Anxiety!

Anxiety!    Herry1970's

Sorry, not sorry. I checked out for a few months. Social media was the last thing on my agenda for the past few months while I’ve been taking care of myself.

While 2018 has been filled with personal growth, it has also come with challenges and confusion, which is typical, right? Personal growth is and can be uncomfortable. This past year I’ve been letting go of the ‘old me’ while finding and embracing the ‘new me’, which has been wonderful, scary and so out of my comfort zone.

Anxiety also came with all of this. Now, you may be saying, “Kara, you’ve stated that you have had anxiety all of your life.”, well, right, but I thought it had gone once and for all while embracing my life’s past and story, but that hairy, ugly monster reared it’s ugly head again and worse than I could ever imagine. Have you ever envisioned your monster? I have, and it started as a young girl with a nightmare when I was about 5 years old. I remember waking up in middle of the night to find that hairy, blue monster with the big nose from Sesame Street (Herry Monster) floating above me. I got out of bed and grabbed a handful of water from the bathroom and threw it on him so he would disappear. It worked! And I went back to bed on wet sheets. But I was relieved. But he is still my Hairy Monster named Anxiety.

I’ve had anxiety and panic attacks in the past, but nothing like what I’ve experienced the past several months. First, in October with a near breakdown, came panic attacks that woke me up from a solid sleep at 4am with depersonalization and what felt like an alternate reality. Not just once but several nights to the point where I called into Mental Health at Kaiser and Thank GOD! I was seen by my physiatrist right away the morning I called, and I was entered the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). I say Thank God because truly it was a lifesaver. I was taken off work for a week and attended classes that week for group therapy and coping skills. TOTAL.LIFESAVER! Such a great intervention on Kaiser’s behalf for my wellbeing. I went back to work with a couple of new tools on the road to recovery.

In November, I went to the Younique Foundation retreat, another great blessing! This gave me so many more new coping skills, and a community of 20 other women who have survived childhood sexual abuse. At first, the thought of that was so scary and overwhelming, just thinking that we were all there for the same reason, someone caused us harm, but I soon learned after the first day that there is strength in numbers in this community. We are a sisterhood of survivors! We are maintaining those valued relationships still, even though we come from all over the U.S. Our group of 21 women was the 107th group this retreat has catered to. Real help, real people, and real love. I also learned that it’s okay to cry. Really, it is!

December saw another set of anxiety/panic attacks, but this time these were brought on by medications. I keep being told that people like me with anxiety and panic attacks need to be on an anti-depressant to manage vs being on a low-dose prn prescription of alprazolam, which I only fill twice a year, and keep on hand for emergency situations. So, after trying a few, I give up! These meds are not for me and my body does not tolerate them.

I’m determined to beat this monster!!! Anxiety is one of the worst feelings in the world. I don’t mean generalized anxiety, I mean crippling anxiety. The kind that makes you not want to eat, move, or function in any capacity. It’s debilitating. For the first time in my life, I told my psychiatrist that I wanted to take the whole bottle of pills, not to kill myself but to make it all go away. Of course, I did not take the whole bottle, but the thought…that was scary! I suppose these things are happening so I can use them to help others, so others can relate to me or I can relate to them. Whatever the case, my plan when I started writing my book and this blog has always been to help others.

It is my goal to use all my experiences to help others. If life is comprised of the sum of all our experiences, what good are they if we are not using them to help others? I’m still not sure how it’s all supposed to come together or what or how I’m going to help others, I just know that I am going to. I have faith in the bigger plan that God has for my life. Some of this is still confusing and jumbled but it’s getting better and clearer every day. I cannot wait to see what great things 2019 will bring. I am sincerely hoping that the worst part of this personal growth thing is behind me and that my path is revealed to me.

Meanwhile, I’m down 34 lbs (30 intentionally, the last 4 dropped in a week from anxiety). 2019 will be about finding joy. 2019 will be about being healthy, physically and mentally. Diet, exercise, and great self-care in the form of meditation, yoga, tai chi, Muay Thai, more reading, and massage will be significant assets to my wellbeing.  I am stronger than my anxiety!

If you have any tips or tricks you use to manage your anxiety, I would love for you to comment.

XOXO ~ Kara

From Invisible to Visible

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I’m just going to jump right in and say that sexual abuse and domestic violence can leave permanent scars. Mind you, I’m no expert.  Well, in my own right I am, but not professionally, but as a survivor of both, I feel that I can speak to the feelings and scars that are left behind.

Depending on how early the abuse started in the relationship, age, and duration, as well as the person’s ability to handle and overcome such trauma, all play factors in how deeply the scars go and how long they hold on to them. For some people, these scars cause devastating results.

My abuse started as a toddler by Orval, my bio-dad, and went on until I was almost eight years old. I was told not to cry, be sad, angry, or show that I was uncomfortable in any way.  I was told to obey him, to do whatever pleased him, and act like it was all normal. I was told not to tell anyone. Being told that by someone at such an early age and a by a significant family member for such a long period of time, I felt invisible. Why? I felt shame, and I was not allowed to be me, to feel or do what I wanted. Heck, I missed out on my entire childhood from birth to almost nine years old, the most crucial years in the development of a human being.

I was extremely shy as a kid. My mom tells stories of me covering my eyes if someone talked to me, as if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. Or, I would run around the counter at the grocery store to hide. I spent a lot of my life being shy. I was called a bitch in high school because I could never look at anyone as I walked by them, so they judged me. I had to gradually get out of that extreme shyness to function in a world where shy people don’t get very far. With each experience I’ve been through, I have been taught to come out of my shell a little more.

I am now almost 51 years old and am feeling more empowered, stronger, and becoming visible. I no longer wish to be invisible, to sit on the sidelines silently about these horrible, terrible, no good things. Let me tell you why…

Since I was a baby I struggled with anxiety. As I’ve gotten older, it seemed to be getting worse to the point where I was desperate enough to go on medication. I was not only having anxiety attacks, but also panic attacks, which are not fun to have! It has been an internal struggle for me to figure out why this happening to me? Why me? Why now? Why can’t I just be fucking normal?! I got back into therapy, once again, this past January, and started on some medications which made me feel blah and funny in the head. I was trading my anxiety and panic attacks for a different feeling, but that feeling still wasn’t normal.

My therapist had me write a timeline of sorts about my life and significant events, good and bad. When I met with her after sending it to her, she told me I should write a book and have each of those events be a chapter. She’s not the first person to tell me I should write a book over the past 20 years. I said to her, ‘Yeah, I know!’, not really giving it serious thought. But you know what? A few weeks later I woke up in the early morning and said to myself that I am writing a book (or 2 or 3 or 4). I didn’t really say that to myself, something internally was really pushing it into and out of me! Seriously, it was one of those moments when I knew I had to do it. It’s what has set me on this path with this blog and my book writing. You know what else? I am no longer having anxiety and panic attacks! I AM NOT FUCKING KIDDING YOU RIGHT NOW!  Seriously, I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. I am not on any meds. I quit them! I still have my bottle of Xanax for a ‘just in case’ kind of emergency, but I have not had to take a single pill in over 2 months! Why?…

MY INTERNAL STRUGGLE IS OVER! My mind, body, and soul were not meshing, they were in a tug-of-war with each other. I strongly believe this. I am living my truth now, no longer trying to hide it. The struggle was over this little, tiny box hidden inside of me with this past history of abuses. The little box I kept there just for me, never wanting to share it. All I ever wanted a ‘normal’ life and for people to look at me and like for being normal. I felt if they knew my history, they would judge me, not like me, take pity on me, or feel sorry for me. But the truth is, just like a steel barrel of toxic waste buried in land or sea, over time it erodes, and the toxins seep out. That’s what this little-hidden box of mine was doing, seeping its poison into my body and mind. The last time I went to my therapist, about three weeks ago, I told her this. I feel this has been an amazing breakthrough.  I’m not saying I’m healed, I don’t know if anyone ever truly heals from such things. But I feel more like a survivor than a victim. I feel free to use my voice to share these experiences and want to help others. I am able to look at my past and embrace it with fierce love. I am able to look toward a future where I am empowered and use my voice to create awareness, in the hopes of helping others. This is my passion, my mission. At almost 51 years old, I finally know what my calling is.

XO

Kara

The Importance of Connection

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Just a few short months ago I was living in my own world, working from a home office, getting out to see clients for my job occasionally, being at home with my husband and 3 dogs. Living comfortably but feeling out of place and lonely. Kids are grown and out of the house, I no longer have many of the connections I had with fellow mothers. While I have several close friends, many have moved out of state. I decided to stretch myself and go beyond my comfort zone and seek out connection. I’m not one for groups of people and can be rather shy and intimidated meeting new people, and especially hate doing it by myself. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this, but I knew I had to do it.

I signed up to do an at-home jewelry business in hopes of connecting with some Facebook friends and one of my long-time acquaintances fastly became a good customer. We started talking more and connecting more. I was feeling great. We connected through Facebook mostly. One day we were presented the opportunity to go to a networking lunch and we both decided to go, both of us getting out of our comfort zone, and going together to comfort each other so neither of us had to go alone.

We went to our first networking lunch in April and it was fabulous. It really filled my cup. The ladies were incredible, friendly, and outgoing. Being there gave me an energy I had not felt in a long time.

Since that first meeting, I became a member and have gone monthly. I love the friendships that have come out of this so much. Genuine friendships and connection. I have had more fun going out a few times a week to meet up for coffee and sit and talk and connect with many of these ladies. It has become so important for me to continue to do this. I prioritize my second Monday of each month for this group.

The feeling of connectedness is so vital. Being in my own world I was feeling lonely and unsupported. Don’t get me wrong, I am married, and my husband supports what I do, but it’s different. Finding these connections and building true friendships, feeling connected and supported has helped me overcome my anxiety of going places where I don’t know anyone. It’s important to get out of our own shell and share our real selves with others.

I have recently said that me coming out of my shell and talking about my life is freeing. It is also freeing knowing people accept me with all of this. It does not change who I am just how I connect now. I’m open to receiving love, caring, and support from others. Things that I would not have asked for or accepted in the past as I was ‘strong’ and could handle anything ‘myself’. Connections give me a boost of energy when I’m low or need my cup filled. When my cup is full I can be there to fill another cup, and support others too, which is another good feeling of connecting.

Getting Answers, Asking the Tough Questions

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It’s August 4th and I’ve invited my mom to coffee at our local Starbucks, a neutral place to have a serious discussion about my past, my bio-dad Orval, and search for answers. My mom and I only live a half-mile from each other. We don’t talk every day or even once a week, but maybe once a month or so, not for any other reason except that life gets busy.

I called my mom the week prior to schedule this appointment and told her I’m writing a book about my life. She said she’s supportive of it and thinks that it will be very healing for me and will help others. I let her know it was not my intent to make her feel uncomfortable, but I had some questions to ask of her since she knew Orval more intimately, as well as about my grandparents.

Two coffees each, and four and a half emotional hours later, my mom and I were hugging. I thanked her for answering my questions and allowing me to share a couple of stories with her she didn’t know.  Again, it was not my intent to upset her, but for the recollection of my own memories and asking questions to gain a better understanding of the circumstances at the time.

I was very appreciative of my mom coming to meet me for this appointment, she could have said no. I knew it wasn’t easy for her. I can totally relate to her as a mother of what her feelings must have been as we talked about the subject matter of sexual abuse, leaving her kids to go find herself, and her guilt of not protecting us (her words). As I shared one specific memory with my mom, she could not recall it happening. I look at it this way, it was a traumatic experience, it happened 45-46 years ago, and I can only imagine that no one would want to have that memory, as I have blocked out memories as well. I am not in a place to judge. I am at a point in life where I have forgiven her and accept her answers and truth as she believes it to be. We all have our own demons. I would like to say this as well… What purpose would it serve for me to blame, or be angry about any of this, or to hold ill feelings? It would not! It would only hurt me to feel that way. I choose to move past and create whatever joy I can find for my life.

I share this with you because in this life we have to communicate, especially about the ‘difficult’ topics that make us feel uncomfortable. In an age of technology (too much of it if you ask me), we have easy ‘outs’ to communication. You hear of people breaking up via text message, or ghosting friends when friendships get too difficult. When my mom and I left each other after our talk, we were spent but I feel it was healing and bonding for the both of us.

I talked with my mom the week after our appointment, and she mentioned that she felt spent and emotional. I let her know that I did a Facebook Live the Sunday after our talk, and how a friend of mine reached out to me to let me know that it opened the door for her and her son to talk about her son’s abuse. My mom said she didn’t watch it, that it was too emotional for her, but I let her know that in this crazy process, her and I are helping someone and setting an example of what the healing process can look like. It gave her a new positive perspective about what we did, and she was able to say, “Wow, you mean I helped?” I told her of course she helped!

This is why I’m writing my story. It is not about me telling my story for a pity party, or for people to feel sorry for me, or to whine about how difficult life has been or how unfair it’s been to me…NO!!! I am writing my story in the hopes of being a catalyst in starting the discussion about sexual abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, and familial kidnapping. It is time to use my voice (or my writing) as a superpower, a weapon against these forces. The more we can openly talk about these difficult issues, the more awareness can be created, and the more healing can happen.

If you, too, have experienced any trauma or abuse in your life, YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM, YOU ARE A SURVIVOR! Yes, I am yelling from a metaphorical mountaintop to you, from a place of love, hope, and faith.

I am not a victim, I am a survivor.

XO

Kara