Anxiety Series – Dermatillomania: Anxiety Dimension Solution (part five)

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My life had become ruled by anxiety. I had even developed an anxiety disorder called dermatillomania. This blog is focused on ‘picking apart’ and dismantling this disorder, instead of doing so to my skin. I am doing this so that I can restructure and put myself back together in a way that I can accept, because I cannot to continue to accept this disorder in my life.

In my last blog series I walked the process of deconstructing anxiety reactions to see what exactly causes them and how one can firstly, direct oneself to walk through them in a way where one won’t feed into and perpetuate them; and secondly, avoid triggering them at all. I have proven to myself too many times already, that I can’t simply stop my compulsive skin picking and other OCD tendencies. I am now working on making the internal and external changes necessary to create the environment in which change will be possible.

For practicality, in my last blogs, I listed five examples of every-day situations that trigger anxiety in my own life. As a side note, in doing this, I actually got to know myself and who I am within the anxiety, and how I can handle its onset. The process I have walked in my last few blogs has been a very interesting, and I have been successfully practicing what I’ve taught myself for several weeks now (in terms of preventing or walking through the anxiety where it would have normally taken over). I’ve observed quite a significant change in my experience of anxiety, as well as the frequency of anxiety attacks. The biggest difference has been at my job, where my overall stress level had been reduced. I highly suggest checking out my other blogs in this anxiety series in order to apply the same process in your own life.

Here is where I left off in my last blog: “The best solution is to keep practicing being able to recognize the moment anxiety first starts, because that is where it can be stopped. The goal is to prevent the reactions from taking place at all. This requires a slowing down within self, and a self-awareness perhaps not previously developed. I will work on these aspects over the next weeks, by studying my examples of ‘anxiety-triggering situations’ I wrote about in my last blog. I will ‘study’ them by walking through them one by one, doing self-forgiveness on all the points so that I reveal to myself any hidden self-sabotage and to see what exactly is going on that leads me to create an anxiety reaction within myself.”

I have been going to the gym for the past year or so. What I noticed at first was minimal to no upper-body strength. After a year of working out with weights, swimming and boxing, I have noticed visible musculature and a slight but noticeable increase in strength. It has been awesome to see something develop from virtually nothing. The muscles were not there before, and now they are. It’s as simple as that: they are new, I created them. When they are tiny and not very strong, even the lightest weights make me tremble with effort after a couple of reps. But I know that if I simply continue to apply myself they will inevitably grow. I am mentioning this because it’s the same with developing self-awareness. I personally develop self-awareness through self-forgiveness, because it is very effective at peeling back the layers of the mind to reveal what is under the anxiety, what is causing it, what thoughts are creating it, and what reaction to those thoughts are fueling it. It is like seeing the ‘worst’ of yourself while in a gentle and supportive embrace.

Warning: I’m about to go into some self-forgiveness statements. They may seem repetitive and detailed… but I continue to apply it because, like the muscles, self-forgiveness has assisted me to develop self-awareness where once there was none. I am becoming able to, in the moment of reaction, identify where the reaction came from, why it came up, and how to walk myself out of it. I’m not always successful, and sometimes I’m too late, but like my muscles, I know that if I keep practicing and applying myself, I will become more effective and will eventually be able to let go of the anxiety point once and for all, because it will no longer be an issue in my life.

Here is the first example of where anxiety is often triggered in my life:

Example 1) Anxiety + Overwhelming-ness

            My first example is in relation to food preparation. It starts when I begin to think about organizing meals and food for the next day or couple of days, or as I begin cooking. It’s a simple task that I think I could actually enjoy, if I didn’t become bombarded with thoughts that become overwhelming.”

I will let you know in advance that in the below self-forgiveness, I revealed to myself that I held an old belief that a ‘good woman’ is defined by her ability to cook. I had no idea I held this belief, nor any idea of the pressure I placed on myself due to it. I also found out that I compare myself to all the women who have ever impressed me with their cooking abilities; women that had been cooking all their lives – an unfair comparison as I had only learned later in life, and I therefore lacked much practice and practical experience. I found this very interesting, and I can see how the anxiety blows my reactions to it out of proportion. I also found out a lot of simple, practical things I can change, like not taking on too much, organizing myself before I begin to cook, keeping a clean workspace, as well as making a plan ahead of time and sticking to it.

Read the self-forgiveness on the example below to see how I found this out, and what I plan to do to instead cook for the simple enjoyment of it, no pressure, no judgment, just my hands working with food in gratefulness of the sustenance being provided. After the self-forgiveness, read on to see how this is related to the perpetuation of dermatillomania.

