I’m not the only person battling anxiety and that doesn’t make me feel better

“You have to realize that you are not the only one having these thoughts. People have been overthinking and worrying for years. I think your generation just wants it fixed quicker.” My mom said to me, trying to make me feel less crazy during one of our many morning phone calls since she lives 1,003.1 miles away. She obviously means well and thinks this is helpful because this is how she copes. She prefers to think on the defense and it comforts her to know that she isn’t the first person to go through something tough, and she won’t be the last.

She’s right, in a way. Millennials are spoiled and it’s partially because we have access to everything that we can type in with our thumbs. We get antsy if there’s no wifi on planes for Christ’s sake or if our 4G isn’t fast enough. We want things immediately, success included, because we’ve seen other millennials grow to become successful entrepreneurs, and those who are prone to anxiety over rejection will obsess over their “lack of success”. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell. My idea of success isn’t coming fast enough. I should be doing more, working harder. Does anyone else feel the same?

Louis C.K.: “The Shittiest Cell Phone In The World Is A Miracle”

But, knowing that I’m not the only one with anxiety doesn’t make me feel better at all. It doesn’t make me feel at ease. It still makes me anxious and on top of that, it makes me feel guilty. I think that my problems are stupid and unworthy of worry. As if I don’t already tell my brain that 10000x a day. Your problems are not that big of a deal. People are going through much bigger battles and wars than you are. In real life too, dummy! Not in imagining scenarios in their own head. But the whole point of being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder is the simple fact that it’s officially out of your control. You need to constantly work on it, combat it with techniques. It’s a battle after battle in a war against your own mind. And that can be the toughest opponent.

It’s sad, really. Sad that certain advances in our generation have also had consequences. We expect more at a faster rate because that’s what we are used to. We have a harder time just feeling shitty for a day and moving on. We need to be fixed NOW.

I think the most important thing to take away from this idea is this: We are all going through battles. It’s unfair to yourself to discredit what you are going through just because someone else out in the world has it harder. But if you are feeling shitty today, or worried about what could happen tomorrow, do your best to focus on now. Whether that’s a mindful exercise for a quick fix or scheduling an extra therapy session for the week, the most important thing to focus on is you.

Because you are a strong queen/king/warrior/general/knight and the battle is yours to win.

Photo by Andrew Yardley on Unsplash (Cropped)

“Wait, you have anxiety – Have you tried going to yoga though?” Me: Screams Internally

The treatment options for Generalized Anxiety Disorder are out there. To control anxiety, it’s important to make healthy choices. Eat right, cut down on alcohol, practice yoga, meditate. We’ve already talked about the anxiety cycle and how hard it is to break. But on top of that, what if you aren’t someone who is prone to developing a healthy routine? What about those of us who would rather spend 8 hours on the couch watching Law & Order SVU than get our asses to a yoga class when we are anxious or depressed?

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Lately I have been getting the same notification from Headspace every single morning to meditate before I go to work. And guess what: I don’t. And I personally do feel guilty about that. And no, not everyone has to meditate, or exercise or be decked out in Lululemon to be happy. But I know that I’m not happy. How do I know? Because I am constantly thinking about how I need to be better. If I was happy with myself, I think I would be more content.

What happens when you KNOW what you need to do, but you just can’t bring yourself to do it?

Where are the advice blogs for people like us?

Well, that’s what I’m here for. I’ve made mistakes. I’m extremely hard on myself. One night of going out will usually lead to at least two consecutive anxious hangover days. Those days consist of a pounding heart, shakes and problems focusing for 48 straight hours. I’ve said and done things that I regret in the past that I still think about, and I still don’t have it figured out. But I’m trying. I have read countless articles and books trying to figure out how to control my anxiety disorder. I KNOW what I need to do but that doesn’t mean that I can do it. Sometimes the only thing I can do is read articles on Pinterest from my phone while sitting in bed all day long. Literally, I’ve typed in the words “Am I a bad person?” and went down that rabbit hole too.

What type of person googles “AM I A BAD PERSON?” Not a confident one, I can tell you that.

