My Anxiety/OCD Triggers

If you’ve been following this blog for a while or if you know me in real life, then you know that anxiety with obsessive compulsive tendencies is something I have struggled with for a long time- basically my whole life. I say obsessive compulsive tendencies because, thankfully, I don’t have full-blown OCD, but I DO exhibit some obsessive compulsive tendencies in my thinking & thus in my behavior. I had an experience this morning that made me think that a useful exercise might be writing out some of my current anxiety triggers. Not only might this be therapeutic for me but it’s very possible that others could relate- even if not to these exact scenarios.

Because I value transparency, let me say that I have been taking a low dose of generic Prozac for my anxiety for probably six or seven years now. I managed to go off of it for about 6 months in late 2019 & early 2020 but once Covid hit, I realized I needed to go back on it to manage all the extra stress & general madness of living through a worldwide pandemic. It took me a long time to admit to myself that needing medication to assist with my anxiety management was not a weakness any more than needing medication for high blood pressure or lupus or any other medical condition. Of course I always believed that for everyone ELSE- but getting myself to believe it for ME? That was a whole other story- being the perfectionist that I am. In any case, I have gotten MUCH better at managing my anxiety over the years, not just thanks to medication, though I do think that has been very useful with taking some of the “edge off” so that I can actually focus on other non-medication based strategies with a clearer brain. But it’s definitely still a daily struggle with some days being better than others.

Anyway, this post is not strictly meant to be humorous but at the same time I’ll confess that one of my best coping mechanisms has been learning to laugh at myself. Not in a condescending “I’m so stupid” way. But rather in a “Ok, self, this is a bit silly. You’ve handled this kind of thing before. There is no logical reason to be this upset about this now. You’ve got this. Take a deep breath & don’t take everything so seriously” way. If that makes any sense. So, on that note, feel free to laugh along with me if you find some of these things a bit comical. I won’t judge you or hold it against you in any way.

  • Having someone behind me in line while pumping gas. This happened to me at Sheetz this morning. A man pulled up behind me in a pick-up truck as I was just getting out of my car. There was absolutely nothing overtly threatening about this man, but my immediate thoughts were “Oh gosh, I’ve parked a bit too close to the pump. This dude is probably laughing about how ridiculous I look now, trying to get out of my car. He’s probably going to judge every move I make while pumping this silly gas.” Once I got the gas pumping, I stopped that train of thought & told myself “This is ridiculous. Even if he does laugh at you, so what? You have no idea who he is, he has no idea who you are, you’ll never see each other again. What does it MATTER?” After that, I was able to calm down & laugh at myself & move on without further anxiety over the matter. This is what I mean by learning to laugh at myself.
  • Having my money in order in my wallet. This one is a remnant from being a waitress back in college. That’s been almost 15 years ago but I STILL feel a very urgent compulsion to have my bills in order. What I mean by this is the largest bills have to be on the bottom of the stack & they all have to be facing the same direction (i.e. none upside down or backwards). So on the rare occasions I pay with cash somewhere & the cashier gives me change, I inevitably end up cringing inwardly when the person hands me a bunch of bills all out of order. Because, you see, I then have to correct them before putting them in my wallet- but if there are people behind me in line I HATE holding them up to do this… And yet I also hate putting the bills in my wallet all out of order. It’s a real conundrum, I tell ya! And yes, I am laughing at myself as I type this because I fully realize how ridiculous this must sound to the average person.
  • Having my documentation in order as a nurse. Y’all, this is one reason I do not miss inpatient nursing. Because anyone who has worked inpatient nursing knows that documentation is wildly important & also wildly difficult to get done in a timely manner. I am one of those weird nurses who actually enjoys documentation, perhaps because I am acutely aware of how truly important it can be, but also perhaps because I enjoy writing. In any case, it can cause me tremendous anxiety if I get too far behind on my charting. I HATE that feeling of knowing I’ve done something but it hasn’t yet been documented. I guess it was drilled into my head enough times that “If it’s not documented, then it wasn’t done” that until something is documented, I don’t feel like my task is truly complete. This is one reason I’ve been reluctant to go back to school to become an NP, which was my original career goal, because providers of all disciplines (i.e. doctors, NPs, PAs) all struggle so much with timely documentation. I just know I would be the kind of provider who couldn’t relax after work until all my notes were done, & I also know that it’s very rare that one can finish them all on the same day…. Soooooo… Yeah, I’d probably just be permanently anxious as hell! Just another reason why I’m pretty content to be “just a nurse” for now.
  • Too much noise. Y’all, this is one reason motherhood is hard for me. Between Rachel hollering constant questions & the dogs barking, I’m pretty sure I’ll be deaf in the not so distant future. I don’t think I realized it at the time but this is another thing I don’t miss about inpatient nursing- all the constant alarms dinging!
  • Social events that feel forced. I’ve talked about this before but work parties or parties where I only know one or two people are anathema for me. Just look up the song We Don’t Have to Dance by Andy Black. It’s an anthem for every introvert with social anxiety. I’m great at one on one or very small group discussions. But networking type events where you have to talk to a bunch of people, usually only for a few minutes & about mundane topics that feel forced? Ugh. The WORST! Thank goodness I’m in a career field where such things aren’t really an issue.
  • Having unread texts, messages, or emails. Ohhh man, what I wouldn’t give to be a type B person who doesn’t care that their inbox is overloaded! But it’s just not in my nature to ever be that way. Nope, I have to read everything quickly & usually feel compelled to respond quickly too. Otherwise I end up with that “unfinished business” feeling that I mentioned earlier with documentation at work. This is one of many reasons I refuse to get any new social media accounts such as Twitter, Snapchat, or Tik Tok. Not only do not I find those apps of any particular interest but I also don’t need any more notifications pouring in to my phone. No thanks.