Self-forgiveness:

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to become anxious when I start to cook.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing starting to prepare food to be a trigger point existent within and as me.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to become anxious.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing anxiety and anxiety attacks to exist within and as me.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to want to rush the process of cooking food to ‘get it over with’.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to, within this ‘rushed’ energy, begin to cook immediately and figure it out as I go, instead of taking a moment before I’ve started to plan how I will be proceeding.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to try and attempt to cook something when I haven’t left myself enough time, instead of seeing what I have frozen or if there is anything around that is quick to prepare.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to not consider cooking when I plan my time, viewing it as something I can quickly get over with in a rush, instead of seeing, realizing and understanding that food preparation takes time, and quite a lot of planning before-hand,

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think, believe or perceive that organizing daily food preparation into my life is difficult and impossible, instead of seeing that every time I push myself to do it, I learn a little, and become more effective and organized over time.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to take out all the ingredients and try to start everything at once in the aim of saving time and going faster, without realizing that I create a messy and chaotic environment, reflecting my messy and chaotic mind when I follow through with this pattern of becoming rushed and then trying to do everything all at once and as fast as possible.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to spend more time thinking about the outcome of my labour than time spent planning it in the first place.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to create an expectation about what others will think when they taste the food I prepare, and to, within this, develop a desire for positive feedback, in order to obtain validation that I believe I require, because of the idea that ‘a good woman knows how to cook.’

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to base any part of my value and worth as a female upon my ability to cook food, or my lack thereof.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think, believe or perceive that a ‘good woman’ can cook well, and to think about all the women I know who can cook well, and make things I cannot make,  thus placing pressure on myself to prove that I am a ‘good woman’ too, by trying and attempting to make amazing things when I don’t yet have the know-how, which is setting myself up for failure.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to set myself up for failure and then judge myself as having ‘failed as a woman’ when I inevitably make a mistake.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to distract myself away from the actual cooking by thinking about the potential positive and negative reactions to my food – thus preoccupying my mind and not focusing on what I’m doing, distracting myself with the thoughts instead of realizing that it only takes one wrong ingredient or one wrong move to ruin a meal.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to, within the desire to avoid a negative reaction, begin feeling upset and defeated when one part of the meal or another doesn’t turn out as I had imagined, creating pressure, blame and self –defeat when I’ve let something cook too long, or when I’ve made a mistake.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to build up anxious energy while I am cooking, wherein pressure is place on the reaction to my cooking, and I end up taking the reaction personally, whether good or bad, because I had built up energy which now needs to be released in a feeling (good) or emotional (bad) experience by which I would then define myself.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to define myself by my feelings and emotions.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to place pressure on to the reaction of others to my cooking, due to me having participating in thoughts, feelings, emotions and imaginations within and throughout the cooking process.

When and as I see that I am about to cook, I stop, and I breathe. I bring myself out of my mind and back into my physical body in the present moment, here, by giving myself a moment to organize, check for ingredients, plan the process and proceed one step at a time.

When and as I see that I am starting to go into a rushed and chaotic experience while cooking, I stop, and I breathe. I bring myself back to the pace of the physical, slow and steady, by taking a step back to look at my environment, ensuring I do not have too many items out or too many things going on at the same time, tidying where necessary, and assessing the most efficient way to proceed based on the requirements of what I have going on.

When and as I see that I am going into the ‘pleasing’ character while cooking, I stop, and I breathe. I bring myself into the lightness of the moment by taking off the pressure of cooking from the starting point of pleasing, and replacing it with the starting point of cooking for the mere fact that I enjoy cooking, experimenting with food, and learning from my mistakes.

When and as I see that I am searching for validation through cooking well, I stop, and I breathe.  I bring myself back to self-worth by reminding myself that my value is not in my ability to cook, but in the time and care that I invest in myself, creating my self-value, by, for example, cooking within and as self-enjoyment, open-minded learning, self-evolution within organization and pre-planning, thus creating myself as someone that can cook well because I have walked a process of trial and error, planning and organization, and practice over time.

I commit myself to learn to simply enjoy cooking, in all its aspects and everything it entails.

I commit myself to embrace myself within the mistakes I make, and to learn from them.

I commit myself to put in the time to plan and organize meals, to cook around discounts at the grocery store, and to cook for my health/body, allowing for pleasure as well.

I commit myself to cook for fun, because it’s a necessity, so I might as well have fun doing it!

This above example relates to dermatillomania, because the condition is not necessarily a complete focus on the skin. It is a symptom of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is created throughout the day and carried around within the mind and body, It builds up and from time to time, reaches a tipping point where it needs to be released. Often when I get anxious it feels like a discomfort within me, and it becomes very uncomfortable like an itch that, when left unscratched, becomes the overwhelming focus and then an obsession and compulsion until the energy is released and dissipated. I rarely look at what throughout the day created the anxiety, things of varying degrees that I didn’t face in the moment, but instead suppressed.

Usually when I do take the time to investigate, I find self-defeating thoughts which make me feel bad, lonely, isolated, hopeless etc…  which are soothed either by the endorphins released by the pain of picking or the complete focus on the skin and it’s imperfections, rather than the thoughts that are creating the pain and discomfort.

All of these thoughts are connected to energies expressed as feelings and emotions, which we then believe is who we are, but it’s not true. We have the choice to turn any self-defeating situation into a moment of self-empowerment. The thoughts that pop into our heads are just robotic programs that we’ve programmed into and as ourselves over a lifetime of believing ourselves to be the energies (feeling and emotions) we are able to create in our minds. We simply need to invest the time and care into ourselves to re-program how we think and act and do. This is effective, I have already proven it to myself. Like going to the gym – it’s just a matter of time before the results become real, visible and measurable!

 

Anxiety Series

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Anxiety Series – Dermatillomania: How and Why We Build Up Anxiety (part one)

Anxiety Series – Deconstructing Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part two)

Anxiety Series – Deconstructing Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part three)

Anxiety Series – Walking Through Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part four)

Anxiety Series – Dermatillomania: Anxiety Dimension Solution (part five)

Anxiety Series – Walking Through Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part four)

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In my next blog I will continue with how I applied the practical steps of walking through anxiety, and how I was able to successfully avoid an anxiety reaction in one of the circumstances . This experience has changed my entire self-experience, opened up a new understanding of how things can be different, and showed me that it IS possible to learn how to become the master of one’s emotions, and no longer remain the slave.”

If you can recall and bring up the experience of anxiety within yourself, you can probably relate to that fact that the energy experience is sporadic, chaotic and intense. This detail is important to remark because we can use this information to see, realize and understand the best way to approach ourselves when we are in these situations (beginning an anxiety reaction). If, for example, we are too hard on ourselves, the anxiety energy can and will use this approach to further intensify itself. If we panic, it can also serve to fuel the anxiety. If we become mad or frustrated, it can perpetuate the anxiety.

It’s as if a child is throwing a tantrum and the parent screams at the child in an attempt to subdue or control him to make it stop. This can further upset the child and fuel/perpetuate the tantrum. Now compare this to speaking in a calm and stable manner to the child, this may not be an instant blanket solution, but it will not further aggravate the situation, and the child can be talked down slowly, and the tantrum can not last forever. Anxiety within self functions in the same way.

This example demonstrates how our self-approach can either assist and support ourselves to walk through and out of the anxiety in a calm and stable manner, or conversely, how it can further perpetuate the experience if we do not take the wheel, gain control and direct ourselves.

Within this understanding, one can keep in mind that any self-judgment, guilt, anger, shame, or any other emotion can and will be exaggerated when in an anxiety reaction, and therefore serves only to aggravate the situation, whereas being calm, stable and gentle can dissipate the chaotic, sporadic and intense experience going on within us. This is the difference between getting caught up in the anxiety and believing it is necessary, believing that there is no way out, and this is ‘who I am’, instead of understanding it as a reaction that has been triggered and will now play out, but that we can remain standing within the understanding that we can choose not to play into it.

The goal here is to eventually prevent the reaction from occurring in the first place, but we must first deal with what is already here, which is the existence of anxiety reactions and generalized anxiety which we see as beyond our control. It is not.

In order to see the control one truly do have, it is important to understand what is going on within self.  Within this we are practicing how to look at everything to do with anxiety completely objectively; to see anxiety as a reaction, a substance or an entity that is triggered by thoughts/memories, to recognize that this simply requires to be managed by oneself, and to understand that anxiety is not simply an inevitable part of self that one must learn to live with and constantly react to.

To illustrate, here is a practical example from my life where I was able to recognize the anxiety quickly and dissipate the reaction:

Last week, I was about to start cooking (which, in my previous blog I had mentioned as one example of when my anxiety is triggered). I had just had a very busy day and when I got home I could feel I was high strung. I felt a stress and a buzzing sensation in my body, and instead of calming myself down, I immediately moved myself to begin the next task, which was to prepare dinner. Within this internal energetic experience of ‘stress’, ‘rushed’ and ‘buzzing’, it feels like there is a pressure to do everything quickly and hurriedly, everything is rushed and there is no time for rest. This set of circumstances set me up for falling into the anxiety reaction I described in my first example from my previous blog, where my anxiety connects to a sense of overwhelming-ness.

 

I was alone at home at that moment so I was able to speak to myself out loud. First, I used the breathing techniques, and then I used a specific voice tonality (calm, stable and directive, to offset the intense, chaotic and sporadic energy of anxiety), and spoke some self-forgiveness for what I could see I was doing to myself.

In the same calm, directed and stable voice, I talked to myself about what I was doing, how I was making things more difficult for myself and that it wasn’t necessary, and how I could proceed calmly and in an organized way. I was able to slow down and create steps for myself, and eventually I put together a meal while remaining as present and aware as possible. When my partner came home I recognized the fact that my mood was light, I was able to have fun and communicate easily and enjoy the moment, which then allowed him to be light and open, even after a long day at work.

If I had accepted and allowed the anxiety reaction, I would have instead experienced what I had become so used to, which was feelings of varying degrees of irritation, impatience, or no desire to communicate. When another person is subjected to this the mood feels heavy and tense. If ones’ partner comes home after a long day at work and is met with someone that is overwhelmed/stressed causing irritability, impatience and being non-communicative due to anxiety, it affects the entire atmosphere, the moment and the overall relationship negatively. This can contribute to creating a toxic home environment, especially when repeated daily over many years. This is one of the consequences of accepting and allowing oneself to live with generalized anxiety, it doesn’t just affect yourself, so the responsibility to face and manage one’s anxiety disorder is a self-responsibility which extends beyond self, to create a harmonious environment with others (sometimes by standing as a living, leading example – yes, we are THAT strong).

 

Within my own self-assessment, what I’ve learned over the past few weeks has been that it is of utmost importance that one recognize the brief moment where anxiety first starts – before it is able to connect to and amplify other emotions, memories, personalities and patterns. This is because in that small moment, when I look at it and recognize it, and can say to myself “oh, this is just anxiety sneaking in because of the particular circumstances I am in,” and the anxiety feels small, insubstantial and powerless. But when I miss this moment, the anxiety is able to connect itself to the emotions, memories and thoughts, then an anxiety reaction has been triggered and it must now be navigated through.

Once an anxiety reaction is triggered, it must now be walked through.

Walking through an anxiety reaction:

Being within an anxiety reaction feels so real, and the anxiety feels so much a part of me that to deny it would be to deny my own existence. I try saying to myself “it’s just anxiety, it’s just anxiety,” but part of me fights back, proving to myself it is real and valid, and I experience rushes of emotional energy, and I am flooded by negative thoughts and future projections. In these moments, when I’ve missed the opportunity – I direct myself to breathe, I feel the waves of anxiety pass over me. It feels extremely uncomfortable and unbearable, but I tell myself it will end, it can’t last forever, it has to end eventually. I sometimes speak self-forgiveness to understand where the reaction came from in order to trace it back to the thoughts or memories that triggered it. This is what the tool of self-forgiveness allows one to do. I have to continuously pull myself back into my body, even f it feels exceptionally uncomfortable in there. I pull myself out of my mind, because I understand that is where it is all taking place. I try to keep myself as physical as possible, feeling my body and focusing on what I’m doing. Continue to do these steps, to focus on breathing and self-acceptance.

Embrace and accept self within the reaction – do not perpetuate it by judging self or becoming angry or upset, instead embrace it as what you are experiencing FOR THE MOMENT because of having gone into auto-pilot in unawareness the moment before. Watch for the thoughts/emotions/memories/fantasies that will come to fuel the anxiety. Gently but firmly direct oneself to stop thinking about them, and focus on the HERE, NOW moment in your physical environment. The anxiety will end, and things will go back to normal in a matter of time. It’s just a matter of time.

Prevention is the Best Cure

The best solution is to keep practicing being able to recognize the moment anxiety first starts, because that is where it can be stopped. The goal is to prevent the reactions from taking place at all. This requires a slowing down within self, and a self-awareness perhaps not previously developed. I will work on these aspects over the next weeks, by studying my examples of ‘anxiety-triggering situations’ I wrote about in my last blog. I will ‘study’ them by walking through them one by one, doing self-forgiveness on all the points so that I reveal to myself any hidden self-sabotage and to see what exactly is going on that leads me to create an anxiety reaction within myself. This will be the topic for my next blog.

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for more!

Anxiety Series – Deconstructing Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part three)

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In my previous blog I had listed five examples of where, when and how I am triggered into anxiety reactions in my day-to-day life. What I noticed, which was also mentioned in the interview recording I am being supported by, is that there is not such a huge variety in terms of instances where my anxiety is triggered. This is not to say that it is not triggered a lot – I am saying that the circumstances within which anxiety is triggered are very similar and quite limited. This is, in a way, good news in terms of bringing the anxiety energy to a point of diffusion, and directing self within these situations. This is because seeing as the variety of circumstances is limited – I will get ample practice, and the skills I develop will be useful in many situations and many times throughout the day (instead of , for example, having many different anxiety reactions wherein walking through them one by one would take more time).

Please read my last blog for context, as I will be proceeding on to the next step of what to do when and as one is in these anxiety situations. Also note that I am listening to a series that provides a general framework and understanding of anxiety, what it is and how it functions, and I would strongly recommend investing in this series yourself when you are able, as I have been listening to it several times so as not to miss any details.

In my first blog on this topic, I explained how anxiety in itself functions as a moment’s hesitation wherein the mind has time to connect past memories, mind-patterns or entire personalities for example, to a current similar situation wherein the anxiety then acts as an amplifier of this emotional energy.

An example of such a play-out could be for instance, when one is preparing to leave for an event, meeting or other occasion. The moment could be when one would look at the clock and calculate the amount of time required to finish preparing to leave, versus the amount of time required to get there, leaving the possibility of not having enough time.

What will happen in this moment is that anxiety will now be triggered in an instance, as if from nowhere, and from that one moment it can then build until it becomes intense enough to change one’s entire personality during the time the anxiety is generating/being generated and fueled/fueling thoughts (eg: being late, memories of previous times one had been late where there were consequences; thoughts about how one’s late-ness will create consequences again in imaginary scenarios and play-outs), which can then for example cause an influx of emotions such as guilt, fear and remorse. If I place myself in this situation I can see that I would then go into a ‘rushed’ personality, where I become easily irritated and even angry due to thoughts, fears and back-chat of the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only’s’. Then comes the guilt and self-judgment for not having been more organized and for having put oneself in this situation in the first place.

The above example demonstrates how one can be overcome by the mind and generate and use a lot of energy, and actually do things that could be harmful or consequential (eg: driving too fast, getting angry at others), when one could have in that first moment, grounded oneself and instead directed oneself to remain practical, calm, and stable.

The above example is one in which all the possible effects or anxiety had been triggered. There are, of course, varying degrees of complexity and intensity, depending on how much we play into the thoughts/emotions/personalities/mind-patterns etc… how much we believe them to be real, and how we react to them. For example, sometimes I find myself reacting within continuously feeding the situation, as if contemplating every possible play-out and all worst-case scenarios would somehow create a solution for myself, but instead it just intensifies it and feeds it, when the solution would have been to catch the anxiety in its initial stages and stopped it then and there.

This brings us to the next step in the process of directing one’s anxiety. The reason I have spent so much time looking at, describing and writing out how anxiety functions within and as me, is because in order to stop the anxiety where it starts we have to slow ourselves down within ourselves, enough so that we can catch the anxiety when it starts. We have to catch it before it is able to connect, attach and bring up all the patterns I mentioned in the above example. This is where and how one gives oneself the opportunity to ground oneself in the physical as soon as one notices an anxiety reaction being triggered. To ground oneself in the physical is to function according to the needs and demands of physical reality only, meaning, real reality -the ‘real world’- and not the world within ourselves- not the world of imagination and fantasy where worst-case scenario play outs seem so real, where fears and emotions can rule, and where self-judgment can sabotage things we had been working so hard to build.

The interview I listened to described breathing techniques used to bring oneself back from being ‘sucked in’ to the mind and grounded back into one’s body, because the anxiety exists entirely in the mind. It also describes in great detail the voice tonalities which are most effective when one is within an anxiety reaction, how to speak to oneself to walk oneself out of the reaction and into self-direction. I don’t have enough time/space to repeat all of this information, but I will go into what it is exactly that I will speak in blogs to come.

In my next blog I will continue with how I applied the practical steps of walking through anxiety, and how I was able to successfully avoid an anxiety reaction in one of the circumstances . This experience has changed my entire self-experience, opened up a new understanding of how things can be different, and showed me that it IS possible to learn how to become the master of one’s emotions, and no longer remain the slave to constantly feeling anxious.

Stay tuned!

Anxiety Series – Deconstructing Anxiety, Dis-Arming Dermatillomania (part two)

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“What I am going to do from here is to locate five examples of instances where I go into an anxiety reaction. I am doing this in order to learn how to slow myself down enough to be able to pin point the moment where the anxiety is triggered. I will then use that moment as an opportunity, instead of a falling point. It will be my opportunity to choose who I will be and how I will be and handle the situation, instead of letting my auto-pilot, unconscious mind, default-mode way of thinking direct me, my personality and my actions. – See more from this post: How and Why we Build Up Anxiety

I continue in this blog with walking my process of anxiety, in order to develop the self-will and self-direction to walk myself out of the anxiety reaction and into grounded and practical action as a self-willed decision.

 

The following five examples are of instances where I go into varying degrees of anxiety reactions. (As a side note, ever since I have been keeping track, I have managed to become more aware of my anxiety, and significantly reduce its occurance in similar situations). Please read on.

Example 1) Anxiety + Overwhelming-ness

My first example is in relation to food preparation. It starts when I begin to think about organizing meals and food for the next day or couple of days, or as I begin cooking. It’s a simple task that I think I could actually enjoy, if I didn’t become bombarded with thoughts that become overwhelming. Thoughts such as: what to make, how to make it, the ingredients involved, the quantity I should make, how I can use the leftovers during the week, whether I should get groceries now or later, whether I have the most efficient plan with regards to money/time, will it be good or will I get sick of it, will my partner like it, is it healthy and how can I prepare the  ingredients in such a way to keep their utmost nutritional value, and is the quality of the food any good… and then I will branch off into worries about the environment and the chemicals in the food, and also about money and how to eat healthy on a budget, and so on.

The anxiety in this situation is amplifying the sensation of overwhelming-ness. It starts as I am cooking, and sometimes I ruin the meal because I have become so frazzled, or I start so many different meals and ideas that I spend hours in the kitchen and end up exhausted. This is obviously not normal and is the result of how I subject myself to the disorder in my mind, affecting my everyday life and complicating things that should be straight forward. Physically I experience a racing mind, blurry vision and difficulty breathing.

Example 2) Anxiety towards authority – Anxiety + Panic

I was driving on a dark road and thought I had a turn coming up, but I noticed it was a bit farther down the road, so I veered back into my lane. It was late Friday night so the police officer probably thought I had been out drinking, and for the first time in my life I got pulled over. The big lights lit up my entire car from behind and this silhouette walked up to my window. I understood what had happened and I knew I had nothing to hide or worry about, yet I was so anxious that even the officer commented on my trembling hands.

 

The physical sensation of being hot and constricted and feeling pressure in my solar plexus happened in the past when I was called into the principal’s office at school. I had been watching as my friend threw paper airplanes out the window. Three of us were called into the office and we were questioned one by one. I was so nervous I kept choking because my throat was closing up. I figured they would just assume it was me because of how guilty I was acting.

 

Even when I talk to figures of authority in the workplace, I get this anxious feeling inside of my chest area. I haven’t had any particularly horrible or abusive bosses in my life, yet when they even approach me to chat I become anxious and hot and feel surges of energy within me. I feel like I have to act a certain way or hide a part of myself and I feel panicked that something will be found out about me or used against me and I will lose my job, even when I know this is a completely unreasonable way of thinking.

3) Public Speaking – Anxiety + Fear

As soon as I know I will be speaking in front of a group I begin to feel the effects of anxiety. I start to feel like I’m in a bubble and everything surrounding me becomes like a blur. The sides of my face burn and I begin by speaking extremely fast. My thoughts race and my words can’t keep up with what it is I am trying to say. If I lose my wording I get flustered and sometimes start making points I didn’t intend on making. I can feel everybody’s eyes on me and it feels as if they are expecting something more than I am giving. When it’s over, it takes a while before my heart rate slows down and my face stops feeling flushed, and after when I feel fine again I end up wondering what the big deal was.

4) Anxious about Being late – Anxiety and Worry

My fourth example is being late. Even when I have left myself enough time I tend to leave things to the last minute. Lots of time makes me uncomfortable and I feel like I move in slow motion to use up the time, and often times I end up picking if I have spare time. Only when it becomes last minute do I feel the motivation to move forward and take control of myself and my direction and only then do I get ready efficiently. When I see that I am getting close to the time when I will have to leave, or I see that I am cutting it close, I start to feel energized. My heart beats fast and my breath is shallow and my thinking become very clear. But soon thoughts creep in about how my late-ness will affect others and how I could ruin the night because everyone would be waiting. I begin feeling guilty and becoming mad at myself for not being ready on time. I picture everyone mad at me and I feel like I have been disrespectful. I become very impatient with everyone around me, as if my getting to where I am going is the priority and I will have to hold myself back from driving too fast and tailgating. When I final get to the location I will feel tense and stressed and not very relaxed at all.

5) Making Mistakes: Anxiety + Fear

I work in the banking sector where mistakes are grave, and I am human, and I make them. What I’ve noticed, however, is that when I go into an anxiety reaction I am less effective and more prone to making a mistake. I’ll make a mistake and once I realize it’s like my entire insides drop out from under me, like this internal falling sensation followed by intense self-judgment and regret. I am not excusing making mistakes in itself – it is necessary to learn and develop means to avoid the same mistakes in the future. What is unnecessary is the internal reaction play-out that accompanies the mistake, because when I experience this sometimes my whole day or week can be affected, where I will not be able to focus, wherein it feels like I cannot think rationally or reasonably and use common sense. Smll concepts become seemingly too big to grasp, and I have major back-chat and internal conversations about how I am not good enough for the job and I just don’t get it etc…. However, when I am not in an anxiety reaction, I am quite quick to learn, I am sharp and on point, and I am capable of organizing and doing many things at once, sometimes taking on more than my fair share of responsibility.

 

So there we have it, my five examples of when and as I fall into detrimental anxiety reactions. And for those that do not suffer an anxiety disorder, this will be like a glimpse into what it is like to live with one.

An interesting experience developed after having written down the examples of my experience. As I mentioned, I am following the steps from an interview recording, and within it one is instructed to be very detailed with the examples, especially regarding the physical reactions and the exact moments when they are triggered. Within being so detailed, I really had to look at the examples closely. I had to place myself back into the situations and re-play them in my head, remembering how I experienced myself and everything I went through. I realized that my anxiety is more intense than I thought. In reading my descriptions, it felt like someone else had written them and they seem somewhat extreme, as if I do not believe myself to be quite this reactive and anxious as they portray. As I re-read the examples I find myself judging them wherein if someone else had written them I would think “wow – this person has problems.”

However it is beneficial to have a sobering look at one’s own reality. This has been proven to me this week, in the fact that on several occasions these same play-outs happened again in my life (cooking, making mistakes, being late etc…). This time, I was able to recognize the moments where the anxiety was beginning, I saw some of the triggers as they were happening, and was able to recall my own writing and slow myself down enough to talk myself out of it, so to speak, wherein I was actually able to see the pattern and prevent it. I could actually stop it from occurring – I stopped an entire anxiety play-out that would have accumulated within and as me and later lead to a picking session. I can now see that, with a lot of practice and paying attention to myself, I can greatly reduce my daily anxiety.

In my next blog I will cover the next steps in the process of how to manage preventing and releasing anxiety in the same or similar situations, as a process that can be walked by anyone, step-by-step, as a true act of self-love and self-support.

 

Anxiety Series – Dermatillomania: How and Why We Build Up Anxiety (part one)

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Dermatillomania, which falls under the umbrella of OCD disorders, is among other things, an anxiety disorder. What has intrigued me is how and why OCD/dermatillomania sufferers build up anxiety until it reaches a state of disorder- meaning; it continuously cycles and perpetuates itself regardless of the current life-experience of the sufferer. I have observed this from experience throughout my life, because over time, I’ve taken specific steps to create many big changes in my life in an attempt to cut out the stress and anxiety that was causing me to compulsively pick at my skin.

