Friday, June 5, 2015

Ready

 “I’ll try it, but I may turn around and come back down. Don’t try to make me go!” I said with forced speech to my teenagers as we climbed the steps higher and higher. The water slide was in sight, but still about fifty feet away and up.

Minutes before, we were getting ready to go home. Walking past a big slide on the way out, I said nonchalantly, “Oh, that looks really fun. Too bad we have to get home. I’ll definitely do it next time.”

“Mom, there’s literally no line. We should do it right now!” said my older girls.

“Yeah, go on Kris!” added my husband and his best friend, smiling. They knew I hadn’t meant a word I said.  “We’ll wait right here for you.  Give me your stuff & have fun!”

Our eight year old spoke up with passion.  “Mom, you do not have to do this!” She and I had happily spent the day together hitting the lazy rivers and kiddie areas while the others sought drops and thrills.

The teens urged me to give it a try.  Grabbing a raft and heading up the first flight of stairs, I hesitated and looked back.

“Mom, just think of this as exposure work. This is good for you!” said Erica smiling and making sure I didn’t make a run for the exit.  My 15 year old, who had heard me a million times talk about how exposure work is the very best way to deal with anxiety, was pushing my own advice back in my face.

“Come on Mom, you can do this,” said Zoe, taking another angle. “You’ll love it. It’s so easy. I was nervous the first time, but it’s fun!”

“It’s just that this is not relaxing for me,” I said, still fretting and considering my options. “The lazy river is just my speed. It’s ok. We all have different things that make us happy.”

“You know, my little brother who is 9 AND my Mom did this ride last year and loved it,” added their buddy Ila upping the pressure.  “Come on Aunt Kristin, if they can handle it, so can you.”

“Girls, you cannot shame me into riding this water slide.  I’m not embarrassed. I just don’t like being up so very high.”

But I knew that the ride would be smooth and pretty easy once I overcame the anticipation of walking up the high, open air stair case.  Every other minute or so, I imagined what would happen if I panicked on the stairs. Would I run back down? Crawl? Would someone need to carry me? 

All ridiculous thoughts, but typical of the anxious brain frantically searching for escape routes and answers to “what if” scenarios.

I also knew that making my way up the flight of stairs was good role modeling for all the girls – both the ones encouraging me to go and the one who also found it scary. Trying to look up and not over the edge, I kept climbing, making the decision to keep going with every step.

When we got to the top, there were four slide choices. The girls were quickly talking about which slide was best and which was the slowest, meaning a good choice for me.  I asked the ride workers (who were maybe 20 years old) which of the 4 slides was the easiest. “I’m a little nervous and this is my first time,” I said.

A young man, with a thick accent and name tag showing he was from Ukraine, smiled and said, “Yes, it is good. You sit here.”  And, with a little push, I was on my way.

I heard the girls cheering as I took off down the slide. It was relaxing and beautiful like they said it would be.  Late afternoon sunlight made it’s way through the tree tops and sparkled on the water.  I found myself smiling, feeling the breeze in my face and leaning into the curves with contentment. Going down the “big” drop at the end was exciting and, all in all, the ride was over too quickly.

Getting out, I received cheers from my family & friends. I was a little shaky from the anticipation, but genuinely happy.

There’s a scene in Lemony Snicket that resonated with me, reading it the day after my ride.

“Are you ready?” Klaus asked finally.
“No,” Sunny answered.
“Me neither,” Violet said, “but if we wait until we’re ready we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. Let’s go.”

I wasn’t ready to go on the ride or deal with being nervous.  Putting off things like that until tomorrow or the next time or when we’re ready is an attempt to feel brave in the moment.  But underneath there is a part of us that wants to experience all of life and urges us forward, whispering alongside the fear - yes!

Saying yes to my girls and to life felt good. Saying yes to anxiety and facing it almost always feels very good after the fact. It’s the saying yes part, the feeling of shaky legs and racing thoughts that has to come first.

We walked out of the park as afternoon turned into early evening, hand in hand retelling stories from the day.  Turning back toward the entrance, we saw our friends at the top of the Colossal Curl, a stair case rising 70 feet above the ground, waving like crazy and smiling. 

"That was an awesome ride," my teens said with their father agreeing.  I love that feeling of being both scared and excited, they added.  We all jumped up and down and waved back.  It had been a glorious day just being together, laughing and creating memories. We were good tired, happy and as we hopped into the car, I said, "Let's go."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Movie night!

If you haven't been introduced to Lynn Lyons yet, today is your lucky day. She & Reid Wilson co-wrote a book called "Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents" which is filled with skills building information that's helpful for both kids and adults.

This video was filmed during a training she did for teachers and is just under 2 hours. I'll wait while you go pop some popcorn, get a notebook & pencil. Go on. It's totally worth your time whether or not you're watching to build your own skills and/or those of your kids and family. I've forwarded this video on to a few friends with kids who struggle with anxiety and they've all raved at how much they learned and how excited they were to have a game plan.

