Thursday, March 08, 2018

Anxiety? PTSD? This Is How I Cope...

She knew me the best. If you asked her to describe me, she would tell you that I'm quick to anger but also quick to forgive. Mom always knew I was somewhat of a tortured soul just trying to make sense of this messy life of mine. Everything in my life was pretty much inconsistent. At the age of 16, I watched both parents get raided by the FBI and arrested. It was at that moment when I decided to quit school, overhearing a teacher saying, "Those people should rot in jail for what they did," all the while knowing I was sitting in her classroom. I developed very bad acne and had to go on that vicious medication, Acutane. Everyone else called it vicious, I called it my lifesaver. I never wanted to look up at anyone, embarrassed that not one inch of my pale skin could be seen through the clusters of acne clumped onto my face. When the Acutane finally started working, so did I. I got a job at a pizzeria so that I could help out my mom, because my dad was in jail and his bank accounts were all frozen. Then my mom started working with me. In the midst of all that chaos, we had fun. We enjoyed working at a local pizzeria and then after work, we'd head over to the bungalows where our Mexican worker friends lived at, and we would party until wee hours of the night, eating homemade enchiladas and washing them down with tequila. When in Rome...and we did. 

I started developing anxiety attacks really bad, to the point of sometimes passing out from hyperventilation. The room would spin, and at times, the walls looked as though they were closing in on me. I never wanted to be left alone, just in case those walls would close in again. I started getting agoraphobia, not leaving my house and becoming a recluse. I remember one night, my friends had enough of my "phobias" and came over. They somehow got me into their car so they can bring me out to see a movie with them. As I was in the backseat with two other friends leaving the driveway, I panicked and opened the car door and fell onto the ground. I ran back to my house like Forest Gump. I cried and cried that night because I felt like I was a big failure and had let my friends down. The anxiety was controlling my life.

That's when my mom started taking me to therapy. She couldn't stand the shrink because she said he was a big "blabber mouth" -- but he was helping me, so he was okay on my end. I was 17 yrs old at the time, dating boys and trying to be like everybody else. But boy was I different Nobody ever knew how different I was. My psychiatrist would make me these tapes that would calm me. It was his voice giving me peaceful visualizations with calming music in the background that he made with his own keyboard. He was really creative -- I'll give him that. Soon enough, I started venturing out with my friends again and living life. I was finally "me" -- for now.

At work on Halloween. The theme was, "Work of the Future." I did a "work at home" theme, and I made it come true!
A couple of years later, I started working for the big corporate world. It was a strange place, and I always felt like a misfit, but soon enough, became "one of them" -- a stuffed suit, commuter lunatic always in a rush to only wait it out in traffic. Every single day mimicked the other. It was like "Groundhog Day." I always wished my days away, hoping the clock would miraculously turn 5 o'clock, if I could just blink my eyes hard enough.  I was never in the moment -- hardly living in "the now" -- I was totally consumed with time and too much negative energy. Once I finally got a grip on my negative thought patterns, they'd creep in again for even longer spells. One morning while rushing into my cubicle to be on time for work, I had a strange feeling. I felt "off" but didn't understand why. I was at the gym by 5am, came home, showered and left for work. But when I took my first call, I remember the entire room spinning, to the point of me passing out or blacking out -- whichever it was, it was lights out for me. I don't remember the fall though. I remember waking up in a conference room with my managers above me, sprinkling water on my face and trying to get me to drink orange juice. I knew it was anxiety and stress, but they wouldn't stop the ambulance from coming. When I left the hospital, of course I was diagnosed with anxiety. I had to leave and go on family medical leave of absence, until the company just shut down and laid everyone off anyway. I actually didn't care at that point.

I finally found my "safe place" -- working from home. It wasn't a whole lotta' money at first, but it gave me a sense of security and an income, so why not? I had a lenient schedule and was able to also be a homemaker when I finally married my partner. I'm not sure if it was the wisest thing to do, although if you were to ask me 7 months ago I'd tell you a different story. But my life changed a great deal a few years ago. I had lost my dad to cancer, and then was caregiving for my mom who came down with cancer herself. It was a constant wondering, "Is she OK?" At night, I'd keep an extra pair of jeans and my keys on the nightstand, just as I did with Dad when he was sick, in case Mom had to go to the ER because maybe she developed sepsis again or that she needed a blood transfusion. I always waited for that call. Mom usually woke up around 4am like clockwork. So for the entire time she was sick, I suffered with myoclonic seizures at night, where they would jolt me as I tried to sleep. So I just figured I'd stay up until I passed out, and usually it was 4am when I passed out -- the same time Mom woke up. Coincidence? I don't think so now. I can attribute that to worrying if she was okay for the night. Did she fall? Did she take too many opiates? My worst fear in the world was losing Mom. When Mom passed away, I started sleeping normal hours again. So it made sense. All those sleep studies I endured proved to be true: it was ALL in my head. It was ALL anxiety.

They say that when something, or someone gives you joy and happiness, it's inevitable that eventually it will cause you great pain. It's the element of abandonment. Have you ever heard of the term, "fear of abandonment?" It's very similar on different levels. When you fall in love with someone, that one person gave you love, joy and happiness. After the breakup, they give you their hatred, sadness and bitterness. They ultimately give you pain due to their absence and sometimes behavior. Same thing with family. You love them so much, but all good things come to an end. We all have to say goodbye at some point, which brings the question, "Why does God let this sort of thing happen?"

