Friday, December 28, 2012

Myers-Briggs Personality Type

Today's topic is the Myers-Briggs Personality Type evaluation.  You might look into this and be surprised at how things turn out.  I did my evaluation at, but you can check out this page for some detailed info: MBTI Personality Types from

I am an INFJ personality type, based on a recent type evaluation I took.
Seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions. Want to understand what motivates people and are insightful about others. Conscientious and committed to their firm values. Develop a clear vision about how best to serve the common good. Organized and decisive in implementing their vision.
Now... a few people I know, in real life, thought I'd be more of an ENFJ... the "I" meaning "Introvert" and the "E" meaning "Extrovert"
Warm, empathetic, responsive, and responsible. Highly attuned to the emotions, needs, and motivations of others. Find potential in everyone, want to help others fulfill their potential. May act as catalysts for individual and group growth. Loyal, responsive to praise and criticism. Sociable, facilitate others in a group, and provide inspiring leadership.
Where that gets confusing is that I tend to be an extrovert among peers I'm comfortable with.  I have a great need for "alone time".

I think it's true to say that everyone exhibits a fair amount of varying traits from all personality types at any given moment... but deep down at heart I'm an INFJ.

What is your personality type?  How do you think that effects your day-to-day life?  How do you think this helps or hurts your anxiety issues?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Being your own advocate!

The number one -MOST- important thing when seeking help for your anxiety/depression is being your own advocate.  You have to see a few different doctors before finding the one that truly fits you.  This is extremely important to your treatment.

The first doctor I sought simply watched me cry in a cold exam room and put me on Prozac (Fluoxetine).  I took it, and it seemed to help some, but over time it really stopped doing anything for me.  I went off of it, eventually, and went back to trying to deal with everything by myself.

The doctor I'm seeing now is very involved in the effectiveness of my current medication, and always encourages me to tell him if something needs to change.  I went to a doctor's office where they do a "meet and greet" with your chosen physician before your initial appointment.  I really loved that, so always ask the office you're approaching if they do something like that.  If they don't usually do something like that, request it.  It's worth asking.

If you are married or in a relationship, it is a good idea to bring your significant other with you to your first appointment.  If you are unattached, but you have someone you spend a lot of time with, they might be a good option to bring along.  The reason for this is that they may observe things in you that you may not even notice.  I took my husband to my appointment, and he pointed out that he doesn't even take me to the grocery store.  He had observed so many things about me that I found insignificant, but really gave my doctor insight into exactly what was going on with me.  Without that extra information, I may be taking medication that doesn't suit my needs.

BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE.  Stand up for yourself, seek the treatment you deserve, and find someone to put in your support system.

Coping vs. Self-medicating

There is a difference between coping and self-medicating.  Coping is any number of tricks or behaviors you come up with you help you mellow through a rough time.  Self-medicating is doing any number of things to distract you from the rough times, and often leads to poor decision making.

(ETA:  Come up with coping mechanisms that help YOU... on your OWN.  If you start Googling, you'll come up with something like THIS bullshit article I found.  None of that is helpful or recommended... exposure therapy should ALWAYS be monitored by a health professional.)

I've done my fair share of self-medicating, but I have turned to coping in the last few years.  My self-medication started in my teens, when I began the traumatizing habit of self-injury (aka self-mutilation, self-harm, "cutting").  When I was overwhelmed or depressed, this is what I turned to.  As I got older and had more freedom in life, living away from home, it turned into drugs and alcohol.  Every once in a blue moon, I'd smoke marijuana with a friend or two, and let the subsequent giggles take me away from everything else for a while... sometimes I'd even take a prescription pain-killer, if they were available... but the real problem was the drinking.

