Sunday, October 28, 2018

My Wellness Journey Part 2

March 10, 2018. A day seared into my memories.

It was my son's seventeenth birthday. We woke early and drove to Denny's, where I treated my two boys to pancakes, dripping with sugary syrup. For me, I kept it simple, because too much sugar is not my friend. I had two eggs, hash browns, and bacon. Laughing through most of the breakfast, we bantered with the server and blew our straw wrappers at one another's faces, while consuming our delicious breakfast.

A fabulous morning, quickly took a turn for the worst. And it came out of no where.

I had just reclined on my couch and switched on the television, when my chest suddenly tightened and my heart began to race. I sat up straight and inhaled deeply, urging my body to return to its serene state. I did that several times, but my pulse continued to beat harder and numbness spread up my neck and across my face.

Rising from the couch, I made my way to the kitchen and took two Soothe Stress supplements, before returning to my seat. I remained still for over twenty minutes, waiting for the magic to hit my veins, keeping my eyes closed and taking one deep breath after another. But my pulse continued to beat furiously in my chest.

Not able to handle it any longer, I stepped outside and walked around my house, drawing in deep and long breaths. By the time I finished my third circle around the house, I was in full panic mode, and none of my methods were working. 

Therefore, logically, in my mind I was having a heart attack.

With tears streaming down my cheeks, I crept up to my bedroom and grabbed my purse, pleading with my eight year old son to follow me out to the car without arguing. Calling my seventeen year old son on my cell phone, I told him to meet me at the hospital, so he could take his brother home. 

From there I drove, keeping to the speed limit and begging my body to not give out on me. I took the back road to the hospital, petrified by my choice to drive myself. The numbness was spreading down my arms and when my finger function began to deteriorate, I realized driving was one of the worst decisions I had made in a long time.

But we made it. And I will NEVER do that again.

My partner was on shift at the fire department and I didn't have cell service in the hospital to call him. The news spread quickly thanks to my son and neighbor. By the time I was able to make a call, he was frantic and had called my dad, who was now on his way to meet me at the hospital. I learned my lesson that day to always keep my partner informed. 

AND I wasn't having a heart attack. Even so, the doctor on call chose to keep me for most of the day and performed several tests before deciding to send me home. He urged me to speak to my primary care doctor and learn more about my condition, along with finding better ways to cope. Over ten years of maintaining, managing, and most definitely coping, and this one moment threw me back in time as if I had never evolved at all.

At least, that's what my ego was telling me.

I did see my doctor. And she insisted I start taking Zoloft. I turned her down and asked for a better solution. This is when she educated me on the difference between Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. And not only did I have both disorders, my methods would never fully control them. She urged me to begin with a small dose of an anti-depressant, but once again, I declined.

She sighed. I knew she was frustrated with me, but I was determined to stay off the white pill.

"How about I prescribe you a minimal dose of an anxiety medication?" she asked. "Only a few pills to have near you, just in case you have another episode you cannot control."

My ears perked up.

She explained that it would be the lowest dose possible, but enough to calm me in a moment of desperation. I immediately accepted. Just in case.

It was months down the road before I experienced another attack. A sunny Sunday. And once again, it smacked in the face, rearing its ugly head out of no where. I followed my usual path... deep breaths, a long walk, my trusted supplements, but it only worsened.

I stared at the bottle holding these little, white pills for several minutes. Finally, I unscrewed the top and popped one in my mouth.

The moment the medication hit my blood stream is one I will never forget. My body and mind relaxed. My heart returned to a steady and slow beat. And I felt as if I was meditating, but the euphoric feeling remained hours later, even after I crawled into bed that night.

It would be so easy to do this every day.

I had spent a decade running from this pill, because I was afraid of the control it would have on my life. I had cruelly judged myself and others because I believed taking medication was the weak way out. But having a moment of relief after so many years, one that came without zero effort on my part, and lasted an entire day, will forever play in the back of my head.

Over a decade of living on an anxiety high, with short bouts of relief during meditation and decreasing it slightly with the supplements, doesn't even come close to how my body felt on that day. Even though I'm still choosing to stay off the medication, unless absolutely necessary, I now understand why others choose differently. Especially if their disorders are worse then mine.

Knowing how to cope without medication is still important. I will never discredit the natural route and I really believe everyone would benefit from learning these methods. I also believe if medicinal CBD was available for my condition in my home state, I would have that on standby instead of a little, white pill. Until that's possible, I will continue to keep that bottle near, while strengthening my ability to control my disorders without it.

Nearly every day ends with complete exhaustion for me. I exert a lot of energy to keep my anxiety under control. In fact, on rare occasions, finding a quiet corner in my house after work and not socializing with anyone is the only way for me to heal from my day. And I have learned to honor my body and mind in those moments.

Trust your body. Know the signs. And do what is best for you.

My self-care is number one on my priority list. I do not apologize for honoring and respecting my body as I'm the one who has to live with it 24/7, and consciously living requires pause, in order to attain self-reflection, inner guidance, and a connection with your physical body. And if I cannot function properly, how will I ever show up for others in my life

With all this being said, my moments of weakness do not define me and acknowledging them only makes me stronger and more connected to others like myself. In fact, I am a survivor and a mental health warrior because I do continue to face my days, my demons, and my disorders. And I will never quit. Not until my last breath.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

My Wellness Journey Part 1

"Often it's the deepest pain which empowers you to grow into your highest self."
-Karen Salmansohn
Where to begin...

