Pulling The Plug on a Panic Attack

There was a time when panic attacks were a daily thing for me. At first, I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it wasn’t good. Because I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know what to look out for and I had no idea how to stop them.

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If you’ve ever experienced a full blown panic attack, then you know that shit is fucken scary – no joke. Everyone is different, but I think there are a bunch of symptoms that are common across the board, namely these:

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For me, it often felt like someone – or something – was sitting on my chest. I couldn’t take in more than a few little gulps of air, which only increased the panic. My P.A.’s would last anywhere between 30 minutes and well over an hour, with the eye of the storm typically keeping me in its clutches for a good 10 minutes or so.

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After figuring out what it was that was happening, I did some research and began to pay better attention to what was happening before the onset of the P.A. Sometimes there was an extended delay between what I think triggered the P.A. and when it happened, but that’s just how my body dealt with things at the time.

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After a few weeks of making an effort to avoid these debilitating episodes, the frequency began to taper off, as did the length of the actual attack. I still have one, now and again, but I’m happy to say that they’re much fewer and farther between.

 

Here are some things that work for me:

It’s really super important that you have a list of things that will calm YOU down, because what works for me, may not be as calming for you, and that’s the goal: CALMING.

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For this next one, you don’t have to do the naming what you see, feel, hear, etc., at first, so don’t stress about remembering that part. What I did at first was simply to start counting backwards, then forwards, then backwards, keeping my breathing as even as I could manage but focusing on the numbers – on counting.

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I always have a little vial of lavendar and/or rose oil with me. I put a few drops on my hands, rub my hands together, and then hold my hands up to my face and just breathe in the smell. You can use whatever smell works for you.

It really helps me to go somewhere that I don’t feel like I’m being watched or gawked at. I’d typically just go to the bathroom and sit in the stall for a few minutes, when I was at work.

What’s most important during a panic attack is to calm yourself down, so you do whatever works for you.

They’re scary and they’re fucken irritating, for sure, but they don’t have to control your life. That’s your job and your right. Think of this like a fire escape plan. Do the prep and practice work and I promise it’ll make a difference.

Take care of yourselves!!

XOXO

K

What My Dog Told Me About Me

No! My dog did not teach me to drive! In fact, she still refuses to learn. She just likes to sit behind the wheel because it’s where I’m sitting. Brat.

This is my dog, Darrell. (She’s a girl, please don’t make any comments on her name, she’s very sensitive about her facial hair and being mistaken as a boy….hahaha!)

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Darrell is far too frequently in trouble for doing something she’s not supposed to, such as “marking” the bathroom rugs that I just took out of the dryer and put back in the bathroom; rugs that had to be washed because she had done the same thing the night before, while I was sleeping. She knows she did something wrong, but she’ll pretend to be innocent until the moment she hears “that”  tone (my “scoldings” voice). As soon as she hears her whole name in “that” tone, she books it. It’s pretty funny to watch the change from “pet me, pet me, please, feed me, I want, can I sit on your lap, what are you doing,” which is what I imagine is the gist of her thinking most of the time, to “oh shit. She knows. Dammit. What gave it away? Shit! Okay, just act natural, Darrell, drop the eye contact and slowly turn around and then run for it! She’ll never catch you!” which is what I imagine her thinking to herself when she’s in trouble.

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FYI: her punishment is not corporal or physical, it’s geographical. She gets confined to the 300 square feet of the living room until I feel like she’s had enough time to think about  what she’s done. Which is usually about an hour or two.

I’ve realized that she got this sneak away and hide thing from me.

I mean, I don’t pee on my bathroom rug or chew up anyone’s shoes, but it is my first instinct to run away and shut myself in somewhere when my issues get to the “Overwhelm Level,” or Code Red. Like last week.

I wasn’t going to say anything about it, but then I told myself, “Kerissa, grow the fuck up! The whole point of talking about it is to fucken talk about it. Let people know that you didn’t become the Dalai Lama over the last year and that you’re not immune to “episodes” and bad days.” Yes, I did have a very snipe-y conversation with myself. Happens all the time. Well, not always the snipe part, but the conversations are daily. Hourly, even! Anyway, wrong tangent. Sorry.

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Last week I hit a little snag in my journey. It started with me being hit with a wave of grief that was very….uhh… all-encompassing. Grief is nasty in that it surprises the shit out of you sometimes – and those times are the worst. I was singing a song (remember, I LOOOOOVE Karaoke) on Smule and in the middle, with no obvious provocation or anything, I started crying. And I couldn’t stop. You know how crazy it is? This crazy: just sharing it with you right now, has me in tears.

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I can’t explain it, I don’t know how to and even if I did, I don’t know that the words would make it out. I will say that I know that my grief consists of not only missing my dad as I knew him, but missing him as I could have known him. See, I never got to have a real “adult” conversation with him. He had his first series of strokes when I was 21 – far from an adult. He recovered from that first round but had his second set just short of 2 years later, and that one took the first of his speech. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up until after his maladies had made it impossible for me to understand most of what he said (half his body was paralyzed about 8 years after that first series).

