Making Some Headspace and a Meditation Challenge

Light at the end of the Tunnel

Being present. Living in the now. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

I will share more about this in the posts ahead, but for now all I feel comfortable saying is my anxiety has returned periodically in one form or another. As I look for new ways to address it, I have begun exploring meditation as a viable option.

My husband Jody joined the Headspace community eight months ago in an effort to work with anxious feelings of his own. If you aren’t familiar with HeadSpace, it is “a gym membership for your mind” or simply a course of guided meditation, delivered via an app or online.

When I found myself troubled with anxious thoughts or life issues in general, Jody would periodically say to me, “I think meditation could help you.” Being the stubborn Taurus that I am, I mostly rebuffed his well-intentioned suggestions, but could also see the positive effect Headspace was having on him. I decided to reserve the right to remain intrigued, but also aloof.

I continued to think about it. I read studies about meditation and anxiety like, “Research from 163 DIFFERENT STUDIES suggested that mindfulness-meditation practice had an overall POSITIVE EFFECT on improving anxiety and stress.” And, “Research in people with clinical levels of anxiety has found that 90% experienced SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS in anxiety.” From Harvard, a recent study by Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, found that “a mindfulness-based stress reduction program helped quell anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition marked by hard-to-control worries, poor sleep, and irritability.” Research from John Hopkins suggested the same results.

Eventually I decided it certainly couldn’t hurt, and I signed up for the Headspace free 10-day introductory session. I jumped in with both feet. The first day I did two meditations back to back, hoping that would help speed up my progress! (If I’m going to do something, I’m going to go all out. Go big or go home and all that.) I was tempted to do all 10 in a day if it would have made a difference, but after talking to Jody I decided that, much to my chagrin, slow and steady really is the trick with meditation. So I backed off to once a day.

I’ve been meditating using Headspace for more than 40 days now (mostly consecutively, but I have taken a some days off here and there). I’m currently 10 days into a 30-day program specifically for anxiety. I’d say I’m definitely still in the beginning stages — learning to quiet this mind of mine is not an easy task — but I am learning tools to deal with the mind chatter. I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I think this is/will be good for me.

For those of you who are interested, I’ll continue to keep you posted about how it’s going.

TAKE THE CDG MEDITATION CHALLENGE:

If you are interested in trying out meditation (for any reason at all – doesn’t have to be to deal with anxiety or depression), I encourage you to try Headspace‘s free 10-day introduction. (By the way, I’m not affiliated with Headspace at all.) It will give you a taste of what the program is like. And if you do try it, I’d love to hear what you think! You can leave me a comment below to let me know you’re in or feel free to email me. Either way, I’d love to hear about your progress. I’ll post again in a few weeks so that anyone who’s taking the challenge can share how it’s going for them! You are worth taking 10-20 minutes per day to do something positive for yourself!
Or maybe you have another meditation app or practice that you follow. I’d love to know that too, so please share with me. I’m always looking for new ways to challenge and better myself.

photo credit: Light at the end of the Tunnel-2 via photopin (license)

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The Apple Never Falls Far From The Tree

The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing,
we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger,
but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.
–Robert Cushing

It’s no secret that anxiety has played a big role in my life. It’s something I’ve blogged about time and time again over the past two-plus years as I diligently tried to find a solution that worked best for me and to let others who might be dealing with this know they aren’t alone.

Around the time when I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), I recall asking my (then) therapist, “Why is this just showing up now out of the blue?” And she replied that it was probably something I’d been dealing with for a long time, but it took time for the symptoms to compound in number and severity until I reached the point where I sought out help and was eventually diagnosed. At the time I wasn’t sure I believed it, because the whole thing still felt like it came out of nowhere to me. However as time has passed and I’ve reflected on various events in my life, I’ve come to the conclusion that anxiety is something I’ve dealt with since childhood — I just didn’t know it then.

This is where this blog post gets a little tricky for anonymity reasons. How much can I share without sharing too much? Ya see, I have my reasons to suspect that one of my children also is dealing with anxiety. I had hoped that this wouldn’t happen to either of them and certainly never expected it when they were still so young, but now here it potentially is — staring me right in the face (literally). And why should I be surprised, right? The apple never falls far from the tree and all that, but yet I sure hoped those apples would.

While there has been no official diagnosis, after talking to a friend, reading the book “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Anxiety,” reading the blog Child Anxiety Mom, and searching my soul, my suspicions have certainly not lessened. When I compare some of the things I did and experienced in my adolescent years with some of the things my child is experiencing/doing now (but at a seemingly accelerated rate than I did), it seems obvious to me that anxiety could be playing a factor. I won’t go into detail as I don’t think that would be fair to my little person, but if you have questions email me directly and we can discuss it further there.

