Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Plucking the Seeds of Anxiety

I have ten topics in mind that I want to write about right now: the value of humor, not taking things personally, the relationship between food and mood. But those are just ways to avoid what I’m really feeling at this moment: anxiety and the fear of returning to the black hole.

Today is the first time in over six months that I woke up with that horrible knot in my stomach–the kind that, I suspect, a priest or sister might feel after robbing a bank. It’s like guilt in that I’m convinced it’s the result of a recent action, something bad I did. Yet, after searching my conscience, I fail to arrive at any major crime or sin (though there are plenty of little ones).

Early in my recovery I would take a sedative (or five) on mornings like these, because a tiny seed of agitation was enough to turn and twist my thoughts into layers and layers of distortions, totally disabling me. Before long I’d be shaking nervously, unable to drive my car or load the dishwasher without holding onto something for balance.


Now I try to catch the anxiety in its birth, before it persuades my mind, body, and spirit to collaborate with it. I remember what positive psychologists like Dan Baker and Martin Seligman and neuroscientists like Joseph LeDoux say about a human being’s “fear system,” generated by that delinquent cluster of brain tissue called the amygdala, which sends messages of panic from my left toenail to my right eyebrow.

I put both index fingers into my ears and shout, “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.” And I wait for the more nuanced, intellectual part of my brain to help me sort out the issue.


So that’s what I’m doing right now. Having a conversation with the Harvard-educated part of my brain, which is assisting me in analyzing what is triggering such angst, and which instruments in my recovery toolbox I need to pull out in order to whack the sucker over the top of the head so he doesn’t start pulling me into that deep, dark abyss.

I have plenty of suspects:

• The argument I had with my best friend right before I left to visit her for the weekend: I regret what I said even though expressing my frustration seemed the right thing to do. Still, I absolutely despise all confrontation and the awkwardness that accompanies it. I’m wondering if this is just a natural stage in the progression of a close friendship, or if we have issues we need to work out. (Do friends go to therapy together like couples do? Why does every single part of my life require therapy? Enough of therapy!)


• Without kids for the first time in a year this weekend, I slept through the night. Twice in a row. Which could have clued my body in on the fact that it’s getting way ripped off in the sleep category and should demand more.

• The two and a half weeks before my weekend away, I stayed up past midnight almost every night to work because the sitters were on spring break. Thus, my current depression might be a kind of physiological meltdown once my body was allowed to rest. (This morning I didn’t want to get out of bed.)

• Any breaks in my routine–even good ones–and traveling always cause me anxiety.

• I returned after a small break to my usual load of responsibilities, and am feeling somewhat overwhelmed by it (two weeks of newspapers to read, days of e-mails to return, extra attention to give the kids).


• My diet is off. I pigged out over the last three days because I was feeling bad about the fight. I broke my sweets rule, and munched as many cookies as were available.

• I got on the scale and saw I gained five pounds. (That causes panic in itself.)

Okay, now that I have identified the anxiety manufacturers–the likely contributors to my nervousness right now–here is my game plan:

• Continue with my day as if I’m not feeling any angst. Write my blog (this post) with the confidence of a woman not scared to death of a breakdown.

• Work out extra hard today–giving my brain an extra squirt of endorphins, and burning off some of the extra calories consumed this weekend.

• Go to the grocery store–buy plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and protein. Eliminate sweets today and tomorrow. (Sugar highs always crash in depression or irritability. Like knowing that will really help me skip the cookies….)


• Get back to a regular sleep pattern–aiming for eight hours at night. Call a few more sitters to get extra hours if I don’t have enough to cover my work so that I don’t have to stay up this week. I’m in fragile land, which means I can’t push it.

• Cut back on caffeine. Limit myself to two or three cups of coffee this week. Try to get down to two cups a day next week.

• Decompress for at least fifteen minutes today–time reserved for reading or journaling or sitting by the water, or zoning out.

• Don’t try to meditate today.

• Check in with a fellow depressive or friend (Call Mike. Tell him I’m starting to freak out. He will set me straight. As always.)


