Update on the Anxiety Kitty and Grad School

I was chatting with my sister a couple days ago about blog post topics, and she asked if I’d ever updated my readers on how Flynn is doing. When I adopted this 2-year-old cat back in March 2018, I shared “Lessons From My Nervous Cat” and a follow-up post a few months later called “Anxiety Kitty: The Not-So-Surprising Way Pets Improve Mental Health.” He was such a frightened cat when I adopted him. After a few months, though, he’d started to settle in and trust me. I’m pleased to report that now, a few years after his adoption, he’s turned into a happy, contented cat.

Update on the Anxiety Kitty | LikeAnAnchor.com

This year has been one with big changes for us. I started grad school, which means Flynn and I moved from my parents’ home to an apartment shared with my sister. I was worried he wouldn’t do well with that transition to a new and smaller place, but he’s settled in quite nicely and only hides now if strange people knock on the door (as I write this, he’s under the bed because UPS dropped off a package). We did discover during the move that he hates car rides, even though I borrowed a medium-size dog carrier from some friends so he’d fit comfortably since my cat carrier is too small for this chonker (he is on a diet so please don’t worry about him too much).

We’ve discovered that Flynn likes watching horror movies with my sister (something I’m not interested in, so she appreciates having a movie-watching buddy). We’ve also found that he steals cotton swabs out of bathroom trashcans, he likes to hang-out in the bathtub for some reason, and ping-pong balls are his new favorite toy. He also likes to nap on my pillow since the head of my bed is near a window where he can spy on the neighbors, including the occasional bird or squirrel.

Update on the Anxiety Kitty | LikeAnAnchor.com

As I’d shared in my previous posts about Flynn, I struggle with nervousness and anxiety too. And I’m thankful to report that Flynn’s not the only one of us who’s doing well with the recent changes in my life. The anxiety isn’t all gone, but I am doing better. There were some days (including a couple weeks in the middle of the semester) when I was starting to worry about myself again but I got through it. I’ll probably set up a couple appointments with the on-campus counselors next semester, mostly as a preventative sort of thing to help keep myself mentally healthy.

I’ve also realized that I have a much better sense of who I am and what I bring to the table now than I did 12 years ago when I started college the first time. In one sense I suppose that should be obvious–it was so long ago that I’d be worried if I hadn’t grown! But sometimes I think it’s easy to miss how much progress we’ve made until there’s some big change to shake things up and make us take a close look at ourselves.

Update on the Anxiety Kitty and Grad School | LikeAnAnchor.com

I can’t imagine 18-year-old Marissa working directly with people coaching them on how to do something like improve their writing, or see her speaking up during meetings and offering suggestions for making the campus writing center better. She also had a lot more difficulty adjusting to college than I’m having now with coming back, even though there were 8 years between graduating with my Bachelor’s degree and coming back to school for my Master’s. In some ways, being back in academia feels like coming home (which I’m taking as confirmation I’m in the right graduate program).

Life’s not without its challenges (an understatement, especially in 2020) but there are good things happening, too. I’m hoping that’s true in your life as well, and I’d love to hear about it!

What are some of the positive changes, challenges overcome, or good things that have happened in your life this year?

How Do You Hold on to Hope When You’re Fighting Anxiety and Depression?

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses, and they often occur together. Just because its relatively common, though, doesn’t make dealing with both feel any less weird. Exhibit A, this image I ran across on Pinterest:

It’s overly simplified, of course, to say “depression is when you don’t really care about anything” and “anxiety is when you care too much about everything.” Still, these comments capture part of how strange it feels to simultaneously (or alternately) deal with depression and anxiety. “Having both is staying in bed because you don’t want to go to school and then panicking because you don’t want to fail. Having both is wanting to go see your friends so you don’t lose them all, then staying home in bed because you don’t want to make the effort.”

Anxiety and depression are going to show up a bit different for everyone who struggles with them, but for me it’s like one day I’m on-edge, jittery, and so distracted by my inner anxiety monologue that I struggle to remember how things actually happened. Then the next day I feel like a weight’s pressing down on me snuffing out all motivation and hope. And some days, the smothering feeling is there but I’m also anxious about stuff I should care about and there’s this weird fight going on in my head. It’s exhausting.

Holding on to hope isn’t easy when you’re fighting a struggle inside your mind that tells you the worst could happen and there’s no point in trying to do anything about it. But we’re also not helpless victims of our own minds. We can change the patterns of our thoughts. We can choose to hold on to hope even when there seems no reason for it, and the easiest/best way to do this is with the Lord’s help.

