The Epiphany

Fly

e·piph·a·ny: A sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

The end of 2012 was a very important time for me.  Something was brewing inside of me, but I didn’t yet understand what it was.  I had this strong feeling that 2013 was going to be a big year for me, but I just didn’t know how.  I was seeing my EFT therapis,t Carol, once again to try and get a grip on my anxiety.  I had just started reading an anxiety memoir as a part of my own therapy.  I was interested in seeing how someone else had handled their own experience with this debilitating disorder.  I won’t share the name of the book, but it was awful.

The book I chose actually gave me anxiety.  The author started out by saying, “this is not a book about overcoming anxiety, it is simply about my experience and how I still struggle today.”  Well, no anxious person wants to read about another anxious person’s struggle without being given some answers and guidance.  The book left me feeling dirty (the author’s anxiety was triggered right after his first sexual experience, one in which he goes into great detail on and then refers back to constantly….vomit) and on edge.  I could not make it through the entire book, but there was one thing the author said that literally jumped out of the book, smacked me in the face and changed my life.

I don’t remember what exactly was written to quote the author, but he said in summary, “you can not teach your children anything more than what you know.  You can try, but at the end of the day they will learn more from seeing what you do and what you know, then what you say.”  Upon reading this I was immediately stopped in my tracks.  I could not read a sentence more.  I had to really digest what I just read and process it.  Now I have heard the saying, “actions speak louder than words,” probably a million times just like the rest of us and this was no different, but for some reason reading it here in this anxiety memoir deeply effected me.  At the time I had two daughters (I now have three) and all I could think about was what I was going to teach them by my own examples.  I began the long list in my head of things my two sweet little angels would learn from me.

I avoided malls as if they were disease infested buildings that would kill me.  I felt disoriented and out of control every time I set foot in one.  Food shopping made my heart race and I would always feel as if I was going to pass out.  I wouldn’t dare venture out into a large crowded area without my husband whose arm I would hold onto tightly.  He was the only one who knew how I felt in crowds so I could use him as my crutch to lean on.  I had a long list of things I wanted to do and accomplish that was nothing more than just a list because I was too afraid to fail so I never started.  I was tired ALL THE TIME.  My playtime with my girls consisted of me laying on the floor with a toy while my girls ran around trying to get me to move with them.  My body always hurt and I would say things to my girls like, “mommy can’t hold you because my back hurts or I’m too tired.”  I was giving excuses left and right not to do things.  I would avoid taking them for walks by myself because I would get dizzy and feel faint.  Taking them to one store took me a week of mental preparation and afterwards I would need hours to recover.  I was so nervous in restaurants and would sit quietly trying to calm myself and keep myself from freaking out.

What the hell was I teaching my kids already???

In that very moment reading those words in that ever so awful book I made a decision, one that would deeply impact my life and my happiness.  In that moment I vowed to overcome my anxiety once and for all.  I knew that it was going to be very hard and it was going to make me extremely uncomfortable, but I was going to do it once and for all.  There was no other option other than succeeding.

During my struggle I had always wanted to overcome my anxiety, but just like a drug addict “wants” to be clean, wanting is never enough.  At this moment in my life I no longer wanted to be better, I “needed” to be better.  Nothing was going to stop me, not even my biggest obstacle, myself.  There was no way I was going to let my own anxiety infect my two daughters.  I was going to kick anxiety’s ass once and for all and be an inspiration to my girls.  I was going to lead my children by example.

Each time I had tried to get better I had failed, but there was always a common thought that led to my downfall.  Each time I had doubted myself.  I always had the “what if?” thought.  What if I couldn’t do it, what if I felt like this forever, what if the good feeling didn’t last, what if I got hurt again?  I always gave myself another option in my head, but this time there was no other option.  There were no “what if’s,” there was only recovery.  I didn’t care what it took, but I was going to do it.

