Pictures and the Whole Story

Living with anxiety is so funny….not haha funny but interesting funny in that you don’t really get pictures when your heart is racing and you are experiencing this feeling like you are being chased by a bear but there’s no fucking bear. Yeh no selfies in that moment.   However as I’m typing this I wonder if that might be something I try the next time I’m feeling that way to distract myself. 😁 Stay tuned for those photos.

In the meantime however there are these moments like the pictures above. The deer made my heart so calm…. I did have a panic attack on the beach but most of the time I was there it was incredibly peaceful. Most enjoyable time is with friends even if in the woods I really struggle,  I was able to let the positive energy from my friends calm my anxious mind. And there’s nothing like live music in a book store that has a bar and a coffee shop to make my day!

This is currently my life. I am doing it, I am living it, I am finding joy in the midst of the storm.

The Chemicals of Life

Are you getting a proper D.O.S.E. of life’s chemicals? Probably not. These important brain chemicals are Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins. In our current Covid world getting these has been significantly reduced. Let’s talk about them and healthy ways you can get them flowing in your brain again.

Dopamine: I call this the reward chemical. And unfortunately lately too many of us are getting this from the little “thumbs up” button or “heart” button on social media. Don’t get me wrong I am not a social media hater it has its place and value in our lives. But you are designed for greater rewards. However since most of us are still on the bottom of Maslow Hierarchy of needs, it’s a little hard to be out there killin’ it at anything. (Thanks to Covid and the media it’s hard to feel safe) You can get this chemical from completing a task or getting recognized for an achievement. Here’s some thoughts on ways to produce some dopamine in your life.

* Set a fundraising goal. With so many charities seeing reduced funding this year this is a win/win. You will feel that huge shot of dopamine when you achieve your goal and you’ll be helping others.

*Set an exercise goal. You knew I was going to say this, right?! But, seriously what a great way to feel good emotionally and physically. You don’t have to set a goal to run a 1/2 marathon, just decide to walk one mile every day for 30 days. This is where social media can be your friend, post a picture every day and you get another little shot of dopamine when you get the thumbs up.

Oxytocin: This is our love chemical. We get this being with our tribe. This is HARD lately. We were created for gathering. You have to work within your comfort level, but it is ESSENTIAL to our total well-being to spend time with people. Zoom calls can give us a minimal amount of this chemical, however not enough.

*I know many of you have gotten creative meeting outside. I HIGHLY encourage this. Since we’re not spending money on entertainment and other things, now is the time to invest in some quality cold weather clothing. This is truly the best investment you can make right now. If you don’t know what you need head over to our local REI store. They are amazing and their return policy is unbeatable. You really can not go wrong.

Serotonin: Our happy drug 😁 We get this doing things we love ie: going to movies, concerts, dining out etc. All things we have limited access to now. Unfortunately what I see happening is many are getting their serotonin from food, alcohol and Netflix. Not all bad, but do that for the long haul and imagine how you are going to look and feel. Dig back to your child self and find simple things you found pleasure doing.

*Puzzles? Games? Reading? Walking in nature? I love games and books, if you need any suggestions, hit me up!

Again I am not saying skip the fun food and Netflix. It is important to have time to just not think. Having that food treat is OK, just not without control. Balance it with other healthier ways to spend your time.

Endorphins: There only job is to mask physical pain. As a runner I definitely know about this chemical. It’s how I get to the finish line in a race. Good news for all you exercise haters, there are other ways to release endorphins that I think your going to like.

*Get a massage: While physical activity is one of the best ways to release endorphins, lying still and letting someone else do the work can release them too.

*Eat Chocolate: Chocolate contains “mood-boosting substances” such as phenethylamine, which naturally boosts endorphins. Of course I reccomend a dark chocolate. 70% or above, but work your way up if you need to.