I surely never thought of myself as an alcoholic, and I still don't... but I'm sure there were many people that thought that of me.  Maybe they were right... I don't really know.  I do know that when the choice came to pay my rent, or go to the bar- I went to the bar.  I spent with no regard to my future obligations.  When I needed supplemental rent money, because I hadn't saved enough, I turned to my parents.  They were in no position to be doling out money to me, but I also know they wanted to see me succeed in living on my own.  Was it enabling?  Maybe.  Did my mom consider calling the show "Intervention"?  Probably, hahaha... and I wouldn't have blamed her.  I was reckless in my early to mid-20's.  Reckless and drunk and barely getting by.  My fridge was always empty of essential things; I remember eating mini sweet pickles for dinner a few times.  This was because I spent all my money drinking and none on groceries or anything.  I shopped at dollar stores for the basics... soap, shampoo, toilet paper, laundry detergent.  Sometimes, I'd run to my parents house for things like that if I really couldn't afford them.  I never really looked back and found the true cause of this behavior until a few years ago.

I drank when I was anxious, nervous, stressed out, or depressed.  It washed it all away, and lowered my inhibitions enough that I had a lot of fun.  Granted, I always had to go back to "real life" the next day, but it kept me safe until then.

I was a self-injurer for nearly 10 years.  Of all the "addictions" I've had, cutting was probably the hardest to give up.  I could do it anywhere, anytime... Obviously, I could never drink at work, but if something was particularly upsetting me, I could sneak away to the bathroom and relieve some of the stress by cutting.  It wasn't always cutting... sometimes it was superficial scraping, or puncturing the skin... but the pain took away the anxiety.  I could feel the rush of it leaving me, like an adrenaline crash.  My limbs would suddenly lose their tension and could feel the blood flow through my veins again.

I grew up in an era where "emo" and "goth" were starting to become a thing.  A lot of people ran around touting "cutters" as merely seeking attention.  I cannot, and will not, believe that this is the standard.  I did my best to hide my secret from people... I didn't go around bragging about it, or showing my wounds.  After a while, it became such a habit that I didn't care if people saw it or not.  In fact, one night, I did it right in front of someone.  It upset them and they held me and cried, but I was so numb to everything around me that it didn't matter.

I never cut to scar, I only cut to feel.  I actually tried not to scar myself, but sometimes, it doesn't really work like that.  I have a few scars to this day, 15 years after I first started, and it's always a reminder.  Eventually, I'm sure they will get covered by a tattoo, but I will make sure they are covered with something to remind me that I can cope with the mental stress without hurting my physical self.  The covering with be symbolic and beautiful.  I can't change what I've done, and I cannot pretend like it never happened, so I will celebrate the person it has turned me into, and celebrate the ways it's made me see my life now.

How do I cope now?  Well, now I have Xanax to help me through those rough moments that appear out of nowhere.  Before the Xanax, I would step away from the situation and just go take some moments by myself.  Go outside and get fresh air, go in the bathroom and take some deep cleansing breaths, go out to the car and listen to some calming music... I'm an anxious fidgeter, so I shake my leg a lot... doesn't seem to help, but it is a pretty good indicator that I have to get up and change what I'm doing, or take a pill or something.

Breathing is a good way to help deal with things.  Learning what breathing patterns are the best for you is something you have to figure out on your own.  Look up videos on YouTube of yoga breathing, or even Lamaze breathing.  Sometimes regulating the amount of oxygen to your brain and opening up all your little lung capillaries can make a huge difference in how you cope with your stress and anxiety.

Most of all, remember that there is a pretty fine line between anxiety/depression and suicidal thoughts.  I never cut myself in order to end my life, and it was never my intention, but I do remember moments where I thought it would be easier if my life were to end.  If you are having ANY thoughts of suicide, be them momentary or serious, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The call is free and discreet.  The staff is trained to best assist you in overcoming these difficult times.  Do not hesitate to call, even if your issue seems small to you... it might be bigger than you think.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Anxiety as a child

Today, I'm addressing the issue of anxiety as a child.  I know I've had it my whole life, but it's manifested in many different ways.  Later, I'll be discussing self-medication in my twenties, but today, we go back a little further.

