I’m a Total Hypocrite.

I give, I think, very good advice.

I am not your typical “feeling” female (I know you don’t believe me). I’m going to get a bit stereotypical, but for the sake of my story, let’s say that generally, women are more emotional and men are more pragmatic.

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Hope my readership grows due to controversy!

As I meander through life, I tend to be very pragmatic about my decisions. Dude-like.

I noticed this especially when I was still dating, and going through scores of good, bad, and ugly suitors. I started to see patterns in the ways the men I dated treated me and acted, and stopped being a girl when it came to my reactions and expectations.

Perhaps this is why I had better friendships with men than women in my 20s. When I asked a dude pal for advice, he’d give me a couple of viable solutions. Boyfriend troubles? Dump him – find a new guy. Friend being silly about some gossip she heard about me? Confront her about it, or ignore it. Nervous about whether I’m getting a raise this year? Just tell them you’ll quit if you don’t get X percent.

I may not have followed the advice, but I liked it. A lot better than a friend automatically siding with me or not offering up anything helpful to add to my situation.

Because when I asked a female friend for advice? Lord. I don’t have enough space here. Boyfriend troubles? There are 1,246,339 different analyses for that one alone.

Of course, I’m being overly general. So don’t get on me about how I’m being sexist. I told you already, I’m just trying to illustrate a point.

So: When a friend comes to me for help, be that person male or female, I look for a way to solve the problem. I have never really been one to look at the problem backwards, from the solution someone wants to hear, trying to come up with every idea and plan that could help that friend get that result. I tend to work from the set of issues they’re working with, conceive the most probable cause for it all, and suggest a course of action that actually makes sense. Mind over heart.

If my girlfriend is having man issues, I’m not usually a shoulder to cry on. Yes, I’ll sympathize. But then I want to get into the nitty gritty and help her solve the damn problem. I ask questions, make suggestions. When my friend gives up a soft reason why my suggestions don’t work, I plunge deeper and find work-arounds. If I feel confident that something is hopeless, I’m not afraid to dish out tough love statements such as “look – it’s been 6 months. I think you need to dump him.” With me, it’s never “oh sweetie, I’m sure he’s just going through a phase. Just give him another chance!”
Boyfriend a jerk? Dump him.
Boss keeps passing you over for promotions? Find a new job.
Not meeting any girls in this city? Quit swiping left on everyone.
Hate your flabby arms? Let’s join a gym together.
Can’t decide between the hotty who’s kind of a jerk or the dork who treats you like gold? Whelp…

I was truly exasperated the other day when I was trying to help figure out a plan for a friend who’s going through a nasty divorce. I realized I couldn’t come up with a clear answer or solution for her. I ended up texting her, “I always feel like I need to help by coming up with a solution for my friends. It’s frustrating that I can’t.”

But overall, fuck man. Life can actually be a lot easier if you just make the decision that you know is right. Doing the thing that you know needs to be done. If you car engine is making a funny squeaking noise, you go and you fix it. Talking to your friends and crying over it and talk about how your car’s a really nice shade of red and the wheels are brand new. You don’t take it to the car wash and then revisit the squeaky noise problem with your friends again over a few bottles of wine, discussing how long you’ve had the car and how there aren’t other cars out there like it. No. You take the car to the damn shop and pay dollars and have it fixed. And if you find out that you can’t fix it, you get a new car.

Right?

I give all this great advice. Really, I do.

Sometimes I look at a text I’ve taken no time to craft, or think about words I’ve spewed out so easily, and marvel at how simple it can be.

But then I look at my own goddamn life.

Right now, it’s so simple.

Wake up. Get dressed. Go to your fucking job. Do your job. Come home. Love your man. Clean the house. Work out. Go for a walk. Talk to a friend. Have a coffee. Have wine. Go to bed.

Life isn’t hard right now.

I’m no longer dealing with a difficult work situation or people or the physchological brutality I was going through six months ago.

But do you think I can give myself a succinct tidbit of advice to follow right now?

No. Of course not.

All I want to do is talk about it. Whine about it. I don’t want to work on anything.

I don’t want to hear anyone’s advice or get any ideas. I don’t want someone to think up 10 Easy Steps to Walking Around Downtown in Your Own City Because You DO Belong! so that I can fix my issues of being seen in public.

I just want to be a GIRL about it.

I want to talk about my problems at length. I want to have a glass of wine with a friend, talk exclusively about my problems have that friend agree that my problems are hard and real and unsurmountable and the worst version of that particular problem ever. I want to be agreed with and have someone say “there, there, now” and rub my back as I complain and let myself be the victim with no options.

