Sunday, May 18, 2014


So the past couple of weeks have been good ones, in my book. Therapy has slowly but surely become more of a helpful resource than a source of fear. I had my first hour-long full session in-office since the new year began and it felt good to open up. I've also really put myself out there socially, trying to encourage myself to engage in small friendly interactions with store clerks, librarians, customer service personnel for the cable company, etc. It's not always easy and it's definitely not effortless, but my worst fear is living like a hermit.

The past few months have been lonely because friends and family have tread lightly and provided space for me to heal, and I am forever grateful. But I do miss them terribly. It's too painful to be so isolated all of the time. By far one of the worst things about being agoraphobic is that folks don't understand what it is. A couple of weeks ago, I was conversing with a phone rep for one of my student loan companies. At the time, phone conversations were just a little more difficult to ensure than they are nowadays. I explained this to the representative on the other line and he actually took the time to ask what agoraphobia is, which was above and beyond the line of customer service duty. Kudos to him! But it's true - no one knows what it really means. I've even had to do some reading to really "get it." Agoraphobes are thought of as reclusive and not wanting to leave their houses. ALL I want to do is leave the house - I just get scared to for fear that I'll suffer a public, humiliating panic episode. The fear has lessened a lot, but I still struggle. I dream of the day when I can go back to making a Target run without putting too much premeditated thought into the process.

Another common misconception is that agoraphobes don't want to be around people or, on the opposite end, are scared to be alone. Neither is fully true. My biggest fear leaving home is that I will lose control and panic and others will witness the perceived weakness. I also get scared to be along for long periods because I miss the comfort of a hug or a kind word when things are feeling a bit low. But as a Myers-Briggs ESTJ by nature, I miss good company. I miss happy hours with friends or workplace camaraderie with colleagues. I miss hugs and physical affection, which is hard to obtain regularly when your life partner works second shift and you are too scared to  join in on your friends' adventures.

Working from home has been the best thing for me in this season of life - I have been working freelance as a resume writer for some time now and started doing it on a very limited basis when I was in the worst stages of my breakdown. Helping provide monetarily for my family and myself is a HUGE self-esteem thing for me. God knew this and provided me with an opportunity to preserve some of my dignity at a time when I didn't know what the future held  in regards to returning to the full-time position I was in from June until I got sick. But I miss the good stuff...the fun conversations, the professional development opportunities, access to good reads and other valuable resources, etc.

Now that freelancing is my only gig,  I am thankful for the positive experience, the fact that I have a job directly related to my B.A. and somewhat related to my M.Ed., and to have found an unexpected outlet for my writing abilities and interest. I am also thankful to not have to deal with the other side of the coin that comes with working in an environment outside of the home - having to explain my disorder to others who may not know or understand. Being in control of my own destiny is exciting and I am  grateful to have the flexibility of being my own boss. I can rest on a "bad day"  and not have to be ashamed to explain to others why I am going home early.

In my experience over the past decade or so, the working public has used the term "mental health day"  as a joking term used when one is weary, sick of work and wants to justify taking a day off. Folks suffering from actual mental and emotional illnesses legitimately need those days in addition to physical sickness days. Those "bad days" are just as bad as sick days are for folks that suffer from a cold or flu. And it's harder to explain or rationalize because the symptoms are invisible. I can't tell you how many people have told me since the signs pf my breakdown began to come on in November that they had no idea that I have GAD, panic disorder and agoraphobia because I held it together so well for so long. It makes me feel good to know I am a great actress (perhaps a future career possibility?) but it doesn't feel good or nice to hear that others think less of GAD's severity  because it doesn't always come with a physical symptom, i.e.  fever and a sinus infection. It also doesn't come with a cure-all antibiotic, which makes it all the more challenging to treat. And I have had plenty of irritable belly episodes, heart palpitations and episodes of depersonalization, so trust me the physical side is no picnic.

No matter how accepting others may be of anxiety disorders, I've come to learn that there is a lot of   misunderstanding associated with them. Granted, it's light years ahead of what it used to be like in high school and college (I felt alone and scared many times in those days), but society has a long way to go in working to understand and empathize with sufferers. Anxiety disorders  affect a surprisingly large number of the world's population and that's no small thing to ignore.

Sometimes love is all you need and it's the best medicine possible. I am thankful for all the doses of love that have come my way these past few months. So practice loving, understanding and compassion - you never know what your friend or loved one may be going through privately. And you don't know just how impactful a hug, kind word or continued check-in can be for someone.