I’m not sure what the next step will be, but this is a subject that certainly weighs heavily on my mind. Everything I’ve read says the sooner anxiety is dealt with, the better. And I believe the more I read, the more likely I will figure out what direction we should take. I’d been considering therapy, but perhaps other things — such as The Anxiety-Free Child Program or simply reading more of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Anxiety (I admit I just started it) or perhaps another visit to the pediatrician (now that I feel I have more pieces of the puzzle) — would be useful as well.

“Courage is saying, ‘Maybe what I’m doing isn’t working;
maybe I should try something else.’”
— Anna Lappe

Then again it’s entirely possible that anxiety isn’t what’s going on with my child or perhaps it is just one part of the whole picture. After all, I’m not a psychologist or doctor, yet I am a mom who knows her child better than anyone else. I also know what it’s like to live with anxiety and if my child is experiencing this, I want to figure out what’s going on sooner than later. I don’t want to just assume X, Y, or Z behavior is “just a phase” and it will pass or that he/she is simply acting out or trying to manipulate me. I’ll continue to do my research and try to get to the bottom of this. Nobody should have to live their life in fear.

Photo credit: apdk via Flickr

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HAS CRUNCHY DOMESTIC GODDESS RETURNED FOR GOOD?
If you are wondering if I’m back to blogging again on a regular basis, I have to say your guess is as good as mine. 😉 I will continue to write when I feel moved to write. Now that I’ve gotten my first “return from hiatus” post written, perhaps that will be more often. 🙂 Like I do with many things in my life, I will take blogging one day at a time. Thank you if you’ve stuck around in my absence. It truly does mean a lot to me. xo.

How We Came to Home School: Guest Post

I’m currently on hiatus from blogging (read more about the reasons why), but want to continue to provide interesting and insightful content on my blog in the meantime. For a while I will have guest posts from various bloggers interspersed with posts by me when I am moved to write. Thank you for your understanding. — Amy (CDG)

This guest post comes from a good personal friend of mine named Jen who blogs at The Evolving Homemaker.

How We Came to Home School

I had always been fascinated in the idea that kids could learn MORE than what they learned in conventional classrooms.  I think the first time I had ever heard about homeschooling I was in college and heard about a little girl who was attempting to fly across the country solo.  While the trip ended in tragedy, I started to wonder why it was we arbitrarily sent our kids to school and how much more excited they might be about learning, if they had a little flexibility, more time to explore things they were interested in, and more freedom to discover themselves.

As I was becoming a new Mommy, I thought for sure we would home school.  I had lofty dreams of how our days would be and how much smarter my kids would be than so many others.

Ahem.

And then motherhood gave me a reality check.  Toddler-hood.  Woah.  Would my kids learn from me?  Was I patient enough to teach them?  Patient enough for even the hard days? Was I creative enough?  Organized enough?  Would I be able to still do laundry, home school, and have any iota of a personality and passions to call my own?

Then I started being haunted by panic attacks.  I was under a lot of stress and doing a lot at the time.  I was volunteering, heavily involved in the political season, lobbying, and raising two small children and trying to be a ‘good enough’ house goddess too.  Whatever it is that looks like.

So I sent my son to kindergarten at a local Montessori that had just opened.  I was sure they would be able to do it better than I could.  After all, they certainly knew more than I did about educating young minds, this would be better for him.

Except it wasn’t.

He began to show signs of anxiety.  He wasn’t learning to read there.  I sat in one day to find him not partaking in the ‘works’ but playing ‘cars’ with the tape dispenser instead.  He didn’t like to go.  Every morning he would ask, “Is today a school day?” and if I said, “Yes.” he would yell, cry, and be mean to his sister.  He would come in the car in the afternoon like a pressure cooker and burst in a fit of energy.

With two weeks left in the school year, they told us he should be held back in Kindergarten.

We decided instead to try it at home like we always thought we would.  With both kids.

It has been fantastic.  And hard.  And scary.  And frustrating.  And fun.  They both have time to play, they are learning to read, and they are exploring their own interests.  We are all learning more about ourselves and our passions.  I am learning that I can do it, that doubt and fear are not infallible.  That I am a ‘good enough’ Mom, and that yes they need math, but they also need my presence.

I wanted to home school because I wanted my kids to learn to think outside of the box.  That life isn’t just about going to school, getting a job, and then working for 50 years, retiring, but all the while hoping you make it to retirement without a heart attack or cancer.  Nope, the marrow of life is at their fingertips any second they decide to find it.  That is what I want them to learn, that they are the creators in their own journey, and while we use some textbooks, I don’t think they need a textbook to understand that.

Jen Parsons is Mama bear to two babes 7 and 5.  While she would like to be better at parenting, crafting, farming, sewing, ceramic scouring, knitting, homeschooling, travelling, book writing, domestic laundering,  boxing refereeing, spousal engagement, etc., she is learning to realize she cannot do it all but blogs about the journey at www.theevolvinghomemaker.com.