I want to just let it out and vent.

Vent vent vent.

Don’t give me any advice. Just be there for me and tell me I’m right.

I want to be the hypocrite I know I’m being.

It’s easier.

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Panic Attacks 101.

Here are a few things that have thrown me into an ugly panic tornado:

  1. Confronting someone about something I feel passionate about.
  2. When I’m about to text or call someone new in my life.
  3. Calling the pizza guy.
  4. When I’m meeting friends, and have to show up alone.
  5. Waiting for anyone and they are even a tiny bit late.
  6. When I’m misunderstood in regard to my feelings.
  7. When someone disagrees with me.
  8. When I need to present in front of my company and someone asks a follow-up question.
  9. When someone looks at their phone when they’re talking to me.
  10. When I’m laying in bed at night, going over the day’s events.
  11. Recalling an awkward or humiliating event from XX years ago.
  12. When I don’t wear makeup in public.
  13. Shopping alone and everyone is judging me for it.
  14. When someone doesn’t return my text or call or email.
  15. When I do something somewhat embarrassing – like I mispronounce a word.
  16. When I do something really embarrassing – like my skirt flips up in public.
  17. When I think that maybe the facial expression I have had while talking to someone is really ugly or not appropriate and now I need to change my facial expression, but I am not sure how my face is supposed to look.
  18. Making a typo in an email.
  19. When I have no direction when starting a new project (usually work-related).
  20. Doing math.
  21. When I need to talk to an authoritative figure.
  22. When store clerks try to talk to me.
  23. When store clerks ignore me when I need help.
  24. When my alarm goes off and I have to go to work.

There may or may not be other triggers (read: there are definitely other triggers).

I’d say the worst trigger is, well, not a trigger at all. It’s when I’m just hanging out and anxiety creeps in like a shadow.

What is it like for me?

Before I know it, I can feel my chest tightening, and I get a sick feeling in the back of my throat. I start to look for ways out – physical exits. I need privacy and I need to get away from wherever I am. Immediately.

It may or may not turn into a full blown attack. If I am somehow able to get myself under control, then it basically ends there. I still feel that feeling of dread and tightness in my chest, but it doesn’t escalate.

If it does, though, things get really yucky.

My breathing quickens. I may begin to hyperventilate. I break into a cold sweat. My senses dull. I can’t hear properly, and I can’t see properly. Sometimes I get tunnel vision and I begin to black out.

I cry.

That might be one of the worst symptoms, because you can’t hide tears when you’re in public. And drawing attention when you just want to disappear just makes everything worse.

Not just the feelings, but the anxiety attack itself. It is immediately amplified if I know that people I don’t know or trust can see it happening.

I mean, that’s one of my real triggers – being judged by people. So when I am literally in my most vulnerable state, and people are watching me, things are officially over for me.

I’ve passed out in big crowds because of this. Sometimes I feel like my response is to pass out because then people won’t know it’s a panic attack, and might instead suspect it’s a medical emergency of some sort.

People don’t understand invisible illness, of course. It’s only natural that humans believe that people around them should be experiencing and reacting to situations the same way they are. I don’t even blame them.

I have a wish list when it comes to other people who witness someone having a panic attack:

  • If you know the person, be there for them. Ask them before assuming they need something. Bring the person a glass of water, a tissue. Depending on your relationship, give them a hug, rub their back, or hold their hand. Say nice things. If the person doesn’t want you there, they will tell you.
  • If you do not know the person, but they are alone, offer your support. It would get weird if you started stroking their hair, but you can help them not feel so stressed and awkward. See if you can move them to a more private place. Empathize if you can. Don’t overstay your welcome.
  • If you’re uncomfortable (we get it), don’t watch the person like they’re a side-show. Have some respect. Move your group elsewhere if you can, don’t talk about the person or ask them stupid questions. I’ve seen randos looking at me with this disgusted, judgy face. Exercise a little restraint. giphy
  • Don’t tell the person to calm down. Fuck off.
  • Do remind them that this will pass. It’s temporary.
  • Breathe with them. Help them to catch that rhythm with you. You may not be aware of anxiety-expert-approved breathing exercises, but you can certainly figure out something. A friend of mine once said “let’s do pregnancy breathing!” It was the best thing she could come up with, and it helped a lot.
  • Above all, just be accepting of what’s happening, and convey that. If you think it’s going on longer than you thing it should, keep your mouth shut. They’re already overwhelmed and very self-aware, and making them feel like they’re abnormal or that you don’t approve is going to ruin any progress they’ve made.
  • Follow up. If you’re pals, send a text, stop by their office, or give them a call that night. I’ve had friends send me funny memes the next day to show their support. A simple “how are you doing?” can mean the world to someone. If they get sketchy and embarrassed, just smile and leave it at that. They know.
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K thx.

