Anxiety Survival Tips: The Wedding Edition

I’ve always heard that planning a wedding is one of the most stressful and exhausting processes a human can go through.  I’m here to say that is absolutely, 100% accurate.  But does it really have to be?

I find it incredibly irritating that wedding planning is so stressful because getting married is supposed to be the “happiest day of your life” and “all about the bride and groom”.  Even though that’s the truth, it still feels inherently false.  It feels like it’s not about the bride and groom at all; somehow a wedding morphs into this monstrous, expensive, and soul-sucking life force for everyone but you.

I get so mad when I go to weddings and see that everyone is having a good time except the bride and groom.  They’re running around putting out fires (literally and figuratively), they’re playing therapist to drunk wedding guests and/or bridal party members, and they end their night exhausted and starving after missing out on all the food that they paid for.

So why the hell would anyone have a wedding?

That was my feeling after getting engaged.  I was happy to go to city hall, elope to an island, or even have a teeny tiny ceremony with no more than 15 people.  But when you marry into a big, tight-knit Italian family, that is not an option.  Since part of getting married and maintaining a healthy relationship is compromise, I gave up my vision of the two of us saying our “I do’s” in bathing suits and agreed to a reasonable 160 max guest list.

There are now 60 days until my wedding, and the months since my engagement back in October have been quite the roller coaster.  Overall, I have to say that wedding planning has been an overall positive experience.  But even with the help of friends and family, the stress of planning and coordinating has the tendency to mask all the good and highlight the stressful.  Couple that with have anxiety disorder and you become a ball of fun for everyone around you ::queue sarcasm::.

Knowing that I’m prone to anxiety attacks and thinking that the sky is falling, my future husband and I have taken some precautions that have really helped.  I wanted to share them because even the coolest of brides will find herself at one point crying over something that does not matter AT ALL, like my ‘font size on the placement cards’ meltdown.

Exercise, exercise, EXERCISE!  

This isn’t just a #sweatingforthewedding thing, this will help keep you sane.  So when you get the inevitable “we won’t have those flowers in stock until 4 weeks after your wedding” email, you body is already prepared for you to take out your anger on a bike at SoulCycle.  Plus your butt will nice.  Win/win.

Meditation, yoga, and aromatherapy are your friends.  

This isn’t just a plug since I’m a yoga teacher (but do email me for private lessons), these are your weapons against stress and sleeplessness.  If you’re unfamiliar with any of these things, check out a beginner yoga class and ask your teacher about essential oils.  Most teachers should be able to answer your questions and the studio may even sell them at discounted rates.  As for meditation, Spotify and YouTube are fantastic resources for endless Om-ing.

Remember that people will surprise you in both positive and negative ways.  

Something about weddings brings out a lot of baggage someone may not even be aware they have.  Don’t let them dump it on you – now is not the time for you to play therapist for them.  Focus on the people who surprise you in a good way, and remember to thank them every step of the way.

Ask for help.  

If finding ceremony music or choosing a table setting is stressing you out, ask someone else to do it for you.  That’s what your wedding party is for, or your family if they’re not stressing you out.

Be selfish!!!  

This is one of the very few times in life that something is all about you!  Enjoy the time with your partner when together you pick what you want to have for dinner, what type of music you want played at the reception, and which wedding traditions you want to want to include or skip (you will pry my bouquet from my cold dead hands).

People remember feelings.  

You won’t remember what your napkins or table numbers looked like because those things don’t really matter. But you will remember dancing with your partner as newly weds vs. fighting with the caterer that the dipping sauce is too sweet.   Just like everyone will remember that your friend from college break-danced (with no ability to do so whatsoever) after the father/daughter dance, rather than the chicken that may or may not have been overcooked.

Focus on both of YOU – no one else.  

This is YOUR day. When it comes down to it, every single person who attends your wedding is there to celebrate the love that you and your partner share.  I keep thinking about the line in Wedding Crashers about why people go weddings because it’s the only reason that matters – people want to be in the presence of true love. That’s what a wedding is; it’s celebrating two people committing their lives to each other.  It’s not about the music, the centerpieces, or even the food and booze – it’s about two people in love.

