Category: Anxiety

Your Questions/My Answers

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on June 15, 2017.

Below are some questions that people were curious about and asked me to answer. I hope you enjoy my answers and find some of my insights helpful!

Q: How do you manage or re-direct your anxiety? What are some of your coping strategies? 

A: I don’t always handle my anxiety well, to be honest. I’m still working on this and learning new “strategies” that work for me! I think that I am qualified to talk about this, though, because I used to have panic attacks quite often, but now I rarely do. I have come a long way. Here’s a few tools (besides medication):

  1. Taking time to simply breathe can help at times. Often, I unknowingly slip into shallow breathing when I’m anxious, and this is not helpful. It causes my body and stomach to tense up. If I can, I lay down or sit in a position where I can get comfortable; I release every tense muscle; and I pray.
  2. Self-talk is a good technique: I have to literally whisper truth to myself that can combat the lies I’m thinking. For example: In the morning, if something happens to trigger my anxiety, I might start thinking things like, “Today is gonna suck. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to eat. I can’t eat. This ___ is too hard for me to handle.” Lately, when I recognize that this is happening, I start combatting the anxiety by saying out loud, “I’ve gone through worse than this before. I’ve gotten through all my hardest days! I can get though the next 24 hours. I’m way healthier than I was before. God has never left me. Food is fuel that I need for this day.”
  3. When I’m alone, prayer is always my #1 tool. When my anxiety is severe, I feel like God is literally my only comfort – my lifeline. Plus, since I’m a verbal processor, It really helps me to talk to and cry out to God, telling Him what’s grieving me. I find some comfort in knowing that He’s with me, and He hears the cries of those who love Him and seek Him. Talking out loud about what’s stressing me out can also make me realize how illogical my thoughts are. Anxiety usually originates in our minds.
  4. Lately, when I can, I try to find someone trustworthy to talk to. This helps me get “out of my head.” I’ve learned over the years that too much isolation is not healthy for me, as an anxiety prone person. The reason is that anxiety usually comes when we think negative thoughts and allow them to progressively worsen and escalate. I do this a lot. So, having someone else – who knows me well or is level-headed – tell me the truth about my circumstances and rationalize with me is very effective.
  5. Crying…Yeah, it works for me. I don’t do it often, so when I do, it feels really good!
  6. Journaling about how I’m feeling is another good way to process what is going on in my life or swirling around my head.

 

Q: How’d you get through weight gain in your recovery? (In my eating disorder, I lost a significant amount of weight, over 3 years. I reached a weight that was dangerous for me. In order to be considered “safe,” I was told to follow a meal plan and gain weight. And I did.)

A: Weight gain is a difficult thing to feel 100% okay with. I was very resistant to the idea at first. However, once I followed the plan, I started realizing the benefits that the food was giving me. It was my medicine. After so long depriving myself, I felt so much better having vital nutrients! My headaches went away; I had energy; I didn’t need naps; My mood improved; And I was less anxious!…So, the benefits of food outweighed (no pun intended) the changes that my body started going through. Along with appreciating what food does for me…

  1. I also covered my mirror for 10 weeks, eventually put my scale away, and got rid of clothes that were uncomfortable. I realized that objects were having too much power over my self-confidence, related to my body/weight. And that’s pretty darn lame! (I do not feel the need to weigh myself anymore).
  2. Talking with a professional dietician and learning about a healthy, normal BMI was incredibly helpful! She explained to me how BMI is measured, why it’s different for everyone, what type of “frame” I am, why a healthy weight is important for women, and much more. She also told me recently that I’m sitting pretty comfortably in my healthy BMI range, and that there’s also wiggle room for me to gain weight and still be considered normal.
  3. I realized that my genetics are unique to me and my family. My extra weight will distribute differently that others’. A “thigh gap” is genetically unrealistic for me (and most people); and super thin arms are basically impossible for me to obtain. The list goes on. But that’s something I’m okay with now! Trying to force my body to be something it’s not supposed to be is exhausting.
  4. Also, I educated myself on how sick the media is, and how our culture worships the “thin ideal.” (I watched a few documentaries, did some reading and research, and learned about it in Sociology class). Once I learned how much women’s bodies are altered and edited in the media, my thoughts changed. Putting skinniness on a pedestal isn’t something I want to take part in.
  5. I accepted that the my body is no longer an adolescent body. It’s an adult body. I can’t keep it the same as it was when I was younger.