It takes 21 days to build a new habit. I imagine getting confidence back for yourself will take longer than that. But if you are struggling like I am, just know that you’re not alone. And if you want to watch SVU for 8 hours today? Well, I don’t judge. And you shouldn’t judge yourself either.

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Oops I did it again… and that’s okay.

So let’s talk about the never ending life cycle when you are in your late twenties and have generalized anxiety. It looks a whole lot like this:

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Courtesy of Psychology Today

After a week of constant stressors and work and obsessive thoughts about what I could be doing different in my life, I decided that I would say fuck it to being responsible and went out with work people on a Friday night (yes, I know: Groundhog Day). Of course I drank too much. Of course I had to piece together certain parts of the night. Everyone does it, right? But the difference with me is this. I literally put myself into situations that will only end in rejection and failure and feeling depressed. I will spare the details for now but it comes down to trying to obtain something that I just can’t. Because I shouldn’t have it in the first place and I sure as hell don’t need it.

I have a very self-doubting personality. Everything great in my life literally get chucked into the box of “great things” and forgotten about. And believe me, there are a lot of great things in my life and it makes me feel like a total asshole sometimes because I continue to put my focus forward and want more. Been promoted 4 times in 4 years? Yeah, but I’ll never get to the next position. Happily married to an amazing person? Yeah, but what if other guys don’t find me attractive? That type of energy can be used for the greater good, but lately I have only been using it for evil.

Back to the cycle. This has been my current life. I obsess and stress over all aspects of my life, continue living with physical and mental tension, try to blow off steam by acting like a typical 28 year old female on a Friday night, and wake up feeling absolutely fucking horrible. Then the cycle continues with negative thoughts and anger. Why did you do that last night? Don’t you know any better? Why do you feel like you need to be the center of attention anyways? Who cares about these people?

I try to take to the advice that I read or what I’m given. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry so much. This isn’t that big of a deal. Except when your brain works the way that mine does, it is. Everything is a huge deal and can cripple and ruin you. It’s such a tough way to live and I just don’t know how to get out of it.

I’ve written in the past about being sober curious but in the end, I know my anxiety is behind my alcohol issues too. It’s why I can’t leave a bar when I say that I will. For fear of missing out, not being included, not controlling the room, not being the most liked person there.

I do follow a few sober motivational bloggers and came across this post by Hip Sobriety. It could not have come at a better time. I had tears streaming down my face when I read this. Especially this passage:

Do you know what I did with that broken girl back in 2013? The one who had been attempting to destroy every single defect of character for as long as she could remember, the one who was already in advanced talks with a God she didn’t believe in to “just take it away,” the one who had no idea of self beyond what was wrapped into the life she thought presented well, men who abused her, friends she didn’t like and a career that ate her? The one who couldn’t look at herself in a mirror?

I started to love her. I began telling her she was okay and that she was loved and that nothing was wrong with her. I told her she wasn’t fucked up beyond repair. I let her know we had lost our way a little bit, that we’d shut some doors along the way, and that I was going to stand next to her while we went around the house and reclaimed those disowned parts (“Especially the ugly ones,” I told her).

Wow. Imagine if instead of waking up the next day with guilt, anger and other negative thoughts – I embraced myself. I comforted myself and told myself that everything was going to be okay even if I don’t 100% believe it and instead of thinking about how my actions affected others the night before. Because guess what, they probably didn’t. So here I am spending an entire day of my life – a precious 24 hours – beating myself up and hating myself when the other person is not even thinking about it.

Imagine if I told MYSELF everything was going to be okay, it doesn’t matter, YOU DIDN’T NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE TO BE COMPLETE.

Here’s what needs to happen. I need to make some changes. I need to put me first. I need to surround myself with good people. I need to realize that it’s not going to happen overnight. And yes, it’s going to be awhile before I can give others advice or have a million readers or whatever. And that’s okay too.

All I want is a new Groundhog Day.

Rejection Sucks: Even more so when you have crippling anxiety and you are off your meds.

Everyone feels shitty when they get rejected. It’s human biology that stems back to the days when we hunted for dinosaurs and started fires with sticks and a rock. According to Pyschology Today, our cave woman/man minds’ felt rejection to warn us so that we could anticipate being abandoned from our tribe and left to die a slow, painful death alone (can you tell I’ve been anxious lately?)

