The truth is...

Friday, January 15, 2016

This post comes on the heels of one that Annie wrote yesterday where she opened up about why we should talk about our struggles. When I read through it, it brought tears to my eyes because her struggles with anxiety and panic are struggles that I, too, have faced for years. I've actually written this very post about this very topic five or six times in different ways, constantly tweaking it, nervously removing parts I thought would make me seem too weak or even a little crazy, and then I'd usually end up deleting it altogether. But every time I would click the delete button, only minutes later the urge to get my story out there would swell again and I'd begin writing a brand new post. It's really tough to talk about issues like these because on the surface, we want everyone to think we're doing alright. In a modern world that appears to be defined by likes, shares, and glossy images of ourselves it can be really scary to come clean about the raw and not so pretty pieces we tend to hide.

It's probably vastly apparent to anyone who reads my blog that my blogging habits this past year have been anything but regular. This wasn't because I didn't have anything to say, or because I was getting tired of the blogging community - quite the opposite actually. I was just going through so much in 2015 that I didn't know (and still don't) how to put the flood of thoughts in my brain down in words. Things were happening faster that I knew how to process them and before long, I sort of just surrendered to the waves of chaos and let whatever was to come wash over me.

That being said, I want everyone to know that I still seem to be stuck in this chaotic place. Things keep happening to me that are making it difficult for me to live a normal life. I wanted to take a little time today to maybe attempt to share a piece of what's been going on and what's on my heart in hopes that it will bring some relief.

The truth is, I suffer with an anxiety disorder. I have since I was younger, but didn't fully know or understand it until about a year ago. I've always been a worrier and I have a tendency to over-analyze every little thing that happens to me. I am constantly wondering what bad thing will happen if I do X or if so-and-so thinks Y about me. Analyzing each scenario in my head, endlessly stressing over every little detail. I once heard anxiety compared to "not being able to sleep because you're too worried about the wrong thing you said two years ago." This could not be closer to the truth. I can't let anything go.

The truth is, I have panic disorder. For nearly a year, every single night in our apartment right after Mike and I got married, I would have panic attacks at bedtime and the only thing that would calm me down was watching Finding Nemo on loop every single night. This was a huge hurdle in our first year of marriage and I feel so insanely blessed that not only did Mike stand by my side through this rough time, but he was always the one to get up without saying a word, turn on the movie, wipe my tears, and hold me tight until I fell asleep. The worst part about it is that I didn't want to admit at the time that I had a problem. It wasn't until the panic attacks started making me really physically sick that I sought help.

The truth is, I thought I had a good handle on my anxiety and panic disorder until mid-December, when my world seemed to come crashing down around me. Nothing in particular set it off, just the weight of the emotional and physical struggle I had endured in 2015 and that heinous year coming to an end, I guess. It hit me one night on the side of I-95 when I was driving out to see one of my best friends in Germantown. Since that evening, I've been battling severe bouts of anxiety and panic that have kept me from seeing friends, kept me from driving, kept me from sleeping, and sometimes kept me from wanting to live.

The truth is, I thought I was dying. Over the last few weeks I've been seeing doctor after doctor making sure that the dizziness I felt was in fact anxiety related vertigo and not a brain tumor. Or ensuring that the dozens of times I wake up at night startled by a surge of adrenaline, pounding heart, and chest pain is not in fact a heart condition. Anxiety can make you think terrible things and even though I am now coming to understand that stress is triggering these pains and symptoms instead of a real disease, in the moment, it feels very, very real.

The truth is, I see a therapist for my anxiety and panic disorder every week to help with the traumas I've faced in the past and this year. At this point, without treatment, there is no way I could live a normal life. There were even moments when my anxiety and panic were so bad that I began having anxiety and panic attacks about having anxiety and panic attacks. These thoughts froze me entirely, preventing me from focusing on even simple tasks like brushing my teeth or finishing my dinner much less living a normal high-functioning life.

The truth is, I don't do well with change and this seems to be the root of my anxiety. Sometimes, Mike will come home to find me curled up in a ball on the couch crying (at 26 years old) about growing up too fast, or not getting to say goodbye to our dogs that we had to put to sleep,  or wishing I was 10 again playing kickball in the court until the street lights came on. Life moves fast, and a lot of the time, I really hate it. Change only aggravates my anxiety and panic. It's a terrifying feeling knowing that time is passing and you keep losing people you love and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

The truth is, talking about suffering from anxiety and panic is really hard. It's something that many people choose to keep in the dark. But over the years, as I've slowly started to open up about my struggle to close friends and family, I've been so pleased to find nothing but love and support.

To quote Annie in her perfectly, eloquent way:

"But if I had never told anyone about my anxiety, I would have missed out on the love I feel from my husband when he steps in and steps up when I'm having a panic attack. I would have missed out on the gentleness of my parents as they surrounded me with encouragement and support while going through therapy. I would have missed out on counselors who helped me step up and be myself. I would never have realized hobbies that I love (like this blog).

But perhaps, most beautiful of all, I would have missed out on all the "Me too"'s I was met with when telling others about how panic attacks took over my life. I would have missed out on being able to be there for others during a hard time, and I would have never been able to relate to others dealing with mental illness."

So here's to hoping that spreading the truth about my struggle will help to bring more light to the conversation and some relief, not only to myself, but to others that may be silently struggling right along with me. 

Who Wants To Be A Billionaire?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The other morning, I woke up super congested still trying to recover from this nasty cold I've got lingering. Mike decided after making me some tea, to run out to Starbucks to grab a pair of our favorite lattes and some breakfast, hoping that might cheer me up.

