Category Archives: Anxiety

Testimonial Tuesday by Richelle Knapp (my sis)

It’s time again for another installment of Testimonial Tuesday.  I am the oldest of four, and my sister is the second oldest.  She and I have been through a lot together.  Although we had different experiences and perceptions of our childhood experiences, we have been on a similar journey.  Each individual step in our journeys is invariably linked to the other person’s.  My sister describes a part of her journey in overcoming her difficulties.  So without further, I give to you my sister Richelle Knapp…

As I was growing up, my mother was hard to figure out, to say the least. She was very mean to me and my siblings most of the time. But other times, she was really nice and fun to be around. She singled me out for a period of physical abuse. She was a drug addict. She did not really know how to raise children.

I don’t think she intended to be this way. I don’t think she set out to abuse drugs. But her background was a big part of it. Her family was a mess with alcoholic parents. She and her siblings were ripped apart when she was very young. She was largely a victim of circumstance. But sadly she did become an addict. She was always in a deep grip of denial about her addiction.

Her life impacted mine in deep and profound ways. Everything that happened to her and to me as a result of her problems and our relationship resonated for years even after her death. When she passed it took me a while to figure out that I was not mourning her death, but her life. After her passing, I had many emotional and mental problems. I was losing touch with reality and regressing back to my childhood. I was having almost constant anxiety attacks.  I was also having flashbacks of things I did not understand. I had a vague feeling of ongoing fear and even terror at times. My poor husband went through it all with me and was my main support. I could not figure out how to function. I could not work or do much of anything else. My emotions were in constant upheaval. One day I would be okay, and the next I could not get out of bed. I was lost in a sea of mental and emotional problems, and I was drowning.

When things got really bad, my sister ended up coming out to help me. She brought me back to her house to stay for a month and to begin to get me the help that I needed.  I went through something called inner healing.  Inner healing is a way in which God is able to come in and make significant changes to a person’s spiritual landscape. I had Dissociative Integrative Disorder. Through the inner healing, process  God revealed the fragments of my psyche and integrated them back together again. When it was over, I felt whole for the first time in a long time. But I also felt very fragile, as if I could break very easily again.

Later in the year, I came in contact with a woman who was instrumental in helping me to become stronger emotionally, and mentally. During the time she counseled me, we did certain exercises to help me to better understand what was going with me. I realized I still blamed my mother for the majority of the problems in my life. I realized that I had not forgiven her for just about everything. One of the most important exercises we did was called The Vault. My counselor had me talk through a list of things I had made in a previous meeting that had to do with my life. I had to decide what I wanted to “keep” so that I could deal with it still, and what I wanted to “lock” in the vault and move on from. As I worked through the list I could feel myself suddenly getting lighter and lighter emotionally. It was a significant time for me, a real turning point. I left that session feeling completely different. I felt very nearly completely healed. It was finally a new beginning for me. For the first time in a long time, I felt free.

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I am 38 years old. I have been happily married for over 4 years. I live in Bear, DE with my husband. I believe that anything can be overcome if you are willing to do whatever it takes; if you are willing to do the hard stuff to be healed and ultimately be free.

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So, tell  me, do you want to write about so something you have overcoming?

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Don’t poke that dragon with a stick. It’ll eat you. Or will it?

Didn’t your mother teach you NOT to poke a sleeping dragon?  That you should let sleeping dragons lie?

He looks too cute to be dangerous. Right?

Or was that dogs?

He’s definitely too cute to be dangerous.

Like all reptiles, dragons are great at sleeping.  You know, being cold-blooded and all.  Sleeping is an excellent way to conserve energy.  So, as you can imagine, something as big as a dragon needs lots of sleep.  Except when they don’t.  I mean, a dragon’s got to eat sometimes, right?

In case you’re not catching on to my little metaphor, the sleeping dragons (or dogs) that I am referring to is our emotional troubles.  Stuff from the past is like a sleeping dragon.  Some of us have lots and lots of dragons sleeping together in the dog-pile technique.  Others have one or two.  Either way, I personally, and sincerely believe that sleeping dragons are dangerous.  They can wake up at and wreak havoc on our emotional state, on our relationships, and our life anytime they want to.