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Emerging from the fog of depression

“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s been six weeks since I last blogged. Six. Weeks.

I’d like to say I spent the last six weeks doing something terribly exciting or productive – like taking a European vacation or building a chicken coop or perhaps an entire barn – but the reality is I didn’t do much at all.

I was tired.
I slept. A lot.
I couldn’t focus.
I existed.
I stayed afloat.
But most importantly, I began to wonder if something might be wrong with me.

I’ve been living with generalized anxiety disorder for a couple years now (at least since I was diagnosed), but I’ve never been diagnosed with any other mental illness. I may have had some situational depression in the past, but I muddled through and it always passed.

Although I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly for a while now — especially since my sister died — it wasn’t until I started talking with some friends that I realized I might be depressed. At my worst, I slept in four hours past when my kids got up because I just. couldn’t. get. out. of. bed. I took a nap one day while they played in the backyard. Yes, we have a fence and they were safe, but if something would have happened I would’ve been clueless. Despite thinking about this as I laid in bed about to fall sleep, I didn’t care. It was that feeling of being so tired I honestly didn’t care about my kids’ well-being that triggered something in my brain to think perhaps something was amiss. I’m not generally the type of parent who just “doesn’t care.” Sure I have my “bad” days like anyone else, but this was more than a bad day. I honestly was neglecting my kids on a regular basis and I didn’t feel I had the ability to do anything to change it. I felt lazy and like a failure.

I began to think perhaps I had anemia again since I felt so tired. As I did some online research, I began to look at possible reasons for excessive sleep. Depression popped up. Although I had several factors in my life that could contribute to me being depressed — my sister dying, my dog’s failing health for two weeks which culminated in having to euthanize her, and several other things that I’m not able to blog about — I figured since I wasn’t crying all the time, I wasn’t depressed. After taking a quiz from WebMD and receiving the results, “Your answers are similar to what individuals suffering from major depression usually provide,” I decided to talk to some friends about it.

“Take the first step, no more, no less, and the next will be revealed.”
— Ken Roberts

My friends — who’ve had experience with depression themselves — encouraged me to call my therapist and tell her what was going on — the sooner the better. I decided to email her and told her the same things I told my friends and that my friends thought I should contact her. She spoke with my doctor and they agreed that I was having classic signs of depression and suggested I increase my anxiety medication (Zoloft) by 50 milligrams. I was hesitant to increase it that much and told her I prefer to take an additional 25 mgs first for a few days and then do 50. She said she talked to the doctor and he didn’t think I would have any side effects since I already had the drug in my system and it would only help me start to feel better.

The next morning, which was March 21, I took my new dose. I also had acupuncture that morning (another thing I’ve been doing regularly to try to combat my migraines). I began to feel an almost immediate improvement in my mood. I was no longer tired all the time. I wanted to plan things to do with my kids. Over the course of the next week, I got out in the yard and did a bunch of clean-up work. I signed the kids up for swimming lessons. I began caring about my blog again. I got my hair cut (it had been more than four months since my last cut). I have the motivation to start exercising again, to cook dinner more regularly, to plan a family vacation, to think and care about the future.

I’m not sure when the depression started — it was definitely a gradual buildup starting after my sister died — but I feel so very fortunate I was able to recognize some of the signs and connect the dots with the help of my friends and my therapist. It had really gotten to the point where it was no longer manageable. Now that I’m on the right dose of medication for me for right now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t feel hopeless or simply disconnected from my life. I can live it again.

I’ve worried in the past about “needing” to take medication to treat my anxiety. It was absolutely not my first choice, but after trying many other things I realized it was the right choice for right now. I don’t know that I will ever go off medication for anxiety/depression, but that’s not something I have to worry about right now. Right now I know that it’s helping me be a functional person and an attentive parent and that’s good enough for me.

In the past week I’ve noticed a significant improvement in how I feel and am able to function. My days aren’t perfect now, but I’m not shooting for perfection. I am hopeful. I am finding more joy in my life. I am excited to do things with my kids again. I am excited for spring and gardening and baby chickens! I still miss my sister like crazy. I don’t think that will ever change. But I’m able to live. To quote Robert Frost, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”

I’ve added the symptoms of depression below. If you think you may have depression, I strongly encourage you to talk to your doctor.

And now for a bit of bloggy housekeeping:
Moving forward on my blog, I will have some guest posts from various wonderful bloggers while I continue to blog as I can. Just wanted to give you a heads up that it won’t be all Amy all the time, or as has been the case for the past six weeks, NO Amy all the time. 😉 I am grateful these bloggers have chosen to share their posts with me. If you have a post you think would work well on my blog, feel free to email me: crunchydomesticgoddess AT gmail DOT com. Thank you.