Soon after he left, I texted him and told him to swing by the convenience store and grab another Powerball ticket. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you are probably starkly aware of the value of the jackpot. $1.5 Billion. Ridiculous dinero, friends.

So I shouldn't have been shocked when he returned with $60 worth of tickets!

We aren't gamblers by any means, but this is such a record jackpot, I wasn't at all upset that he dropped that kind of cash. It's too much fun not to play! We spent the afternoon dreaming about what we would do if we got to take home the prize.

1. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. We would probably sit on the money (or maybe even on the winning ticket) for a few weeks. In Maryland, you have 182 days from the drawing to claim your prize. Aside from signing the back of the ticket and possibly gluing it to my hand so we wouldn't lose it, we would take a good amount of time trying to decide exactly how we want to spread the winnings.

2. Share. If were were to win 1.5 billion dollars, after taxes, we would likely get $930 million. Honestly, I wouldn't know how to spend even 10 million dollars, much less 930, so we would most definitely be sharing the wealth. We would likely divvy it out to our family members, charities, and other organizations we deem important. We would also take a large chunk, invest half of it, and save the other half - locking them away so we couldn't touch them for a long while.

3. Travel! Our next plan would be to travel the globe for a year or so. It's always been a dream of ours to explore every corner of the world, so with this kind of financial stability, we wouldn't wait a second to pack our bags and hop on a plane!

4. Settle down and enjoy. We also decided that the next step would be selling our house and buying a piece of property on a lake somewhere, building our dream home, and then settling in. While Mike said he probably wouldn't work at the same job he has now, I love what I do so much that I would at least want to stay part time. Eventually though,  we would likely both go back to school. Getting a PhD is something we have both always dreamed about, but financially it never made sense. With unlimited funds, there would be nothing stopping us from pursuing those goals!

The drawing is tonight, so if you don't hear from me for a while after this and you start seeing pictures on Instagram of Mike and I in Europe, Asia, and Australia, hit me up and I'll bring you along ;)

Did you play the lottery this time? What would you do if you scored that kind of cash? 

Progress not perfection

Monday, January 11, 2016

It may be almost 2:30PM on a Monday, but I am bound and determined to get a post out today.

Things have been rough for me lately, you guys. I've got an entire post dedicated to why coming up - hopefully later this week - but until that's ready, I just need to write something. I feel like I've fallen off the raft and I've been struggling to get back up on it for quite some time.

Once the new year hit, I thought things would magically fall back into place and I would have all my shit together because I had this elaborate plan for how I was going to make changes. But clearly, as I sit here, coming off a cold on January 11th with my clear cut instructions for executing my "plan" looming over my head, nothing has changed. I'm struggling to even get out of bed in the morning, much less be crossing things off my list and making big life changes.

I mean for goodness sake, I have twelve weeks worth of meals planned, an entire outline of house projects for 2016 (with shopping lists!) all typed up and ready to go, but not a single thing has been prepped or a single project started. I've been trying for weeks to do the pre-training for this new workout plan but I never got to it, and today begins the real training so now I'll be behind if I don't get moving.

I'm not trying to sound like a complainer. I'm just so frustrated. It's like I'm trying to get my life in gear, but somehow I'm stuck in neutral. Somehow, despite all my careful planning, I remain stagnant.

After a long talk with my mom this morning, I came to realize that I often forget life absolutely does not play the rules. It can throw whatever it wants, whenever it wants, and there's nothing we can do about it. I can't help that I got sick. I can't help that I forgot to print out my list from my flash drive and I left the drive in my lunchbox at work. I can't help that I had to front the cost for another work trip to Belgium in a couple weeks, leaving me unable to make new purchases until the reimbursement comes in. All of these things have prevented me from accomplishing what I set out to do but what I didn't realize until now, is that I can still begin moving in the direction I want to go, even if it deviates from the route I originally had in mind.

I've realized that I need to learn to forgive myself. I need to learn to be more patient. I need to learn that it's okay for me to take smaller steps and simply resolve to make progress. It doesn't have to be what I planned. It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be forward.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Happy (belated) New Year! I can't believe we are already nearly a week into 2016! Where does the time go? They say the years start flying by the older you get, but man... time needs to slow down just a little.

Sorry for the blurry photo. I blame the bubbly.

We spent our New Year's celebrating on the shores of the Atlantic in Ocean City with Mike's family. It was completely different from anything we've done in the past and since 2015 was such a rollercoaster of a year for us, we were glad to get out and do something different from the norm.

We stayed at the Carousel ocean side and got a couple of rooms overlooking the beach and the indoor ice rink they have there. It was so cool to be able to sit on the balcony and look out at the sea or watch the ice show they had going below. The first night we were there was New Year's Eve and we couldn't believe how many people there were! Every time I've been to OC in December or January it's completely dead with everything closed up for the winter. But I guess New Year's is a really popular time to go considering that our hotel and many others were completely full and a good portion of the boardwalk down by the Inlet was up and running.

We skated and swam and drank and played games, celebrating the brand new year ahead the only way we know how - with family and friends and lots of laughter. This New Year's was definitely one I will not forget - popping champagne on the beach, watching fireworks, and returning to a hotel full of people cheering and celebrating on their balconies long after the ball in Times Square had dropped.

(Huge thanks to my mother-in-law, Kathy, for the idea and for booking such an awesome weekend.)

Here's to a bright 2016!