13. Gossiping at Work

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This week, I ended up having lunch with some coworkers that I have known for a few years. I mean, we are not close friends or anything, but we have gotten to know each other over the years. I know how many kids they have, what they like to eat, and their personalities. However, it is only when you get to talk to them privately that your learn about their truer self. So I was sitting with them having lunch and chatting and they started talking about other coworkers. They were complaining about how one coworker always got her way. I sat there just listening and thinking about how I felt about people who gossiped about others at work. Does it make me think less of them as a coworker? Are they trustworthy? Are they just venting? Is it alright if it is not malicious gossip?

I try to not to gossip at work because I feel that it disrupts harmony in the workplace. However, my husband will tell me that I am living in a cloud because gossip runs a workplace. I guess, we are all human, and we can’t help gossiping sometimes. Perhaps, it is not gossip sometimes, maybe we are just logically dissecting a situation with zero emotions involved. Yeah, right? I know. The reason I am so into this topic is because I can’t figure out why I like people less if they gossip a lot at work. Maybe it is because I don’t like the thought of people spreading rumours behind someone’s back. I figure if you really have beef with someone, you should just talk to them. Obviously, I understand that is easier said than done. Plus, there are obvious benefits to gossiping like figuring out which people are more similar to you, and staying in the loop with work coming and goings.

I think ultimately how much someone gossips lets you understand them a little better. Maybe they gossip negatively about others to make themselves feel better. I have no idea what their background is to just simply judge them base on this one action. For whatever reason, instead of thinking of them negatively, maybe I should l think it allows me to understand what makes tick, what they expect from a coworker, and how they choose to operate as a person. Most importantly, it always better to be kind then right.

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12. Relationships and Anxiety

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After writing last week’s post about how others deal with my anxiety, it got me thinking about how I deal with others after being diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Most relationships will change and evolve as we age. However, I find that as someone with anxiety, these relationship changes can become accelerated because you really get to see someone’s “true colours” when you fall ill. You also get to fully understand how deep that relationship really is. Who are the people that come to visit you at the hospital? Who will be there no matter what? Who do you feel comfortable talking to about your mental illness?

I remember when I was really sick at the hospital, the thought of having to deal with people was the last thing on my mind. However, I knew I couldn’t just disappear off the face of the earth without any sort of explanation. So I dealt with it the best I could at that time. Now that I am feeling better, I can look back at it all and reflect on how that hospital stay was a catalyst for a slight shift in all my relationships. It added another dimension and layer to my understanding of that person and how I will interact with them in the future.

For example, my parent’s way of dealing with my anxiety was to feed me and take care of my necessities. They were not that interested in hearing about all my thoughts and feelings or the nitty-gritty details about my mental illness. At first, I felt a bit of resentment about that, but now I understand that is their way if dealing with it the best way they knew how. We can’t expect everyone to cater to our expectations of them because that would be unrealistic and unfair and take away what is unique about them. Every relationship in our life fulfills us, teaches us something, and helps us grow. I have learned to appreciate that over the years.

11. Am I That Fragile?

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Since mental illness is considered a chronic condition, there is no cure. Treatment is all about managing the symptoms and creating a sense of balance. It is different for everyone but treatment could include exercise, medication, talk therapy and even blogging. For me, I find that balance can be quite difficult to achieve because it is dependent on so many factors, like if I have eaten well that day or if I had a super busy day at work. It is definitely a challenge I face everyday.

One factor that I find really difficult to deal with is how others react to me. As someone with anxiety, I find I will often be worried about what others think of me. Even though I feel more comfortable around family members, I find that because my family is important to me, their comments affect me even more. My uncle and me have always had an up and down relationship. After an argument many years back where he was very frank about some of my choices in my life, we kind of stopped talking authentically to each other. We tended to hover around topics that would be considered small talk. We even avoided spending one-and-one time each other as much as possible. Lately, I found out that he avoided travelling to come visit me because he felt he would stress me out. My family members reassured me it was probably not me causing this issue, his own anxiety probably prevented him for travelling, but it got me thinking. Should I be avoiding people that make me anxious or confront them?