• Take out my medal of St. Therese–my security object–and finger it every time my breath gets shallow.

• Remember what my doctor said: It is normal to be scared when experiencing anxiety or depression in the months that follow a severe depression–that the more days of recovery I get, the more confident I will become that periods of unease aren’t necessarily signaling a major relapse.

Aah. That feels good. I’m already feeling better. And I will feel even better after I finish visualizing smashing the almond-shaped brain tissue (the amygdala) responsible for my present panic with my medal of St. Therese. Because my faith is ultimately the best weapon against that fear-inducing scoundrel.

  • http://HASH(0xceb931c) Peg

    Hi Therese, if it helps, here is the web address from Recovery under their Forums subheading, which is a list of tools, some of which you could use.

  • http://HASH(0xcebac5c) Peg

    I forgot to mention that somehow my computer does not show .pdf files anymore, so I copied this on faith as I have a copy of this list somewhere.

  • http://HASH(0xcebba24) Elizabeth

    Thank you for sharing, being open and making me feel so normal and not alone in my daily struggles with anxiety/depression. I had to handle it alone, when the rest of the world was scared of mental illness as if it was a contagious disease or a sin. Yes, it’s a battle, a challenge and definitely a growth.

  • http://HASH(0xcebc724) Josephine BlackEagle

    About your friend: Can you call and say you hate that you argued? Clean up your side of the street. Tell your friend how much you value the friendship, and offer to go to therapy to resolve friendship issues.

  • http://HASH(0xcebca48) Ada

    First of all thank you! This came at the perfect time. I hate that spinning self analyzation mind game! As a fellow coffee addict I suggest that you cut it out completely (which I am trying to do). You’ll sleep better which will cause you to feel better the next day which will help you not need coffee to get through the day, etc. etc. You probably already know that but I can attest that it cuts down the daily jitters – that creeping anxiety – and I sleep better.

  • Kevin Keough

    Therese, You are on a roll. Your posts just seem to get better and better and you started with -great. No joke, I believe you will begin to receive offers to ‘betray’ Beliefnet and jump aboard a bigger ship. I wish a Catholic publication would embrace you( I just interrupted a long series of thoughts leading me to become despondent about how unenlightened and unmotivated the Church is about doing more to ‘protect us from all anxieties’….so now I an just mildly bummed).Regarding the precipitants of that awful knot you experienced upon awakening, I place my money on change in routine with emphasis on success in erasing some of your sleep debt as biggest culprit (the 2nd-5th days of any vacation I take are always terrible-I crash; I am embarrassed to admit that last summer was the first vacation I had taken in 8 years—my son was instrumental in making it happen….I feel guilty and a sense of loss re this part of my life).Sleep IS the cornerstone of health. The amount and quality of our sleep essentially rules eating behavior/weight gain, etc. It is the best predictor of longevity…shiftworkers sacrifice more than a decade of life because of sleep loss—-one reason I am devoted to cops. A majority of our children, especially teenagers, suffer from serious and chronic sleep deprivation (at the root of virtually every problem they suffer and suffered by their parents and teachers). This list is terribly long, so I will stop there except to add: Sleep is the cornerstone rejected by the ‘builders’–those responsible for creating a Culture of Death. If you will permit me to attempt to induce guilt in you….it’s your fault I don’t get enough sleep. You don’t get enough which somehow causes me not to get enough. I am a victim or your midnight activity….lol. Oh, I forgot–yesterday was the first full day of spring—some of us are sensitive to season changes. Plus the weather was miserable in the mid-Atlantic.

  • http://HASH(0xcebe39c) Carrie B.

    This inspired me to make a plan. It helps so much to just have an idea of how you will handel anxiety. At times I don’t think I need a plan and then of course things happen, reminding you to figure out what to do. Anyway, thanks for writing this!

  • http://HASH(0xcebf0a4) Kalorrah

    Thank you for posting your thoughts and coping strategies…reading this really helped me today :-)

  • http://HASH(0xcec05b8) Nancy

    “Everything is difficult before it is easy.”