Detecting Depression from WebMD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) — or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

Photo credit: Flickr: jronaldlee and aidanmorgan

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No Zoo For You: Confession of an Anxious Mommy

Last week when I picked up my 3.5 year old son Julian from preschool, his teacher Miss G mentioned that she’d like to take the four children in the program on a field trip to the zoo or children’s museum the following week to celebrate the last day of school. I was immediately taken aback. My baby riding in a car on the expressway to a destination nearly an hour away with someone other than my husband or me? My heart skipped a beat.

I tried to play it cool because logically I knew that Julian would probably be just fine. Also it’s not like I don’t trust this teacher. She was Ava’s preschool teacher since Ava was three and became Julian’s teacher this year as well. She’s an amazing person and I have no doubt that she would take great care to protect my child on the field trip. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this just didn’t feel right. (It didn’t help that I’d recently watched a 7 minute video of horrific car wrecks that someone posted on Facebook. Why do I do this to myself?)

I emailed a friend who also has children at the preschool to see how she felt about it (and confirm whether or not I was an overreacting freak). She said she’d let the teacher take her kids on other outings before and she was OK with it. But she said she understood how I felt and encouraged me to tell Miss G if I was uncomfortable with it.

I thought about it some more and figured I’d just muscle through it. “Julian would be fine,” I kept telling myself. “I completely trust Miss G with him.”

I saw Miss G at the May Pole Celebration this Sunday and we were talking more about the impending field trip. I must have seemed a bit reluctant because she suddenly said, “I’m sorry, I should have asked you if you were OK with this. Are you?” I confessed. I told her I wanted to be OK with it, but the truth was that I wasn’t completely OK. She offered to let me go along with them, but due to prior commitments that day, I just couldn’t do it. I told her I would be OK and that the field trip was fine. Apparently I lied.

The next day my anxiety disorder – that has been for the most part under control for almost a year – kicked into high gear. My throat felt tight, like it was closing up. It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with, as it was one of my many anxiety systems when I was in the thick of the illness. I knew better than to get freaked out about it, even though it’s a very unpleasant feeling, and instead tried to figure out what could be causing it. Surprisingly, the field trip was not the first thing that came to mind. As you may know, we are in the process of selling our house and buying a new one – both of which are causing my stress level to be higher than normal. So I figured it was the house stuff getting to me even though nothing in particular had happened in the last few days.

I tried not to dwell on the anxiety, but the field trip must have been in the back of my mind because out of the blue I decided to ask Twitter (my favorite sounding board) at what age they let their child ride with another person (outside of family) for the first time and if they were nervous about it. I got a lot of feedback. Most responded that it was very hard the first time. Others said they hadn’t let their child ride with another person yet. Others said they do it and it’s fine.

It made me realize that even when my 5 year old was scheduled to go on a field trip with her kindergarten class (also to a destination nearly an hour away), my husband and I were OK with her going, but he was going to chaperone, thus ride on the bus with her and the class and be there for the whole trip. She ended up coming down with the flu and didn’t go anyway, but it made me think, “If I’m not OK with my 5-year-old going on a trip an hour away from me without one of her parents, why would I be OK with my 3-year-old doing it?”

I decided to talk it over with Jody Monday evening and we came to the conclusion that it was totally OK for us to NOT be OK with Julian going on a field trip an hour away when he’s 3 years old. If it doesn’t feel right and is giving me severe anxiety, then it’s not worth it, even if it does make me *that* overprotective parent.

I emailed Miss G and explained how I felt and even filled her in a bit on my anxiety disorder. I apologized for ruining the field trip, but said that I hoped they could still go somewhere nearby to celebrate the last day. She graciously responded and said they could walk to the nearby park instead and that she’d do the zoo trip the following day (on a day Julian doesn’t go to school). I was relieved.

I know there will come a day when I have to let my kids go, but for now I’m OK with the fact that this wasn’t the right time. I’m actively working on my issues again (I found a new therapist) and in time I will be able to continue to work through some of my fears. If right now my mental well-being is more important than a field trip to the zoo, so be it. I have to trust myself and do what works for me and my family. I am thankful I’m now at a point in my life where I can recognize where my fears are coming from and address them. I will get there, eventually.

–Progress, not perfection. —

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Reducing holiday stress for your kids

The holidays are supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” yet for many people they might as well be known as “the most stressful time of the year.” We often think of stress as something that only affects adults, but it can play a significant role in the lives of children as well, especially around the holidays.

There are a lot of changes to children’s routines during the holidays, from visits from unfamiliar relatives to traveling, from an influx of sweets to over-scheduled days and late bedtimes. All of these things can take a toll on the wee ones.