Even worse, the mental feeling of rejection actually responds in the same way as physical pain. But we tend to replay emotional pain in our minds over and over, whereas our body is able to heal physical pain at a faster rate.

Now, let’s take the “normal” feels of rejection that our bodies are programmed to do and throw it in a cocktail shaker with a nice dose of daily generalized anxiety. The outcome is I will take one “Sorry, no, I’m busy” invitation and think about it for the next 48 hours straight. What could I have said differently? What is everyone doing without me? Not getting a text back? Forget it. All bets are off. I am officially the most worthless piece of shit that has ever walked the planet.

Especially since as a millennial in 2017, I know you have your phone with you at all times. I can see what memes you are liking on Instagram, I can see what you are posting on Snapchat. The thought that I would be lower on your priority list over all of those things is enough to make my stomach churn and I can’t focus on anything else except for that fucking computer screen or cell phone.

DO YOU KNOW HOW BADLY I WISH WE COULD GO BACK TO PAYPHONES?

Yes, I realize how insane this sounds. You can tell me a million times how people are not even thinking about it. But my own personal feelings of not being the top priority or the best are really hard to combat no matter what the situation is.

I have a feeling that these negative thoughts are coming up because of my lack of medication and I can admit that I have not been keeping up with my other healthy habits as much as I’d like to. My meditation attempts have been tough, I feel like my mind is going miles per minute about everything going on in my life and I’m resorting to bad habits in order to relax. Outside forces lead to internal thoughts that have been weighing down on me. It’s been really tough but recognizing WHY is the first step.

How do we stay focused when we have access to people’s movements 24/7? How do we measure up when we constantly compare ourselves to everyone else? I want to take the next week and focus on letting go of my ego. I need to accept the things that I cannot change and push back on the desire to constantly succeed and be the best. All I need to do is be me.

“Since brokenness is the way of folks, the only way to live peacefully is to forgive everyone constantly, including yourself.”
― Glennon Doyle MeltonCarry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a certified therapist or a health professional. I definitely don’t have all the answers and I’m not perfect. I just know what works for me! You should always consult a doctor or therapist before beginning any sort of medication routine.

Taking a Break from Medication

After a whirlwind of good and bad days over the past month, I’ve also decided to shake things up by going off my anti-anxiety medication!

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I’m just kidding – but it is kind of scary. I feel like I have been doing better at being more in touch with my anxiety and doing everything I can to manage it. I have gotten back into meditation. I’ve managed my alcohol intake (See: here). So, it’s the right time for me with a little bit of self-doubt (THANKS ANXIETY!)

Some History: I have been on Lexapro on and off for about two years now and I have seen great results from it with a few annoying side effects. I am a firm believer in medication but only if it is suggested as part of an overall wellness and health regiment. I think it’s so frustrating and alarming when you sit in a psychiatrist’s office for 10 minutes (from experience) and you come out with three prescriptions for benzos, SSRIs, etc. I’ve heard so many horror stories of addiction and significant changes in behavior from friends and writers that I admire.  It all stems from people who were over prescribed or not prescribed the correct medication. I had a friend who was prescribed Latuda for her anxiety and sent off into the real world (with little to no follow up plan), where she began having panic attacks, psychical side effects and basically downward spiraled into having suicidal thoughts and having to call an ambulance. All because she went to a licensed doctor for anxiety… That makes me so nervous for the future of mental health.

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One Google search shows that Latuda is not primarily used for anxiety… but don’t we all just trust our doctors?

I’m super thankful that I had a great therapist who warned me about this and the fact that psychiatrists can be really fucking weird…. and she came up with the plan for the medication, including other holistic approaches and weekly therapy sessions to balance the medication instead of just popping a pill and expecting all my problems to disappear. I remember her saying, “I truly think Lexapro will help you clear your mind so you can start taking my advice and working through CBT exercises. The medication alone can only do so much.”