I must admit I talk about my anxiety so that others can understand my illness. It relieves me the stress of having to hide it and having to explain anxiety-induced behaviours. I also discuss what others can do and say to help my anxiety. Basically, I teach others how to deal with me and my illness. Ironically though, I also feel insulted when people feel like they have to walk on eggshells when they are around me. It makes me feel useless and even more fragile. I want to tell them that I actually can handle some stress and that with treatment, I am able to live a relatively healthy life. To find balance between these two streams of thought isn’t easy for me sometimes. On one hand, I want people to understand me, but on the other hand, I don’t wanted to be treated like a fragile creature. How do you find the balance?

10. Shared Perspectives

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This week, I was thinking about how much blogging has helped me. Other than being a place where I can express my thoughts and worries, I have also felt less alone reading and connecting with others who also have mental illness on this platform. Recently, I just read Fractured Faith Blog’s post entitled, “Swallow Your Pride. Swallow The Pill.” It made me think about how similar many mental illness patient’s journeys can be. I had actually written a similar post entitled, “Sometimes it Truly is a Bitter Pill to Swallow” just a few months ago. Even though our journeys might not be identical, but the general trajectory may be similar and there might be certain experiences that feel exactly the same. By reading and commenting on each other posts, we can all help each other in our recovery. We feel less alone, find new perspectives, and support each other. Even though social media and the Internet can often be portrayed in a negative light, it can also be a powerful place, and a positive one at that.

So what did I come away with after reading Fractured Faith’s blogpost? I think the one overriding thought I connected to was his discussion about using medication as a crutch. My thoughts about medication have truly evolved over the years. Initially, I couldn’t wait to get off medication. At that time, I thought that if I could get off medication, I would consider myself healed. I guess, it was also my drive for perfection that made me want to quit. This is a character trait that many people with anxiety disorders seem to have to deal with. After several episodes of depression though, I have realized that medication can be crutch, but it can also be a tool to manage my anxiety and depression. Today, I no longer beg my doctor to taper me off my medication. Instead, I understand that it can be a part of my treatment plan which allows me to live a relatively healthy life. If you look up the word “healthy” in a dictionary, it doesn’t only mean physical health, but also mental health. Everyone has the right to attain a healthy life and you should not be ashamed to take medication if it makes you healthier.

9. Vacation Anxiety: How I Deal With It?

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I was initially going to write this post before I left on my vacation, but you probably guessed, I got anxious just thinking about this topic. I used to not be able to sleep for days before a trip due to anxiety. I do enjoy travelling, but I hated the anxiety that came with it. My sister and I were talking about how it would be great to just snap our fingers and end up somewhere else in the world. It would be great not to be anxious about forgetting to pack my passport or more important, my anxiety medication. Furthermore, I find sitting for hours on a plane with my own thoughts very anxiety-inducing. I try to distract myself with reading magazines and watching videos, but not being able to walk around freely and do whatever I want felt very restricting. So what has helped me battle travel anxiety?

Plan, But Don’t Over Plan

As someone with anxiety, I tend to over plan many things. For example, if I have an oral presentation, even if it is a few lines, I will practice it hundreds of times. Instead of writing notes, I will also write down every word I will say on an index card, so that I won’t make a mistake. Of course, I think if you are travelling to a new place, it is nice to have a general idea of places you want to go and learn how to roughly use their transportation systems. However, I find if I over plan, I get even more anxious. It makes me feel like I have this schedule that I have to follow and that there isn’t any wriggle room for maybe days I just feel a bit overwhelmed and want to take a break. I find that having a more flexible plan also allows me to condition myself and practice dealing with random and sudden situations during my vacation.

Go With Someone Who Understands Your Mental Illness

Hiding my mental illness is one of the most difficult, if not shameful things, I have had to do over the years. More often than not, there is no choice but to tell someone after a while.  I think this will happen especially during a trip because going to a new place will inevitably elevate a person’s anxiety. It may seem like a crutch to depend on someone who knows how to deal with your anxiety on a trip. However, I just don’t find going on a trip to be the best place to test the limits of how you deal with your anxiety. I would like to think going on a vacation should be a fun experience. I went on this trip with my sister and I felt so much more relaxed because I knew I could tell her when I was having a bit of anxiety and what I needed.

Attempt to Go With the Flow

I know, I know. This is way easier said then done. However, going on a trip is the best time to practice this a little bit. Even if you booked everything and planned out all your travel routes, everyone gets lost on trips and things never quite completely turn out as you planned. I think it is better to go into a trip with the mentality that things will not always go according to plan. Of course, this will not always work. Yet, I find that if I go in expecting uncertainly then when it happens, I find I am more prepared to deal with it. Moreover, it is good to have game plan prepared for dealing with this uncertainty. That way, you can pull it out and run through it when you need to. For me, I usually tell myself to just stop and take a breath and then try to breakdown the options.

