The Thoughts That Won’t Go Away

Good morning!

I certainly hope it’s a good morning for you. But if it is another anxious morning and you aren’t sure why, welcome to my Friday anxiety post!

First, I have noticed that you guys have been frequenting my 5 Thing Hats Post. It’s my most popular blog post week after week! So I thought I would go ahead and share the technique again for you guys today.

5 Thinking Hats Technique

This is a grounding technique to use when you feel the symptoms of an anxiety attack coming. It really works! The next time you feel your legs about to give, the room spin, your heart racing, sweat bead on your lip, or whatever symptom your body decides to scare the crap out of you with this time, do this!

5 Hats Technique

When we are anxious, our thoughts are constantly in the future or the past. This technique brings you into the here and now telling our brains there is nothing to run from. Everything is ok.

Also, make sure you are breathing through your nose instead of your mouth. This has a HUGE calming effect. Close your mouth and make sure you are only breathing through your nose until you calm down and make sure to keep breathing through your nose most of the day. You are going to be tempted to open your mouth and take huge gulps of air but just remember, that will only make the anxiety worse. Close your mouth, breath through your nose.

The Thoughts, the Thoughts, the Relentless Thoughts!

The thoughts that relentlessly keep stabbing their way into your mind and scaring the ever living poo out of you are called intrusive thoughts. It doesn’t matter if you are at a wedding, your child’s first birthday party, or sitting on a cloud with unicorn’s jumping through rainbows, those nasty little intrusive thoughts like to ruin any otherwise happy and memorable moment.

If you are reading this and thinking “What in the world is she talking about?”, you are not who this post is for. But there are many of you who know exactly what I am talking about in the above paragraph and you my friend are not alone and believe it or not, you’re not even crazy.

OCD is an anxiety disorder. Everyone, OCD or not, has weird thoughts pop into their minds. Everyone. But in the mind of the person with OCD, the thoughts stick and there is a fear response causing their brain to give significance to the thought and obsess about it. Understand, this is a chemical imbalance.

If you break your arm, your arm is broken and there is pain. You can manage the pain. You can breathe. You can tell yourself that many people have dealt with this pain before and you will get through this. You can hold your arm in place making it better for the time being. But at some point, you will have to get up and try to live life with this broken arm. Unless you go to the doctor and get a cast, you are going to be painfully holding your arm in place while trying to do your daily tasks. When you finally let go because you need to arms, excruciating pain will ensue making it almost impossible to do anything other than hold your arm in place and cry through the torturous pain. Day after day of this managing and then giving in wears on you. This torture wears you down and begins to affect other areas of your body. If you would have just gone to the doctor, you would have gotten a cast for a while and then your arm would be fully healed!

OCD is the same. Because of the chemical imbalance, our brains shoot these terrifying thoughts and images into our brain constantly. We are overwhelmed with feelings of doom. Seriously, doom! We go about daily life trying to focus our minds on work and our families but like the broken arm, we just hold it together until life gets even just a little hectic and then bam, anxiety attack. It’s torture.

But there is hope!

Know you are not alone and get help. Do not take this lightly. Go get help. The reason I share my experience is to direct you to help. There is too much shame in all this and too many lives lost from years of mental torture. There is help and there is hope.

When I was suffering, I thought to myself “This is all in my mind, I can think myself out of this.”

No. Not when it is a chemical imbalance.

You all know I am a Christian. I share my experiences on here for everyone but especially for Christians because there is kind of a stigma against medication and even just being anxious. So what does the Christian do when the thoughts and feelings won’t stop?

When I was struggling, I had never felt so alone. I was scared so of course, as we do when pain strikes, I was brought to my knees before the Lord and read the Bible almost obsessively. This was a blessing and just goes to show how pain drives us to the word.

Spurgeon said that adversity is what sharpens the knife but the knife is the word. Very true! The more I read, it was like God was pruning me.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:2

God speaks to us through His word. Man did this help to know when you have thoughts and feelings literally blasting through every particle of your being telling you to pay attention to them. I sometimes thought those were God!

But it was through His word, that I saw the truth. My anxiety was suffering and this is meant to bring me closer to the Lord.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5 

Remember, when our loved one has cancer, we thank God for healing them through chemo. When our loved one has diabetes, we thank God for insulin. When we have a broken bone, we thank God for doctors and for casts.

