A regrouping

My friends,

I hope you are well.

This 2014, it’s a bit of a challenge for me, it turns out.

I’m taking a break from blogging for the spring- early summer in order to 1.move into a new place, 2. Continue writing this second novel story that’s not-so-patiently waiting around in my mind and 3.) most importantly, sit in front of a lake, regroup and figure out how I make happen what I know I must (and want to) make happen this year.

I wish you one amazing spring/early summer!

jody signature e1376880288605 A regrouping

8 ways to deal with anxiety

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Hey there.

Without warning or a trigger, I felt weight – heavy and suffocating - crashing over me.

Is it possible to feel energy literally leaving your body?

A racing heart, a throbbing forehead, a knotted stomach with dancing worry butterflies.

It had a hold of me – that gripping, tightening sensation of fear and dread about…

  • the state of some struggling family members
  • growing disappointment in myself and my inability to accomplish my self-imposed life to-do list
  • uncertainty about the immediate and long-term future
  • everything I had to do and be for myself, for my family, for others

I am not okay.

Tears.

Anxiety.

Anxiety – the controlling, familiar, sickening hurricane created by worry, fear and stress and my failure to take good care of myself.

I’ve known anxiety since I was a young girl growing up with a chaotic life. Its power over me strengthened as a teenager and then hit its peak when I was a young grownup trying to balance far too many responsibilities.

In fact, when I was 26, these anxiety attacks happened every few weeks. At my office. Driving in my car. Or the second my head met my pillow at night.

I was absolutely terrified that I was losing hope, losing myself.

At that point, in desperation, I finally decided I had to keep away what made me sick: Anxiety.

Here are eight ways I learned to deal with anxiety:

1. Tame the moment.
If you find yourself in a panic, in an anxiety attack: Take deep breaths, relax your muscles, walk, listen to music, pet your dog, call that one friend who always has funny stories to share. Have a treat. For me, it’s a cup of fancy tea or a new iTunes download. If you can go outside (if safe), do it. I swear there’s no better remedy than that. Nature is magical.

2. Pin point what’s causing the anxiety and write it down.
Just recently, I’ve been writing down everything I’m worried about – from the minor to the major. I’ve found that there are changes I can make to eliminate some of the stuff on the list. There’s something very powerful about seeing your worries on paper or on screen. It reminds me that I have zero ability to control the things that worry me most. Take action on what you can control, let go of what you cannot.

3. Get enough sleep.
When our bodies don’t get enough sleep, just about every part of our bodies suffer. I feel like a phony baloney right now. I do not get enough sleep but I’ve been making adjustments in my lifestyle to accommodate it. I don’t consume anything with caffeine after lunchtime. I don’t read the news in the evening. I do not watch TV, unless it’s one of my favorite comedies, because laughing is just about the best thing in the world for me. I turn my alarm clock to face the wall so I don’t watch time pass with frustration as I struggle to fall asleep.

4. Find humor.
Sometimes I pretend my life is a reality-TV show. I’m pretty sure it’d be a hit among those who love tales of the average, non-famous and non-glamorous. Family drama/problems. Awkwardness. Nine hours a day in an office. Strangers I meet while standing in line at the grocery store. Periods of extreme bad luck.

I’ve learned to find a lot of humor in my life, in those around me, in myself. Sometimes I find moments to be extraordinarily hilarious.

Taking a bird’s eye view in the most stressful of moments also helps me to decide how I should respond: Is this worth getting upset over? Usually, it’s not. If it is, then I more clearly see changes I need to make ASAP.

5. Exercise.
It’s a medical fact that when you exercise, your brain releases feel-good hormones.

I don’t do yoga or go to a gym but I should. I run. Sometimes, I walk. Think Prancercise lady, sort of? Yep, hip and arms swinging like a lady 40 years my senior. Find what works for you. If you don’t have time, give up something to create the time.

Ever hear of the Canadian Olympian Leah Pells? Running is how she coped with the chaotic effects of her mother’s chronic alcoholism.

6. Don’t claim other people’s problems as your own.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to detach from other people’s problems. You may be the go-to person when something’s gone wrong. The one who always responds to texts and calls. The listener, the advice giver, the drop-everything-and-come-to-the-rescue person.

