Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Real Life Stories: Lana Of The Joy Blog

Hi Guys! So many of you have been sharing your Real Life Stories in the comments or in posts, and I'm just so inspired and lucky to have heard yours. I thought I'd share my own. This is going to be me interviewing myself. Should be interesting!

I choose joy because the alternative really sucks.

TJB: What does having joy mean to you? 

Lana: Having joy, to me, is about having peace with your life. When you have peace, the good things just keep coming. My entire life I've sought peace and to me peace looks like confidence, total self-support, and total comfort with one's self. As we get peace, this spills over into how we handle our career, relationships, and everyday life.

TJB: What things bring you joy? 

Lana: For me it's all in the simple things. I love to grow things. I can sit on my patio and examine my container garden for hours. I can watch it grow. I get excited every time a seed sprouts up through the dirt, or a blossom forms, and turns into a fruit. I love to play my piano, and feel my hands make music without thinking, the muscle memory of the songs has me play them on auto-pilot. I married the funniest man on earth, and I get a laugh-to-tears-and-can't-breathe moment multiple times a week. 

When I attempt a new recipe, or make one up, and it is a huge success. Or when I look at the types of women that I now call my best friends, and realize that I've become someone that attracts successful, loyal, honest, courageous people to my life. When I think about the woman that raised me, all the moments of life she shared with us, and how she influenced us with her lion-heart and her gentle soul. And last but not in the very least, I love to write. I love to blog, and I love to share deep meaningful conversations. This is the very reason this blog exists. It's so we can all share these types of conversations and you can become my friends. 

TJB: Describe in detail a time or event in your life where you dealt with a mountain that seemed impossible to climb. 

Lana: This one is a tough one, I thought about writing about losing my mom, but I wrote about that so much over on my old blog The Truth About Blondes, that I want to take this a different direction. 

My entire life, since the age of twelve, has been filled with anxiety. In my mid twenties I learned that is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. As a teenager, I didn't know that's what it was, and would have many an anxiety attack filled with nausea and negative spiraling thoughts. I lived in fear of these attacks and getting sick from them at inopportune times, so I fasted. I fasted A LOT. I had social anxiety because of it, and often wouldn't eat if I was going on a date, to extra-curriculars, or to a party or other social event. There were days where all I ate was a piece of toast, and then left it at that. I don't know how I sustained my never-stop-moving teenage years on such little food. 

As I got to college, it got even worse because dating and social events became the forefront of my life. So many of my dates thought I was anorexic. I've always been quite thin, but what they never saw was when I went home and stuffed my face with food now that the situation that made me anxious had passed. I didn't realize this is what was going on. It's like I knew, but couldn't admit to myself that I needed help. I just kept saying, "I have this under control". And sometimes I did. When I got in serious relationships and grew comfortable around people I was dating, I'd eat all the time because I didn't feel anxious anymore. 

But then the breakups were even worse. I'd spiral into a pattern of anxiety for weeks and spend every day just barely making it through, and climb into bed exhausted. Every way I looked at the world was clouded by anxiety. I knew sometimes that what I was thinking and feeling was not accurate, but I couldn't make it stop. 

One particular breakup was the last straw. I got so sick from my anxiety, it had come on so strongly that I couldn't eat anything without getting an upset stomach, that I knew something was truly wrong with me. For two weeks I woke up every morning and spent an hour in the bathroom, and then spent the day drinking Pedia-lyte, and drinking cups of chicken noodle soup. It was the only food that I could tolerate. I was so weak and sick that I couldn't function. 

Every day after work I'd climb into bed and watch tv for 6 hours until I went to sleep, and then do it all over again. I was fading fast and I was scared. One day I decided I needed my mom, and drove 3 hours to her house, and by the time I got there, I was completely spent. 

My eyes were sunken-in, there were purple circles under them, my hair was wild from having to drive with the window open in the freezing night to keep from passing out and I looked and felt like I was a zombie. I collapsed on her couch, and the following morning I was taken to the doctor and hooked up to IVs. Shortly after, I was referred to a therapist, and began regular weekly therapy. 

I've gone to this therapist for 5 years now, and refer to her as my life-coach. She helped me save my life.  I still suffer from anxiety, but it went away for a few years with her help. When my mom got sick, and then died, I spiraled again but had all the steps in place already to manage it. It's pretty bad now that her death anniversary has come and gone, and I've even got symptoms of PTSD from her death showing up. 

Recently, I had my first ever panic attack, and it scared the shit out of me. I was driving, and suddenly felt a shot of adrenaline to my heart, and my whole left side cramped up, including my arm and leg. I had to pull off the freeway, and take the side streets to feel safe, but still couldn't get it to stop. I spent the rest of day with cramped muscles, shakiness, sleeping, massaging my muscles, and filling myself with every positive affirmation I've ever been taught, to combat the anxiety. 

TJB: How did you make it through? 

Lana: Well, for a long time I was in denial. I refused to admit that I had a problem. Everyone else could have problems and it was totally acceptable and ok, but I just refused to admit I had one. Admitting I had one was the first step. Then I had to work my butt off in therapy to control my mind. I had to learn that anxiety was purely in my control. That even though I might be freaking out and feeling nauseous and nervous, I was still in control. 