If you don’t struggle with anxiety &/or if you aren’t plagued by obsessive compulsive tendencies, this post may have read like a real laugh riot. Or you may be tempted to say that I’m clearly crazy & in need of serious help. While that may be a fair assessment, remember that my anxious, obsessive compulsive tendencies also make me a fantastic nurse. You better believe I monitor my patients’ vital signs & labs like a hawk. You better believe I obsess over dating my PICC line/IV dressings. You better believe I notify providers of even subtle changes that I know might be important. You get the drift.

Outside of nursing, I like to think some of these tendencies are useful as well- as a wife, mom, & friend, etc. We all face challenges in life, & I think, as with anything, there are pros & cons to this type of mindset. The key- at least for me- is being cognizant of my triggers so that I can better manage them when they happen. Trust me when I say that’s a work in progress!

My Anxiety Triggers

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, much less about anything other than music, but today I feel compelled to write about my anxiety triggers.  It’s a subject I’ve considered writing about many times before, but I wasn’t sure at first how useful it would be to anyone else.  I knew it would be therapeutic for me but I always like to write things that have the potential to benefit others as well.  However, the more I thought about it the more I realized that there are many other people out there who struggle with anxiety & some of them may not yet have the insight to realize what their own anxiety triggers are.  It’s possible that if such a person came across this post they might be inspired to try to figure out some of their own anxiety triggers which of course is one of the first steps in learning how to better manage the “anxiety monster.” anxiety charlie brown

Identifying my own anxiety triggers is certainly one of the most useful things I’ve obtained from working with my therapist about once a month.  And just to be clear it’s not like we ever sat down & tried to make a list or anything like that.  We just slowly gleaned things over time from the natural course of my conversations with her.  So there’s my plug for finding a good therapist!  Trust me, it really can make a huge positive difference in your life.  My personal opinion is that everyone should see a therapist at least a few times a year, regardless of whether you have a diagnosable mental illness or not.  I just think it’s something we can all benefit from so immensely.


Anyway, without further ado, here are some of my biggest anxiety triggers along with some ways I’ve learned to avoid or work around them:

  • Crowds: Ahh, crowds. Some people love them, some people hate them. I am definitely without a doubt in the latter group.  I’m not sure exactly what it is about crowds that makes me so anxious but I imagine it’s a combination of the noise & the general sense of disorganization that naturally follows any crowd.  The only time I can really stomach crowds is when I’m at concerts because the music is such an antidote for my anxiety that it allows me to (more or less) forget the fact that I’m in a crowded place. That being said, I still strongly prefer to stand at or near the back of the audience or at least on the side of it so that I feel like I can “escape” if I need to do so.  One way I’ve learned to avoid crowds is to go to restaurants at “off” times.  Instead of going to lunch at noon or 1:00 pm or to dinner at 6:00 pm, I’ll go to lunch at 10:30 or 11:00 am or do an early dinner at 4:00 pm.  I also NEVER go to the mall (Can you tell I grew up in the country? I still say “the” mall, as if there’s only one) on weekends.  Instead I’ll go at 10:00 am on a Tuesday or something like that.  It’s MUCH more tolerable that way.

  • Parties/clubs: This follows right along from the above point. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gathering of my own family; if there are more than about 10-12 people at a party/meal, I begin to feel overwhelmed, especially if it’s a party at which I don’t really know very many people (or don’t know them very well).  As far as clubs go, forget about it; I’m not interested.  I think part of the reason I dislike large groups at parties or get-togethers is because these types of situations do not lend themselves well to having actual meaningful conversations.  If you think about it, when was the last time you had a true heart to heart conversation about anything when you were in a large group?  Probably never.  I know I haven’t.  Because I am a solid introvert, interacting with others is exhausting for me (which is not to say I hate talking to be people, not at all) & thus I wish to use my limited energy on meaningful conversations & interactions, not just mindless anxiety party
  • Small talk: We already touched on this in the previous point, but small talk can definitely make me anxious. It’s all about context though.  I have no problem making small talk with my patients & their families because I know that helps me build a rapport with them & hopefully provide them with better care.  On the other hand, I really don’t want to make small talk with my server at a restaurant or the cashier at the grocery store.  I know this makes me sound like a grouch but anything more than “Hi, how are you?  Find everything you need?” or whatever else is necessary to accomplish the task at hand just seems excessive to me.  Again, this comes back to being an introvert & not wanting to waste my energy on mindless conversations that are of no import to anyone.


    No, I can’t keep calm! I hate sales!

  • Sales-people: This one is a two-way street. I HATE selling anything which is why it’s a damn good thing that sales isn’t part of my job.  On the other hand I also hate when people try to sell me stuff.  The fastest way to make me walk out of a store is to hover over me & ask a million questions or offer a million different sales pitches.  I’ll just leave to escape the situation.  I always strongly prefer when I enter a store & the sales-person just smiles & says hello, maybe “Can I help you find anything?”, & then proceeds to leave me alone unless I approach them with a question.  This is probably not how they’re taught to treat customers but it is certainly more effective with
  • Feeling out of control: I’ve never understood why so many people love the feeling of being drunk. To me anything that makes me feel like I’m not in control of myself is much more of a stressor than a stress reliever, & that’s exactly what being drunk is: not being in control of yourself.  Trust me, I’m not a teetotaler: a glass of wine or a beer every once in a while is great.  But I always need to know that I’m still in control of myself.  Besides one of the best things about having a low tolerance is that you can have only one or two drinks, feel a little giggly & tipsy but not anywhere near drunk, & never have a hangover the next morning because it’s basically impossible to be hungover from only one or two drinks . . . On another note, one of the greatest ways I’ve learned to feel more in control & manage my anxiety at work (as a nurse) is to make a list of tasks I need to perform for each patient (medications, dressing changes, IV starts, etc) at the beginning of the shift so that I can plan out my shift as much as possible.  This has made a HUGE difference in lessening my anxiety as a nurse, & being able to cross out a task always gives me a great sense of accomplishment too.  Regardless of your career field, I think you can apply this tactic to help yourself feel more in control of the situation at hand.Basic RGB
  • Being late: Being late or thinking I might be late gives me a great deal of anxiety. This is why I always leave early for everything.  Plus I was just raised that being on time is important & shows respect to others, & I certainly intend to raise my own kids that way someday.