What are your tips for travelling with an anxiety disorder?

8. What is a Fulfilling Life?

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Personally, I find the whole concept of living each day to the fullness super stressful. First of all, what does that mean? For an logical overachiever like me, most of the time I am just confused about how to excel at this concept. Does it mean you have to be happy every second of the day? Does it mean you have to find some joy in each day? What if it is just a mundane and boring day, am I still living my “best life?” Maybe it is like a math equation. Fulfillment is calculated, not by the average happiness of the day, but by the overall average of happiness in the year.

Let’s face it. Even in a job that you enjoy, there is no way that you can find it fulfilling everyday. I find that the five day work week can get super monotonous. You get up at the same time, you brush your teeth, and then try to rush out the door to make it to work on time. I mean, there are some jobs where there is more variety. In my case, I wouldn’t say my job is like the movie, Groundhog Day, where everyday just repeats itself. However, there is still a sense of routine in my line of work. There will be tasks that I deal with everyday even though it might be with different people and situations.

For someone with anxiety, routine is extremely helpful for me. However, do I find it always fulfilling? Not necessarily. I really love most aspects of my job, but I don’t enjoy it at all times. Even the things I love to do can get boring and monotonous over time. Moreover, since you are being paid, you have to do it even though you are not “feeling it” that day. Obviously, I understand if there was no time schedule, maybe nothing will get done though. So how do I get fulfillment when I don’t feel like working that day? I have no answer to this except that I keep plugging along and most days I feel content at work, and even fulfilled. Sometimes, I wonder though, if it would be better to be self-employed and have more than one job. I mean, as people, we are multi-faceted and have different hobbies and interests. Why can’t our jobs be like that too?

7. Does Fun + Stress = Happy?

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Last week could be summed it in a few words: pure fun and exhaustion. Why is that often the “funnest” things can also be the most tiring? What would you choose? Doing something that is great fun and great stress or something that is great fun and no stress. The obvious choice would be do something that is fun and not stressful. However, somehow doing something that is fun and stressful usually gives me more satisfaction overall. For example, this event I planned ran for three days, and I was just physically and mentally exhausted at the end, but I just felt so happy that completed it! For me, that feeling of satisfaction is worth the stress and anxiety I endured. “Coasting” along in life is fun, but finally finding that place where you feel happy and fulfilled is even more fun.

Last week also made me think about “being busy.” Since I have anxiety, I often try to balance work with rest. Usually on days off, I will focus on “me time.” I like to spend hours by myself, not talking to anyone. For some people, this may sound absolutely horrifying, but silence really always my brain to relax and reset. I am a complete lover of my own company. For me, this last week, has felt the complete opposite. Every day felt like “go, go, go.” I didn’t have a minute at work to even let my brain chill out. It felt like it was constantly “buzzing.” Weirdly though, my brain was so occupied with just completing the task at hand, that I had no time to ruminate over my anxiety as much. That is perhaps why my doctor insists that I don’t take time off work because it can sometimes help my anxiety.

6. Accepting Uncertainty

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Last week I wrote about how to feel less overwhelmed, and ironically, this past week has been very overwhelming. In the last week, I had to organize a big event at work. I had hosted this event before so I felt pretty organized and confident that I could pull it off. However, I didn’t expect some new projects to also pop up at the same time. I started to get overwhelmed of course! So I decided to follow my own guidelines to not feel overwhelmed that I wrote about in my last blogpost. I preceded to finish the immediate tasks at hand and plan out my to-do lists on my calendar.

It seemed that I was calming down a little and then suddenly Monday night I just started to feel super overwhelmed. You know that feeling when every anxious thought just starts infiltrating your brain and then the supposed calm you had created just dissipates into thin air. I hate that feeling. I mean, I shouldn’t feel overwhelmed because I was prepared. So I started pacing a little and of course, started talking to my husband. Then, I preceded to distract myself with Instagram and Youtube. Like usual, I got a bit teary, but I guess it wasn’t that bad.