Dragons are smart creatures.  They like to sleep in dark corners, letting us know they’re there, but never really fully engaging us.  They’re happy there in their comfy little corner.  Because of the shadows, we can’t really see what they’re doing.  But, believe you me, they are causing trouble.

Un-dealt with emotional problems come out various forms, and we often don’t even realize it.  Mostly because our reactions are normal…to us.  THEY run your life.  THEY decide how and when you behave and interact with your environment.  Like when my husband innocently says something that sets off an angry reaction in me.  Or, when a sudden, overwhelming fear of enclosed spaces keeps me from having fun.  Or, when I sling into a deep depression for no apparent reason.  Or, when I have (yet another) bout of anxiety at the prospect of meeting new people.  All of these reactions come from somewhere.   I learned them growing up.  All of these reactions can cause me problems as an adult.  They stunt my growth.  They keep me from fully engaging in life.  They harm my relationships.  And most importantly, they keep me back from being who I was meant to be.

If you decide to take control of the situation, you WILL have to face your dragons head on.  Sure, once you poke them and wake them up they are going to growl and stomp and threaten to eat you.  They might even throw a flame or two your way.

Remember this guy?

But, here’s the thing:  YOU are in control of the dragons.  YOU are the master of THEIR fate.  It’s not the other way around.  Because as Christopher Robin told Winnie the Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  You hold the secret weapons that defeat the dragons.  You know their vulnerabilities.  You know where that soft spot is and can drive in your sword (or lance if you prefer).  If you do, you will truly be at peace.  You will never have to worry about what that dragon will do next.  You can get on with your life and live it to the fullest.

Pretty cool, huh?

So, I say, don’t let the sleeping dragons lie there forever.  Take up your sword, your spear, your counseling sessions and deliberately, and methodically, deal that dragon it’s death blow.

You’ll then be free from it’s grip.  Forever.

I promise.

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Your turn, which weapon do you prefer?

Climbing up out of the miry pit of depression

I remember reading a book, a work of fiction, that described a battle between two kingdoms.  The good king was defeated in battle.  One of his son’s was killed.  As punishment for being defeated, he was chained to the dead body of his son front to front, and left there to die.  Sorry.  I know that’s pretty gruesome, but I wanted you to get my point.

This is how depression can be for me.  Chained to a dead part of myself, wishing release would come for me.  It’s like living with one foot in the land of the dead, and one foot in the land of the living.  It is a half-life lived in terror of truly sinking into death.

Some days, I just want to be left alone.  Scratch that.  MOST days I just want to be left alone.  I want to be left alone to think and drown in my own pool of misery.  Me, myself, and I like our little pity parties.  I can get pretty grumpy if it goes too far.  I don’t get much done.  I hid and avoid like the best of them.  I become an emotional couch potato.

But life happens all around me, whether I like it or not.  My son still comes to me in the morning for snuggles and kisses.  He looks to me to succor and support him in these tender years.  He wants me to interact on a deeper level than I’d like to sometimes.  It’s not that I don’t love him, it’s that I sometimes I feel like an empty well: I have nothing to give.  It’s not fair to him to give him my scraps, and then hope he turns out okay.  He may later resent me for “not being there.”

My husband needs support too.  At our best, we reciprocate life to one another.  We share in the deep bonds of marriage.  Empty wells have not much to give into that sort of thing.  Not to mention friends, church, commitments, and so on.  Like I said, life happens, whether I like it or  not.

Some days it’s all I can do to focus on what’s going on around me.  Some days it’s all I can do not feel utter despair and hopelessness.  Some days  it’s hard to believe that life can be better than it currently is for me.  Some days, death would be easier than taking one more step up my metaphorical mountain.

Every day is struggle.  I have to make a choice.  I  have to choose life, or choose to be half-dead, or choose to be all dead.  It’s up to me.  ‘Cause you see, I believe there’s more to life than this.  I believe it can get better.  I believe I can be free of this some day.

