Living with Anxiety

Anxiety is hard. Have a website filled with cute animals.

I may or may not have had anxiety all my life.  What I do know is that I’ve had identifiable anxiety symptoms since my dad was diagnosed with cancer while I was in high school.  (It will now come as no surprise to you that my anxiety, at it’s base, is health-focused.)

At first I didn’t know it was anxiety.  I was diagnosed with ‘stress,’ asthma, and ‘have you tried prayer?’ over the years.  It wasn’t until college that I learned the magic phrase ‘anxiety disorder.’  Turns out, having an overactive amygdala runs in my family.  I got myself into therapy (thanks free college shrinks!) and my wonderful, supportive general practitioner gave me a prescription for Lorazepam.  Between the two, my panic attacks, anxiety attacks, and general anxiety were brought down to manageable levels, so my diagnosis faded into the background.  The occasional panic attack still occurred, but once that I knew what they were I could ride them out.

However, my laissez-faire approach backfired fairly spectacularly almost two years ago.  After an extremely stressful engagement, I spent the first six-eight months of marriage gripped by a major depressive episode.  I spent days unable to get off the couch, hating myself and convinced that Kevin had made a terrible mistake in tying himself to a useless lump like me.   Panic attacks, anxiety attacks, depersonalization, insomnia… all of it was up for grabs.

Since then I’ve had to take a much more proactive approach to my mental health.  Some of what I’ve learned is ‘common knowledge,’ some are, I think, pretty unique.    Here are a few of the things that I have found helpful, I hope someone else will get some use out of them two.
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My Writing Sucks

About three years ago I quit grad school to focus on writing.  (And also my mental health, but that’s not the point at the moment.)  I had an idea, I had done all the research, I was ready.  And then I spent the next two and a half years working on this manuscript, laboring, tweaking, even going so far as to pay for a professional critique.  The critique came back with what I had suspected for a few months by that point- it was rubbish.  (I think that is an actual quote; I’m too much of a coward to go back and make sure.)

After that I hit a few months of depression.  I wanted to be an author.  But how could I be an author when years of work created drivel?  (Maybe that was it.  Still not checking.)

Then I remembered this video.  It’s from the Vlogbrothers channel about five years ago, while John was on his first paternity leave.  Strangely enough, it made me feel better.  And now, hopefully, I’m getting to the ‘slightly less sucking’ stage.  We’ll see!

What motivates y’all when you hit a writing pit of despair?

P.S.  My manuscript hit 50,032 words this week!  Huzzah!

The Perks of Living in Hawaii

I was going to talk about anxiety last week, but since i forgot to post and I don’t feel like doing that topic anymore, we’re going to talk about how lucky I am and how smug I am about living on the island of Hawaii.

Before our wedding two years ago, Kevin and I knew that we wanted to move somewhere new.  Because we dream big, we eyed a couple places outside the country- Italy and Scotland predominately.  Unfortunately, his work said we had to stay in the country, so that scrapped that plan.  Then one day, while I was doing something wedding related (probably folding flowers for our favors) I watched the movie Lilo and Stitch.  And it hit me.  Technically, this scene was what got me.  And that was it.

About six months after the wedding, we moved to Hawaii.

There are some downsides to living here- just look at our electricity expenses.  And basically everything we eat gets shipped over from the mainland, so if you’re planning on visiting make sure you take that “everything costs 1/3rd more here” seriously.

But there’s plenty to make up for that.

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See that blue line past the rocks?  That’s Maui.  You can see another landmass from my landmass.  How cool is that?

I’m not a particularly outdoorsy person, which on first glance seems like a problem for someone living somewhere that outdoors is kind of the only thing to do.  But what you fail to account for is my neighbor Ann.

Ann is very good at adventures.  She’s even better at sharing them.  Basically she’s that friend that you want to have who pops into your life and says “Hey, I saw this really cool thing.  Come on, we’re going to explore it.”

This weekend she took me to Kua Bay.  I don’t know why it’s called that, the beach’s real name is Manini’owali Beach.  It used to be 4-wheel accessible only but the government came in a couple years ago and paved the road down, so it’s available to Nervous Nellies like me.

Despite the signage on the path down to the water, Kua isn’t particularly dangerous in warm weather.  (In the winter, just about all the beaches here are dangerous.)  The sand is white and warm and the water is so clear that even when you can’t touch the bottom any more you can still see the ripples on the sandy bottom.

And splashing around out there, disturbing a turtle and the ubiquitous Yellow Tang, is how I got to spend my Saturday morning.  How great is that?

P.S.  My manuscript’s total word count this week was 48,071.

Writing and Music

I make it a person mission to write every day of the work week- it’s the only way I can justify to myself the fact that I don’t have a real, grown up job.  (Despite his reassurance, I still worry sometimes that Kevin might resent me for this freedom.  Luckily, he’s amazingly supportive.)

image from google
My husband, basically

Some days writing is easier than others.  Even if you love what you’re doing there will be days where you just don’t want to do it, right?  To help keep myself on track I’ve taken to putting on giant headphones and listening to music while I work.  However, what music keeps me motivated seems to change from day to day.  Sometimes I’ll work seamlessly for hours to Disney soundtracks, only to be thoroughly distracted by the familiar lyrics the next day.  Other times I’ll listen to soundtracks that don’t have words for the inspiring emotions they evoke, but eventually find them not distracting enough because they don’t have lyrics.

At first I dealt with the problem by making playlist after playlist in iTunes.  It got to a point where they stopped having proper names because I couldn’t define exactly what I wanted from them anymore.  I started off listening to ‘Wrock’ (that’s wizard rock, or music based on Harry Potter, for those of you who don’t know) and ‘Wordless Soundtracks’ and ended up with ‘On-the-Go’ 1, 2, and 3.  It was ridiculous.

That’s why I was so excited when I discovered the website 8tracks.

I’m not entirely sure how I found it- I think a friend might have shared a playlist on a social media site- but it was the highlight of my day.  You just put a word describing what you’re looking for into the search bar and it pulls up dozens of playlists that have been tagged with that descriptor.  If you want to narrow it down still further, you can.

Despite being a millennial I’m not nearly as tech-savvy as I ought to be, so I don’t use half of the website’s functions.  I do know that once you have a profile you can like playlists, favorite songs, and build collections of playlists.  (If you really like a song, they’ll tell you where you buy it.)  Since all the playlists are made by users I assume you can make and upload your own as well but I haven’t tried that out.  Yet.

There are a few restrictions- you can’t listen to a playlist in the same order, you can’t skip more than three songs an hour- but since they have no bearing on my usage I’m not bothered by them.  As a whole, I think this website is amazing.

Anyone out there have another tip for how to keep your mind on track?  Are any of you on 8tracks?  If so, let’s be friends- I’m BesstheKraken!