I want to share a few messages I received. I have to say, every message I get in response to my writing touches my heart (and sometimes makes me cry) but the ones from random people I don't even know hit me that much harder. Sharing these is more about showing you that sharing your story is important. We have this tendency to hold everything inside and feel it's a burden to share it all. But, you never know what others are dealing with that may be helped by your own experience. It may not even be the same exact type of situation, but parts of your struggle will help another person.
Wow! Look at you! You continue to inspire me every time you write! I can't begin to imagine how many others are inspired...You're such a special person Nicole, and I'm so glad that you continue to write and reach those who truly need to learn from you...God Bless You Honey, keep doing all of the wonderful things that make you the you that we all Love and respect so much!!! PEACE xo
Nicole: I don't know you personally (although I know your extended family)...somehow your post ended up on my news feed...thank you for sharing. So many many young people are going through struggles and they are embarrassed, afraid and ashamed to reach out. I also have someone in my life struggling, I'm going to share your story with her - let her know, see, it does get better. You are an inspiration - and a great writer! I know your story will help others in the same situation. Thank you for sharing!
Awesome words, Nicolle! I am so proud of how far you have matured. I am proud to be your friend. I will always remember hugging you, when you were having one of your "shaking" spells, hopefully just to let you know someone is there for you and you were not alone. I truly love you as a friend and you should know you will always bring a smile to my face, wherever we meet.
I continue to be in awe of your courage and your strength. Keep moving forward and remember that there are plenty of us ready to catch you if you fall.
Nicole, keep on taking those walks. You've been smacked in the face many times but you keep getting up and riding the next wave. You are strong. You are powerful. And you are an unstoppable force. I'm proud to know you (and absolutely love you to boot).
I wish I knew about your blog earlier. I had someone very special to me at finish line, he is a first responder. He has been dealing with PTSD as well from the bombings. I felt so helpless as I watched him crumble before my eyes. He is not good at expressing himself and by reading your story, you've given me such incredible insight. You're writing is straight from your heart and simply amazing to read. Thank you Nicole for sharing your incredible journey with PTSD.
Now, a little more on anxiety because I've actually had some people reach out about this subject asking questions or talking about their own experience. This illustration is accurate.
I never fully understood anxiety. I had friends who suffered from it when I was younger and I can't say I was the most supportive. I just didn't understand why they'd be anxious when they were and thought, "why can't they just pull out of it if they feel it coming?" The last 28 months (WOW, when you put it in months…) has been a lesson for me on this subject. Boy, do I understand anxiety. It makes sense when it comes from obvious reasons. For me, that could be (not recently but before) a loud noise, sirens, talking about different aspects of that day or simply being in a crowded place. Those things are directly related to that day, they make sense. The funny thing is when it comes from unexpected things, out of nowhere. And once you haven't had it for a while, it's frustrating when it pops back in. This has happened recently.
A few weeks ago, on a Friday, I was home. It was like any other summer day. I had gone to the beach with a friend and was home making dinner and doing some editing as well as some other things (multi-tasking). I started to feel that all too familiar feeling in my chest. It is a bit of tightness and suddenly feeling very overwhelmed. I didn't know why it was happening and honestly, when it hits so unexpected, I can't even really think clearly about it. There's a frustration and for me, a feeling where I can't be alone or it gets worse. I always had that feeling when it hit, that I absolutely didn't want to be alone. I didn't necessarily want people to know what was happening, but just needed to be around someone or people and distract from what I was feeling inside (or in those intense moments, someone to help pull me out of it).
I didn’t tell anyone at this point. My sister was home (I’m currently living with her for the summer) and we ended up watching TV and I managed to get her to stay up late. I knew in that state, I would not be going to sleep easily.
The next morning, it was still there and then, the leg started to bounce. I was sitting doing work and eating breakfast while my sister sat across from me reading and eating. As she went to get up, I asked where she was going, with a definite worried tone. This is definitely abnormal, so she looked at me and said, “Okay, what’s going on with you?” I told her so she sat back down and continued to read, knowing that I just want someone to be in the room.
As the day continued, I started to think about why this was happening. I came up with two conclusions at the time and one more since. One is a lot more personal than I would usually share. Yes, I’ve shared a LOT. But, as I said in my last post, there are parts of my life that I don’t talk about publicly. I’ll talk about that one second.
The first reason is that I was finally booking my flight to Italy. I had been putting it off and didn’t even realize why. Let’s back up for a minute. I was planning to spend 5 weeks in Italy, in a small fishing village I’ve been to many times. I feel I need to just go and regroup after everything that has happened, not because I’m trying to escape, but because things are great now and I feel it’s a good time to just reflect and sort of figure out my next moves. You can read about it here: Mini sabbatical
So, that was the plan. Unfortunately, with health and financial issues, I have to shorten it to 3 weeks. So, why am I anxious about it?
Well, I think for two reasons. One is that I had a planned trip to Ireland leaving about two weeks after the marathon in 2013. Of course, I did not go. I couldn’t go into my coffee shop without shaking and crying, let alone get on a plan for a two week solo trip. I think on some level, I’m afraid if I book something, something bad will happen. It’s not logical, but anxiety is not always logical. I’ve been on two trips to Italy since then, but I was hesitant both times and booked my flights pretty last minute for those as well. The other issue is that I think I am nervous to be gone on my own for 3 weeks. I won’t be totally alone because I have friends there, but the thought of being away from my people for that long in case something were to happen or in case I have any issues, makes me nervous on some level. Once I’m there, I know I’ll be fine and the trip will go by too fast. But for now, I’m just staying aware of these feelings.
The second reason for the anxiety is I started dating again. This is another topic I stay away from and I won't get too into why it caused anxiety.
Basically the guy I was seeing at the time of the bombing disappeared shortly after. After being really intense (something I was weary of anyway) he literally just up and left my life without a word. My brain was so messed up at the time, I blamed myself and the bombings on it. People actually knew the truth but as many people do, they didn’t want to get involved. Well, I ‘m here to say, if someone you know needs to know something that could help them, TELL THEM. I’d much rather know the truth about something than deal with it the unknown. I, at least, am not a person who only wants someone to tell me what I want to hear. Anyway, I had spent months focusing on this because it seemed easier than focusing on the bombings. Once I knew the truth, that he was just a bad guy who had done this many times to people, I let it go. Unfortunately, this incident was so strongly tied into the bombings, having happened at the same time, that my body and brain associates it with that time and what I was feeling overall. The thing with anxiety is that it is really caused by an imprint left inside of you of a past experience.
The last reason I had anxiety was that I was picking up the anxiety of this person close to me who is struggling. I pinpointed it last week, as things hit a major low for him. I had started having my anxiety again around the time things started to go more downhill for him. There are two reasons for this. Energy can be felt. I have become very open energetically and tend to literally feel other people's emotions, so much so that I can tell if something is wrong even if I'm not with the person (this is with people I'm very close with). Depending on how intense their own feelings are, I can feel it deeply. Even if I'm in a great mood and feel good, I may even start to feel emotional picking up on someone else's energy. I also feel it with strangers. So, I was pulling his anxiety into me and adding it to my own, causing it to be even worse. It still has been nothing compared to what I faced before. The other reason this happens is due to mirror neurons in our brains. Basically, we can sense what someone is about to do or feel what someone is feeling. It happens, say, if we see someone eat a lemon. We may pucker our mouth knowing that it will be sour even though we are not tasting it ourselves. These mirror neurons can pick up on someone's anxiety as well and we then experience it. Once I had pinpointed what was causing it all, I was able to manage it and make it dissipate as well as block myself absorbing it from someone else.
So, that's it. Anxiety. Mine started 28 months ago and is now bearable. I never used medication. This was a personal choice and one I am very happy I made for myself. I gave myself the tools, without anything external, to manage it and eventually, make it (mostly) go away. If you are able to do this, (even if you do take meds for a while to start), do it. I watch people who are on medication for the rest of their lives, never fully knowing how to decrease that anxiety for themselves and feeling dependent on these pills forever. Get to the root of the problem and learn how to heal yourself. It's a powerful process and you come out of it feeling incredibly strong. It's not easy, I won't lie. But, it's worth it. I'm here to say, you CAN do it. I'm proof.
My advice for those with anxiety and depression is this:
1. Get help. I am actually not a big proponent of talk therapy but sometimes, to get you started and figure out techniques to do on your own and figure out the root of the problems, it's crucial. You can't do it on your own or with just family and friends. Sometimes, we can, but there are situations that are just too overwhelming that need the help of a professional. It doesn't have to be long term, but seeing someone to talk it out in a controlled environment, is a good idea. Keeping it in or talking to yourself and/or just some family or friends doesn't give you the proper feedback and knowledge you need.