Here’s the thing, when you suffer badly from anxiety it becomes easier to continue on feeling the way you do.  It is a great challenge to overcome it.  It is a challenge that too many people give up on, because giving up is easy.  I know this because I did it so many times.

Now I need to point out that I do say I overcame my anxiety, but I really like to look at it as I’m in recovery.  I believe that anxiety will always be something I have to be aware of.  I have to know my triggers and use my tools to keep it at bay.  When I do this I am in control and not my anxiety.  I am at peace and I am happy.

Following my “epiphany” were a chain of events that further pushed me down the path of recovery, events that I will of course share, but reading that one small passage in that awful book lit a fire in me.  This very fire would burn so hot, pushing me to be stronger than I could have ever imagined.  I was on a mission.  I was going to regain control of my life and my happiness.  I would be the mother that my girls could look up to and I would be an inspiration to anyone out there who suffered as well.  This was it.  There was no looking back, there was only looking forward.  Whatever I wanted in my future I had to go out and create.

Now began to process of letting go.  I had a lot of baggage that needed dumping.

Happiness #quote

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My Reflection

reflection

As a girl growing up I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror.  Most of my moments were quick; a quick check of the hair and makeup or maybe even a few trips back and forth to make sure my outfit really did look okay.  Sometimes I would find myself lingering a little too long as I squeezed my sides back to see what my waist looked like without my “muffin top.”  Like most girls my reaction to my reflection was always different.  Some days I thought I looked fabulous while the very next day I would walk away from the mirror crying.  Damn mirrors.  I loved the way I looked and I hated it all at the same time, but none the less each day I went back to the mirror to look again.

I have heard more than once that the eyes are the windows to a persons soul and  I could not agree more.  If you really look into a person’s eyes you can learn so much about them.  Whenever I looked into the mirror whether I liked what I saw or not, I at least saw me.  I saw my soul and that ever so important part I loved so much.

During my anxiety I avoided mirrors like the plague, well not entirely.  I used them on a needed basis.  I of course didn’t want to leave the house looking like a crazy person with food in my teeth or a snot in my nose.  I already was feeling crazy enough, I didn’t need to leave the house looking the part.

The lingering in front of the mirror stopped completely.  I couldn’t bear to look myself in the eyes anymore because the person I saw looking back at me I no longer knew.  Every once in a while I would force myself to stop and look into my eyes and each time I had the same outcome.  Through my eyes I saw the mess that my mind had become.  I saw darkness and fear.  I saw guilt and uncertainty.  I saw the pain and sorrow that had settled in my mind with no plans of leaving.  I would struggle to find something familiar in my reflection, something comforting, but each time it was as if I was staring at a stranger in my own home.  My chest would tighten and my arms would begin to tingle.  Each breath suddenly required a massive amount of energy and effort to take.  My mind would start swirling and finally after all of maybe two minutes I would have to look away.  I would try to get a hold of my breathing as I walked away dizzy, nauseous and worst of all defeated.  All of these awful feelings just from looking in the mirror.  What a terrible way to feel.

During my struggle with anxiety I spent a lot of time thinking about myself.  How was I feeling?  How would I make it through the day?  Am I going crazy?  Will I ever get over this?  Should I get help?  Should I go on medicine?  There were many long days spent just thinking about myself, but at the very same time I was losing sight of who I was.  It’s a strange feeling when your own body feels alien to you.  I think strange is too lite of a word.  It feels terrible.  There were days when I wanted to rip my own skin off and run away from me.  How do you get away from the person you can’t stand when that person is you?

I knew that deep down inside, past the wild thoughts there was a girl whom I loved dearly.  I had known her once before and she was great.  On my journey to peace I was determined to rediscover myself and all the qualities I possessed that were beautiful.  Following my “epiphany” at the end of 2012 (see my next post for this), I began making it a point to stand in front of the mirror, relax my breathing, and really look into my eyes and see past the storm of uncontrolled thoughts.  I knew that if I did this long enough I would eventually find myself looking back.