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It made me uncomfortable to not be able to communicate with him and not be able to fucken do anything to change that, so I visited him less and less. That was such an asshole move, I can’t even look at myself when I think about it. What a fucken joke – I was uncomfortable?!? I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself for being such an asshole.

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I won’t make you listen to any more of my “Confessions of a Sometimes Former Asshole” docu-series. But I know I had to include this part because this is the part that anyone experiencing any kind of emotional whiplash — like my potent and vicious mixture of grief/guilt that I think many of use experience when a loved one dies — this is the part you need to know: YOU HAVE TO FORGIVE YOURSELF. No, I don’t think it’ll be easy. Shit, it’s been almost 3 years and I’ve only recently admitted to myself that this is a factor in my life that is creating a crater.

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Just like anything else for us Uniflakes (no, that sounds wrong, okay, I’ll keep working on it), each of our solutions is unique for each of our unique mash-up of issues. And, honestly, I have no fucken clue how I’m going to pull this forgiving myself thing off. But I’m going to keep at it.

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How does Darrell fit in? Well, she taught me that as ridiculous and hilarious as it is to watch the change in her that I mentioned earlier, it is even more ridiculous and not hilarious at all for me to shut myself away in a dark room, in a dark place, rather than show anyone any of the feelings – my real feelings and risk the skin-peeling feeling of vulnerability that I absolutely detest.

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Now, that doesn’t mean I’m ever going to go broadcasting my current mood on the news – or even Facebook, haha – at any point, but it does mean that I am working towards being able to answer the phone even when I’m down and in pain – which I couldn’t do last week. I know, I know, it’s ridiculous!

And most of all, I need to let people who love me in. If for no other reason than because they loved him too and it could help them. That way I can justify it to myself. Hey! That’s how I have to go cause that’s how I roll! Ha!

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Anyway, I’m sorry this is such a long (and rambling) post, but I hope anyone reading this who has ever felt like they’ve “relapsed” knows that bad days are a part of life and while we can’t eliminate them completely, we can change how we deal with them. YOU ARE WORTH IT.

And so am I.

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I’ll never stop missing him, but I have faith that it won’t always hurt this much.

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Take care of yourselves, mon amis!!

XOXOXO,

K

 

 

The Peace Possible via Poetry

Journaling is something that’s recommended by most therapists and other healthcare professionals and I totally understand how it can help. Many of us with anxiety and other issues have a tendency to internalize things which can create an insidious internal inferno of lava-like emotions that, eventually, must be depressurized — somehow. There are lots of ways to deactivate before destruction and you don’t have to tie yourself to any particular method, but you should find at least a few that work for you.

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Journaling doesn’t work for me because I get too deep into one part of something and twenty minutes later, well before I’ve actually averted the impending eruption, I’m exhausted. I dug a little too deep where I didn’t need to and now I’m over the whole journaling thing. But just because journaling doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. You’re probably much better at focusing and maintaining said focus than I am. If you haven’t tried this particular method of avoiding a melt-down, try it! There’s no specific time or place, it’s all up to you. I’d suggest that you find a place where you can be comfortable and as secluded as is possible for you; where you’ll have the least distractions and interruptions. Once you’re comfy, just let it flow. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or even flow, shoot. Whatever comes out on that paper or screen (if you prefer to type) is just as it should be. You don’t have to apologize or worry about someone correcting or judging you, this is just for you.

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How are you feeling? Was there something or someone that triggered this feeling? Or maybe it was a place or an event? Is there something that you did or said that you wish you could change? What is it? What would you have said or done differently? Why would this have made things different?

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You don’t have to answer any of those questions, this has nothing to do with me. Write until you’re done. No one is keeping time or track of this, it’s whatever you want it be for however long you need it to be. Five minutes or five hundred minutes.

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Although journaling isn’t my preferred peace-finding tool, I love writing and I’ve found that poetry helps me put those pesky day-in-the-life-of-Kerissa demons to rest. I don’t usually do this, but I trust you, we’re homies, so I’m going to share one of my poems; one that may speak to anyone with self-image issues, like me. *deep breath* You absolutely don’t have to read it, the important part of today’s post was my sharing the journaling thing, so if you’re not into poetry or not interested in reading on, guess what? Nobody is judging you and you are under no obligation. Peace out and take care of yourself!!

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Anyone interested…here goes…

Terrorizing Trash Taken to Task

It’s just a mirror, I’d hear myself saying, just a harmless mirror.
It’s just a mirror, just some glass covered in plastic and recycled cans ground up into dust.
It’s just a mirror, some sad piece of various refuse that someone figured out how to make a fortune with.
It’s just a mirror, and its beginnings are as its ends — trash that became someone’s treasure chest and someone’s worst enemy.