Rather than accept that tears, tantrums and troubles (which are all normal child reactions to stress) are a necessary evil of the holidays, you can follow some tips to keep your kids (and yourself) feeling a bit more carefree. I can’t guarantee there won’t be any tears or tantrums, but it will be less likely to be from stress and more likely to be your typical childhood tears and tantrums.

10 Ways to Reduce Kids’ Stress has some helpful tips such as:

  • Stick with the routine as much as possible. Keep stressful holiday shopping and eating out to a minimum; start preparing for Christmas early to avoid holiday anxiety.
  • Talk to your children about traditions and spirituality. If you believe in Christ, focus on the real meaning of Christmas – and trusting God. If you have traditions, explain why they’ve stayed in your family.
  • Bring a favorite blanket or stuffed animal if you’re staying with family over the holidays. A bit of home will reduce your child’s holiday anxiety.

Another tip they add that I think is really important (and often difficult to do) is:

  • Give ’em time – Allow lots of time so you don’t have to rush from point A to point B, unnecessarily stressing everyone out. Allow time for potty breaks, diaper changes, unexpected car sickness, getting out to stretch, etc.
  • Keep ’em fed – Pack lots of healthy snacks for the kids to eat while you drive/fly.
  • Keep ’em entertained – Pack a variety of toys, games, books, coloring books, markers (Crayola Color Wonder markers and books are great for travel because the color only shows up on the special paper). You can even wrap small presents for the child to unwrap on the way. You might also consider investing in a portable DVD player so the child(ren) can watch a movie here and there.
  • Keep a good attitude and your sense of humor and your children will likely follow suit.

There are more Tips for Airplane Travel with Small Children at Mother Words.

Another tip that I really like is to learn relaxation techniques with your children. This will serve you both well during the holidays and throughout the year. The article Holiday Stress! Are children affected? states:

Colds are contagious and so is stress. Children are affected by stress of their own and pick up on family stresses. This includes holiday stress. So how do we promote calmness in our family and increase our chances of staying healthy during the holidays?

The Mental Health Association recommends counteracting stress by maintaining a positive outlook, focusing on activities that take your mind off your worries and taking time to relax.

Instead of telling your child to go “calm down” this holiday season, I invite you to give them the tools they need to manage stress and anxiety. Introduce your children to breathing, visualizations and affirmations during this holiday season.

All you need to do is read a relaxation book to your child that shows them how to manage their own energy, stress and anxiety. Play a guided imagery CD that’s creates calming images. Sit down and write affirmations with your child. Make it fun by hiding your positive, calm statements in your pockets or under your pillows. Take time to look in your children’s eyes as they speak to you. Try it for 10 minutes a day. Sit still and hold their hand as you listen to holiday music. Watch the ripple effect of calmness as it makes its way through your family.

In Midwest Moms’ post How to Avoid Thanksgiving Stress, she has some suggestions on how to make introductions between your kids and unfamiliar relatives a little less stressful for the kids.

I have found it is best to give children a chance to “make friends” with new relatives in whatever way they are most comfortable. Sometimes that means that it will take time to warm up to someone new.

When you are introducing someone to your child, do so in a way that reveals important information about the new adult — not potentially embarrassing information about your child. Saying, “Aunt Doris used to fly airplanes!” can intrigue your child and get them to ask questions.

We usually make the introductions easier on our kids in two ways. We arrive early, so they’re meeting people one-at-a-time. And we arrange to meet relatives we know well and all walk in together. It can be a lot less intimidating to meet people when you are already surrounded by friends.

In Jolene Park‘s recent guest post on Mile High Mamas called Beat the Holiday Stress, she suggests the use of Rescue Remedy both for adults and kids (and even pets). Jolene notes, “Rescue Remedy is part of the Bach Flower essences, which are extracts from flowers and used to balance emotions. They can be purchased in any health food store.” Personally, I’ve used Rescue Remedy for both myself and my children and highly recommend it.

No matter what your plans are this holiday season, try to remember to keep your own stress level down and your sense of humor up and your kids will benefit as much as you will.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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Running and Recovery – Just for Today

About eight months ago I had a turning point in my life. Instead of hiding from and burying my fears – a trait I’d gotten very good at over the years – I began to learn to face them head on. In addition to therapy and medication, I recently discovered two more things I want and need to do to take better care of myself – the first is getting regular exercise and the second is attending a 12-step program (for friends and families of problem drinkers).

Photo courtesy of chriskoning_gr
Photo courtesy of chriskoning_gr

Knowing that exercise would be beneficial to both my physical and mental health, I decided to start the Couch to 5k program – walking/running sessions of 20 to 30 minutes three times a week, which allow you to work up to running a 5K at the end of two months. (I figure if I write about it I’ll be more likely to follow through with it, accountability and all that.)