    Lines of cars are pictured during a rush hour traffic jam on Guo

    REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA)

  • Traffic: Having grown up in a county with four stop-lights (yes, four in the whole county!) basically I had no idea what traffic was for the first 18 years of my life. In any case, as an adult I quickly learned that it is something I do not enjoy.  Thankfully even now that we live in an area where traffic can be pretty problematic I’ve learned ways to avoid it such as just not going out during rush hour if at all possible.  Thankfully my work schedule allows me to avoid the worst parts of rush hour.  And I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s better to take a route that is longer in mileage but involves less stand-still traffic.  I’d always rather drive a longer distance than be stuck in traffic. anxiety

I’m sure I could think of a few more anxiety triggers but these are the biggest ones I face on a daily basis.  As I’ve explained, over the years I’ve found ways to avoid or work around them as much as possible.  If you’re reading this & you too struggle with anxiety, I hope this list has helped you to identify some of your own anxiety triggers because that is a HUGE first step in learning to tame the anxiety monster.  It may never go away forever, but it CAN get better, I promise.

Just Another Manic Monday

So it appears that I came down with the flu (or some other similar respiratory virus) over the weekend.  I went to work Friday night feeling like I might have had the beginnings of a cold but I wasn’t worried because I figured it was just allergies since the pollen has been off the charts here lately.  However, by the time I left work the next morning I had a bad feeling there was a bit more wrong than just simple springtime allergies.  This was largely because after walking up the three flights of stairs in the parking deck I found myself out of breath which is NOT normal for me.  By that evening it was obvious I had a fever, & I barely slept that night due to the fever coupled with severe congestion, coughing, & horrible body aches.


Yep, this is a pretty accurate depiction of me right now.

I’m still intermittently febrile which is apparently causing me to be a bit delirious.  Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but I seriously just drove to the grocery store to return a Red Box DVD only to realize once I was there that what I had picked up was actually a CD, NOT the Red Box movie.  Oops.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a total baby when I’m sick, but I must also confess that there is an upside to being sick, namely that it gives me an excuse to lie around on the couch reading, listening to music, & watching movies/YouTube videos without the least amount of guilt.  In so doing I have discovered two new (to me) bands this weekend which have made this flu significantly more bearable.bvb

On Saturday night while perusing YouTube I finally decided to give Black Veil Brides a listen.  I’ve heard their name tossed about a lot over the past year or two, but for some reason I always assumed they were just a bunch of overgrown teenagers full of way too much angst.  However, I quickly realized that that initial assessment was entirely incorrect.  These guys are actually extremely talented & wise beyond their years.  They are indeed young; in fact the lead singer, Andy Biersack, is only 25 but if you read up on his life & listen to his interviews you will quickly realize he is a very educated, industrious, & eloquent young man (he seriously  has a great vocabulary which only serves to increase my respect for him of course).  Despite the fact that I’ve never been all that enamored with 1980s acts like Kiss & Motley Crue, I can’t help but admire the fact that someone who’s my age (actually a few years younger) was so inspired by those types of bands that he created his band largely in their image, yet with a sound that’s all his own.  Right now I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of both the third & fourth BVB albums which I ordered on Amazon this weekend.  If you’re not familiar with the band, please do yourself a serious favor & check out my favorite song of theirs (thus far). andy bvb

Through my internet browsing, I also quickly discovered that Andy Biersack, alternately known as Andy Black, has a solo album coming out in early May.  When I watched this interview this morning & heard Andy describe how the first single from the album is about his social anxiety, I couldn’t help but feel a kindred spirit talking to me.  It’s like he was reading my mind when he wrote the song.  Perfection!social anxiety party

The other band I “discovered” this weekend is Asking Alexandria.  Again, this was another band I’ve heard & read a lot about over the past few years but given their reputation for being a bunch of wild party animals I was just never very interested in actually listening to their music.  However, after hearing Andy Biersack reference their (former) lead singer Danny Worsnop in an interview, I figured the band might be worth at least a cursory listen.  As it turns out, Danny left the band early last year & was replaced by Denis Stoff, a 23 year old from Ukraine.  It became apparent to me very quickly that Danny wasn’t a great loss to the band & that Denis is actually a far better fit with, in my opinion, a much more interesting voice.  I’m very impressed with the first single from their brand new album The Black which just debuted this past Friday.  This haunting track called The Lost Souls has also caught my attention.  It’s very rare that a band can lose their lead singer & find a replacement who’s even better but Asking Alexandria has done exactly that.AA band

So yeah, this flu or whatever it is sucks.  But I can’t complain about the subsequent discovery of some great new (to me) music thanks to having such an inordinate amount of time to be blissfully lazy & not have to feel guilty for it.MLK love

In conclusion, I’d like to end this post with a link to a picture of Andy Biersack with his grandmother.  I found it on his Instagram this weekend, & the picture just warmed my heart so much that I feel compelled to share it with my readers.  Here is a young man who is a heavily tattooed rock star who frequently wears black eyeliner & other makeup, has multiple earrings & a nose ring (& sometimes a lip ring), & is often dressed in black leather or other typical rock star gear.  And yet here is smiling & holding hands with his adorable grandmother who, for the record, doesn’t look the least bit terrified of her not so traditional grandson.  This picture is just proof to me that love can conquer all boundaries of age, race, religion, & any of the other superficial labels we so often use to categorize ourselves, & furthermore that those who choose to judge by appearances are indeed missing out on a whole world of opportunities.  You can view the adorable picture here.

Anxiety, Plane Tickets, & Flying Solo

I did something tonight that might not seem like a big deal to most people but was a big deal for me: for the first time in my 20-some years of life, I bought a plane ticket.  By myself.  With no help from my husband or anyone else.  AND I did it WITHOUT HAVING AN ANXIETY ATTACK.