I've spent many nights contemplating what I want to say to the world, with the fear edging over my courage with its gooey and intimidating talons, urging me to stay silent. But I knew I would have to face my demons and skeletons, because that's what warriors do.

My journey with my mental health began twenty-five years ago. I was sixteen when my mom hauled me to the doctor's office and had him prescribe me Zoloft. I was experiencing a sad state. It's possible it was a mild form of depression. And she was fixing it with medication. No counseling. And absolutely no negotiating.

I don't blame her for that decision. It was what she knew and I was her daughter, navigating through a shattered heart and struggling to fully express the deep emotions I was feeling for the very first time. A little white pill was her answer for my problem. And as an obedient daughter, I religiously took that pill for several years.

But it didn't solve my inner turmoil.

I clearly remember the first time I experienced intense anxiety. I was young—nineteen—and living in Scarsdale, New York. My first time living away from my home state of Utah and no longer taking Zoloft. My friends and I had just entertained ourselves with a horror film. Not long after leaving the theater, we rolled into a 24 hour diner to fill our stomachs and laugh until our guts hurt.

But my fun was cut short. I curled up in a ball, huddled in the corner of the booth and did my best to not be a buzz kill. My chest was clenched, my stomach in knots, and I was at a complete loss of understanding my body's warning signs that something was not quite right.

With the episodes increasing and my fears keeping me up at night, I returned home to be tested by several doctors. A stress test was performed and they gave me another white pill for my heart, along with Zoloft, once again. Not even twenty and I was taking the same medications as my parents.

Years later I found out the truth. The episodes hadn't occurred often, but after being admitted to the hospital for Pulmonary Embolism, my dance with anxiety and now, panic attacks, became increasingly challenging. I was twenty-nine when my physician prescribed me Xanax and gave me the diagnosis of Panic Disorder.

And I was thirty when I quit taking the tiny, white pills that made me feel disconnected from everyone, including myself. 

From that day forward I vowed to control the panic attacks in the most natural ways that I could find. I researched various methods and as the vicious episodes reared their ugly heads, I learned to cope through the cycles and somehow manage them. Some times the attacks lasted a few minutes, dying off after several DEEP breaths. While others lasted for hours, but thankfully never fully materialized because of the steps I took to keep them at bay.

My methods aren't secrets, but they do take discipline.
  • Deep breaths... And I mean real, deep diaphragm breaths. We go through our days inhaling shallow breaths, rushing from one activity to the next. No wonder we are all stressed out and living on an anxiety high. I remind myself throughout the day to stop punishing myself. I deserve to enjoy those deep, satisfying breaths. And so do you.
  • Meditation... This goes right along with deep breaths, except it teaches you to empty your mind of all the concerns, anguish, and whatever else you have bouncing around in your skull. It's a daily practice for me now. A process I wish I had taken seriously back in high school when my health teacher taught it to me.
  • Go for a walk... this might seem counterproductive, considering your heart is already racing, but going outside in the fresh air and leaving the stresses behind for a moment can do wonders for your psyche. Even if you just stroll around your neighborhood. It's therapeutic. 
  • Music... Playing the piano is one of the most relaxing activities for me. Or listening to soft/happy/cheerful music and dancing around the house. Some friends of mine even enjoy heavy metal, head-banging music to ease their tensions. You do what works best for you.
  • Give up soda... This was a must for me. I was beginning to show signs of Fibromyalgia and experiencing heart palpitations. No matter what I did, this one method was the number one most important thing to check off my list. It has changed my life. Over six years since I washed my hands of that vice and the cravings are non-existent.
  • Find a natural remedy... The one that has worked best for me is Soothe Stress manufactured by VitalFuse. It has kept many panic attacks at bay. I've taken several other brands, but this is the one product that has remained consistent in keeping my stress manageable and my panic attacks smothered.    
You can find it here on my Amazon store, under HEALTH HEAVEN, if you're curious to know more.

Sadly, even with over a decade of research, religiously practicing my new found knowledge, and determined to not return to the zombie state of the little, white pill, it still was not enough.

But that tale is for another day.

What happens when none of my methods work? It isn't pretty. Raw emotion, vulnerability, and an experience seared into my mind forever. And suddenly that little, white pill sounds more appealing.

Stay tuned.

Part TWO -

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Golden Mirror

In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself. - Deepak Chopra
My mom's mirror.

She passed away nine years ago and as my dad cleaned out their house, I asked if I could have her golden mirror. He was more than happy to hand it over.

BUT, I hated the color. Gold was SO 1970s. And I wanted it to represent who I was at that time, while keeping one of my mom's possessions near me, always. It was the perfect piece to hang in my house.

What would you do if you found this mirror?

My solution, nine years ago... 2009.

First, I primed it.

Then, I painted on this eggshell blue. I cannot remember the exact color, but I only needed it for the base anyway.

What do you think?  Too bold?  Too flat?  Perfect?

From there, I wiped on my favorite Burnt Amber Glaze.  The process was simple.

See below for the FINAL product.  BUT I'm not done.  Check out the end!

Nine years later, and I'm thinking I might change it up.  Let go of my past LIKES, and move into 2019 with a DAZZLING new mirror.

What do you think?  Keep it?  Go back to a new GOLD?  Or switch it up and go with something entirely NEW?

My house has changed.  My colors have shifted.  And I'm not the same person I was nine years ago.

Where do I go from here?