Updated on July 10, 2021
Oh, anxiety. It means well. Those heart palpitations are great when your kid is seconds away from plunging off the couch. You weren’t planning on an ER trip, yet you can see it! You know your little one is about to crack their head open. But what if those feelings of danger don’t go away? What if your racing heart and sweaty palms start to become part of your personality? You’re dwelling on what you said the last time someone held the door open for you. Now you’re up at 2 a.m. fixating on what they have long since forgotten. Before you know it, you start thinking of every stupid thing you’ve ever said. Oh! Like that time in first grade! You’ve been saying stupid things since first grade. Now you’re convinced all you do is radiate stupidity. Your friends and family only talk to you to witness the fountain of craziness spewing from your mouth. Truth be told, they actually hate you. Congratulations, your whole life is a charade. Sorry it took a late-night anxious rumination to figure it out.
I have to tell you something. Promise you won’t think I’m crazy?
Your anxiety is lying to you.
While I am just a lady on the internet, my anxiety lies to me, too. Every day. I spend a good majority of the day trying to undo its lies. Up until recently, I never realized how many it told me. Anxiety feeds us these lies and distorts the way we see ourselves. It’s no coincidence that people who struggle with anxiety often have low self-esteem. Every time it successfully lies, it takes a little piece of our confidence down with it. If your anxiety is anything like mine, it’s a real Debbie Downer. It reminds me of Edith from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. If you haven’t seen the movie, Edith constantly tells Dewey he’s a failure, even though he reached fame and success at the age of 15.
Thanks for believing in me, anxiety.
These lies all come from somewhere but there’s good news. They don’t have to control us forever. When we catch our anxiety lying to us, we can fight back. Here are the 5 lies my anxiety tells me.
1. I’m not safe.
This is my anxiety’s favorite one. While it’s normal for us to feel unsettled from time to time, we should have at least one place where we feel safe. People who have experienced assault, sexual assault, accidents, or natural disasters often struggle to find a place where they feel safe from harm. A big one for me is feeling unsafe in any type of moving vehicle. From a logical standpoint, it makes sense. I’ve been in a handful of car accidents. When I was eight, a boat wreck nearly took my life. Every time I’m in a vehicle (or let’s be honest, when I’m planning a trip, or even thinking about riding in a car, etc.), I relive these accidents in my head.
The types of statements we hear growing up can affect the way we view the world, too. I’m sure the safety freak babysitter who told my brother and me blankets would kill us and all people at the door were incognito rapists didn’t help my poor sense of safety, either.
2. I can’t trust you.
Trust does not come easy for anxious people. If your anxiety stems from previous trauma, you may have learned to keep people at a distance. Distance is safe–vulnerability is not. If we can’t control who might hurt us, we take our control back in different ways. We might become more guarded and have a hard time letting others into our lives. If an anxious person opens up to someone and feels invalidated, this lie becomes more powerful. Inability to trust can cause serious problems in relationships. This lack of trust can explain why some anxiety sufferers struggle to ask for help. We’d rather wear ourselves down than risk asking for help and feel rejection’s sting. When we accomplish the task we refused help for, anxiety feeds us the next lie, which is…
3. I’m not good enough.
So many of us battle the not good enoughs. The moment we have a minor setback, we dwell on all of the reasons we’re not good enough. You started the day with a rejection email for the job you were sure you’d get. The waitress forgot to refill your Cherry Coke twice in a row. You didn’t get the invite to the girls’ night out you really didn’t want to go to anyway. Obviously, these things happened because we’re not good enough. Never mind someone else knew the hiring manager and was offered the job or the over-tasked waitress was lucky she got a bathroom break. We’re quick to blame ourselves instead of seeing these events from a different perspective.
4. My feelings don’t matter.
When you’re guilt tripped or frequently manipulated into doing things you’re uncomfortable doing, you’re feeding this lie. The same can be said if you’re constantly putting your own feelings aside to benefit others. Making everyone else happy is easier than rocking the boat, right? If you remember parents or teachers getting on to you for showing anger or sadness, you might believe this lie, too. It’s important to remember all emotions are valid. We have to feel emotions in order to learn how to regulate them. If our anger, sadness, or excitement is whipped out of us, we’re being told our feelings don’t matter. Sure, we shouldn’t be throwing ourselves on the floor in a grocery store when they’re out of our favorite Greek yogurt. The problem lies when you’re so sure your feelings don’t matter, you ignore them entirely.
5. No one likes me.
One of anxiety’s hidden talents is convincing you everyone hates you. The guy you saw on the walk to your car who didn’t say “hello”? He hates you. Your best friend took an hour to respond to your message when her Facebook shows she’s active now. She actually hates you. Your boss scheduled you on a Saturday. Definitely hates you! And don’t even get me started on your spouse, ’cause they hate you the most!
In all seriousness, the only good thing about this lie is it rarely strikes on its own. Probably because it’s the most absurd. Anxiety’s special talent is tricking you with the other lies first. Once it takes you down a few notches, it hits you with this one. Next thing you know, you’re alone crying in the bathroom. You know, usually right before something important, so you repeat all of the lies one more time before you pack the diaper bag and load the car.