I should stop here to say I am not a runner. I’ve never been very fond of running and recall dreading having to run “the mile” in gym class my freshman year of high school. I developed a pretty nasty case of shin splints (probably from running in Keds, but c’est la vie). However, recently I’ve been inspired by several of my friends, also in their 30s, who have taken up running. Heather and Nicole both just ran their first 5k – The Race for the Cure. Alison has also taken up running. Julie recently confessed her “drug” of choice in dealing with depression – exercise – and she ran a half marathon this past weekend. Then there’s Sonja my triathlete friend who’s ran, biked and swam in more races than I can count.

While running isn’t something I usually enjoy, I want to give this a try, a real try.

I did my first session early Sunday morning – a five minute brisk walk followed by alternating between running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds for 20 minutes. The weather was about perfect, sunny and warm, but not too warm, and it felt good to get out of the house alone, doing something good for myself. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible.

As I ran my thoughts wandered to the 12-step meeting I recently attended. I thought about the parallels between running and recovery – both my recovery from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and my recovery of being an adult child of a dysfunctional family and the relationships I’ve had with addicts over the years. Both running and recovery require patience. Both running and recovery require perseverance. Both running and recovery can be overwhelming at times, but you have to focus on one day at a time, one run at a time, even if it’s just for 60 seconds.

I did my second running session on Wednesday morning. It was the complete opposite of Sunday, rainy and cold. I wore my jacket with the hood up and gloves on to keep my hands warm. I stayed pretty toasty except for my legs, which froze. (I’ve since learned of base layer tights which I am going to have to buy, especially if I’m going to be running through the winter.) My glasses were covered in rain drops and fogged up as my body temperature rose. There were lots of fallen wet leaves and branches on my path. Again, it made me think about my road to recovery. Some days the sun is shining and the path is clear and everything seems right on target and other days there are clouds and fog, it’s cold and the obstacles on my path make it easy to lose my footing.

Whether I am running or working on bettering myself mentally and emotionally, the challenges will always be there. It’s not always easy. It’s often hard work. I can’t prepare for every obstacle, but I can learn to let go of my desire to control everything. I can go with the flow. I can do my best.

When I’m running, I try to concentrate only on getting through that particular 60 seconds of running. I don’t think about running a 5k in a few months. I don’t think about running for 10 minutes at a time or even 5 minutes at a time. I do my best to stay in the moment and focus on those 60 seconds. (It reminds me a lot of labor and giving birth actually.) Just like in my life, I can’t wonder what the future will hold, but I can live in the now.

There’s a daily meditation that’s part of the 12-step programs that begins “Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately (and in the past it would seem) and it really sums it all up for me. Yes, I want to be able to run a 5k someday, but just for today I will focus on getting through those 60 second intervals at a time. Yes, I want to be healthy emotionally and mentally someday and perhaps not need therapy or medication, but just for today I will stay present and do my best. Slow and steady wins the race.

Other women who have done or are working on the Couch to 5k (C25k):

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Why I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt & focus on myself & my marriage

Tomorrow I am dropping off my son Julian at his first day of preschool. He’s not even 3 yet – he’ll be 2 until the end of November. Sigh.

Although my heart wants to home school or unschool Ava, I’m not giving in and instead am leaving her in public school for kindergarten (in a class of 25 kids) this year. Sigh.

Why am I doing these things and going against my heart instead of following it? Because my head tells me they are the right things to do – for now.

I’ve spent the past five-plus years of my life pouring myself into my kids. They have been my world. Although intellectually I knew having balance in my life was important, I always seemed to neglect the idea. Instead of taking care myself or my marriage (things that would have required a good deal of effort), I distracted myself with my children. That’s not to say I regret putting my kids first because I don’t, but I wish that I would’ve found a way to make myself and my marriage a priority during this time too. My mental health has suffered. My marriage has suffered.

Many of you know I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder earlier this year. I’ve been going to individual therapy for months, as well as on a low dose of Zoloft. My husband Jody and I have also been going to couple’s therapy off and on for a few months. We both have a lot of work to do, and while I’ve doubted in the past whether or not we can make it, I’m feeling more confident that we can. It’s not going to be easy, but the things worth fighting for never are.

All of this to say that I’ve decided, after talking to my psychiatrist and doing some serious soul searching, that it’s time for me to stop focusing only on my children and time for me to focus on myself too. That means Ava will stay in public school this year and Julian will attend preschool (the same Waldorf home-based preschool Ava attended) one day a week. It will give me a little time to myself. I know the temptation to catch up on housework or waste the day away sitting on the computer will be great, but I hope to use some of that time every Wednesday to nurture myself (as well as volunteer in Ava’s classroom for two hours every other week – see, I can’t give up focusing on my kids that easily).

