Hi there my beautiful lovelies! Hope you all are doing well and staying safe. The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed me to reflect on my life and helped me to become more grounded. However, I have not been like this all my life. It took some long self-reflection and perspective change to bring me to this point. Today, I will share with about the little demon inside of me and how I finally defeated it.
If you remember, I have always mentioned my struggle with anxiety without elaborating much on the topic. However, thanks to your support I have now learned to finally stare straight at the demon and move on. I have been fighting with anxiety since I can remember; whether worrying about the worst possible outcome each time my parents went out and was running late; or having panic attacks before every midterms and finals. However, I couldn’t talk to anyone about my feeling because I grew up in a culture where mental health is a stigma. In that culture you are either insane or sane, and there are no grey areas. I was always told that I was in control of my mind and there was no such thing as depression or anxiety because we can just control them at our wills and those only exist because doctors can make money.
With such beliefs being pushed around me, I always felt trapped inside. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest all the time. I could not breath. Since I could remember, I was always very skinny and prone to sickness, and was a complete introvert. It was a big struggle for me to open up to people. Little that I knew at that time that my constant sickness was a manifestation of my mental health issues, which has increased my cortisol level. As a kid, I always spent my days in my own world, afraid of self-expression and opening up. I wanted to be and made myself invisible.
In high school, I made friends but there has always been a part of me who kept to herself and kept everything bottled up. I could not figure out why I was so prone to panic attacks. I always thought of myself as a fizzy drink inside a tightly closed bottle, which has been shaken to the point that it will burst out at any moment. I was a prisoner inside my own self.
My dear lovelies! I grew up with the thinking that everything wrong within me was my own fault. I was too stupid and cowardly to conquer whatever was going on inside. I was trapped and was going through a period of learned helplessness, unable to find a way out and feeling trapped in my misery. It was not until my twenties when I realized how trapped I was. It was during that time, I found my answer. I was in clinical research and found out about this study helping healthcare workers, such as nurses and clinical staffs to deal with stress.
My boss was the principle investigator and asked me to join the class without enrolling as a participant. I couldn’t officially join the study, since it would been a conflict of interest and investigator bias. I just attended class every morning. It was during one of those classes that I realized how much trapped I really was inside. During one of the sessions, we were told to close our eyes, do some guided meditations, and then let our hand draw whatever it wants with our eyes closed and mind open. Consequently, that exercise opened up our right side of the brain, the more free and creative side. To be honest, I didn’t realized before this, how much I have imprisoned my right brain. We as our rational self always tend to use our left brain, which is responsible for logic, and rationality.
My dear lovelies! It is thought that people prefer one type of thinking over the other. For example, a person who is “left-brained” is thought to be more logical, analytical, and objective. A person who is “right-brained” is said to be more intuitive, creative, emotional, thoughtful, and subjective. My upbringing and childhood made me a complete left-brained person. It was during that guided session that I was able to bring out my right-brain from hiding. What my drawing that day showed me was eye-opening and it changed the trajectory of my life. When I opened my eyes, I saw a drawing of a girl wearing straitjackets – unable to free herself and fly. The girl had her mouth stitched shut, her eyes shut closed and she was inside a cage. When I was told to talk about my painting, I became very emotional and couldn’t stop but cry. It was the group support I received that day that opened me to a new possibility.
It was for the first time I realized that what I was going through doesn’t need to be locked up inside. I could for the first start looking at it from a nonjudgmental way through the support of my peers. I was ready to begin my journey towards mindful living. Even though those sessions taught me to become more aware of myself, there was still a part of me who wanted to be locked out. The reasoning behind this was my long term belief that change is bad and hard, and keeping myself locked up would protect me from the harsh world. It was five to six more years before I learned to be nonjudgmental. What changed at that time was my six weeks of mindfulness meditation course. I signed up for the course because I wanted to help out sick patients and their families. Little that I knew that it will help me so much instead.
What I have learned during those six weeks freed me completely. I learned to use my right brain more often and be present more in the moment. I started to enjoy not only my climbs but the who journey towards that climb. I was more appreciative of myself. Before, every hard conversation, I learned to take a deep breath to center myself. My heart started to feel lighter. I was more aware of myself, and I started to respect the person I saw in the mirror.
My dear lovelies! My life has not been always a smooth sailing since the six week course. I became caught up in life. The loss of several of my loved ones to cancer made me more anxious. I started to feel trapped again. I became, irritable, and moody. It was hard for my family to have nice conversation with me. I was slowly drifting away into the sea of misery and anxiety. I became more hopeless and judgmental about myself. I was no longer happy with the person I saw in the mirror. I started to lose everything. It was during that time I have started to take out my frustration through shopping, and before I knew it, I have racked up a hefty credit card balance, it was at that time my mom sat me down and told me to get some help. My sister was very open and supportive. It was their supports that allowed me to get some help. It was 3 years ago, when I decided to see a counselor and then go on FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) just to reflect on my life. It was then I decided to take the next step in my life, I left my work, where I worked for over 10 years. I was not happy with the person that I was becoming while I was in my third position in that company during that time. I started a new position outside for the first time in 10 plus years.
My lovelies! I cannot emphasize the value of support when it comes to dealing with anxiety and depression. It was in new position, where I found so much nurturing and support from my team. Before, I knew it, I gained 20 pounds in weight, and was trying to loose some in the process. It took a year more before I felt like myself again.
