Thinking Catastrophe

I just have to post this quote again.

I am in the process of embedding this into my brain.

The over analytical brain that always seems to conjour up the worse possible outcome.

It’s like the brain is attacking itself. Thinking up the most idiotic assumptions.

Why? Because it has nothing better to do than to antagonize you. It’s probably because we all suffer from an overactive imagination. We have hundreds of thousands of thoughts enter our conscious mind, and we allow the positive, pleasant thoughts to easily pass us by and then become hyperfocus on the negative. Ugh! So annoying.

Stop catastrophizing thinking and.. Challange them!

Seriously! Ask your negative thought… “But WHAT IF the opposite (positive) is true?” You managed to start assuming the worst, but WHAT IF we started to assume the best?

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder | A personal story

What do you worry about?

I used to make every thought that came into my mind something to worry about (or maybe I still do – laugh out loud – I just react less).

Worried about being late; worried about getting into an accident; worried to death if a cop is riding behind me; worried about getting lost; worried about having to parallel park; worried about relationships; worried about death or the potential of death; worried about health; worried about work; worried about my future; worried about family; worried about my parents being late by 30 minutes; worried about social events; worried about something awful happening; worried about what I am going to wear; worried about my weight; worried about my complexion; worried about work related stress; worried about love; worried about running out of gas; worried about driving at night, in the snow or rain; worried about not being about to fall asleep; worried about worrying.

These worrying thoughts would ruminate in my mind in a cyclic fashion.

Sometimes my constant worrying would be about a make-believe situations or hypothetical conclusion. I’d worry so much about something that hadn’t even happened (yet) that it would end up causing the very thing I feared to happen or create unnecessary conflict over it. It would basically create an issue out of nothing, for absolutely no reason; an issue that had no reason to even exist.

It was exhausting to say the least.

It was an ex of mine that pointed out my compulsive worrying, and kindly suggested I talk to my doctor about it. I hesitantly took his advice after many months. I had nothing to lose.

It was the best decision.

I was also diagnosed with Depression at the same time I was diagnosed with GAD. Being diagnosed with depression came as a shock to me. I knew I had suffered with Major Depression in the past, but at this particular moment I didn’t feel sad, so thought nothing of it. However, I did lose interest in things, I didn’t want to spend time with my friends or go out anywhere, I felt hopeless about my future (at times), I was irritable, had difficulties sleeping and concentrating, and felt tired a lot of time. I assumed all this feelings were related to anxiety.

It isn’t uncommon for the both to be diagnosed together. Which one came first is still up for debate.

A few months later my depression slipped into a Major Depressive Episode and required me to take some time off work. My treatment plan changed a bit, but I will leave this story for another day when I talk about Major Depression.

My treatment plan consisted of medication, exercise, diet, self-help books (CBT), a sleep routine, mindfulness practice, meditation, CBT and talk therapy by a psychologist, and referral to a psychiatrist for evaluation.

To get into details about specific approaches I took would require another publication, or maybe two or three. If you have specific questions, please never hesitate to email me.

-Rachel Page

Panic Disorder | Coping Regime

 

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Going through the experience of a panic attack are some of the scariest moments I ever had to live through. Each time felt like the last time, and to think it was a ‘harmless’ event was impossible, at first.

I really believe it was my frame of mind that helped me to cope as well as I did, as best as I did. It was really mind over mood, so to speak.

The frequency of the panic attacks seemed to diminish once I graduated from Nursing School and eventually came to a point of being almost non-existent. It look accepting what needed to change, dedication, and a change in mindset to adequately manage, and mostly prevent the return of the attacks.

Nursing School created a high level of stress in my life, not only was I dealing with the usual and expected stress related to the volume of weekly readings, essays, exams and presentations, but I was also trying to manage the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, Depression and Social Anxiety. Furthermore, I was dealing with the psychological devastation of a cheating partner, relationship conflicts with friends, and the death of family members.  I believe it was a combination of these factors, fighting against each other, that led to the development of the panic attacks. I wasn’t diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety at this point, but I am sure my mental health history would have suggested it.

What coping mechanisms or techniques did I use to help manage the symptoms of, and prevent panic attacks?

I think the scariest part is the fact that you think you are about to die. The symptoms are very similar to a heart attack, which is why a lot of people will Dial 911 or go to their nearest Emergency  because it can be difficult to decipher between the two if you have never experience either one of them before.

