Confounded Anxiety

Please note that this is my personal story about dealing with mental health issues. All opinions are my own and unique to my story. Everyone and every situation is unique; as such treatment options vary and one should not be considered superior to the other in any way. Help is help. Help is good.

Irish coast

Off and on throughout my life I’ve dealt with depression. It came and went and came again depending on the circumstances of my life. Once in a while I would get anxious, but it was situation-dependent – a big test, a presentation, a difficult conversation, etc.Β  It was “normal.”

In law school, I began having panic attacks. These were stress-induced and given my life circumstances at the time, considered, if not normal, then not surprising. It was the first time I ever received medication treatment for my depression, and it was such a relief! I had resisted drug therapy for so long due to the social and familial stigma associated with such treatment. For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that no one needed to know – simple as that. It was one of the best decisions I made during that time period in my life.

After graduation, I moved out to Arizona and re-booted my life. The change of scenery seemed to be exactly what I needed and for several years I was fine, “normal” in my ups and downs. Then, as seems to happen, a series of unfortunate events occurred and I found myself back at the doctor’s office. Only this time it wasn’t only for depression. Anxiety had crept into my daily life like a thief, stealing all joy and hope. I could counter any positive thought with ten “what-ifs” or “buts.” In an effort to hide my suffering and to spare others my negativity, I also hid my thoughts. I would smile as friends tried to put a positive spin on a situation. I’d even go so far as to agree, to say the words they needed to hear to think I was alright. Every time I did this I robbed myself of comfort and my friends of the truth – I became a thief in my own right and to my own detriment.

By the time I sought professional help, I was having anxiety attacks. I find them to be subtly different from panic attacks, mainly in that I could see the former building while the latter generally took me by surprise. The same chest-crushing, end-of-the-world feelings were present for both.

I returned to my anti-depressants as if reuniting an old friend. The effect was profound and comforting. I discussed several options with my doctor for treating my anxiety and after much trial and error we finally determined an as-needed prescription would be my best option. The side effects of anti-anxiety medication can be overwhelming; in my case most drugs I tried were worse than dealing with the anxiety itself. Reading about the different options was discouraging to say the least – most anti-anxiety drugs also seemed to double as treatment for other illnesses;Β  few seemed made for the express purpose of treating anxiety.

Around this same time, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Doctors still don’t understand what causes fibromyalgia, but the consensus seems to think it’s normally triggered by a severe illness, a physical trauma (car accident, etc.), or prolonged exposure to severe stress. I fell solidly into the third category. My experience with FM is for another post, but I will say that the anger I felt about it all wasn’t helpful. I couldn’t help but think it was my own fault for landing myself in all of this – the choices I made led to these consequences. There was no one else to blame, so I took it all upon myself. Luckily, I was already seeking treatment for depression when this occurred or I shudder to think what might have happened.

I bring up fibromyalgia because it slots in so snugly with my mental health issues – does depression and anxiety cause FM or does FM cause depression and anxiety? It’s very much a chicken/egg sort of thing, which can make treatment tricky. The drugs for FM weren’t much better than the anti-anxiety options (in my opinion), so I decided to look into holistic options. Fortunately, I had a doctor who was open to that and helped me work through the various options. We finally settled on a holistic treatment plan that was best for me with very satisfactory results. The added benefit is that the treatment options selected also helped greatly with my anxiety – talk about a win/win!

It’s been decided that I will likely stay on my current anti-depressant indefinitely (or so long as it continues working). It treats the depression effectively and also seems to assist with some of the FM symptoms. Unfortunately, it can also cause anxiety to worsen. To combat that I do have an as-needed option to use in those situations where necessary. Otherwise, I try to take a very holistic approach to treatment. Most days this works really well, other days it doesn’t seem to help at all. You win some, you lose some.

What mostly frustrates me these days is the timing of it all – if I’m really excited about something such as an event or a trip, I can almost guarantee anxiety will swoop in to steal at least some of the joy. If it’s a concert, the crowds bother me. If it’s travel, it might be turbulence or a creepy person following me or lost luggage, etc. (basically all the parts of travel that make it an adventure). Most of the time I can foresee this and I try to maintain a mental grip. I have to work a little harder to find joy in the activity, but I do. I refuse to let the thief get everything. But again, I’m not always successful; sometimes anxiety wins. Dealing with that disappointment, learning not to blame myself when this happens, these are my new challenges. I know that I have other options to treat the anxiety. Treating myself with grace and kindness, however, is something I must learn to do for myself. There is no drug for self-love.