Here’s how I fight back.
Knowing where these lies came from gives me the power to silence them. My therapist can take credit for this. She challenged me to remember the first time the lies were true. I wrote a list of times when I didn’t feel safe, couldn’t trust someone, and so on. From there, I picked positive cognitions–positive phrases to use instead. This part was really tough for me. It’s beyond difficult to find positive things to say when you’ve experienced two panic attacks in three days, constantly feel unsafe, think your feelings don’t matter, and so on. Fortunately, my therapist kept a lifeline in her office: a list to pick from. She reminded me I might have to “fake one” until I finally started believing it.
Fair warning, it takes a lot of practice to undo years of thinking this way.
Be gentle with yourself in the process. Writing your positive cognitions down and telling them to a support person can help you challenge these lies. You have the power to disarm them.
“I am safe now.”
“It’s okay for me to feel this way. Trust is earned, not given.”
“It’s normal to feel down sometimes but I’m doing my best. I am good enough.”
“My feelings may not matter to strangers but they matter to me and the people who love me.”
“When I honor my values, the right people will like me.”
Anxiety is an inevitable part of life. A little bit of anxiety can work to our advantage but sometimes, these lies interfere with our routines. Understanding the root cause of the lies can help us form new truths. If your anxiety keeps lying to you, see a therapist. They can teach you tons of tricks to keep these lies in check. You wouldn’t allow a family member or a friend to lie to you day in and day out, so don’t let your anxiety do it, either.
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Posted on May 16, 2021
The hour we spent next to you.
The number of hands and feet we dabbed onto that pad of blue ink.
The time on the clock when your little chest stopped rising and falling.
The number of days I spent in the hospital wondering how I could live the rest of my life without you.
The number of days separating my birthday from yours.
You arrived in the sixth month.
We brought you home in the seventh month–but not the way we planned.
The day of that last appointment, when the doctor said, “Baby’s perfect!”
My body should have protected you for nine months.
We should have met you in the tenth month.
The time on the clock when the doctor said my labor couldn’t be stopped.
The hour of your birth.
The number of hours you fought four your life.
The day of your birth. The summer solstice–the longest day of the year.
The number of weeks I carried you.
The number of months we’ve lived without you.
The number of milligrams it takes to feel normal without you, if there’s even such a thing.
And if I had one hundred more children, I’d miss you just the same.
The number of times I’d still choose you, because you are one in
Related articles: Remembering All of the Mothers
Posted on May 9, 2021
Since today is Mother’s Day, I want to do something bigger and better than flowers.
When I look back at dark times in my life, I recall many times I felt out of place or found myself in dangerous situations. These situations had one thing in common: the mothers. And I’m not talking about my biological mother here. I’m talking about all of the times when mother figures stepped in for me. Some of these mothers were complete strangers, which made them all the more special.
That’s what moms do, right? We see a crying kid or a struggling new mom and we come to the rescue.
These women cross my mind often–there’s no way I could forget their kindness. Their words and actions will stay with me forever.
I remember the mother who took that extra minute after class to console me when I got picked last in PE.
I remember the mother who surprised me at the K-Mart checkout with the bag of chips I couldn’t afford. She bought them after seeing me sit them back on the shelf.
I remember the mother who wrapped me in towels and rocked me on her lap when I had hypothermia. I couldn’t tell you what she looked like but I’ll never forget her soft voice.
I remember the mother who gave me rides to basketball practice so I wouldn’t have to walk home in the dark.
I remember the mother who bought my first tank of gas when I passed my driver’s test. I still have the card she gave me.
I remember the mother who cheered like hell for me at the finish line at my cross country meets. Even though my best was next to last place, she reminded me the best thing to do is to keep going.
I remember the mothers who took me in after my mother died.
I remember the mother who visited me in the hospital and kept my older son company so my husband and I could meet our newborn in the NICU. Little did we know, this would be our hello, goodbye, and everything in between.
I remember the mother who insisted my husband and I take pictures with my son, Carson, after he died. She knew from experience it was better to have the photos and never look at them than have no pictures at all.
I remember the mothers who inspired me to be the mother I am today. Thank you for rescuing me.
Who are you remembering today?
Posted on April 26, 2021
I’m not thinking about you.
I hear you when you say I’m not good enough.
I feel your frigid grasp.
I see the world around me twirl in slow motion.
My mind just won’t relax.
I still carry the guilt, the unwieldy guilt
For failing yesterday.
Letting worry and panic consume me while other people laugh.
I’m sick of feeling this way, like I have the weakest mind.
I know your tricks
I can outsmart you.
I’m not thinking about you.
I hear my girl say, “Mama”
I hear my son say, “You’re the best mom EVER”
I hear my husband say, “I love you”
I feel that piping hot cup of coffee with creamer.
I taste it, too.
I feel my son’s warm hugs.
I feel my mother’s fuzzy robe–the one she wore when she didn’t want to think about ports or medicine or how much time she had left.
I see bright green eyes.
Two sets of blue ones, too.
My mind slows down a little.
I take some deep breaths.
The sun hits my skin.
I’ll carry the guilt
but not for much longer.
I dump the guilt out,
all the way out.
I will not fail today
Because I know you
and I can say
I’m not thinking about you.
Updated on April 12, 2021
“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
As a kid, I heard this phrase often. I believed happiness was a privilege–some people deserved it. Other people deserved it. I didn’t.
Does that sound familiar?
My name is Rebbie Schmidt and I’m here to show you happiness is something we all deserve. We have the power to change our attitudes and change our lives.
How do I know?
I have endured numerous traumas in my 29 years. I’ve faced classroom and workplace bullies and different forms of abuse. The more I tried to defend myself, the harder my abusers pushed. The people I loved and needed the most were leaving. My last living grandparent, a dear uncle, my mother, and newborn son died in the span of four years. No doubt about it, my severe anxiety, panic attacks, and worthlessness were a punishment.
My attitude changed after my son died in 2018. I was 4,000 miles away from home and needed support more than ever. My overseas community, a stranger from back home, and my medical team saved my life. These people aided and nurtured me when I believed I was shattered beyond repair. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
Now it’s my turn to pay it forward.
I could let my challenges bitter me and hang on to the sow’s ear. Why not weave a silk purse instead?
I’ve learned a lot in my journey. I’d love to share with you. Whether you’re looking for support, encouragement, or help creating the life you deserve, you’ve come to the right place. We can do this.
Get involved by: sharing my content, commenting, and providing feedback.
Posted on March 29, 2021
Self-care is one of the hottest buzzwords on the internet. A quick Amazon search shows me self-care looks like a bubble bath, a bottle of lotion, and this tongue scraper thing.
Ah, nothing says self-love like rushing to get dressed after two luxurious minutes in a hot shower. I instantly think back to when my son was a toddler. For half of those two minutes, he was fervently waiting (screaming–definitely screaming) on the other side of the curtain. I scrambled to rinse the shampoo from my hair while he rammed a Thomas train into my thigh, “Frains, mommy!” I hurried into the living room, sank to the train track on the floor, and realized that new bottle of lotion sat unused. Again.
I managed to shower. I’ll do lotion next time. Good enough.
I used to think self-care was another word for hygiene.
Think twice before you toss that electric toothbrush. Fresh breath and the smell of Bath and Body Works deserve a place in our self-care practices. The problem is self-care is so much more than just a personal hygiene routine. Why? When we’re already overwhelmed, those little tasks aren’t so little anymore. They’re burdens.
In other words, yes, we can be too tired to brush our teeth. We can be too exhausted to wait for a tub to fill, let alone sit with ourselves while negative thoughts reel in our minds. One of my best friends and I coined our own term for this type of exhaustion–the “Collective Tired.” Consider yourself lucky if you’ve never experienced the Collective Tired.
In 2018, my second pregnancy ended and my son died. My self-care routine fell by the wayside.
My anxiety ensnared me. On top of grief, I faced an unexpected mental battle: concealing my postpartum belly. The idea of slipping maternity tops over my empty stomach made my chest ache. Not to mention, my pre-pregnancy clothes drew too much attention to the wrong places. Here I was, this newly bereaved mom and a task as simple as getting dressed drained me. I was lucky to get through a single day without a panic attack. The last thing I wanted to do was spend time in a room full of mirrors and be forced to look at myself.
Accepting the end of my pregnancy required every last bit of my energy. Learning to live my life without my son while fulfilling my obligations to my living son and husband demanded so much. Since I equated self-care to a hygiene ritual, I unknowingly created another burden. I caught myself in a cycle of failed self-care attempts. The extras like the lotion after the shower was a chore. I berated myself for my inability to do something so simple. Surely, I was an awful mother, a terrible wife, and I deserved how I felt. That negative voice in my head assured me I was a big, fat failure.
My counselors taught me the real meaning of self-care.
And guess what? There’s more than one. Click here for some self-care inspiration.
There is no one size fits all approach to self-care. Like religion, fitness, or our diet, we have to find what works for us. My two counselors helped me pinpoint shower and lotion-free self-care habits. I’d never get better if I was constantly triggering myself.
One counselor noticed my negative self-talk right away. We started with a self-compassion exercise.
We set a ground rule–when I caught myself thinking negative thoughts, I pretended like my best friend was saying them. Would I let my best friend say terrible things about herself? Definitely not. That meant calling myself a failure, an unfit mother, and everything else needed to stop.
“How do I do that?”
She suggested I turn those negative thoughts into something positive. Instead of saying, “I’m a failure for skipping the lotion today,” try, “I skipped lotion today, so I’ll take a ten minute walk instead. I can try again tomorrow.”
Doesn’t that sound better?
My other counselor ended every appointment by saying “Be good to yourself.”
Being good to myself meant taking medication he prescribed–even though I thought I was a failure for letting anxiety and panic consume me.
Being good to myself meant writing an apology letter to my body for all of the awful things I said about it.
Being good to myself meant buying a few nice articles of clothing that flattered my body.
Being good to myself meant promising to create healthy habits and work on myself every day.
Whether I use the lotion or not, I am not a failure. I can try again tomorrow.
What does self-care look like for you? Are you being good to yourself? Share your self-care practices in the comments.