I still absolutely, 100-percent have to work on detaching from my family members’ problems on a daily basis. It’s my own fault that they all come running to me like I’m a human crutch. People lean on me way too much because I let them do so for so long. Unhealthy for everyone involved. This is called co-dependency, an extremely common trait for those who grew up with a chaotic life at home. I still feel guilty when I have to say “No, I can’t help you with that right now.” I’m getting better at this, as I grow.

7. Do what makes you happy, even if you only have 15 minutes a day.
When I was a girl, I loved to write stories and read books. But in high school, I stopped. I have no time for hobbies like that, I told myself. At 26, I was depressed and desperate to feel the joy I’d felt as a girl. Only at that point did I make the decision to read and write again. Some days, I only had 15 minutes to give to it. I wouldn’t go to sleep until I’d given 15 minutes to writing or reading. Those 15 minutes had a hugely positive impact on my life outlook. In fact, it was a major turning point in my life and I’m forever grateful.

8. Spend time with people who inspire you.
Even if you don’t know many inspiring people you can call up and go to lunch with, find them. “Spending time with” inspiring people can come in the form of reading what they have to say through books, blogs, tweets and posts. God bless the Internet for providing a way to find far more inspiring people than you may have met in person.

Though I’m doing great today, anxiety is still around like a jerky former boyfriend who waits for an opp to show up on my doorstep at a vulnerable moment, knowing exactly what to say to make me instantly feel like crap about myself and the world. This is why I now understand the importance of taking good care of myself – so that anxiety will never make it to my doorstep.

How do you cope with anxiety? What works for you?

jody signature e1376880288605 8 ways to deal with anxiety

The bravest thing I’ve ever done

The bravest thing Ive ever done 300x300 The bravest thing Ive ever doneWhat’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Stand up to a bully? Save a life? Fall in love?

For me, it was this:

I picked the parking spot seven steps from the door so that I couldn’t leave without notice again.

“You can do this,” I whispered, pulled on my car door handle and pushed the door open wide with my shoe.

“Good evening” came from passerby, as I unfolded myself.

Is she an alcoholic? Or someone who loves one? Did she wonder the same about me? I turned my face in her direction enough to show my half smile and then nodded.

The woman was wrinkled friendly but at 50-something or so, she was too young to be drenched in the old-lady perfume that lingered heavy in the air.

I closed my car door, paused for the beep to confirm I’d locked it and followed a yard behind the woman through the church meeting center entrance, to the arrowed sign in blue on the white concrete walls and then down the stairs.

Hard-sole sandals that clickety clack are a curse when you don’t want to be somewhere.

If I’d worn soft rubber, I could have easily turned around, headed back up the stairs and bounded to my car before Perfume Lady – or anyone else – could notice my escape.

It’s not that big of a deal, I lied to myself.

It’d been a long time. Twenty-six years, in fact, of keeping a secret and of hoping that many alcoholics and addicts in my family would be “fixed” by a sweeping, sudden miracle.

In those years, I became extraordinarily good at pretending and of upholding a carefully constructed public image.

Alone.

I grew up coping with a Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde – a loved one whose alcoholism caused broken promises, behavior that couldn’t be predicted and general chaos.

It was our normal.

As Perfume Lady rounded the corner to reach the basement’s long hallway of meeting room doors, I slowed my sandal clacks and paused.

Why am I here? I am not the addict. I’m not the one who needs help. Why must it be ME searching for the solution? 

With that burst of anger came emotion…and a fast replay of memories.

  • The little-kid days…sitting with my toys until my loved one’s wakeup late into the day…confusion about the lack of patterns in the reactions, in the attention, in the love…
  • In high school, when my friend unexpectedly dropped by for an afternoon visit and met my drunken loved one at the door…
  • In college, when my first serious boyfriend’s visit to the house ended with me in tears…
  • The nights out with friends that ended abruptly because I needed to check on the situation at home – or when the worry dampened the fun….
  • Joyful family weddings and other get togethers marred by the drunken, angry outbursts and terse words…

The letdowns. The fear. The worry. The frustration.

I have to fix them.

When I stood in a green cap and gown, holding a skinny paper tube as a symbol of my degree, I was still hopeful for that miracle – the cure of the addiction – or a new solution dreamed by my officially adult brain.

It was my honorary step into adulthood – and my step into public relations. I was good at crafting messages and maintaining images, after all.

Four years after graduation, I couldn’t sleep. I found little humor in what once made me roar with laughter. I reminded myself to smile, to be the pleasant person everyone knew me to be.