When my husband & I went to Montana last Fall, he bought the plane tickets (actually I paid for them I think, but he did all the work of finding & selecting the flights).  Ditto for when we went to Boston the next month for a wedding.  Furthermore, every other flight I’ve taken in my life was planned by someone else; thus, I was never involved in the tedious process of finding & obtaining tickets.  All I had to do was show up & follow someone else who knew what they were doing.airplane

Not only did I find, select, & buy the plane ticket for this trip by myself, but this will also be my first time flying by myself.  I know for most people my age this whole scenario probably seems like no big deal.  But when you have anxiety like I do, even something as “simple” as buying a plane ticket, particularly for a solo trip, can induce extreme anxiety, the kind that most people associate with taking a major exam or giving a speech.  (Oddly enough, neither of those activities has ever been all that nerve-wracking for me, with the exception of the NCLEX, although I only had major anxiety about that the day I actually took the test).

In any case, as “silly” as it may seem, one of the most beneficial things I’ve learned from a dear, dear friend of mine who is bipolar is that, particularly when you have a mental health issue, even something as “small” as mild anxiety, you have to learn to celebrate even the minor victories.  You have to learn to recognize when you’ve reached a milestone in your recovery, if you will.  I hate to use the word recovery because I don’t believe my anxiety is something I need to or can “recover” from.  It’s not an illness, like the flu or strep throat, mostly because it’s not something that can be cured with a week’s worth of medication with only a small chance of recurring later.  But my anxiety IS a disease that I have to learn to manage, just like many other folks have to learn to manage diabetes or heart disease or any of a myriad of other chronic conditions.hello-my-name-is-anxiety

In my case, I’ve realized that buying a plane ticket by myself for a trip I’ll be taking by myself WITHOUT HAVING AN ANXIETY ATTACK is indeed a victory.  It’s an accomplishment, just as much as is giving a successful speech, acing an exam, winning a game, or any other more commonly recognized achievement.  A year ago, before I started taking Prozac, I can tell you without any doubt that this would not have happened.  So this is progress for me for sure.anxiety meds

As I was telling a friend at work last week, the longer I’ve been in therapy, the more I’ve realized that my anxiety has very deep roots.  In other words, this is something I’ve been struggling with more or less my entire life.  It’s probably the major reason I wasn’t a very happy child.  Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t depressed or suicidal or anything like that.  But I just never remember experiencing that carefree existence that most children seem to enjoy.  I still feel guilty for that sometimes because my parents were & are wonderful people who did so much to ensure that I had a healthy, happy home.  But I’m slowly beginning to understand that it was my own anxiety that prevented me from fully embracing life for so many years.  And that wasn’t my parents’ fault.  Or mine.  It’s just the way it is.anxiety charlie brown

The trouble is that when anxiety is something you’ve battled for so long, it’s very easy not to realize that it isn’t normalAfter all, the only brain you know is your own!  This is why it took me over 22 years to realize that maybe, just maybe, the constant swirl of anxiety in my brain wasn’t normal.  Better yet that it wasn’t how things HAD to be for me.  I look back now on my college years & I so regret not seeking help sooner.  It’s not that I didn’t have a good time & create lots of wonderful memories.  I absolutely did.  But I also know it could have been much better.  I’m also very aware that on the outside I probably seemed like I had it all together . . . & in a way I did.  I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, I maintained my relationship with my high school boyfriend (now husband), I passed the NCLEX on the first try, & I got married & started my first nursing job within 3 months of graduating from college.  Outwardly, I suppose I was the definition of “put together.”

A very simplified explanation of anxiety . . . but it made me laugh.

A very simplified explanation of anxiety . . . but it made me laugh.

But on the inside my brain was a wreck.  No wonder I struggled with high blood pressure for a while!  My mind, & subsequently my body, was on constant overdrive for so many years.  As my husband describes it, I had this endlessly “chattering squirrel” in my head that was always, always, always thinking, thinking, thinking!  Despite what many people think, having anxiety isn’t just spending too much time pondering the “what ifs?” of life.  It’s so much more than that.  It’s a brain that never stops, that plans everything, & perhaps more than anything just doesn’t know how to shut up & relax.  And a brain that can’t relax is a brain that will eventually burn out.anxiety

This is why I’m so incredibly grateful I took the advice of a friend & sought help: first through therapy & eventually by adding medication (Prozac).  Through a combination of the two, I have come to an even greater appreciation of so many things in life that I’ve always enjoyed but that I can now enjoy even more & thus utilize to further relieve my anxiety: music, books, my relationship with my husband, & so much more.

Trust me, there are still days when I struggle with my anxiety.  There are times when the idea of interacting with anyone other than my husband or closest friends seems like torture.  But those days are much fewer & further between now.  And even when they happen, I have the foresight to know they won’t last forever.  And that one bad day doesn’t doom me to a bad week, month, year, or life.bad day quote

I’ve wandered a lot in this post.  But, as I’ve done so many times before, I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness to seek help.  Admitting that you need help is NOT a weakness.  Let me repeat that: needing help is NOT a weakness.  Rather it is the first & perhaps most important step in creating a better, more peaceful life for yourself.MentalHealth-HeadGraphic-250px

Looking back on my childhood, adolescence, & even into college, there were so many signs that the anxiety I faced on a daily basis was not normal.  But they were mostly things that only I knew about (for example, the hours I spent awake at night off & on for years & years thinking about the Holocaust & how horrifying that was) . . . My point is that I didn’t realize how bad things were until I got the courage to ask for help.  And now that I’ve gotten help & my anxiety is so much better managed, I honestly can’t believe I struggled alone in silence for so long.  But I suppose sometimes we have no idea how dark the night is until we see the light of day.  I’ve found that light, & there are days when it is dimmer & days when it is brighter, but I think I am now even more grateful for the light since I know what it was like to live in the dark for so long.