Enjoy & let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weekend Treatment Groups

Reid Wilson is getting ready to hold a few weekend treatment groups for people with panic disorder and OCD. Check out his website and get ready for a life changing weekend! You can read about my experience here.

If you live in the Chicago area, Dave Carbonell is also holding a 10 week panic attacks treatment group this coming Fall 2011.

Has anyone else attended either of these groups? If yes, what did you think? Does anyone have other resources they'd like to share?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Anxiety Humor

Hi there! It's been a while, but I found something I had to share. Dave Carbonell has started a new page on his website called "Anxiety Humor" and it's fantastic. I've been known to sing my worries while driving or anticipating some panic provoking situation, so this is right up my alley. Imagine the difference in your practice sessions if you're breaking out in silly songs, perhaps loudly with the windows down? Anxiety messing with you in the work place or social settings? Why not sing these ditties in your head - no one will be the wiser.

I'd love to hear how it goes or if you have humor techniques that are already part of your repertoire!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is anxiety a mental illness?

At the end of August, a professor from the University of Arizona contacted me about submitting a "first person account" of anxiety for a new text book he and his colleagues are writing. They've received a number of submissions from people dealing with various forms of mental malaise. I'm getting ready to submit my story, but am still hung up on the books title "First Person Accounts of Mental Illness". It just feels like there's a big difference between an anxiety disorder and, say, paranoid schizophrenia with delusions. My Dad, a clinical psychologist, used to say that anxiety and depression were the common colds of mental health. I tend to agree.

The professor said that he was open to alternate titles for this text. Any ideas? What do you think? Is anxiety a mental illness? And, if not, is there a better description for what we experience?

Hope everyone is enjoying this amazing fall weather!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Exercise and Anxiety

I've got to tell you, I've been really noticing the positive effects of exercise on my mood and energy level these past few months. I'm not knocking yoga or a good power walk, but it's the days where I get some good cardio in and really sweat that seem to make the biggest difference. This is not new information in the world of anxiety and health, but it's interesting how difficult it is to prioritize self care.

Between taking care of three children and getting a second wind around 10pm, I can find lots of reasons to turn my alarm off at 6am. Frequently my husband and I will say to each other, "Ok, this is the week we're going to bed by 10:30pm and getting up early!" Signing up for a couple triathlons this summer certainly helped get me up in the morning, but my motivation can dwindle when race season is complete and daylight grows shorter. When I'm tired and not exercising, the world seems more overwhelming and my wheels spin.

This week, I've made a new pact with my husband to go to bed by 11pm-ish and I've gotten up the past five mornings to exercise. Depending on how much time I have, I'm doing a mix of running a faster 2-3 miles (a 10 minute mile is speedy for me); a favorite 20 minute video; swimming; and biking with a friend on the weekends. Even a little dance break in the day can help my body and brain play nice.

What's changed? I had to sit myself down during the daytime hours and say, "Look, girl, this is good for you & it makes you feel so much better! You are not going to find time to exercise after 7am. Now get your butt to bed! Whatever still needs doing can wait until tomorrow!" Again, while exercise and enough sleep does not make anxiety go away for me, it helps make it more manageable by using up some of that super-power adrenaline and starting each day with a more rested brain.

Will I be singing a different tune, next week? Perhaps, but accountability is a good motivator, too! What effect does enough sleep and exercise have on your mental health and outlook? What's working for you?

Friday, September 10, 2010

This too shall pass

Ok, so no one could ever accuse me of being current with all things hip. I understand that this video was "everywhere" in January, even though it came into my universe this morning. My husband couldn't believe I had never seen it and pulled it up on YouTube. When we should have been finishing the kids lunches and getting shoes on, the five of us watched and danced a little before heading off to work, school and the playground. Everyone lovingly rolled their eyes when they realized that the end of this song brought tears to my eyes. I'm not sure why - maybe it was the big band finish (I was in the high school marching band), the fabulous creativity or the fact that music bypasses my brain and goes straight to emotion for me.

I love the message of "this too shall pass - let it go" and thought it fitting to share in this space. This phrase reminds me to be ever present and move slowly through all of life's moments. We can find comfort in the fact that emotional turbulence will not last forever. And, an equally, if not more, important message is to wake up to the joy and beauty in our every day lives, because those moments pass, as well. We don't have to feel calm or "together" to be awake to our lives, we only have to show up.

What moments have you been awake to today - what beauty have you seen?

Hugging my girls, looking into their eyes and telling them that I love them; laughing with my handsome husband this morning; holding my 3 year old's soft, tiny hand; watching clouds roll through the breezy sky; taking time to listen to the sounds of outdoors and feel the crisp morning air; making home made pizza dough at my child's pace as she stirred the flour up to her elbows and snitched dough; children racing through the grass to see brilliant green caterpillars at our school garden; listening to a foreign language being spoken; people connecting and reaching out to one another; etc.

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