During this stint, I have been on Lexapro since August. It was two months before my wedding and I felt like I couldn’t dig myself out of the anxiety/panic attack hole no matter how many other methods I tried. Getting back on the drug made me feel like my mind was more clear and I could reason with my anxiety more than without it.

But now it’s June! I’m a married woman who has gained 20 pounds since August (Lexapro is known for noticeable weight gain or weight loss – lucky me!) and I’m going to take a stab at working strictly on natural solutions. My new and equally great therapist is looped in on my plans and suggested that I order the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook so I’ll be armed and ready to report back.

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Back to school. Back to school, to prove to my anxiety that I’m not a fool.

It will be tough but it will also challenge me to be mindful of my day to day actions as well as plan for the days ahead. Hopefully these initiatives will head towards a more mindful, happy life. Stay Tuned.

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a certified therapist or a health professional. I definitely don’t have all the answers and I’m not perfect. I just know what works for me! You should always consult a doctor or therapist before beginning any sort of medication routine.

What is Relapse? Hint: It’s Different for Everyone

What is Relapse, exactly?

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While at a work conference across the country this week, I decided to have a drink at the dinner event after day 1 of the conference. Per usual, 1 drink led to 4 over the course of a few hours. But, instead of blacking out or making a fool of myself, I *gasp* actually had a really nice time. I was socializing with girls that I work with remotely through a vendor and we spent the night cruising dive bars and requesting 90s hip hop from a less than enthusiastic DJ until 3 AM. No drama, no fighting, remembering everything.

Flash forward to the next morning. Because the conference was on the east coast and I live on mountain time, I woke up groggily and stared at my phone. 8:15 AM. TWO HOURS after I had set my alarm.

Andddddd away we go.

I immediately felt my heart start racing at a million beats per minute, but I couldn’t move. I was hungover, in the same way that 99% of people are after a night of drinking. But when you also have generalized anxiety disorder, hangovers are the iceberg to your Titanic. The little tip of feeling shitty, after about 30 minutes or so, turns into a full-blown breakdown of your failures and why you will never be good enough or feel good or stay sober, with an unstoppable case of the “what ifs” sprinkled in for good measure.

What if I am missing something in the morning at this conference? I didn’t. What if they notice I am missing and they judge me or don’t want to work with me anymore? They didn’t care one bit. Two of the other girls came strolling in an hour after I did. What if I puke in front of the entire room during a speaker? Hint: I didn’t. What if I don’t make it back home to my husband and my dog? Hint, hint: I did.

When you spend your day in a panic, it’s extremely hard to think past the current moment. I called my parents, who helped me get on an earlier flight home (I can’t tell you enough how much their support means to me) and I did my best to stay as positive as possible. But I still spent too much time in various bathroom stalls throughout the day with my head in my hands or in the toilet – mentally asking myself, is this worth it?

The question is: did I relapse after 12 days of being sober? I honestly don’t know the answer to that.

My dad sent me a text yesterday that said: “Please don’t forget also… I quit at 40, not 28…not sure at 28 I could have talked myself into it either. Best thing about it is you recognize it and are working to keep it in check – it will all turn out the way you want it to.”

So, that’s where I am at. I am going to continue to keep trying and try to be as mindful as possible. I can go another 12 days without drinking, but this time if I DO decide to drink, I will be more mindful about how the next day makes me feel and if it’s worth it. It’s no one else’s decision but my own.

How do you feel about relapsing?

Day Nine.

I am currently sitting in my new “Summer Writing Station”. It’s a plastic lawn chair parked in front of a baby pool that we bought for the dog. Although my feet spend more time in it than his little paws. The sun is shining and the birds are chirping even though it’s getting close to dinner time. I am sipping on a Passion Iced Tea from Starbucks, switching off writing between a laptop and a journal. I haven’t journaled in what feels like forever.

I am nine days sober. And in this moment, I am truly happy.

“I don’t know why I stick with things for two days and the quit.” That was a line from my journal from last November. A lot has happened since then (both amazingly great stuff and not so great stuff) but I am happy to say that I have officially stuck with being sober for nine days. I have more energy; I’m feeling lighter and stress free. I used to call bullshit on people who said those types of things about being alcohol free. But I can feel it.