With both, you get chest discomfort, short of breath, dizziness, apprehension, and/or nausea. The difference is usually the intensity of the chest pain, and the duration. Please note that not everyone who suffers a heart attack or a panic attack will experience chest pain or discomfort. Working in Emergency, I have seen people come in with crushing chest pains to mild heart-burn like symptoms to vague complaints of  “I am just not feeling that well, I am just more tired”. Panic attacks come on abruptly and are short lived, lasting only a few moments, and the pain DOES NOT radiate to the neck, back or jaw. If you ever experience chest pain and cannot contribute it to an exact ‘non-emergent’ cause, or when in doubt, call 911. Never EVER drive yourself to emergency if you think there is ANY possibly it could be a heart attack.

First and foremost, the biggest thing that helped me was when I finally decided to go see my doctor. It look me a few months to go, when the attacks were happening every other day, because I felt embarrassed over my lack of control over my own mind and body. Confiding and trusting my doctor provided me with a peace of mind that these signs and symptoms were being produced by my mind, and not something more serious. She sent me for a cardiac workup that included blood work, and diagnostic tests (ie. chest xray, ECG, and a cardiac holter monitor). All the reports came back normal, as suspected, and I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder. My doctor and I discussed my options for treatment, an developed a plan that best suited my life. I took a non-pharmacological approach.

Having a definite diagnosis, brought a sense of peace because I was able to know, without a doubt, that these physical feelings were harmless. The absolute worse that could happen is I could faint as a result of hyperventilation.

Which brings me to my next, very important, coping technique; the art of breathing.

Most often, people begin to feel lightheaded when they are breathing fast and heavily. When the panic attack comes on, you usually don’t realize that your breathing has increased, because you are scared stiff of what is lurking around the unknown corner of Doomsdale. That impending doom feeling, the feeling that something so horrible is about to happen. Your body is trying to figure out whether it wants to fight or take flight or play dead.

There are so many different ways to practice breathing techniques. Count to 4 or 5 or 6, or 10 (but don’t make yourself pass out), hold for x amount of time, breath out through your nose, or through pursed lips. Just pick what ever comes natural and easiest for you. The idea is you want to slow down your breathing and distract yourself by focusing on and counting your breaths. If you breath in through your nose the first time, but breath in through your mouth the second time, who cares…. just breathe – deep and slowly.

Just as important as breathing is relaxation. I know it seems impossible to be able to relax when you are in such a heightened state. An easy way to achieve this is to practice deep muscle relaxation. I often used this technique at night when my attacks were the worst. Get into a comfortable position. Start from one end of your body and work your way up (or down), tensing and releasing each muscle group. Tense as tight as you can, but without causing pain. The idea is to not only distract your mind, but it also helps you distinguish between what a tense body feels like, versus a relaxed one. I hadn’t known how tense my body really was until  I went for my first massage, and the massage therapist expressed concerns over how tense I was. My neck muscles were the worse, which often brought about agonizing, frequent tension headaches.

If  neither of those two did the trick, then I would depend on calm music and stretching, or endlessly pacing around the room until I tired myself out or forgot what I was pacing about. Keep in mind, although what seemed like forever, the panic attacks only lasted a few moments. Most of the time you spend is on psyching yourself out thinking about, instead think of something else, anything else (blue frogs, purple grass, pink sky, the smell of eggnog, a polka-dot pig;  the more random the better).

Sleeping was(is) exceptionally hard because my mind likes to wander and worry at night, so I started creating a routine for myself, and never went to lay down in my bed unless I was tired and on the verge of falling asleep. This meant, laying on the couch, watching TV, and waiting for that moment my eyes would start to droop. Some other remedies that would help me were a warm comforting bath with Epson Salts, Chamomile tea, and Melatonin, but eventually I had to upgrade to a prescribed temporary sleeping aid. Do what ever you need to to ensure you get an adequate nights sleep.

During the day if a panic attack would strike, I would use those same methods as mentioned above, but I would also incorporate other options such as going for a walk, calling a friend or family member, or wrote my thoughts and feelings down in my journal.

I also used reflection as a key competent to my management regime. Reflecting on previous attacks, helped me to see that I was always going to be okay, and it showed me what worked and what didn’t. Being more aware of my body and mind allowed me to feel and anticipate when an attack was likely to hit. It provided me with an opportunity to intervene before it turned into a full blown fit of terror.

Eventually I started to hit the gym, and I think that is actually what pushed me over to the happier, calmer side of life. Some other things that helped were decreasing or eliminating the factors that were causing unnecessary stress, and simplifying my life.

Really, it is a matter of finding out what works for you. A lot of the time (especially in the beginning)  you will spend your time trying to figure out different techniques that work for you. Don’t give up on this trial and error process. If you are having a hard time coping, and haven’t seen a doctor yet, I advise you to make an appointment. There is no reason anyone should have to suffer, and always know that you are never alone.

ℜachel ℘age ♥

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Physique

Physical Health is just as important as Mental Health. You can’t have one without the other. In order to achieve an optimal level of health, these two factor must be working together in unison.

A major difference between my current lifestyle and where I was a year ago is the negative changes I am seeing in my diet and excerise. My routine went completely out the window when Major Depression started to creep into my life. *sigh*

I have been a bit hard on myself lately as the medication caused some unwanted weight gain. . I expected it to happen, and tried to prepare as much (mentally) as I could before the few pounds creeped in. I gained about 8 to 10 lbs. This may not seem like ‘a lot’ but it means a lot to someone who has struggled with a negative body imagine perception her entire life. I wouldn’t say I suffered from an eating disorder, rather weight gain or being over 120lbs would trigger the Major Depression. (There are multiple triggers for my depression, this is just one).

At my heaviest, I was about 135-140lbs (about 3 years ago). I ended up investing in a personal trainer – best decision I ever made. My confidence level went from 3/10 to an 8/10. I felt great both physically and mentally. Then, unfortunately, depression came rolling back in about a year ago, with Major Depression settling in 4 months ago and lasted for almost 3 months.

I noticed lately, despite feeling great, I have been struggling with getting back into my diet and fitness regime. The key culprit hindering my ability to succeed was a lack of a concrete plan and a routine.

A Plan really boosts productivity by taking the guess work out of what you will be eating and working on each day. Less of a hassle – so to speak. The other key components is consistentcy, and motivating yourself to do it. You are your best motivator. Just get up and do it. Eventually your routine will become habit, and will become a natural, effortless part of your life.

Here is my routine:

I will resume my workouts as before (with an emphasis of shredding fat, then I’ll gain muscle after summer).

•Workout 3 to 4 times per week.
•Rotating Upper and Lower Body + abs.
•4×20 with each exercise.

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Brighter Days – Get Up

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When depression hits, it is easier to spend the days laying supine on the couch instead of facing the day and accomplishing your daily responsibilities.
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Some simple advice: Get up anyways.
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Do what you need to do, force yourself.
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It is hard, seemingly impossible task. I know.
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BUT…
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Being left alone with your thoughts only allows more negative thoughts to transpire. If you break the cycle by forcing yourself to get up, you may be able to find a bit of beauty throughout the day… beauty you would have otherwise missed. Small changes like this, over time, can pull out of the darkness.
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This is why I always stress the importance of ‘self-care’.
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Self-care is doing ‘anything’ for yourself that makes YOU happy.
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Even in your darkest moments, there will allows be something that can bring a bit of light.
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It could be as much as indulging in your favorite bowl of sorbet (Mango for me please), allowing your creative nature to flow through art, completing a DIY, a candle lit bath, snuggling with your furbaby, reading a self-help or a favorite book, getting dressed up to stay in (and perhaps take a bunch of selfies)…..
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I just rambled off a bunch of things that bring a bit of happiness into my life, now it is your turn to think of the things that could make your day a little bit more enjoyable. Think about the things that once brought you joy before the depression hit? Perhaps you write poetry, draw, paint, crafts, do it yourself projects, writing, cooking, hiking…
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Even if you don’t want to do it, do it anyways.

The second most vital part to ‘feeling your greatest’ is getting enough sleep.
7 to 8 hours is ideal.

If your having difficulties falling asleep, there are many remedies to help. For example, sleep routine, sleepy tea, rest and relaxation an hour before bed (no phone), a bath, stretching or mediation etc… and if all else fails, talk to your doctor. Perhaps a prescribed medication may help temporarily.

Have faith in yourself.
You can do it.

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The Inattentive Mind

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Time has escaped me. Nearly two weeks since my last published blog entry. I sit here and momentarily mediate to the sound of instrumental music while I gather my thoughts. My thoughts have been scattered lately, trying to organize them has been my deepest trouble. I try to sit down to compose a creative, informational, and purposeful blog entry, but my mind goes blank then is flooded by different thoughts of where to begin. I get overwhelmed, I get nowhere.  Minutes will pass and my frustration will begin to build, why do I struggle with this?

That golden question sent me on a journey to discover an answer.  Why do I continuously struggle with disorganized thoughts? Why am I often plagued by an endless amount of thoughts that I seem to have little control over? Why do continuous thoughts hinder my ability to sleep? Why I am so easily distracted?  Why do the simplest of sound of airplanes, chewing, or a buzzing sound bother me so much? A pin dropping on the floor could easily annoy me. Why do I get so easily irritated? Why can’t I focus? Why do I make impulsive decisions, or act without reason? Why do I seem to hyper focus on thoughts or task but never really seem to get anywhere? Why do I always take things so personal or out of context? Why do I have such a difficult time regulating my emotions and moods? Why does the smallest concerns turn me up side down, and eat away at me? Why do I have such a hard time making or sustaining friends? Why am I always so anxious? Why do I suffer from depression?

