‘Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional.’ Haruki Murakami

I need to stop resisting my panic attacks

I know this

From years of therapy and educating myself on panic disorder

I am fully aware that I am not in danger

I am aware that my feelings although unpleasant

Are temporary

And will pass

Yet

My natural instinct is to fight against the discomfort I feel when I experience a panic attack

Thus I remain stuck in the cycle of panic

I read something this morning that resonated with meArticle

The key take away from this article

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’

What does that mean?

It means that there is nothing we can do in life

To avoid pain, both physical and mental

What we can do, however, is decide what we are going to do with that pain

Do we accept the pain for what it is (unpleasant feelings)

Or do we fight against it?

Making the situation worse?

Drawing it out?

Allowing it to permeate every part of our lives?

The answer is clear

The real question is how do we accept what feels unnatural and foreign?

We have to go against our instincts

Instead of fleeing

Instead of fighting

Give yourself over to the feeling

Maybe even taunt it

Invite it into your life

This can be done through self talk

Or exposing yourself to anxiety inducing situations

I think both are helpful

I noticed during this last month

How negative my self talk is

When I need it to be the exact opposite

I’ll find myself thinking or saying aloud

‘ I can’t do this’

‘It’s too hard’

‘I’m weak’

How self defeating is that?

So I’m changing the narrative

‘I am able to do this’

‘Just because it feels unpleasant doesn’t mean I am in danger’

‘I accept what is happening right now’

The other part is inviting the uninvited visitor into your life

Come on in

Do your worst

It’s been a hard week, and maybe if a panic attack is hanging around

Let it out

Allow yourself to feel whatever it is

Without punishment

No criticism

Find a place that is comfortable

And let it roll through you like an ocean wave

You know that it will be uncomfortable but it will pass

Makes perfect sense, right?

Now

I just need to practice what I’ve gotten so good at preaching

I will not be a cautionary anecdote that psychotherapists use for future patients

There once was a woman named Angela

Who allowed panic disorder to rule her life

And became isolated and held hostage

Even though she had all the tools she needed

To live

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Reflections of a 37 year old

Today wasn’t easy

I wish it had been

Being my birthday and all

But it seems fitting somehow

I went out twice

To celebrate my day

And both times

The festivities were halted

Panic attacks wanted to join the party

I was surprised both times

Although I’m not sure why

I mean

Panic attacks and I are the oldest of friends

Very well acquainted

They’ve been around for nearly every single one of the significant events in my life

From marriage to new beginnings to deaths and endings

Panic attacks are a lot like the uninvited guest

They’ve come along on so many vacations

But the visitor always finds a way to show up

You know, I’d make a deal with the devil

Even if there was only a minuscule chance he would keep his word

I’d shake hands

Sign on the dotted line

Whatever it takes

To get rid of the uninvited guest permanently

This week hasn’t been the easiest

With the change of meds

I felt unlike myself

Which is the weirdest of feelings

It’s like being in the wrong skin

And knowing it

But not knowing how to get out

Somehow

I think I can see a way out

Late last night, I tweaked my meds

Everything felt like it was going too fast

And I need slower pace

After all

I did just turn 37 years old

‘You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.’ George Burns

The first of October means it’s my birthday.

It means I’m 37 years old.

It means I’m a year older.

It means I’ve survived another year.

There is a reason I fight so hard and it is because I love life and want to enjoy it to the fullest.

I didn’t do the Lemtrada and the Paxil change for no reason.

I did it because I want more.

I want to die, wrinkled, tattooed, scarred and with no weeping at my funeral telling one another that ‘it’s a pity, she had such a hard/sad life.’

Nah, I want people to remember the life force that I was, the zeal I shared and the hunger I had for more.

I know it’s not always on display.

Sometimes other things take over but it’s always in there.

Sometimes it’s just hiding.

I’m like the comeback kid, I’ll always bounce back. I will this time too.

Here’s to 37 and making it count!

Thanks for all ❤️

Mental illness is a family illness

Do you think I want to be like this?’

He screams as he rips his hands through his hair

It sounds more like a plea

As if he is begging for someone to save him and not to just understand his pain

His eyes search our faces

Yearning to find hope

Hope that we have found a way out

Instead we look at each other

Finding sad faces stricken with grief

If there was a way

None of us have found it yet

You could see that we all wish it were different

So we try to come up with words of encouragement

Motivating words

That will inspire him

I tell him I need him to show me

So that I can do it too

He doesn’t think he’s strong

I remind him

That waking up each day of the last almost 73 years

Makes him a warrior

The thing is

I’ve cried those same words a thousand times

Do you think I want to be this way’?

