Managing Anxiety

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Managing Anxiety
By Bernadette A. Moyer

calm

I have lived with anxiety my whole life. For me I believed it was a by-product of having been raised in an Italian Catholic family. There was a lot of yelling and calling one another out. There was confrontation. That is just the way it was and often the end result for me was a certain degree of anxiety.

My father wanted us to be good kids and to be smart and involved and there were definite goals and boundaries. We were expected to get good grades be high achievers and to be polite and well mannered. That was the least that was expected of us. Often the expectations created anxiety in me. How would I measure up? Would I and could I achieve good grades?

Later in my life I appreciated my parent’s high standards for me. We were supposed to excel not to just get by but to be our very best. My dad was a proud man. He believed that everyone should work and work for what they needed and wanted. Hand-outs for him were an insult. Yet there were many times when I was a young child that my parents could have used a hand up to help them with raising their five children.

For a long time probably until my late twenties and early thirties I didn’t even know what “anxiety” was just that I could be sick when confronted with pressure. The pressure of a job interview or the pressure of a business meeting often made the pit of my stomach turn.

Looking back what was almost funny was that age 26 I was the youngest Realtor in my office and it was once confided in me “how put together and accomplished you come across” and yet before that big meeting you could find me in the rest room having just dumped my lunch. I would get so nervous and sick and worried that I literally made myself throw up.

Today “anxiety” is referred to as a “mental illness” and recently I spoke with a handful of people that like me have certain degrees of anxiety or have a child or loved one who experiences “anxiety” and like me they do not consider it a “mental illness.” One friend said, “Who doesn’t have anxiety?”

I know there are different degrees of it, some people can’t function, and they become so anxious that they just can’t function to do normal everyday tasks. Even the smallest meeting or taking them out of their comfort zone causes anxiousness and an inability to function. Many are medicated as a result.

For me I have learned to tackle the things that make me anxious and to push through it. There are times I have to talk myself down and tell myself to breathe and to calm down. Mind over matter often works for me. I also imagine what the other side will look like, how will I feel when I accomplish the task that is making me anxious? How will I feel when I have mastered that which makes me nervous and anxious?

On many levels my anxiety made me better, it made me try harder, it made me more aware it contributed to my drive and to being successful. Recently I was watching an interview with Tom Petty and he said that before he performs it “takes him all day to work himself up to perform and then all night to bring him back down” I am sure that every single performer lives with a certain degree of anxiety before they actually take the stage.

And for most all of us life is our stage and it seems normal to me that any time we leave our comfort zone we will experience some degree of anxiety. The single greatest thing that I have found to help with my anxiety is being prepared. Do your homework and know what you are walking into and what you are entering. Nothing helps reduce anxiety like preparation. Take deep breathes and visualize what success will look like and feel like. Imagine how good you will feel when you get past the anxiety and accomplish what you have set out to do.

Today I would tell my younger self, calm down, breathe, take it easy, you will get through this, you will survive!

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

The thing about anxiety is that you have to manage it, because if you don’t it will manage you …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

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The Lost Child

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The Lost Child
By Bernadette A. Moyer

lost child

My grandmother on my father’s side, (my nana) lost a son (Jimmy) when he was just seven years old and just weeks after his first Holy Communion. She never got over it. It was an unexpected illness that quickly took his life. I imagine that a part of her died too. She talked about him all the time. She cried about him often.

I was just a little kid that visited her and I knew very little about death way back then, but I sensed enough to know and witness her heartbreak, sadness and uneasiness. She was tormented by her loss. It showed itself in her verbal and consciousness and stream of thoughts and words. Her actions showed intense grief. Today I can’t help but wonder how different her life might have been if Jimmy had not died so young.

The lost child changed her; it changed how she related to everyone including the remaining family members. How did it affect her marriage? How did it affect her relationships with her remaining four children? How much of the way that she was determined how her children became? Really we can never know but I think a reasonable person could agree that everything and everyone in that family was altered as a result of such a loss, like the loss of a child.

We can lose a child to death, to estrangement and to mental illness, where there maybe different types of loss, losing a child brings a wide range of emotions with it. We lose a piece of our hopes and our dreams. We lose a piece of ourselves and a part of our futures.