Over the next 60 days, I have more little, annoying details to take care of then I’d care to acknowledge. But knowing that no matter what happens, even if everyone hated what we chose and dubbed it ‘the worst wedding ever’, I’ll still be married to the person who means absolutely everything to me makes all of the stress and anxiety slowly fade away.  Well, at least most of it 😉

Anxiety Survival Tips: Step by Step

Anxiety is word that gets thrown around a lot in our culture.  I’m not here to stand on a soapbox and tell you what “real” anxiety is because I can’t do that.  I know what my anxiety is but I don’t know your life, and I’m not going to stand here and tell you what it is vs. what it isn’t.  Instead, I’m here to tell you how I deal with it with the hope that my survival tips can help you too.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety or your feel stress from time to time, we can all agree that anxiety is annoying and something that go from inconvenient to crippling very quickly.  Recently, my anxiety has been through the roof.  Starting a new job, trying to finish up my yoga certification, planning a wedding, and just existing in New York City have my nerves all sorts of screwed up.  It’s so out of control that I get anxious just trying to decide what to each for lunch, which can lead to me hiding in the bathroom contemplating if I can scale down my building to run down the street screaming.  

Needless to say, it sucks and I’m not about it.

I have a plethora of coping skills thanks you years of therapy, but when my anxiety reaches new levels it can become impossible to implement them into my life.  My beloved yoga mat goes unused, my essential oils never seem to make into my work bag, and crying in the bathroom gets really old really fast.  So what have I been doing to maintain any semblance of sanity?

I write down or think about every single step I’m going to take.

That might sound excruciatingly tedious and annoying by I swear to Mama Rupaul that it works.  So here’s what I do:

When I’m sitting at my desk, walking through my office, or even sitting on my couch I think about all the steps I need to take.  Not all the things I need to do – the physical steps I’m going to take.  For example, here’s what I’ve been writing down today:

  • At 5pm I’m going to close my laptop and put it in my purse.  Then I’ll put my headphones on and turn my music on.  
  • I’ll walk out of the office and go to stairwell because I don’t want to be near other people in an elevator or god forbid get stuck one.  I’ll walk down six flights of stairs and admire the old architecture of the building.  
  • Once I get to the bottom I’ll go through the door, not the revolving door because they make me anxious, and turn right.
  • Once I get to 6th Ave I’ll turn right and then right again at 19th St.  SoulCycle is half way down the block.

Today I needed more of a distraction from my thoughts so I got pretty specific.  Other days, it looks more like this:

  • I’ll leave my office at 5pm and walk towards 6th Ave.  I’ll turn right at 19th St. and walk to SoulCycle.
  • Once I get to SoulCycle I’ll get changed and go to my bike. After class I’ll walk to 23rd St. and take the subway from there.
  • After I get home, I’ll shower and order sushi as a reward for making it through the day.

Different approaches, similar results.  Sometimes I do a combination of these tactics and get really specific and include things I’ll see on the way to know I’m getting closer to my destination.  I vary it based on the way I feel because there is no right or wrong way to do it.

 

When even this is too much and feel too stressful, I’ll repeat a mantra over and over.  A mantra is a word, sound, or phrases repeated to aid concentration in meditation, but you can use them all the time.  Most of the times I use mantras in sanskrit that I learned through my yoga practice.  Other times I repeat simple phrases like “you’re ok”, “you’re safe”, or “I can”.  There’s something soothing and meditative about the repetition, even if you’re walking down 5th Avenue during rush hour.

 

Give it a try and post your favorite mantras in the comments, I’d love to read them!

Note to Self: Proofread

Today was hard.  Not just because I may somehow still be hungover after my bachelorette weekend and my body has forgotten how to sleep, but because of something I never ever thought would happen to me.

The short story is: I used a text generator at work that posted controversial text on a company site.  It’s a generator I’ve used many times without a problem, but this time it was filled with offensive language I thought I had removed.  In no way, shape, or form did I intend to upset anyone. Buuuuuuttttt that’s not what happened.

After it was brought to my attention that the text (a quote from an actor in Pulp Fiction) was offensive, I immediately took it down.  Once I was told that I had REALLY pissed someone off, I sent out an apology email.  I felt kind of like a celebrity who has to apologize on twitter when their boob pops out because it was an honest mistake.  But then I learned that it wasn’t clear that I had used a movie quote; I was accused of being culturally insensitive.

That’s a really serious accusation to throw at someone in such sensitive times, especially someone who bleeds rainbow and dreams of running a yoga studio/home for guinea pigs.  Does that sound like someone who uses offensive slurs in a technical document?  I certainly don’t think so.

It was one thing to have to send out an embarrassing apology email to an entire department, but to think that people considered that I could actually write something like that?  It was an honest mistake and it’s a known fact that I’m a terrible proofreader.  I was both bewildered and devastated.  I try to spread love, not hate.  I’m a freaking yoga teacher for pete’s sake!