When I look in the mirror, I see the 5–7 pounds of extra “I could stand to lose a few” pounds that remain pounds I could stand to lose, but generally just sit on.
And me, in my heart and soul and spirit, I don’t see a damn thing wrong with the junk in my trunk.
As I sit here writing this ode to things that have been, unquestionably, closer than they appeared,
I don’t have a problem with the cellulite on the side of my thighs, and my ass, if I’m being honest, either.
I can talk all this “proud to have some curves” talk right now because I’m in pajamas that are generally pretty lenient, scale-wise.
But as soon as I start my ministrations to face the general public, that’s when they come to life.
The first one, oh, she always has to have the first dig.
That nasty bitch that lives somewhere between my pajama happiness and the recycled trash covered glass that litters my apartment.
In her defense, she lives on Haterade and, in fact, is a proud spokesperson for it.
And the bitch has been starving for longer than she’ll admit without being held at gunpoint.
She’s the facet of my schizophrenic tendencies that loves to suggest, point out examples of, and then confirm that yes, those jeans make me look fat.
And so does my face, she cackles.
Bitch.

These schizophrenic habits, these unwanted commentators, these pains in my ass and the associated cellulite thereon,
they were originally taken in as a sort of “pilot program.”
Pretend versions of me but with other people’s preferred personality traits, you know, just to get my foot in the door.
My collection of mes, my schizophrenic entourage, they were supposed to raise my game, make me “trendy.”
They were supposed to enhance my reputation in “the network,” you know, so that my networking efforts didn’t cancel the premium channels and run me dry.
The now semi-permanent habits have staked their territory in my gray matter, with no thank you or gratitude for my hospitality.
Assholes.

Each of these delusion-loving delinquents has taken ownership of an area of my reality that was not for sale by owner.
Each one of the misguided miscreants pays homage to that pile of recycled trash covered glass all over my hard-earned walls.
Each one points out areas of concern with respect to their various areas of interest, from my huge feet to my wide nose and large cranium.
Each one of those pretentious pee-ons has no right and, dammit, no business, trying to usurp my sweet, unassuming and accepting pajama’s authority with regard to “Hot or Not.”
What was that, you little no-bodies? YES, Yoga pants are appropriate. I’m RUNNING errands.
Twerps.

Each one snickers loudly behind closed hands every time I get brave (or drunk)
(usually drunk)
and stand in front of the pile of trash in the designer outfit I got from the Big G, Himself.

It’s just a mirror…that has selfishly kept my true confidence hostage for more than 2/3 of my life.
It’s just a mirror that I’ve gauged my self-worth through, verdict being LACKING, 9.5 times out of 10.
It’s just a mirror that has no idea what a wonderful heart and soul and spirit and, dammit, a damn fine funny bone, are up in this bootylicious jelly friendly wonderland.
It’s just a mirror that keeps my cover up sarong covering up something it says is wrong and then says the similarity is no coincidence.
It’s just a mirror, just a trash talking pile of trash that’s only real claim to fame is a sad story about a girl taking a nap.
It’s just a sad piece of various refuse; a hunk of what was once just sand, covered in plastic and recycled cans that were ground into dust, like the sand that it started with.
It’s just a piece of furniture that was here when I bought the place.

Most importantly, it’s just that thing that lost its right to vote anything other than “Damn girl, you look fine.”

XOXO

K

Something Happens Inside: New Energy

My particular cocktail of personal issues include pairs that, on the surface, don’t seem like they could co-exist in one person without said person being completely batshit crazy (as opposed to the genteel “Just a Teensy Bit” crazy that most of us are, wink wink).

One of these Odd Couple of Issues is how I have less than ideal self-esteem and self-image issues, and yet still prefer, STRONGLY, to avoid being singled out in recognition for things I do at work or in any group setting, even family gatherings. Wouldn’t it seem like I would gravitate towards the recognition to help coax the fires of my esteem mojo? Drilling down into my perspective roots, I realized that recognition and reward are basically manifestations of intended compliments. I am lousy at taking compliments. Seems I’m not alone in that because, me being me, of course I googled it.

And here a few of my favorite results:

Psychology Today and this one

Huffington Post

Forbes

The Atlantic

 

If you’ve not heard of or stopped by Psychology Today’s website yet, allow me to introduce one of my favorite places to dawdle that consistently ranks in the top 10 websites I visit on the regular. (Psst…you can read all of their back issues, like the ones below, here)

What I didn’t realize until recently is that I’m actually on the normal end of the compliment acceptance pool, especially as a female. We’re the worst at accepting compliments. But guess what? The best at giving them.

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I used to think that I would be making other people feel bad if I was singled out in front of them as a sort of “winner” and I was afraid people would think I was conceited or a show-off if I didn’t brush it off with some lame way to downplay what was, really, my fricken hard work being recognized. Then one day I found this:

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I read this and I realized that by downplaying my own awesomeness, I was teaching others, by example, to do the same. Instead of this display of what I thought was humility, I was teaching self-oppression! That was so not where I had been trying to take people and after the day that I read this, I’ve made a conscious choice to accept compliments, especially when I know I deserve them.

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I’ll tell you what, though, it’s a LOT easier to take compliments and the like for things I DO, like work things – things that generally come straight from my brain, that is. It’s still a struggle for me to take compliments for my appearance or anything that I classify as originating anywhere other than my brain.

