How I’m Getting Over My Social Anxiety

I’ve always been a worrier, and while some might think this feels good to me in some way (or else why would I keep doing it), it can be the most frustrating thing about me, even for my friends and family. One of my biggest issues with worrying is the anxiety I go through before a social event. Before the event, I worry about what I’ll wear, how I’ll look compared to others, what I’ll say, what others will think of me. I’ve found some unorthodox ways to work through it: My family.

The two people who help me grow every day!

The two people who help me grow every day!

My husband is the comedian who not only often plans the social get together I attend, but can sometimes be the center of attention. While I know a lot of women who are threatened by this, I rejoice in it. Part of that comes from the relief that the pressure is taken off me to entertain, while the rest comes from being proud that this man, who can add light to any room, is mine. Not only is he boisterous in public, but he’s loud and hilarious in private, too. His outspoken nature helps me especially when he comes up with simple, boarder-line offensive, “suggestions” for  my worry. “Dude, shut up. You look great, and everyone loves you,” is usually the way it goes. While other women might think, “HOLD UP! Don’t be a bossypants,” I welcome the jolt out of my swirly mind full of unrealistic expectations.

The second surprisingly helpful person, has been my nearly one-year-old baby girl. This shocks me, since she can often be the source of my pre-gathering jitters. “Will she have what she needs? Will she need a nap? Will she have something to do when we’re out? Does she look presentable…” On and on the list goes, and it probably helps me because I’m focused on whether she is alright, instead of whether I’ll be.

So, with my naturally attention grabbing crew in tow, I really don’t have much to worry about. Will I have enough to talk about? Sure will! I’ve got a great family to fill up the luls in those conversations.

The majority of my stress comes before the event, and I end up having a blast when I do get out. Being a natural homebody can be challenging! Now, this baby is going to force me to go out in the world, and trust people. Making friends is going to happen inevitably, which is surprising to me since I have trouble trusting women. I’m still stuck in the mindset that most women are catty, gossip-loving, meanies like in high school.

Now, I’ve learned that we have to take risks. We have to love others even if it means getting hurt, because we don’t want to miss out on the love we might find just because we might meet a few thorns in the rosebushes of life. I’ve learned that practice really does make perfect. The more I get out there and spend time with people in places I’m unfamiliar, the easier it becomes. While I’m still far from my goal of switching from an intro to an extrovert, it’s kind of the one day at a time concept. Today, I go to the store with baby in tow. Tomorrow, I go to a mom’s group at a church. Maybe someday, I’ll build up the courage to actually go to a church service.

The whole point is, I’m working on it, because life is short; and I have a little one to be an example to. You’re beautiful because you are you. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Don’t waste another moment worrying about what other people think about you, because it’s none of your business. And harsh as it is to say, don’t think you’re so important that everyone is spending their day complaining about what you said or didn’t say or what you wore or didn’t dress your baby in. Most people are good and have better thing to fill their thoughts with. Just be you!

Starting Over… Again

My last post was about starting over; and although things are much different now than they were a year a half ago, it wasn’t the “starting over” I had planned.

Shortly after I wrote last, I got pregnant and married- in that order and for no other reason than we wanted to be pregnant and married. Turns out, my little Bailey helped cure my medical issues. I had no issues with my insulin resistance while pregnant and only suffered from borderline preeclampsia the last few weeks of pregnancy.

I was supposed to go back in to check my insulin resistance afterward but never made the appointment; but instead, found myself without insurance as my favorite job let me go. I’m about 98% sure that my sugar issues don’t exist anymore. I don’t have the sleepiness I had before, and I’m 15 lbs down from my pre-pregnancy weight without trying. That’s why I think Miss Bailey fixed me.

So, here starts another go at transformation: the transformation of my mind. Although kicking and screaming, I’ve almost quit smoking (just three yesterday and one today!). And about two days ago, something clicked and I got my old mindset back that I don’t need to eat to entertain myself.

If you ever get the chance, read the book Women Food and God by Geneen RothImage. If you’ve never been able to figure out why you suffer with being overweight or underweight, Roth hits it on the head. Somewhere along the way, we all learned that we were not enough or we were too much. We learned we’d never have enough if we didn’t take it right now or that we didn’t deserve what we had. Whichever of these is true about us is the start to understanding why we don’t like our bodies the way they are.