It seemed like such a simple accident that blew up like an accidental fat-shaming Instagram comment.  I felt sad, humiliated, and misunderstood, like that time I didn’t realize the shirt I had worn to work was completely see-through.  Fortunately, I had plans to have lunch with my dad so I was able to remove myself from the situation (and pout in the stairwell).  I had packed my laptop in my bag, fully prepared to message my boss and tell him I needed to work from home the rest of the day, but after talking to my dad (a seasoned tech vet) I started to feel better.

I realized that just because someone accuses you of being something you’re not, doesn’t make it true.  I know in my heart that the offense I caused was an honest mistake, and hiding from it wouldn’t make me feel any better.  In these situations, the best thing we can do is admit we made a mistake and keep our head held high.  Sitting at home stewing in my shame would only make the situation bigger and worse than it ever needed to be.

After lunch, I walked back into my office with my head held high and smiled (as I always do) at the people I passed on my way to my desk.  When I open my laptop I found a message from my boss telling me not to worry and that everyone understood that it was an honest mistake.

When life throws you into awkward situations or you make mistakes – don’t hide from them, face them.  I often want to hide from my troubles but it never makes them go away.  Today I feel proud of myself for not running away from this because it showed my coworkers, and myself, that I’m human and I can handle making mistakes.

Self high-five!

Live Without Pretending

A lovely friend posted a quote on Facebook today that said “Live without pretending, love without depending, listen without defending, speak without offending.”

After I read it it, I sat with it for a few moments to let the words digest and sink in.  The line that keeps replaying in my mind over and over like a broken record is ‘live without pretending’.

We all pretend, well at least most of us do, in various aspects of our lives.  Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we pretend we like where we live or that we actually enjoy eating healthy.  We pretend we like getting up early to go to the gym or that we enjoy the conversation we have with our coworkers as we prepare our third cup of crappy coffee.  We pretend and pretend and pretend to the point where we forget we’re pretending.  We start accepting our boss who never listens to our suggestions or our partner who never listens to anything.  We accept these things that are less than ideal because that’s part of being an adult; accepting.

Or is it?

Every time I read an article about someone who opened their own yoga studio in Aruba, or is backpacking through Greece as they write their second novel, or eloped to escape the pressures and expectations of family, I always think to myself “how the f*ck did they do that and why haven’t I figured out how to?”

From what I’ve read, combined with my perception of human behavior and just a hint of my BA in sociology, I believe that there are certain people on this planet who have the ability to look at what everyone is doing and say “nah, not for me.”  I wish I could tell you what it is within them that gives them this ability to escape the monotony of all the crap the rest of us are able to accept and pretend is what we want, but I’m still trying to figure that out too.

A lot of people are ok with pretending.  They don’t have a bad life and they don’t have a great life, they just have a life.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s pretty damn good to have a life.  Not everyone is so luck to be able to complain that the worst parts of their days are commuting, annoying coworkers, and humidity.  But what about those other people, the ones who broke the mold by not accepting or pretending?

I want to be one of those people.  I believe I am one of those people.

But I’m stuck because I keep pretending.

I’m very luck to work for the company that I do.  I know that.  But I also know that this, what I sit here day in and day out doing, is not what I want to spend my life doing.  I’ve changed jobs more often than most people change their water filters, and it’s because I can pretend that I’m content, but only for so long.  I’ve gotten quite good at pretending I want things that deep down I know I don’t.  I do this because it’s what I’ve taught myself to do.  Accept what people tell you to do.  Accept their definitions of “success” as your own.  Accept that maybe you’re not good enough to get what you really want.

That last one is the one I’m struggling with.  Because you see, as I sit here in a situation I’m sure others dream about, I’ve realized that the reason I change jobs and the reason I can’t accept my situation is because I’m pretending I’m pursuing my passion.  I left similar jobs because I kept thinking that I would find a different experience and feeling from another company.  I was doing the exact same thing over and over again expecting to get different results, and that my friends is the definition of insanity.

So, now that I’ve figured out the problem it’s time to figure out the solution.  Unfortunately I can’t share that with you now because I don’t know what it is.  But stay tuned, because I intend to figure it out and when I do I’ll be sure to share it with you.  Until then, expect a lot more writing coming from this blog because I’m sure as hell going to share everything I learn along the way.

xoxo TBC

Get On The Bus

I have my favorite quote by my favorite writer (Hunter S. Thompson) tattooed on the left side of my body.

It says “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Those familiar with his writing will most likely recognize it as this line appears fairly frequently in his work. He uses it whenever it’s time to take initiative and go for something, which is usually some highly illegal in his case.

I’m not a political journalist or an ether enthusiast, but I love this quote because to me it means take control. These words are close to my heart, both figuratively and literally, and serve as a reminder that I have the ability to take charge, take a chance, and take the ride.

As simple as this quote is, my darling mother could not remember it for the life of her. She would frequently ask me what my tattoo said and then quickly go back to forgetting. One day she said, “What’s your quote again? You know, your tattoo…Get on the bus?”

Yes mom, I have ‘get on the bus’ tattooed on me.  But I have to admit it was fairly close.  It gave both of us quite a laugh and it’s still something we’ll say to each other to lighten up a “what am I doing with my life?” crisis.

As my beloved yoga teacher training beings to come to an end, I’ve been reflecting a lot on all of the different things I’ve learned about myself, yoga, and life, as well as all the questions that have come up during the past few months. I couldn’t have asked to do this training at a better with time with all that’s been going on in my life and, you know, the world falling apart.

I stopped reading and watching the news after it was named President, but it’s not just him. It’s the suffering in Syria, the corporate greed that caused physical violence on a domestic flight, the endless shootings, the crippling fear that we’re on the brink of WWIII…

Yikes.

Did your blood pressure just spike too? Sorry about that. My point is that I could go down that rabbit hole, I could only see the horror and feel completely hopeless because I know I can’t directly make an impact on any of these atrocities. I could choose to ignore everything going on around me and bury my head in the metaphorical sand like an ostrich (if you didn’t know that’s legit their defense mechanism — you’re welcome for the fun fact you can bring up at dinner parties). But that doesn’t seem like a great idea either. Plus I’d have to become a hermit to fully carry it out because people talk about just as much as we post about it online. But that’s not a bad thing, people definitely need to vent. What’s bad is getting so caught up in everything that it takes away from your ability to function or be around certain people, especially those who disagree with you. So now what?

There’s a third option — you can let it go.

I know, easier said than done, but it’s really the only option that gives you the only thing we really need to remember that we do have control; freedom. When you can accept something for what it is and without assigning it a judgement or label, you can let it go. And that’s really the only way we ever be really free. It’s something that I aspire do to as second nature because right now it’s pretty damn hard.  When people support things that make my skin crawl, I feel like my head it going to explode.  But then I realize that my head exploding only hurts me.

I’ve noticed that when I’m able to let go of hurt, anger, or frustration, it feels like one of the giant elephants sitting on my chest got up and wandered away. Then I can breathe a little better and work on getting the next elephant off me.

If you feel hopeless or powerless, remember that you can control how you feel – or least you can try your damn hardest.  So get on the bus, and live your life.

What it All Comes Down to is Everything is Gonna be Just Fine

I saw my psychiatrist a few weeks ago so he could tweak my meds. I was feeling more depressed than “normal” and having the most fucked up dreams, so I figured I’d ask a professional. Vivid nightmares is a common side effect of my SSRI, so that with the extra 15 lbs that mysteriously added to my body convinced me it was time to get off and just stick with lithium. But my lithium levels were WAY too low so we had to up that dosage and now have to wait to see if it’s all good before we can wean me off.

I hate not having control over what goes into my body. Giggity.

Aside from the meds, I’ve been so consumed in my yoga teacher training program that sometimes I even forget I have a mental illness. That’s right — I’m on the path to becoming a REAL yoga teacher. It feels like I finally found my calling.

Yoga makes me feel so fucking good. It feels like my mind, body, and soul are being massaged by God, or the Divine, or whatever you want to call that energy force we can’t quite explain. It’s the ultimate mind/body experience and I’ve been devouring everything I’ve been learning about reiki, chanting, mantra, Sanskrit, the Hindu deities, and everything in between.

It’s brought a sense of purpose to my life that I’ve been hopelessly searching for. I can’t even describe the feeling of working with someone in a restorative pose; it’s magical. Being able to assist people in a “real” class while watching seasoned, dedicated instructors work makes me feel so happy, peaceful, and alive.

It makes me feel like I have a real ability to help people. You can feel when someone needs to be touched and when they need positive energy. It’s truly amazing.

You can think I’m a crazy hippie or whatever, but I believe in this and it gives me a sense of being and purpose that I’ve never felt before. It allows me to help others and it also allows me to help myself.

When I’m in the yoga studio, I’m not bipolar, I’m not someone who hates their job, I’m not someone with the insecurities that plague most of us; I’m just me. I’m me in my rawest form…and it’s amazing. When I sit on my mat during our closing meditation I feel like all of the labels that have been plastered on me by society and by myself slowly peel away. Every time I practice is a new start.

On Friday evenings we have a class where we discuss our readings and really anything else that comes to our minds. The other week mental illness came up and I felt like the wind got knocked out of me. It was like all the feelings and resentment I hold about having bipolar disorder came flooding back. Because as much I want to be free flowing, positive, and free spirited, I still have bipolar disorder and sometimes it gets in the way.