Bottom line is to be aware of the long term effects of not getting your D.O.S.E. of chemicals. We are all doing our part to prevent the spread of Covid. Paying attention to masking, social distancing and washing our hands. The time is NOW to start thinking about…

1. Setting some goals to achieve. Getting our dopamine

2. Spending time with people. Physically with them.

3. Finding things that give you joy. Something to look forward to everyday.

4. Eat Chocolate and Exercise

2020 Book Review

Well this year fell heavily on biographies.  I hadn’t even realized it until I totaled them all up.  It’s hard to narrow down a few favorites because every biography teaches me something. Leaves me with some thread to weave into the fabric if my life.  However I will try to narrow it down to my top 5 favorite books this year.

#1 Dough Nation by our local Chris Andrus
This book just spoke to everything that had been stirring in my heart the last few years. We, the community,  the small business have the greatest potential to fill the gaps in our community.  We are ground zero for repairing the equity gap in housing,  food security,  medical needs. We can designate a portion of our business model to giving without going out of business.  In fact Chris would argue and I think he can argue from a place of experience,  that it will help our business to help others. Enough said…..just get it and read it.
#2 Refugee by Alan Gratz
Though this was a young adult book and a fictional story, it was based on actual lives.  This book truly opened my eyes to the larger picture of immigration.  3 different people and time periods,  all with similar experiences.  Highly recommend!
#3 What a Girl is Worth by Rachel DenHollander
Again another eye opener to how I may have misunderstood sexual abuse. I like to think I am non-judgmental, but I bet there are times I may have wondered why someone didn’t say something sooner about abuse.  Well I now understand abuse much better than before.
(side note…I also read Tell Me Who I Am by Alex and Marcus Lewis another fascinating book that highlights abuse.  In this book one of the brothers, twins, suffers a injury that causes memory loss.  The brother chooses not to tell his twin about the abuse.  After about 10 years it is discovered.  I would highly recommend this as well.)
#4 Tight Rope: Americans Reaching for Hope
This book is a very good look at the equity gap in America. Observed from the authors home town of Yamhill Oregon and nicely correlated to the overall statistics in America.  If you need stats to be convinced they have them, if you need real life examples to be convinced you get it.
#5 A tie between….
Ghandi:A life Inspired by Lynn Hamilton
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
The lives of these 2 two men speak for themselves.  I was inspired.

The rest of the list……
*Tell Me Who I Am by Alex and Marcus Lewis
*Finding Gobi:  The true story of a little dog and incredible journey by Dion Leonard
* Twelve years a slave by Solomon Northrup
*The Good Neighboor: The life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King
* Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and WWII by Robert Matzen (this book was fascinating!)
*Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
*The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong child,  her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures by Anne Fadiman (another fascinating read)
*The Adventurers Son by Roman Dial (loved this sad and tragic biography as well)
*The Boys in the Boat:  9 Americans in their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
*Smacked by Eileen Zimmerman (I LOVED  this book.)
*Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, martyr, prophet, spy by Eric Metaxes ( this was my second time reading this book. So much in it!)
*The Pain Free Program by Anthony Carey (work related)
*Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (highly recommend)
*The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
*Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
*Remorseless by Beth Fisher (HIGHLY RECOMMEND! Beth also has a podcast that I highly recommend)
*Long Bright River by Liz Moore
*Circe by Madeline Miller (a change in genre for me that I quite enjoyed)
*I am Hager: Forgotten No More by Kinita Schripsema (Another local author that I recommend her podcast)
*The Reason for God by Timothy Keller (second time reading,  well worth it)
*The Great Divorce by CS Lewis

These last 3 books are on racism and let me just say a few things about them. What I came away with, was that I needed to learn the history of racism but that I do not have a burning desire to volunteer in this arena.  I can only do so many things well, this is definitely something that tugs at my heart strings but I do not see it much in my life.  Not like cancer and poverty have been things that I have closer experiences too. By being educated about the history of blacks in America I definitely have more compassion and understanding but I don’t feel responsible for it. Hopefully that makes sense. 

