It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Truth is, I have been struggling (still). I don’t know if it’s my thyroid (I just started meds for it) or the hydroxyzine that my psychiatrist put me on, but I’m just sleeping … Continue reading
I have had yet another long few days thanks to anxiety. I will feel good for a few days and think that I’m “over the hump” for it to all come flooding back even worse than before. This over-breathing/hyperventilation syndrome … Continue reading
One of my best friends spent some time Monday sharing a bunch of links with me about hyperventilation syndrome (also called disordered breathing or over-breathing). I didn’t read all of the links, but I found a few really helpful ones that made me feel like I’m not just making this up.
From Breathing Works:
“Disordered breathing occurs when upper chest breathing, usually at a faster rate and through the mouth, becomes the dominant pattern of breathing. Disordered breathing can also include big sighs, yawning, breath holding, feelings of breathlessness, or feeling unable to take a good breath in or out. Over time, disordered breathing can cause a large variety of symptoms including dizziness, anxiety, pins and needles, chest pain or tension, blurred vision, feeling easily overwhelmed, and constantly on edge.”
“How do I know if I am over-breathing? You may not be aware that your breathing is wrong or you may be aware of some, or even all, of the following most commonly experienced symptoms:
(I have most of these, though some of them aren’t constant.)
- Frequent sighing and yawning
- Feeling breathless, even after relatively minor exercise
- Difficulty co-ordinating breathing and talking and/or eating
- Breathless when anxious or upset
- Pins and needles in hands/arms/around mouth
- Feeling permanently exhausted and unable to concentrate for no apparent reason
- Throat symptoms (I clear my throat constantly)
- Muscular aches and tension around the neck/shoulders/jaw
- Bloated feeling in the stomach
- Light headedness
What causes these symptoms?
When we over-breathe we eliminate large quantities of carbon dioxide on every out breath.
This causes a chemical imbalance affecting many of the body’s systems. The results can be extremely unpleasant and frightening, causing us to become anxious. This can further upset our breathing pattern and a vicious circle develops.
You may be well aware of a particular event or experience that triggers your over-breathing, although this is not always the case. Possible triggers include bereavement, anxieties at work or home, altered breathing due to chest disease, (e.g. asthma) or following surgery.
(My trigger was anxiety)
How can I help myself?
Become aware of the way you breathe…
and how it may vary in certain situations. By learning to control the rate and depth of your breathing, i.e. retraining:
Learn to nose breathe.
Try to stop yawning and sighing.
Focus your breathing gently into your abdomen, avoiding excessive upper chest movement.
Become aware of your posture and learn to recognise areas of tension in your body.
This can be a good way of increasing your general feeling of well-being and self-confidence. If exercising is particularly difficult, discuss this with your physiotherapist.
(Exercise makes it worse right now but I think I’m going to try yoga.)
Variations in your blood sugar levels can contribute to your symptoms, so:
Avoid large meals, particularly late at night.
Take healthy snacks between meals”
(I’m working on this. I’m not always consistent with my eating.)
I read somewhere else (can’t remember where) that reflux is a symptom, and I’ve been struggling with that as well. Papaya enzymes are my friend! I tried them Monday night, and they worked almost right away.
More Natural Ways that I’m Working on my Anxiety
Meditation and Breathing Training
I have two great apps that have worked really well for me. I wrote about the meditation one before (Meditation Studio), but my friend shared a different one with me yesterday and it made a HUGE difference just using it a couple of times!
The app is called Breathing Zone. It’s really simple. It just has you breathe in and out in different amounts and times. It completely reset my breathing. Then I struggled again, then I started focusing on breathing through my nose only. I have also been meditating when I first go to bed.
I took a picture today of myself before I started my breathing re-training while resting this afternoon. I look kind of a mess (no makeup, hair everywhere, and zits), but I’m just thankful that I have these resources! They have helped so much!
I received these essential oils from a friend yesterday, and I was floored. She bought me 11 oils and some Stress Away bath bombs. I totally don’t feel deserving of this. Young Living EO’s are NOT cheap. I’m praying that they help me!!!
I no longer have a diffuser, so I ordered a pretty inexpensive one off Amazon. Hopefully it works okay. Diffusers from Young Living are at least $60 and this one was only $20! It looks promising. I will probably buy another one in a few weeks to have one in the living room and one on my desk in my bedroom. We’ll see.
I used to be anti-oils but I have decided that I am willing to try anything and my friend is helping me out SO much with this so I will try all of my options!