2. Try to not solely depend on medication. You will never get rid of the anxiety or learn how to manage it on your own if you only use medication to get through it. If you do take medication, pay attention to the effects. If your anxiety isn't eased by it consistently, it's the wrong medication or wrong dose. If it's causing other side effects, it may not be right. See an actual psychologist for meds. Regular doctors do not know enough about what you need. You're doing yourself a disservice if you don't seek the correct help!
3. Reach out to others. There are people in your life who experience anxiety and depression. It's more common than it should be. Knowing you have others to relate to is a big part of healing anything. Those who can relate to what you're feeling can be supportive in a way others can't.
4. Find things to help it. This could be working out, meditating, or finding things you enjoy to focus on. The key is to not focus so much on those things that you're pushing the anxiety away. I did that. I wanted to pretend it wasn't happening. When I would do this, it would come back even more intense at the end of the day/night/week that I had been trying to "just forget". I learned quickly that I had to find a better balance. I would enjoy myself and take the focus off the anxiety/sadness but also make sure I talked about what was happening with some key people and get it out so it didn't sit inside of me ready to boil over. Try to avoid or reduce alcohol. I found that it aggravated it or suppressed it so much that it would hit hard later. I won't say stop alcohol completely. I understand that is hard for people either because you want to feel "normal" and be out with friends having a good time or for other reasons that you aren't ready to give it up. But, be careful. On it's own, it can make anxiety worse but combined with meds if you take them, it's a recipe for disaster. Just pay attention and limit yourself. :)
1. DO NOT think you can "fix" them or their problems. When you do this, you start to tell them what to do instead of helping them figure out what they need. It's human nature to want to help someone in need and to make their pain go away. I wrote a post about this a long time ago. You can't "fix" them. And to think that is to imply they are broken. They aren't. They have some cracks, some holes, some imperfections in their current situation, but they are far from broken. They may feel they are. They feel they've been reduced to just fragments of their former selves. But they are not. They are still one whole person. They may have lost a piece of their soul, their heart may hurt. But, they have the strength inside of themselves to keep going and to heal those pieces that are wounded. It's up to you to support them along that journey.
2. Don't judge their decisions or tell them what they "should" do. This is frustrating for someone in this place. Their brain isn't working like yours. They, deep down, already know what they "should do", but they can't see it. Everything they need to heal is within them. It is one thing to subtly offer resources and suggestions, it's another to tell them they are doing something wrong (i.e. self destructive behavior) or telling them they NEED medication or therapy or whatever else. I remember being in that place clearly. I absolutely hated that everyone kept telling me to take meds. It was my choice. I hated when they said I had to just stop reading articles and things associated with the bombings. The fact was, at that time, I couldn't stop myself. I had it in me to stop, and eventually I did. I realized it was causing more pain. But, no one could just tell me that. I had to get there on my own.
3. JUST BE THERE. Let them know you are there for them for whatever they need from you. It may be an ear to listen. It may be to just have fun and laugh to distract from the pain. It may be to sit in silence next to you. But, ASK them what they need from you, don't tell them.
4. This is the hard one, but if you are doing the above and they still aren't receptive, you must pull away. One of the hardest things to do is leave someone if they need you, but if they aren't open to your support, you are going to hurt yourself in the process. It is a lot to deal with. You can let them know you are still there and a phone call away when they are ready, but if they aren't ready, you need to step back and hope they get there on their own. You have no control over it (yes, very hard). We only have control over ourselves and our own actions/thoughts. Please remember that. Help when you can and step away when it's having any sort of negative effect on you. I feel lucky that I am able to help some people right now, but in the past, I have had people I had to step away from. I think the tools I've learned the last few years has helped me be in a better position to help and support without consequence to myself. Another reason to be thankful for my experience and my life.
Hopefully this helps. Like I said, anxiety isn't logical. It creeps in when you're least expecting it. But, you can deal with it. You can even get rid of it. You just need to take the right steps. I'm always willing to give some suggestions or just to lend an ear to anyone dealing with anything I've gone through. All you have to do is contact me. :)