When it comes to succeeding in eating disorder recovery, one stubborn misconception needs to be discredited—the good food versus bad food debate. Mainstream culture has propagated the idea of attaching morality to certain food groups by idealizing some and demonizing others. But this paradigm is nothing more than a fabricated social construct with destructive implications. When a food is labeled either “good” or “bad,” it suggests the person who consumes that food must take on a similar virtue. But the reality is, character is not based on someone’s diet. Integrity cannot be measured by asking the question, “Did you eat a salad or cheeseburger for lunch?” What you eat doesn’t define you. Foods should not be forced into categories any more than humans should. In order to prioritize eating disorder recovery, it’s time to stop the good food versus bad food food debate.
Why the Good Food Versus Bad Food Debate Is a Problem
If you’ve gnawed on a carrot stick and felt a sense of moral superiority, or scarfed down a slice of pizza only to experience regret afterward, then you’re familiar with the distorted mindset of good food vs. bad food. When you attribute success, praise and worth to eating fruits or vegetables and failure, weakness and shame to indulging in dessert, you become judgmental and restrictive of the foods you’re allowed to consume. You berate and criticize yourself when these diet rules are broken, and in the process, you feel condemned to a rigid existence where food is a necessary evil rather than a source of nourishment and enjoyment.
That’s precisely the reason this good food vs. bad food debate is so problematic—it fuels an eating disorder mentality. The more food groups you write off as negative, the more suspicious and anxious you will become of sustenance in general (Food Anxiety Overview). This fear-based approach to food is how eating disorders originate all too often, and it can plunge you into a toxic cycle of deprivation and subjugation to an illness that will not hesitate to ruin your health and even threaten your life.
Maintaining ED Recovery in the Midst of the Good Food Vs. Bad Food Debate
I confess that I struggle to prioritize eating disorder recovery when all around me it seems like this good food versus bad food debate is gaining momentum and credibility. From wellness gurus touting the benefits of a clean, organic lifestyle to media exposés broadcasting the evils of refined sugar, I am tempted to demonize certain foods and exhibit a self-righteous attitude when I reach for an apple instead of cheesecake. But I am also learning that one food choice does not morally transcend another.
Some foods contain more nutritional density, but this doesn’t inform how “good” they are. Likewise, it has no bearing on the character of a person who decides to ingest those foods. Although my eating disorder would love nothing more than to remove cookies, pizza, burgers and Chinese takeout from my diet altogether, I’ve found that moderation is healthier than elimination. I can fuel myself with green smoothies or quinoa salads and derive guiltless pleasure from an ice cream sundae too. Both options are flavorful and beneficial. In fact, the body needs that balance of nutrition and indulgence. This practice of freedom around eating can sustain long-term ED recovery and silence the good food vs. bad food debate.
In the past few years, I’ve developed a crippling fear of driving, way beyond driving anxiety. People who know me now find it hard to believe that I used to drive every day in LA traffic. When I was younger, I was fearless. In my early twenties, I lived in Los Angeles, which now feels like a different planet compared to my present-day home in Toledo. I never had a fear of driving when I was younger, and I’m hoping that my motivations to succeed in business will continue to help me overcome this specific phobia.
How My Fear of Driving Plays Out
Here in Toledo, I always let my husband drive, but when I’m by myself, I have no choice. Every time I climb into my SUV, I envision all of these horrible scenarios. I hear the sound of a crash. I smell airbags that have been deployed. I see myself broken down in a rough neighborhood, blocking traffic, and waiting hours for a tow truck. It may seem silly, but these thoughts are on repeat every day. Public transportation and alternative modes are scarce and unsafe where I live. I drive because I have to.
My fear of driving isn’t completely unfounded. My mother was killed in a car accident and I myself was in a serious accident as a teenager. I know logically odds are that I’m not going to get into an accident every day, but I also am very aware of the dangers associated with driving.
Am I Getting Over My Fear of Driving?