*Caste: The origins of our discontent by Isabel Wilkerson (This book is very well written,  informative and I highly recommend)
* Me and my white supremacy: Combat racism change the world and become a good ancestor by Layla Saad (I think the intention of this book was good,  however I did not find it helpful at all. I really just felt like I was being yelled at and scolded)
*White Fragility by Robin D’Angelo So this book I could not even finish.  If you enjoyed I would love to hear what you learned

Breakfast

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.
– Pema Chödrön

I love this picture, not only because it is so frickin cool, but because it reminds me that God often gives me just enough light for the step I am on.  This picture is a friends driveway. Her house is up there in the darkness but at this point you would have no idea the safety of home is just ahead. You could see this as dark and ominous or serene and peaceful. This is so often my life. I am in a spot SO close to home or the next safe spot on the journey. Yet I can’t see that far ahead. And how do I choose to see where I am at?

2020 the year of perfect vision. At first glance it may look like that went to hell in a handbasket, but did it?

The last forty days of 2020 I fasted from all social media. Well that fast has turned into more than forty days, but I am finally breaking the fast. In many ways it was a good break, but boy did I miss all of you. I hadn’t realized how much those posts of friends lives meant to me.

What a great year for seeing with crystal clarity what really matters in our lives. I know that it was good for me. In his book “Think like a monk” Jay Shetty references the biosphere 2. A huge steel and glass enclosure meant to provide ideal living conditions for the flora and fauna within. I feel like the last couple decades have been this attempt to create ideal living conditions for us. How can we make everything in our lives easier, more efficient, less work. The sphere had some success, but it had an interesting failure as well. When the trees inside grew to a certain height, they would just fall over. It was discovered the trees lacked something vital…..the pressure and stress of the wind to make its bark grow stronger, and it’s roots grow deeper to increase its stability. We worked so hard to make our lives easier but we need the pressure and discomfort of life to help us grow stronger and our roots to grow deeper to increase our stability. Alot of us had to face some really hard shit this past year. I saw many people rise to the occasion. The challenges of 2020 certainly pushed me to develop some new skills.

I struggled (am still struggling) with a lot of doubt, fear and anxiety in 2020. But, look! I worked through it. I am definitely changed for the better in many ways. And the struggles I still have not conquered are forcing me to perserve. I had previously struggled with severe panic attacks. Thought that was mostly behind me. Nope! Another opportunity to cultivate new tools for coping.

What a gift 2020 was. It gave me a chance to re-evaluate my life goals. As it turned out I actually accomplished quite a few of my original goals. I accomplished some educational goals, some financial goals, read 27 books. Even with an injury that forced to miss 6 months of running I still got over 500 miles, and over 2000 on the bike. What a gift to be able to be active still at 55 years old. I terribly missed my racing and the community it provided. However I learned that the ability to run is far more valuable than the finish time (although when my toes touch that start line, I will give it my best!), the camaraderie is the reward at the finish line

I am so inspired by the many ways my community, my circle of friends, my little corner of the world showed their grit, showed their compassion for others and showed up for 2020. Lets go forth and be epic together ❤

The Switch

When I came off the stage at the 2019 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year Grand Finale my dad said to me “Turn around, let me see your back” As I turned I asked what he was looking for. He responded “who flipped the switch? Where is the girl who was so anxious all the time?” We laughed and he told me how proud he was of me and frankly I was proud of myself. I had finally arrived at no longer living daily with anxiety and panic attacks.

At that moment in time whenever I felt anxiety coming on I had control. I never felt controlled by it anymore. It never occurred to me that I would face this unrelenting anxiety again. Some days I am so afraid I will never see that version of me again.

Then I have to go back into fight mode. I fight those thoughts and try to replace them with thoughts of victory. I am realizing it really truly is all about my thoughts. It can be a tiny momentary thought and immediately my body responds. I am acutely aware of any changes in my breathing, or how my stomach feels, I even start to feel slightly light headed. Its a one-two punch. A thought and a feeling. The spiral starts, so quickly lately.