Friends, when your mind is broken, thank God that you live in this century with doctors, counseling, and medicine.

I thank God for my wonderful counselor, Sarah Beth Wheeler. I thank God for medication. And last but certainly not least, I thank God for my sweet, strong, and loving husband Jason who only supported me though he had no idea what I was going through.

IMG_3006

If you are suffering, do not be afraid to get help. In fact, you need to get help. Run to God, pray, read His word, and ask Him to direct you to the right doctors and the right treatment.

Blessings,
Angela

 

 

 

 

 

The Impending Doom – Relentless “Warnings”

FEELINGS

Good morning!

I guess Fridays have become my day to blog about anxiety. That’s fine!

In case you are just tuning in, I have dealt with OCD for most of my life with especially terrible bouts after having each of my kids (postpartum OCD).

In today’s post, I am hoping to give some of you obsessed Googlers out there just a little relief. (No offense, I was said obsessed Googler.)

Having an anxiety disorder is like being placed inside a nightmare. In a nightmare, you don’t know that it isn’t real but you wholeheartedly believe it is. Because it seems real at the time, you end up scared out of your whits until you wake up and realize, that thankfully it was all a dream.

Your brain is amazing. When you are in a real-life dangerous situation your brain sends you warning signals telling you to run! It’s a life-saving defense mechanism. But when you have a chemical imbalance, these “warnings” go into overdrive resulting in an ongoing feeling of doom and fear. There isn’t any real threat, but because you are overcome with the feeling that something terrible will happen, you wholeheartedly believe it! When you refrain from running because you happen to be, you know, trying to live life and be an active member of society, you are hit with sweat, rapid heart rate, dizziness, feeling faint, and all of the symptoms of impending death that does absolutely nothing to help the already existing anxiety but only makes it worse because now you think that if the office building doesn’t blow up any minute like you feel it will, your days are numbered anyway because there is obviously something physically wrong with you.

Man! My mind spends just reliving it! Haha!

But sufferer, rejoice! Those who deal with extreme anxiety, when they finally make it through to the other side, often times they actually end up mentally stronger than someone who never had to deal with it. This is because they have had to force themselves to live life for months or years on end through all-encompassing fear. I keep trying to describe it for those of you who do not have a chemical imbalance but it’s the kind of pain you can’t explain to someone that hasn’t gone through it. Like childbirth.

Hebrew 1211

So now, given you have a chemical imbalance, we have to remember that you cannot do much about that until you receive help (CBT, ERP, medication, etc.) just like a person with a broken leg likely can’t mend it without a cast (and think about trying to do that yourself!) This blog is not to take the place or professional help but is just a vessel to hopefully direct you to it and a place of encouragement and relief.

So here’s today’s “relief” message.

Your Feelings Lie To You All The Time

In our feelings driven society, our first response is to give significance to our feelings. Most people do this, not just those who have an anxiety disorder. Let me put your mind at ease, your feelings are not facts. They are feelings and they lie all the time. If the Lord wanted us to be led by our feelings, He wouldn’t have given us a written Bible.

When you receive a feeling, bad or good, do not be quick to believe it.

Challenge Your Thoughts!

When a thought comes into your mind, know that doesn’t mean it is true. Step back and challenge the thought. Your brain will try to prove that it is true so your job is to actively prove that it is NOT.

It takes work to do these things but when you do them day after day, guess what happens? Your brain begins making new pathways and begins thinking this way on its own! Isn’t that amazing? I am always so fascinated by how God has created us!

I hope you are at peace today, but if you aren’t, don’t give up! Pray, reach out, and know that there is a purpose in your pain.

Blessings,
Angela

Questions:

Have you suffered from an anxiety disorder? 

Have you ever had an anxiety attack?

Brave ones, describe your experience. Anxiety is a LONELY place. Please help those who are suffering now by sharing your story. 

 

 

 

 

The Searchlight of OCD

proverbs-1225.jpg

Happy Friday Friends!

I promised myself that once I made it through to the other side of the dark cloud of anxiety, I would tell my experiences so that some other obsessed Googler will happen upon them and be comforted.

Today I want to talk about the searchlight of OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder in which the individual has repeated unwanted thoughts and is compelled by those thoughts to carry out certain behaviors to reduce or get rid of the thoughts temporarily.