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But whenever I catch myself brushing off a compliment, I do my best to remember that it’s not being conceited and I don’t want to give anyone the idea that THEY should do that. I can’t always catch the brush-off before the words leave my mouth, but I’m working on it.

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I hope that you remember this beautiful collection of words by Ms. Williamson (it’s an excerpt from her book Return to Love). I read it almost every day and it’s etched into the walls of my judgmental mind as a permanent reminder.

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One of my rules of life these days is:

Always Shine. You never know who else is lost and may need your light to guide them.

Give ’em some light, show ’em how it’s done.

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Take care of  yourselves!

XOXO

K

 

 

 

Songs in the Key of C

“C” for “Coping” or “Calming” or “Cheering” or even “Crying,” if that’s what you’re most in need of.

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Yes, Cookie, “C” is also for “Cookie” and we all need one of those every so often, eh?

Music is so many things to me, for me, about me.  I hear music and I hear a story about someone’s best day, or their worst day, or their douche of an ex-boyfriend or cheating ex girlfriend. I hear the joy at seeing their baby for the first time, or the bittersweet reminiscing of a dad about to walk his baby girl down the aisle.  I hear the pain of losing something or someone you thought was your life. I hear the happiness and wonder of first love and new love and old love and jungle love and…okay, that’s enough, I’m sure you get the love about the love.

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I hear these stories and my ears transmit them to my heart, so I don’t just hear the stories, I feel them. The music wraps me in a moment and transports me, and I’m there, feeling each of those feelings, and they become mine. I’m taken somewhere outside myself that’s deep within me.  I know, it sounds like new-age BS “somewhere outside that’s within,” but it’s true and that’s the best way I can describe it.

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I know, I’m waxing poetic, I can’t help it 🙂 Anyway, I had a “DUH” moment the other day when I happened across this wonderful post by my new WP pal J.E. Skye. See, music has always been a staple in my life but I never appreciated it more than when I realized that it is, for me, the best kind of therapy. J’s post reminded me that I’m not the only one who does and can benefit from music.

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For me, any situation involving crowds kicks my anxiety into high gear and, in this area, my anxiety typically manifests itself as extreme agitation and a feeling akin to claustrophobia — too many people, store aisles that feel too narrow, exits that seem so far away, etc. This is why if you ever see me in public – whether I’m shopping, working out, going to the bank, checking the mail, whatever – 9.99 times out of 10, I’ve got my headphones on.

 

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It’s like I get to set the music for the world when I have my earphones on and therefore, the world outside is not too much. I think it probably has something to do with my control freak issues, haha, but I accept that because it’s what allows me to continue (hey! another “C”) living my life while I’m working on my overall balance.

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In this world where there is so much…ugliness and waste and hate, music reminds me and my issues that with the bad, there is so much more good.  So, so much more. So the next time you think you’ve had it and you just can’t win and why is the world so (fill in the blank, but in this case, it’s probably a negative thing), and you just want to give up because you feel like you can’t win, or you feel your anxiety bubbling at the brink of eruption, and/or uncomfortable in any way, go find your favorite song, put on some headphones (or put it on the radio or in the car, up to you), and put that song on repeat. I’m sure you’ll feel better, lighter, and like you’ve got another round in you after a few loops.

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May I make a suggestion? Like J did and I’ve done, round up a playlist of songs that make YOU feel good, make you smile, lift your spirits, and try pressing play on that awesome list the next time you’re feeling uneasy or in any way “not right.”

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Okay, I know this is getting way long, but I want to share a beautiful quote that I think is perfect for this topic. The irreplaceable and immortal Maya Angelou says  “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”  

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My interpre-rambling is: Don’t get down on yourself or your life or the world, just because you don’t have the answer to every question that pops in your head.  Really, that just means you don’t know how to Google. Message me, I’ll give you some pointers.  Just kidding! I mean, I’ll happily give you pointers, no joke there. Just joking about being able to answer ALL of life’s questions via Google.  Most questions – yes. ALL questions – inconceivable. There’s only one G that can do that and it’s not Google.

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Oh wait, wait, one more thing (promise this is it!)! One of my favorite people that I’ve never met, Rabbi Brian, wrote a book that I read (and highly recommend for anyone searching within for their spirituality’s sake), called My Fun Theology Workbook. There are so many parts that I highlighted, where I laughed, cried, and connected with. But one particular part, in the beginning, as RB is encouraging you to find your spiritual voice, he quotes a line from Psalms as a way of explaining what your spiritual voice is and how its development can assist you. He says, “I want you to develop your spiritual-religious voice so that you can – in the words of the Psalms – ‘sing a new song to God.'”

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That really touched me because, to me, singing a new song to God means finding joy in life and sharing it. I’ve realized that’s part of my life’s purpose: find joy and share it. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. Just like you are!

