much that bothers me. A carefree Lindsay does not exist. No matter what I say, I care about my grades and that 2.6 is killing me on the inside. 


    All this talk has left me exhausted. Hopefully, that's a good enough insight. :)


    Yesterday's Attack Follow-Up

    I emailed that post to my therapist and I'm waiting to hear back from her. My attack ended shortly after that post, thank goodness. However, I'm still experiencing physical side effects from my anxiety over this problem.

    Here's how I see it, now that I'm fully rational...or at least I think so. Once I started getting better, I promised myself that even if I knew that I could survive the attack, because I can do so, that I wouldn't put myself in situations that I knew would cause a severe attack. Even if I can get through it, I didn't want to have to experience the mental and physical effects that the attack would have on me. In my opinion, nothing is worth going through that.

    Not new experiences. Not meeting new people. Not an education that would better my life, because I can find a way to get that without physically being at a school.

    I know, I know. Having this level over anxiety is ridiculous, but that's how it works for me. I freak out over something most people have no trouble dealing with. Sure, it's normal to have a little anxiety about starting college, but not like what I am beginning to experience once more.

    Something has changed. I'm not sure what triggered it, but it has happened. I used to see it as a test of sorts. It was me testing my limits and seeing how long I could last in a certain situation before I gave in to the anxiety and how that was a good thing. However, now it's like I don't care about that anymore.

    I'm back to where I was a year ago. Where my MC in Don't Panic is right now. I just want it to stop and be over with. I want a quick, permanent fix, not a subtle fix that will last until the next one. I'm right back to feeling that if I don't 'have' to deal with it, that I shouldn't go through it.

    Right now, in my eyes, college and being there physically is not a must. There are other options and right now, I want to take that other option. I don't want to go through these attacks again. It doesn't matter that I can survive them and tackle them. The mental angst is not worth it.

    Sometimes, I feel like Emily and that y'all (and the other people in my life) are Jake. It's like no matter how good I do, there's always a setback that follows. There's always someone out there to support me through these tough times, but I feel like eventually, you will get tired of being that support. Just like Emily feels Jake will get tired of being the strong one of the two. Just like Emily feels that Jake will get tired of how she operates, so to speak, and will get fed up with the constant ups and downs. But that is how it is with a person with anxiety. We have ups and downs all the time. Sometimes, more often than not.

    If people stop reading these posts and commenting words of encouragement, I'll understand completely.  I guess that goes to show just how much like Emily I am. I rather deal with it alone than cause trouble to others. Even though, we both see that dealing with it alone is not always the right choice.

    It's Official-I'm a legal adult!


    On this date in 1994, I was born. You probably thought I was going to go into details about weight and everything, right? Well, no. Isn't it enough to know that I was born?

    Anyways, I was named. Incorrectly. That's right. My name was supposed to be Lynsay, but my mom wasn't thinking straight or something and that didn't happen. No worries. I still love my name.

    Did You Know:
    -That I share my birthday with Enzo Ferrari. Yes, I can say that I share my birthday with the guy behind Ferraris.
    How cool is that?!

    Let's have a timeline of sorts here, shall we?

    Age 5: Started school. Cried every day for the first semester on the bus. Became an aunt.

    Age 7: Became a proud aunt of another nephew.

    Age 10: My grandfather passed. (I love you Papa!)

    Age 13: I'm a teenager. 

    Age 15: Got into a car wreck that year and became the proud owner of some sweet scars.

    Age 16: I can drive! Went to Costa Rica where I obtained yet another scar.

    Age 17: Published two books. Diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia.

    Age 18: Here I am. I can vote, buy a can of air or a lottery ticket, and test drive a car. How about this one?
     or
    My and my youngest nephew are going to test drive one of those babies. I'm so excited about it. I'm sure he is too. He's been talking about it all year. I would share some words of wisdom with y'all, but I could think of a lot of things- things I hope everyone knows already.

    Next big event?