Monday, September 30, 2013

Running Into And Out Of Fear....Is Counting To Ten Childish?

As most of you know one of the main things my doctor prescribed has been daily vigorous exercises.  I've done most of that running, but I've also done some strength training too.  I keep track of the running with two different apps because I have some friends who use one and some who use another.  looking at what they do helps keep me motivated.

I set a goal to make it at least 60 miles in September overall, and I wanted to also run half as many miles as one of my friends who runs a lot and has been for years.  Tonight I accomplished the former but not the latter and really the latter was a pipe dream since this friends runs half and full marathons.

It wasn't easy though.  I've had days that it was difficult to motivate myself, and a medication change.   Today, a ward change.  I auditioned for Salt Lake Vocal Artists and stressed about it.  I stressed about it a lot.  In fact I was telling my sister (by Chat on Facebook) that I thought since it had been so long I figured I hadn't made it.  while I was chatting with her I got and email alert and when I checked it, I was in for this wonderful chance to sing for many choral directors at a convention this February.  Ups and downs like that also affected how hard I pushed myself and how much I kept at it.

When I hit 55.3-ish miles yesterday I didn't realize that the last 4.7-ish miles would be my toughest.  I needed the run tonight to help with dealing with the change coming to our ward boundaries, a new ward, a new time.  How my kids would get along with those in the new ward etc.  I also I needed just a few more miles to make my goal.

I got the kids to bed late and finally decided to do a late night run.  I've gotten used to it but maybe it was the extra anxiety of the day, for some reason running out there with just my little head light and me lighted armband and the soft orange glow of my cellphone counting up the miles I was running, something spooked me.

I heard a loud noise like a bark as I ran past Rocky Mountain Junior High, and I wondered if it was the two dogs I've had to scare off with forceful shouting a few times this past week.  I kept looking back but didn't see anything.  I decided to pop out one of my earbuds and run with the music on in just one ear.  I felt better and kept going.  Close to mile 2, I saw what I was sure was someone in a black hoodie sneaking around just ahead of me by the fence of a large yard.  Just as I decided to swing my head over in that direction the fence gave way to grass with poplars growing every 10 feet or so.  When my light went to where I last saw him, I saw nothing.

I thought I was mistaken but as I ran I thought, "I run this same way many nights of the week.  What if someone figured it out and thought I'd be easy to mug.  Yes all I had on me was a smart phone but maybe that was enough to entice someone."  My heart began to race and the logical parts of my brain began to turn off. at one point I stopped to walk so I could turn around and look a few times.  When that happened my anxious state coupled with the running I had been doing made my legs and back start to cramp. I hit about 2.3 miles and turned around.  Each time I tried to start running I cramped up and my heart raced more. I walked and jogged, and walked and jogged a lot for the next mile or so.  Oh and while I was doing that I realized the Dark Man in the hoodie was just the extremely bright light of that park bathroom I always pass, and I had literally been spooked by my own shadow. I have compared myself to a groundhog (thinking about how sometimes I get out in public and get spooked easily) lately in my mind but tonight the comparison was quite literal.

With a little less than a mile left I decided to run again.  For no real reason I began to count everytime my left foot hit the ground.

"1 and 2 and..." I would think until I got to 100.

Then I started over.  I got lost at 30 or so and started over, this time just going to 10 and starting over. Without really realizing it I was doing what listening to my choral music usually does for me.  I was engaging the logical part of my brain and when that's active the limbic system (which controls fight or flight) shuts down.  My cramps lessened and my heart rate went back to where it usually does when I do a casual run without a specific pace goal.  Yes, I will still need to work out some knots with a deep tissue massage from my wife tomorrow and I will certainly take a rest day and lift weights and work the upper body tomorrow.  But I turned off the panic attack.

Counting to ten.  How cliché is that? I always thought that was something that is told to children. Adults need something much more complicated than just counting to ten right?

If you're having trouble...Count to ten.  It's not just for children anymore.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What's working.

Getting through these challenges I've been faced with recently has forced me to be aware of how the things I do affect me.

I made a list of things that are calming or cathartic and that cause me anxiety.  After ranking them, I was convinced that I was a nut.  But being aware of things on my lists and making sure I do enough on the good side to balance out the things that are hard can be a struggle.  Mostly because I often feel that doing things just for myself is selfish.  However as I mentioned before I am realizing I have more and better quality of time and effort to give when I do take care of myself.

I have found 3 things that seem to be an absolute must for me recently.