After a few of those I have discovered I don’t trust my body. It delivers the hits so unexpectedly that I am sliding before I even realize it. Which then sets off an avalanche that disrupts every activity there after.

I think the avalanche has stopped. Like any avalanche survivor I have dug a hole around my nose to breathe, however I am still feeling crushed by the weight of the snow (anxiety). It is essential that I use the tools I have to keep digging. If I stop, or give up hope I am doomed.

There are 6 things you can do to survive an avalanche that may also help with anxiety.

Move to the Side. Once you see an avalanche heading your way, do not try to outrun it. …… don’t try to run from anxiety. The more I run from it the more it consumes me. Try to get out of its way, don’t give it any space in my life

Grab Something Sturdy. …find that safe person! They are out there and they want to help. Let them be strong while you can’t. We do not always have to be strong.

Swim. …just go with it when it hits. Keep moving! Don’t get paralyzed, it will bury you for sure.

Hold One Arm Up. …you can let your freak flag fly. Letting people know you are struggling brings out your helpers. You would be surprised by how many other people know your struggle and can offer encouragement and help in time of need.

Create Room to Breathe. …give yourself grace. Don’t give in and settle but definitely give yourself grace if you don’t meet your expectations that day. Beating yourself up is the fastest way to more anxiety. I find doing more helps give me room to breath. Things that have purpose and meaning.

Stay Calm…… As I said earlier I have this fear that I’ll never see that old version of myself again. This is definitely not helpful! I need to stay calm and remind myself that I will see that version of me again. One day at a time I get closer to it.

Happy Unanniversery

I don’t post much on here about my personal life because one, it is so weird and convulted, and two I really don’t think it’s anybodys business. ( I reserve that craziness for my face-to-face friends 😁) However I do share a lot of personal stuff that I feel like might be encouraging or helpful to someone else. So on that note I share today’s post because there might be somebody else out there who has traversed this same strange road. Maybe you’ve already arrived at the end of it and can be a source of encouragement for me.

34 years ago today I said something like the following before all my friends and family in a lovely church to Jeff Matthews.

“I, Kym take you, Jeff, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”

And for the most part I have…..EXCEPT that 5 years ago I said I can’t. I filed for divorce and said goodbye to that life and that version of me. I have learned ALOT about myself since then.

I don’t regret saying I do 34 years ago and I don’t regret filing for divorce 5 years ago. There are lots of things that I wish were different but I can’t change them. I can’t change the things that influenced me growing up, I can’t change the things that influenced my parents growing up, I can’t change the timing of when key people who helped me change came into my life, I can’t change that I probably didn’t do the worst job parenting but I didn’t do the best either.

What is true then and will always be true is that I love my kids with all my heart and tried my best. I love Jeff with all my heart ( A wise friend once said when I was struggling to try and figure out life, “you can’t tell your heart who to love” …… and sometimes that pisses me off). I did the best I could as a wife.

Jeff and I…….where will this journey take us?
Happy Unanniversery to us! 😆

Failure

Well my goal last week was to try to reframe my thoughts. Every time I was gripped with anxiety instead of “What if..worst case scenario” to “What if Not…worst case scenario, or what if best case scenario”.

How did that go you ask. Ha! Yeah not so great! But! I tried and I will try again this week. The first time a baby takes a step and falls down they don’t give up and say I can’t walk. Well babies don’t talk and probably don’t have the capacity to over think this whole trying to walk thing anyway…lol I need to go back to my child like self and just try it again without over thinking it.

The struggle was real this week. I had a great holiday weekend with low levels of panic and then this week I had a really hard time. I had a procedure done early on in COVID shelter in place. I passed out after the whole thing was done. That feeling is still so vividly in my mind and I have become terrified of passing out again. So as soon as I start to feel anxious it escalates so quickly. Anxiousness produces some of those same feelings you get as your starting to pass out. This leads to the vicious cycle of loosing control of my breathing and thoughts. The thoughts start to spiral and it is so freaking hard to get it back on track once I have lost it.