I take a lot of meds (Buspirone, Lexapro, small dose of Lithium, Lamtictal, small dose of Risperdol, Propranolol, and Gabapentin), but I’m actually hoping to reduce soon because my doctor and I feel that I’m on too much (which I think has been causing me more anxiety). I will always have to take meds, but less would be better.
I recently shared about all of the supplements that I take (Rescue Remedy as needed, Magnesium, Vitamin D3, Cod Liver Oil, Probiotics), but I have recently added 5HTP with Melatonin at bedtime and Vitamin B Complex.
I also ordered Epsom salt to use with essential oils in baths consistently. I bought a “Sport” one because it was $5 cheaper ($10 instead of $15 for 5lbs)! If I find that I’m going through a lot, I will buy a 19lb bag because it’s so much cheaper. We’ll see.
When I was really struggling a few days ago my counselor suggested I try acupuncture. I have never been open to that before in the past, but I was desperate and I made an appointment at a place called Kerrville Community Acupuncture.
I ended up canceling the appointment when I noticed that they breathing re-training was WORKING. It is always a fall back, though, if my anxiety gets bad again or if it just doesn’t settle down long-term. The acupuncture does a lot of good things so it would never be bad to do. I just don’t want to spend the money now (although she is pretty inexpensive with a sliding scale!).
Bible Study, Journaling, Prayer, Worship
This is the most important one. I have been struggling so much spiritually and I talked with one of my best friends a few weeks ago about not totally trusting God because He allows such bad things to happen. In the midst of my suffering with the breathing issue (it’s TERRIBLE you guys) and having to put the boys back into school (again), plus thinking about the gruesome suicide of my brother and mine and my brother’s mental illness in general, I was just low. She was amazing and shared lots of scripture with me, but I just couldn’t hear it.
The past few days I have been reading from an app called the First 5, and the study is on suffering. It’s so perfect and exactly what I need to be reading right now. It has you read a chapter out of scripture (starting with Job, and I read out of my study Bible with commentary), then there is a devotional to follow and an open-ended question that it asks at the end where you can type your answer right into it. I am also using my Quieting Your Heart journal that I’ve shared before in the past.
Then I spent some time listening to worship music (which I haven’t been doing as much lately) and it was so perfect for my heart. I could “hear” God speaking to me again for the first time in a long time. I could feel His love. I felt hope. It’s been a while since I have felt hope.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me today, and He comforted me and was my counselor. I have needed that for a long time. Years. I am convinced that I need to trust Him to be that for me more often.
Speaking of… I decided to pull out a book that has been on my bookshelf for like 8 years. I read a couple of chapters when I got it but never finished it. I totally forgot what I read those 8 years ago. It’s called Forgotten God and it’s by Francis Chan. I started reading it again today and it spoke so clearly to me. I’m looking forward to actually reading it all the way through this time :-).
I’m keeping most things off of my plate right now.
My new focus is my relationship with Jesus, my family and friends, keeping my anxiety low, going to AA (and staying sober), homeschooling Karis, and “healthy” habits that I have been doing for a long time (including gratitude, meal planning, meal prep, self care, keeping the house mostly clean, and one that I have been working on for about 5 months but still have a long way to go… self love). That is all I can handle at the moment. And honestly it’s a lot! What keeps triggering my anxiety is trying to do too much (all of that PLUS a movement habit, still feeling the need to focus on weight loss, planning other Balance 365 habits, planning a backpacking trip that I’m not ready for, homeschooling all of the kids which is the biggest thing, etc), so I will NOT make that mistake again, for a while at least ;-). Now if I can keep my perfectionist brain away!
So I’m sitting here on my back porch just feeling terrible… hyperventilation syndrome, chest hurts, cough, tingly hands and feet, foggy brain. Just bad. And since I’m struggling with the breathing thing, yet again, my mind goes to “fix it” mode. What’s wrong with me this time? What can *I* do to make myself feel better? It has to be anxiety, why am I anxious?
My blog is usually my way to process through things, so I’m going to use it to try to find some relief. And if I can’t, I’ll just go to bed early and do some meditation.
I started Monday out excited. I found a blog called Blissful Britt that is basically who I used to be and who I want to be all wrapped up in one. She’s a coffee lover, hiker, runner, foodie, and blogger. She’s not married and she doesn’t have kids (at least not from what I can tell), so there’s that. Obviously our lives look a lot different, but I can do what I want out of those things to be who I want to be! It’s a choice that I make, right?