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XOXO-

K

Panacean Philosophies

pan·a·ce·a | panəˈsēə noun (pronounced PAN-UH-SEE-UH) 
  • a solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases. “the panacea for all corporate ills”  synonyms:  universal cure, cure-all, cure for all ills, universal remedy, elixir, wonder drug; informal: magic bullet | “a panacea for the country’s economic problems”
Don’t feel bad, dude, I had to look it up to make sure I was thinking of the right word and I only know the word because there was a phase of my life (I think it was 4th and 5th grade) where I was all about mythology and there’s a God named Pan and– nevermind, long story, not immediately relevant here. Moving on.
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So remember when we pledged to be Snowflake Unicorns? Okay, “pledged” may be too strong a word, but you know what I mean. Fundamentally, Snowflake Unicorns: a) invented “cool”; b) have their own individual secret and unique combination of issues as well as super powers; and c) require a recipe for balance that is specific to each of us.
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As a SnowUni (←no? not cool? well, make a suggestion, please – help your girl out, here), you’ve likely heard many things that point to the opposite of these 3 fundamentals. You’ve been put in a box with a label that might speak to a part of your issues but doesn’t address all of them and doesn’t feel like it’s…right. Right?
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I don’t just mean being labeled as someone with an anxiety or other psych “disorder,” I mean in all areas of life, like being put in the woods section of the band when you know you belong in percussion. Or being made to wear a cute little pantsuit when you knew you’d rock it harder in a gown or vice versa. Or being made to feel like your brainpower isn’t as powerful because you have a va-jay-jay. This post is intended to speak to that, and when I say “that” I mean the sometimes well-meaning but usually misguided and way blown out of proportion Panacean Philosophies of the world.
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I hope that at some point in your life you’ve heard someone say, whether directly or in passing or on TV, that you are special and there’s no one else like you. If not, please allow me the extreme privilege…
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Now that we’ve got that out of the way, as a one of a kind wonder, you’ll have to put up with people who don’t get it or maybe they’ve never been told about their own one of a kind wonder-ness! Whatever the case may be, generalizing is something that’s done in every part of the world on every level and in pretty much any way you can think of. Is it right? No, but it serves a purpose. Generally. Hahaha! Okay, not that funny. But for real, generalization started as a means to provide a basic solution for the masses because, well, sometimes it was because there just wasn’t the ability to easily access each person in the group that would be affected, sometimes it was because only a few people would raise their hand and say they were affected. Unfortunately, what it seems to have become in today’s world is something that’s done because of some rich assholes who make a better profit by generalizing and don’t give a shit how that really helps. Sad, but true.
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But you know what? Don’t let those assholes win. Don’t be discouraged because what’s supposed to work for “everyone” doesn’t work for you. Drop the zero and be your own hero because you deserve a happily ever after. You just have to keep in mind and heart that happily ever afters aren’t promised, they’re sought after and hard won. But totally possible. Remember the first step is to figure out what your truth is.
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P.S. It took me 36 years to figure mine out, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes you more than an hour 😉 You’re worth it.
XOXO,
K

K.I.S.S. IT, Kerissa

I’ve been trying to put together a well-thought out and planned release schedule, you know, what I should say first, and then next and then next and blah blah. I still plan to generally follow a tentative guide, just to make things easier to process, but I’ve learned that I need to K.I.S.S. (KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID) more than just frogs to find my happy ending. SOOO, I’m going to start with something that helps me everyday, that I think can bridge any gaps between my unique combination of anxiety and yours. What is it? This:

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to succeed.  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I know you can think of at least one life that has breathed easier, even for a second, because of you. It could be a family member, a customer, a significant other, a friend – they ALL count. This quote reminds me to appreciate the gift of success that’s given each time I make someone’s life a little brighter. Like the cashier at CVS that I made smile and take on a well-deserved preen by complimenting how quick she is and how I could never deal with rude customers with such grace. See, the guy in front of me was a dick that particular day and I would’ve totally read him a page from my Nasty Bitch chronicles, but I thought it was important for her to do it on her own, so long as he didn’t get loud. She was still so nice to him, that asshole, but I could tell she was very uneasy afterward and I could just imagine what I would have been feeling after that. I left her laughing by saying that I would have told him to go fuck himself, but then I probably would have gotten fired.

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Right there, I helped her breathe easier because instead of keeping her brooding about what a jackass that guy was and wondering if she should have said something more forceful or done something different, her grace was acknowledged, appreciated and exalted. In just a few sentences.

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Okay, I know, you’re saying, “Yeah, that’s a real cute story, Kerissa, but wtf does that have to do with my anxiety and why would it help me to remember this?” Well, chances are that if you live with, let’s call it “excessive,” anxiety, you also live with self-image and esteem issues. For various reasons, you think you’re not good enough or didn’t do enough or have to do more in order to be worthy of other people’s esteem. That’s certainly the case for me.

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I have spent most of my life chasing after approval I didn’t really need from people whose opinion wasn’t important – not then and certainly not any amount of time later. I don’t know, for sure, how it started, but I’m almost certain I created it because it didn’t start at home. My parents were and have always been proud of me and said so, even when I was a damn delinquent with truancy issues.

