Category Archives: Anxiety

She’s Done Chasing Happiness

Today, I have a treat for you. A darling girl (who I took to prom once, full disclosure) reached out to me, and asked if she could share something on Terminally Intelligent. I hope you enjoy Brittni’s stirring words as much as I did.

I am Still Fighting

I live my life in a fluid discontentment between anxious and depressed. My anxiety stays around a 7-8 on a 10-point scale (with very few spikes and valleys) until my body and my mind can’t handle it anymore. When this happens, everything shuts down, and I get really depressed.

I think when my anxiety is an 8, my depression is a 4. Even when I crash, my anxiety is still a 3, and my depression becomes a 9. The worst part is that I know it’s coming. It always happens this way. This means that in my brief moments of happiness, I still feel the looming of depression about to set in.

I’ve chased happiness for as long as I can remember. I played softball. I thought winning would make me happy. I tried to impress my parents, thinking that would bring me happiness. I was the first in my family to go to (and graduate from) college. That brought some happiness to my parents, but not a lot to me. I found a man I love. At this point, I have to distinguish that while I am happy with him, I am not truly happy. We moved across the country, and while he did this for work, I thought this would be just the transition I needed to finally find ‘it’. Guess what. In New England, the days are short, the winter is long, and this southern girl hates the cold.

I have a hard time making friends. Exercise isn’t something I enjoy. I don’t feel at home here. There is so much that I’m missing out on from so far away. These are the thoughts that come to me every single time I start to enjoy a fleeting moment. I forget that I am loved. I forget that I am brilliant. I forget that I have never set a goal that I did not reach.

An outsider looking in says, “You seem so determined, ambitious, and kind. I really thought that you were such a joy to be around. How could you be so sad?” My burden is so much to have to bear, I would hate to impose it on anyone else. I don’t ever want to bring anyone down. So, I “fake it till you make it.” That’s all I know. I open up to very few.

My first real “bout” of depression began when I was a senior in high school. I heard a preacher say, “You choose to be happy.” I went home and read Ephesians, and decided it was true. To this day, I have no idea how that book brought me so much peace. I’ve re-read it again and again, but the peace is gone.

There are things I’ve done to try to gain some sort of contentment. I lost a hundred pounds, then gained 30 back. I have a list of my “favorite things” (which includes The Sound of Music) that I reflect on when I stop seeing the positive side of things. I try to move, and go outside, even when I don’t feel like it. I make an effort to eat real, whole foods, because being Paleo Primal “will save your life.” I talk to my mom. I talk to my shrink. I write notes to myself to pick me up when I’m down. I am telling you right now, if you could choose to be happy, none of us would ever be sad.

I still have hope, and hopefully it’s enough. I’m trying this new thing out. I’m going to try to teach myself to be happy. Let me break that down into a more doable task. I am going to make an effort to combat every negative thought with a positive one. I may start off reusing the same positive thought over and over. I may need to start out small. Maybe one positive for every two negatives. The important thing is that I’m still trying. I may need to take breaks, and when I do, I know there are people there to help me through. I want to find happiness, but I’m not chasing it anymore. This time, it can meet me here. Right where I’m at.

I’m still fighting.

7 Must-Know Facts About OCD

OCD Copper

Every now and then, I get smacked in the face by the sheer volume of misunderstanding regarding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Jokes, memes, comedy routines, and cultural norms all tend to make the obsessive or compulsive individual out to be a control freak, or a bully. But from the other side of the fence, it’s a very different experience. Here are the seven facts about OCD I think everyone should know.

  1. OCD isn’t just counting and cleaning. Any thought could become an obsession.
  2. Obsessions are primarily based on anxiety. A sense of doom, or even pain, is the engine that drives compulsions.
  3. You can’t see all symptoms of OCD. You may know someone with OCD who has never compulsively locked and unlocked their doors, or counted their steps. Some symptoms include internal monologues or mantras.
  4. OCD isn’t curable, but medication works. Many effective OCD medications address the anxiety that prompts the obsession, and drives compulsion. Without the anxiety, it’s easier to focus on healthy behavior.
  5. Individuals dealing with OCD often feel shame and doubt more keenly than others, and feel it more often. It’s pretty easy to make someone with OCD feel guilty. We’ve got a box of it by the door, ready for you.
  6. Medication isn’t enough by itself. Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and self-awareness are critical components of symptom management and treatment.
  7. The causes and symptoms of OCD are still being studied. This disease is still largely undiscovered. As with any illness, it takes years of testing, research, and peer-reviewed studies to determine new facts regarding the disease.

If you have OCD, please know you aren’t alone. If you know someone with OCD, treat them with kindness and support. They are trying, I promise.

Should I Go See ‘The Martian’?

Original Photo: NASA. Image: Rory Bristol

Original Photo: NASA. Image: Rory Bristol

Holy hot damn. I just finished what is easily my favorite sci-fi book of all time, and easily scores in my top ten. The Martian, scheduled to hit theaters tomorrow, October 2nd, is based on a fabulous book you can download for free. I just finished reading it, and I already want to read it again.

Did you catch all that? Free book. Best sci-fi book ever. Going to be a movie in theaters tomorrow. Jenny and I are breaking a life-rule together. We’re going to see it in theaters. We have literally never been to a movie together. Totally mark that up to movies being expensive as hell, crowded, inevitably boring, and a nice dose of holy-crap-I-can’t-leave-this-place-fast-enough anxiety.