Until next time <3

Friday, May 2, 2014


If there's one thing that a humbling experience such as recovering from a major anxiety/depressive episode teaches a person, it's the ability to be compassionate. Throughout all of this, I have received kind words, support and standing offers to visit when I'm well enough from both expected and unexpected sources. For all of the negativity that's out there, I have experienced more love than rejection or lack of understanding. That's been incredibly humbling and I am ever grateful. It's also renewed my faith in Him, as I've been talking to God through both the good and bad times and actually have some of my therapy sessions in the chapel that is on the facility premises.

One place where I see the largest and most disheartening lack of compassion is in the celebrity/pop culture world. I'm guilty of this too. It is so easy to pass judgment on people you don't know or haven't met in real life. It's even easier to join in when others have already started the activity and you get to serve as merely a follower. And it's SUPER easy when Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms exist. This gives us what I like to refer to as "cyber muscles." They work a lot like beer muscles do - you say things you wouldn't normally because you feel empowered by having an audience to hear you (and for the cowardly, you have a computer screen to hide where that same audience can't find you and confront you on your actions.

I never really thought about changing how I perceive or criticize celebs, but the humbling experiences in my life including my breakdown have certainly diminished how judgmental I am of others in the past few years. My heart's been softened and I am overwhelmed with compassion. Don't confuse this with being a wet noodle, though - I am tenacious when need be and I serve as nobody's punching bag. But I digress, back to this celebrity compassion thing...

In the past few months, my TV viewing time has increased significantly - shocking, right? One of the advantages to being a self-employed freelance writer. Anyway, there have been a few TV reality show moments where my heart bled when I least expected it. I had an episode of "Keeping up with the Kardashians" on in the background on day (or I was watching it, don't judge!). In this particular episode, the girls' brother Rob was looking into laser tattoo removal. At one point in this segment of the episode, Rob began to cry and went into a back room of the laser tech guy's office, refusing to allow the cameras to film him because of his weight. Since the show began, he has gained a significant and unhealthy amount of weight, which is an affliction that the majority of our country deals with.

His shame over his body image showed me that no matter how infamous one's family is, or how wealthy someone is...there are some things that can;t be easily fixed. Confidence is one of them. Both Rob and I struggle with this - in different ways, but depression and lack of confidence is what it is. It's so easy to point out all of the negative aspects of this family and their show, but people are people at the end of the day and no one is higher or mightier than anyone else. And my heart breaks for anyone who is that heartbroken or whose family worries for their health that urgently.

Another instance was my watching the new reality series "True Tori" dealing with how Tori Spelling is managing with the aftermath of her husband's infidelity. And let me tell may just be really good editing, but the woman is clearly struggling to keep it all together. And she is, in fact, keeping it all seemingly together. I saw reports online that said Tori deserved this because both she and her husband, Dean, were married, had extramarital affairs and divorced their spouses to be together as they are now. Though I am a believer in karma to some extent, no one deserves to lose their best friend and their support system in that way. Again, we are all people - even those who used to act on their dad's primetime soaps.

Lastly, I am unabashedly addicted to TLC shows. Not the ones that promote angry and antagonistic behaviors, but the ones that show different kinds of families and the power of love. I recently found out that MANY of TLC's shows are on Netflix, among them "19 Kids and Counting" starring the uber-religious Duggar family. While I do not share in many of their conservative belief systems (I consider myself progressively Christian/Unitarian), I have reflected a lot on how I pray and how I live through watching the family's show and reading the accompanying books that have been published. I recently watched "A Duggar Loss" that dealt with Michelle's miscarriage of the 20th child they were expecting. These folks are both held in high regard and blasted in the media for their convictions (depending on the media outlet you follow), and regardless of which side of the spectrum you're on ...loss is loss and watching this is something that touched me profoundly and made me grateful for the ones that are with me now and the ones that were once with me.

My point in all of this seemingly aimless rambling about celebs you probably don't like is that nobody - not me, not you, not anyone- has the right to judge. Even though it's in our nature to do so, I encourage you all to reflect on life every now and then and to demonstrate some humility...think about walking a mile in someone else's shoes before thinking or saying that mean thing. Food for though. We're not all perfect, but it doesn't hurt to open your heart and let a little love in. <3