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Communication.

I am a very good writer.

At work, that is. And please, don’t start picking apart my blog. I write very differently here, and often don’t fully proof-read stuff.

I mentioned in a past post that my Work BFF had encouraged me to connect with my boss. Key word – connect. Not just touch base or email him, but connect with him. Like a human. Composing an email full of feeling isn’t exactly my forte.

When I’m writing an email at work, it is something I perfect. It’s not that I am dispassionate. My essays and papers in university were the same. I learned over the years that it’s necessary to eliminate all emotion wherever possible, and convey only the facts.

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Yes, this is how perfect my desk looks. In case you were wondering.

I do this for two reasons. One, because my job isn’t typically an emotional one to begin with. Everything is legal, business, policy. I’m conversing with clients, government bodies, professional agencies, and of course, my superiors.

Second, I am a young woman working in a man’s world. This post is not about to get into the politics and feminism (although, for the record, I am proudly feminist). But the reality is, I need to be a little on the aggressive side in order to get the respect I need (and deserve) in order to do my job.

In short, my emails are cold, clinical. Objective.

So, as you could imagine, when I needed to switch gears and write in a subjective voice, it was difficult for me.

Not physically difficult. I mean, I once I began to write with emotion, it just poured out. I actually had to go back and delete some of the superfluous parts so I didn’t come across as any more unstable than I actually am (ha). But the idea of using that tone with my boss? A man whom I want to take me seriously, view me as professional? Someone who’s in charge of my future and my financial wellbeing? My career fulfillment? That was difficult.

I had to be vulnerable.

It took me two days to hit send. I read and re-read that email so many times before I felt it was ready to go. This wasn’t something I could accomplish just by going through the motions. I had to make sure he interpreted it the way I wanted him to.

But I did hit send, and left it up to the universe. I had to let go of what his reaction might be, because it was out of my hands either way. I knew that if I let myself think about it, it would evoke nothing but panic and anxiety.

I napped after I hit send, because I also knew that I wasn’t exactly capable of shutting my thoughts off. I wish I could say that I took this as an opportunity to rework my thinking, shut off my Ego and look at the situation from a place of Trust. But I wasn’t up for it that morning. And that’s okay, because sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade and skip the inevitable.

I can’t say I was thrilled with his response, but I can’t say I was surprised either.

The email was not full of bad news, and he did not say I was being replaced. He accepted a return date I suggested (although I told him it was too early to make any promises).

But he used words and phrases like mitigate, accordingly, by design, undue stress, continuity, efficiency, growth and success.

In other words, he wrote the email the way I used to.

I have to admit that it cut deep, given how personal of a subject it was, and what I revealed to him. How out of my element I was. I was really hoping that if I changed, my vulnerability would be recognized and that he’d dance the same dance with me. I thought he’d meet me at the same level. But he didn’t.

So now I have to accept the fact that I tried, and it didn’t work. I could not draw a human out of my CEO – he is still just presenting as the boss.

I can’t blame him – he needs to be professional and be careful with me. The last thing he needs is to say the wrong thing and end up with some kind of employment lawsuit. I mean really… if I were him, would I be dealing with an unpredictable employee the same way?

I’ve had to deal with ex-employees and employees who have been contemplating quitting. I’ve dealt with coworkers who I considered friends, who were let go, and I had to flip a switch. I get it. I know where he’s coming from, and I feel it too. I feel empathy.

I guess I’ll just need to take that information and plan accordingly.

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Learning Curve.

I’ve been trying for years to attack my anxiety, instead of it attacking me, without a whole lot of success.

The success I have had is linked to calming myself during a panic attack and not allowing it to completely take over. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m quite good at keeping things together, but that’s because I’ve had two decades of practice.

When panic starts to boil, I know the things I need to do to not pass out or totally lose my shit. I need to be alone, and I need to breathe. Those are the two main objectives, and they aren’t too overwhelming. I can remember those. They’ve become second nature. I can stamp out attacks before they come full tilt, which is very, very helpful in leading a regular adult life.