However, something interesting has happened lately. I recently became a member of the Women’s Business Center of Northern Ohio. Their office is based in Cleveland, about two hours from my home. I have now attended a couple meetings and classes there despite my nervousness. When I plan to go to the WBC office, I get up in the morning with anxiety and want to cancel. I start on the road and want to turn back. I cry in the car, eventually, make it to Cleveland, and fix my makeup in the parking lot.
I joined the Women’s Business Center because I started my own business, and I don’t want to miss any opportunity. Apparently, my desire to make my business successful is stronger than my fear of driving. When I return home from Cleveland, it’s a huge rush. I can’t believe I did it. Sometimes I cry again. Getting past the fear of driving just feels overwhelming.
Is it possible to focus on your strengths to minimize your weaknesses? My confidence and anxiety definitely seem to be linked together. I will not stop going to the Women’s Business Center. I just can’t. Every time I drive to Cleveland I feel just a tiny bit more comfortable. I hope this trend continues, and maybe one day my fear of driving won’t be that big of a deal.
To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s shed some light on anxiety. After all, anxiety affects everyone. Every human being on this planet, across cultures, genders, age groups, socioeconomic groups, and all other groups of people, experiences anxiety. To be sure, not everyone has an anxiety disorder, but anxiety itself is part of the human condition. Therefore, it makes sense that during Mental Health Awareness Month we increase our awareness of anxiety. By doing so we celebrate. We celebrate being human and having the ability to take charge of our mental health despite anxiety.
What to Know About Anxiety for Mental Health Awareness Month
Anxiety is complex. It takes many forms, and it affects people in different ways. Some facts about anxiety:
It can be good. It can motivate. It can ensure we survive by kicking the fight-or-flight response into gear when necessary.
When you feel anxious but can continue with your life as usual, you don’t meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder.
There’s a difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack. Panic attacks happen out of nowhere (there’s probably a trigger, but it’s not obvious), or because someone is anxious about having another panic attack. Anxiety attacks, on the other hand, occur in the context of a worry, fear, or very stressful situation.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) was classified as an anxiety disorder until 2013. Now it has its own section in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), but it still has a very significant anxiety component. Obsessions, or thoughts, are anxiety-provoking. Compulsions, or behaviors, are things done to reduce the anxiety.
Separation anxiety disorder is often thought of as a disorder just for kids, such as young children who become upset when they have to be away from their parents or caregivers. Adults can actually have separation anxiety, too. It often happens in times of transitions or periods of adjustments.
Social anxiety involves an intense fear of being judged and/or of embarrassing oneself in front of others. It has nothing to do with being an introvert or an extrovert. Introversion and extroversion are personality traits that have to do with where someone gets his or her sense of energy (from within themselves or from being with others). Both introverts and extroverts can have social anxiety.
A specific phobia is an intense fear of something, some place, or some situation. The fear is so gripping that people cannot get around it. People with specific phobias know that their fear is irrational, but they’re stopped by it anyway.
All anxiety can stop people from moving forward. The reason people can’t move past any type of anxiety, at least at first, is because anxiety is all-encompassing:
It operates at the neurochemical level of the brain, and many different regions of the brain are at work in anxiety
It can take over our thoughts
Anxiety is also a powerful emotion
It tries to control our actions
Being aware of the nature of anxiety and anxiety disorders during Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond is empowering. It leads to increased awareness of the nature of anxiety. Knowledge is power, and armed with knowledge, you can beat anxiety.
Next time, we’ll increase awareness about overcoming anxiety. It’s part of the Mental Health Awareness Month celebration.
In the meantime, what do you want people to know about anxiety to raise awareness? Share your thoughts in the comments.
For many of us, we deal with bipolar disorder every day and it often feels like dealing with bipolar disorder takes up way too much time. I know I spend a significant amount of time thinking about how and doing things to mitigate bipolar’s effects. I have to. It’s how I function as well as I do (however moderate that may be). And when I look at what I get done in a day, it seems painfully clear that dealing with bipolar disorder takes up too much time.