Everyone, with or without OCD, has strange thoughts run through their mind. When waiting for a train at the station any given person may have a strange thought like, “What if I jumped in front of that train?”

But while the person without OCD immediately dismisses the thought and moves on with their day, there is a fear response that happens in the mind of the person with OCD. This fear response leads them to feel that there is significance to the thought. They begin to obsess about the train and may start to avoid train stations. They would then develop compulsions to deal with the obsessions in their mind. They may only walk into the train station at exactly 3:04 pm and stand 34 feet away from the train tracks until the train arrives. They do this because these numbers when added equal seven, a number that they have deemed safe. When the train arrives they take 25 steps up to the door making sure they sit in the seventh seat from the front.

As obvious as this all seems, someone can live for years in mental anguish without even knowing that they have OCD. The obsessions and compulsions are just a part of everyday life. It isn’t until trauma occurs or hormonal change like pregnancy occurs that the fear and anxiety becomes too unbearable to take on alone.

When I was struggling with OCD, I was sure that I had a reason to be so anxious about all of the things that I was obsessing about. Everywhere I looked there was proof. I couldn’t watch the news or be on the internet without having an anxiety attack that my fears were moments away from coming true. I couldn’t get through a conversation without crying because whomever I was speaking with never failed to say something that validated my worries. My stomach was constantly in knots and I felt that at any moment the proverbial piano was going to fall from the sky and crush me!

I shouldn’t have waited so long to get help but I did. I waited until I couldn’t shower for more than a few minutes without having to get out. On numerous occasions, I had to pull over to the side of the road and contemplate calling my husband to come to get me. Every time I walked into a grocery store everything would blur and I would feel like my legs were going to give out. Now not only did I have the focus of my obsessions to worry about but I thought I was dying too! The symptoms of anxiety are so physical!

I finally went to the doctor with dizziness and shortness of breath. The doctor asked me what was going on and of course, I burst into tears. He told me that he would do some blood work but that nothing was wrong with me. It was all in my head. I made an appointment to see a counselor the next week. God literally healed me through His word and this woman. I will tell you all the things that helped me because where I was, I never want anyone to be! So let’s begin with the searchlight.

See, all of this proof that I had for believing what I believed, as real as it was at the time, it was just my mental searchlight. When we are anxious our minds begin looking for proof of what we are worried about… and it finds it! So our anxiety grows and grows because we will keep seeing proof that isn’t really there.

So if this is you, next time you are watching TV or talking with a friend and that fear rises up inside of you because you are finding proof that your fears are valid, know that your mind is looking for that proof; no one else would see it. And second, make the conscious effort to find proof of the opposite. It takes practice but the more you do this the more your mind will begin finding proof of the opposite without you having to try.

I hope this finds you well! But if it doesn’t, know you aren’t alone and there is help to be found.

Blessings,
Angela

 

5 Thinking Hats Technique

Good Morning Peaches!

As you know, I am learning to manage and alleviate extreme anxiety. One thing that has helped is finally and sadly switching to decaf. Ugh, I did not want to do this because I love regular coffee but my nerves can no longer take it so I had to switch. 😦 This is ridiculous but I actually put it off for a long time because Jason and I both drink coffee at the same time every morning and it would be a lot of trouble to brew both. So, I went and did the only logical thing and bought two coffee makers!

IMG_20171015_221355
Problem solved!

But on a more serious note (although I bet you will feel less anxious drinking decaf), today I want to share with you the 5 Thinking Hats Technique. A big part of our anxiety is that we are unable to live in the moment, we are always thinking about the future or the past. The 5 Thinking Hats Technique is something I learned from recoveryformula.com and have found it amazingly helpful. The purpose of this technique is to bring you into the present. You will be so amazed at how much better you feel just by being mindful of the present moment! It’s so simple and it works.

All you do is when you feel anxiety symptoms coming on, identify five things in the room. Then identify four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell. Then think of one good thing about yourself.

Easy! Here is a cheat sheet.

5 Hats Technique

This has been a blessing to me and I hope it is to any of you anxiety sufferers out there as well. Let me know if you try it!

Peace to your Monday,
Angela

Question:

Have you tried the 5 Thinking Hats Technique? 

