My Anxiety Made Me Do It

An observation: those of my liberal friends with the busiest agendas to take down the elitists/voice their opinions/smash the patriarchy on an hourly basis also have the highest amounts of anxiety (trust me, when they’re not talking politics, they’re talking anxiety). Indeed, they cause ME the most anxiety whenever I log onto social media, my blood pressure rising, my heart palpitating, my mind racing with thoughts of, “But what about …” and “Well, that seems awfully black and white …” or “YER GOSH DARN RIGHT!” I want to tell them to maybe take a few breaks during the day, maybe find more puppy videos or recipes or go outside and enjoy the sunshine or fight the good fight privately, personally, without announcing it to the world. I believe there is a deep-seeded correlation, dare say I know there is, and the one is controlling the other.

In fact, I find that the majority of my liberal friends post vastly more caustic information about Trump and his cronies than any of my conservative friends ever have, currently do, or ever will all combined in their entire lifetimes. I have one friend who I can count on to mention Trump a minimum of 10 times per week, and he doesn’t even like the guy. I have, otherwise, zero Trump supporting friends, but there he is, rearing his ugly orange head in my newsfeed anyhow.

And because all my dear liberal friends, with whom I thought I had the most in common, are about to push me into a psychiatric ward despite how excellent my medications are working in harmony, I’ve decided a few things. 1. I need to clearly unfollow them like I did my deeply conservative friends months ago, which seems odd that they’re now all in the same camp, but here we are. 2. I need to take a few steps back and decide whether it’s actually fruitful to even discuss politics/societal issues/religion on social media at length. Several people will likely see this as a defeatist attitude, argue that by sitting back silently, I’m conceding to the other side, and by all means, they can have that opinion. If any of my good friends hear a celebrity liken an African-American woman to an ape over Twitter and question for a second whether or not I find that deeply and utterly offensive because I didn’t mention it, then that’s going to be on them. If they wonder whether I am upset that thousands of children are being separated from their families at the border, that Flint still has no clean water, that I am not contacting my congressmen and doing what I feel I can at this time to have my voice heard, well … perhaps they don’t know me at all.

Here’s what I do know. Work happens in the middle. And while I am not claiming to suddenly be a moderate (ha — to laugh, I’m a fierce liberal and damn proud of it), I also know that pushing things further apart isn’t going to be the answer either. We argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue and argue, and then we turn to our like-minded friends and laugh about how wrong the other side is, while they do the same. And perhaps there’s some truth in that. But I know that my truth needs to be about my family and friends, about the tangibles that I can control, about the people and things I love, about my home and pets, about the beautiful place I love, and the God that created me. Everything else is just noise.

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Sacred Sunday: 12/17

When I was a child and teenager, I took it upon myself to begin bearing testimony in church every opportunity I could find. I wasn’t particularly faith-filled nor did I have a very strong testimony, and that was The Why. I was taught that bearing testimony would help it strengthen and grow, and that was what I needed most. (In the LDS faith, the first Sunday of every month is dedicated as Fast Sunday, during which congregants spend the full day fasting and bear testimony during sacrament meeting, as opposed to having assigned speakers).

This proved to be a problem rather quickly because I was, rather unfortunately, a congregant in a terrible ward. It’s unimportant all the turmoil I experienced there, but suffice to say, I’m rather surprised that, as an adult, I am still a faithful member of the Church since my formative years were filled with religious strife. In short, very few of them loved me, and in return, I did not love them back. So my regular testimony bearing, which was intentionally about a different topic each month because anxiety and OCD, became a bit of an inside joke. Oh look, there’s Mary going up yet again. To be clear, there aren’t any specific rules about the frequency with which you may testify, and I have since been in wards during which several members bear testimony each month free of concern. But this ward couldn’t seem to let it go. And so, from the pulpit, when they should be testifying of Christ or the Gospel or prophets or prayer or any manner of religious topics, they would instead poke fun of me. One girl’s father even bet her that I’d bear testimony, and her loss meant she, too, had to go up and do the same.

Now, not all Mormons are terrible people. You will find people with poor character anywhere you go, including within any religion. But this was personal, and it was against me, and rather than grow, my testimony became weaker and weaker. Nevertheless, I persisted. And it never changed, and I never grew.¹ Eventually, I became so embarrassed, I gave up. I was a kid, after all, and enough was simply enough.