As the days of 2013 passed I began to recognize the person in the mirror.  It did not happen quickly and it was by no means easy.  I was no longer walking away dizzy and nauseous.  I was walking away with a smile on my face.  This would be one of the hardest parts of my journey, but by far the most rewarding.

There is no better feeling than looking in the mirror and loving, not what you see, but who you see.

 

America’s Got Talent

agt

This week on America’s Got Talent there was a contestant who brought me to tears.  A 20 year old Anna Clendening walked out onto the stage and when she was asked what she did for a living she responded saying she didn’t work due to her current situation.  Her “situation” was that she had been suffering from severe anxiety and depression disorder for years.  It had recently hit her hard where she was actually bed ridden.

I have to admit that when she first said she didn’t work because of her disorder I thought, “that’s a cop out and she’s making excuses.”  Now I am someone who suffered from the same disorder for years and yet in this moment I was quick to judge her.  She then went on to explain and my heart softened and I began to appreciate her situation for what it was.  This girl was standing on a stage in front of thousands of people as she prepared to sing live.  There were no excuses there.  In the height of my anxiety I couldn’t even walk into a room full of friends without feeling like I was going to pass out and here was this girl staring her anxiety in this face and putting herself in such a vulnerable place.

Well needless to say she sang one of my favorite songs and if my husband wasn’t sitting with me I could have sobbed uncontrollably.  It was one of those moments for me where I felt so connected and moved by this person.  You could almost see in her eyes her own journey through anxiety and as she sang Hallelujah you could feel how much she meant those words.  It was the perfect song to represent someone’s struggle with anxiety.

Anxiety is so hard for people to understand, even those who have gone through it.  Never judge a person, instead listen to them and really hear their words.  Be there for them and hold their hand.

This girl is awesome.  Watch her performance and enjoy.

Panic Attacks!

panic attack

The definition of a Panic Attack: A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause.

I was a gymnast for about 7 years of my life and I have been coaching for the past 17 years.  I can honestly say that I am obsessed with gymnastics.  It has been my escape when I needed one and always a place where passion was birthed and fueled.

The American cup is an elite gymnastics competition held each year in March.  Some of the best gymnasts in the world compete in this meet and each year I have watched it on t.v.  It’s an awesome meet to see.  In March of 2012 I was able to attend this meet at Madison Square Garden in New York City, along with my coworkers and some gymnasts from the gym I worked at.  I was very excited to see this meet live and it was a day out on my own that I was looking forward to.  I had an almost 2 year old daughter at home along with my four month old daughter.  Mommy needed a day out.  As much as I looked forward to this day I was anxious about it.  A stadium setting seemed like a breeding ground for my anxiety.  There would be a lot of people, a lot of noise along with the travel into the city; all things that triggered my anxiety.

I cautiously entered the stadium hoping for the best.

By the time I settled into my seat my nerves were on edge.  I was on the slowest line ever to get food and that only allowed me more time to think about my anxiety.  There was a woman next to me on another line that was incredibly obnoxious and loud.  The man behind the counter was moving at snail speed and I just wanted to scream.  I sat back and tried to enjoy the meet.

The meet was really exciting, but somewhere in the middle a dark cloud crept in.  As I watched Gabby Douglas on beam my skin began to tingle and the hair on my arms stood on edge.  “Fuck!”  My heart started racing and my breath grew shallow.  A lump settled in my throat as I tried to focus my eyes.  I was dizzy and afraid that I was going to pass out.  The huge stadium suddenly felt the size of a shoe box.  I felt crowded and suffocated.  It was as if I could hear the conversation being had by each person.  I felt like everyone was screaming in my ears.  I panicked as my body tensed, bracing for some type of disaster to take place.  I moved around nervously in my seat hoping that no one would notice that something was wrong with me.  My gymnasts’ were talking excitedly as they realized that Nastia Liukin’s (she won the all-around gold medal at the 2008 Olympics) father was sitting in front of us.  As I was preparing for the collapse of the stadium, I grew fearful that I was having a heart attack.  I wanted to run away.  I would be so embarrassed if I died in front of my gymnasts.