So I’m pretty okay when it comes to like 60% of my attacks.

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See? I’m fine.

The remaining 40% of my attacks? I fall victim to them. And since I still have attacks despite medicine and my past therapy sessions, it means I do need to work on myself.

I need to figure my shit out.

In the past, I’ve spent time with more run-of-the-mill, scientific psychologists. They tend to remind me that anxiety is a caveman response, which I do believe. Our minds have not changed as quickly and as drastically as we have – our evolution has not kept up with our discoveries. Nowadays, we are at the top of the food chain and rarely need to run away from hungry predators or defend our homes the way we did thousands of years ago. Back then, we needed that response to escape, say, a hungry bear. Our adrenaline rushed, our heart beat fast, we zeroed in and focussed on the object of our stress, and either ran or fought. Even our digestion slowed because we needed that energy elsewhere. It saved us.

We needed the fight or flight response, we used it, and then when it was over, it disappeared. The danger was gone, and it’s in part because our response did its job. But the society we’ve created and scientific achievements have eliminated a true need for the fight or flight response. Now, it turns into a disorder.

When we feel unsafe, even for stupid present day reasons (like having to meet new people), our fight or flight response is still hardwired into our brains and comes into play. Even though it’s not exactly that useful. That tunnel vision and racing heart aren’t helping us, it’s making us worse. There’s no where for that energy to go, especially when you’re strapped to a desk, or in the grocery store, or anywhere in public. We can’t run and we can’t fight. It’s all in our heads.

But I know all of this. I understand that my reactions are just evolutionary responses. I know my triggers. I know where my anxiety came from. I have all of the answers.

I needed to see someone who could give me a new approach. And I think I’ve found her.

I’ve been seeing a psychologist who is a little more progressive when it comes to dealing with panic and anxiety.  She has her PhD, so I trust her, and she’s not suggesting that I try and deal with my issues with crystals and Himalayan salt lamps.

Not that there’s anything wrong with those avenues, but they just aren’t for me.

But she’s got some really good ways of dealing with my own mind, and that’s by shifting my Ego out of the way. My Ego, I’ve discovered, is taking centre stage and ruining everything. Because I let him do it.

The single most important thing I’ve learned so far is to detach myself from my anxiety. It’s been kind of a game changer for me. Anxiety is not ME. It’s like a really bad accessory to my Self.

Yes, that’s a capital S “Self”. I’m getting into that Buddhist, yoga, meditation-y kinda stuff. But it makes so much sense. And it’s so beautiful.

My Ego and my Self are very different. My Ego is a maniac who thinks everything is black and white. Good or bad. He’s an extremist. He is the one who chatters on and on in my brain about all of the worst case scenarios, and can’t just BE. He is the worst.

My Self is my conscious self. She is my awareness. She just chills and observes and I equate her with love. She is Me.

Think about it for a moment.

Say something in your head. Say “I can’t shut up”. Say those words in your mind.

You ‘heard’ it, didn’t you? That was your Ego. It wasn’t you. You are the one who heard it, so you aren’t the one who said it.

The first step to realizing this stuff is just to listen and become aware of that chattering voice in your head. Your Ego is the one who responds to ev-er-y-thing out there, and makes flip-flopping judgments in regard to pretty much everything. He’s full of opinions and responses. Just listen to him rattle on:

“Okay, John didn’t text me back. He must be angry with him. I know he’s probably just busy, but, no, I mean he looked at me kind of funny yesterday so many he’s pissed. He’s definitely angry. It must have been something I said… what was it, what was it…. Who knows. John is like everyone else in my life. He doesn’t truly love me anyway, so I shouldn’t even care because….”

I mean, isn’t that how our minds tend to go when you’re anxious and come to the worst conclusions?

The key to starting on this journey is to just notice it. Don’t do anything, don’t try anything, and don’t think too much into it. Just notice that voice rambling on about everything. You’ll start to notice, like I have, that it’s there. And he just has a stupid opinion on everything. It’s almost never true – it’s almost always a distorted perception. A leap to conclusions based on almost no facts.

I am by no means an expert on this stuff. I am a beginner. But I do strongly believe that this might be a major step in the right direction for me. Maybe it’s the key to getting better, and to handling stress better in the future.

My learning will be ongoing. I don’t think it will ever end. I don’t think I’ll turn into the Dalai Lama any time soon, or ever. But I think I might be able to tap into a few things that just might help me perceive life a little differently.

Hopefully my ENORMOUS fan base won’t mind reading about it from time to time 😉

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