Not everything is all rainbows and kittens though. I struggle with imposter syndrome when it comes to balancing who I want to be and who I feel like I should be. My dad has been a huge advocate for what I’m doing and has texted me every single day checking in to see how my progress is going. It makes me feel so happy and proud of myself, like I’m really living my true self and doing what I set out to do.

Then the other part of my personality feels like I have to please certain friends with an end date to this little sober test I’m conducting. The ones who say, well it’s just 30 days right? You should drink for {insert various “important” event here} don’t you?! As if I would ever HAVE to drink at all. So, I lie. “Of course! I’ll be all done with this detox by then.” Deep down in my heart I know that if I start drinking again, it will only be a matter of time before the cycle of happiness, anxiety, self-medication and extreme depression sets in yet again. But for right now it seems easier just to lie and deal with the awkwardness later than conquer everything at once. I can only do so much!

My favorite reaction came from one of my dear friends– and it was no reaction at all. I may as well have told her that I had a smoothie for breakfast. “Oh, sweet!” she said, as she ordered herself a glass of Chardonnay from our server while we were out to dinner one night. She then continued right into the next topic of conversation – something that happened at the office earlier that day.

I exhale with a sigh of relief. I may be able to make this new life work after all.

DAY ONE.

“Remember this day. You are going to need to remember this day and how you feel if you are going to overcome this,” my dad says to me over the phone as I stare at the ceiling fan in my bedroom, tears rolling down my face.

Rewind to a few hours earlier. I woke up in bed on a Friday morning with a pounding head and no pants on. There were cuts and splinters on my hands. The bathroom was covered in puke and piss and shit among the strung about clothes from the night before. One of my acrylic nails was completely torn off. I struggled per usual to remember what I did, what I said, what I picked up and threw across the room (something is always thrown when I’m blacked out). But none of it truly matters. What matters is that yet again, I am in a full-blown depression and panic. I don’t go to work – which no one even notices since we have such a lax work from home policy – and instead answer any emails that are pressing from my bed with one eye open. I cry, a lot. I cry because there’s literally no one else to blame but myself. I am avoiding my brother and husband, who had to drive around a Denver neighborhood to look for me for thirty minutes because I didn’t know where I was. Fun shit, for sure.

My dad has been sober for almost 20 years. I hate to blame things on genes, but it’s extremely evident that I have his addiction genes. He has told me time and again that at some point the drinking will take over my life. He relates to the crippling hangovers and remembers them still, to this day.  And it has. 9 out of 10 times, going out is fine. But that underlying anxiety over that one time – that one time that I black out and make a fool of myself is just not worth it and the rabbit hole of depression that follows is just not worth it. I had a long talk with him the day afterwards and have come to the conclusion that I can’t drink.

At some point I’ll probably reveal other things about me. My name, where I live, other details about my life. But for now, I want to use this space to journal my sober journey. It’s not going to be easy. As a 28 year old working in a digital agency space – alcohol is very prevalent. Happy hours, bachelorette parties and weddings are still coming down the pipeline. At some point, I will have to tell friends about this decision that I’ve made. But for now, I’m going to focus on one thing at a time. Day one.

YOU ARE THE WORST: What to do when your mind messes with your own self-worth

I am working away on a typical Thursday when I hear the *ping* of my AIM chat ring. My work bestie copied and pasted a conversation that she was having with a guy we work with, who is also a mutual friend. “Hilarious!” she writes. Keep in mind, there is NOTHING malicious about what she is doing. We are friends, she has my back. She is part of my girl gang. Little does she know, however, that she has thrown a cantaloupe sized grenade into my anxious mind.

It starts with a pit in my stomach that makes me feel like I’m going to puke. Then my mind takes over the conversation. They are talking without you. Do they always talk without you? Probably. Is this a daily thing? Probably an hourly thing. You haven’t had your own conversation with him in days. Most likely because he’s over being your friend. Doesn’t want to talk to you anymore. Do you need to find a new job? Does everyone hate you? Are the new girls who just started much better than you? Will they take your job and your friends?