I learned to breathe and calm myself down. I wrote down all my negative thoughts and learned to argue why they were wrong and destructive, and then practiced doing that in my own head so that when things got crazy, I could turn it around. I learned that regular exercise, good amounts of sunlight, healthy foods, and good sleep help me stay grounded. 

When I quit doing those things, I feel a huge difference and really have to work at keeping those healthy habits. I also learned that life gets crazy and there are times where it will be all I can do to get through some days. I have to forgive myself for my imperfections and say, "this too shall pass, tomorrow is a new day." I have to be patient and realize that I'm just not going to deal well with anxiety some days. I don't need to berate myself for failing today. I can do better tomorrow.

TJB: Did you choose happiness as a way through it? If so, what things did you do to bring it into your challenges? 

Lana: When I finally was ready to accept this as one of the tests of my life, I chose to focus on the things I could control. I could fill my life with the things that would help me, and stop caring about everything else as much as possible. In a way, that's choosing happiness... but I'd rather say, choosing peace. Choosing joy. I chose to accept help from my therapist, I chose to do the hard thing and fight against it, instead of letting it control me

TJB: What did you learn from those experiences? 

Lana: I learned that I'm not crazy just because I get anxious. I learned that even though admitting I had a therapist, and admitting I had an anxiety disorder, didn't mean I wasn't a great person. It also didn't mean I wasn't fit to be loved by a man. I found someone who understood my plight perfectly. He has never belittled me for not being strong, or told me to just stop freaking out. He is patient, and loving, and always there to help me laugh when I need to calm down. Laughter really helps with anxiety. It releases the tension. 

I learned that I am stronger than I thought. I am also stronger than anxiety. That time I had to get IVs, I felt lower than low. I felt weak and ashamed and felt like I was getting swallowed whole by my problem. I felt like I'd never get on top of it. I learned that I was wrong. I learned that I could be a champion, or a warrior, and fight the battles as they came, and wave the flags of victory whenever I won another battle. 

TJB: How do you choose Joy now? (If you do.)

Lana: Isn't it obvious? This blog is how I'm choosing joy now. I am ready to focus on the brighter side of life. The good things that are there, and help others do the same. I choose joy by waking up every morning and trying again. Even though I had a panic attack, it doesn't mean I'm always going to be that version of myself. Even though I'm sad, and miss my mom, and am struggling as the anniversary of her death passes, it doesn't mean that I'm not strong. It means I lost someone very important to me and I'm dealing with the grief. I choose joy by going on with life, by looking at the great things I have now, and loving the people that are still here. And, when I desperately need to talk to my mom, I go park my car somewhere, and I tell her everything I would if she were still alive. 

I choose joy now by not giving up even though my heart is broken, and I'm battling anxiety again in a way I didn't see coming. I choose joy by forgiving God for letting her die. I choose joy by planning for my future. And I choose joy by living in the present. Anxiety may be a battle I'll always fight. It's been almost 20 years now, and even though I beat it down and it goes away, it always comes back when things get really hard. But it's an enemy that has taught me amazing things about myself, so I choose to accept that this is a part of my life when it is. 

And I choose joy because the alternative really sucks.

For information on anxiety disorders and panic attacks, click here.
For information on PTSD from grief, click here.
To see funny cats, click here.

++ If you have any questions or comments, please share below! 

Join the conversation!

  1. So glad you shared your story! I've struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember and it can be crippling. I've started seeing a counselor too and I'm really trying to work though this now.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. It really can be crippling. Thankfully it can be reversed as well. There are times where I've felt as whole as I imagine anxiety free people feel. It was the time of my life, and now that I know I can get there, I know I will again. I hope you have great success! It's worth the hard work, and the money that therapy costs. I promise.

  2. Wow, Lana, this is such a beautiful post. Truly. I appreciate the name of your blog all the more after reading about your plight, and more importantly, your victories. I admire people that use their own struggles to bring restoration and hope to others SO MUCH. It's wonderful to know more about who you are. Thanks for sharing this part of you with us.

    1. Thanks so much for that comment! I am glad you read it. I hesitated sharing it but I figured others were bravely sharing theirs, so I would too!

  3. I love blog posts that cut through formalities and get right to the soul-bearing good stuff. This is a good post. I feel like I know more about you, can relate to you and your problems and have hope to choose joy through my own struggles.

  4. Thanks for sharing this Lana. I love this blog. It is uplifting and inspiring, and I feel stronger every time I read it. I love how honest and real your posts are.

    1. Thanks so much Falisha, I'm so glad you read it. Love you!

  5. Awe, Lana! I'm so very glad that you opened your heart and choose to share your own story! It takes such immense bravery to not only let others see inside your own life, with your struggles but also to be so firm in your stance on battling your way through it. Thank you for being SUCH an inspiration to all of you here who are reading this beautiful project of yours!

    I've nominated you for The Liebster Award!

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet comment and support of this blog!

  6. Lana, this was so well written. I so appreciate you explaining this so openly. I have also struggled with anxiety. It's interesting to look back on my life and see that I had so much anxiety and didn't even realize what it was. I would always get so down on myself because it was so hard to just talk to people. You saw that I have been using doterra, especially the vitamins and they have helped me so much. I feel like I am finally myself. I have also been thinking about your mom a lot lately and want you to know how highly I think of her. She was always such a good aunt to me. I think you are amazing and love your blog. Keep up the good work :)


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