 

Q: How are you so vulnerable about your struggles with your friends and family?

A: I’ve always been pretty honest. I’m a talker. I don’t really like hiding secrets. So, with that being said, it’s pretty natural for me want to open up to people, in general. At least with people I know and trust, it has not been very difficult to tell my struggles.

When it comes to really heavy topics, though, or ones I know my family or friends may not understand, I think vulnerability came once I realized the value in opening up to people. Talking about my struggles can benefit me in a few ways: 1.) It creates accountability. 2.) It makes me feel way less pressure or awkwardness around people when I don’t feel like I have to hide something. It removes huge burden. 3. ) People sometimes surprise me with how helpful they can be! How can I get support, love, or advice from people if I don’t let them know what’s up? 4.) We are ALL broken, sinful people with struggles. So, I think people relate to me in some way when I talk about my problems. Nobody ever really reacts with disgust, shock, or disapproval. They usually say they’re impressed by my honesty. 5.) Conversations about difficult subjects can be mutually beneficial. Giving and receiving of advice, support, and prayer can happen. Plus, I think we can all learn things by listening to someone else talk about their personal difficulties. 6.) I like to educate people on the realities of anxiety and eating disorders, and I have seen God use that in multiple ways.

 

Q: What bible verse is your go-to encouragement when you are facing stressful/tough times?

A: During hard times, I always find some comfort in Romans 5:2-5″

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

And Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Q: How should a family member or friend talk to someone who has an eating disorder? 

A: This is a hard one, because all people, situations, and relationships are unique. I don’t want to make big, blanket statements about all people with eating disorders. In general though, I have learned a few things that I believe should always apply.

  1. Talk to them in private first. Please…Don’t bring up someone’s eating disorder in a group of people. This has happened to me at 2 different parties, and it is SO frustrating. If someone bring up their disorder/struggle in a group setting, then that’s their choice. But most likely, if you bring it up in front of others, you’re going to damage trust with them. Even a small comment intended for good can make someone feel violated or uncomfortable. (Again, this is still just my opinion. Situations may vary.)
  2. If you aren’t sure if someone has an eating disorder, but you suspect that they do, tread carefully…If you genuinely want to offer them help, go to them with utmost sincerity in your eyes and voice, and tell them first what you observe about their behavior or lifestyle. Don’t make them feel personally attacked. You must come off as caring and sincere, or else they won’t be honest with you.
  3. If you’re close friends with someone who has an eating disorder, and this is an open topic of discussion, don’t tell them to “just eat” or “eat less.” The disorders are less about food and more about other issues preventing them from feeling like they can eat normally. Try to instead remind them why eating healthfully is important for their whole well-being (energy, mood, mind, body functionality).

 

Thanks for your questions! And as always, thanks for reading and supporting my blog 🙂 It’s what I love to do. Leave a question below, for next time!

Our Minds & Medication (Personal Stories)

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on March 10, 2017. 

Luke 10:27: “love the Lord your God. . .with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Today I’m focussing on the idea of serving God and others with our whole mind. I wonder: How can we do this if we aren’t having positive thoughts? If we are depressed, anxious, and struggling to find peace, joy, or confidence?

Mental illness, clinical depression, anxiety, and other disorders and mental struggles are so common and running rampant among us. Because of this, for a lot of people, it can be very hard to think in a way that is pure and beneficial all the time.