On the cusp of 2013, 8.5 short months away from my 30th birthday, I think back to my childhood.  I will never stand up and say that my parents were horrible and neglectful of us (my sister and myself), but I will say that life surely prevented them from giving us everything we ever wanted.  They worked hard- long hours and rough schedules.  This often made for a very stressful environment at home.  When we were all under one roof together, the tension sometimes grew; as children, we wanted to be loud and playful, but the adults wanted to rest.  This resulted in arguments, yelling, and threats.  After a time, I started the habit of avoidance.  I did everything in my power to avoid conflict and confrontation.  I withdrew and began to entertain myself, rather than playing with my sister.  I would sit in my room for hours at a time, tending to my Barbies, reading books, playing with jewelry, or watching TV.  Sometimes, in nicer weather, I'd go play outside by myself... repeatedly hitting a tennis ball against the house, kicking a soccer ball against the house, riding my bike in a continuous path on the street in front of my house.  When things got far too overwhelming, I hid in an evergreen tree at the edge of our front yard.  The low branches allowed me to climb up the tree some distance and sit there until I felt calm enough to go inside.

There was the occasion where I wouldn't be able to escape the madness.  Too much loud noise, too much background noise... increases my anxiety levels and makes me start to panic.  Frequently, this would lead to outbursts on my part.  I never felt proud of these instances, but I didn't know what else to do other than yell back, or cry and scream.  Sometimes things would escalate and I would just open my mouth and shriek, hoping it would distract from the issue at hand.

I love my parents.  I love my parents for raising me through the latter half of the 80's and through the 90's, when things like anxiety, learning disabilities, and autism weren't often thought of.  Back when people didn't realize that children could have anxiety problems like adults.  I don't think I need to be on Ritalin or Adderall, and I don't think I needed to be on either one then.  My problem does not lie in paying attention, it lies in people keeping my attention.  If a situation is too overwhelming, I check out.  I go to a place in my head that is safe and quiet, drowning out the noise.  I did this as a child, and I do it now.

I was sometimes accused of not paying attention, due to the fact that I would doodle or write my name repeatedly while someone was speaking or trying to teach me something.  The fact is doodling or writing helps me retain.  Now, as an adult, when I am trying to memorize lines for a play, I will write my lines repeatedly in order to help me retain the information.  It has helped me so much with my memory problems.

So for all those hours I spent jumping on the trampoline alone, or rollerskating in my basement with my imaginary friends, or the time I spent just listening to my favorite songs over and over again... I started learning at a very early age to adapt to my surroundings and try to manage my anxiety the best I could.  I didn't know what it was, and I couldn't describe the feeling I had, but I found ways to try and control it.

**If you are a parent, and you suspect your child has anxiety problems, try your hardest to talk to them about it.  Nobody ever addressed my feelings with me, and I feel like things could have been a little easier if they had.**

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Anxiety, Depression, and Phobia...

I have Social Anxiety Disorder.

From Wikipedia: Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear in social situations causing considerable distress and impaired ability to function in at least some parts of daily life. The diagnosis of social anxiety disorder can be of a specific disorder(when only some particular situations are feared) or a generalized disorder. Generalized social anxiety disorder typically involves a persistent, intense, fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by one's own actions. These fears can be triggered by perceived or actual scrutiny from others. While the fear of social interaction may be recognized by the person as excessive or unreasonable, overcoming it can be quite difficult. Physical symptoms often accompanying social anxiety disorder include excessive blushing, sweating (hyperhidrosis), trembling, palpitations, nausea, stammering often accompanied with rapid speech. Panic attacks may also occur under intense fear and discomfort. An early diagnosis may help minimize the symptoms and the development of additional problems, such as depression.

I have Major Depressive Disorder.

From Wikipedia: Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder (MDD) (also known as recurrent depressive disorderclinical depressionmajor depressionunipolar depression, or unipolar disorder) is a mental disorder characterized by episodes of all-encompassing low mood accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. This cluster of symptoms (syndrome) was named, described and classified as one of the mood disorders in the 1980 edition of the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual. The term "depression" is ambiguous. It is often used to denote this syndrome but may refer to other mood disorders or to lower mood states lacking clinical significance. Major depressive disorder is a disabling condition that adversely affects a person's family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. In the United States, around 3.4% of people with major depression commit suicide, and up to 60% of people who commit suicide had depression or another mood disorder.