I share my story today in hopes that it might somehow benefit others. The attitudes about mental illness are a huge part of the problem and need to change. I can no more control my depression or anxiety than I could a cold or flu. I can, however, seek medical attention to help just the same. If we can accept treatment for one without stigma, then why not the other?

In the last year or so I’ve really tried to open up and share my experiences with my friends. It was so incredibly uncomfortable at first, but now it’s just another part of our conversation. I didn’t let it become a big deal and after a while, my friends realized it didn’t need to be. It’s opened up another level of conversation to us – it allows both sides the freedom to discuss parts of our life that we might otherwise keep hidden. It’s a safe space between us, which I have found to be invaluable, particularly on the bad days. I would like this blog to likewise be a safe space – for me to include my struggles in the conversation, but also for anyone else who might need to share in the comfort of knowing they are not alone.

You are not alone.


Life Lately: Journeys

I feel like journeys have become a theme in my life lately. From the literal to the spiritual, I have traveled many miles these last few weeks. I don’t feel tired so much as dazed, like my mind hasn’t been able to process it all quite yet.

There was a 3-day journey to Wyoming for work. Normally I love Wyoming, but as most of this trip was spent in a conference room it wasn’t quite the same. On the last day the snow came. It was absolutely gorgeous and as crazy as it sounds, I wish I’d had a day to enjoy it. Instead it was a slightly nerve-wracking drive back to the airport and a very bumpy flight back down to Arizona.

Frost covered trees in Cheyenne Wyoming

A very few short days later I was packed and off on another very bumpy flight – this time to Ireland. I think I’ll save the particulars for another post, but let’s just say it wasn’t exactly the trip I’d envisioned. In hindsight it was educational, as I knew it would be. At the time it was a combination of beauty and anxiety. An apt summary of my life. Overall, I enjoyed the trip and don’t regret it for a moment. It was something that I needed to do and I met some truly amazing people. Ireland is by far the friendliest country I’ve ever been to – the people are curious in their own way (but always willing to share their own story), always willing to lend a hand, and upbeat in a way that’s difficult to find these days. The country’s not without it’s issues, but I found it to be inspiring in its attitude.

I’ve also found myself on a less literal, though somehow connected, spiritual journey. I mentioned some time ago that I took a course last fall in intuitive studies. It’s all very new age-y, and I roll my eyes at myself when I try to describe it to other people. However, when I’m there, in that group energy, I feel at peace – I know it’s where I need to be. So this spring I signed up for a course on shamanism. Where the first course was fun, upbeat, and inspiring, this one is very… self-evolving. I feel like the best kind of martini – shaken up. We’re half-way through the course now and I feel like there’s something there, just on the other side of some imaginary mirror – if only I could just see through to the other side, I know it would be life-changing…

Poulnabrone Dolmen County Clare Ireland

So much of all of these journeys is a lack of dedicated time on my part to process them. I find myself running desperately on to the next thing as though afraid of what might happen if I just sit and think for more than 5 minutes at a time. I fear this space for the same reason – if I sit and write, what might come out? I’ve come to the realization that there’s a certain level of fear in my life that makes me feel comfortable – I’ve acclimatized to it. Any more or any less brings on the anxiety. I can see the changes to be made, yet I hesitate – what if things go wrong, or even more concerning, what if things go right? Either way I’ll be forced beyond my comfort bubble, forced to be responsible.

Right now I feel as though I’m standing on the edge of a deep chasm. The jump to the other side is really just a mere hop – and the entire Universe is on my side, just waiting to assist should it be needed. When my desire for change outweighs my fear, I’ll make the leap. I’ll move on to the next phase and find a new bubble. The process will likely repeat. There’s a certain comfort in that knowledge alone. But as I grow older I find myself standing at those edges longer and longer, worrying instead of leaping. If there’s any part of my 20-year-old self I wish I could recapture, it would be her fearlessness, her I’ll-figure-it-out-as-I-go attitude towards life. Damn the consequences.

Damn consequences.




Life Lately: Winter Thoughts

Baby Nephew in Santa Hat

My nephew ❀

As some of you may have noticed, I took most of the month of December off from blogging. It was partially because I was just so busy with work and the holidays but I also realized I’d lost my spark.

I was mostly down to personal and photography posts – and only one of those showed my full heart. Then something happened that had potential to out this little space of mine to people I know in real life and I realized I had to take a step back. So, that’s what I did – I took some time off from blogging, social media, and the internet in general (excepting Amazon of course, which I frequented a little too often…). I needed time to think about my purpose in continuing this blog and the possibility of starting another. There are so many things I want to write about that don’t really fit this space. But I’ve decided that for now, I don’t care. If I want to write about it, up it goes. Those who want to read it can, and those who don’t can skip over it. Maybe if any one topic starts to dominate I’ll reconsider my options, but for now I want to just let this space be what it will be without worry. Same goes for those in real life people – if they find me, so be it. I don’t want that to change how I feel about this space I’ve grown to love so much.