The remedy is to love your body. Love yourself and you’ll view your body and nutrition differently. You’ll treat yourself better and think about living a long healthy life and the minimal maintenance you need to do today to add extra days to the end of your life.

I looked in the mirror and realized that I CAN reach my goals for my body and that I DO have control over how I look (to an extent). I can already feel that shifting my mind to loving myself into being fit is loads better than hating myself into being skinny. Who’d have thought?! 😛

Check out this neat website I found: MyBodyGallery.com. You can put in your physical specs and find photos of people who look like you. Helps us get some perspective. Just remember that every change you want to make starts with a baby step, or as my mom says, “Little Bites!”

Starting Over

ImageAfter a quarter century of battling with weight, emotional and mystery health issues, I finally have some closure. The insight I’ve gained on my journey to wellness has triggered the stages of the grief process in a silent boiling below the surface. It is hard to absorb that I’m on my way to a new life, a second chance, and the emotional healing that I’ve struggled with for so long is quietly concluding.

As a teenager, I struggled with the over-emphasized coordination of weight and social acceptance. Despite being raised by wonderful parents in a safe and upbeat household, I focused on the negative body image that the women in my family were at war with. The preconceived notion that thinness and being loveable were synonymous created a cycle passed down from generation to generation of women on both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family. I’ve realized after the fact that if I just would have accepted my own weight, other people would have too. If I would have understood then that no matter what the number on my pants said I was always Rachael, the confidence from loving me would have glowed from within and attracted the friendships I longed for.

I found myself not only loathing my weight, but eventually hating my lack of confidence. It wasn’t until my marriage was failing, and I subsequently found any way possible to blame myself, that I started to wonder if I was a hypochondriac. If I could only have more energy, if I wasn’t depressed, if I didn’t want to sleep so much, if I was thinner, if I dressed well, if I was sexier, if I wasn’t me, he would love me. These were the silent tracks that ran in the back of my mind until that crushing voice was louder than reason.

I’m a firm believer that we learn the most when lessons are learned the hard way. The wise parents and grandparents of the world can tell us over and over how to keep ourselves from heartache, but we never understand until we suffer it ourselves. My divorce saved my life. I, like most 20-something and newly-single women, dove into a discovery period where I become who I never was and therefore always wanted to be. While my period of rebellion is tinted with embarrassment, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I did everything exciting that I could while knowing I couldn’t deny my values. The internal conflict was confusing and thrilling. I skinny dipped on private property, marveled as reckless teenagers tripped on ‘shrooms, and laughed drunkenly as I stared at swirling stars in the night sky. I felt the full gamut of emotions, but most importantly, remembered what it is like to feel alive.

I knew after my few months of testing the waters of a typical teenager, in my early twenties as marrying my high school sweetheart who was also a pastor’s child doesn’t exactly leave time for teenage experimentation, that I was trying to pretend this poisonous world was something beautiful. I had lived an almost complete life, too quickly, too well-planned, which made the ending of my first try at life that much more shocking and heartbreaking. Now, after a year’s worth of therapy and soul-searching, I’ve realized many things. I learned to put pride away and that therapy is helpful, and just plain necessary, for almost every person on this planet. I learned that we are all hypocrites and weall have double-standards. I learned that I took everything too seriously. Most importantly, I’ve learned that there is hope and beauty in the world, but it has to be approached with caution. Life isn’t to be rushed. Life is best experienced in the moment with moderate pre-planning, but with plenty of resilience. It isn’t what this world throws at us that is most important, but how we choose to react to those events.  As my dad, a marine, would say, “Improvise, adapt, and overcome.”

I plan to record this journey. I’m not sure why, other than that it would have been great to have known someone like me while I was going through all that I am. I want to record the changes in my life as I’ve gotten a grasp on my self-confidence and as I start to change more of my behavior. I recently found out that I am insulin resistant, which sounds like just a health issue. It’s slowly dawning on me that this may have shaped who I have been and the emotional issues I’ve struggled with. I start medication soon to regulate my insulin levels and want to note what changes I experience so that maybe I can help other people dealing with the same sneaky illness. I thought I was a heavy, lazy, lack-luster, hypochondriac, but it turns out that I’m about to meet the Rachael that I’ve never known, that I’ve always wanted to be. I’m intimidated and excited by the potential that I have and how I’ll improve as a person throughout this process. Let’s see what the new me has to offer, shall we?