It was not until last year when I started to become overpowered by the demon again. Last year, I started a new job and was having a hard time to adjust. Before I could begin to settle down both my parents and I were in horrible car accidents weeks apart. I ended up taking a short-term disability as I recovered. I was also put on anti-anxiety medication. My beautiful lovelies, before I knew it, we were bombarded by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the same time, my mom became extremely sick with lingering pneumonia, and worsening lung damage. I was devastated-. However, I knew what to do, my daily deep breathing and became more aware of myself.
You see my lovelies! My journey with generalized anxiety syndrome has been a long one with lots of ups and downs, but it has taught me how transient life is. What the unpredictability of the current situation taught me is that life is too short to worry about every small thing in life. If we get too caught up with what could have been and could be, we will miss out on what is out there. My journey has taught me to take a deep breath every now and then and take in the good surrounding me. I paint more and meditate. Even though I am more sleepless than ever but I am not tired. I am aware of my surroundings. I am learning every day. I may not have complete control of stress and anxiety, but at least I know to stop and tell myself “relax a little”.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I had writing it. My dear lovelies! Believe it or not, it is your support and my family and friends that have kept me going. Now that I am back to blogging regularly, I can pour myself in the process. My family and you keep me grounded. If I have not said this before, I am saying it now, “Thank you my beautiful lovelies. Thank you for your constant support”. I would love to hear from you and what, if any, mental health symptoms have you experienced and you are dealing/dealt with it.
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“By going with what’s happening rather than expending energy fighting or turning away from it, you create the opportunity to gain insight into what’s driving your concerns”.
Fizzy Drinks: I remember how much I used to love soda and even when I was just 90 lbs, how my stomach will swell up after drinking any fizzy drinks. According to Go With Your Gut author and nutritional eating coach Robyn Youkilis, any carbonated drink (yes, even sparking water) can cause bloating. The fizzing bubbles in carbonated drinks are actually gas, which can get trapped in your stomach and make you feel like you’ve been pumped with helium. That’s why I have eliminated fizzy drinks from my diet, and yes I have one less culprit to my extreme bloating.
Diet: There are several diets that can cause stomach bloating. Avoiding, or even eliminating those food can be really helpful in alleviating painful stomach bloating that making it harder for you to zip up those favorite jeans for the evening party. We’re talking about the temporary abdominal distention that plagues most everyone from time to time. Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrinologist and obesity researcher at Mayo Clinic, says:
“It is a myth that bloating in the stomach is from fluid accumulation in healthy adults, because the abdomen is not a place where fluids accumulate first. Instead, you would see it in your feet or ankles as long as you are upright.”
To avoid this, eat a diet high in fiber (25 grams per day for women and 38 for men) from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Also, drink plenty of fluids (aim for 6-8 glasses a day). I myself try to avoid cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflowers, cabbage, and broccoli to avoid bloating.
Lack of exercise: Aim for physical activity for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. This is where I have failed each time. As I am mentioned before, due to my chronic pain and recent accidents, many exercises are too much for me. Each time I tried doing Pilates, and plank exercise I have broken my metatarsal bones. Let just say, I am not restricted to only low impact exercise. However, thanks to a recent video that I found online, I am beginning to challenge myself to exercise more. Stay tuned to learn more about the challenge and my journey.
Eating to quickly: Eating fast not only increases your risk of becoming overweight and obese, it’s also linked to other health problems, including: Insulin resistance. Eating too quickly is linked to a higher risk of insulin resistance, which is characterized by high blood sugar and insulin levels. It can also lead to build up of sodium in your body, which in turn lead to water retention in your body and increased bloating. Stay tuned for my mindfulness mediation post where I will discuss more about mindful eating. So slow down and enjoy your food. Your meals should last at least 30 minutes. Also, keep in mind that digestion begins in the mouth and you can decrease bloating just by chewing your food more. I am making it a habit of chewing my food 15 to 20 times before swallowing. Yes my lovelies, I have taken this from the book of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.
Dysbiosis: It is a term for a microbial imbalance or maladaptation on or inside the body,such as an impaired microbiota. Dysbiosis may be caused by such diverse things as antibiotic or mold exposure, alcohol misuse, or inappropriate diet. Disruptions in the microbiome can allow outside factors or even pathogenic members of the microbiome to take hold in the gut environment. Dysbiosis has been reported to be associated with illnesses, such as multiple chemical sensitivity, periodontal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, cancer, bacterial vaginosis, and colitis. Probiotics such as in supplement and in greek yogurts, kimchi, and kaffir to balance this microbiome and improve your gut health.
IBS: Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Signs and symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. I more one has been diagnosed with IBS long time ago by my Gastroenterologist. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term. Many people have worse IBS symptoms when they eat or drink certain foods or beverages, including wheat, dairy products, citrus fruits, beans, cabbage, milk and carbonated drinks. Stress can also trigger IBS symptoms. Again, stay tuned for my post on stress reduction tips.
Food Intolerance: Several food intolerance can cause heavy gas and bloating. In tolerance to wheat, lactose, and even sucrose can play a big role. I suggest keep a food diary and start with a Low FOBMAP diet (Stay tuned for the post) and add one food at a time after 6 weeks on the diet. Keep track of what foods are causing symptoms. This will sure to rout out the culprit(s).
My dear lovelies! Hope this post helps you start your journey towards the a flatter stomach. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow and find out more about my stress reduction journey, where I will share with you a special video.
Hope you enjoyed my post as much I enjoyed writing it. What symptoms of swollen belly has you suffered from? What worked for you and what didn’t?
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