Log splitter in trees

Random wood-splitter abandoned in the woods (“Just a little too ironic…”)

All that said, I have decided to begin a project that I’ve wanted to do for a long time now – a proper photography website/blog. It’s currently under construction, but I’m sure I’ll be sharing it in time. A lot of the content will likely overlap, but my plan is to feature more photography over there and more words over here. We’ll see how it works out. Can I just tell you though how excited I am about this?! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time but have never felt confident in my work or my ability to keep it updated properly. But it finally occurred to me that if I don’t try, then I’ll never really know – so try I shall!

The last couple of weeks have been spent mostly focused on this Ireland trip. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a trip since my first study abroad adventure – and that was over 13 years ago! (And can I just ask – where does the time go?!? Wow…) I need some time away and to myself. I’m excited about the photo potential, of course, but I’m most excited about having 7 beautiful days to do whatever I want as the mood strikes. No work, no social obligations, no normal responsibilities. I’m the only one I have to concern myself with, and as selfish as that may sound, it’s also something I desperately need. I see this trip as the ultimate self-care indulgence and I’m not the least bit sorry for it. (smile)

Macro tree bark

Deep thoughts – if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

I’ve realized over the last several months just how important self-care can be – on all levels. Last fall, I signed up for an intuitive studies class. As an example of what that means, some of the classes focused on psychic abilities and others on mediumship – exercises for the intuition if you will.Β  I believe I’ve mentioned before that I was a religious studies minor in college – any and all types of religion fascinate me – and I like to continue that education in any way that calls to me. All that to say, I stumbled upon this course and suddenly knew I had to go. Listening to my gut and showing up to class was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long, long time. Whether you believe in the details behind the practices or not, the class was a wonderful opportunity to get in tune with myself. I learned to trust my instincts and not discredit feelings in favor of societal pressures. It has been so freeing!! And on top of it all, I met an amazing group of like-minded individuals who I am so happy to call my tribe. (Trendy, hipster word that may be, but in this instance it’s apt so I’m using it.) As a result of all this, I’ve been undergoing a period of self-reflection, facing some hard truths, and finding monumental positivity through it all. I’d like to share more about this on here, so I guess you can consider this your fair warning. (smile) All I ask is that everyone keep an open mind – you never know what you might discover!

I’d say everything else is on par. I went through some scary moments with my health at the end of last year, but I feel like I’m back on track now with a better idea of how to stay there. I’ve decided that I’m perhaps better off not discussing work for the moment, so I’m going to leave those updates out for the foreseeable future. I go, it goes – that’s about all there is to say anyway. Life is an interesting thing…


2017 Ramblings

As much as I enjoy sharing my annual inspiration, I truly love these travel posts. (smile) There’s something about looking ahead at all the fabulous adventures that just makes my heart beat a little faster!

Vik beach, Iceland2016 Review

I did pretty well for my 2016 travel list. I did visit White Sands National Monument in New Mexico (see below), ventured on a South Dakota road trip with my family, and spent plenty of great quality time in California with my niece. Although I did not mark off all of my Arizona Bucket List, I did make it to a couple locations so maybe this year I’ll see the rest! I also didn’t make it to Santa Fe or San Francisco. One day…

What’s interesting is that I ended up in Iceland (see above) last year. Of all the places I had in mind while writing last year’s post, Iceland wasn’t one of them. But it turned out to be the perfect location to celebrate my brother’s 40th birthday. I’m still working on editing photos, but I will definitely be sharing more adventures on the blog this year! (In writing this post I’ve only just realized how far behind I am in travel stories πŸ˜•Β  )

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico2017 Destinations

Arizona: I really want to finish off that bucket list – namely the slot canyons (e.g., Antelope Canyon) and Chocolate Falls.

California: As always, I want to spend as much time with my friend and niece as possible, but I would also like to take some time this year to drive up to Big Sur. I hear such wonderful things about the area, I think it’s time to make it happen!

Alaska: My dad is officially retiring this year and has requested that we all join him on a family cruise to Alaska to celebrate. As I’ve kinda wanted to do this forever, I’m totally on board!

Ireland: This is the year of the solo tour. I’ve traveled all over the world, but never have I ever traveled totally by myself. Someone’s either been with me from the start or I’ve met someone at my destination (even if they were total strangers). I’ve wanted to go solo for some time now, but it hasn’t worked out for one reason or another. This year, however, is my year. I have a nice little cottage on the coast all booked and ready to go and I am unbelievably excited! Here’s to a week of peace, quiet, and breathtaking landscapes! (smile)

What are your travel plans for the year??