I recently realized a lot about anxiety, after listening to a very informative interview which, if you have the resources, you should invest in because it definitely helped me to streamline my understanding of this experience.
I have experienced a lot of anxiety in my life, as I’m sure many people can relate to. I have tried to write about the experience but have found it quite difficult. The difficulty arose from the fact that I found it very hard to figure out what was causing me to be so anxious all the time, it just seemed to always be there, wearing a different mask or pinning itself to a different situation. In my life, I would resolve issue after issue, thinking the anxiety would go away, but it just kept on cycling over and over, until I had to realize that the ‘issues’ weren’t the problem, it was the pattern that was the problem.

 

What I learned about anxiety is that it is triggered by something, like a new situation (meeting someone new for example), or a project about to start, and then it finds a feeling or emotion (or even a personality/character) to attach itself to and amplify. In my case, wherein I have an actual anxiety disorder, I will use the anxiety to amplify a worry or a fear for example, to the point that it becomes unbearable and actually starts to disrupt my life.

 

I have likened OCD/dermatillomania to a drug or an addiction before, and I want to use this same understanding to look at the use of anxiety within self as a self-experience. When we feel things (feelings/emotions), our body is subjected to chemicals secreted by the brain, wherein we can actually react to our own thoughts, and have a chemical experience based on our own mind/body reaction to the thought, in the form of a feeling (positive) or emotion (negative). After repeated exposure to these chemicals over years, the physical body can then go through a withdrawal when the feeling or emotion fades, and can then look to re-charge or re-inject the body with the same chemical it had been repeatedly subjected to. Just like cigarettes or alcohol can quite easily become addictive with repeated and prolonged use,  so can depression, stress or adrenaline, for example.

 

Looking at OCD/derma again, I’m sure as many battle with this disorder, periods of triumph are experienced. This is certainly the case with myself. I will be ‘doing good’ and ‘on the road to recovery’, and then I will experience this weakening and then a fall back into the disorder. This fits with the analogy where my body is not getting the energetic charge or ‘drug’ it receives when I cause the internal anxiety that eventually leads me to the compulsion, so it needs a boost, a re-charge, an injection of worry, of stress, of fear or irritation.

 

So if I could take an example of a real-life situation, I would look at where and how I get these ‘injections’, meaning, where does a subtle anxiety experience arise, causing me to now analyze a situation from the perspective of fear, or worry, or stress as examples of my most common anxiety induced experiences. My first example would be walking into a cluttered room. I would have a very brief moment of no reaction – that small window where I can either think practically and rationally about the situation, devise an efficient and effective cleaning plan, clean the clutter then move on. Or, what more commonly happens is that I’ll feel a little movement within my solar plexus – an intensifying electric energy that tightens my breathing as the anxiety moves in, and then my outlook on the situation is now chaos; my thoughts jump to conclusions such as: the amount of things to clean is innumerable, there must be bacteria everywhere! I’ll have to scrub ever corner in order to get this room really clean. So in this circumstance, the anxiety let me mindlessly filter through all possible reactions, only to choose the most extreme one that is fitting for this particular situation, which in this case, happened to be overwhelming-ness. The anxiety attached itself to this emotion and amplified it, causing my body to be flushed with a chemical, and causing my actions to become obsessive and compulsive, as I would desperately seek to change my environment to calm me down, when the real culprit is actually my internal experience consisting of the thoughts, feelings, emotions and reactions going on in my mind without any intervention from my awareness.

 

Another example: I would make a mistake at work. I would have a moment of no reaction, followed almost immediately by the first sparks of anxiety. So instead of understanding the mistake, learning from it and moving on, I am having thoughts of losing my job, of my boss yelling at me, and I’m experiencing my entire team’s disappointment in my performance. The anxiety had attached itself to my fear (fear of survival, fear of not having money, fear of failure), and amplified it within me so that I am actually experiencing fear-reactions to the thoughts as if they were actually happening.

 

This pattern is going on a lot, to varying degrees, to a point where at the end of (and even during) each day, there is this accumulation of amplified emotions such fear, overwhelming-ness, stress and worry that I don’t know what to do with. I personally feel dirty with it, it feels like its crawling in my skin, and my whole body feels grimy. Picking at my skin feels like a cleansing. It becomes a hypnotic purifying ritual where I can go so deeply and fully into the experiences of the day that it feels like I’m processing them and clearing them out, but what I’m actually doing is like recycling them, re-hashing them, re-living them at some deep level and integrating them into and as my very physical body.

 

What I am going to do from here, is to locate five examples of instances where I go into an anxiety reaction. I am doing this in order to learn how to slow myself down enough to be able to pin point the moment where the anxiety it triggered. I will then use that moment as an opportunity, instead of a falling point. It will be my opportunity to choose who I will be, how I will be and how to handle the situation, instead of letting my auto-pilot, unconscious mind, default-mode way of thinking direct me, my personality and my actions.

 

Some self-forgiveness to pave the way:

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to fear taking on the beast that is anxiety.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to fear living without anxiety because as I have lived so far, I have become dependent on the energetic experiences it gives me, and I fear losing this thing and the withdrawal it may bring.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to hold onto something that is detrimental to myself in every way.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to not pay attention to myself and my reactions in small moments where I miss windows of opportunity to direct myself, and instead I accept and allow anxiety to direct me for me.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to live with anxiety and let it decide for me who I am and how I live.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to be a slave to anxiety, and I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think/believe/perceive that anxiety is bigger and stronger than me.