Robert seemed very excited because he was happy to see me excited about the outdoors again. He really feels that being outside more will make a huge difference for my anxiety. And for the most part he’s right. I’m sitting on my porch and while I feel pretty terrible still, I can breathe a little bit better. Unfortunately, though, that is what caused my breathing issue Monday night. I went for an hour long hike and started to struggle, and it just never got better.
So now I’m wondering if maybe I’m trying to be someone I’m just not anymore… or maybe someone I can’t be right now at least.
This is who I want to be:
- A person who is outside often and does all the nature-y things with her family.
- Someone who backpacks regularly.
- Someone who cooks and bakes often (and does a good job).
- A homeschool mom who has a relaxed way of doing things and just enjoys being with the kids. A Charlotte Mason homeschooling family (I LOVE her work).
- A sober person with the ability to encourage those who are trying to be sober or are struggling (and sponsors others).
- Someone who uses her mental illness to help others.
- Someone who loves Jesus and that is evident in her life.
- Someone who can let the house go a little. Someone who can let go of organization a little and just live.
- A good writer.
- A mom with a lot of grace.
- Someone who practices regular hospitality.
- Someone who makes health priority, but doesn’t obsess over it or make it the focus.
- Someone who is content with who she is.
- Someone who doesn’t feel the need to live up to anything (in life, in homeschooling, in appearance, etc).
- Someone who can just enjoy the moments as they come and not be so serious all the time (I want to be joyful!)
Oh, and then I actually considered trying to start “living naturally” again yesterday. Like, go back to the no BPA, no paper, natural products, homemade cleaners, all homemade foods, organic, grass fed, herbal supplements, blah blah blah that I let go of a long time ago! Maybe that’s what also caused my anxiety yesterday. Some is good, but 100% is NOT healthy for me! (this is me, the black and white thinker here)
So now I’m trying to decide if I should make decisions based on these things (like a mission statement), or if that’s too much? Am I causing anxiety by expecting too much from myself? Maybe I just need to be okay with “enough.”
This is who I am (now):
- I like to sit on the porch daily to blog or read but I don’t go for hikes as often as I would like (1-2 times a week). The kids and I do nature walks/studies once a week. We have plans for camping in the fall.
- Robert and I go backpacking once or twice a year. (I may not be able to go in August like we have planned if I don’t start feeling better, but I’m hoping to feel better, and there’s always next time)
- I cook and bake often :-). I love using recipes, coming up with recipes, and tweaking recipes. I like to bake bread, pizza crust, muffins, cookies, etc. I love to cook new things for dinner. I have been branching out more lately.
- I am a homeschool mom that is learning to relax and enjoy spending time with her kids using mostly a Charlotte Mason method. I am also learning to throw off stuff that is heavy and doesn’t serve me well (I’m simplifying even more than what I had written on my last blog about curriculum).
- I AM a sober alcoholic that does my best to encourage others when the opportunity presents itself, but I don’t sponsor like I would like to (and should) because I live so far from town!
- I am very open about my sobriety and mental illnesses and I have a small group where people can share their needs. I hope that my blog helps people. It’s hard to know, though. I don’t have many followers/readers/commenters.
- I do love Jesus but I often wonder if it’s evident in my life because my mental illness overshadows it. I’m working on growing this relationship, but it’s going to take a while because I have been running away (not really intentionally, but through my mental illness and addiction).
- I definitely struggle to let the house or organization go. I spend more time organizing than I actually spend using the organization. And I’m constantly cleaning or yelling at my kids to clean. That was the source of major anxiety yesterday (we spent HOURS cleaning and a lot of that was me yelling at the boys to clean!).
- I don’t have as much grace with my kids as I would like to have, but I’m hoping I will get there one day. Most of the time I’m doing much better than I did when they were smaller, but I have my days (I guess we all do… maybe I need to give myself that grace… maybe that’s the conclusion to all of this…).
- I am learning to practice hospitality, but it does bring me anxiety and that makes me sad :-(. Friday through Monday we had people over 3 times! I really only had anxiety one of those days (Friday night).
- I’m working on the health thing, one habit at a time. I’m probably not going to go back to the natural/organic thing because I’ve begun to see that natural/organic isn’t what makes something healthy… it’s the nutrients in things that makes them healthy. And slow, habit change is what’s sustainable (I have never been able to do a diet more than 3 months max).
- I’m working on being joyful but it’s really hard when I can’t breathe right. So that’s going to be a one moment at a time kind of thing.
Maybe I’m closer to who I want to be than I thought. I have a really hard time “just living life” and being content with things. I have had so much change over the years that I am always expecting something to change. Or that we will have to do something differently because of my mental illness (and then it will be all my fault). Thing is, I absolutely LOVE life (I’m pretty much living my dream)! I just hate anxiety!
I’m trying to remember that I am ME, and I don’t have to fit into some kind of box.
Well, after some time writing, I’m feeling somewhat better. But I do think I’m going to go to bed pretty soon and do some meditation.
Tomorrow is a new day. And I am going to town for AA, so that’ll help so much.
Like I’ve mentioned before, someone graciously sponsored me to do the Healthy Habits Happy Moms Balance 365 program. I started a few weeks ago and I tried to “do all the things” and it caused me a lot of anxiety. I also started homeschooling the same week. It was just too much.
I have since pulled back and decided on two things: self love and daily Bible study. You’re really only supposed to choose one, but self love will be something I’m working on every day for a long time so I’m doing that at the same time as another. Daily Bible study obviously isn’t one of their habits, but it’s one that I want to focus on because I am desiring a more intimate relationship with Jesus over anything else right now.
I have started a book/study that a friend of mine bought me when we were in rehab. It’s amazing so far!
It’s a study of Romans, complete with the scripture right in the book. I’m so excited about it :-).
Also, I am working through the self love and gratitude journal from the B365 program.
I made some huge revelations yesterday about my self love journey.
Yesterday I wrote this in the B365 Group:
“How can you love yourself as is and still want to lose weight? The idea of possibly losing weight is what is keeping me stuck. Then I just want to diet again to make it happen faster. It’s a vicious cycle. Right now I’m working on daily Bible reading and self love as my habit, but it’s hard when all I want to do is move on to the ones that will “matter.” I have been diet deprogramming since like March, but I still feel like I’ll never get there.”
A new friend wrote this:
“Also I’ve found the more I love my inside me the more I no longer see my body as me but rather a vessel that holds me. When it’s no longer the main focus of my value the easier it is to be okay with me. Or to accept slower changes. I still have longer term goals to be smaller, but only if I’m healthier than now.”
I realized in that moment that that’s the issue. I don’t love the inside of me.
“I think that’s the hard part. With having mental illnesses and alcoholism, it takes a lot to be happy with myself. I don’t feel like I have much to offer, and I feel like I’m a burden to everyone.”
I will never be able to love my outside if I don’t love my inside. So that’s what I need to work on in the self love department.
Also, many people mentioned that health should be my goal, and I know this, but I have been programmed that a smaller body means healthier. That’s not always the case! I need to come to a point in which I don’t care if I lose weight as long as I’m healthy. And the health part will take time as I pick up one healthy habit at a time. That’s what works long term and is sustainable. Dieting and trying to do things all at once isn’t sustainable.
I pulled out my book, Healthy at Every Size, again and am reading through it slowly. It’s so informative and helpful in thinking of my body in a different way.
Thing is, I am struggling with my body mostly because of what people think. For example, a friend wrote on Facebook the other day that it’s not healthy to be big and you should always try to be smaller (summarized). I know that this is the way people are conditioned by the (60 billion dollar) diet industry, but it’s hard to ignore that kind of stuff. I assume that people are judging me for having gained weight.
Logically I know a few things: 1) I have gained because of mental health medications (40 pounds since I started bipolar meds in 2014, and 14 pounds since I went into rehab), 2) I have gained because of quitting drinking, 3) I am balanced (I eat a variety of foods), 4) Being sober is BIG and should be celebrated! This is very healthy!
I just take on other people’s opinions.
If people judge me for gaining (and they truly might be), that’s their problem, not mine. It’s not my business what people think of me.
It might be a while until I am ready to address food and movement habits. That’s okay :-). That doesn’t mean I can’t have vegetables and fruit or protein and that I can’t go for walks. It just means it’s not something I’m focusing on. I’m waiting until I spend time reading my Bible 4-5 days a week consistently, then I’ll add on another habit. I haven’t decided what the next habit will be. I’ll probably focus on eating a protein rich breakfast. That is my biggest struggle when it comes to food!
Yesterday in my Healthy Habits Happy Moms group, someone started a “free the belly” thread. Hundreds of women took pictures of their bellies and posted them in the comments. I was blown away by how different and similar everyone’s bellies were! They are all moms who have had babies in their bellies, and you could tell on most of them. Stretch marks, sagging, bigger than they used to be. It was so helpful. And one mama told me that we are belly twins. It’s so great to hear/see that other mamas have similar bellies to me (my least favorite part of myself). And the funny thing is that when I see my belly on someone else, I see beauty!