Anxiety may have robbed me of alot lately but it has not taken away my fight.
When I was struggling through a bad one last week and a friend was there for me, I said to her through tears “I will not let this beat me. I will get over this again!”
No matter what you are going through, keep trying.

Failure is “not trying” not “not succeeding”

So I go into next week with a spirit of hope, gratefulness and determination. I will allow myself grace for difficult days, yet I will not stop trying or believing for victory.

I will continue to see in me what I see in others. I always believe in my clients, I need to see myself with those same eyes.

Me and My Unwelcome Guest

Friday an unwelcome guest and I went for a 30 mile bike ride. Much of the ride the guest kept reminding me that it was almost 90 degrees and the humidity was oppressive. Therefore insinuating that I was incapable of hydrating myself and that my legs and body were not strong enough to endure this. In the moments that I got away from this guest the views were amazing. I rode some rural wooded roads and some along the Michigan lakeshore. The guest hung around all afternoon at the beach with me. Not always noticeable, more like a shadow.

Saturday I headed up to Ludington for a spontaneous rode trip. The funny thing is…well its actually not funny at all….the weird, annoying 🙄 thing is that I get so worried that this guest will show up that the guest gets an open door into my mind.

I want to pause here a minute to let you, the reader of this blog know, that I just went back and changed one word in this post. That word was “my”. Up till this point I had been referring to this guest as “my” guest. Which is because if you haven’t already guessed it “this” guest is anxiety. And far to often I give this guest space in my home. So as I read back over what I had written I realized I was giving it power by calling it “my” guest like it was a coat I wore or was somehow a part of me. It is not a part of me. It is something I deal with but I really don’t want it to be me, or mine.

I had big plans for Saturday and really did not want my guest to join. Since a couple months into COVID it has slowly felt more and more like I could not get away from her. She started voicing her opinion more and more. Her opinion is always negative and worse case scenario. She is hopeless and worried all the time. Have I mentioned how much I truly hate her!

Saturday ended up being glorious. I was able to leave this unwanted guest behind for a while. My mind got filled with other wonderful guests. I love people and whenever we travel Jeff and I always meet people. Lately having to avoid people left too much room in my house for “the unwanted guest” Thankfully we were able to distance well in the woods and on the shoreline yet still interact with and meet wonderful people.

And I have to say everyone should have a fat tire bike. I have 4 bikes (I know, I know I have a bike addiction) a road bike, tri bike, mountain bike and my fatty. Every time I ride my fatty not only am I smiling but everyone you pass is smiling. So go rent one! You’ll be hooked 😍

This is my 3rd really rough stretch with this unwanted guest and I hope the shortest. I really have learned better tools for keeping this guest out. However it is hard work. Once you start to have severe panic attacks it easily escalates. They are incredibly uncomfortable and the fear of having another one is so intense yet it is exactly this fear that produces the anxiety.

My big goal this week is to focus on this one thought…..”What if I don’t”

My unwanted guest is always saying “what if you have a panic attack.” Well what if I don’t?…..

Continuing to work to fill my home with good things. Getting back to helping, meeting with others, doing. I was created for doing and when I am doing there is no room in the house for Negative Nelly 🙃

Anxiety Ups and Downs

I had really forgotten how much anxiey chips away at your confidence! Conversely I feel like confidence chips away at anxiety.