What Does Dealing with Bipolar Mean?
When I say “dealing with bipolar” I mean anything I do because of the illness. For me, this includes things like:
Maintaining a bipolar routine which includes things like going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time every day
Forcing myself out of the apartment when I don’t want to go
Using many psychological coping skills to deal with the symptoms and side effects that present themselves
How Much Time Does Dealing with Bipolar Take?
While I know some of those sound like everyday concerns that anyone might have, these are far harder for me than they are for most people. Most of these things I struggle with every day. And something like coping skills for bipolar symptoms can be an every-minute-of-the-day thing. Trying to control my thoughts is an every-second-of-the-day thing. And I need to do these things. I need to do these things just to function on a basic level. These are the things I need to do to be able to work and support myself. These are very important things.
In other words, bipolar tends to be the first thing I think of in the morning (take pills) and the last thing I think of at night (take pills) and then many, many times in between.
Isn’t that A Bit Obsessive?
So yes, all these thoughts are a bit obsessive. But this is the obsession that is required for me to survive. I’ve learned that the second you stop watching and reacting to the alligator, that’s when he bites you.
Too Much Time Dealing with Bipolar
All of this amounts to far too much time. I hate it. I look at the chunks of time in my day and I realize how few of them are actually productive in a normal way. I realize how few I actually worked. I realize how few I actually did chores. I realize how few I actually just lived. I realize that most of my time, most of my day, is spent fighting with my brain. I hate it. It feels like wasted hours of life – hours of life that I will never get back.
But here’s the thing, these aren’t actually wasted hours. I know they feel that way and they might even seem that way to an onlooker.
But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that if you don’t spend time adequately dealing with bipolar disorder, you won’t be able to do anything else. It’s after the alligator bites you that you really lose your abilities and time.
Verbal abuse in the workplace is more common than you might think, and it’s a real problem. Not only is it detrimental to productivity, it also undermines confidence and stunts career progression, leaving those affected feeling powerless. You’d think it would be easy to spot the signs of abuse from an employer or colleague, but much like relationship abuse, the behavior is often subtle and hard to define. Verbal abuse at work is sometimes referred to as bullying or harassment, and it’s quoted as one of the main reasons why American workers leave their jobs. Here’s how to spot verbal abuse in your workplace, and what to do when it happens.
How Does Verbal Abuse and Gaslighting Manifest At Work?
I was talking to a friend recently about how unhappy he was at work. He enjoyed his job and got on well with his colleagues, but his employer frequently put him down, minimized his work and made insulting accusations. Worse still, she exhibited some baffling behavior, instructing him to report to her superior about certain issues rather than bothering her, then accusing him of going over her head. She lied about things she’d said previously, backtracked on promises, tried to micro-manage his every move and interrupted his break times and days off. The daily battle sounded exhausting.
“The weird thing is, she wasn’t like this at the start,” he said. “She practically worshipped me when I joined the company — she was so nice and totally relaxed. It’s like she’s got two personalities.”
Just recently I’d written an article about gaslighting abuse and how perpetrators reel their victims in with niceties, before turning on them and convincing them they’re crazy.
“You’re being gaslighted,” I said. “She’s gaslighting you.”
What became clear to me is that this woman was obviously so insecure in her own position, she had to find someone to undermine, belittle and control. This was her way of asserting authority, and it was textbook verbal abuse.
Workplace Abuse and Relationship Abuse Are Not So Different
The truth is, verbal abuse at work manifests much like it does in a domestic setting, and if you’ve read my previous blog posts on gaslighting and verbal abuse, you’ll see there are many parallels. An abusive relationship at work usually follows the same pattern of Idealization, Devaluation and Discarding as domestic abuse cases. Not sure if this applies to you? Here are some of the signs to look out for.