  • http://HASH(0xcec08dc) Cully

    Therese, am I reading this right…”The argument I had with my best friend right before I left to visit her for the weekend” ?? You argued with a friend and then spent the weekend as her guest… is that what you are saying? I really like you and your blog, and I often see your very great strides forward, but wow, huny, call your friend and tell her how much you appreciate her and how horrible you feel about the fight and her still welcoming you for the weekend. It really doesn’t matter that she knows/accepts that you are tweaked – what matters is that you know it and want to stop. hugz, Cully

  • http://HASH(0xcec17f4) Mickey

    Hi My name is mickey & I feel what you are saying see I have anxiety of being to close to some one & getting hurt part of it is because I don’t trust to much & I am really trying to change that & not let my pass effect my future see sence I was about 8yrs I’ve been on the streets before that I had a drugy Mom & her freinds who thought it was ok to take advantage of me the things that happend is stuff you can’t even Imagine but some how I made it out I feel very lucky I had one person who didn’t let go of me & that is probably why I made it through that shit NOW I am a Mother of 3 BEAUTIFUL lil Girls & one on the way :) & the man that I’m with is the best he is the most Incredeble Man that I have ever met he is a Wonderful Father a heart the size of the world & not one day doesn’t go by with out him letting me know just how important I am to him but I think my insecuritys are going to get the best of me I’ve done really goog w/ letting my pass go but for some reason I have that not in my stomic again he is the first guy I have dated in 7 yrs (I used to be married) you know everybody looks @ me & they think what a sweet lady I am allways smiling I have alot to be happy for but I think its funny how you could stand right next to some one & not even know that they have been to HELL & back or what kinda person someone was before you met them kinda like homless they were all kids w/ Parent @ one point what happend to them to get them were they are I know I sound funny but these are the kinda things that go on in my head sometimes anyways I am suppost to be working :) I hope you can understand what I’m saying sometimes when I exspress my self I don’t make sence @ least that is what my sister says well I hope you have a FANTASTIC DAY!!! ~~~ M :)

  • http://HASH(0xcec235c) Lois

    Keep thinking positive. I have been there and keeping focused on recovery is essential. You can do it!!!!!!

  • http://HASH(0xcec3104) John G. Moore

    Phillipians 4:6-7 has the biblical approach for dealing with anxiety. It reads: “Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your heart and your mind by Christ Jesus”. Pray in fauth and your prayer will be answered.

  • http://HASH(0xcec4154) karen

    You are quite an inspiration. Am grateful for you blogs. Almost makes me think I’m not as crazy as I feel sometimes.. I feel like I know you. Or you are in my mind because I can so identify with your thought process. You are so on. Scary to know another woman is so wirey minded as I am, but a relief. I know I’m not alone. Thanks again. love yur blogs.

  • http://HASH(0xcec4478) karen

    I am trying to focus on spirituality becacuse that is all I have left. God loves me and you. The Bible tells me so.

  • http://HASH(0xcec5890) karen

    Phillians 4: 6-7 was just the scripture I needed tonight. Thanks to whoever put this here. It was for me

  • http://HASH(0xcec6188) karen

    Thankx John

  • http://HASH(0xcec6758) Becky

    Therese – you continue to impress me with how well you express the life/mind of a Catholic with Anxiety & Depression.Karen mentioned that she feels like you are in her mind. I relate. Sometimes I start to worry that ontop of the anxiety & depression, I have a split personality and one of my personalities is writing an awesome blog.My husband and I call the exhausted feeling you get after getting rest “sleeping our way BACK to tired.” I slept 6 hours straight last night for the first time since my daughter was born in November – and I felt TOTALLY hung over this morning.I’m going to have to buy another fridge to have enough room to put up all of your posts that I want to print out to remind me I’m not alone and to remind me what to do when I start to feel I’m slipping. Thanks again!