The first is exercise.  At the moment I notice a serious drop in my level to cope if I don't have at least 30 minutes or more of vigorous exercise each day.  My outlook is better, my energy is better and I am more conscious of what I eat when I exercise.  It provides me with natural endorphins and our good feeling  brain chemicals.  The Medication I've been on has helped get me more stable but even with it, I REQUIRE exercise.  So this is something I am putting on my must do list.

The second is working on and singing difficult music. After spending the morning in a recording session with the choir, I made it through an entire scary car ride in the rain and also a night at Boondocks without taking the extra medication the doctor gave me for panic attacks and to help me sleep without agitation.  Yes by the end of the Boondocks I was a bit frazzled and close to my limit but I made it and I attribute it to the mental challenge of working hard and focusing on music for an entire morning.  I do not however get much in the way of a boost if the music isn't challenging or the pace of learning the music is too slow.  I also still have trouble with solos, these were once a great asset to me and I believe that I can make them be that once again if I begin to take voice lessons again.  As soon as I feel stable enough I plan to start looking for a part-time job and part of the money from said job will go to paying for voice lessons, and another portion to a college tuition fund.  This way I can expand my mind and not feel guilty about it because the money will come from work I do and not our normal family budget.

I will get there.

The 3rd thing has been prayer.  I have had many experiences with prayer over my life and many new ones recently.  Daily communication with my Father in Heaven is essential and at times in my life I have forgotten it.  I have been able to really look at how I pray and who I include in my prayers and this has helped to put me in a frame of mind to think of other's needs.  I am truly humbled as I think about others and their struggles and successes.  I feel more connected to them and it truly has an effect on my anxiety level around people.

Anyway.  These are my 3 must haves.  What are yours?  Do you take time to enrich yourself and prop yourself up?  I hope so.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Panic Button.......Release valves and reservoirs.

Tonight I did something that was very hard for me right now.  I auditioned, for people who I respect a lot. Even though I consider some of the kindest people I know It was still very hard and I made it through.  The panic button was on but I also got to sit there waiting for my audition with some of my friends.  They too were panicked, they too seemed on edge and somehow sharing that with them helped me a lot.  I was able to worry for them and it helped me not worry about me so much.

As we watched each other go in and come out and each one dealing with their stress in different ways. we all were the same.  Some came out and analyzed each thing they think they could have done better. some were emotional.  Some used humor.  Still we all survived.  And I would surmise that each one of us was our own worst critic.

I'd really like to make it back into this group to travel to a wonderful convention and sing and hear other singers.  It would be amazing,  I've been to a few of them (the conventions) before and had the time of my life.  Singing with this group of people also seems to fill my reservoir.  A good friend counseled me the other day that often we are trying so hard to fill every need out there that our reservoir gets to the bottom and that is where the sediment collects and all that you have to give is sediment filled sludge.  He said he had seen it a lot with moms who are trying to fulfill their church callings, and be everything to their kids, a lover to their spouse, and everything in between.  Dad's can feel it too and not just stay at home dads like me.

His counsel to me said that we have to close down the release valve a little and spend some extra time filling our reservoirs.  And once filled we need to try to match our intake with our output.

I hadn't thought about it that way.  That in trying to give and give to my family and feeling guilty for doing something that filled my own cup, not only did I have less to give but the quality was becoming worse and worse.

My panic is dying down, though I do think a long late-night run will be needed to help finish it off.  But as my stormy sea calms tonight I"m refreshed.  Just going and singing for those I respect and being if only for a short time with those who I have come to call friends, some of whom have become almost like family,  I filled my cup a bit.

I look forward to filling it more and by so doing improve the quality of what I have to give.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Speak It Out Loud

This morning, I woke up at 3 AM.  I decided to start my day instead of trying to go back to sleep for a few hours.  I got my work-out clothes on.  I put my heart monitor and my phone in my armband.  I couldn't quite believe that I was going to try a run since I have been sick the past few days.  I decided to try it anyway.

 I put a tiny bit of vapo-rub in my mustache and beard to help keep my lungs and congestion soothed.  I figured if I could run without coughing it would be ok.  Lo, and behold, the trick worked.  I didn't set any speed records but I ran 5k in about 37 and a half minutes.  I came home, got some liquids in me and ate a protein bar for recovery nutrition.  Already feeling good with those good endorphin levels running through me from the exercise, I checked my email and took a shower. I even shaved.