Setting impossible tasks, then berating you when you fail to complete them
Micro-managing, “hovering” and repeatedly checking your work for errors
Lying or making unfounded accusations
What to Do About Verbal Abuse at Work
There are currently no federal or state laws that protect U.S. employees from verbal abuse, which leaves victims feeling they have nowhere to turn. However, unlike in a romantic relationship, there are — presumably — others within your company you can report to.
However you choose to respond to verbal abuse at work, it’s important to tackle it head-on. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, stand up for yourself and report to your HR department if you feel you’re being unfairly treated.
Around half of the children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).¹ ODD is considered a childhood disorder and is a hard diagnosis to grasp, so here I will address a few of my own questions about the condition: what is ODD, how does it develop, and what is its connection to ADHD? Can it occur in adults? Most importantly, how can it be treated?
Many with ODD almost always feel angry.² They are often impatient, frustrated, and emotionally reactive. Symptoms include being very argumentative, vindictive, and quick to anger. Those with ODD struggle with taking responsibility and following rules, instead blaming and acting aggressively towards others. Some feel oppressed and disliked, reacting to these feelings by purposefully annoying others or breaking rules.
There are many qualifications for this diagnosis. These symptoms must be fairly pervasive and exist for at least six months. Though ODD occurs with numerous other conditions, including learning disabilities, anxiety, and depression, these behavioral problems cannot exclusively occur due to mood disorders, bipolar episodes, psychosis, or substance abuse.³ In addition, the person has neither conduct disorder nor APD.⁴
Why Do ADHD and ODD Often Overlap?
Those with ADHD experience intense emotions and have a hard hard time regulating their feelings. They also tend to be impulsive. Being unable to curb angry impulses can lead to aggressive and contrary behavior as seen in ODD. Being expected to follow instructions and rules that are very difficult for those with ADHD can cause frustration. Further challenges can result in anger at the world, others, and themselves. It is also possible that ADHDers’ sensitivity and fear of rejection lead to the kind of paranoia that is seen in ODD. Without sufficient support, it is easy to see how these conditions could combine to create oppositional defiant disorder.
Treating Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Most advice out there is for parents of children with ODD, but some of that advice can be applied to those who suffer from ODD or ODD-like symptoms. Experts suggest family, group, and individual therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy. For children with ODD, the focus is on helping the adults develop appropriate parenting skills, but adults with ODD can develop their own skills by learning how to meditate and taking anger management courses.
Crucially, one must treat conditions that occur with ODD. Treating ADHD and other diagnoses with appropriate medication and therapy often lessens ODD symptoms. Other helpful steps include forming habits to relieve stress, such as running or journaling, and working to develop a sense of autonomy and responsibility.³
If you have ADHD, have you struggled with rules and authority figures? Do you have a bad temper and find yourself getting into frequent conflicts? Let me know in the comments about your experiences and advice.
Many people talk about how great it feels to sleep in. But for people with depression, waking up late could be actually be detrimental for recovery. Read this article to find out how a late wake-up time could be affecting you and tips for how to avoid this issue.
Three Reasons Waking up Late Can be Bad for Depression
You Will Not be as Productive
Many people start the day around 4 or 5 a.m. This early start to the day gives them a chance to do necessary tasks and/or work on goals. When they accomplish tasks early, it increases motivation and promotes positivity for the rest of the day.
Although waking up late does not necessarily destroy productivity, it pushes it back. A few minutes can become a few hours. Even if you do accomplish tasks, you might feel rushed and make more mistakes during the day.
Your Academic or Professional Obligations Might Suffer
If you make a habit of waking up late, you might be late for work or school. Your boss, parents, or teachers might think you do not care. As a result, you could lose your job or fail a class. Getting fired or losing a credit for school can drastactically increase depression (Study: Depression From Job Loss Is Long Lasting).
Three Ways to Wake up Early
Write Down One Reason to Wake Up
Often times, we do not want to wake up in the morning because we do not see a reason. Depression makes everything seem pointless, and it rids us of motivation to do anything. If you feel depressed right now and cannot think of anything exciting, try to recall one thing that you did enjoy. Perhaps it was a sport, a hobby, or hanging out with a friend. Will any of those things serve a good purpose for your life again? Perhaps the thought of doing something you used to enjoy or hanging out with an old friend will give you the motivation you need to wake up early and help relieve depression.