As soon as I felt the embarrassment I was brought back to reality.  I am not having a heart attack and the stadium is not going to collapse, I am having a panic attack.  No shit.

I began to focus on my breathing and slow it down.  I told myself over and over again that I was not dying, it’s was just a panic attack.  I had been having panic attacks for about ten years so I should have known this easily, but yet each time I let my mind take over and convince myself it was something else.

By the time my heart returned to a normal pace I was spent.  My head hurt, my muscles were cramped, I felt nauseous and dizzy.  My body was damp with sweat and I gave in to the fact that I just let myself ruin the meet. I was ready to go home.

I left the meet a little early to catch the train.  I sat with one of my friends on the way home cursing myself inside my head the whole way home.  I was ashamed that after all these years I was still letting my anxiety win.

If you have never had a panic attack I will tell you this, they suck!

Ann Landers loses it……

My mother had always called me Ann Landers growing up.  She told me I was great at giving advice and that I could start my own advice column one day.  This is something that I would often dream about…..Renee LoDuca, the next Ann Landers.  I was the person my friends would always come to for help.  I even had my friends boyfriends calling me up for advice about their relationships.  I felt exhilarated anytime someone came to me with a problem.  I never liked the fact that people had problems, but I did love it when they came to me.  I LOVED to help people.

When I started suffering from anxiety the roles of my life reversed.  I was the one who now needed help and I didn’t know where to go.  At first I went to anyone who would listen, but as my anxiety grew worse I started to hold it inside more.  The way that I was feeling was starting to really scare me and I didn’t know how to tell the people in my life that.  I felt like I was on the verge of schizophrenia.  I couldn’t control my thoughts and it seemed as if voices were running rampant through my mind.  I felt afraid all the time.  Noises scared me, silence scared me, everything scared me.  My eyesight seemed to deteriorate, my breathing became erratic and painful.  My body ached all over and I began having random muscle spasms that would leave me on the floor unable to get up.  I developed a fear of food.  I was afraid of having an allergic reaction to something I ate so suddenly everything I put in my mouth made me feel like my throat was closing and I was going to die.  I later found out that I did have some food allergies (nothing that would kill me), and hearing this put me over the top.  Food became the enemy.  I had to eat to live so every time I ate a panic attack quickly followed.  I felt dizzy and lightheaded, like I was in a cloud all the time, a dark dark cloud.

A panic attack usually started each day and would end the day as well.  If you know what triggers your panic attacks you are better able to prevent them, but during this time EVERYTHING seemed to trigger an attack.  Some of the many things that would trigger my attacks were driving, going into a store, being still and having it quiet around me, being in a crowd, being in a tall building, flying, eating, scary movies, books, being one on one with a person, and the list goes on and on and on.  You get the point, I was a walking anxiety attack.  I remember  counting one day and I had 20 full blown panic attacks.  If you have ever had a panic attack you know how awful they are.  They leaving you feeling like a Mack Truck has just run you over multiple times and then the truck driver spits on you before he pulls away.  You feel really crappy afterwards.  I knew I was having panic attacks, but I didn’t truly understand them and I felt ashamed to talk about how bad I was suffering.

How does the person with all of the answers to everyone else’s problems not have the answers to her own problems???  I couldn’t let everyone know that I was falling apart inside.  I was afraid that if anyone really knew what was going on inside my brain that they would lock me away in a psychiatric hospital.  This was not the person that people were use to, so I put on my smile and walked around trying so hard to not lose it in front of someone; while at the same time just wanting someone to help me.  It was as if the old Renee was inside banging on my head screaming, “someone help me!  I need help and I don’t know what to do!”

straightjacket

Make sure to read my other posts.  See the top left tab to open the menu bar.  Enjoy the journey 🙂

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