I am fucking proud of myself.

I got off of work at 1pm. I drove home, changed, and walked right back out the door to head to the city my new girl lives in. She doesn’t get off of work until 6pm, but traffic is so bad if I leave anywhere after 2pm, I’ll be sitting for over an hour. So, I made it to the nearest Starbucks in about 30 minutes with minimal traffic.

Once at Starbucks, I ordered a venti decaf white peppermint mocha. Man, that’s a mouthful. I went to bathroom while they prepared it and when I came out, I grabbed my drink and headed for one of the couches. There were not many people in here at this time.

I started by going through my work email and responding to them. I checked my personal email as well. Then, I moved to my blog- the one you are currently on. I wrote 3 articles about topics that are at least somewhat emotionally charged. I went to the bathroom once more.

When I came back, I started to get the familiar unwelcome shortness of breath feeling. I thought that maybe my coffee was caffeinated after all. I tried to stay a little while longer, but eventually I had to pack up my things, pee one more time, and nervously head out the door. I still had about an hour to kill, though.

I walked to my car and breathed a small sigh of relief as I sat down. The simple thing of not being around other people is already enough to take a huge weight off. I drove to a nearby parking lot of a shopping center and parked. I pulled up some YouTube videos and wrote in my journal. I also talked to myself trying to rationalize the situation in my brain.

I was not able to completely shake that anxious, heavy feeling in my chest- even once I got to her apartment. It died down a little bit, but it was still very much present. I was nervous to drive home. Having a panic attack while on the road is a huge fear of mine.

Anyway, it did finally come time for me to drive home. I got in my car and drove away. It’s a 30 minute drive of nothing but highway. I got about 5 minutes in before I felt that feeling again. I started biting my nails and I hiked my left leg up on the seat- my go to position when I feel anxious in the car. Then, I decided to try and focus on my breathing.

I counted about 4-5 counts inhaling and 8-10 counts exhaling to counteract my hyperventilation. It was working. Then the feeling came back. I tried again to really focus on my breathing and the road. I felt myself calm down a little bit and I was able to get home quickly and safely with a lot less panic than if I had not focused so much on this breathing pattern.

This is big for me. I am rarely able to focus enough on my breathing to actually slow it down, but I did it. Practice makes better, I guess. I’m just proud that I made it home alright.

I’m in bed now. It’s late. I have work tomorrow. My roommates are both out of town and sleeping alone in this house makes me nervous. My neighborhood is not exactly the safest, but that’s Atlanta for you. My doors are all locked and I left one living room light on. We also have all 3 of our cars in the driveway, so it looks like their are plenty of people here. I’ve done this before, I think I can do it again.

Goodnight, all.

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Insomniac or nah?

I started having issues sleeping right around the same time my anxiety and panic attacks revealed themselves (about 10-12 years ago).

With that being said, bad sleep/insomnia also runs on my mom’s side of the family. My mother does not sleep well and neither does her mother.

For me, the issue doesn’t seem to be falling asleep. In fact, that happens quite quickly sometimes. However, I wake up multiple times throughout the night. This leaves me feeling frustrated and exhausted when I have to get up for work.

I actually function quite well and don’t feel much of a drain throughout the day, but it’s annoying not sleeping completely through the night.

What have I done to combat my sleeping issues? Let me list them for you.

  • Weighted blanket- I don’t actually know if this makes a huge difference, but I love it. I love the weight and warmth. It was one of my best purchases.
  • Melatonin
  • Baldriparan
  • Cooler room temp- This has helped the most.
  • Noise machine set on white noise- I would like to note that I wear earplugs at night AND I still have the noise machine on because I can hear it through my plugs and still reap some of the benefits (it drowns out the other sounds in my house like my roommate getting off of work at 2am)
  • Ear plugs- Happy Ears. Buy Them. Now. They Are Amazing.– I spent years going through a multitude of earplugs ranging from foam to wax to this silicone version and I’ve made my choice.
  • I find that taking a hot shower (just body, no hair washing) right before I go to sleep is nice.
  • I stop drinking liquids at 7pm so I only get up once to use the bathroom during the night.
  • I sleep in complete darkness.
  • I have made my bedtime 9pm every single night whether it’s a weekday or weekend.

I’ve never actually been diagnosed with insomnia, but I’ve also never asked my doctor about it because it seemed normal to me. I will probably ask my doctor about further options the next time I visit just to get that professional opinion, but I don’t see much changing.

My Anxiety

My anxiety always feels like I can’t take in a full breath. It always feels like yawning and then not hitting the “top” of your yawn. It’s a heavy weight on the top of my chest. It’s shallow breaths. It’s a fear of not being able to breathe and not having anyone there to help.

Once on the brink of a panic attack, my legs and arms get tingly/partially numb. Everything around me begins to sound like white noise.

From there, it goes one of two ways: either I sit down somewhere and ride it out or I start trying to implement my coping skills and hope it goes away.

I have a few coping skills/tools and some of them are silly, but when you feel like you can’t breathe, there’s not much you won’t do to relieve it.

  • sitting down/squatting in an almost fetal position seemed to calm me
  • applying makeup, specifically eye liner or mascara that would require more concentration
  • eating food
  • brushing my teeth
  • shaking my hands and arms to get feeling back into them
  • podcasts for distraction
  • calling someone on the phone
  • writing in my journal

I also have collected prevention tools over the years and I don’t use them all, but I’m sure it would help.

  • When I first went into therapy I was told to use something called the Alpha Stim SCS.
  • Since the end of May of this year, I’ve also been trying CBD oil. Honestly, I haven’t felt much of a difference, but I also haven’t been taking it regularly for the past 3 weeks.
  • I’ve been drinking more water and eating more healthy foods.
  • Sometimes I take lavender pills.
  • I try my very best to get good sleep and enough of it, but that has been a lifelong challenge that I can expand on in another post.
  • I do not consume a lot of alcohol, and when I do, I limit myself to a single glass of wine or beer.
  • I stay away from caffeine.
  • I’ve been trying to move more through stretching, just getting up more at work, and actual exercise, but I’m lazy and sometimes I can’t be bothered even though I know it would probably help immensely.
  • I continue to push myself to do things that make me a little uncomfortable because you have to conquer the things you fear to overcome that emotion.

My anxiety has never kept me from going on adventures or living my life, but it has limited how far I would travel for those adventures and it gets annoying when all you want to do is enjoy yourself, but these “what if” questions won’t stop buzzing.

It’s a struggle, yes, but yesterday’s therapy session felt promising. Read more about it here.