Whatever you're facing, you are not alone.

Whatever you’re facing, you are not alone.

If you’re living in the dark of anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness, please don’t suffer alone.  Get help.  Life CAN be better.  I am living proof.

An Anxiety Update

It’s occurred to me that I’ve never done an update to let my readers know how I’ve been doing since starting Prozac for my anxiety last August.  I wrote a post back in August about how difficult it was to actually agree to take medication for my anxiety & yet how much of a relief it was at the same time (you can read that post here:  Perhaps the fact that I’ve rarely blogged about my anxiety since then is proof of how effective the medication really has been.  In any case, I’m having a high anxiety day today, & I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my experience with Prozac.anxiety meds

Within a week of starting the Prozac I could tell a real difference in my mind; I just felt a lot more relaxed.  The “endlessly chattering squirrel” in my brain was not banished, but she was quieted a great deal.  And what a relief that was!  I can say with great certainty that handling my husband’s diagnosis of severe sleep apnea last Fall & his subsequent journey into treatment for that would have been far, far more difficult without the Prozac.  As lame as that may sound, I know it is the truth. hello-my-name-is-anxiety

I realize there are some who feel like I have chosen the easy way out by taking medication for my anxiety, & that’s fine.  Maybe it is the easy way out.  But I can assure you that I tried every non-medicinal thing I could think of for the first 25 years of my life (essential oils, therapy, journaling, etc) with only minimal success.  And Prozac has been far from a “quick fix” for me.  If anything, it has just helped to quiet my mind enough that I can actually better utilize my non-medicinal approaches to relieving my anxiety.  For example, since starting Prozac my monthly therapy sessions have become more therapeutic than ever, & I’ve experienced a renewed pleasure & relaxation in writing & music.  Part of me still regrets being “dependent” on a medication to manage my own brain . . . but then I remind myself that this is really no different than being dependent on a medication for blood pressure or any other medical condition, especially if it’s something that you tried to cure with a healthy lifestyle but could not.Anxiety mental health symbol isolated on white. Mental disorder icon design

As I said, I’m having a high-anxiety today, as usual for no particular reason.  It’s just one of those days when I feel more potently my introverted tendencies, when the idea of interacting with anyone other than my husband, closest friends or family, or my dog feels like too great of an effort to bother.  The great news is that with the Prozac these days are much fewer & much further between.  Indeed I can’t even remember the last time I had a day like this.  Trust me, friends, this is great progress for me!

Additionally, over the past 6-9 months I’ve become increasingly more comfortable with the idea of having children in the next year or two.  It may be coincidence of course, but I have to wonder if taking the Prozac & thus gaining better control of my anxiety has influenced this.  If so, I’m certainly not complaining!  The thought of having children is still one that is riddled with lots of questions & a good bit of anxiety simply because it is something I’ve obviously never experienced before & indeed something that for most of my life I was quite sure I never wanted to experience.  However, I no longer feel like I’m completely unsuited to the task.  Like I said, it could just be coincidence, but I can’t help but think the Prozac has something to do with feeling more confident in my potential anxiety party

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this post, but I guess I just want my readers to know that if you’ve struggled with anxiety or depression or any other mental health condition, please don’t feel like taking medication is a weakness.  It isn’t.  If you are able to manage your condition without medication, that’s great, more power to you.  Maybe someday I’ll be there.  Maybe not.  But I’m finally getting to the point that I’m ok with either outcome, whether I take Prozac for the rest of my life or not.  It doesn’t really matter to me.  What matters is that I continue to live a life that is less plagued with anxiety than it was for the first 25 years of my life.  Lastly, to those who have encouraged & supported me on this journey, I can’t thank you enough. anxiety

Also, if you need some inspirational music look (or should I say listen?) no further than this, one of my all-time favorite classical pieces, Pictures at an Exhibition by the great Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky.  This version from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is simply too beautiful for words.  I was lucky enough to find a CD copy of it at the book/coffee store in my hometown quite a few years ago.

Modest Mussorgsky

Modest Mussorgsky


Why Childhood & Innocence are Overrated

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that being an adult & living in the so-called “real world” sucks, I’d be a rich woman.  And if I had a dollar for every time I read a Facebook status saying the exact same thing I’d be even richer.  I’m not an idiot, nor am I incapable of empathy, so I can understand where some of these sentiments come from, yet I for one love being an adult.  I’ve written about this topic before (see:, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately & thus feel compelled to revisit the subject.

I've laughed at these memes too, but honestly I love being an adult & am puzzled as to why so many others don't.

I’ve laughed at these memes too, but honestly I love being an adult & am puzzled as to why so many others don’t.

Every time I hear people say they miss the innocent, carefree state of childhood, I always want to ask them what the hell they are talking about.  Now I know I was in some ways a rather odd child, but whenever I hear people saying this stuff about how childhood was such an easy, worry-free time of life, I have to resist the urge to run away screaming.  I don’t want to make my parents look bad because they were & are wonderful people who did a great job raising me.  But for reasons that were largely out of their control, I just don’t remember my childhood being this endless cycle of happiness & rainbows & unicorns that so many other people seem to recall.  I don’t want to sound like I’m having a pity party because trust me I am very aware of how blessed I am just to have been born in America & into a loving, stable family.  I have plenty of good memories from childhood & adolescence, but that doesn’t mean my childhood was something I look back on with much nostalgia. childhood is overrated

Perhaps I’m just being overly negative, but the greatest thing I remember from my childhood, certainly from about age eight upwards, was the overwhelming desire to grow up so that I could be respected & treated like the intelligent person I knew I was & so that I could escape a world to which I wasn’t too sure I really belonged.  I don’t think I totally understood the latter part of this at the time, but looking back I can see the desire was there all along.  Somewhere deep inside of me I knew that as an adult I’d have a level of confidence in myself that as a child & teen I could only dream of having.  I yearned for the day when I’d be able to look in the mirror only once or twice before leaving the house, when I wouldn’t scrutinize every tiny aspect of my appearance out of fear that everyone else was certainly noticing all of my numerous (perceived) flaws.  And I for one am happy to say that adulthood has not disappointed me in these regards.