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No, I think the potential for anxiety overload was already present in my personality and as I got older and made mistakes and bad choices, like everyone does in life, it was ME that took those mistakes and magnified them, then proceeded to carry them around like invisible boulders. I lived in constant fear that someone would see them or find out about them and then…well, I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I told myself I didn’t want to find out.

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Over the last year, I finally asked myself why I thought people would react so terribly. At first, I was afraid it was because I was actually an asshole. For real! I was afraid that, deep down inside me, somewhere I didn’t know or want to know existed, I thought I would react terribly if I were the other person. It took me a few weeks to move on to the next step, but finally, I searched myself and collapsed with relief when the Asshole Bone was not found. So why did I think that everyone else must have one and would therefore react terribly or shun me or something? Well, obviously I’m still hashing this one out because I’m not going to list all the mistakes I’ve made here, haha!

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Turns out….

I’m a “work in progress,” and I probably always will be, but now that I’m conscious of my tendency to immediately assume I need to be twice as smart, work twice as hard and be twice as charming as anyone else in order to make the cut and gain their approval, I nip it in the bud. I take it step by step and I don’t let my instinctive approval-seeking mannerisms take the lead and steal my thunder — or my self worth.

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Everyday I tell myself that I don’t need anyone’s approval or confirmation that I’m enough because I am, period. I’m straight enough with myself to admit that I still want the approval of people, especially those I care about or work for, but as far as who I am as a person, approval is absolutely not necessary.

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NOTE TO SELF:

The quote I shared helps me to justify this to myself. If you have anxiety issues like me, you’re a lot more likely to understand how significant that is. If you’re scratching your head, what I mean is that when I’m telling myself I don’t need anyone’s approval each day, another part of me is hating on that idea and shooting it down, sometimes by mentioning recent bad calls I’ve made, and this quote triggers another part of me (I know, I know, schizophrenic much, Kerissa?!) that chimes in with things like the CVS cashier story and rallies in support of my being enough.

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My truth is that I LOVE making people smile. I can’t stand bullies and I consider any intentional unkindness, like that guy in front of me at CVS, akin to bullying, and I don’t have a problem saying something when I think it’s necessary. Remembering this helps shut that little hater inside me up. Temporarily for now, but that bitch’s days are numbered, haha!

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What’s your truth? What truly drives you and why? I think having a good idea what your answers are is a great first step towards balance. And balance should be all of our goals. Not being better than we were or as good as someone else, just balanced.

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If this elephant can do it…I mean, really?! HAHA!

So that’s it for this installment. I sincerely hope that you find some comfort here and that you know how amazingly special of a person you are.

And I’ll leave you with this, from one of my favorite authors ever:

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Take care of yourselves!!

XOXO,

K

Unicorns and Snowflakes

Okay, now that you’ve got my basic history, I think the next important thing for me to put out here is that you and I are completely different people. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “uh, yeah, thanks Captain Obvious.” Hear me out, because I know it seems like an obvious thing, but the reason I’m making a point to point it out is that I want you to always keep that in mind whenever you read something I share about what I tried and what does and doesn’t work for me. Key words: FOR ME.

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Each of us are like a super secret recipe. God doesn’t do cookie cutters.

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I know I put “snowflakes” in my title here, but between you and me, I don’t know about the whole “no 2 snowflakes are the same.” I’ve never actually touched a snowflake and I certainly haven’t done any research into that claim, but the general understanding of that particular idiom is absolutely appropriate for us here.

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I’d love to say we’re unicorns, but then wouldn’t I be saying that we’re either mythical or just extinct? Too much analysis, I know. Story of my life. I love to think I’m a unicorn. So let’s just say we’re Snowflake Unicorns. Who’s gonna stop us? HA!

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You know what the funniest thing about this meme is? I didn’t make it, it came up when I googled “snowflake unicorn”!! That means it IS a thing! Okay, no it doesn’t, but it DOES mean there are others out there, haha!

As always, I’ve gone off on a tangent, but you know what? I’ve learned to appreciate the renewed mental freedom to do so. There was a time when my tangents were almost extinct.

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What I’m hoping to get across here is that you, me, and every other person out there, are unique. And because none of us are exactly the same, there isn’t just one single, cure-all solution for our personal issues. What works for me may not work for you, but that’s as it should be. Your solution will be tailor-made for you — customized exactly so just for you because you deserve a solution that addresses everything YOU need it to.

I know I may be beating this point to death, but I just want to make sure that you remember that you’re so special that you must have your own specific solution and that you aren’t discouraged if I say “oh, I just love making jewelry, it calms me down and makes me feel less stressed,” and you think jewelry making is stupid or tedious and it doesn’t help alleviate your anxiety at all. That’s okay! So jewelry making is not for you, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something out there that can be for you what jewelry making is for me, because I’m absolutely sure that there is.