Mothers put so much of their own wellness on how their children are doing; they want their kids to be healthy and happy. I’ve read somewhere that “a mother can only be as happy as her saddest child.” I sure hope that isn’t true, but I do appreciate the thought.

I’ve never known the death of a child, thank God, but I have known losing a child. My first child was lost to me through estrangement on July 4, 1998. This year marked 19 years, she has been gone longer than I had her. For me she is a lost child. I too grieved her intensely and often talked about her too. I think that we talk about our lost children so that we can somehow keep them alive. It is all so unnatural for any parent to lose a child, regardless of the type of loss and a loss is a loss.

I changed. Initially my world was forced into an upside down position. Everything that I once held so near and dear in my own life like being a mother was shattered. I had to look at myself, I had to look at her and I was forced to look at everything. Being a mother meant everything to me, perhaps more than it should. I was consumed with grief. I went through all the stages from denial to acceptance. It felt like a death to me. A death of my child and a death of a part of myself, today I am different, very different. I see from a broader perspective from more of a life experienced, my head learned much, my heart initially shrank but then as the years passed by my heart grew larger with more acceptance and a greater understanding. Funny how that can happen, but it did.

Remember when the best stories ended with the phrase; “and they lived happily ever after”? After you experience enough life you soon realize that not everything ends with “happy ever after” but that does not mean that your happiness has to end.

You find new and different things that make you happy; you learn over and over again that true and sustained happiness comes from within.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

What is your color?

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What is your color?
Bernadette A. Moyer

color

Keith Urban sings “Blue looks good on the sky … Baby, blue ain’t your color …” in the song titled Blue Ain’t Your Color

I remember learning to meditate on colors and what they represented like white was for peace and yellow for energy and black to exhale all that was wrong and bad and negative.

I believe we all have a color? I am most attracted to green and it represents life and growth and all that is living. If I had to pick “my” color is would definitely be green.

Pink, purple and blue are colors that I find pretty and soothing. Black and red for me are power colors. You can have your colors done for your skin tone and hair and eye color, what goes best what looks best.

Browns, tans and sand colors always represent grounding and neutrality and harmony and balance. Why are we attracted to the sun? We know we find energy there.

Darkness is just that … dark … is goes well with sadness and depression. Color can help lift our moods and our spirits. Go to the light for all that is good and alive … the dark side is just what it sounds like.

Advertising agencies have carefully chosen the colors on packaging because they know what colors we will reach for the most. Most things are bring to get us to pick them up.

Color can be a powerful force in our lives. We all react to color. What colors are you most attracted to and what do those colors make you feel?

We all have our color and our colors, what is your color?

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facbook.com/bernadetteamoyer
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What about Brandon?

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What about Brandon?
By Bernadette A Moyer

mental

Brandon was born into trauma with a birth mother who died just after he came into this world. He arrived 8-weeks pre-mature and with a twin sister. We met when he was 87 days old and along with his father and twin sister we immediately connected, soon after we would become family. I was happy to assume the role of “mother” and later “wife” to his father.

As a little boy he was kind, sweet and polite. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. In some ways he was easy, and yet he had some quirks. When he was a little boy he would literally shriek when it was time to get his hair cut. You would have thought that he was being tortured. It didn’t last. Later as an adult he would initiate his own timetable and keep up with his haircuts on his own.

There was never a child care center or a school when I wasn’t called at some point to come and get him because he was acting out in inappropriate ways. This was from age 3 all the way through high school and beyond.

When he was tested for “early detection for failure” he ranked average and above in intelligence and barely on the charts socially. He always suffered socially. As his mother I couldn’t see it. We easily got along. I found him easy to love. I accepted him as he was and encouraged him to succeed. Brandon always, always did whatever he wanted to do.

In elementary school he was retained, the decision was made to keep him together with his twin, he was not failing. This would be a decision that as his parents we would later regret. All through middle school he would achieve National Junior Honor Society and make the Gifted and Talented Art program. After he achieved honor society he would declare, “well I’m not doing that again, it was a lot of work” and he never again was an “honor student.” It would be his decision.