As a kid, I yearned to grow up, partly because I knew as an adult I'd be able to laugh at myself.  I'm so glad this turned out to be true.

As a kid, I yearned to grow up, partly because I knew as an adult I’d be able to laugh at myself. I’m so glad this turned out to be true.

You see, I was one of those weird kids who actually loved school, not for the social aspect like most kids do, but for the pure love of learning.  Indeed, the social aspect of school was what gave me nightmares.  Every summer I would go through such great anxiety as I worried about whether or not I’d get lucky enough to be in a class with anyone from my small group of friends (who of course were the other nerds like me).  When I was that lucky, things were decent.  When I wasn’t, I begged my mom to homeschool me.  I was never strictly bullied but I was certainly made fun of enough to always remember that horrible feeling of knowing everyone’s laughing at you or being the last person picked in gym class too many times to count.  Looking back on it, I’m incredibly glad that my mother didn’t listen to my pleadings because learning to be myself in a world where that wasn’t so easy was one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life, & even though it was miserable at the time, I’m so glad I learned it at a young ageRWE quote

As far as the whole worry-free concept goes, I for one don’t ever remember such a stage in life, certainly not past about age seven or eight.  Granted my worries back then were, in the grand scheme of things, fairly inconsequential.  Things like passing tests, making sure I remembered my gym suit or lunch money, & finding someone to eat lunch with are clearly not life or death matters.  HOWEVER, THEY FELT LIKE IT AT THE TIME.  AND THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS.  And that is what everyone seems to forget.  Wearing the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, of which I apparently have never owned a pair, I suppose it’s easy to forget the way that every little drama you encountered as a child, & certainly as a teenager, seemed like the beginning or end of your whole life.  But perception is your reality & at the end of the day that’s all that matters.perception reality

Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20, & the older I get, the more I’m starting to realize that anxiety, especially social anxiety, has always been a part of my life.  I think part of my anxiety stems from intrinsic factors (essentially my brain’s natural chemistry) & part of it stems from extrinsic factors (things such as not fitting in well at school).  Thankfully my anxiety has never been totally crippling or so overwhelming that I’ve become a hermit or abandoned all semblance of a social life.  But it’s something that I’m starting to realize has had a greater impact on my life than I might like to admit.

However, what I’m also starting to realize is that perhaps the greatest gift life could have given me was NOT having a “perfect” childhood.  Why, you ask?  Because it has allowed me to never for one second regret growing up & becoming the adult I always wanted to be.  While so many others despise the responsibilities of adulthood, I cherish them because I know they are what allow me to enjoy the freedoms of adulthood, freedoms that I would not for one second trade for the so-called blissful innocence of childhood.  Yes, there are days when I look at the world & seriously struggle not to become a hateful cynic.  But there are many more days when I look at the world in awe & fascination & gratitude that I get to experience this beautiful journey of life.  And to me being able to face all the hideousness of the world, all the cruelties & injustices that occur day after day after day on this planet, yet still being able to find the beauty & joy that life has to offer . . . Well, that, coupled with enjoying the freedoms of adulthood, is to me more magical than any kind of blissful ignorance or innocence that childhood could ever offer.freedom albert camus

Cheers, & happy Friday, everyone!

Shut Up, Brain! Part 2

**Today’s post is a follow-up to this post from about 6 months ago.  It will make more sense if you read that one first:

When I was in second grade, maybe first, a magician came to perform at my school.  I remember sitting in the back row with my best friend trying to figure out how he did all of his tricks.  We couldn’t just sit back & enjoy the show like all the other kids.  No, we had to analyze every trick & try to figure out how this “magic” worked.  Weird, I know.

But that’s just the way my brain has always worked.

brainI rarely take anything at face value.  I’m always analyzing things & trying to figure out the WHY behind everything.  This includes both scientific & philosophical matters.  Even as a kid, as I’ve said, I was like this.  I guess that is why the “magic” of childhood has never been very nostalgic for me . . . because I never really experienced life that way.  I’ve always been logical, practical, & inquisitive.  I was the kid who figured out Santa Claus wasn’t real & probably told as many people as would listen.  I’m sure this made me a real pain in the ass at times . . . and probably still does on occasion.

Sometimes I wish I could just forget about all of the hard things I see in life.  Part of being analytical is feeling things very deeply, even things that don’t directly affect me.  I like to think this makes me a good, compassionate nurse (& friend, wife, etc), but it also means I go home & worry about my patients more than perhaps is healthy.  When I see people my own age who are really sick, I can’t just go home & drink some wine & forget about it.  Trust me, I wish I could.  But instead I find myself thinking about how unfair life is & running through all the philosophical ramifications behind the difficult scenarios I witness every day of my life.

I’ve talked to my therapist about these things & she says the key to managing my anxiety about all these things is in finding balance.  Finding that balance between caring for people & trying to makes sense of life but being able to let go.  But letting go isn’t easy for me.  When I see problems, I want to fix them.  When I see someone struggling, I want to comfort them.  I constantly feel the need to be useful & accomplish something with my life.  As you might imagine,  this makes relaxing very difficult.  Is it any wonder I have almost 200 hours of vacation time saved up?  (Don’t worry, I’m using quite a lot of that time for our vacation this Fall, & I’ve even requested a day off here & there for some concerts I’m attending over the next few months.)