By now, the dizziness and tunnel vision sets in. As everyone continues to chatter around me in our cubes, I secretly panic, remembering that I’ve gained twenty pounds since I graduated from college 6 years ago. That’s probably why everyone is over you. Because you are fat and gross. I begin to job search. All of the best jobs in my field are in LA. You should have gone to school in LA. If you went to school in LA, you’d be rich. And skinny. I can barely move.

And that’s how – in a span of 20 seconds or less – I’ve lost complete control over my mind.

Regaining my mind is something that I have to practice on a daily basis. Some days are easier than others, and this situation was particularly difficult.  I had a really bad fight with my husband the night before so my anxiety was already high by this morning. When you can’t get up and leave (like when you are sitting at your desk at work or in a meeting, for example), it can be really hard to dig yourself out of a negative mindset. But it can be done and it’s really important to do so as quickly as possible. Not everything has to be sunshine and bunnies every single day, but by wallowing in your negative thoughts you are only allowing that anxiety to grow like a weed. So what can you do?

Write it down. This blog post is currently serving as my therapeutic remedy to heal an anxious mind. As I continue to type, I can feel the weight being lifted. I am fighting my anxiety by realizing that I am in the present moment. As everyone calms down and gets back to work around me, I realize that there is no reason for me to stress if I am not involved in one short conversation. I am loved. I have a support system. I will be okay.

Practice your breath. I have found that deep, long breathing allows my body to relax and that automatically helps my mind to slow down. It’s scientifically proven that there is a connection between your body and your mind when related to anxiety and stress. The ADAA has a few resources for this that I have found to be very helpful.

Stay present. If you are in a situation like I was, at work, try to do everything you can to stay focused in the present moment. Think of it as a battle with your mind. You are not your mind and you can overcome it. Continue to answer emails, plan your calendar for the day, or anything else that allows you to focus on what tasks are at hand at that exact moment. It’s important to realize that while you can blame these anxious thoughts on your mind, it is still your responsibility to rule your own well-being.

Walk away. This needs no explanation. If you can’t get out of your anxious mind, walk away. If you are working at your desk, go for a walk. If you are in a meeting, politely excuse yourself and take the long way to the bathroom. You will feel better just by focusing on your change of scenery.

Once you start to feel better (and you will – it might take a few minutes or a few hours, but I promise that you will), you need to applaud the fact that you got through it. The fact that you able to recognize your anxious thoughts means that you are self-aware. You have self-worth. That is something worth celebrating!

24/7 news = 24/7 anxiety

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No joke, this is an actual screenshot of my current Facebook news feed. Where the fuck do I even start? In approximately thirty seconds or less, I have been exposed to Donald’s latest racist antics, missiles fired from North Korea, John Legend and Ariana Grande bringing back the classics, our US Marines sexually harassing female colleagues, and hundreds of animals dying at a zoo exactly 4,468 miles away from my current location. Feeling anxious 24/7? Um, of course you are.

It’s truly no wonder why our generation is overprescribed Adderall and underprescribed meditation. Why we have trouble focusing or why we are constantly trying to save the world, one online petition at a time. Up until the last 10 years or so, people – especially easily swayed young people – did not have access to information as easily as we have it now. This obviously had led to so many positive things as we connect with people all over the world. But it has also led to an overwhelming bout of anxiety as we are as equally exposed to the negative happenings. So, how do you deal?

  1. Take a social media break. After a certain point in the night, take a break from your phone. I’ve found that even watching trash TV (I am NOT the type of person to cut out all tech before bed #sorrynotsorry) helps to ease your mind instead of tackling a new topic before you end your day.
  2. Meditate. Be in the present moment. Realize that you are a being on a planet of 7 billion. While it is obviously important and encouraged to help others, it’s also important to help yourself. Realize that the only thing you can control are your own thoughts and actions.
  3. Focus on your inner circle. There are times when my anxiety kicks in and I begin to feel helpless. Like no matter what I do, the world keeps turning and it’s good, bad and ugly. I like to call my best girlfriends and get together for dinner or drinks (just a couple) and chat about the good, bad and ugly in their lives instead. It’s a personal connection that you can control and help a sister out.

Do you ever get overwhelmed by your news feed? How do you handle it?