Could I be going crazy, or could it be Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)?

The answer is yes, to ADHD.

I was diagnosed with ADHD (multiple times) when I was a child and as an adult but never received medical treatment. As the years went by, it was forgotten about.  As a child I was also ‘diagnosed’ with the learning disability “auditory processing disorder, and as an adult (in university) it was changed to “auditory processing – short-term memory – disorder”.

My parents chose to not medically treat my disorder out of fear, and a lack of available education and research. They saw energetic and bright children turn dull. They saw children who were were once sociable turn isolated and withdrawn. They learned about all the risks of medication, and found it impossible to see the benefit. Research and education about the medication Ritalin was minimal when I was a child. Ritalin, at the time, was the first (and only) line of treatment for ADHD. It was meant for hyperactive children, and I only suffered from mild hyperactivity. My problems were with inattention, and distraction. When I was a child, ADHD was predominantly a male disorder; it was “rare” for females to be diagnosed with it.  It was thought that the ratio between boys and girls was 10:1. Girls went massively under diagnosed in their childhood, struggled throughout their lives, and if they were lucky, were diagnosed in adulthood. Fast forward to 2018, it is now almost as common in males as females with a 2:1 to a 3:1 ratio. Research has showed us that females tend to struggle with inattention, distraction, and emotional dysregulation, whereas males struggle more with hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

During my school years (Elementary to University), I had what was called an “Individual Education Plan” or an IEP. This was a plan, developed by the school in collaboration with my parents or me, which focused on my strengths and had strategies to optimize my success in learning by managing my ADHD and learning disability.   The common theme in all of the IEP’s was the strategies for managing ‘inattention and distraction’.  I was able to complete majority of in-class projects, or tests in a quiet room (free from distraction), with extra time to complete them in. I was always seated in the front row of the class, right in front of the teacher’s desk. I had access to learning materials and/or devices to help me with assignments or tests, such as a computer, speech-to-text software, a dictionary or calculator, tape recorder, or ear plugs. I have to say, my school and my parents really tried everything in their power to see that I succeeded. At home, my parents really focused on natural remedies for trying to manage my ADHD, through a  structured lifestyle, and diet and exercise.

Unfortunately, it was not enough. Despite all the changes in diet and structure, and things I had access too, I still continued to struggle. My parents were told by my middle school teacher that I would only ever be an ‘average’ student. The psychiatrist that re-diagnosed my ADHD and learning disability in University said that I should reconsider my decision of pursuing a career in Nursing as I would gravely struggle with it.

I didn’t listen to either of them. Regardless of the diagnosis that has been given to me, when I want something bad enough, I will do whatever it takes to achieve it. I have always been hyper focused on goals, which has worked to my advantage in succeeding my highest potential and accomplishing my goals.  I did struggle immensely (to the point of severe, almost daily, panic attacks), but I didn’t let it stop me. I had to keep finding and adapting ways to work with my mental health disorders. I had, and continue to have, an incredible support group that supported me and empowered me to keep going when I was struggling through the hardest of times.

BUT I did it. I graduated Nursing School (without having to repeat any courses), and obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. My greatest accomplishment thus far.

I do have to be honest with something though, as an adult,  I have found it more difficult to manage and cope with my disorders.  I tried for many years to self-treat, but eventually those strategies started to wear down, and I started to run out of options. I started to adopt maladaptive coping techniques, which is probably why I developed Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and relapsed with Major Depression, both of which happened recently. I will write a detailed blog about that journey, and how I finally was able cope and manage, another time. I am in a much better place now.

I now wonder if my ADHD contributed to the development to my Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression, or are they separate disorders unrelated to each other. So far, I have read that it is common to be diagnosed with both anxiety and depression, and ADHD. Only a trained professional, a physician or psychiatrist, would be able to decipher if depression and anxiety is secondary to (or caused by) adhd, with a comprehensive physical and mental health assessment, and often trial and error of medication.

I wish I could offer some additional information about ADHD and some personal experiences as to how I successfully managed it, but I am still learning about it myself. Currently I remain untreated, but I will discuss a treatment plan with my doctor at my next follow-up.

Below I have attached pictures with some useful tips on how to ‘naturally cope with ADHD.

I have also included questionnaires that assess for ADHD, as well as Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. They are not to be used as a self-diagnostic tool, however If you answer “Yes” or “More than half the days” or “Nearly every day” for a lot of the questions, please consider seeking professional help from your doctor.

If you have any questions or mental health concerns please feel free to contact me through email, or through Facebook or Instagram.

My Facebook Profile is www.facebook.com/rachelpage

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