It made me think about how anxiety controls our minds. We become masters at trying to dodge its presence, but no matter how prepared we are, it will always come to haunt us when we can’t accept uncertainty. I know my doctor tells me all the time that the only way I will get better is if I face my fears, but boy is it hard when I do. This week I had to face my fears of being super busy, talking in public, and organizing a big event. I chose to face these fears because I didn’t want my anxiety to hold me back from things I wanted to do. Of course, it all went well and I wasn’t even that anxious at all, but the buildup, the buildup, is always so hard for me. I guess it is true, a battle is not won in a single day, or a week for that matter and what is my battle anyway? Is it to cure my anxiety (which isn’t possible since it is a chronic illness)? Is it to manage it or is it just to be friends with it? Who knows?

5. How I Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed

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I have been meaning to write this blogpost for awhile, especially around the Christmas and the winter holidays time period. With having to attend Christmas dinners, and buying Christmas presents, December can be very stressful and very overwhelming (I particularly feel like typing the word “very” in capitals). I am definitely one of those people that get overwhelmed easily. It stills happens a lot despite that fact that I am better at dealing with it, and part of me has accepted that I will always be a little overwhelmed. However, there are a few things I do which have helped me feel less overwhelmed over the years and I thought they might be helpful for you.

Focus on the Immediate

Usually, I feel the most overwhelmed when my to-do list starts stacking up. There is so much to do that I simply don’t know where to begin. That is usually when the panic begins to set in and I decide to start finding out a way out before I lose complete control. At this point, I will usually just put the brakes on everything and focus on the immediate thing I need to get done. For me, this is usually the task with the nearest deadline or has the greatest importance to me. Then, I proceed to block out everything till I get this one task finished. After I am done, I find that it buys me a little time to figure out how to complete the other tasks on my plate. Moreover, it just feels good to be able to finish something, even if it seems small in comparison to everything else you need to do.

Plan of Attack

Now, that I am not freaked out about the closest deadline coming up too fast, I then start to wrap my head around how to make the rest of the tasks less overwhelming. I usually have several strategies of attack. Sometimes, I will just add all the events onto my calendar first and then add all the tasks I need to complete each event also on the calendar. I find that once I see how everything fits in, almost like a puzzle, I don’t see it as tons of tasks I have to complete. Instead, I just see it is as a few tasks that I have to complete each day. I also like to spend time prioritizing the tasks each day just in case I don’t finish everything that day. The ones that I have to do for sure are placed at the top of the list. You can also colour-code them so you easily see which ones are the must-dos of that day.

Choosing Perfection

I find I often feel overwhelmed, not only because I have to get a lot done, but also because I want to do everything well. Being perfect all the time, if that does exist, is very difficult to achieve, if not impossible. What I usually do is aim for “more perfection” in some tasks over others. I will think to myself that I want to do Task A and Task B the best I can. Then, I will complete the other tasks well, but not fuss over the small details. I understand that seems like I am not pushing myself enough, but I just think it is a more healthy way to live. I personally don’t think you can be an “A+” in every part of your life. Instead, living a balanced and healthy life has become my form of an “A+.”

What are your tips for feeling less overwhelmed?

4. Triggers and Blogging

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In the last week, I started spending more time reading the blogs of other fellow mental illness sufferers. This is often hard for me because I tend to get triggered by reading other people’s experiences. This would often happen when I was very ill because I would think that what happened to someone else would inevitably happen to me. That is why I tend to only spend maybe once a week reading other people’s blogs. However, I have noticed as time as gone by this has gotten a little easier for me and I started to wonder why.

They say with “knowledge comes power,” and I think this applies to how I feel about my mental illness. As I have learned more about anxiety and depression, I feel that I have developed a greater power to deal with it. When I first discovered I had mental illness, I knew absolutely nothing about it. I thought it might just go on forever and I would never recover. I now know there is a lot of help and support for mental illness and you just have to ask for it. Moreover, as I have dealt with it for over ten years now, I know my symptoms and triggers quite well. If I get stuck, I can always call my doctor. I also realized that everyone’s mental illness is different and comparing isn’t always helpful.

Ironically though, sometimes it can be helpful for me. When I read other people’s blogs and connect with their stories, it makes me feel less alone. It also makes me realize that many of us face the same struggles and we can possibly help each other find a way out. I also think that it also creates a nice sense of community where we can share and help each other. Previously, I have had troubles with going to mental illness support groups. Somehow the face-to-face interactions overwhelmed me and made me overthink my illness sometimes. I just felt less likely to share in these groups because of the judgement perhaps. There is anonymity in the blogging world and this has allowed me to truly express my thoughts. It has all been very therapeutic for me.