There are days when I want to get up and start the day with a sun salutation and meditation, but I end up spending the whole day in bed because I’m too depressed to get up. It makes me feel like like I’ve failed my yogi self and that I can’t truly be what and who I want because of bipolar disorder.

But that’s not true. Bipolar disorder is just a work around — sometimes I won’t feel like it’s there and other times it will make it’s presence very known. And that’s ok. It’s ok to have good days and bad days, you just have to remember that having a bad day doesn’t mean you’re letting yourself or others down and that you’re still you.

As long as you have faith in yourself and keep trying, everything will be just fine.

Yoga Is Not Just For Pretty People

A few weeks ago I went to a free info session about becoming a yoga teacher.  Unfulfilled and frustrated with my current career (this statement is reason #234234 I’m not friends with my boss on Facebook), I decided to explore some other options.

I decided to look into becoming a yoga teacher because I thought it would be a good career for someone who tries to lead a life in a ball of positive energy…and is completely intolerant to any sort of stress or anxiety.  I found a few programs that cost about as much as a semester at my college, but I decided I should check it out anyway.  If it could help lead to a new career then it might be worth the enormous check they would have to pry from my hands, so off I went to a studio in SoHo.

I changed at work since I wasn’t sure what the bathroom situation would be like, which proved to be a horrendous mistake because the yoga pants I brought were now two sizes too small.  The entire train ride I had to keep pulling at my crotch and readjusting to ward of the back rolls that had magically appeared.  Safe to say I got a few awkward looks on the train.  Although that’s not really new since I usually keep my sunglasses on which makes me look like a drug addict or douche.  Or both.

As I walked up the the stairs to the studio I thought, “God I hope this class isn’t full of anorexic ballerinas,” and opened the door to find what? AN ANOREXIC BALLERINA.  Who also happened to be one of the instructors.  And French.

Super.

I wanted to sit in the front to show the instructors that I was very serious about my practice and becoming a teacher, but a very gay man doing a full split and a girl wearing just a sports bra and no body fat had already beat me there.  I awkwardly wedged my mat to the side while I tried to avoid getting kicked in the head by the elastic man practicing his splits.  All I could think of was, “where do the balls go?”

The instructors introduced themselves and then asked if anyone had any injuries.   I suffer from back problems, or ‘grandma back’ as I like to say (which the instructor did not find funny), so I raised my hand.  The french toothpick came over and instead of me just saying, “bad back” and smiling, she asked me more questions than my physical therapist does.  None of my answers seemed to please her and she avoided me for the rest of the class.

During the class I could feel her death stare on me when I struggled to get into a pose, which was caused by me fidgeting with my pants while trying to balance.  The glares combined with my newly formed FUPA was making me anxious, as was the fact that I was WAY to close to the wall and kept punching it, so when I tried to take a deep breath and relax my body decided this was an excellent time to fuck with me and…I farted.

Worst of all, I laughed at myself.  I was the only person who laughed.  Because clearly I was the only one who was not an adult.

The other instructor came over, humiliated for both of us, and asked me to move my mat back since I was too close to the wall.  Back of the room for me.

The rest of the class was basically me trying to relax and get the most of the experience with the instructors glaring at me or trying to adjust me. Normally I’m fine with they adjust me.  But this instructor was a ninja and would come out of no where, which scared the shit out of me and make me yelp and fall over.

This happened at least 6 times.  It was awkward for everyone.

So, that happened.  At first I thought I had made a huge mistake going and wasted my time, but then I realized that this experience made we want to be an instructor even more.

Yogis have this image of being skinny, beautiful, and inhumanly flexible – but that’s not real.  The reality is that some yogis are like that but most are not.  I’ve been too intimidated to go to classes before because the students and the instructor seemed insanely perfect.  But I want to teach people that it’s ok not to be perfect.  Yoga is an incredible way to get in touch with your spirit and your body – no matter what they look or feel like.  Yoga is about your individual practice and deepening your connection with the earth and the energy that surrounds it.

I want to be a yoga teacher because I want to give people the time, place, and guidance they need to do all of that.  That’s what yoga is to me.  Not some blonde barbie doll wearing Lululemon leggings and judging me for a having greasy hair (it was an off day bitch, leave me alone).

Yoga is a wonderful gift to give to yourself and to others, and I strongly encourage you all to try it.  Especially when I become an instructor.

So that yoga studio was not the one for me.  But that’s ok – I found another one.  An affordable one.  In Queens.

Suck it Manhattan.