Depression is one of the toughest things to overcome.  Depression turns in on itself and becomes an out-of-control tumbleweed of despair, loneliness, and hopelessness growing bigger and stronger day-by-day.  The more you see life through this lens, the more things look bad.  The more things look bad, the more depressed you feel.  It feeds on itself.  It grows exponentially.  One might think there is no way to overcome depression.

They would be wrong.

There are a variety of ways that to overcome depression.  My best, and first action, is get on anti-depressant when it is so bad I cannot see my way out.  I am chronically under-produce serotonin.  Prozac helps to keep serotonin in my synapses longer.  Next, is to seek out some kind of therapy.  Usually, I go to various counselors in my church for spiritual guidance and prayer.  Then, with the help of God and others, I keep working out why I am depressed in the first place.  I keep working at it till I feel good enough to come off the Prozac.  You can choose to manage your depression without medication or therapy.  But you have to be strong-willed to keep yourself at check.  You need to have a strong goal in mind.

These days, I have attempted to produce more serotonin by exercising regularly.  This method seems to be going okay, but I don’t recommend it for those who are inexperienced at managing depression.

Some people meditate.  I pray, which is a form of meditation.  I need to connect with my Divine Healer, with my Source of Life, with the Author of My Salvation.  Right now, Jesus is my Prozac.  I go to God, the same way, my son comes to me.  I seek succor and strength to keep on keeping on when the mountain seems to steep today.

Some people overeat (like me), attempting to fill their hole with food, especially food that falsely replaces the missing neurotransmitters (this is why people like chocolate so much when they are sad).  Some people drink alcohol, some do drugs.  Some have lots of sex.  These aren’t methods that I recommend.  They are false prophets that fill your mind with false goodness.  And it never lasts.  And it just reproduces negativity and despair.

Sometimes I use self-talk to snap myself out of my thick, soupy fog.  Quoting scripture to myself works for me.  Particularly Psalm 42 and the famous Psalm 23.  I literally talk myself out of depression.

Depression can be overcome.  Slowly, steadily, and surely.  Someday, I will get there.

You just have to choose to overcome…and get to work.

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How do you manage your depression?

An essential truth on fear

If you look to the left of this post you’ll see this quote (and a bunch of other worthy quotes, I might add):

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. -Nelson Mandela

I think that this one of the essential truths of humanity.  Fear is a significant daily motivator for many, many people, whether they know it or not.  Fear can define our actions, how we respond, what decisions we make.  The thing is, if most of what we are afraid is based on evidence, some would say truth.  And, we make decisions based on that truth, even if the action we take is slightly ridiculous.  For example:

  • Truth: The subway is a potentially dangerous place.  I may get hurt.
  • Action: Therefore I will walk the 6 miles to work.
  • Truth: I may get hurt on the roller coaster.
  • Action: Do not ride the roller coaster.
  • Truth: My husband beats me.
  • Action: I will lie about my feelings.
  • Truth: My mother says things that hurt my heart.
  • Action: I will keep my distance from my mother.

See what I mean?  Each thing listed is, or may be, true.  And therefore, you do what is necessary to protect yourself, even if it means compromising yourself, your principles, and/or your morals.

I am a person who has lived her life with fear.  Fear of just about anything and everything.  Even ridiculous stuff like “I might fall on the sidewalk therefore I must vigilantly stare at where I am walking, or avoid sidewalks altogether.”  Yeah, I did that.  Here’s another example: Fear would motivate me to act like a loon around people I didn’t know very well because I was afraid of being rejected.  If forced to talk to a new person, I would babble like an idiot all red in the face in sheer embarrassment at my ungainly social behavior.  For me, the safest thing was to avoid meeting new people altogether.  This fear lent itself to tension in  my marriage because my husband is rather fond of meeting new people.  Going to birthday parties of people I didn’t know would cause me a great deal of pre-festivities anxiety.  My husband has done a pretty good job being gracious with my crazy behavior.  But, I could tell he was sad because it was so hard for me.  Because of his desire to be supportive, my behavior limited his ability to be social.