Throughout the years we would go through periods of calm bookended by one of his “odd behaviors” that would result in calls from his teachers. One time he pulled the fire alarm, he said he wanted to “make sure it worked.” Or something or someone in class would rub him the wrong way and he would have a melt-down, his melt-downs would show themselves in immature behaviors with dramatic language and tears. He would push things too far and then when he was faced with the consequences of his behaviors he would try to plead and say he was sorry. He was impulsive and he would act in immature ways. He knowingly or unknowingly caused a lot of stress in the family. There would be periods of time when he would seem to be okay and then another dramatic immature outburst. The outbursts were always when he wasn’t getting his way.

In elementary school he had a bad bike accident where he broke three bones. Many years later he disclosed that he saw something on an extreme bike show and wanted to try it and therefore it caused the accident. We thought it was a simple accident and were just so thankful he had his bike helmet on at the time.

His twin sister would come home and share with us his odd behaviors and melt downs at school or we would hear about them from his teachers and the school Principal. I connected him with a friend who was a drama teacher and he was in a play at one of the local theaters. His father was the driving steady force in helping him to achieve Eagle Scout.

In high school he became a Red-Cross certified life guard and also a kitchen aid and worked with me at a youth retreat house. He got along with most everyone except his twin sister who worked alongside of him. According to him, he never got along with his sister. He has some quirks seemed to be off in a world of his own and talked to himself incessantly. It wasn’t normal talk either but very dramatic talk although I could never make out what he was saying and when I questioned him he would dismiss me.

Before high school and after numerous phone calls from his teachers I pushed for him to be seen by a mental health doctor who after meeting with him declared; “he is a very likeable guy!” Well I already knew that and bit my tongue when I really wanted to say “could you dig a little deeper?” But I was not the biological mom and was sure I would be viewed as the problem.

It took a lot of support and coaching to get him to do anything tied to achievement. His demeanor was like that of Eeyore and he was slow in motion, everything was on Brandon’s time or Brandon’s way or you could expect a melt-down. I had suspected for years that he was on the autism spectrum with Asperberger’s he didn’t have many friends maybe one or two and no girlfriends. He is a healthy good looking guy and any girl that became interested in him lasted about a minute. Once he opened his mouth and said things that most people couldn’t relate to or showed zero interest in others, relationships never formed for him.

After high school he studied and passed the ASVAB and entered into the Navy. He lasted 5-weeks there before he had a melt-down and was sent home. I will never forget the day he was sworn in and how much I cried. I never thought this was the right place for him but was being a supportive mother. I wrote to him every single day. I will also never forget picking him up at the airport when the Navy released him, and how he ran right into my arms. He always ran right into my arms. (tears streaming now) When he was in pre-k they always had him at the front of the line at dismissal and with the teacher holding his hand and every day they would tell him not to run across the parking lot and yet everyday as soon as he saw me he would run to me. He was always so happy to see me and of course I was thrilled to see him too. Along with his teacher I would tell him not to run and yet he never listened.

He tried college a few times but never really seemed committed to making it work. It appeared to be something he was doing to “please” us and make us “proud” in his words. I would tell him over and over don’t do it for us, do it for you. He was floundering and really seemed to have no direction and no real passion. He said he wanted to be an “actor” but did nothing to make it happen. He is an artist and I believe is a very talented artist.

The longest stretch of success for him was working full time for over 3 and ½ years in a yogurt store at our local mall. He not only secured the job on his own but was very good at it right up until they closed their doors. A year ago he was working and he seemed happy and fine.

On the day that he lost his job, he posted disturbing video on social media and the police came to our house looking for him. When they found him they took him to a hospital and a psychiatrist would declare him “dramatic” and send him home to us within hours. That was in January and he wouldn’t have another episode until July. From July until October he literally spent between 2 and 3-months in the hospital and in a psych unit. The more “help” he has received the worse off he has been. Not only do they have him heavily medicated but in groups of therapy. He uses language like “I’m having a relapse.” He is not a drug addict or an alcoholic. He never once tried drugs and infrequently drank a beer. He is like a child and very trusting and vulnerable.