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I’ll be sharing things that did AND didn’t work for me. I’m sharing what didn’t work for me because it could work for you. Try it! Just because I say it didn’t work for me, doesn’t take it out of the running. If I tried it,that means that I read something somewhere that I thought made sense (trust me, I’m quite the skeptic, so if I tried it, whatever I read was very convincing). I’m going to do my best to provide links, whenever applicable, to where I found an idea that I tried, so that you can check out the actual source for yourself, but honestly, I didn’t keep track of most of them. BUT I think I’ll be able to find most of them again. Research is my middle name.

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Just kidding, I don’t have a middle name, haha! But if I did… it would be something Samoan. Probably.

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Okay, so we’re clear now, right? I mean, you know that your recipe for balance is going to be one of a kind and probably not exactly the same as mine or anyone else’s. And that’s absolutely cool. We’re Snowflake Unicorns, remember? We invented cool.

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Take care of yourselves. And in parting, I leave you with this:

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“Anxious” Just Doesn’t Do It Justice

The word “anxious,” to me, brings a mostly positive image to mind. Like when you’re anxiously awaiting a phone call from your sweetheart or your test results or that call from the company you just interviewed with. Not to be rude, but “anxious” is way, WAY too, well, “soft” a word to describe my anxiety issues.

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If you are one of the billions of people who didn’t catch my last post: Hi 🙂 My name is Kerissa and I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is pretty much a “catch all” for anything that doesn’t fall within the set parameters of GAD’s fellow disorders, which include the likes of OCD, PTSD, IUD (just kidding – oh, for any guys reading, IUD is actually a birth control method), and all the fun phobias you can think of. After learning that 2 of my nieces were also dealing with similar issues, I realized that what I’ve learned since being diagnosed could possibly help one of the millions of people out there, someone who may not even realize what they’re experiencing. I know I didn’t.

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OK, now that we’re all caught up, I figured I should start with my story (very CliffsNotes, I promise) as a foundation for this “series.”

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I was a workaholic. I would never ever have described myself as one, but then again, I would never ever have described myself or thought I would be a control freak. Surprise! I mean, I wasn’t BORN a control freak, quite the contrary, but I became one because I told myself that it was necessary in order for me to keep up with “my” responsibilities.

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I realized I was a control freak about 4 years ago, but I thought it was okay because my job, the vast and varying intricacies and nuances of it, required a very tight reign. So, yeah, okay, control freak, I know, but workaholic? Me? No way. Oh wait. Yes way. I was either at work, at home doing work, thinking about work, at the gym, getting drunk or passed out. Seriously.

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The first of the conscious dominoes that fell was the passing of my dad in May 2015. I mean, it wasn’t his passing, he had been in deteriorating health for 14 years and I would never wish him back in the state that he left this world. I truly am happy that he is now without pain and can be and do all the things he was exiled from due to his immobility and other shitty unfortunates. It was my stubborn decision not to deal with my feelings after he passed that led to my having, basically, a breakdown. It wasn’t a “nervous” breakdown, it was an everything breakdown. Not just nerves, not just mental, not just physical, not just emotional; everything. It was not pretty.

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Sidenote: Is ANYONE a “pretty” cry-per, like ANYONE in this whole world? Because, I mean, I am not. I won’t subject you to a hideous picture of me during or post crying, don’t worry. But I will share this with you – it’s a screen shot of what I got when I googled “ugly cry” hahahaha 🙂

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I don’t know what your situation is with regard to your religious or spiritual beliefs, but for me, I think that God (as I understand Him, completely respectful of all other understandings) looked at me, shook His head, sighed and started pulling the plugs on everything that was overloading me. Seriously. There’s no other way to explain the sequence of events that happened since that first domino fell. Even today, when I look back, I am absolutely certain that it was Divine Intervention. And everyday I thank Him for it.

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The actual catalyst for change didn’t hit until just over a year after my dad left. In July 2016, in the first week, I got in 2 car accidents – 2 within the space of 3 days. I was at the end of my rope, I had already run headfirst into The Wall of Overwhelming, but I was still telling myself I had to hang in there just for a little longer. Then on July 19th, my family experienced a huge loss and I experienced a huge barrel full of ice-cold Wake The Fuck Up, Kerissa. (But no one was laughing behind me)

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I remember that night. I was trying to finish some crap for work and my phone started buzzing. I looked at the caller ID and rolled my eyes, irritated by the interruption. I’m an asshole because the caller ID said it was my mom. I didn’t answer. I finished that stupid meaningless fucken report for work AND THEN called my mom back. As soon as she answered, I could tell she was or had been crying and I immediately shot into a panic, followed by a plunge into – there’s no other word that works here, but sorrow – as I heard her say that my sweet, albeit troubled, 19 year old nephew, had hung himself that morning. Cue the water works. That was the straw for this camel’s back. A few months later, after another fucked up email from my boss which had me sitting at my desk in tears, I walked out of that office and never went back. Best decision I ever made.

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Okay, not financially, but I would describe it like one of the MasterCard commercials. Mortgage: $1,987.00; Car payment: $453; Monthly Costco Receipt: $525; Other bills: A LOT; Mental Emancipation: Priceless.