I woke the boys up a few minutes later than usual because the older ones have late start on Fridays.  We had a normal morning.  After some early getting ready from the older 2 we woke the others and had family prayer and read scriptures.  I always try to read with feeling. I think it makes it more interesting.  The boys, getting them to read when it's their turn is about all we can get from drowsy children.  We closed with a prayer and then it happened.  I reminded them to take time to say their personal prayers.  I forget to do this all the time.  I'm perfectly willing to pray, myself, with the family but forget to take time to speak with heavenly father personally.

I went into my room and closed the door.  Instead of quietly saying a prayer in my head.  I spoke out loud. I had forgotten after all these years since my mission how powerful it is to speak out loud to the lord.  Not to take anything away from having a prayer in our hearts, or for times when you feel that a quiet prayer is needed.  I think, sometimes, when I say the prayer in my head that I'm somehow being more humble and submissive.  But to speak out loud reminded me that a prayer is a conversation with our heavenly father.  I could feel him answering me and giving me comfort.  It brought me to tears to ask for help with my children and protection for my wife.  It was real.

I think that I will make an effort to find time to pray out loud personally each day.  Make it my routine.  It was good to have a conversation with the one who knows me best.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Don't Be Afraid.

Ironic that someone who is struggling with anxiety and social fears would title a blog post, "Don't Be Afraid"  I am aware of said irony.  Too often when we are struggling or having issues, when things go wrong financially, or whatever the world throws at us, has us down we say to ourselves, "I can handle this.  I'm strong. I'll just keep it to myself."

It's great and wonderful to think that you are strong, but this shouldn't make us afraid to share our struggles with others.  If we hold it all in we never know what else might be waiting around the corner that we will have to handle as well.  We may expect one result but darned if our expectations don't get messed up along the way.

I decided when things started weighing down on me to ask for help and that included therapy, seeking spiritual guidance, and even willingness to try taking medication.  I'm breaking in no new territory with these things.  Many people smarter than I am have been willing to try these things much sooner than I did.  Hopefully most don't wait until things get as bad as I did to seek that help.  but the sharing and asking for help doesn't stop with one thing.

Shortly after beginning to take my medication I began to experience increased anxiety.  Prozac is known to cause these symptoms in the first few weeks.  I asked my wife to call the doctor, but after doing so decided to read some more online about what I was taking and realized that this was normal and that this was why he had also prescribed a low dose relaxant to help with those episodes.  So before the doctor even called back to say he wanted to wait one more week I had decided the same thing.

Shortly after, the agitation and anxiety began to wear off and I even felt less agitated than when all of this started. However, I also felt the blues pretty bad.  One day I dragged myself out of bed to take the kids to school and then upon returning home I stayed in bed.  Tina had to pick up the kids from school and cancelled some appointments that I had.  I had no motivation to do anything.  Even eating was a chore.  I was becoming less anxious but my depression was coming back.  This time I made an appointment to see the doctor for the next day.

That evening I received a message from a friend who said that she had been struggling with the same things and was doing well for a time but that she was feeling really bad again.  My heart broke to read that this sweet person was struggling and for the brief time we messaged back and forth online, I forgot my own problems.  My advice to her was also important for me.

Even if you think you should be ok by now, talk to someone.  Find a counselor at school if you are still that young, find a bishop, stake president, home-teacher, parent, sibling, whatever.  Just talk.  If you are on medications and not feeling right talk to the doctor, you may have developed a tolerance.  Asking for help is not weakness.

I went in to my appointment that day, knowing that I had to fix things as much for my friend who had reached out to me as for myself.  My wife went with me and helped me talk it through with the doctor.  We decided that since the medication was having some effect on the anxiety to add a different medication that helped with a different type of neurotransmitter..  In any case it's been a week and I can already see the improvements.

I got back to running that day just to spite the depression and forced myself to run with my Aunt at the Tomato Days 5K in Hooper the next day.  I'm so glad I did.  It was fun.  I was really touched when she asked me to come run it with her.  I know she had been reading my posts and wanted to help me.  It really helped motivate me to work towards the goal and I want her to know how much it meant.

Real strength comes from all around us, and it flows through us,and binds us all together.  No it's not "The Force" but it comes from the lives of those around us.  We touch people even when we don't think we do.

To my friend who is struggling out there, know that you helped me that night when you asked me for help.  I hope you can get through this as well, but keep talking to people and looking into your problems and research them until you get the answers that help.  And keep on singing.  You can never go wrong when you are singing, even if it's just a song playing in your heart.

Don't Be Afraid!  There are many who love you and many who need you.