Read more

Mermaids and Mental Health: Book Review of “Coral” by Sara Ella

I love stories about mermaids. I also love well-written stories that deal with mental health issues, so I was excited to receive an advance reader copy of Coral by Sara Ella through NetGalley. To quote the Goodreads description, “Taking a new twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved—yet tragic—fairy tale, Coral explores mental health from multiple perspectives, questioning what it means to be human in a world where humanity often seems lost.”

Coral is a story told from three perspectives. Coral, the mermaid who doesn’t fit in with her family and fears she has been infected with the Disease that causes mermaids to feel human emotions. Brook, a young woman whose struggle with anxiety and depression have brought her to Fathoms, a group therapy home she doubts will help her find any point in living. And Merrick, who wants to escape his controlling father and finally reaches his breaking point when his mother disappears after his younger sister attempts suicide.

A note on mental illness in Coral

On the topic of suicide, I think it’s time to bring up trigger warnings for this book. The author says in a note at the beginning of this book that “Potential triggers include suicide, self-harm, emotional abuse, anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and unwanted/non-consensual advances.” The author approaches mental health issues in a sensitive, caring way. She did extensive research, got feedback from sensitivity readers, and used her own personal experiences when writing this book. Read more

10 Struggles Only Shy Introverts Will Understand

Introversion is not the same thing as being shy. Every decent definition of “introvert” makes that distinction. Being an introvert means the outer world drains you and the inner world recharges you. Being shy means you get nervous and self-conscious when in social situations. They’re different things.

But what if you’re an introvert who’s also shy?

Even though shyness and introversion are different, there are quite a few introverts who are also shy (it’s worth noting there are also shy extroverts as well, though they’re not the focus of this post). And when you’re a shy introvert, there are certain struggles that other introverts don’t always resonate with. In today’s post, we’ll talk about 10 that I’ve dealt with.

1) You don’t always fit in with the introverts

I struggle with social anxiety. When I first started reading about introversion, I kept coming across people saying things like “introverts aren’t shy” or “introverts aren’t socially awkward.” This made me feel a little out-of-place. I’m an introvert and I’m also shy and socially awkward. So where do I fit in? I’m sure I’m not the only shy introvert who has asked themselves this question.

2) You wonder if you need to change

Introversion is an inborn personality trait and it’s not something that you need to “fix.” Social anxiety is a mental-health disorder that can negatively impact your life, and it’s a good idea to seek professional counseling if you’re struggling with that. But what about the in-between area where shyness lives? For those who are more shy than other introverts but not always socially anxious, it can be a struggle to figure out how much of your shyness is just part of your personality and how much is something you might want to work on overcoming.

3) People mistake your intentions

I’ve had so many people mistake me for being rude or stuck-up simply because my shyness made it hard for me to join-in to groups. I don’t think I’m better than others just because I’m off on the side watching instead of in the middle of the dance floor gyrating. I don’t mean to be rude when I have trouble coming up with small talk when I first meet someone. And I’ve talked with or read articles by many introverts who face this struggle, especially if they’re also shy.

4) Starting a conversation is hard

Actually, “hard” doesn’t do the feeling justice. It’s more like well-nigh impossible at times. Not only are you more comfortable inside your safe introvert shell, but you also have your shyness worrying about how terribly wrong this conversation could go. Maybe they’ll think it’s weird you started a conversation with them. Maybe you’ll run out of things to say and embarrass yourself. Maybe you’ll want to escape the conversation later and won’t know how. You know you’re probably over-thinking things, but it still makes starting a conversation challenging.

5) Sometimes you just need to leave

Being in groups of people can be a struggle for any introvert. But when you’re shy on top of being introverted there are going to be times when you’re in a group of people and suddenly feel like you just have to leave RIGHT NOW. Maybe this is more my anxiety speaking than my shyness, but sometimes I just hit a point where I’m overwhelmed and/or totally drained and I have to bail on a group, event, or other gathering. In many cases, my energy starts to return as soon as I’m alone.

6) You feel underestimated

Sure you’re not the most outgoing person around, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable skills and talents. Unfortunately for shy introverts, people often assume that because we’re hesitant to speak up it means we don’t have anything valuable to contribute. That can lead to people vastly underestimating us. From people talking over you in meetings to people assuming you can’t handle a task on your own, it’s often quite a challenge to try and convince others to stop underestimating you.