Anxiety mental health symbol isolated on white. Mental disorder icon design

I have no idea why I’m writing all of this.  It feels very disjointed & illogical, frankly.  (Ironic, I know.)  It probably sounds pathetic & ridiculous & possibly even a little arrogant.  I just know that my mind is a flurry of activity right now, & it’s really hard not to compare myself to others who seem to be so much more at ease about life.  Between my own bouts with sickness over the past month (nothing serious but unpleasant & physically exhausting just the same), some difficult situations at work on top of  finishing up my clinical ladder project, & worrying about one of my best friends who has been fighting her own demons lately, it’s just been a rough month.  For the first time in at least six months, I really feel like my anxiety has gotten the better of me at times.  I guess it’s an accomplishment to have kept it controlled for so long.

But every time it raises its ugly head it’s just a reminder that this brain I’ve been given isn’t an easy one to calm.

And sometimes I just wish I didn’t think so damn much.

*Ok, this last cartoon is purely for laughs.  It made me smile because it’s so perfect for me.  social anxiety party

10 Reasons Why Night Shift Rocks

Today is a special day for me because it marks three years that I’ve been working as an RN.  It is simply amazing to think of all of the things I’ve learned & experienced in just three years.  It feels like just yesterday I was that super-anxious new grad nurse, so excited to learn but so afraid to try so many new things.  Now I’m a charge nurse & preceptor; my, how things have changed!!

Three years ago I was also absolutely PETRIFIED to start night shift.  I was sure I’d never sleep again & that my whole life was basically ending.  I didn’t fall in love with night shift immediately, though I never hated it as much as I thought I would.  After six months or so at my first nursing job, I started rotating shifts so I could experience day shift as well & eventually went to straight day shifts.  However, when we moved to NC two summers ago, night shift was all that was available so I took it.  At first I told my manager I wanted to switch to day shift ASAP but after a while I changed my mind.  I found that the night shift routine had grown on me & for right now I’m not even thinking about going “back” to day shift any time soon.  With all of the negative things associated with night shift, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of all the reasons why night shift is actually AWESOME.

1. This is a generalization for sure, but I have found that IN GENERAL night shift nurses are the most fun to work with because they tend to be more laid-back & relaxed.  For someone like me who has her fair share of anxiety issues, it’s great to work with people who are more relaxed because that helps combat my own anxious tendencies.  I think part of the reason night shift nurses tend to be more relaxed is because the doctors are not quite as available to us, so we have learned to handle situations on our own.  This isn’t to say we don’t keep the doctors informed about what’s going on with our patients.  It’s just that we realize that every time our patient has a BP of 180/90 it isn’t the end of the world & if the doctor is busy & doesn’t call us back for an hour or more, it’s ok.  If you work day shift, please don’t be offended by what I’m saying here.  As I said, this is a GENERALIZATION & it probably has more to do with the way the shift itself flows than the actual people who are working it.

night shift humor

2. For someone like me who is mildly claustrophobic & despises crowds, day shift can be a little challenging because it is a CONSTANT CROWD.  A lot of the people who make up this crowd are tremendously helpful & often at nights we wish we had those folks around.  If your patient needs to leave the floor for a test any later than say 9:00 p.m., guess whose job it is to take them to the test (& possibly stay there to monitor them, depending on the test): yours!  There is no transport at night.  No PT/OT to help get the heavy or difficult-to-move patients out of bed.  No case manager to call when your patient’s wife is refusing the oxygen that is absolutely vital for him to go home.  No wound care nurse to assist with the crazy complicated dressing that you suddenly have to change at midnight when it gets soiled for various & sundry reasons.  No IV team to help with the impossible-stick patient who needs two different IV antibiotics, IV fluids, & K/MG replacement.  Basically there are a ton of great resources that simply aren’t available at night.  This isn’t to say we can’t provide the same level of care.  It’s just that as a night shift nurse you’re required to be extremely resourceful & figure out a lot of things yourself.  The upside though is that for someone like me who gets anxious in crowds, it’s really nice to feel like we “own the hospital” at night.  We definitely interact with other depts & certainly with patients’ families, but night shift is just not the same constant crowd, & for a socially anxious person like me, that is wonderful.

3. As I discussed above, night shift has a lot fewer ancillary depts to help the nursing staff which can definitely be challenging at times.  However, another upside to this is that night shift nurses of necessity build really great teamwork.  It’s not that day shift nurses can’t or don’t help each other.  They definitely do.  But on nights it’s just the bedside nurses running the show, for the most part.  Because we are less distracted by the various other depts constantly coming in & out of the rooms, we are better able to sense who’s struggling & step up to help each other, often without even being asked.  Nursing is definitely a team effort & on nights that is especially true.  Additionally, having great teamwork I believe builds greater job satisfaction which for me is definitely an added bonus.

4. Financially night shift is clearly the better option.  Night shift is hard on the body & mind without a doubt so there’s a reason we get paid more.  Of course the trouble is once you get used to that extra money, you don’t want to leave it.

5. You will definitely sacrifice sleep at times, but if you can learn not to sleep all day on your days off (which has never been a problem for me because I am not a night owl by nature), you can have a lot more “free time” to catch up on housework, doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, & just life in general.  When I worked day shift I realized that I was almost as tired as when I worked nights & I felt like I had a lot less time to get things done outside of work.  And I was making less money!

6. Because there are fewer ancillary depts going in & out of the rooms & less chance of patients leaving the unit for tests & procedures, it is considerably more likely that you will have time to actually TALK TO YOUR PATIENTS with fewer interruptions on night shift.  Trust me, my phone still rings way more than I wish it did & inevitably that seems to happen when I’m starting an IV or having a crucial conversation with a patient, but in general I do feel that I have more time to get to know my patients on night shift.   Sometimes this happens at 0200 when they can’t sleep & just need someone to listen to them.  I do think night shift nurses are less likely to be remembered by patients (at least our names) because hopefully they do sleep for at least part of our shift, but I also know that being there for a patient in the middle of the night when they are tired, lonely, & afraid can be a truly rewarding experience.

nurse pic

7. It is true that it is very easy to gain weight on night shift.  (There have even been research studies showing all of the health dangers of night shift.  They’re very depressing so I try not to read them!)  I’ll confess that I gained about ten lbs my first year as a nurse, but at last half that time I was working day shift so maybe it wasn’t totally night shift’s fault.  Anyway, I managed to lose all the weight & more, & I’ve kept it off for almost two years now, all of which has been while working night shift.  The upside to this is that when you do learn to manage your weight on night shift, you will feel like an absolute rock star for proving all the statistics wrong!