This has been especially true for me in the past few weeks. After having gone an entire year without an anxiety attack, I was reminded (shortly after that one year mark) that my anxiety disorder is still very much a part of me. Sitting in church a few weeks ago, my mind was a mess. I was stressed with school, relationships, and worrying about literally like 6 other things, all at once. My mind spiraled so far out of control that I became restless. I got up from my seat, went out into the lobby, and broke into tears and short breathes. This panic attack reminded me of who I am, though. I am anxiety prone.

Following that experience, I started to realize that my anxiety and depression are becoming worse. For a while now, I haven’t been able to focus well, sleep good, or feel joy as easily. I feel like a little grey cloud is hovering over me, taking enjoyment and energy out of my life. It’s making me an irritable girl who snaps at her parents and can’t love her friends well. It’s making me feel tired and like I can’t even open my Bible. But that isn’t normal for me! After some prayer and advice, I decided to ask for an increased prescription of my medication. Some might argue that medication isn’t the way to solve the problem; but I think that there’s only so much self-care we can do for our minds until it’s okay to seek medicine.

How can I serve God with my mind if I don’t take care of my mind?

I’m not saying, “Hey everyone, go get some meds to solve your problems!” I’m reminding us all that it’s okay to think of them as a helpful option. More importantly, though, we should be aware of our mental state! We should try to realize when we aren’t thinking good thoughts; notice when we’re slipping into a darker place; and evaluate how our attitude might be impacting relationships.

Another instance that got me thinking about this is that my brother recently decided to get onto medication. (And he gave me permission to talk about it). He’s in a crazy season of life and has a lot of responsibilities: he’s a senior in college, an intern at a production studio, he has a girlfriend, he’s trying to figure out his future, and he’s currently directing a film at his school! He’s got a lot on his mind; and lately he’s been feeling the way I was describing my own self. I’m so glad that he decided to try medication to improve his mood and calm his anxious mind. He realized that in order to best serve all of the people around him and focus on God and his responsibilities, he needs to be in a better mental state. He evaluated where his mind was; and there is no shame in that.

So, I hope this encourages you to pay attention to your thoughts in each season of life. We are called to serve God and others with our whole minds, so it is important to be aware of them! For some of us, medication might be helpful. For others, simply being aware of the fact that we’re not thinking positive, healthy, or true thoughts can allow us to  fix them. Maybe for some, reading scripture more often will be enough to moderate our thinking patterns! Whatever you need to do, it’s always good to take care of your mind.

Calm after the “Storm” (or the Meltdown in My Car).

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on November 18,  2016. 

I feel like an update is LONG overdue…But I got caught in the whirlwind of my first term of college. So, I’m forcing myself to rest and write this post today.

I just finished week 8 out of 11 in school! It’s such an eye-opening and stretching transition from homeschool to college. But truthfully, I’ve handled it better than I had expected. By the grace of God, my anxiety was relatively low for the first 4 weeks. And I still have not had a full blown panic attack. However, at the end of week 4, I found myself sobbing in my car because I was so worn out. Though I was getting by okay and getting good grades, I had no real joy, no extra energy, no time for enjoyable activities, and no margin! My quiet times with the Lord were also suffering. After thinking for a while, I realized I was stretching myself too thin and trying to fill too many roles: I was trying to be sister, daughter, perfect student, friend, small group leader, Christ-follower, and blogger; All the while, I’ve been intentionally focussing on taking care of my physical and emotional well being and recovery. Though some people are totally able to handle this many roles in life, I am not one of those high-fuctioning people. Something had to change immediately.

Unfortunately, the only realistic option I could see to alleviate my stress was to step down from ministry. So, currently I’m taking a break from leading a small group of middle schoolers. It was a really hard choice to feel at peace about, but It’s not forever. And it’s made an incredible difference!

I’m really valuing the idea of having margin in my life. Before this, when my schedule was wall to wall with homework, family time, and ministry, I didn’t really have time to say yes to anything spontaneous. I was using any free time I had to rest at home. But now that I’m freed up a bit, I’ve been enjoying the ability to say yes to some random opportunities!

Some examples are having time to be with Jesus, talk to a friend on the phone, or write a blog. Another is just going to my grandparents’ house after school to sip coffee, do homework, and have quality family time that’s been absent.  Also,  just going out to spend time with friends has been so nice. I can not tell you how nice it feels to laugh again…I feel so much more like myself than I have in a long time! Now, I can even go on an occasional run and get some endorphins released.

I think that balancing a schedule is probably one of the hardest things to do. I’ve heard lots of other people say the same. It’s a fine dance! I mean, we’re never REALLY done working, but we also HAVE to limit ourselves and allow for rest and fun. Otherwise we’re going to get tightly wound, sick, and lose our sense of self. So, that’s why I think it’s so valuable to have some margin.

I still struggle with perfectionism and over-working myself a lot, as well. But I am learning the value of rest and flexibility.

This is just the season of life I’m in, and I’m trying to do what I know is best for me. But I hope that my choice to take care of myself will encourage you to also think about whether or not you’re making the best of your own time.

365 Days of Transformation

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 27, 2016. It was my last day of high school, and I reflected on the changes over the past year.

I’m all about dates. My mind works like a calendar. I like to know exactly what happened to me one year ago and how I’ve changed. Charting progress is really enjoyable to me. I especially love looking at old photos and remembering the accompanying memories. When I look at pictures I often also think about what I was like at the time – mentally, spiritually, physically, and relationally. Because I’m at the very end of my senior year of high school and I’ve just become an adult, right now I’m especially reflecting on change. I’m astounded at how much God has brought me through and at the utter transformation of my heart and mind.

A few days ago I was driving to my job in the morning. I was sleepy and getting ready for a full day of my least favorite position to work. But at the same time, I felt okay about it. I was determined to get through the day, and I was able to smile at my co-workers when I got there.

Why does this matter? Well, the next day I remembered something crazy: Last summer, I worked at the same place, but my anxiety was worsening. And something I haven’t told many people is that I would often have panic attacks on my way to work. Yes, while I was driving on the freeway. Sometimes several days in a row…I was anticipating the worst every morning. I lived with an unsettled feeling of danger, and I didn’t think I could handle the day’s challenges. But now, I have confidence in my self.

An even bigger milestone though, is what happened to me one year ago from tomorrow. With fear, pride, and hesitation, I walked into the office of a nutritionist who changed my life. We identified that day that I was on the brink of an eating disorder and that I needed to gain weight.

I remember leaving her office with a huge poster of different food groups and the number of each that I was required to eat every day. It felt like an impossible task to me…But at the same time, I knew I had a deeper issue in my heart that needed to be fixed, and that being healthy was what I wanted deep down. I looked at myself  in the mirror for a long long time. I looked at my thigh gap and said goodbye.

One year later, and I have finally reached the physical health requirements we set that day.  (: I’ve found my worth elsewhere, and I am okay with the changes I see in the mirror because they reflect the change in my heart. (And  I laugh at the unrealistic thigh gap expectation.)

One of my life verses is, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

It’s been a journey, and throughout my senior year and the last 365 days, I have experienced a slow transformation in my mind. I truly feel like the truth of God’s word has  changed me and healed me in some monumental ways. (And I have so much evidence to prove it!) God’s will for my life has proven to be so life-giving, while the things I was experiencing were, by nature, self-destructive.

God is able to transform us all. It doesn’t have to take a whole year either! This gives me so so much hope for everyone around me.

So today while I celebrate my last day of high school, I’ll also be celebrating everything else God has done in my life in the past year.

Happy Panic-Versary

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on February 12, 2016. This is one of my most popular posts. It discusses my experience with first panic attack.