7) Avoiding people you know

Introverts, even shy ones, don’t hate people. But we vastly prefer interacting with people when we can plan ahead for it. Bumping into people accidentally seems incredibly awkward. If we spot someone we know out in public and they haven’t seen us yet, there’s a good chance we’ll go out of our way to avoid running into them. We might also avoid planning activities with people because we know they’ll be draining and overwhelming, so it just seems easier to not go in the first place than to leave early.

8) Your body gives away your shyness

Shyness and anxiety have some very real physical effects and sometimes they’re impossible to hide. One minute you seem calm, put-together, and in control of the situation. You might be worried on the inside but outside you can make it seem like everything’s okay. Then suddenly your palms are sweating, your voice starts shaking, and your nerves take over so much that you’re not even sure what you’re saying anymore. It’s embarrassing, but it’s not something we’re really in control of so we just have to live with it (though there are grounding techniques that can help).

9) You agree to things you don’t want to

Fear of confrontation is something lots of people struggle with, and it can be a particular challenge for shy introverts. It’s hard enough talking to people at all but when you have to contradict them it’s, like, 100 times more difficult. So you might end up agreeing to things you don’t want to or losing arguments that you should have won. It can get pretty frustrating at times. And if you avoid conflict too much, you might also have to deal with the added uncomfortableness of later trying to get out of something you agreed to when you were too shy to speak up.

10) You listen better than you speak

10 Struggles Only Shy Introverts Will Understand | LikeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

Listening is an underappreciated skill that shy people are often really good at. Just because social situations make us anxious doesn’t mean we’re not attuned to other people and their needs. Many of us are really good listeners and we’re often much more happy sitting back and listening than with taking a more active role in the conversation. We get so comfortable listening that it can be really jarring when someone encourages us to speak up more. In fact, the more someone draws attention to the fact that we’re not speaking “enough,” the less likely we are to want to say anything.


What are your experiences with living as a shy introvert? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Featured image credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

It’s Okay to Ask for Help with Your Anxiety

Have you ever thought that maybe you’re going through something that you can’t handle on your own, but something held you back from asking for help?

That’s a feeling quite a large number of people who struggle with anxiety (and I’m sure other mental health issues as well) can relate to. Maybe you don’t think it’s “bad enough” to bother with therapy, or you’re concerned that therapy won’t do you any good. Or maybe you’re worried about what other people will think of you if you seek help. Perhaps it’s a financial concern, or pressure from someone in your life, or something else entirely that’s telling you not to ask for help.

The stigma against talking about mental health issues is lessening, but it hasn’t gone away completely. Admitting we need help with something that’s going on inside our own heads is rarely easy. But there’s nothing wrong or weak in seeking help. Rather, it’s a choice of strength and self-care to seek out the help you need when you’re struggling with anxiety.

Waiting 10 years for treatment

While some of the things I’m going to say in this post might apply to other mental health issues, I’m going to focus on anxiety (and to a lesser extent depression) because that’s what I have direct experience with.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “fewer than 5% of people of with social anxiety disorder seek treatment in the year following initial onset and more than a third of people report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.” And even though anxiety disorders in general are considered highly treatable, “only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.” Read more

10 Confessions of a Socially Anxious Introvert

For introverts like me, learning about your personality is often a huge relief. We read books like Susan Cain’s Quiet, Marti Olsen Laney’s The Introvert Advantage, or Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power and we marvel that there are other people like us. We’re not alone anymore. All our weirdness finally makes sense.

Except, introversion didn’t explain everything about my personality. Those writing about introversion were careful to point out that it isn’t the same thing as shyness. I was shy, though, so how did I fit in? Learning from Elaine Aron’s books that I’m a highly sensitive person helped explain why certain environments and situations feel overwhelming, but it didn’t explain the racing heart, sweaty palms, and anxious thoughts that followed me into interactions with people.

I had my first panic attack in a Blockbuster when I was about 14 or 15 years old. That was when I realized there was something going on other than just shyness. Another 15 years later and I now know that I struggle with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and depression. I won’t get into all that here but if you’re curious you can click to read “My Anxiety Story.”

One of the good things that has come out of all this is that I can write about introversion, social anxiety, and what it means to have both. I can’t speak for everyone, though. Our personalities and anxieties are highly individual and if you’re socially anxious it’s going to be a different experience for you than it is for me. There are commonalities, however, and I think there’s a good chance you’ll identify with some of my confessions as a socially anxious introvert. Read more