Several hospital stays would declare him “depressed” or “severe depression” yet this was not how he presented himself at home. At home he was happy, pleasant and easy to be around. He had a healthy appetite, went to the movies, to events, drew and painted interacted with our dogs, our neighbors his friend Eric and his father and me. Just like when he went to school, I never saw those out-bursts, he didn’t do that at home. I would hear about it, I believed it but I never witnessed it.

Every parent of an adult child has to let go at some point, you have to trust that you did all that you could and that ultimately it is their life. It is their life and therefore it is their choice.

Right now Brandon is back in the hospital and I am sad and angry. I don’t think that since they have been “helping” him that he has gotten better, he actually is more emotional, less stable, more dependent less independent. He lives in a locked down unit with mentally ill patients, I agree with the doctor yes, he is mentally ill but I also believe that the environment is making him sicker and sicker. The medication is not working as he cries more and has more melt downs, he is overly sensitive. Everything you say he turns into a dramatic episode for attention. He has been manipulating everyone.

The hospital and the doctor and social workers are enablers. First they say they don’t want to admit him and then he gets his way and they keep him for two and three weeks at a time. The last time he went in he posted a video on social media right from the admission waiting area and he was calm and seemed to enjoy posting what we was doing and that he was being admitted?

He is a talented artist reduced to painting bird houses and sitting around all day eating a poor and unhealthy hospital diet. Even a healthy person would be depressed in that environment. “Idle time is a devils workshop.”

The social workers in the hospital promised his housing, a group home, they tied him to social programs for money and for food assistance. They are making a fortune off his hospital stays and keeping him heavily medicated. He is worse off than he has ever been under their care and with their “help.”

Last week yet another social worker called me (this must be the 6th or 7th one) and she left me a phone message from a “crisis unit” and stated “he is enjoying himself and having a really good time here. Call me back to chat” she sounded like a high school cheerleader. I say to myself it must be me? How does a person in a “crisis unit” have a really good time and enjoy themselves?

What will happen to Brandon? Do they have the right diagnosis and the right prescription for success for him? Does he want to get better? What does he want? What is the end game?

I’ve talked with so many mental health care providers and read so much, the guy that made the most sense said “read about personality disorders” I really believe it’s a “personality disorder” he said. And yet today that is NOT what he is being treated for a personality disorder is NOT treated with medication but rather with therapy and requires a specialist for personality disorders.

A broken arm or leg would be so much easier, we could tell if it was healing and on the mend, we could see if what the doctor did was working. Sadly the care now being received will have no real marker for what success looks like. I know Brandon probably better than anyone, Brandon will get better if and when he wants to get better and Brandon’s life will look exactly like how and what Brandon is willing to accept for his life.

I never count him out though and am reminded of a summer at the beach. We were up at the boardwalk and he was off playing games. The game he played most had a prize of a $50 bill. I told him to stop wasting his money and only a fool parts with so much money playing those games. As I sat basking in the sun he showed back up and snapped a $50 bill in my face saying “say hello to a fool!”

He is nobody’s fool and if and when he is determined he will do exactly as he pleases just as he has always done. I just hope and pray that he is determined to get up and live.

Today I pray, I pray for Brandon … I miss him and I love him and I want all the best for him and I know that like he has always done, Brandon will continue to do as he alone chooses to do …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Our Health Our Responsibility

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Our Health Our Responsibility
By Bernadette A. Moyer

health

You can be as ill as you want to be or in many circumstances, as healthy as you will yourself to be! My mother was a Masters educated nurse who always encouraged us to be healthy. Often she made statements like, “sick people are in the hospital and you are not one of them.” She worked for more than 30 years in hospitals from pediatrics to critical care units and later assisted living. The bulk of her career was in a Catholic hospital where all life was valued. She never wanted her children to be ill or require any truly unnecessary hospitalization.

I used to joke that “I wasn’t allowed to be sick!” Not in her eyes and in many ways it served me well. If you ever find me admitted to the hospital, I am ill, very, very ill. People die in hospitals and I don’t want to die and certainly not there.