8. There is a certain level of constant fatigue that accompanies working night shift.  Actually I think it might just accompany being a nurse in general.  (Or maybe just being an ADULT!)  Anyway, for me that background level of fatigue is actually a good thing because believe it or not, it calms my brain a little bit.  I’ve spoken to my therapist about this & she says it’s actually quite logical.  For someone like me whose mind is constantly GOING, GOING, GOING like the Energizer Bunny, having a certain level of background fatigue can slow the “wheels” down just enough so that I can actually focus better & function optimally.  It sounds totally backwards I know.  But I swear it is true for me.

9. As I’ve mentioned previously, there are a lot less people around on nights.  One of the positives to this is that night shift nurses can (& do) talk about anything & everything.  This leads to some seriously hilarious conversations that are probably not fit to post here.  😉  But trust me when I say we have a lot of fun.  Of course nurses of necessity have a very twisted sense of humor so our idea of what is funny is often a bit “off” anyway.

sense of humor nursing

10. As I mentioned at the beginning, I DREADED night shift.  I had serious anxiety about it for MONTHS before I even graduated because I knew as a new grad nurse it was inevitable.  However, realizing that I can not only handle working nights but actually ENJOY it has brought me a tremendous sense of accomplishment.  Furthermore, it has reinforced to me that often the things we dread in life can actually be blessings in disguise.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, never say never.  I never thought I’d be happy working as a night shift nurse but here I am doing it & loving it.  🙂

Social Anxiety Strikes Again

My palms are sweating.  My heart is racing.  My stomach is in knots.  Sounds like I’m getting ready to give a speech in front of a bunch of people, right?    

Actually, no, I’m just going to a Christmas party held by one of my coworkers.  Parties are supposed to be fun, right?  Wrong.  When you’re a natural introvert who suffers from a touch of social anxiety like I do, the idea of going to any social gathering with more than say eight people is terrifying.  Most people who know me would probably never guess that I feel this way because I like to think I’m good at hiding it.  Yes, I’m an introvert, but I’m not shy; like most things in life, introversion and extroversion lie very much on a spectrum & I believe I fall on the more liberal side of introversion (in other words, close to the middle).  I love talking to people, anyone really.  But I thrive on one-on-one or small group conversations.  That’s where I shine.  And I require a certain amount of alone time in order to stay sane.  Put me in a group of more than roughly eight people and suddenly I feel like the same old awkward teenager I used to be, the one who never knew about all the “cool” TV shows and music that everyone else knew about and who was generally out of the loop about just about everything.  I’m not that person anymore and I know it, but there is still something about being in a larger group of people that just sends off firecrackers in my brain.  And not the good kind of firecrackers.  The kind that say “Run away!  This isn’t safe!”  I might not really act like the turtle with its head in its shell, but deep down I’m often feeling that way.

This must sound totally ridiculous to those of you reading this who thrive on large groups, parties, clubs, and all of those supposedly fun things.  I on the other hand hate crowds and any sort of social situations that do not lend themselves well to intimate or deep conversation.  (Hint, intimate does not have to mean sexual, despite our society’s tendency to equate one with the other.)  Hell, the idea of going to NYC and walking around those crowded streets makes me feel like my throat is closing up and I can’t breathe.  I’ve even realized that I have this same type of anxiety around my own family, if a gathering consists of more than say eight people.  I know that must sound so silly.  But it’s true.  Perhaps the reason for this is that when you put 20-30 people in a house together you rarely have meaningful conversations with anyone.  You just say “Hi, how are ya?” and other such trivialities to everyone.  I for one long for so much more.  Yet I love having a big family.  Argh.

I am coming to realize that my mind is a mass of contradictions.  For example, I actually love hosting cook-outs and other casual “parties,” and yet the idea of attending one that isn’t composed of my closest friends inevitably causes me to have a mild anxiety attack.  I don’t have this problem when I’m around a lot of people at work or in class.  I think I handle those kinds of situations quite well.   I also am not afraid of giving speeches, teaching a class, or taking on leadership roles at work such as charge nurse.  I actually ENJOY all of those things!  But there is something about pure SOCIAL situations that still scares me if there are too many people involved.

With help from my therapist I’m starting to understand these things about myself and slowly learning that there’s nothing “wrong” with me because of them.  I know a lot of people are the exact opposite of me and fear intimate one-on-one conversations because they are too “exposing.”  But I love those kinds of conversations.  I’ve found that people almost universally like me when I am able to talk to them one-on-one or in a small group.  But in a larger group I have a tendency to just fade into the background and ask dumb questions like “Why do people put olives in martinis?”  

I don’t really know why I’m writing this other than to make myself feel better for being so “uncool” as to have a mild anxiety attack about something as silly as going to a party, something that most other people would be excited about.  The truth of the matter is I had a decent time at the party.  I almost always do.  But I still get anxious about these kinds of scenarios.  And deep down I’d always rather spend time with people alone or in very small groups.  If you’re reading this and you can relate to what I’m saying, feel free to comment so we can all feel less alone.

As an aside, I had my first winery experience yesterday with a group of close friends and it was AMAZING.  I haven’t laughed that much in a long time, and it was fabulous.  The winery was perfect for me: casual, friendly, & not the least bit pretentious.  Underneath it all, I promise I really am a fun person.  😉

As a further aside, I should add that I have at worst a mild case of social anxiety. I know there are people out there who suffer far more, or perhaps I should just say differently, than I from social anxiety. I don’t mean to say my experience is representative of everyone with social anxiety issues. I just wanted to share my own story.