ADD: Burden or Blessing

How many ADD kids does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Can we go ride bikes?

I can joke about this because I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when I was really young. In an attempt to avoid the subject, I dove hungrily into school work to prove the diagnosis wrong. I felt like this diagnosis meant I was somehow behind my peers intellectually.

Here I am, 20 years later, and I have a slue of accomplishments to negate that ADD is a negative diagnosis. Not only from my own personal experiences, but from the research of others, I have found that ADD does not have to be treated with a medication.

The book “The Myth of the ADD Child,” by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., explains that throughout time, the progression of research has presented ADD as a negative diagnosis– as if these patients are lacking something. The initial names of this group of symptoms pointed to brain dysfunction, i.e. minimal brain damage. As information has been gathered over the last 80 years, the amount of diagnoses has grown exponentially.

The three main components of ADD could give most children a positive diagnosis. Hyperactivity, distraction, and impulsivity are the main symptoms of ADD. How many children do you know that aren’t hyperactive or impulsive? No wonder there has been an increase in diagnoses.

Regardless of the age-old debate on whether ADD is real or a myth, those who have struggled know better than anyone that these nagging symptoms are hard to overcome.

According to therapist Peg Snyder, Ph.D., the majority of those diagnosed with ADD are very intelligent. From my own experiences, I know this to be true. I got through school with high marks and managed to sail through two degrees without medicating my symptoms. In fact, I developed my own obsessive compulsive personality traits to offset my distractibility. I practiced reading and writing to the point of becoming more skilled than most of my peers.

The most influential aspect of my journey with ADD was the social aspect. With a mind that moved faster than my mouth, I was slow to counter the quips of my sassy peers. I stuttered and thus felt more unintelligent. I finally resorted to violence in order to create my revenge. Of course, this only added to the ADD theories behind my behavioral problems. I was overly sensitive, which is also a symptom of ADD. At this point in my life, I am still more sensitive than most my age, but I’m also a little farther along in many aspects. This isn’t an opportunity for me to stroke my ego so much as it is a testament for all those suffering with ADD that we are capable of just as much if not more than our “normal” peers.

Unfortunately, the way I dealt with my social issues created a lasting impact in a negative way. Sure, I was ahead when it came to academics, but this only intimidated my peers. On top of the intimidation, my sensitivity helped further dig the hole of social anxiety I ended up plunging into. I’ve always had great charisma with other, as I come from a long line of story-tellers and class clowns, but my social phobias gradually increased the gap. I was good at making friends, just not comfortable with it. A loner of sorts. I used to think this was some type of flaw too, until I realized that there is nothing wrong with enjoying quality vs. quantity on the friend front.

I’m sure I have only tapped the tip of personal growth concerning my past and future experiences with ADD, but I find solace in knowing I don’t have brain damage. I’m not stupid. I’m not somehow behind my peers in development. I’m just different. Unique. My thinking just takes a different route than most, but the way I see it is that I’m sure a lot of the great minds in America’s past were ADD.

Are you the next Einstein?

Calling You on Your Sh*t!

It’s time to “call you on your sh*t!” This past weekend, I went to visit my aunt and uncle in St. Louis, my hometown. What I initially was sure would be a light and fun weekend filled with sight-seeing and laugh-induced soreness in the ab region, quickly and beautifully morphed into a mini retreat.

My aunt and uncle are the family members who, no matter how far away they live or how long it is in between chats, will always be dear. Whenever we get together, it’s as if we are picking up right where we left off. In the past few years, during one of those long “between chats” segments of our relationship, my aunt and uncle went under a turbulent time in their lives. They found they weren’t as happy as they could be in this short life. Their relationship, although seemingly typical to themselves and the outside world, was nowhere near its potential.