I forgive myself for NOT accepting and allowing myself to see/realize and understand that I created this beast, and so I can un-create it and stop my participation from within and as it.

I commit myself to support myself to open up moments of choice for myself, where I can step in as a clear and aware author of my decisions and the directions I choose to take.

I commit myself not to be fearful of that which I myself have created, to rather look upon these things as investigations to be done into myself, with myself, as an assistance and support to walk myself out of the disorder and into an order I have chosen to create for myself.

I commit myself to walk a process to stop hurting myself, physically and emotionally.

I commit myself to pay the utmost attention to myself, and to open up opportunities for my self-healing, self-growth, and self-expansion.

I commit myself to show myself that I am in fact strong enough to face myself, my life and how I’ve lived.

I commit myself to be gentle with myself through this process, and forceful when necessary.

 

Dermatillomania: Climbing out of the Internal Prison

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I have been uncovering quite a few insights within my process of re-defining the word ‘skin’. I had created a list of word associations to uncover exactly how it was that I had defined and thus lived the word skin. I have moved through all the negative association, and in my last post I looked into the first positive association, The word was ‘youthful’, and today, the word is ‘pretty’.

It’s hard for me to fathom a dermatillomania sufferer think of his or her skin as ‘pretty’, but I have had this experience and made this connection with my own skin.  Sometimes I might catch a glance of myself in the mirror, and see myself with makeup on, which makes my skin look clear, and I would be a bit surprised.  But the interesting thing is that during times where my skin has been clear, at the point where I start to descend once again into the urges, I noticed that inside of myself I would begin to feel disgusting, as in, gross and vile within myself. It’s the point where I would begin to have emotional sensations of self-loathing and internal agitation, irritation, frustration and anger – a buried deep anger that I felt helpless to resolve. And at these times, during these internal storms, I recall some memories of catching a glance myself in a mirror – with makeup on and clear-looking skin- and it would be shocking: I looked… pretty.  Inside I felt like a monster, and on the outside I looked like a  care-free girl with no problems in the world.

The weird thing is that I felt like that wasn’t me; I didn’t have that as my internal experience; I desperately wanted that to be real and to be me, but it wasn’t, and I would eventually pick, and probe, and squeeze, and scratch, and pull, and pluck. And after all that, I would look in the mirror, blotchy and cut up, and with this spiteful gratitude I would think,  “yes, this is who I really am, this is a true expression of how I really feel; this is not a mask, it’s the real me; I have this, I am this, and this best represent who and how I have been and become within myself.” Wow, scary stuff – but I have to ‘go there’ so to speak, or else it won’t change.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to judge my skin and myself as ‘pretty’ when seeing a picture presentation of myself in a mirror or in an image in my mind.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to charge the thought of experiencing myself as ‘pretty’ with a shockingly positive energetic charge of emotions of desire, longing and regret.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to want, need, and desire to be ‘pretty’, to be seen as ‘pretty’, and to see and experience myself as what I perceive ‘looking/being pretty’ might feel like.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to create an idea of what it feels like to be ‘pretty’ with ‘pretty, clear skin’, and then long for the idea I have created in my mind as if it were something I could have or possess as an experience of myself.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to want to escape my personal experience, and to do so through imagining other people’s experiencing and envying them, instead of seeing, realizing and understanding that it is my own fabrication that I am dealing with, my own ideals and imaginings that I created,  without considering what other people’s experience might really be like because I can’t possibly consider the multitudinous dimensions and history of events any one else has experienced within their own lives – And within imagining and fantasizing and envying the experiences I can make up in my mind, I am of course not looking at and facing my real self, and sorting out how I can work with myself to change myself.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to want to stop picking my skin from the starting point of desiring the experience of being pretty, instead of from the starting point of equality and oneness within myself, treating my physical the way I would want to be treated. Giving to myself what I need and require fundamentally. Loving and accepting myself unconditionally– because if I can’t do and give and be these things to/for myself, I will not be able to do it to/for others for real, I will not be able to live real dignity and respect, I will not walk amongst others as an equal, and I will not be able to stand as an example for my children or anyone.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think, believe and perceive that when and as I feel irritated, agitated, frustrated and angry within myself, that the experience is inescapable and will last forever.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to panic and fret when and as I begin to feel irritated, frustrated, agitated and angry within myself, because I don’t want to experience these emotions at all, and so without thinking, I do whatever I can to escape, and I use skin picking because it releases some chemical from my brain, into my bloodstream, which soothes and dulls the intensity of the irritation/frustration/anger/agitation, and it distracts me so utterly and completely, that I submit my directive principle, and allow a disorder to form and take-over.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to fear feeling irritated/angry/agitated/frustrated.

 

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to think, believe and perceive that when I begin to feel irritated/angry/agitated/frustrated, that it will  last forever and I will not be able to make it through, instead of seeing, realizing and understanding that it is an internal experience that I create, and it is not bigger or more powerful than me.

 

I will continue in my next blog.