Postpartum OCD Update

Hey Everyone!

I just want to give a quick update on how things are coming along in my journey with postpartum OCD. Ugh, I hate even typing that out because I feel like it brings judgement. But I do want to share because I am learning so much and if my experience can help someone else then I know I need to speak up. I have been seeing a therapist to help me sort my thoughts and make sense of everything and it’s really been helping! I felt so much better even after my first couple of visits because it was such a relief to know that this is actually pretty common and all of the things that I have been experiencing are just symptoms of the condition. From my understanding, OCD is something that you have always have (genetic) and then it “flairs up” when you experience trauma, sudden change in your life, or hormonal changes (like pregnancy). It’s due to a malfunction in the amygdala. This doesn’t mean that you are crazy. Very intelligent and high functioning people have OCD. It’s actually an anxiety disorder. The person without OCD and the person with OCD both have “creative thoughts” pop into their head. Like if you are waiting on a train, it is very normal for someone to think “what if I jumped in front of that train?” But where the person without OCD just dismisses it as a passing thought, the person with OCD is unable to let go of the thought and starts to believe that they will in fact jump in front of the train at some point. To protect themselves from jumping in from of the train, they may avoid trains at all costs and have extreme fear and anxiety every time they hear a train. There becomes this obsession over the train and how to avoid it.

I know it sounds crazy, but I was so relieved to talk about these things. Just understanding how the brain works and that these thoughts have no relevance was such a weight off my chest. I realized I have had thoughts and obsessions like this throughout my whole life and the eating disorders were ways of coping. This is all fascinating to me. I am glad that I made the decision to get help and I hope that if you are struggling with your thoughts postpartum (or anytime) that you decide to get help as well!

Here are the steps I am taking right now to manage my postpartum OCD. I am not currently on medication. I told my therapist that I wanted to wait to see what I could do without medication and then if I felt I needed it in the future I will try it then. For now, here is what I am doing.

Taking Every Thought Captive-

 IMG_20170727_123544

As a Christian it is important for me to pray for discernment and take every thought captive anyway.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

But when I am constantly dealing with intrusive thoughts due to a faulty amygdala, it’s REALLY important for me to know how God speaks to me because if I was to just ‘go with my gut” or “listen to my heart” I could end up someplace I’m not supposed to be!

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Feelings lie all the time. Even though it has been such a terrifying and exhausting experience dealing with OCD, I am thankful for it because it has brought me closer to the Lord and deep into His word. When the storm is raging in my mind, I know that I can stand firm on God’s word. God speaks to us through His word. That’s why it’s so important to know it! Do you know it?

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-2

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

God speaks to us through His word. Whether you deal with OCD or not, this is paramount to know so that you are not just believing your own thoughts and feelings all the time.

Staying Off the Internet

IMG_20170727_124603

There is a lot of good on the internet but it’s also like shopping at Ross, you have to sort through the crap. A person with OCD can Google themselves into oblivion looking for answers to the endless questions in their mind. It’s a black hole. For me, I have decided to refrain from any searching for help online. It just adds to the confusion and overwhelm.

Keeping a Healthy Diet and Exercising

IMG_20170727_123952

Keeping my blood sugar stable and getting some mood boosting exercise in each day is crucial right now. These are two things that are good for me anyway that when kept in check help the management of postpartum OCD all the more. I am also supplementing with vitamin B12 and D.

Sleeping

I’m sure if you have dealt with any sort of postpartum depression, anxiety, or OCD, you know the drastic difference in the way you think when you have had enough sleep and when you haven’t. I am thankful that Anna is sleeping through the night now and am taking full advantage. It’s one thing to push yourself, but you have to be wise. I make sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

Cutting Myself Some Slack

I am feeling SO MUCH better. But there are still good days and bad days. It takes a physical toll. Sometimes I feel like my heart is going to jump out of my chest and other times I feel like my heart is about to stop because I am just so fatigued. I have to cut myself some slack and know that this won’t be forever and I am taking the steps that need to be taken. But all in all, I am thankful for this time, I’m fascinated at how our minds work, and I am learning so much! I will keep you updated on my progress.

Thank you so much for being so kind and supportive sweet friends. I hope you are well, but if you aren’t, reach out!  You will be so glad you did.

Blessings,
Angela