While this might not be exactly what I wanted or envisioned, it is what I believe will work best for us – for now. I will try to put my mommy guilt aside and focus instead on getting myself healthy and my marriage to a better place – both of which will benefit myself AND my children in the long run.

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Lookout BlogHer, here I…tiptoe (an intro to me)

BlogHer '09 In Real Life

Tomorrow afternoon I will embark on an adventure unlike any I’ve had before. I will kiss my kids and husband goodbye and travel alone (for the first time in more than five years) to the windy city of Chicago. I will arrive at the Sheraton hotel and likely not know what hit me as I join 1,500 other women bloggers for the sold-out Fifth Annual BlogHer Conference. There will be general sessions and break-out sessions, the community keynote, hugging, swag, friendships forming, more swag, networking, and more parties than you can shake a stick at.

I had been feeling really overwhelmed and anxious about it all, but honestly right now I am mostly just excited. This definitely isn’t something I do everyday and I’m excited to be a part of it all – to learn and grow as a blogger and to meet sooooo many women who, up until this point, I’ve known only virtually.

Yes, I will still be nervous and will be keeping my bottle of Xanax on hand just in case, but I am hoping I can push through the anxiety and turn it into an unforgettable experience.

Over at BlogHer, Denise recently suggested folks write a blogging primer on themselves as a pre-BlogHer get-to-know-you kind of post and here’s my go at it:

My name is Amy. I live in Colorado with my husband Jody (yes, he’s a guy) and our two kids Ava (5) and Julian (2.5). I’m currently a stay-at-home mom (hence the “Domestic” part of my blog name) and I also write as a contributing editor for BlogHer. I love finding new ways to “green” the way we live (hence the “Crunchy” party of my blog name) – from organic gardening to composting to cloth diapering to biking to using environmentally-safe non-toxic cleaners to making my own yogurt and granola (the best!) and much, much more. I like to post the occasional Green Challenge to motivate others (as well as myself) to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

I try to raise my kids using the Attachment Parenting philosophy, though I admit most of what I do is just parenting by instinct. I sometimes make mistakes though and am thankful that tomorrow is another day.

In addition to writing about parenting and eco-friendly living, I also enjoy writing about maternal health. I am a big believer in the power of a woman’s body (both to give birth and to nourish her baby) and I had my son at home with the help of my midwives.

I also consider myself an activist and most recently was involved in campaigning for Barack Obama and trying to get my city to allow backyard chickens. (I finally got the OK to get a permit!)

I grew up in an alcoholic family which is something that, after years of repressing, I am tackling head-on now. I kind of felt like I had no choice after I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at the beginning of 2009. There are a lot of things in my life I am tackling head-on now (thanks to therapy) to help myself be a mentally and emotionally healthier person.

I sometimes struggle with how much information to share on my blog. There is a lot that I want to share that I don’t feel that I can out of respect for others who are involved. However, I often find myself sharing quite a bit anyway (things about myself and my anxiety disorder) and feel comfortable doing so as long as it’s not going to harm anyone.

Anyway, I bring up the alcoholism in my family’s past because growing up in those kind of conditions definitely shaped who I am today – which is a mostly quiet, reserved person, at least until you get to know me (or I have a glass of wine *wink*). Sometimes people thing I am just being snobby or stuck-up because I don’t talk much (especially in larger groups), but I’m just shy like that. I prefer one-on-one or small group conversations to those with several people. I feel more comfortable that way.

I love to write and am also a photography nut (and did portrait photography professionally for a while), though I haven’t picked up my SLR in months. I imagine that I will get back into again someday soon. I consider myself kind of crafty, but just don’t have the time to do much. However, after Jody recently suggested I make my own business card holder for BlogHer because “it would be the ultimate crunchy thing to do,” I had to take him up on the challenge. I sewed that by hand last night with some fabric I had and I cut a button off an old shirt. 😉 It’s not perfect, but, provided it doesn’t fall apart, should work just fine.

My favorite quotes are, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi (I had that printed on some stickers I will be passing out at BlogHer) and “Knowledge is power.” I try to live by both of those mottos.

I’m looking forward to meeting many of you at BlogHer (tomorrow, eeep!!!). Please remember that if I don’t immediately jump into a conversation or run up and introduce myself to you, it’s not because I’m stuck-up, I just move at my own pace (though would welcome you running up to me to introduce *yourself*). 😉 If you have time, write up a “getting to know you” post of your own and then link to it over on BlogHer and leave me a comment here with the link too so I can read about you before I meet you. 🙂

And if you aren’t going to BlogHer (I will miss you!), but want to know what I’m up to (hiding in a corner? sneaking away for a nap? eating some Chicago-style pizza? partying with my roomie PhDinParenting?), I plan on tweeting while there so be sure to Follow me on Twitter. You can also search flickr for photos tagged “Blogher09” – maybe I’ll turn up in some. 🙂

Lastly, a big THANK YOU to my sponsor Stonyfield Farm for helping me with my trip expenses. If you are interested in trying some of Stonyfield Farm’s new organic Oikos Greek Yogurt, track me down at BlogHer and I’ll give you a coupon for a free container of it. 🙂

My road to recovery from Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety. It’s something that we all experience from time to time. Usually it’s a healthy response, a normal bodily reaction to stress. But for some of us anxiety becomes a way of life, a never-ending cycle of fear. One fear begets another fear begets another fear and it continues in a vicious circle, wearing us down, making us feel unable to cope or exist in a “normal” way.