Create a Plan
If you desire a certain outcome, you have to know how to obtain it. If your mind is programmed to wake up late, it will not be easy to wake up early without a plan. While making a plan, you can decide when you are going to turn off technology. You can also set an alarm for when you want to be in bed. If music helps you wake up, set your morning alarm to your favorite song. After you brainstorm some ways to wake up earlier, write them down and put the list anywhere you will easily see it every day.
Ask a Friend to Keep You Accountable
Everyone needs help to make a change sometimes. If you have a close friend who knows about your struggle to wake up, it might help to ask him or her to send a wake-up text every morning. If it is hard for you to make an action plan, maybe a loved one can assist you and help you keep track of your progress.
To learn more about the struggle with waking up and how to find motivation, watch the video below.
Finding Reasons to Wake up Earlier Can Help You Get Through Depression - YouTube
What is your perspective on anxiety? Beyond that, what is your relationship with your anxiety? When we live with anxiety, whether it’s occasionally or constantly, it’s quite normal to struggle against it and fight, argue, and curse it—all in an attempt to make it go away. From this perspective, anxiety can be an abusive bully or a prison guard. Viewing anxiety this way leads to thoughts and emotions that are rooted in anger, resentment, and other negative reactions that affect your actions. Shifting your perspective and relationship with anxiety can do wonders for how you feel and live your life.
Perspective is Powerful
In this case, perspective relates to your opinion of your anxiety. Without thinking too much about it, do this quick exercise:
Name three words that describe the anxiety that you’re living with.
If your anxiety were a living being, what would it be?
What color is your anxiety?
What shape is it?
In one or two sentences, describe what anxiety is doing to you/your life.
In most cases, people’s responses are pretty negative. Anxiety isn’t seen as favorable or a positive presence. We remain stuck in the negative. Unfortunately, what we visualize—our perspective on anxiety—becomes our relationship with anxiety. We think and feel and act with that anger and resentment and hatred. We can’t break free. We can’t move forward into our lives.
Having a negative perspective on anxiety reinforces It because your thoughts are negatively oriented. Does this mean that you must start loving anxiety and seeing it as fuzzy baby animals? No, it does not. Your mind would see right through that and would continue to lock horns with anxiety. You’d still be trapped and miserable, and anxiety would still be your prison warden.
No Mud, No Lotus
A liberating perspective on anxiety is represented by the Buddhist phrase, No Mud, No Lotus.
The beautiful lotus flower, resting peacefully among the lily pads on a pond, comes from one place and only one place: the cold, oozing, sticky-yet-slick, mud on the pond floor. From the depths of the pond, through the ooze and the muck, grows the lotus. Up, up it stretches, moving ever forward. Finally, it bursts up through the surface of the pond and unfurls, gradually opening itself to the sunshine.
What would have happened if the lotus flower had cursed the mud? Viewed it as a prison warden? It would have fought and become tangled. It would have become stuck. The relationship would have been one of captor and captive. The lotus might never have burst past the surface to open to the sun and relish in the beauty around it.
Prisoner, or Lotus?
You have probably figured out that the lotus is you. The cold mud that attaches and sucks like a leach is your anxiety. How wonderful that you have a choice. You can visualize your anxiety as a prison guard and, fueled by negative thoughts and emotions, fight to be free but remain stuck in the struggle. Or you can see your anxiety as the lotus sees the mud.
The lotus’s perspective on the mud is one of appreciation. Without the mud, the lotus would wither and die. The mud is what allows the lotus to grow. The mud makes the lotus strong. No mud. No Lotus.
Return to the above assessment. Try answering those questions again, this time from the perspective of the lotus to the mud. Next, visualize yourself as a lotus and anxiety as your mud. It’s no longer your prisoner guard, and you have some wiggle room to begin to rise despite the mud. Visualize what you, the lotus, will look like, feel like, and act like.
