My first experience with an anxiety attack- wasn't so much with myself. It didn't happen to me. I've mentioned this story before, but I want to really analyze it.
I believe I was 15 at the time. I was in the passenger seat of a 10 hour car ride to Virginia. My was uncle driving, and my brother and 2 cousins were in the back seats. My cousin Erica had just recently seen a girl on her soccer team throw up, and instantly believed it was going to happen to her. She has a severe fear of throwing up. Whenever she felt the least bit "not right" she subconsciously put herself in panic mode, triggering a stress reaction in her body. I didn't understand this at the time.
During the car ride that same week, she complained of feeling nauseous. Half way into the ride she was crying and begging for help. She said she couldn't breathe. She wanted her dad to pull over on the highway. When he was unable to, she started banging on the window "daddy please." I couldn't help but laugh. I could hear my youngest cousin laughing too. To me, it sounded like overreactive whining, and that she just needed to calm down. The "dramatic" scene she had created just made me laugh.
When I had my first anxiety attack years later, I thought I was dying. Anxiety was not a name in my mind. I truly believed I was dying.
I had taken time to reflect. Reflect on my own experiences, and reflect on the car ride with my cousin years before. I felt sick. I felt mean, and I hated myself for it.
I laughed at her.
She felt trapped and scared, none of us understood her, and I laughed at her.
Anxiety plays tricks on you. It leads you to believe words like "crazy" "whining" "wimpy" "attention-seeking" when there is absolute fear involved. Nobody can see it, and only you can feel it.
There doesn't have to be a reason for it to be anxiety.
This is the thing that still makes me angry, because it just sucks right?
There is a term called "fight or flight"
Specific anxiety situation: You see a bear heading towards you. Your heart starts racing, your adrenaline increases, you start feeling warm, maybe even sweating, and your muscles tighten up, you start shaking. You have to make a decision: fight or flight?
That's a normal reaction of anxiety.
But here's the thing that is F'ed up in my opinion:
Your body can trigger those symptoms when there is ZERO danger. Your mind can be 100% wise and know that there is nothing wrong, but your body can lead you to believe something is wrong. With psychological stressors, our reaction can be suppressed and come up sometimes years later when the stressor has passed.
How annoying, right?
It is common to feel fear and threat by these anxiety attacks. It is common to feel that the world is closing in on you, and you have absolute no control over your own body. What you're feeling is a response, and knowing that something else has triggered it (maybe in your past) can you help you learn to cope with it. Knowing exactly what your trigger is can also help you work around the anxiety. Of course, easier said than done.
I have heard comments from many others about their struggle with anxiety:
"My friends don't believe me."
"They tell me to snap out of it."
"They said to just let it go."
"They said I'm making a big deal over nothing."
"They say I'm being dramatic."
"They said I'm milking it."
"Just be strong"
It can drive a person into a depressive state- to believe that they are misunderstood, and that nobody will ever believe what they're going through on the inside.
You can't just "snap out of it." It takes work. Sometimes years of work. Being told "just be strong" only convinces you that you are weak in those moments, and that this should come easy to you. Anxiety can make you feel week, but it does not make you weak. Fighting an anxiety attack- that is true strength. It has taken me a while to realize that.
It's hard not to get angry. That was me. I was the one laughing at my cousin for behaving "crazy" when she was experiencing one of the scariest days of her life. I've apologized. It's in the past. But it's not okay to me. I was completely oblivious and confused to how she could be feeling like that. It's not just me. Serious change needs to happen where we can no longer make these assumptions about others. The term "anxiety" is thrown around too carelessly. We all have experienced anxiety in our lives. The anxiety itself isn't so difficult to understand. Misconceptions and judgements arise when the panic attacks occur and anxieties consume one's day to day life. With understanding mental disorders, comes learning mindfulness. Being mindful with yourself, and others. Anxiety disorders are not the same as typical anxiety, and you can never be sure what someone else is really going through, when it is invisible.
So, That Happened.. !!!
Note: Trigger warning this post.
About a week ago, I posted this picture on my blog instagram @hctblog. I participated in the #PerfectlyMe campaign by Seventeen Magazine to help promote positive body image. Little did I know, SEVENTEEN was going to regram my picture later that week, and my message would reach far over 1,000 people!! Whaaaaaat?