I'm starting to figure out why I have been suffering all these years with anxiety disorder. It started when I was 16 when my parents got arrested. {Abandonment.} I mean, they didn't choose to leave me, but nonetheless, they were taken away from me. And even though my mom came home the next day, my father was gone for quite some time. I was always afraid that they would take them away from me again. So my fear of being home alone stemmed from the fact that I may get hurt too by these people in black shiny FBI jackets. They roughhoused my mother on top of their vehicle. I was mortified watching it. I felt like I was outside of my body witnessing the entire thing. So staying alone in this house -- where I live RIGHT now, gives me anxiety. You can label it what you want, from PTSD to GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) or even depression, but it still remains as a trauma of some type. Not one psychiatrist or psychologist can really label me. They all chuck it up to GAD. And because I look to what seems to be "normal" -- I keep getting the same response: "You seem very put together, as if you don't have any anxiety at all." Of course they'd see that. I have to be "put together" to walk out of my house. They don't see me having panic attacks at 10pm before I go to sleep, hyperventilating, looking up meditation Youtube videos to calm me down. On top of that, now I have "emotional asthma." What the frig is that? So if I get an anxiety attack, an asthma attack usually follows, and if I get an asthma attack, an anxiety attack hops on board. Oy.

I'm so tired. Even if I sleep for 8 hours, I'm sleepy all the time. I try to help other people by telling them my story -- by being honest and letting them know, "Hey, you're not alone. I have anxiety too." I live stream my cooking shows, but I also do talking live streams where I focus on issues on anxiety and depression. I don't find that many people on Periscope or any other live streaming app zeros in on it enough. So I try to be a little beacon of light for people who are suffering just like me. I can only tell them my experiences, and what helps me cope with the anxiety. Let's face it, anxiety will never go away, that's just your body's 'fight or flight' response, so coping with it and not resisting it has helped a great deal. The only thing that really gives me peace of mind is prayer and mediation. Not just any prayer or mediation to some "universe" or "goddesses" up in lala land. I take it straight to Jesus Himself. I could care less if people call me crazy or tell me that my Bible is evil -- my Bible is ALIVE and my God is an awesome God -- the only God. I've become much more adamant in admitting that my God is the only God, only because He has proven to me to be true. But faith is just a belief system, so I never belittle those of different faiths or lack thereof, however if you ask me, I will admit that Jesus is the only way for me. God gave us choice, so choose wisely, right?

My point of this long-winded post is this: when you find your source of contentment and peace, stick with it. The only one who can ever save you in the midst of your storms is God. You may find solace in other things temporarily like I did in the past, but if you want that constant peace even in the midst of chaos, try praying. Also, try listening (meditating.) "Well, I never hear God or get signs from Him." That's because you're too staticky -- and His message is hard to get to you. Try practicing meditation and prayer and see after time, that your prayers will get answered.

The other day, God responded to me in ways that are just unbelievable. Look for the little things. He saw me crying over my mom's death. I was grieving so hard that I could barely breathe. I said to Him, "I just give up."

As I flipped through the Bible to read some comforting words, this jumped right out at me.

"This is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So don't look at troubles we can see right now, rather, we look forward to what we have not seen. For the troubles we will see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever!" --2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I also asked Him if I prayed the right way, or if there was a right way to pray? Am I doing everything wrong? And He responded in Scripture...

"But when you pray, go away by yourself shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets will reward you. When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words gain and again. Don't be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!" --Matthew 6:5-13

And that's exactly how I pray! He was saying, "Deb! You're doing everything right! Keep going!"

But sometimes I still need more answers, more proof. So I asked that if this was his answer, to please send me a bird. (Now I sound crazy, right?) Not even 20 minutes passed by and a huge hawk was flying toward my window coming from the beautiful mountains of the view we have. As he got closer, I can see he was holding a small animal in his mouth (kinda disturbing) -- and the weight of the animal was making him fly toward my window. As he got closer to the window, he swooped up and had lunch on my roof. This was just the other day before the big snowstorm hit us. I could NOT believe my eyes. It was actually a beautiful sight to see. I don't believe in coincidences...

Listen, you don't have to believe my stories or the signs that I get, and you may even think it's nonsense, but this is why I believe in God so much. This is how I communicate with God. He answers me all the time, especially when you have the Bible in your hands -- you can get endless answers. But if you're not seeking Him, then that's different. He knows your heart and He knows when someone genuinely wants to get to know Him. You can have heaven on earth, simply by trusting Him. Even though I still suffer with anxiety, I thank Him in the storms. If I don't suffer, then I wouldn't know how to overcome certain obstacles. It's hard, and sometimes I even get mad at God -- but He can take it. Talk it out with Him. Pray. Listen. So if you want to know how I cope with anxiety and grief? My strength is not my own. It's only through God's strength that I can go on and stay here instead of thinking about "going back home" for good.

I admit, I'm a mess, but God loves me, messy and all.
He also loves you in the same way.
You don't have to be perfect, because if we were, we wouldn't need Him.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes! Feel free to watch Deb's live broadcasts over on Periscope as well!