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So that’s what was happening outside, but what was happening inside was even more alarming. I can’t even say for sure when my stress levels reached the red zone, but I’m pretty sure it was way before my dad, I was just too busy to pay attention to myself and just active enough to let off enough steam to keep my stress tank from exploding. I had my first, what I now realize was a panic attack on my birthday, which is in August. The first birthday after my dad passed. I don’t even remember what happened. I felt tingly, short of breath, and my neck hurt. I remember standing up to stretch and that’s it. The next thing I knew, my boyfriend was yelling at me to wake up and I had the worst headache. Oh, and my chest felt – bruised. My boyfriend had been there, sitting next to me, the whole time. He said I was crying and wouldn’t talk to him, just sobbing. Then I started hyperventilating and he panicked but I couldn’t or wouldn’t talk to him and then I collapsed. Oh, and I never got up to stretch like I thought I remembered. Weird, right?

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After that dam broke, the migraines joined in. Right above my left eyeball, in the brow bone. They were monstrous and fucken frequent, too. I got one, at least, every other day and nothing helped but taking a walk with my headphones on. Dude, I was miserable. That was the darkest time in all my life.

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Okay, I have to stop talking about this for now, it’s totally bumming my trip right now and I’ve learned that I can stop most of the melancholy-ish crap if I just stop thinking about it. Easier said than done. I also learned that singing is my whatever the opposite of kryptonite is. So I’m going to leave this story here for now and go sing some karaoke on my new favorite app – SMULE, Sing it! For anyone who’s also musically inclined in the vocal arena, it’s a free karaoke app. I love it. Oh, and I’m Assirek2L2Q if you decide to check it out.

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Take care of yourselves. I’ll be back. (Imagine me saying it in the Terminator- Schwartzeneggar voice, it’s funnier).

Oh, and before I go, remember this:

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Truth & Trappings

When my brain first started percolating on the idea of a blog, I was SO excited. I mean, I love writing, I love telling stories, I love the idea of sharing stories across the world (potentially, haha) and I love the idea that I could speak my piece about, well, whatever. I still love the idea, but I unfortunately did not end up doing that – speaking my piece about whatever, I mean.

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See, I did research prior to starting my blog, cause that’s just one of my “things,” and over and over I kept reading that I had to have a “niche.” I couldn’t just write about whatever I wanted, I had to decide on my niche and stick to it. With no experience to contradict the overwhelming majority of sources that spoke of the mandatory “niche,” I reassessed and decided that, above all, I wanted to help people. I wanted to make people smile. I wanted to be a place where anyone who stopped by would feel welcome and included and could relate somehow. I wanted to share my spirituality and my faith and my understanding of love. I still want all of those things, but I recently and very unexpectedly, was hit in the face with how I could actually help people.

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I say “hit in the face” because it’s been here all along.

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I say “hit in the face” because part of me feels like that’s what I deserve for choosing not to see it until now.

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I say “hit in the face” because I walked right into the wall surrounding the eye of the storm in my niece and I hadn’t even seen the clouds.

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I say “hit in the face” because I’d really rather be hit in the face than open myself up the way this method of “helping people” requires of me.

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But I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it right now. For my nieces. For anyone that might find comfort or aid in what I have to share. For myself.

I know, I know, that was a WHOLE lotta preface, I bet you’re thinking whatever I say next will be anti-climatic, at the most. Right? Well, that’s up to you.

*AHEM.

ANXIETY

I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (“GAD”) in December 2016. GAD is kind of like the “catch-all” disorder amongst its peers, which include PTSD, OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, and the various and plentiful phobias. Unfortunately, GAD is so “generalized” that it does nothing to help me convey what I experience to those who are in some way affected by it. Or to myself. So, me being me, I embarked on a crusade to figure out how to manage whatever this is and help my loved ones understand and do the same.

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Over the last year, I have done quite an impressive array of experiments, tried SO many different methods from every part of the spectrum of “wellness,” or whatever you want to call it, and I have read every piece of information I considered viable. I have certifications achieved through courses I’ve taken regarding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness, Essential Oils, Healing Crystals, Chakra Balancing, and a few others of similar subject matter. Mmmhmm, that’s right, I don’t bluff, I gets to the learning straight away 🙂

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BUT, one of the things I haven’t done is talk about it. My experience. Well, not really. See, part of my anxiety issue is what I call The Charade. I pretty much do anything not to appear anything other than the cool, sarcastic, funny, calm, and collected person that I think everyone around me expects. I’ve done this for so long that I, seriously, don’t know how not to. I’m working on it, but…well.

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When I found out that 2 of my beautiful nieces were also suffering from a similar malady, I realized that this is probably something that A LOT of people – especially of the female persuasion – are going through. And A LOT of those people are probably just as scared and freaked out as I was at the start of last year. And I can HELP!! Well, I can certainly try.

This was my long-winded way of saying, formally, that my posts in the immediate future will be about things I’ve tried and what I’ve learned in my journey to Balance– which is still ongoing, for sure. It is my first and most fervent wish that something I say along the way, at least one thing, will make a difference for someone. That’s all I can ask for, and all the reason I need.

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Happy New Year!!

 

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