I have Telephone Phobia.

From Wikipedia: Telephone Phobia

Telephone phobia (telephonophobiatelephobia) is reluctance or fear of making or taking phone calls, literally, "fear of telephone". Telephone phobia is also considered to be a type of Social phobia or Social anxiety problem.
Sufferers typically report fear that they would fail to respond appropriately in a telephone conversation, and fear finding nothing to say, which would end in embarrassing silence, stammering, or stuttering. The associated avoidance behavior includes asking others (e.g. relatives at home) to take their phone calls and exclusive use of answering machines. As a result, the sufferers avoid many activities, such as scheduling events or clarifying information. 

While there may not be "tests" or physical examinations that prove or disprove I have any of these conditions, it is a fact that I take Escitalopram (Lexapro) daily, and Alprazolam (Xanax) as needed.  In another week, it will be 2013- the year I turn 30.  I have suffered so much for so long.  Now that I finally have a doctor I can trust, perhaps we can delve a little further into this mental illness and get me a little more straightened out.  I'm not holding my breath that anything will really help at this point, but it's worth a shot... right?

This Is Who I Am

I am awkward.
I make jokes that people don’t understand.
Most of the time, I feel alone… even when I’m with other people.
I’m only social in situations and places in which my mind feels “comfortable”.
I have extreme social anxiety when dealing with strangers.  I have a hard time saying “excuse me” in the store, or asking an employee for help.
I used to fear ordering at a drive-through window.
I am extremely intelligent in a very unconventional way.  I am not the kind of smart that can be tested with school examinations- exams and tests make me very uncomfortable and I cannot concentrate on the task at hand.
I remember things that nobody else would ever bother to commit to memory, but intentionally memorizing things is a drawn-out struggle for me.
I do not have stage fright if I am portraying someone else.  If I have to speak as myself, I can barely get through it.
Nobody truly understands me.

I talk to myself when I’m alone.  I talk to imaginary people when I’m alone.  Sometimes, they’re the only people to whom I’m truly comfortable expressing myself.
I am always worried that telling the truth about my feelings will make someone else upset, so I keep a lot of things locked up tight.
Sometimes, I cry for (seemingly) no reason… but the truth is there are many reasons why I cry.
My friends don’t understand.  They don’t see any of these traits.  They are people I’m comfortable with, and they are people I let into my life.  The more comfortable I am the easier socializing becomes.  If they’d pay attention, they’d see all these little things.  Some of them understand, and to them I say “thank you”.

I sort my M&Ms by color.  All color groups have to be even numbers.  They get eaten in pairs, by color, starting with green (my favorite).
When sitting in a restaurant booth, I have to be on whichever side puts the wall on my right side.
When sitting in a movie theatre, if the chair moves, I will rock in it nearly the entire movie.  I have to make a very conscious effort not to rock in my seat.
When I get to work, I have to take out, and plug in, my equipment in a specific order, otherwise I feel it the rest of the day.
Anytime I’m doing a task that I repeat on a relatively regular basis, it has to be done in the same way every time.

I don’t like smiling at strangers.
I don’t like the grocery store, or any busy shopping center.
I don’t like it when other people around me are anxious.
I don't like receiving gifts.
I don't like asking for help.
I am going to organize my DVD collection today so it’s in alphabetical order again.
I am very forgetful.
I know many things.
I’m always terrified that people don’t like me.
Pressure makes me happy.  That’s why I like blankets (at home), heavy sweatshirts, and scarves.
I suffer from a major case of buyer’s remorse.  Whenever I spend more than $30 on a total purchase, I get hives.

My Xanax just makes me tired enough that I stop caring, but I’m afraid that if I tell my doctor it will mean I’m crazy and there will be no alternative for me… so I take it.
I really and truly am concerned that nobody knows what this is like, and it’s scary to think that I really am all alone.