I’ve had it on my heart to share about an experience I went through a year ago. Last February 13th a traumatic event happened to me. It stirs up a lot of sad emotions in me, but it’s also a reminder of a huge truth God revealed to me through it.

No, the trauma had nothing to do with romance or lack of romance on Valentine’s Day…It was a Friday afternoon, and I was going to the doctor’s clinic to get my blood drawn for some tests (when I was really sick and at my lowest weight). Normally my mom would go with me, but she wasn’t able to that day. When I sat down in the chair to have my blood drawn, I was unsettled because of some troubling news I had just heard from a family member.

A man prepared my arm and tried to distract me. One moment I was telling him about my day; and the next moment I felt dizzy and told him, “I feel weeeeirrrrd.” He looked at me with a concerned face that told me I was not okay. He pressed a button, and I immediately heard over an intercom something like, “medical emergency team to floor…”. He bandaged up my arm real quick, and medical staff was flooding around me just as quickly as a fuzziness clouded my whole perception. It was the strangest sensation as I nearly fainted. But I remember being leaned back, forced to drink water, and being talked to by a nurse who wanted me to stay awake. I was terrified. As confused as I was, I still had a lot of thoughts running through my mind. I think I was wondering, “Am I going to die?” All I wanted was some comfort. Someone familiar to hold my hand and tell me I was going to be okay.

They put me in a wheel chair and delivered me to a recovery room. I was there for two hours: Staring at the ceiling, feeling helpless and lonely. When I was stable enough to walk, they took my blood and sent me home. The shock of the whole event was still over me when I got home. A wave of terror and uneasiness came over me, and my parents held me as I fell apart, sobbing and hyperventilating. I thought I was having a heart attack. What I didn’t know then was that I was experiencing my first real panic attack. The surge of adrenaline and feeling of possible danger sent my body into the first of many of these “attacks”.

The first thing I think of when I remember that day is how lonely and frightened I felt. How I wanted someone to hold my hand and comfort me. But the cool thing is that not long after that day, I saw a verse that said, “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13). God is commanding us to recognize his comforting presence in our lives. And this verse impacted me so much because it literally says he is holding my hand. In fact, the Bible mentions the right hand of God 58 times in the Bible. Some of my other favorites are:

I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. -Psalm 16:8

My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:8

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.- Psalm 16:11

So even though that day kind of marks the start of a rough chapter in my life, it made me want to be more aware of God’s presence in the future. It has really helped me a lot.

Even a few days ago, I had a pretty severe moment of panic when I was in an airplane. I have never flown without my family before, and the instant the plane started moving I felt anxiety kick in. All the symptoms came. But I have learned by now that I’m never truly alone during the storms in my life. I chose to take deep breaths, take a gabba (a natural relaxing mind pill), and recite scriptural truths over and over. After about 20 minutes I was completely calm and I thanked the Lord for giving me the tools to get through my panic attack. Even though the seat to the right of me was empty, I liked to think that God was sitting there holding my hand.

God doesn’t come into our lives to take away our trials and sadness; but he holds our hand and gives us all that we need to get through the storms. My favorite scene to try and visualize now is when Moses was guiding the Israelites out of Egypt. There were mountains on both sides of them, dangerous waters rushing toward them, and an army behind them. I can only imagine how hopelessly terrified they must have felt. They cried out to God, but Moses said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Just be still and watch the Lord rescue you.” . . .Just be still. . . The Lord then literally parted the sea for them so that they could walk through it.

I want to challenge you to acknowledge God in whatever trial you’re going through right now. Stop trying to control and fix things on your own. Just be still, know who is fighting for you, and acknowledge his presence. Things can look terrifying when we’re fighting on our own; but God wants to hold our hands and walk us through our struggles.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”-  Matthew 28:20

(The photo on the left shows how sad I was in the recovery room that day. The photo on the right captures the joy and freedom I’m able to feel now.)