It is unbelievable to me that all of these good things keep coming one after the other. Each time I leave my comfort zone, I am rewarded in some way.
So here's the thing..
Left: Me, July 2016.
I told myself that with recovery, I was not going to be the girl who wore long sleeved shirts in the summertime.
One, because I love the summertime.
Two, because by protecting myself, I would be shaming myself as well.
If I was going to work on treating myself with care, I was going to have to learn to accept myself as I am.
It wasn't immediately, because it was very new. It pained my family to see those marks, even though I was doing better.
The weather got warmer, and I wanted to wear short sleeves. I started with 3/4 length sleeves, and passed the school halls with little attention on me. I soon gained the strength to wear short sleeves and tank tops. I sat in my classes. I was aware that some people would stare, but I just continued to act as me.
Some of my friends would say, "What happened to your arm?" I just looked at them, and they said, "Oh, I'm sorry."
Now this is it. This is how I would respond:
"Don't be sorry. I'm better now." I would smile, despite how hard it was. Eventually it got easier. The "I'm better now" showed me that these marks were a symbol of what I have survived, and a reminder that I am still here. A "yeah, shit happened" "but I'm not gonna hide because of it."
I find that college is so much different than high school. People notice, but they don't ask. They've had their own shit. They are more understanding, respectful, educated, and less judgmental. They don't treat me any different, or express sympathy for me. I carry myself with a "yes I have my battles" attitude, and use that confidence to show others I have no shame, and we should not stigmatize those who do.
I do not condone self-harm.
I have made mistakes.
I need to be my friend again.
To be my friend again, I shall make up for it by treating myself with love and self-care.
People stare. Let them. People talk. Don't listen to them.
I have found that you do not own anyone an explanation for your own journey.
It is yours for a reason.
5 examples of how I show myself that I love myself:
- I listen to my body, and meet its needs
- I surround myself with positive people
- I do what makes me happy
- I move. Some days I do yoga, or go for a run, and some days my only exercise is walking outside. And that's okay.
- I make sure that each day, I laugh really hard, and smile very big.
I knew when I woke up this morning that today was going to be a busy day. I began with a checklist:
- class 8 - 9:15 am
- 10:30 am leave dorm to walk..
- 11 am - 12:15 yoga class
- walk back
- 1:30-2:30 Connections group meeting
- Finish my homework before class
- Class 3:20-4:30
- Psychiatrist appt at 5pm
- 6-8pm mandatory field placement seminar
- OH and prepare a presentation that I have to present the next morning.
Some people are immune to a busy schedule. They need to having something going on at all times. Me? Not so much. I love my schedule for this semester because I have breaks between my classes. I can grab a snack, breathe, get work done, take a 3 hour nap if I need to.
Not gonna lie, after my 8 am class I was ready to cancel my yoga class sign-up for the day and just go back to bed. I was already dressed in yogi apparel so that definitely was a motivation booster.
There is this one thought that comes across me at every single yoga class I take.
"I got myself here."
Despite whatever is going on in my life, within my body, I got myself here. That alone, is enough for me to push through anything that day.
Things were working out. My Connections group was canceled so I had extra time to do homework, AND the campus welcomed a therapy dog for midterms week.
I went to yoga, I pet a therapy dog, life is good.
I recall saying "Wow, I'm weirdly.. very calm and chill right now despite all of this sh*t I have to do. Must be the yoga. Nice."
I still do believe the yoga helped me continue my inner calm throughout the day.
But it sadly did not last..
I had my psychiatrist appt. There is a consulting psychiatrist that comes once a week and this was my first meeting with him. It went well considering how awkward it was.
"Hi I'm Haley- okay now you want to know my history? Ok well, Once upon a time-"
I had forgotten the amount of discomfort over restating the worst, and even self-conscious moments of my life to a complete stranger. I kept it brief. We both were awkward and made jokes which made me less anxious because he was new to [working at] the school as well.
So after that, and my seminar, I lost my shit. Yeah, guess I'm not semi-censoring this anymore. I started crying. I was in the library looking for a political cartoon and crying. Nobody could tell. By crying, I mean tears here and there, but discretely.
Everyone (mainly twitter) talks about those college mental breakdowns over assignments. Yah I've had them, but not over an assignment. This was my first. Should I mark it on my calendar?
Social anxiety folks, it is a tad easier to present when you are confident with what you are presenting.
I was not.
I had no idea what I was doing.
9pm..I just want to go to bed.
"9 am tomorrow I have to..."
*starts crying again*
I just froze up. Overwhelmed. Scared. Scared I will present nonsense and that I will sound stupid. (I do not know much about the government or politics.) Scared at the fact that if my presentation is under 10 minutes it will be "heavily penalized." Worried because my brain works faster than my mouth, and my words result in a jumbled mess.
BUT also in my head I had, "Okay Haley, you know that no matter what you will be okay. Worrying is a waste of energy. If it sucks, you pick yourself up later, but right now just focus on knowing you will be okay no matter what."
I fought back tears, and then said in another mindful reasoning, "F that, you go ahead and cry because your body wants to. Just cry, give your body what it needs. Listen to your body." So I did. I went back to my room and just let myself hold my hands in my face and let out all of my stress and frustration.
I tired out, pulled myself together, and continued working on my presentation.
I love love love the inspiration found from those who rise above from a difficult past and use their story for a purpose. I am so looking forward to meeting her.
When I started to stress/cry about my presentation my roomie, Kelly blurted out, "Candace." I stop, say, "Oh yeah." and continue to breathe.
There is something good in every day.
I nailed my presentation. Eye contact, wasn't shaking, didn't fumble over my words (even though at some points I probably was babbling nonsense in a way that might have portrayed intelligence?)
The best part? Besides getting it over with and a weight off my shoulders-
My professor looked me in the eye after class, gave me a thumbs up, and said "Good job."
I get so worried, and then I am okay. I am ALWAYS okay. No matter what, I will be okay!! LOGICALLY I know this. A part of me, however, is still scared.
Worst case scenario: I get up there, I freeze, I give a crappy presentation, everyone knows I'm nervous, and I get an average grade.
And there's more that could go wrong, of course, but why go to extremes?
I realize it is not so much a fear of the outcome at this point. It is a fear of the present. It is a fear of the uncomfortable feeling that goes along with "riding the waves" and I prove to myself every time I make it out on the other side that it was worth the discomfort.
I am here now, trying to analyze what I need to work on, and what I didn't do.
Maybe that is not the point.
I could have stayed in bed "sick", I could have emailed my professor an "anxiety = I can't", I could have tried to handle this mess all on my own.. but I didn't.
I reached out to my uncle, and a former teacher of mine for insight and suggestions. I eliminated the worries I had control over.
I gave myself permission to cry.
This is what gets me very very confused:
I often believe that "recovery" and "working on me" mean that I should be able to let this magical thing called "positive self-talk and redirecting thoughts" save me. No. That is a piece, but not all.
I need to give myself permission to have the fear in the first place, right? To worry, to cry-
It is then that I use my tools to decide where I will go from there.
Holding back crying, and then letting it all out showed me the difference between accepting and rejecting my feelings.
I am reminding myself through my return to the yoga practice, and my wise mind, that to keep going forward, does not mean you can not have "down" moments.
I have proof of this when I find myself here.
Blogging, about how I picked myself up again.
I have so much behind me, and so much to look forward to today.
You can contact me here
You can submit a question for the Ask Haley column here
visit and like my new Facebook page here
What is Say Something Week ?
The idea behind "say something" is that if you see something that doesn't seem right, say something to a trusted adult. By saying something you could prevent something bad from happening. Whether it is seeing a suspicious person on school grounds, or hearing or feeling as though someone may hurt others, or themselves.
I was introduced to "Say Something Week" last year, my senior year of high school. It is when I first heard of the message, but it is also when I was involved in the message.
The Friday of Say Something Week 2015, I was called down to my school social worker's office. Some of my friends, anonymously, and some openly, had reached out to someone out of concern for my safety and well-being. It was a day that had jumpstarted everything for me as far as my help and support goes. My mom was called to the school for a meeting, and later that night I met with a crisis worker from the "2-1-1" helpline.
That day happened during Say Something Week for me, but it can happen any day of the year. I'm grateful now that people cared enough to express their concerns for me, and to make sure I was getting the help I needed and deserved.
www.sandyhookpromise.org states, "Say Something Week reinforces the power young people have to prevent tragedies and save lives when they Say Something to a trusted adult."
Be a voice for others, and use your voice to make a change. You can not go wrong by saying something if you feel uneasy.
I occasionally do yoga on my own, however, I would prefer to register for a class to help motivate me into a pattern. For now, I have given up on waiting for the nearby campus class. One of my friends has committed to a membership at one studio, and yesterday I asked if I could join her. There are 3 studios that are closest to me- all out of my price range, but two are more reasonable than the other. I paid for the drop-in class and went with my friend. Doing yoga at home is much different from going to an instructed class. I struggled. I was back in my "beginner stage" in a "hip hop yoga" class.
Me being me, didn't take it too seriously. I was there to try out the studio, the feel for it, and see if I would want to continue my practice there. My arm strength is definitely in the works, as it always has been. I was doing a plank with one arm raised out in front of me. I could feel sweat dripping from my forehead, my face turning beat red, and the arm holding the rest of my body up was shaking. I probably made a noise, and looked over at my friend with struggle and determination, and just started laughing. The teacher noticed my giant smile as I struggled through the pose. She came over to me and through her microphone I could hear her say, "Yes, go ahead and laugh!" She patted my back and I started laughing even more, hearing other people in the room laughing. "I'm always laughing."
I picture yoga to be this calm and centered experience. My lack of continuation has made it very difficult for me and I find myself a little giggly at times. But hey, I was pushing myself, and I was making fun out of it.
At the end of the class when we were resting and relaxing, the teacher had given us [me] a new perspective on yoga.
It is so much more than a "sweaty experience on a piece of rubber." In fact, yoga is within our everyday lives. It is how we contribute to our community, it is how we treat others, etc.
It is important to give ourselves more credit. On or off the mat, we could already be doing something to contribute to our yoga-minded lifestyle.
I thought that was extremely important.
I have been working on training my brain to acknowledge what I am doing, over what I am not doing for the better. My yoga practice comes and goes, and at times it is very difficult for me to get on the mat and "just do it." Those words had me take in the fact that, I'm here now, and acknowledge what I had been doing even before I got myself here.
College me is a new me.
I'm challenging this new me.
Can we pause? because that's a pretty big deal-
I walked to the station.
I followed signs.
Found where I was supposed to go. (after my heart skipped several beats)
Quadruple checked my ticket.
And got on the right train.
Okay, so besides my personal accomplishment, I wasn't just coming home in the smack dab middle of the week for anything. I was coming home for everything.
Before I had left campus, I started crying in my suite saying "I don't know why I'm crying!!" My suite-mates were hugging me and saying, "That's normal, your mom is getting married!" I just couldn't believe it. I have been a little ball of emotion this year. Everything just hits me so hard. I think of everything I have been through, and it makes the good that is around me so much more beautiful than basic. So I cry a lot. Just heart warming tears is all, but it has become my new "thing" and I think it is much needed.
My mother looked like an absolute princess.
I don't know what it is about weddings that are so exciting, but SO damn nerve-wracking. I thought I was going to puke, and I'm not even the bride. All I could think about was my future and how I'm "probably just going to elope."
My mom had butterflies in her stomach of course. I sent her positive quotes all day. (wait what? That's unusual for me)
I held her hand. My brother, Matt linked arms with her as she held her bouquet. When it was time, we walked her down the aisle.
Apparently nobody could tell I was nervous until I admitted into the microphone that I was shaking. Oops.
I wanted it to be perfect. John and my mom are amazing people in my life. There was zero hesitation when deciding to give a toast to them. I would gladly do it for them. I spotted my mom's tears when looking into her eyes, but was completely oblivious to everyone else's tears.
I gave my mom and step-father huge hugs when I finished. For the rest of the night- everyone complimented my words, and as awkward as I am with receiving compliments, it felt so good.
One of the workers at the restaurant said it was one of the best toasts she's heard there in a while, and asked my age.
Another worker called me over. She shook my hand. She said that she loved my toast, that she knew my grandfather from when he worked at my old high school, and that he would be very proud of me.
That hit deep.
Since his passing, we tend to see a rainbow at just the perfect moments.
There was a little rain after the ceremony. We went outside with the photographer to take pictures (I don't have those ones yet)
When in the picture was just my mom, Matt and I, we noticed a rainbow in the background.
I looked at my mom..knowing it was coming..
She gasped, "That's my Dad!!"
She smiled and I tried so hard to hold back my tears for her.
I believe he was there.
Family is family.
Mine just keeps getting bigger :-)
My new step-cousins invited us in for a picture as well.
I love how my mom's family and John's family are both so welcoming to new family additions. I feel as though I have another grandmother, aunt and uncle, and cousins.
I hugged Mom and John goodbye and walked back to my car in the dark. I let myself just let out all of those feelings. I was laughing a little as I was crying. My "thank you," I suppose, all out in the open for life, family, happiness, everything.
Whether it’s the one you start out with, the one you end up with, or the family you gain along the way.
Here is an excerpt of my toast:
If my Papa were here today I know he would be standing up here in this place. He would say something that would make you all have a giant belly laugh, possibly make you cry, and have you feel your heart grow bigger as you listen to his words. I know that he is cheering, and I mean cheering, exceptionally loud today for his little girl who has found her prince. Is that manly enough, John? Oh I mean- knight.
I am honored to be in this place now. When I was a little girl I remember wishing that I could go back in time so I could see my beautiful mother on her wedding day. Well, I must have wished pretty damn hard because my wish came true in a way I hadn’t expected. I had another wish as well. I have memories of Christmastime, and writing “a sister” on my wish list for Santa. I guess Matthew wasn’t good enough. Today, not only am I gaining a sister, I am gaining another brother as well.
Those little details are here today, all because the BIGGEST wish of all came true: My mom’s pure happiness, safety, and finding someone who treats her as she deserves the world.
John, today our relationship is legal, but I have considered you family for quite some time now. I am blessed to have you as a role model, a shoulder to lean on, and a buddy o’ pal.
When I think of you both, I think of 1 person who is tougher than they look, and 1 person who is softer than they show themself to be.
Family is family,
Whether it’s the one you start out with, the one you end up with, or the family you gain along the way.
John, Jack, and Madeline, I love you guys.
Congratulations Mom and John.
May you ride off into the sunset on a John Deere tractor together. To Pam and John
I am from a small rural New England town. I grew up with deer in my backyard, tractors making people late for work, and always seeing at least 2 people you know at the grocery store.
I grew up sheltered.
My high school had challenged me to think outside the box. I was in a safe place, and difficult discussions were often out in the open. I could almost feel my heart grow bigger, and my mind opening wider when I was able to see things from another perspective. I wasn't much of voice back then; I was a learner. I was a listener.
It is not just a bad thing nor just a good thing to grow up sheltered. There are pros and cons. What had worried me was that I felt I could only hear or see things one way. I had to believe what the majority believed, because those were my roots.
This year, I left my small town for the city. As much as I have grown throughout the years, I have finally reached a stage that some of my peers had already gained confidence for within their freshman year of high school. Their voice.
I can now say, I have found my voice.
He was compassionate, a realist, and a patient man.
He spent his career as a counselor, which fit his demeanor greatly, however I do not believe you need to be a counselor in order to be the kind of person he was.
He was caring, patient, straight-forward, and determined.
I think of the three P's of things that he has taught me, and will use them to share with you all.
You just don't know what people are going through.
That cashier you were complaining about "being rude", who knows- maybe she's getting a divorce? Maybe she's losing her job? Maybe she's been fighting depression, but today she managed to get out of bed and show up for work. Maybe she was rude. Maybe there just aren't excuses. But maybe just maybe- that is not who she is.
That is just a random scenario that I refer to when thinking about perspective regarding others.
You don't know everyone's story. You do not know who you are passing on the streets.
To me, World Mental Health Day is everything about standing together.
We are all broken in one way or another, or we all have been broken in one way or another.
Approximately 1 in 5 in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year.
There is no need for me to explain why there is something wrong with that. If that statistic is correct, and that many people are fighting for their mental health each day, why is stigma still an issue? It is happening all around us. No disability, no diagnosis, not ANYTHING, changes the fact that we are all human.
Mental Health does not just mean take care of yourselves.
It means take care of each other.
(yes I included throwbacks, forgive me)
(If this was in color you could clearly see your awesome minion costume)
Remember when your dad shaved his head bald so he could look like Gru?
You being a part of our family, and called "Cousin Fallon" by little miss Maya.
Side note: Thank you a million times for driving me to visit Papa outside in the rain during our senior privileges and saying a few words with me, and holding my hand on the way back.
How we did not get a picture together is beyond me so I found 2 doofy ones of us.
"Haley Tiff-Tiff "
Despite the fact that I did not sleep at all last night over nerves about my first college test (which I ended up doing well on), I have had a beautiful day.
Sometimes- there doesn't need to be a reason to be happy. I am happy today. I am overwhelmed with this beautiful feeling of light, and if you asked me why- well, why not?
Last month was Suicide Prevention Month, and this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. As you should know by now, I am very invested in these awareness dates. I take my time and look up quotes, watch inspiring videos/documentaries, listen to absolutely beautiful songs, try to educate myself, smile with the pride I have in the importance of mental health, and well..sometimes..I just cry.
I call it my "dork tears" if you haven't heard me say it before. I become so invested in my feelings every single day. When the discomfort, worries, or anything gloomy disappears, I am overwhelmed with the beauty around me. I just appreciate feeling well. Today I rolled over on my bed and said with a giant smile on my face, "I'm so emotional right now!!" My confused suitemate in mid-conversation said, "why? because I just said sprinkles-?" "No, I'm just SO happy it feels SO good." My roommate said, "STOP you're so cute." (She meant DORK.) I was truly bringing myself to tears.
I've been in my room on my laptop watching The Voice auditions. The ones that struck me the most as beautiful or heart warming leave me goosebumps at the turn of a chair. I have just been taking in my love for the show, and the music, looking out my window at the hustle and bustle of the city life, and started to get all teary eyed again.
Just taking in this thing called life.
Mental health is so important. When your mental health is well taken care of, you are far ahead in the game of living a happy life. Sometimes- I get very very upset. I think about the stats. 1 in 5 is struggling with a mental illness. I think of the hurt that so many people suffer with that is absolutely invisible, and I just want it all to stop. For everyone. Today, on this mindful and good day of mine, I want everyone to feel this way.
I consider myself a mental health advocate. On top of that, I am known by my peers to post a lot of quotes that bring perspective and joy, and acknowledge national holidays that many people forget about. I will gladly go on awareness walks, hang up posters, make self-help crafts, etc. This passion/drive/interest of mine seems to be my calling. I am content with my goal to be a social worker, and as much as I have struggled with self-doubt in the past..I am confident I will be a great one.
Today I was reading 2 powerful articles by Candace Moore. She is someone I can picture as a role-model. For those of you who don't know who she is..
- I first heard of her because she went to college with my hs social worker
- She is a blogger, and inspiring yogi with a youtube channel dedicated to her business YogaByCandace.
- She lives a healthy lifestyle, and strives for happiness, and self-love
- She goes on amazing yoga retreats, and her Instagram will make your life look boring.
- She has a book that is soon to be published-which I am very excited to read.
- She has fought a battle with lyme disease, and uses yoga as a lifestyle to appreciate her body and wellbeing.
When reading her blog posts I found myself asking 2 questions:
Who am I? & Who do I want to be?
The "who I am" part I am pretty sure I have down.
But who I want to be..?
Some of these qualities/wishes I may already have on track, but these are things that come to mind. I get to decide the person I want to become. You can too.
- Someone who laughs a lot. ESPECIALLY when I make mistakes.
- Someone who doesn't take things too seriously.
- Someone who recognizes the beauty in others, rather than judgment.
- Someone who wants to see others succeed as well.
- Someone who can decide whether or not I want it, more than I am afraid of it.
- Someone who does not have "what-if" in their vocabulary.
- Someone who will make a difference.
- Someone who will get a book published someday.
- Someone who will make happiness a choice.
- Someone who will accept the feelings I can not control, rather than blame myself.
- Someone whom others will want to surround themselves with.
a single moment
on where you are
and where you want to be."
International Day of Non-Violence
October 6th, 2016:
National Depression Screening Day
October 10th, 2016:
World Mental Health Day
October 5-9th: Mental Illness Awareness Week
Month of October:
ADHD Awareness Month
Bullying Prevention Month
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.
Empaths + HSP
Mental Health Awareness Month
Monthly Blog Challenge