I eventually got over the worst of this kind of social anxiety.  Mostly because, over time, I came to realize the new people weren’t going to hurt (mostly).  I felt like my behavior was wrong and it needed to change.  I had to force myself to calm down and give it a try, over and over again.  I had to force myself to appear to be calm, and have a nice conversation with someone I didn’t know.  This is where Mr. Mandela’s quote comes in handy.  He is saying that it is likely you are never going to stop feeling afraid. If you want to triumph over fear, if you want to conquer fear then do the very thing you fear.  Despite the trembling and shaking and your imagination going into overtime.

To overcome the fear, you have to ask yourself if being afraid is worth the price you’ll pay for allowing yourself to behave in fear?  Is it right to let yourself be bullied by your spouse?  Is it right to NEVER experience a roller coaster ride (well, maybe)?  Is right to walk 6 miles to work, in the snow, uphill both ways because something MIGHT happen to you?  Is it right for me to never form new friendships because I am afraid of rejection?  I have to choose one or the other.  I have to choose fear, or courage.  In other words, it’s my choice.  Mine.  No one else’s choice.  I  have to choose to overcome my fear.  I have to choose to be brave, even if I don’t feel brave inside.  And it’s your choice too.  YOU CAN CHOOSE to do the thing you fear.  That’s right, you have a choice.  Making the choice is point A, doing the thing you fear is point B.  The process of getting from A to B may look messy, but it’s a good messy.

Recently, I walked into a Zumba class at my local YMCA.  I didn’t know a single person in the room.  Not a soul.  It would be easy for me to do my usual wallflower routine and stick to the back and not talk to anyone.  No one was making an attempt to approach me and say, “Hi!”  Which would normally be just fine with me.  But, I would be missing out on making new friends.  Just last week I looked at the woman next to me and introduced myself.  I CHOSE to overcome my fear.  And, as it turns out this person is very kind and warm.  She shook my hand warmly, held it tightly, and introduced herself.  I felt good inside.  And, next time I show up for this class, if she is there, I will probably get a warm, “Hello!” from her, even if she can’t remember my name.  Overcoming my fear was totally worth it.

So, here it is:  Do what you fear.  Then you will be fear’s master, not it’s slave.  You will have unchained yourself from that wall.

Eventually, you will live free.

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So tell me, what are you afraid of and what can YOU do to overcome your fear?

And now…a little bit about me

Everything is a process.  I am still in the process of overcoming a multitude of sins on my part and my parents part.  It is really difficult to say out loud things that might hurt other people.  So, I sit here and struggle with how much to say, and how much to reveal about myself this early in the game.  Sometimes, I even doubt myself, my story.

And then…

…well, I look back at all of the work that God has accomplished in me.  I look back at who I used to be and who I am now.  I see the differences in my personality, my thought patterns, and my way of relating to others.  And I ask myself, how can my story NOT be real?  How can I NOT share the things that MIGHT hurt other people?

I need to share for your benefit, and for mine.

I was born in 1970 to two hurting people.  My mother gave birth to me carrying her own issues.  Some of those issue were passed on.  Some of which she continued to act out for the rest of her life which ended in an accidental overdose in her early 50s.  My father I know less about, he is more of an enigma.  My parents divorced when I was about 6.  My mother remarried when I was about 9.  I really liked my stepfather, and I’m pretty sure he liked me.  I grew up confused and full of self-doubt.  My mother did a pretty good job of contributing to these two elements.  By the time I graduated from high school I really had no clue who I was, what I wanted from life, or anything else for that matter.  I sunk into my first deep depression with a touch of dissociation.  I spent the whole summer after graduating depressed, and conflicted.

I eventually got a job and met my first husband through a mutual friend.  My mother and I got into an argument, she tried to hit  me, so I left home suddenly at age 19 and moved in with my boyfriend.  Unbeknownst to  me, I was pregnant with my first son at the time.  Not long after this sudden change in my universe, I started to experience flashbacks.  I would get “stuck” in a frame of mind that was both completely foreign and completely familiar.  I had no clue what was going on.

Fortunately, I started into counseling right away.  I have been at it for 22 years.   With the help of God, and other people, I have changed.  I have been through many different kinds of counseling, individual psychotherapy, group counseling, inner  healing, deliverances, to name a few.  As a matter of fact,  I just finished yet another turn at counseling with a wonderful person.