My alcoholic loved ones had hit rock bottom but I’d been there for a while, anchored by own obsession with their illness – and belief that I could move on with my life if these people would just get better.

There in that cold hallway, I still considered retreating to my car and crossing the meeting off the to-do list entirely forever.

I heard a sneaker sole squeak and keys jingle and I knew that if I left with haste, those people might stop me, and urge me to return.

Go.

I stepped through the door that bore a handwritten sign: “Al-Anon. Welcome!”

About thirty people smiled or nodded when I appeared with that frightened, I’m-new look in the doorway.

I listened to the stories. One by one – each a familiar variation of my experience, my fear, my worry, my frustration and my pain.

My story, they already knew! Still, I did not want to share the truth about my family, about me. I wanted to keep that image.

But then I let go.

This shook from my lips: “Hi.”

I stared at the center of the wooden table, shocked that I’d begun speaking.

“I’m Jody.”

I uncrossed my arms and sat taller.

“Hi, Jody,” roared back to me without delay.

I cleared my throat, looked up to acknowledge the twenty sets of eyes I felt upon my face.

Some smiled, some shifted in discomfort from the awkwardness of my delay, of my fear.

I realized in that moment that I wasn’t there for anyone else but me.

“I’m a mess,” I whispered. “I’ve lost control of my life and myself because I’m obsessed with fixing the alcoholics in my life. I am lost.”

At first I tried to stop the tears – like I always did during Hallmark commercials and the like – by wiping them – careful and gentle – to avoid makeup smearing.

But when I said, “I need help, and that’s why I’m here. For me,” something unlocked inside.

And my story, I told.

Childhood worries, teenage humiliations, broken promises, constant planning for the next terrible thing, how I’d taken on far too many responsibilities as an adult and worst of all, how I felt hope slipping away.

A grandpa, wrinkled, scruffy and full of life, lined up a stack of pamphlets and books, pushed them across the table until they were within my arms’ reach. He said, “Jody, you’ve turned the key and the wheels are in motion.”

Hope.

I felt it return.

I’d come looking for a fix for my alcoholic family members and realized how much help I needed to give myself.

Mascara streaked across my cheeks, leaving behind grayness the way my alcoholic loved one’s behavior often marred my carefully applied plans.

That moment kickstarted my cathartic journey. I discovered that in the process of trying to take care of everyone else, I’d neglected to do my one job in life: to take good care of myself.

When I made major and minor changes in order to take good care of myself, every facet of my life improved. My relationship with my alcoholic loved one improved dramatically, and I found purpose in life and understood who I am.

And it took bravery to make it happen.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? Tell me in the comments below.

I hope you have a great week.

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Video: When your family ignores problems, it’s your cue to break the cycle and get help

Hi, you.

Here’s a video about how when a family ignores problems, it’s a person’s cue to break the cycle and get help. It’s also about what happened at my cousin’s wedding when I was thirteen.

My focus is alcoholism but the same goes for any other problems.

Here’s the original post on the topic.

Have you ever stepped up and brought problems to light? Let me know in the comments below.

I wish you a wonderful week!

Here’s my favorite motivational quote of the week: “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” - Helen Keller

Ain’t that the truth?

jody signature e1376880288605 Video: When your family ignores problems, its your cue to break the cycle and get help

Helping children of alcoholics

Hi ya.

You guys! It’s Children of Alcoholics Week, one of my favorite weeks of the year!

This week, thousands of people and organizations around the world are working hard to raise awareness about how common it is for children to be living with alcoholics. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 7,500,000 children in the U.S. live in a home with a parent in need of treatment for alcohol dependency (Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). According to SAMHSA, these children are at greater risk than their peers of suffering from problems such as depression and anxiety, physical health challenges and learning problems, are three times more likely to be abused, are four times more likely to be neglected and face four times the risk of developing substance abuse issues.

Let’s break the cycle.

Here’s how you can help:

Donate to the non-profit organizations that are effectively supporting, educating and saving lives such as:

Educate yourself about alcoholism and share informative sites with friends and family.

If you are a child of an alcoholic or have/had alcoholic loved ones, please consider the following:

  • Talking about it openly among your circles. How have you learned to cope? What do you wish you’d known before?
  • Listening, really listening when people share their stories.
  • Writing about how you’ve coped on your own blog or offering to write guest posts on established blogs.
  • Posting links to helpful articles on the subject on your social media accounts.
  • Attending Al-Anon meetings. There are people who need to hear your story.
  • Contacting your nearest substance abuse treatment center and inquire about volunteer or speaking opportunities.
  • Writing articles for your local newspaper and alert your local events calendar editor when there are substance abuse-addiction-related seminars in your community.
  • If you know respected authors, musicians and athletes who can reach larger numbers of people, asking them about championing the cause.