  • http://HASH(0xcec7a38) JOYCE


  • http://HASH(0xcec7d5c) Teresa Hayes uk

    This is for Mickey, Firstly you have my admiration for your attitude, considering what you have experienced. You appear to have a huge capacity for forgiveness. I don’t claim to have endured anything like the pain you have suffered. But i have struggled emotionally, and my heart goes out to you. My salvation was due partly to a counselling course i took {i’m still working towards my diploma} It help my self awareness. I believe it is possible to overcome past traumas, but we do it at our own individual pace. Keep searching, don’t ever give up. p.s. in my opinion your message is clear as a bell.

  • http://HASH(0xcec8c6c) Teresa Hayes uk

    P.P.S. I just wanted to add. I too have a very supportive husband, i have taken for granted for most of our 25 years together. I had the sense to stay with him. He was my only decent role model, but couldn,t see it till now. Also as much as i love my sisters i now realise they are quite a destructive psychological influence. And keep a respectful distance.

  • http://HASH(0xcec9cfc) Alejandra

    Reading your story made me realize that I am not alone. I just came back from a weekend business trip and immediatley rekindled my relationship with my boyfriend. I want him to be open. There is hardly any controll when I lash out due to my frustratons, I want understanding. I suppose the drink “red bull” made me irratible and was the wrong thing to have in my system while we spoke about an issue that was tickling my mind.Thank you for allowing me to sort through my problem!

  • http://HASH(0xcecab04) Linda

    Thank You,I really needed to know that I am not alone.

  • http://HASH(0xcecbc5c) LaRose C.Johnson

    Thanks so much for the blog. I’ve been suffering from panic attacks for 8 years. It is so scary because you think you’re going to die. Thank you I’m not alone. It happens to me while driving, working, and sleeping. I’ve started taking VitaminB12 that is suppose to be good for the nervous system. The doctor’s medicine causes drowsiness the next day. Very good article.

  • http://HASH(0xcecbf80) noneed4greed

    In my past life i had come up with many different problems such as what you go through. Most of the time it is a two way street,and not your entire falt. Everyones brain is thinking their own ways. And is very easy for them to take things the wrong way. To some people they seem to thrive on disagreements.Or want to take things and make the worst of it.I have met such people. Not your fault in most cases. Even though you can’t figure out why,you still have feelings for them. I have learned to wipe out the cob webs to go to sleep. As nothing you can do at the time to smooth it over. And up to two cups a coffee a day never hurt anyone.

  • http://HASH(0xcecc8c0) Rhonda

    Hey, As I read your blog, I’m thinking, how did someone else know whats happening to me? I appreciate your blog, it made me feel like I’m not fighting this fight by myself. I know God is always with me and I read the Bible for incouragement. It does help. However, I still get anxious and depressed. It’s a daily fight. And I appreciate what you suggested, it gives me a starting place…a point of battle station against these evils that are surrounding me and circling me. I have God’s protection to help me as I battle and I claim that protection over anxiety and depression. Lord continue to help me. ps. It doesn’t matter that you are catholic and I am baptist. We are all God’s children and He is ready to help us…if we can only put our trust in Him. Rhonda Thanks again for your blog

  • http://HASH(0xcecd590) Leidiana

    Thanks for your honestY. So refreshing to bond each day with your fellow sister. I also believe that we put too much emphasis on every feeling. We over analysis and then we always feel neurotic. Feeling come and go, ride it through and we come to realize it was nothing. I love your tactic of “liar, liar, pants on fire. I always say we control our feelings, feelings don’t control us. We just need to move on. I so enjoyed your article.

  • http://HASH(0xceceb08) HASH(0xcecea60)

    Dear Ms. Borchard, I thank you for your frankness about anxiety and depression. I have fought and mostly lost to depression for several years. It has only been recently that I have been able to learn how to win these battles. Thanks for the tips that you list.