I love this!
I have more to offer than my body. It’s just my shell.
I am passionate, I love others without judgment, I am organized and keep the house clean for my family (most of the time, that is), I am a good teacher, I love Jesus (though I want to grow in this area!), I love my family wholeheartedly, I AM SOBER (259 days!), I love to bake and cook for my family, I desire to make learning fun for my kids, I have learned to live simply, I am an inspiration to others through sharing about my mental illness and alcoholism, and I’m sure there’s more that I’m not thinking of.
Celebrate YOU. Learn to love all of you. Inside and out!
Several years ago I worked with a counselor doing cognitive behavioral therapy. She helped me to realize that my thoughts make a huge impact on my life. It helped me so much. I was able to live the life that I wanted to live (for the most part) despite my mental illness.
Since we moved away from Frisco and I no longer have that counselor, I have forgotten so much about how to control my thoughts. My current counselor is fantastic, but she hasn’t really helped me work on controlling my thoughts.
This past month has been hard on me. Like I’ve said in past posts, I have had extreme anxiety since I had to change meds. It greatly affected my life every day. I felt like I wanted to give up on all the things that make me happy. I just felt like I couldn’t handle anything anymore. Then yesterday I was extremely exhausted because of my new medication. Yet another reason to feel like I just need to give up on everything that makes me happy. I was feeling so down because all I want is to be able to live life to its fullest… homeschool all of my kids, go on trips, eat in the dining hall, take the kids places, go backpacking, etc without feeling extreme anxiety.
I no longer feel anxiety since I stopped taking the Geodon, but I have been extremely exhausted since starting the new med. I was feeling really down again because of thinking I’m just doomed to struggle through life. I was thinking that I’ll never be able to do what I want to be able to do… I should just give up trying.
Everything changed last night when Robert got home. We had a fantastic talk and I changed my thoughts which made me feel so much better. I feel hope again.
He went on a field trip with the boys yesterday. He had a really rough time because Ethan’s teacher sat at the front of the bus completely ignoring the class and he had to discipline the kids (who were very difficult). His eyes were opened to how things may be in the classroom and he was not impressed.
When he got home I joked with him saying that maybe we should homeschool the boys again because the school isn’t what we thought (knowing that it really isn’t that bad… I was kind of joking). He asked me if I really think I can handle homeschooling. I told him that I’m not sure but asked if we could put the idea back on the table and pray about it and see how I’m feeling over time with my new med. He said that he’s totally fine with that… he wasn’t the one who felt like we needed to make a decision immediately. He feels like it’s a good idea he just wants to make sure I can handle it. And we don’t want to decide to homeschool and change our mind again. He feels like it would actually be better for our family to have the boys home. It opens up so much… we would no longer have to drive 50 minutes a day to pick them up from the bus. We would be able to take trips, go backpacking, spend time with grandparents, go on field trips, etc. The kids would be able to play with their friends here more. They would be able to stay up later which is easier for things that go on here at camp. They wouldn’t be away from the house for 10 hours a day.
The hard things about it are that I wouldn’t have as much time for self care, if I have a bad few days it could set us behind (which, we could school year round to account for bad days), and it would cost more to homeschool them on top of homeschooling Karis.
Anyway… just thinking about the possibility of being able to homeschool all of the kids changed my thought pattern completely. No longer was I thinking “poor me,” “life sucks,” “I can’t handle anything.” I started thinking that maybe I can handle things. Maybe life doesn’t suck. Maybe I just need to be a fighter. I don’t need to give up. Robert believes in me, why don’t I believe in myself? Then I started to think about the fact that the boys will be home this summer and I want to live life to its fullest. And Robert and I will be going backpacking. So, summer will be full of swimming, backpacking, hiking, family camp, time with friends. A little bit of school (math and reading). Time with my parents. Six flags, the zoo, etc. Just busy and fun. Before yesterday, I would have been anxious about all of that, but now I’m hopeful, peaceful, and excited!
I realized yesterday and this morning that my thoughts have really been impacting me. Changing my thoughts immediately changed my mental health.
So just like I wrote the other day about Taking Charge of My Wellness Holistically, I want to focus on all of the things that I can do as well as doing things that I want to do that make me happy and work well for our family.
I refuse to give in! I’m a fighter! I may have bad days, but that doesn’t mean that I need to give up. That just means I need to take good care of myself.
Now to do lots of prayer about what to do about homeschooling. At this point, it’s going to be what God wants me to do. Robert is on board if I feel like I can handle it. Only time will tell :-).