My Word (2017 Edition): Begin

Iceland Begin

This is one of my favorite posts to write each year (the other comes on Tuesday!). When I initially sat down to write this one I had the worst time getting started. Then I realized that yesterday’s post had to come first – a proverbial clearing of the air. An old year has ended and a new year has…begun.

This year’s theme battle-cry resolution is “BEGIN.” Unlike previous years, this one didn’t come immediately, but rather after much thought and a bit of reflection. I was looking for motivation to finally finish all of the things I’ve been meaning to do forever, so my brain was circling around words like end, complete, finish, etc. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that those words would set too negative a tone for the year. Since thinking didn’t seem to be helping the feeling, I decided to go with my gut and the word came immediately. Clearly my heart knew the answer all along – every end is really just a new beginning.

There’s something very hopeful in a beginning, a feeling of infinite possibility that doesn’t carry the feeling of obligation or sadness that an ending sometimes does. There’s more excitement and less pressure – exactly what I’m looking for in this new year! So instead of trying to finish all those crazy things on my never-ending list, I decided that it’s time to simply begin them.


I understand that some of those wonderful beginnings will first require some painful endings. I just don’t want those to be my primary focus – because I know myself well enough to admit that I would use the fear of the end as an excuse not to begin. I know that because, in a way, that’s what I’ve been doing for some time now. Enough now. Looking back, I can see the value in waiting, however impatiently and unwillingly, these past few years. I’ve grown in ways I’ve only recently learned to credit; but it’s time now. Time for excitement, challenge, facing truths, facing fears, letting go, and being present. It’s time for change, for staying true, for living. Above all it’s time to begin and let the adventure unfold from there.


What’s your word for 2017??








Happy New Year 2017!!

street art, mural, downtown, Phoenix Arizona

In preparation for tomorrow’s post announcing my “word” for 2017, I was looking back over similar posts from previous years. In doing so, I was struck by an interesting commonality – each was positively focused on the year ahead, but also quite dismissive of the previous year as “not great” or “uneventful” or (worst of all) “unfulfilling.” I love the fact that I could manage the positivity for the new year, but I’m also a bit distressed by my lack of appreciation of growth, no matter how spectacular the previous year may or may not have been. This observation was particularly poignant given that I had every intention of repeating the pattern again this year.

I believe I’m not alone in saying that 2016 was not a banner year – personally or globally. I did not accomplish all of the goals I set for myself and somewhere along the way I lost sight of my wordy reminders I’d so cheerfully set in January. But taking a deeper look at 2016, I can see a lot of personal growth that makes me proud.

I learned a lot this year. I took classes that taught me new skills, but more importantly, exponentially increased my awareness of the world around me. I faced physical, mental, and emotional challenges and lived to tell the tales. I persevered in activities that, in my youth, I would have tossed aside in favor of a new distraction the second they lost their shine. I find, in truth, that overall I’m much less inclined to seek out distractions. And just typing that sentence brings tears to my eyes – it wasn’t all that long ago I could not have imagined being comfortable just being. I’m not 100% in that yet, but I’m grateful I’m on my way!

Aspen Trees, Flagstaff Arizona

2017 is going to be the year that all those changes I’ve longed for and lamented in prior years come to fruition. I can’t tell you how I know it, but I do. Looking back, I can see now that there were lessons that needed to be learned, skills that needed to be acquired, and confidence that needed to be rediscovered. 2017 scares me…but it excites me even more.

So, perhaps I won’t look back upon 2016 as “my year,” but I also won’t bind it up and put it away on the shelf. It’s a year to be remembered, even if those memories come hard. Good things happened and need to be appreciated. Bad things happened and need to be learned from. Each lifetime is so finite, it seems a shame to purposefully forget or live only in the future. I may have a long battle ahead with reconciling with my past, but I find my present pretty okay these days, a proper balance of good and bad. And as many enlightened beings will tell you, that’s the best achievement you can strive for – the present as a present.

Good-bye 2016. You’ve earned a lacking reputation, but I’ll forgive you for it. May you rest in peace.

2017, I look forward to our time together. (smile)




Happy Holidays!!

I've gone to look for myself. If I return before I get back, please tell me to wait.

After much consideration, I’ve decided to take the rest of the year off from blogging. I have so many ideas for this space, but I need a break. I plan on spending my time catching up on my reading instead, both on- and off-line, so I’ll still sorta be around!

I wish each and every one of you a wondrous holiday season, no matter where you are or how you celebrate – may the end of 2016 be the best part of the year! πŸ™‚