  • http://HASH(0xcecf5d8) Robin Johnson

    Thank you so much for being so realistic and honest. I appreciate this more than words can say! You now know you don’t have to listen to those voices going, “Bla, bla, bla!” You have made a great choice; just don’t listen to those liars! Your game plan sounds great too. Walk together, strenght we find, Walking one step at a time. Love to you, sister, Robin Hummingbird Songs

  • margot

    we all have to pay our deuss, but as i am a 2 time, lser about men, the wand to control me, but i starting to figth back.I’m not the same, lovly go lucky Person any more, the one who use to sing and Dance.what happent to me??? give me an ansver I can understand

  • http://HASH(0xced0948) Gina

    i could cry right now! i thought i was somewhat insane b/c i live with the kind of anxiety that you described!!!! i felt horribly alone in this, i would feel gripping guilt even when i had NOT done anything wrong! i went thru a period in time where i was confessing to my husband (then boyfriend) all the things i had done wrong, guilt pushing me to confess even useless bits of harmless infomation. then later when EVERYTHING had already come out, i was still feeling the pains of guilt! now and again, i get these horrible feelings like i have done something very wrong, but even after soul searching, i cant find anything to feel guilty about (not in proportion to the guilt anyways – just little things like i should not have put off working on something small) thank you so much for letting me know that i’m not all alone and that there are ways to deal with it!

  • http://3.24.07--2;15am tropical soul

    Thank you for all your comments. I know I am not alone with depression and anxiety, but in a sense I am. I can not talk about it with my family and my husband (of 30 years) refuses to acknowledge that depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are real. I see doctors, therapist, have meds. and I still feel I am getting worse. I don’t actually feel guilt but I know from the time I get up in the morning until I go to bed at night I am constantly being told how much I do wrong, what I should be doing, I can not even go out with my daughter for a few hours with feeling the anxiety of knowing what awaits me when I return home. My daughters are no longer teenagers. Should I leave this man and start a new life without so much stress? He will not go to counseling or change. He thinks he is perfect and that I am the one with “the problem.” Any thoughts? Limbo/ 3.24.07/ 2:15 am

  • http://HASH(0xced1bb8) teresa

    If i was in your situation, which i have been, i would go for some counselling. I believe we know whats best for us, we just need help coming to the right conclusion.

  • http://HASH(0xced2e88) lynda

    Your comments made much sense to me. Why do we have these feelings?? Others I know do not have them. I pray alot. The Bible says that “Satan cannot reside in the presence of God’s people” so many times I simply start praising God and praying these feelings will go away. I sometimes laugh when I think how my praising sounds to God at such times…I hope He has a sense of humor

  • http://HASH(0xced3998) carrie

    tropical soul…you said it in a nutshell…do i stay or do i go??? 16 years+ — still can’t decide…i thought for many years i was worthless and underserving of anything that brought happiness…i created my own anxieties– for so long felt that it was me…the mad-hatter…guess what? i’m the one who has it together…i have great kids, great work ethic, character, and itegrity….i’m very spiritual and apparently GOD has me right where HE wants me to be…for whatever reason…i thank GOD everyday for my blessings and pray that dear old satan will not penetrate my mind (satan comes in all forms – GOD will let us prevail if we really turn it over to HIM… but as lynda said…praying helps alot, without Him i’d be gosh knows where…i have learned that you can’t think with your heart or your mind as it sometimes confuses the other, however, what helps me is, i let the spirit talk to my mind…i burn sage and incense and pray to st. michael … he never fails me…i have so much to be thankful for…believe in self and never allow anyone to take your energy…when the going gets touch…the touch get going….remember keeping great energy and believing in self, most important…a few REIKI cleansings helps too!…much love and happienss to all…remember, everything is temporary…there is such a greater and bigger picture to behold, if you just listen to your spirit….GOD WILL ALWAYS PROVIDE WHAT YOU NEED, JUST ASK HIM!

  • http://HASH(0xced49ac) One of Us

    Thank you Therese for weaving humor in “our” otherwise depressing, gloomy and breath-choking episodes. It really helps! I’m also grateful to others who take the time to express their comments. Knowing that others relate to my negative emotions keeps me from feeling isolated, from thinking I’m a misfit, or emotionally handicapped. These struggles are just a phase…and phases can/do repeat in cycles, but when we share our coping tools we empower each other!!

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