But this book is worth the chance. Matt Damon as the primary character of a 141-minute film? Yes, please. No Ben Affleck? Double that yes! (Yes! Yes!) The character Mark is engaging, ballsy, totally jaded, and all kinds of hilarious. Totally up Matt Damon’s alley, and I cannot wait to see it. [we saw it, see below]

My to do list before going to this movie:

  1. Pack anxiety pills.
  2. Convince Jenny to let me buy popcorn.
  3. Give up on argument.
  4. Argue from a new standpoint.
  5. Give up argument.
  6. Eat a real meal before going.
  7. Enjoy the movie.
  8. Flee the theater, thankful that there is open sky when I get outside.
  9. Get pizza. 2 slices and a Coke. In the memory of a good man.

Now, how to bring up popcorn to Jenny… Oh, before this post runs, she’ll see my to do list. It has to start somewhere, right? [Love you, Honey!]

[Update: Spoiler alert!

We went and saw it. If you OMG love the book because science, or because of the main character, stick to the book. If you want a very similar story from a completely different angle, enjoy the show!

Mark is my hero. Science is my jam. The Martian is a book about the will to live, and the balls to make that happen. The movie is about NASA recovering a man left on Mars. Much less fun, IMO, and Jenny and I spent ages ripping it a new one afterwards.

They left out the ramp accident, and the storm, and the science behind the farm, and the bedroom, and the water reclaimer, and, and, and, and, and. Then they added in the Iron Man scene. Seriously. Just because “why the fuck not?” Ruined the ending for us. Made me very sad. Now, I have to read it again. Damn 😀


How Is Anxiety Built?

"SUM 110913 Cort Neurons 2.5d in vitro 488 Phalloidin no perm 4 cmle-2" by Howard Vindin - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

“SUM 110913 Cort Neurons 2.5d in vitro 488 Phalloidin no perm 4 cmle-2” by Howard Vindin – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

I’ve written dozens of pages about this. I’ve done tons of research, trying to understand my brain, and damn. The way we build memories is kind of hard to describe. No matter how hard I try, I’ve failed at making it all fit into a small series of thoughts. So I’m doing my best, but I’m also cheating.

I’ll break it down into some general statements, stay to the end for an interactive activity.

Follow the rabbit down the hole!

Top 10 Strategies to Reduce Anxiety


There are hundreds of ways to reduce anxiety, and they aren’t all good for everyone. This list isn’t comprehensive, and it couldn’t be even if it were the Top 250 Strategies to Reduce Anxiety. These are tools that help me, and I’ve seen help others. Interpret them to apply to your own life, and you will feel better for it.

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It’s My Fault, Can I Fix It?

blame my fault

When I was a kid, I got a glass of water, drank it, and put the cup back in the cupboard. It just had water in it, and I was young enough to not know about germs and invisible ickies. My cousin, however, was quite old enough. He also had a severe case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. After he saw me do this, he was triggered into an episode of hyper-obsession. He washed his hands until they bled. He washed the dishes several times each before considering them “clean”.

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I Wasn’t Prepared

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

Saturday, Jenny and I went out to a potluck to enjoy some friendly company. I squared myself between a good friend (Red) and my wife, and enjoyed being ensconced in a safe place at the party. While I was distracted by my attention-whore of a phone, the subject of Red’s mother’s death came up. I was not, in any way, prepared to hear that story.

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What Do I Even Say?

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

I was a bit of a mess after reading Wil Wheaton’s latest post Tears in Rain. It made me cry, then it made me sad, and then it made me happy. And then I cried some more, because reasons. After I regained my composure, I went back to my emails, because in those vast caverns of private conversation, I have some really great stuff from you guys who are too shy to share publicly.

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I Didn’t Tell

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

My memory is getting worse, but I’m not sure what to do for that. More talks with my doctors, therapist, and Jenny. More adjustments. Possibly more meds, possibly fewer meds. It’s inconvenient, but it’s helping me get into some great habits.


  • Jenny has to remind me of stuff. All day long. It’s frustrating for her.
  • I have a harder time getting everything done, because I won’t remember it in 15 minutes.
  • I regularly walk into another room and forget why I’m there. Like, eight or nine times per day.
  • I make minor commitments and lose track of them.
  • All this makes me fucking insane and sad.
  • I forget to take my medicine.


  • I’ve developed better habits regarding checking behind myself to make sure I took my medicine or that something is done right.
  • I’m learning to make lists, leave myself notes, and communicate more clearly.
  • People know I really mean it when I compliment a dress or shirt, because I’ll have commented in the past.
  • It’s easier to sit down and commit to the work I’m doing, because my to-do list isn’t hovering anxiously in the front of my head.
  • It’s easy as hell to keep secrets and be discreet, because I forget the thing I’m supposed to not talk about.
  • I make a great confidant, because I can genuinely listen without judging that person by the conversation later.

It’s both good and bad. It’s inconvenient, and it’s a case of changing my life to address side effects of medication, but I think it’s worth it. It’s worth it to have reduced anxiety. It’s worth it to have more structure. It’s worth it because I am surrounded by people who understand.