With your new perspective and relationship with anxiety, you’re a bud unfurling.
I share another metaphor for anxiety, perspective, and growth in this video. I invite you to tune in.
Change Your Perspective on Your Anxiety to Grow - YouTube
Few people are ready to trust again after an abusive relationship, but there comes a time when you’ll want to open yourself up to others. You want to believe that the people you love won’t hurt you, but wasn’t trusting implicitly how you wound up being abused in the first place? Are you partly to blame for being susceptible to narcissists and perpetrators? This isn’t a simple question to answer, but it is crucial in learning to trust again after a verbally or physically abusive relationship.
Trusting yourself again means you have to relearn your own value after someone else has systematically destroyed it. This is not an easy process, and you will learn that while some people are worth opening your heart to, not everyone deserves your trust. This is a key lesson in healing after abuse, but it’s tough to change the habit of a lifetime.
It takes time to trust other people again after abuse, whether romantically or platonically, but it takes even longer to trust yourself. Self-trust is still very much a work in progress for me, despite being in a happy long-term relationship, but there’s a lot I’ve learned along the way. Watch this video to find out how to gain back your trust in others (and most importantly, yourself) after relationship abuse.
Three Steps to Relearn Trust After Relationship Abuse - YouTube
Many people look at social anxiety disorder and think that people just need to get over their irrational fears or worries and become productive members of society, especially when it comes to working. I was one of those people who wondered how I would ever be able to work considering the paralyzing anxiety I felt from having to deal with the public, using the phone, and other work-related things. I felt (and sometimes still do feel) the constant pressure of that stigma saying suck it up and go to work. So I did, and here’s what I learned from it.
Being in the Workforce With Social Anxiety Disorder
Although I just used the past tense, these are still things I experience to varying degrees on a day-to-day basis. Most times, I push myself through it…but then comes the burnout followed by a mental health day. Doing the jobs I have has taught me two things: that I seriously have to consider if that burnout is worth it, and also that social anxiety can be challenged.
Besides my online work, my jobs have been face-to-face, customer service related. My first job was particularly bad for my mental health for a number of reasons, including pushing myself too much, and that one wasn’t worth the grief.
My time as a journalist has been an interesting test of my social anxiety. I talk to people on the phone and in person regularly, something I never would have thought possible a few years ago. Some days the overload is too much and I need that downtime, but for the most part, I’m okay.
When it comes to talking to people, there’s always the thought of making a fool of myself, but what I’ve learned from speaking with people for stories is almost everyone has that same fear. Not necessarily to the extent of anxiety, but it’s there. I’ve had politicians, CEOs, and other authoritative figures say to me, “Make me sound smart.” You’d think they’d be more worried about the facts being correct, but they’re just as worried about sounding “stupid” as I am. (Anxiety, Criticism, and Conquering Self-Doubt)
Knowing that has made the interviews a bit easier to bear because I can often use that intellectual knowledge to override the irrational inner dialogue. It’s not easy to argue with your own thoughts, but it is doable with practice.
Does That Mean People Are Right? Should I Just Suck It Up?
In a word, no.
People like to use the examples of “if they can do it, you can too, so stop making excuses!” But that’s not always the case. You have to evaluate what’s right for you and your situation, which is something you can try to do yourself or with a professional.
Exposure at each of my jobs has shown me I can do things anxiety tells me that I can’t or shouldn’t, but I wouldn’t recommend what I’ve done on my own because of the toll it has taken on me. It’s another thing to consider with a professional. (Exposure Therapy for Anxiety Disorders, Panic Attacks)
Does Working Cure Social Anxiety?
Absolutely not, but, in my case, I am better at managing it.
I’m still working on balancing things out so I don’t hit that burnout point as often as I do, but knowing that I don’t have to be immobilized by the thoughts in my head (and the accompanying physical symptoms) has been life-changing in a very positive way. And that’s something I wish for everyone.
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