Photo courtesy of BLW Photography
Photo courtesy of BLW Photography

Anxiety did that to me. I can say “did that” now because I am (finally) in recovery from generalized anxiety disorder. Notice I did not say I am recovered from it, but I am actively working on my recovery.

The thing about anxiety that I’ve come to accept is that it really is all about fear. People with an anxiety disorder often fear a lot of things, including that they are going to die. After all, this seems like a perfectly natural response when you are dealing with very real, often very frightening physical symptoms on a regular basis. There were a handful of occasions where my symptoms – heart racing, dizziness, tightness in my throat, tingling/numbness in my hands, feeling like I was going crazy or about to die (just to name a few) – were so severe that I seriously considered going to the nearest emergency room (and I know many people with anxiety disorder who do), but instead settled for calling the doctor on-call (after office hours).

I am very tuned into my body and any little (or big) thing I’ve felt over the past several months that was not “right” would lead me to believe there was something very, very wrong and if I didn’t find out what it was, I could die. This is why I’ve been on a quest having literally thousands of dollars of medical tests done (thank God for insurance) to prove to myself that I’m healthy. Because without that proof, I would always have some doubt in the back of my mind and play that most detrimental game of “what if” (a favorite of those of us with anxiety disorder) and the cycle of fear continue.

Does this make me a hypochondriac? I don’t know. It kind of feels to me like anxiety begets hypochondria or at least it has in my case.

Does the threat of being labeled a hypochondriac make people less likely to talk about their anxiety disorder? I would guess yes. Although I’ve had people comment on my anxiety-related blog posts stating they’ve dealt with anxiety too, it doesn’t seem like that many people are “out there” blogging about it. At least I had a hard time finding people writing about it. I think that’s due largely to the stigma attached to it and the worry of, “What will people think of me if they find out?”

The road to “wellville” for me (which has been a very slow process over many months) has been a mix of many things. I initially swore off medication, thinking “it’s great for other people, but not something *I* need.” I had planned to get better “naturally.” Medication didn’t fall into the “natural” category in my book. I worried about what kind of example I would be setting for my kids if I took the “easy” way out. Yes, that is kind of how I viewed it. However, after a couple of months of crippling anxiety and being at the point where I could barely function, let alone take care of my kids, I accepted that at THIS time in MY life, medication was/IS what I NEED. It took me a while to come to grips with that- that I needed a chemical substance to allow me to heal, but I’ve made my peace with it. I’d much rather be taking a medication and able to take care of my kids, than be stuck in bed or afraid to leave my house literally frozen with fear, wondering and waiting for the next panic attack to hit.

In addition to medication (Zoloft and very occasionally 1/2 of a Xanax), the laundry list of things that are helping me recover (in no particular order) includes: sleep, finding more time for myself, yoga, exercise, abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, educating myself by reading books and web sites about anxiety disorder – what causes it, who it often affects, how to deal with it, etc., seeing a therapist on a regular basis, reiki, taking vitamins and supplements, and reducing my commitments. It is my hope that by doing all of these things as needed on a regular, continued basis, I will eventually be able to go off the medication and live an anxiety-free life once again. The medication is just one of many tools in my recovery toolbox.

Recovering from anxiety has been the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced – far harder than going away to college or giving birth unmedicated to a 9 1/2 lb baby at home. And I don’t know that I will ever be fully recovered. I think it will be an on-going process for the rest of my life. If I slip back into old habits, I feel quite sure the anxiety would return.

Will this experience make me a stronger person? I don’t know about a stronger person, but I think it will make me a wiser person. When I am able to better realize my limitations and better care for myself, I am a happier person which can only make those around me happier too. And by knowing my limitations, I can better realize my potentials. The cycle of fear can be broken. Not effortlessly, not overnight, but it can be broken and there is hope.

I initially worried that by taking medication I would be setting a bad example for my children, but I now know that by taking care of myself (including taking medication), I am setting a good example for them. I am showing them that I believe I am important, that I value myself and my health. Nowadays I can have fun with them and laugh again and I think they find that matters far more than anything else.

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Cross-posted on BlogHer

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