My life has been an uphill battle.  I have struggled with Dissociative Identity Disorder (a total of 7 personalities of which are now fully integrated), sugar addiction, self-doubt, low self-esteem, flashbacks, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, anxiety attacks, clinical depression,  ADHD, and few other things.

I have been on Prozac, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, and a couple of other medications I can’t remember over the years.  All helpful and useful tools for helping me with my struggle to overcome.

Right now I am not on any meds and am not in counseling.  I feel pretty good,  most of the time.  I still struggle madly with anxiety and depression at times, but God and therapy gets me through.

I am almost done my Bachelor’s program in psychology and will be moving into a Master’s program for counseling at a local university.  The goal is to professionally help others the way I have been helped.  I now know that I was born with a gift of counseling and teaching.  I must be what I was meant to be.

Annnnnd, I think I will stop here for now.  I will reveal more information about myself as time goes on, especially as they pertain to what I am talking about.

Thanks for reading!

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Tell me your thoughts…

Of washing machines and a better tomorrow

Look familiar?

I don’t think it is any coincidence that I found this quote in my Facebook feed today: “Problems are like washing machines, they twist us, spin us, and knock us around, but in the end, we come out cleaner, brighter, and better than before” (Author Unknown).

If we are really (and I mean brutally, fist-in-your-face) honest with ourselves, this is a very true statement.

And now, I will say something bold:  Problems just are, whether we like it or not.  Stuff happens.  Life sucks. Often, circumstances suck.  Sometimes, people suck )(I admittedly suck sometimes).  And more importantly, we have a choice (Wait, did you know that?).  We can respond well to these problems, or not.  We can overcome the problem, or not.  It’s. All. Up. To. You.  It’s up to you how to respond.  It’s up to you to make a change in how you deal with the things that come your way.  You are not forever doomed to be a victim of your circumstances, your childhood, your bad relationship, your anger problem, or your “whatever”.  That’s right darlin’, you CAN change.  Yes, you heard me right.

You may ask me, “How do YOU know?”.  And I would respond with, “Cuz  I been there done that.”  I am changed-from-the-inside-out person.  I used to be shy, I’m not anymore.  I used to have multiple personalities, now I don’t.  I used to lack confidence, now I am a fairly confident person.  I used to totally suck at relationships, now I suck less (hey, nobody’s perfect).  I  used to respond to everything with anger and fear, now I take the time to really try to think through the reality of the situation, check my resources, and respond as appropriately as I can.  I used to be bossy know-it-all, well I…ahem…I guess I still am that way.  (If my sister reads this, she can verify what kind of person I used to be, and what kind of person I am today.  Right sis?  *clears throat* RIGHT, sis? Come on, be nice!)

This blog is about the process in between getting in the washing machine and coming out cleaner and brighter and better than you were before.  You, and I (and the kid down the street whose mom MAKES him wash his own clothes.  The nerve!) both know that when you put clothes in the washing machine it takes time for the clothes to come out clean.  First you have to put in the soap, then you have to choose the right settings (you know, “Normal”, “Perm Press”, “Hot/Cold” “Cold/Cold”, and etc.), start the water, and wait for the machine to agitate, spin, rinse, and spin again.  Like I said, it’s a process.  Changing behavior and thinking patterns is a process, you start with Step A, then move to Step B…I think you get the picture.

More than anything, I want you to succeed in life.  I want you to be who you are meant to be (Haven’t got a clue?  Contact this guy, he’ll help you figure it out).  But, you have to be willing to see some things differently, you have to be willing to knock down the walls of your little self-imposed prison.  You have to be willing to work at it.  And, it ain’t gonna be easy.  But, if getting knocked about a bit means you will be cleaner and brighter and better able to handle life’s problems, then the pain of the process is worth it, right?  Right?  I’m sorry, I can’t hear you.  RIGHT?!

I thought so.

Okay, so let’s get started:  Choose one thing you want to work on…I’ll give you a minute to think about.

Go ahead, it’s okay.

Just one thing, however small it may be.  It’s worth changing for a better tomorrow.

So, tell me, what would you like to change, starting today?

Looking forward to the journey with you,

Stephanie