My new-age, yet trendy aunt started spending time with a life coach, and my uncle went through some counseling of his own. My aunt explained to me that she spent the larger part of her first session pointing out all the things that my uncle did that drove her bananas. Her therapist asked her if she was done, to which my aunt responded through clenched teeth, “Yes.” The therapist then asked my aunt to start listing the ways in which my uncle loved her. She found a long list that had been overshadowed with the frustration of focusing on the ways in which he annoyed her. As in every relationship, life is going to have those times when it will be easier to focus on the negative and to whine about how one has been shortchanged by the world and its inhabitants. The real challenge, and one well worth the discipline, is finding those ways the world tells you it loves you on a daily basis.

So often, we experience the “binocular effect” where we look through the wrong end of the binoculars, and everything seems so far away, so unreachable. We then turn inward and focus on a sort of self-preservation that actually destroys the most important joy of being on earth: our relationships with people, places, and things. I had fallen out of love with the world. I had amassed a towering heap of resentment for my own existence. Why did I have to be in this awful world where nuclear meltdowns threaten huge, thriving populations? Why did I have to be part of a world where children can’t be children anymore? Why do I have to be part of this world where my favorite comfort, my drug of choice- food- is also what seems to keep me from a Beyoncé body?

I went on vacation thinking I would get away with avoiding the way I was feeling. We get away to get away from ourselves in a lot of ways. It wasn’t going to happen on this trip to “The Lou.” There was no emotional privacy, but I mean that in the most constructive way. The theme of the trip was summed up as “Calling you on your sh*t.” My aunt and uncle have learned a way to know a person in a short amount of time, to label them, to know what plagues them. Somehow, as sneaky spies, they manage to do this in a supportive and beautifully blunt way. It hurt. When someone tells you the truth, it usually does.

Don’t misunderstand. These people are wonderful, interesting, funny, giving, and driven, but… they won’t hesitate to call you on your sh*t. My aunt found yet another way to pair her generosity with honesty when she handed me the book, “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth. She said, “I bought this book for myself; then, I started reading it, and I realized it’s not for me. I think it’s for you.” Sure enough, I started to read the book, and it pegged me perfectly.

I’ve always had issues with weight loss. Meaning… I’ve always wanted to lose weight, but it’s only happened once in my life. I was in college, living on my own, and enjoying the camaraderie of my fellow advertising majors. One day, I looked down at my plate and realized that I never really thought about what I was eating. My father, who used to be a chef, taught me tons about cooking. I had learned a great deal about nutrition on my own, but I never managed to put my skills and knowledge into action. The day I realized that there will always be more food available and that I don’t have to clean my plate, was the start of something beyond my understanding until now.

Roth’s book explains that it’s never really about the food. I thought I had some kind of issue because I had always been a little pudgy, and I grew up in a family of eaters. Was I destined to be a little “fluffy” forever? Once I read this book, I realized that the weight I lost in college- about thirty pounds- was so easy to lose because I didn’t try. I just listened to my body. I was also the happiest I had ever been.

Since college, I’ve gained a great deal of weight. Then again, I have been through a lot: a marriage, my father’s stroke, a divorce, a string of boyfriends who were nowhere near a good fit, and moving back in with my mother. Oh- and let us not forget the ever-popular recession. I graduated college into a job market that didn’t want me. All of these forces against me took me far from my body in a sense. I stopped thinking about what I was eating. Sure, I could spout of how to fix your problems with nutrition, but I never really looked at myself. I was scared. It was easier just to self-medicate with savory pasta dishes, gooey chocolate cupcakes, and deliciously fizzy sodas. All the time, the pounds crept up to keep me company.

Here begins my experiment. I’m going to try to recreate the college weight loss phenomenon I had created at beautiful Ball State University. This is going to be a long process. I think my boyfriend might have more trouble with it than me. He’s going to be waiting for me to jump on the fitness train with him, but I’ve already explained to him that it’s not about dieting. Diets always fail. It’s about listening to my body, giving myself the love I deserve, and gradually losing the weight without trying because I’m finally giving myself the attention I deserve. It’s time to savor that cupcake. It’s time for me to love my food and love myself. I challenge you to try this. Taste your food and ask your tummy if it’s satisfied yet. Spend a day avoiding getting full. You’ll notice that you feel lighter and brighter. You deserve it.

Be good to yourself.

-Rachael