Purpose, achievement and fellowship seem to be the bridge between. Like I said in my last post, I never found doing the hard thing while so filled with anxiety about it, make me feel like I have mastered it. Quite the contrary. For example Saturday I went for a bike ride, this was something I used to do for up to 60 miles with no problem, now all of the sudden I can’t ride 10 miles from home without being gripped with anxiety. Yet despite my fear I was determined to do it. All the way out the anxiety was building, at my turn around point I called my friend as I was so struggling. Couldn’t breath, elephant sitting on my chest, hands feeling tingly from hyperventilating…… If you struggle with anxiety you know how this feels. My friend talked me through it and incidentally another friend happened to reach out to me and as I talked to her my anxiety started to come down. I got home and felt like shit. I absolutely did not feel accomplished, I do not feel like I can go out the next time and have no anxiety because I did it this time.

Today however I met a friend for coffee. I had quite a bit of anticipatory anxiety the previous 24 hours. Yet just minutes into being with this person the heaviness in my body disappeared. I felt such wind in my sails again. We laughed, we shared common struggles and we encouraged each other.

These are the things I need to string more of together. So hard to do when your so exhausted just managing yourself. Its fricking tiring being this version of me 😆 So this is the hard stuff I need to do! Make time with friends, work on LLS awareness and fundraising, get involved in those programs that have needs.

Me:YES! Voices in my head: No! Me:YES! Voices in my head: so tired! Me:Just do Voices in my head:not today, just give yourself time Me: time for what?! Voices in my head:to get everything just right

Haha! Do you see why I am so tired 😉😄I now know from past experience what will make me feel better, more empowered! Doing. Throwing my efforts into helping others. Spending time with people. Getting out of my head and out of myself. I can not give up.

Thanks for letting me share just a slice of my crazy with you. I am trying really hard this time around to be transparent about this struggle. I found over the years that many people struggle like I have, but since I struggled rather privately through the previous bouts lots of people I meet now had a hard time envisioning how bad it was. In the 90’s I was really badgered to try pharmaceuticals to get better. My choice not to made me a target for some brutality. I am proud to say I managed without meds. That may not be your journey and thats OK. Your journeys is only yours and this is mine. I promise you it will be ugly at times but it will always be authentic.

Living Forward

Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward. Soren Kierkegaard

How I wish it were different, but it is so true, life is truly clearer looking back vs living it in the moment. Soren also pointed out that “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” And sometimes those experiences are painful and sometimes they are exhilarating!

I get stuck in wanting to figure out the lesson I am to learn from my experiences now. Guilty of wanting to hurry the process up. I am a little bit Dragnet “just the facts ma’am” 😆 (giving my age away now) Just give me the facts let me figure out the answer so I can feel accomplished 🤔 What is it that keeps me from marinating in the difficult moments? Why do I try to rush them along?

The more we allow ourselves to be uncomfortable the less difficult it is. Dealing with anxiety got easier for me when I got comfortable being uncomfortable. Now suddenly I have uncomfortable overload and all systems have gone haywire. Can I get an Amen! Am I the only one who is feeling uncomfortable overload?! Do I wear a mask? Don’t I wear a mask? Hand sanitizer, no hand sanitizer! 🥴 For a girl who likes to follow the rules, I am overwhelmed by what is the rule of the day!

For now there are parts of my life I am struggling to understand but I know that I dont necessarily have to solve them. Maybe just experiencing them again is the gift. I have talked to people for years about my victory over debilitating anxiety. Experiencing those feeling again has brought me a fresh perspective. Another opportunity to test the tools I used previously to have victory again.

I find people often think you just have to do the thing that causes you fear and anxiety. I would absolutely disagree! White knuckling it through has never proven effective. Accomplishment builds self confidence. That is the key. Step out of your safe space just a little, just enough to build that confidence. Do that over and over again until that act becomes safe. Now you can step out of your newly expanded safe circle.

This takes time and patience. You know that thing I previously told you I didn’t have….patience. 😁 I do like to feel accomplished though, and I do really well training for running and biking events. So finding Kympossible has to become my new event. I suspect some days will go better than others. It does running and biking so this will be no different.

I will brush of the bad days like I brush off the less than wonderful runs. I would love to help you do the same. If you need someone to encourage you, come alongside you, cheer you on please feel free to reach out.