So you see

I’m selfish

I need him to be okay

I need to see it get better

I need to know that after everything he’s been through

I need to know

There’s a happy ending

I need that to be true

I need it for him

I need it for me

‘Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.’ Carl Jung

I think I could write a story about my life

With a tongue-in-cheek name like ‘The Measuring Spoon of Life’

It would be about a little girl who would carefully measure her happiness by how many nights a week her favourite cousins could sleep over

She would use teaspoons and tablespoons to represent her happiness

When she was a teenager, she learned to measure happiness in dimes and grams

She would use scales and dime bags to symbolize her happiness

As she grew into a young adult, her happiness amounted to how many days in a row she got to spend with her love

For that she used cell phone pictures depicting laughter and text messages filled with flirting

Then when she hit her late 20s, she would measure her happiness by how long she could remain in public without having a panic attack

She would use mood journals and diaries to interpret her happiness

Later in her mid 30s, her happiness was measured by milligrams, and how many Ativan’s she’d had to take

Pill bottles and prescriptions were the perfect illustrations of how much happiness she’d been prescribed

Throughout the story the landscape changed

The young girl grew into a teenager and then an adult

But her objective in life remained the same

The pursuit of happiness

She learned very early on

That happiness only came in small doses

And because of that, it should be treasured dearly

She would think to herself

Maybe it’s so people don’t overdose on happiness

It’s far too sacred to be given an abundance of

In the story of the young girl, she learned early on

That happiness is not going to stick around forever

So she learned to cherish the nights with cousins, the recklessness found in the dimes and grams of youth, the lucky days spent with lovers, the little successes during rough patches

Like all great stories

It comes with a life lesson

Using the girl who measured happiness with spoons as an example

The story warns that if she had so much as blinked her eyes

She might have missed one of the small measured capsules that happiness would hide in

But that little girl was smart

And she knew that one day she might need a dose of her treasured happiness

She knew it would help her

To get through all the hard times that were waiting up ahead

The story ends with that little girl as an old woman now

Suffering through pain of illness, loss and disease

She looks so old and sad

She opens up a memory box

And empties it all onto the bed beside her

Out comes the spoons, the scales, the pictures, the journals, the diaries, the prescriptions

The old woman looks at her life laid in front of her

Instruments of measured happiness

And she’s so grateful

That she held onto all of those small doses of happiness

She thinks to herself

How much she needed to see it, to feel it all over again

She smiles for the first time in a long while

She can’t even count how many times

Those small doses of happiness that she’d held onto

Saved her life

Maybe a thousand times already

And once more

Dear Anxiety,

You’re a thief

Always taking

Never giving

You’re deceitful

And dishonest

You’re a master manipulator

And you thrive on the fear you create

You’re a jealous thief

Stealing away happiness

And love

Even robbing old memories

Making them turn sour

You’re a callous thief

Full of pain you can’t wait to inflict on others

Desperate to infiltrate every last happy place

You’re a cruel thief

Taking away the innocence of childhoods

And destroying what should be carefree teenage years

Annihilating adulthood with haphazardly thrown bombs

You’re a cowardly thief

Preying on people in their weakest moments

Victimizing the same people over and over again

Taunting them repeatedly

You are words that haunt

You are living nightmares that plague

You’ve stolen so much

That all we can do is pull at our hair and cry in frustration

Shouting that turns into whispered pleas

To just leave us alone

Wondering what we need to do

What more we need to sacrifice

To satisfy you

Spending entire lives

Serving life sentences

Paying penance for what we can’t control

All because of you

You’re nothing but a thief…

‘The Two Most Important Days Are The Day You Are Born And The Day You Find Out Why.’ Mark Twain

I was thinking how these last few weeks (months?) have consisted of me trying not to feel sorry for myself

Yet I have been failing terribly at that

Then I got a call from a former client

Who had been out of touch for a long while and had me very worried for his well-being and safety

He’s doing great and is being taken care of for the first time in a long while

Which he deserves

He sounded so…healthy

You’re probably thinking ‘how can she tell that via phone?’

After spending inordinate amounts of time with my clients

I know them like the backs of my hands

I know their painful stories as much as I can recollect my own

I cherish their achievements probably more than I do my own

And I can tell when they’ve changed

So seldom do we hear about change for the better

But this is one of those stories

Gone was that drugged-out-to-escape-reality voice

Absent was that voice that carried so much self deprecation and sadness

Instead

I heard notes of pride, happiness and the thrill of looking forward to a promising future

All the things we hope that s young person can feel

I hung up with him, feeling lighter than I have in a long while

It got me to thinking why these last few months, out of all my 36 years, have been so difficult

So full of me trying and failing to not feel sorry for myself

Full of heartache and sadness

I stumbled into realizing that I feel lost

Feeling lost looks a lot like not knowing what your place is in the world, in your family, in your career and etc

The opposite of lost is of course ‘found’

Which is defined as:

to discover, especially where a thing or person is, either unexpectedly or by searching’

So that brings me to this…

Do you believe we all have a purpose?

And what is purpose anyway?

It is defined as:

the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.’

So my question really is, what are the reasons each of us are here?

I don’t think of this in terms of fantastic elements like destiny or fate

More so as each of us has the power within ourselves to reach our full potential

Which in turn then meets a ‘need’

This therein becomes our purpose

However, we often fall short of reaching our full potential

Which could be a result of a myriad of reasons (none of which are pertinent right now)

Over the last several months I have learned that I am a person who needs to have a purpose

In order to feel happy

It’s just the way it is

I can’t exist in life in any less of a way

Maybe it would make my life easier if I could

In fact, I’m sure of it

But nobody ever said it would be easy, right?

I’m pretty sure that me reaching my full potential has to do with helping others

Through work

Through sharing my experiences

The method isn’t important at this moment

I guess what is important right now

Is that I need to figure out what will allow me to feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose in life

While accepting that I do obviously have some limitations

Because at the end of the day

I just need to feel like all of this

All of the pain, sadness, difficulties

All of it

Wasn’t for nothing

You know?