Since then, I have lived in a large number of wards in which my testimony was welcomed with open arms. And, certainly, I am still not as faithful as I might be, but I have my eyes on that eternal prize and continue to work on bettering myself. My testimony always has been, and likely always be, something like this:

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And that’s okay.

And sometimes I need to get up, month after month, moved by the Spirit to remind myself that I am generally filled with faith and understanding. Sometimes I will go months in between because I’m doing perfectly fine, spiritually speaking.

And that’s okay, too.

Today, I testify of God’s divinity and the opportunity we have, mere mortals that we are, to eventually have the same. This fills me both with awe and a bit of fear (mostly due to a lack of comprehension because, as previously stated, mere mortal), but I will continue on this path because I simply cannot close the book now and never discover the ending. He loves us, inexplicably and unconditionally, even when we do not deserve it, and should you or I ever feel as though that love has ended, I testify even more that it is because we have turned away from Him; it is never the other way around.

This will be a difficult pill to swallow, every time. But coming to that sort of realization, even when you’re in your depths, will be like a ladder being thrown down to lift you out. So how could I turn my back on that?

¹”Stars and the Moon, Songs for a New World, Jason Robert Brown
Image source: here

The One About Illness

When I was much younger, there was a boy who attended my church whose kidneys failed him. It was terrible. He had to go to dialysis and was so sickly and eventually, his father saved his life by donating a kidney.

While he was going through dialysis, which empties out waste and maintains healthy levels of chemicals in the body, no one scoffed at his family’s pleas for prayers. No one told him to just get to it and eventually he’d get better. There were no happy thoughts or gym suggestions. He was ill, he did what he needed to ensure the chemicals in his body were as healthy as possible, and no one batted an eye.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how mental illness ought not be in its own category any longer. The brain is, after all, a physical part of the body (an organ, just like, say, the kidneys) and the chemicals in it are no longer at healthy levels, people take medication (kind of like, oh I don’t know, dialysis).

I don’t mean to be snide. I really don’t. But I’m frustrated because the medications I take for my variety of maladies really needn’t be treated any differently than the medications anyone takes for their maladies, physical or … physical. My brain doesn’t work quite right when it comes to my happiness and my arm currently doesn’t work quite right because SOMEONE WENT ICE SKATING BACK IN FEBRUARY AND SLIPPED AND FELL AND DID A REAL NUMBER ON HERSELF.

And sometimes — dare I say most of the time — when people are feeling especially anxious or depressed, that is not the appropriate time to bring up how exercise increases endorphin levels or how meditation can bring a certain level of peace.

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Just as you wouldn’t tell a cancer patient that going to the gym would likely make them feel better. Maybe on their way home from chemo. (Plus, we know. We know because we’ve done it when we were feeling the best we might, and we reaped the benefits, but when you are apathetic to literally everything in the world and it is painful to merely exist, the gym is not a top priority).

There are also some unexpected physical manifestations that occur with anxiety and depression that many non-sufferers do not consider (or even know about). A friend has a bundle of nerves in her bladder that are causing her immense pain. The solution? Less stress. I used to get scabs on my head after not washing my hair one day because I had seborrheic dermatitis. The solution? Less stress. I feel real, actual physical pain when I am suffering a particularly bad bout of depression (that is often caused by a lack of Vitamin D, which the gym certainly will not provide for me).

So let’s begin a paradigm shift (ew gross those are the worst). Let’s start recognizing “mental illness” as what it really is: physical illness that is no different than any other sickness a person might experience. When the brain is broken, that is physical and it is inarguable (we don’t have a cloud of feelings between our ears, after all).

Sacred Sunday – 12/10

Cherie Call, a renowned LDS singer/songwriter once wrote, “There’s something about this time of year that just tears me up inside because Jesus was born and He lived and He died for broken hearts like mine.”

Christmastime is my favorite time of year — it really is — but I find myself so often very blue. I’m sure it begins with seasonal depression (or, more likely in my case, major depression that’s enhanced by the season, and don’t worry, I’m popping Vitamin D like it’s candy these days). And it’s hard to be an HSP with strong empathic tendencies — though I tend to feel this way year-round, I am especially heartbroken over those who are homeless or desperately in need. I find myself in a bit of a dichotomy where I would appreciate it if everyone around me showered me with gifts beginning December 1st and not stopping till February 23rd (my birthday) but would also like to sell all my belongings so that I can donate coats and blankets and toys and food and jobs and cars and homes. We do our part, but it doesn’t feel like enough (I mean, what IS enough anyhow? Is there a scale?). The other day, as my husband and I were walking the dog (on the world’s shortest walk because it is all of a sudden winter here in the east coast, despite being in the 60s well past Thanksgiving), I told him I wished I were wealthy enough to buy hundreds of the coat I was wearing (a down-filled, quilted Columbia Sportswear that is literally the warmest, coziest thing I own and keeps me not only sufficiently warm but actually, most of the time, too hot it’s so well-insulated) and hand them out to every homeless person I saw. I’ve been imagining a life where I could walk into a store and buy out their entire winter stock and clothe the naked and then go to the grocery store and feed the hungry.

I wish, I wish, I wish.

I suppose God made me this way for a reason. There’s a lesson to be learned, I’m sure, because He appears to be big on learning lessons. And this broken heart I’ve been given can, in fact, be mended. In Isaiah 61:1, it says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; … he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted …”, and in these few words is prophetic counsel: if we live in such a manner that we might feel of His Spirit and love, He will strengthen our hearts. (Although I am struck by the thought that strengthening my broken heart is not necessarily the same thing as fixing it altogether, and there is the possibility that I have always been to live with a broken heart so that I might empathize better with others.)

I don’t always feel this somber — I will likely wake up in the morning and feel all too excited at the prospect that it will FINALLY be the day Pandora plays “Marshmallow World” (I know — I should just buy the song and play it on repeat), and my Christmas tree will make me feel joyous, and I’ll plan out Husband’s presents and buy my parents a card and I’ll be temporarily bandaged up rather than feeling torn up inside. Because what a beautiful season, what a sense of celebration I ought to have that Christ was born for you and for me.

What To Do When …

… Your Significant Other’s Panic Attack Ruins the Evening

  1. Let them freak out in the way they need to. It’s kind of like how you’re not supposed to wake someone up from sleepwalking — don’t try to fix the situation as it’s happening because that will only end in heartache and possibly homicide *lolz*. The panic attack is already under way, and the best thing you can do is stand back and let it run its course.
  2. Come to your S.O. immediately should he/she call for you (unless you’ve accidentally fallen asleep because her panic attack occurred late evening, and she was kind of doing her thing for awhile and then took a nap as a form of escapism and woke up needing you at, say, 11:00 pm, and then she’s probably understanding enough to give you a sort of free pass in that she won’t be mad, just disappointed. Like your Jewish mother. And grandmother. And all the other Jewish women in the history of the world combined). Are you at work? Take the call, answer the text, do what you can. A reasonable person might understand if you’re too busy, but a panic-stricken individual might be a little less cognizant of anything outside of danger Will Robinson danger/Houston, we have a problem/SOS/911.
  3. Be as calm as that one person you met back in college who you thought was probably stoned 99% of the time but was, either way, super mellow and chill. Panic doth not need more panic. Panic needs to be soothed.
  4. Please do not attempt to dispense some sort of advice. Chances are very low that this is his/her first ever panic attack, which means this person will know exactly how to cope (because psychiatrists and psychologists and therapy and medication and breathing techniques and meditation and yoga and that one friend who paid for a kickstarter for weighted blankets). I mean, first of all, if your S.O. is a woman, she probably doesn’t want your advice anyhow ever, but especially in this dread-filled period of time, she needs you to be there to help her stay as grounded as possible. It’s okay to talk the person down, but don’t start in with the “Have you tried …?) questions because again, they will likely end in heartache and possibly homicide. *lolz*
  5. It’s really not appropriate to place any blame. I don’t care if he/she drank 48 oz. of highly caffeinated soda, watched a horror film, and decided shallow breathing was the better option. Panic attacks will come whenever they want, with no regard to what the person is doing or how the person is feeling. “Maybe you shouldn’t have (fill in the blank)” is simply rude. When the brain runs low on seratonin, there’s no telling what it will do, and even if someone is on regular medication, this can occur at random and with regular frequency. Trust me, he/she is already feeling wracked with guilt.

How do I know all these things?

Well, I have OCD, anxiety, major depression, a panic disorder, and an eating disorder. If I were to go a week without a panic attack, I’d start to wonder what was wrong OR jump for joy because my meds are finally the right dosage, finally doing the right thing. When I’m anxious, I get panic attacks. When I’m depressed, I get panic attacks. When I’m happy, I get panic attacks. This one time, I had a panic attack that lasted roughly 23 hours.

The other night, I was doing fine and then all of a sudden, I was remarkably nauseated, which landed me in bed, wondering if I needed the patented Throw Up Bowl (aka Mixing Bowl When It’s Been Cleaned and Sanitized). I wondered if I had food poisoning or stomach flu. And then I realized I could inhale just fine but could exhale just a short puff of air, which increased my heart rate something fierce. Then came the classic symptom: Dread with a Capital D. Everything was horrible. By the time I was able to get to sleep, I had managed to sort of regulate my breathing to be more normal, but it took a remarkable amount of wherewithal and energy.

In short, it was the worst panic attack I’ve ever had my entire life (and that counts the one I had a few months ago that made me want to die). And it totally ruined the evening. We were going to play games with my mother, and instead, they talked for awhile, till she retired to bed and he watched some television. He was understanding, he was calm, and then when it was appropriate (we’ve been through this hulabaloo a bazillion times), he cracked some jokes. By that point, I was feeling mentally well, so it wasn’t a big deal. He let me cry about it, he let me describe it in full detail, and we went to sleep, probably both a little disappointed about how things had turned out, but hopeful that the following day would be better (it was).

We’ve been married 7 1/2 years (give or talk a handful of months), and it’s taken nearly this long to get to where we are. If your loved one suffers from mental illness, be patient with him/her and also yourself. There will be times when you’ll be the champion and other times when you’ll fail in more ways than you can count. That’s an okay thing. The fact that you’re trying — that you want to become the support system your person needs — is huge. And I can pretty well assure you, unless you’re dating someone who’s kind of a dick, they’re spending a lot less time talking about the instances where you didn’t do everything perfectly and a lot more time praising your name when you’ve made even a little bit of effort. Everyone appreciates someone trying in the name of love.

Forget-Me-Not

As I sit here, a little after 12:30 am on December 1st (omg omg 24 days till Christmas!!!), unable to sleep because I am either still suffering from the cold I picked up a couple weeks ago or have unwittingly walked from sickness straight into allergies (Allergies? In December? Why tho?), unable to sleep because I graduated from physical therapy a real loser, my arm and shoulder and back and side aching and tingling, I’m thinking about forgetting.

Actually, I’m feeling a little woe-is-me, a little mopey. I want to press the back of my hand against my forehead and fall back onto a plush, down comforter on a large, pillowtop mattress and sigh dramatically. And then I want someone to take pity on me, lift my legs up so I’m laying on the bed, cover me in something soft, and, I don’t know, give me $1 million.

But I’m also thinking about forgetfulness. Like how I’ve honest to goodness forgotten what it felt like to not have intense pain in the chest/shoulder/back/arm/hand region of my right side. I’ve forgotten what it was like to not be congested (or to not have post-nasal drip). It’s funny how you can live a few decades perfectly fine but let yourself forget that fineness after just a handful of months. Never mind that my right hand and arm have served me well all these years, allowed me to write, prepare food, open doors, tie my shoelaces all perfectly well, without difficulty. Never mind that probably 95% of the time, both nostrils work adequately enough that I don’t end up with perpetually chapped lips. I am focused plainly on the here and now, and the here and now hurts.

This tells me, however, that I am probably perfect capable of also forgetting all the sleights, all the hurts, all the offenses and unkind words and embarrassing moments and stumbles because right here, right now, aside from mouth breathing and wishing I could rip my right arm off at the shoulder socket, aside from the prediabetic/anemic situation, I’m really quite okay. My feelings haven’t been hurt for awhile now — in fact, I’m surrounded by a lot of people who love and support me, who bolster me up and don’t bother doing anything that might hurt me because they value me as a person. And if that’s what I’m experiencing all the time now, why do I, every once in awhile, when I’m already feeling too fragile, remember the day P. looked me in the eye and told me he no longer wanted to be my friend? Why do I spend just a little too much time stewing over why K. blocked me from all social media the day after we’d spent the previous evening chatting? Why on earth does the person I hate most ever cross my mind? If I am surrounded by all the good, if that’s what I’m living and experiencing and knowing day after day, why not forget what it was like to feel bad? Why is it so much easier to forget the good when something bad pops up but damn near impossible to forget the bad when the good is constant?

This isn’t going to be the point at which I issue some earth-shattering conclusion. I don’t have the answers, I don’t have them at all. But it does certainly make me take pause and wonder if maybe — just maybe — I’m focusing on all the wrong things. Maybe I’ve been wrong my whole life. Maybe something needs to change — a paradigm shift. (Ah, we all know how easy those are to accept.)

You Know How it Goes

Since we’ve addressed my random (and inexplicably aggressive) diagnosis of epilepsy right before beginning college, I presume there is no amount of shock when I say the first semester wasn’t so hot.

I mean, I got really excellent grades — the best I’d have for the next 4 1/2 years, the one and only semester I’d land on the Dean’s List only to fall majorly from grace because I discovered having a social life > homework — but there was all that stress. Was I going to randomly have a seizure in the Quad while my mother watched on the low-quality cams over her computer? Would I have a seizure in my private dorm room all alone, left unconscious and lying in urine or feces? (Just as a quick aside, that’s something my doctor didn’t actually need to tell me could happen during a seizure ESPECIALLY SINCE I WAS TO NEVER HAVE ANOTHER ONE AGAIN, but whatever.) Would I be taking a midterm and fall to the side of my desk and scare everyone in my Music Theory class?

It’s all I really ever thought about.

So living in the dorms with an unlimited pass to the (albeit truly awful) cafeteria that served ice cream after every lunch and dinner became a real problem. And that, kids, is when Mary picked up binge eating disorder.

I’ve written all about this whole eating disorder thing before in my previous blog, so rather than bore you with all the details (since, you know, you’re one of the five people who follows me), I’ll just direct you here. If you want a refresher. And then 2017 decided it needed to kick my butt, and early in February, I slipped and fell while ice skating, which — you might want to sit down for this — led to bruised ribs and a bruised sternum which led to my being stuck in the recliner for 6 weeks straight, unable to do literally anything (even showering was exceptionally painful), which led to my missing my bed that entire time but hell if I could lay down flat without thinking my lungs were going to collapse, which led to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which led me to a chiropractor who didn’t necessarily make it worse but also didn’t make it better, which led me to the physical therapist, who discharged me today after twenty-four appointments (twenty-four!), just as frustrated as me because I’m still in pain, which means there’s something else going on with my muscles and/or nerves and/or fascia.

I already wasn’t exercising regularly because of the depression followed by anxiety of moving cross-country back in October 2015, and this sealed my fate in being a literal couch potato. The binge eating did not stop. The exercise never began.

I’m telling you all this because I had the rather unfortunate experience of discovering, thanks to modern technology and my ability to view lab results online AND, at the same time, Google what it all means, that I am prediabetic with some sort of anemia. (Incidentally, when I mentioned this to my physical therapist, she said that actually made sense because prediabetes makes for a much slower healing process, so as Ron Swanson would say, bully for me.)

To be overweight is one thing, but to finally have it really catch up with you and start breaking down your body is a whole other ballgame. My initial reaction was shock and — you guessed it — anxiety. This was not what I’d signed up for when I decided to lead a sedentary lifestyle. I was just beginning to feel a little more positively about my soft, sort of lumpy figure, and I don’t think tunics are going out of style ever again. But prediabetic? Anemia? An inability to heal properly?

My next reaction was a strong desire to sit down, begin eating, and stop only when I exploded. This is, apparently, counterproductive to my end goal of not being prediabetic, so I decided against it, but let me tell you, when you have binge eating disorder and thusly eat as a means of comfort (there’s more seratonin in your stomach than your brain, and when carbs hit it … you feel awesome and that’s just the way it is, folks), it’s all you wanna do when presented with stressful information. I could honestly win a country fried steak eating competition right this minute. Give me 96 oz. of deep fried meat coated in gravy or give me death (or, I suppose, give me both since that really feels like causation type situation).

Basically what I’m saying is I was scared straight. I mean, right now I’m just scared — I’m a 33-year old Asian-American adoptee with no family medical history and apparently way too much glucose and not enough kale. I guess I didn’t realize there were worse things than being overweight. There are. But I suppose this is my opportunity to begin making actual changes so I don’t end up with a future of pricking my fingertip and getting insulin shots, having to keep track of my blood sugar levels and ending up in Dr. Now’s office on “My 600-lb. Life.”

Don’t worry. I’m not going to turn into some fitness lifestyle maniac who posts motivational quotes every day while forcing you to endure fat selfie after fat selfie after fat selfie till one day it’s a slightly less fat selfie. That’s not how I roll (I prefer to roll cinnabun style). But you’re probably going to hear more about my physical health interlaced with all the mental health awareness type posts because guys — I’m not doing that well. And that needs to change.