This is near and dear to my heart – and my purpose in life. You can read about that here.

I have a loving family in which alcoholism is a major problem. I grew up believing this was unique to my family. Now I’m a happy grownup. I’m still healing and learning from my experiences. I wrote an award-winning middle-grade novel with parental alcoholism in a leading role. It was rejected about 30 times before I found a publisher who believed in the story.

Since I began writing about my loved ones’ alcoholism and how I’ve learned to heal (and in the process, help the alcoholics in my life), I’ve had the great pleasure of hearing from kids, teens, young adults and grownups from all over the world.  They share variations of the same story, of my story.

They are the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.

I am forever stunned by how widespread alcoholism is in families but hopeful that with education efforts and more people speaking out and sharing their stories, we’re beginning to break the cycles of addiction in familes.

Here’s a roundup of posts I’ve written about what I’ve learned as the child of an alcoholic:

 *** On seven things children of alcoholics should know ***

On looking for approval from others

On detaching

On changing your life outlook

On what to do when you realize people around you are nuts

On when your family ignores problems, it’s your cue to break the cycle

On making every step to healing count

On taking life one day at a time

On that island in the dark – losing hope

On learning what you can and cannot change

On letting go of frustration and anger

On the super power known as hope

On the common story of life when you love an alcoholic

Take good care of yourself today and every day.

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Looking for approval: a confession

Hey there.

You know what’s the worst? Feeling like someone’s disappointed in me.

Ever experience that terrible feeling? Perhaps you’ve felt that someone’s been disappointed in your performance at your workplace or on your sports team or in your role in the school play, etc…

…or just flatout doesn’t like you for whatever reason.

I wish I could tell you that I don’t care at all what people think. Truth is, I’m 31 years old and I still crave approval from time to time. I feel good when people say or do something to confirm that they approve of me. They like me! They think I’m doing just fine! Great.

It shakes my confidence when I get a feeling that someone may not like me or think I’m good enough at this or that. What did I do wrong? How do I please this person? 

When I start questioning my abilities or even how I’m living my life and my purpose, it’s all down hill from there. I even worry that those who like me and love me are going to be disappointed in something I do or don’t do in this life – even though they’ve never expressed disappointment in me before.

Oh my insecurities, oh my imagination. They are gold-medal-winning dance partners, my friend.

Surely, when our confidence takes a blow, we’re less likely to push ourselves because we fear disappointment. We fear failure. It’s crippling.

Approval gives confidence. That’s why I still catch myself looking for that reassurance so that I can push myself to do more and to take on new endeavors.

This seeking of approval is a habit I formed in childhood.

My alcoholic loved one confused me so much.

When this person was sober, I enjoyed a lot of attention.

Wow, great job, they’d say as they hung my artwork to cover the last inch of the refrigerator. They smiled while I played with my toys.

Sometimes, when drinking heavily, this person was distant, disengaged and unfriendly. I was lonely. I felt like I was a bother. Or worse, sometimes, this person grew angry with me for reasons I couldn’t understand. For example, some days, instead of being praised for my artwork or my imagination creating stories, I was scolded for making a mess and sent off to bed early. Sometimes the yelling wasn’t directed at me but it felt like it.

I struggled to predict the behavior but found no pattern. I didn’t know the alcohol was driving our chaotic life. I didn’t know my alcoholic loved one was trapped by addiction.

I thought it was all my fault. I thought I was disappointing. I thought I wasn’t good enough.

I was never satisfied with myself, despite all of my efforts to exceed expectations.

Fortunately, when I became a teenager, I recognized that this person’s alcoholism wasn’t my fault and that my alcoholic loved one loved me with all their heart. I learned to recognize the insansity/falseness of the alcoholics’ hurtful words and ignore them.

As a grownup, I taught myself to trust the love and support of my family and friends.

When I feel my confidence shaking, as it sometimes does, I remind myself that I approve of the woman I am and the woman I hope to be. That is all that matters.

Do you find yourself looking for approval? How do you stop yourself? What have you learned to do to curb that? I’d love to know. We learn from each other. Please write a note below.

You, just have a wonderful week, you. Okay?

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