And yes there are procedures and hospital stays that have turned people lives and health from bad to good, but it NEVER happens without the patient being part of the wellness practices. And YES there are hospital stays that have turned patient’s health from bad to worse. Just ask any medical malpractice attorney. A patient has to want to get healthy; they have to be willing to be a part of the process. If the patient is a child the parent has the responsibility. But there is no hospital or no doctor or no pill that will make us healthy if we don’t want to become healthy.

Since July of this year I witnessed our adult son admitted to the hospital for at least 6 different hospital stays. Most often he was escorted there by a “crisis team” after shocking public displays of odd and assorted behaviors. He is an adult and he alone is responsible for his care. I have come to believe that he likes being admitted and enjoys all the attention he receives at the hospital. It has been communicated to us that since July he has spent the better part of two months in a psych unit of a hospital.

Most people in the hospital can’t wait to get out, he loves going in. I am so sad and conflicted because I believe he does not fully appreciate what he is doing and the long and short term ramifications of his behaviors. I also believe he has all the power and that he will not become healthy until or unless he alone decides to become healthy. There is no magic pill, there is no magic doctor and there is no magic hospital that will bring us to good health if we don’t do the work necessary to be part of the process it takes to heal ourselves.

What I have witnessed is well-intentioned social workers, doctors and nurses that think they are helping him. What I have also witnessed is a slow and steady decline since they have all come together to help him. In many ways his attitude and his behaviors are far worse than they have ever been. The magic doctor, the magic pills and the magic hospital are not helping him at all. He needs to help himself and he is not doing that.

As a small child if he fell and skinned his knee and you babied him and coddled him his screams would become longer and louder and more dramatic. But if you addressed the wound and comforted him and eventually said okay now knock it off he would gently respond with “okay” it was almost like he took all his cues from how you addressed him. I learned early on how to manage him. Not a single one of his “crisis unit” like episodes ever happened inside our home.

The last day that he was admitted, he walked himself into the hospital and as he was waiting to be admitted he posted a video of himself on social media about where he was and what he was doing in the hospital. He clearly was NOT in any distress. And he also seemed to enjoy the camera being on him. If I had any lingering feelings about what to do seeing that post drove home for me that if and when he wants to get well he will and if he doesn’t want to he won’t. It is pretty clear.

Everyone is different some people are born with disabilities and illnesses that do require treatments and hospital stays. What I am referring to here is someone who has displayed an ability to be fully functioning and manage a full life. I am talking about mental health and seeing in the past what someone is capable of and knowing that if they alone decide, they will once again be capable of a fully functioning life. They may also decide not to be fully functioning. So much of the quality of our life is all about the decisions that we alone make for our lives.

Once we become an adult, our health is; our responsibility … and good health can only come about if we want it.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

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Our Precious Mental Health

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Our Precious Mental Health
By Bernadette A. Moyer

precious-mental-health

Our mental health is so precious. Our minds are the computer system of the body, what goes in is so often what comes out. Are we feeding ourselves happy and healthy thoughts or are we feeding ourselves negative and unhealthy thoughts.

We still live in a society that has yet to de-stigmatize mental illness. We are afraid of being judged by needing help and support for our mental wellness. Yet each one of us is so fragile and vulnerable. We could be born with a mental illness or we can experience an event in life that causes us to become mentally ill.

The first time I went to see a therapist I was only 23 years old, my husband died and I felt that I needed someone to talk to and to help me process my grief. Decades later an estranged family member would try and use the fact that I went to therapy against me? That somehow I was crazy? Looking back with more than 30 years of life experience I think I might have been “crazy” not to seek out the support of a good therapist during my grief in losing my first husband so unexpectedly and in being so young.

You never know what is going on in someone else’s mind. We think we can read people but the truth is that we never know what lives inside of someone else’s mind and thoughts. What are they thinking and what they are contemplating and what they might do in any given situation. People react and respond differently, we are all wired differently.

mental

We worry about how we look and how we dress, we worry about our education and our abilities to learn and perform but how often do we think about the state of our current mental health? How much of our mental wellness has to do with how we love and care for ourselves and how we love and care for others?

When was the last time we had a check-up from the neck up?

“It’s up to you today to start making healthy choices, not choices that are just healthy for your body but healthy for your mind.” – Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
Books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble