Confessions of a Hypochondriac

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It was a little over three years ago on a Tuesday morning. I took the kids to school, ran a few errands, and then went home to write. One of my errands was to Trader Joe’s where I picked up my favorite salad for lunch. I remember being in good spirits. I ran into a friend and we chatted for a bit.

When I returned home, I ate my salad slowly while writing on my laptop. I recall that the words were flowing that day. The characters were talking, the plot was moving forward. I was so immersed in work, I didn’t realize how quickly time had passed. At one point, I glanced up at the clock and was shocked to see that it was almost time to pick up the kids. After saving the document, I closed out of it and prepared to stand up. I had no idea that once I did, my life would be irrevocably changed.

Looking back, I realize that moment was the last truly carefree moment of my life. Weird, huh? If I had known that, I would have savored it more. In fact, I would’ve savored all the moments. But we don’t really do that. Our good moments. Our healthy moments. Our happy moments. These are things we usually take for granted.

Until we lose them, that is.

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When I stood up the world tilted around me. I know I’ve used this figuratively in many books of mine, but I mean this literally. The room literally spun around me. And there was nothing I could do to make it stop spinning.

I spun like this for days. By the first evening, I got a slight fever. Oddly enough, this gave me some peace of mind. I assumed I had some type of virus. Some type of spinning, fever inducing virus. But after a few days, I worried it might be an infection so I made a doctor’s appointment.

Unfortunately, this began my year-long journey of multiple doctor’s appointments, and countless medical tests. Words were thrown around like “brain tumor”, “MS”, “cancer”, and things less dire like “inner ear infection”, or “vertigo”. But it turned out to be none of these things, and my final diagnosis was “I’m sorry. You have us baffled.”

Prior to this, all of my encounters with doctors had been positive. I got a virus or infection, so I went to the doctor. They told me what it was and how to get rid of it. End of story.

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In my mind, this is how it goes. Being told you have a condition, but no one can tell you what it is, is very frightening. Especially to someone like me who lives ninety percent of her time in her imagination. When the doctors didn’t have answers, I made them up. I conjured up all sorts of reasons why I was dizzy for nine months without relief. And, let me tell you, they were all dire and all very scary.

A friend of mine once told me that a hypochondriac isn’t a person who makes up symptoms. It’s a person who has symptoms that can’t be explained; can’t be diagnosed.

I can vouch for this.

When I finally stopped being dizzy I had hoped my health crisis was over, but I was wrong. Within weeks of the resolution of my spinning, another unrelated symptom occured. At first this was also misdiagnosed. To the point where by the time it was diagnosed, I had to have emergency surgery. As grateful as I am that my life was spared, this did not help me to become less of a hypochondriac. If anything it made me more skeptical of medical professionals.

On the heels of my surgery, I contracted a serious infection. However, when I finally beat that I continued to feel ill. Fast forward several months and I was diagnosed with a chronic stomach condition. That was two years ago, and I still have that condition. There are days, sometimes months, where I feel well (with the aid of my medication). And then there are days, sometimes months where I feel terrible. But this isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to me. No, the worst thing that has happened has been my anxiety, my worry, my fear.

Quite frankly, it sucks to be a hypochondriac.

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I’ve turned into a person who googles every symptom, who continues to think something is terribly wrong even when doctors tell me I’m fine. A person who calls the pharmacist on almost a daily basis because I’m afraid of mixing up the wrong medications. I’m someone who is afraid of germs. Simply touching a raw chicken breast and accidentally wiping my hands on my pants can send me into a panic of exponential proportions. While I don’t go so far as to burn my clothes afterward, I certainly want to. I walk around the house clutching Lysol spray. I wash my hands so much they are raw and red most of the time. I never open public doors with my hands, only my elbows and even then I worry. To me, using a public restroom is the equivalent of being a participant on FEAR FACTOR. Every time I run across an article on the internet about a disease I’m sure I have it. I inspect every new dot and freckle on my body religiously to the point where sometimes I panic over an indentation or scab, thinking it’s a new mole. Every time I eat something, I pray it’s not going to give me ecoli or salmonella.

About two years ago I saw a therapist for awhile. In one of the sessions he asked me what I get out of this. He said that I wouldn’t worry about my health so much if it wasn’t doing something for me. I vehemently told him it’s doing nothing for me. In fact, I want it gone. I don’t want to be like this. I hate it. And that’s true.

But now two years later, I know what he meant. By obsessing about my health, I feel that I’m controlling it. There was a time when I figured my doctors had it covered. That if I got sick, I’d go to the doctor and be good to go. Now I don’t believe that. So in my mind, I have to be my advocate. I have to essentially be my own doctor. Even more so than that, I also have this belief now that I can’t overlook anything. So every ache and pain causes me to run to google, to call the doctor, to obsess, to panic.

In my last post I declared 2016 to be my year of peace. After that little declaration, I have had health problem after health problem. I’ve been to the doctor 3 times already this year. I’m currently on multiple medications and am not feeling great. But you know what? It hasn’t thrown me as much as it has in prior years. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I’ve been at peace. But I haven’t had a panic attack.

Progress is progress, right?

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If you can relate to this post, I wish I could give you some magic formula to beat this crazy, psychological problem. But I don’t have that. However, I do have compassion for you. I can sympathize with you. I understand you. And I don’t judge you.

Neither does God.

So even though I don’t have a magic formula, I do have a God who sees. A God who knows. A God who is merciful and loving. So that’s who I’ve been running to this week. I know I’m not strong in this area. So I’m leaning on Him. I’m worshiping, I’m declaring truth, I’m thanking Him for the healing that I know is coming.

And I don’t just mean physical.

Let’s throw hypochondria to the curb this year. What do you say? Are you with me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got a chip stuck in my throat

I often eat at my computer, shoving food in my mouth as I work. Being self-employed I don’t take lunch breaks like at a traditional job. Sure I take breaks, but it’s usually to start a load of laundry or run an errand. Not to eat. Anyway, I was eating too fast, and a chip from my salad (you know, one of those tortilla strips) got stuck in my throat. It was only for a minute, and I was able to swallow it down. But it rattled me. I even googled it  to see if it had caused any damage. And it reminded me of what my new year’s resolution was this year.

To be a woman of peace.

It’s the only thing I desperately want in 2016. I’ve even unofficially dubbed this year as my year of peace. You see for most of my life, getting a chip stuck in my throat would have been a non-event. It wouldn’t have rattled me. It wouldn’t even have slowed me down. But something has happened to me in the last few years.

I’ve become a woman full of fear. Anxious. Worried. Scared.

Everything has the potential to throw me into a panic attack. And in the moment the panic attack feels so real. Once it’s over I’m filled with embarrassment and shame, realizing it was a ridiculous thing to get worked up over.

Like having a chip stuck in my throat.

It’s silly. But when I’m panicked, it doesn’t seem silly. The fear is real. Too real.

Anxiety is nothing new to me. I’ve been a worrier since I was a child. I think a lot of it has to do with my overactive imagination. In my job I spend all day creating worlds in my mind. Hundreds of characters live inside my brain, and they all seem very real to me. My ability to make things up is a wonderful gift. It’s allowed me to have an incredible career. But it can also be my worst enemy. It can conjure up horrible scenarios at a moment’s notice, and they become believable.

Even though I’ve dealt with anxiety since childhood, my fear took on a life of its own three years ago. If you’ve followed my blog any length of time, you know about all my health issues over the past three years. And you know I’ve dealt with an insane amount of fear because of it. I recognize that I’m the one who let fear into my life. I opened the door, I ushered it inside and I nurtured it. To the point where it has a nice, swanky place in my life now.

There have been moments where I’ve kicked it to the curb. Where I’ve shoved it out into the cold and slammed the door on it. But then I always respond to its gentle knock, flinging the door back open and allowing it to come back inside where its warm, where I’ll coddle it, and baby it until it’s running my life again.

The truth is, this post isn’t fun for me. This isn’t what I wanted to share with you in my new year’s post. I wanted to do a recap of my favorite things of 2015, and share some writing updates for 2016. But the Holy Spirit has been nudging me to write this post for days. The chip incident gave me the final push.

And I’m guessing it’s because there is someone reading this who needs to know they aren’t alone. Someone who also deals with fear – real or imagined – and can’t shake it. I know firsthand how lonely this journey can be. No one wants to admit that they deal with fear or panic attacks. It can feel very shameful. But it’s not. It’s life. It’s my journey. And maybe yours too.

But there is hope. God has taken my fear from me before, and he can do it again. I have no doubt that by the next time I do a new year’s post I will be that woman of peace I so desire to be. God is faithful. That much I know. But I also know that it will be a daily struggle for me.

Already, I’ve been convicted about my googling. So no more! When I feel like googling, I will read a bible verse instead, or belt out a worship tune, or simply say, “Jesus.” Because I know that if all I can muster is a whisper, he will come running.

And I know there will be days when I will fall. Days when I will feel fear or anxiety. But that’s okay too. God has grace for me, and therefore I will have grace for me too. I will remind myself that it’s okay to be weak, because in my weakness he is strong.

I will lean on Him. I will trust in Him. I will abide in Him.

And He will give me peace.

 

 

 

 

PLAY HARD released!

 

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PLAY HARD released in both kindle and paperback! Purchase your copy on Amazon today!

Blurb:

I work hard. I study hard. I play hard.

I’ve always wanted to pitch in the major leagues, and I’ve spent my entire life pursuing it with singular focus. I’m one season away from graduation, from leaving to play college ball, and one step closer to living my dream. But then one kiss – a single kiss – changes everything. It’s a kiss I don’t want. A kiss I don’t expect. From a girl I barely know.

Taylor Kinney is edgy. Tough. But I see her in a moment of weakness, feel her desperation and need when her lips touch mine. It’s the kind of kiss that turns the world on its axis, the kind of kiss that overshadows every kiss prior to it. And it’s the kind of kiss that has the potential to throw all my plans out the window. Because all I want to do is protect her, keep her safe. Even if it means putting myself in danger. Even though she repeatedly pushes me away.

I play hard in school, I play hard in baseball, and I play hard in life. And I plan to play hard for her. No matter the cost.

 

 

 

A Letter of Apology

The words “I’m sorry” have never been easy for me. According to my parents, it was like pulling teeth to get me to say it as a child. As an adult, it took years before I could easily say it to my husband or children. And I sometimes still struggle with it when it comes to friendships. I’ve never been entirely sure why it’s hard. The only reason I can think is that it’s like admitting defeat, or admitting I’m wrong.  Neither of those things appeal to me.

But it’s important to be able to apologize. I’m very fortunate to have a loving husband who has taught me the blessing in saying I’m sorry. And I feel that I’ve grown considerably in this area.

And on that note, I feel I owe you an apology. My husband reminded me last night that it’s been over a month since I last blogged. So for that I’m sorry. I haven’t meant to ignore you. I’ve just been busy.

The main reason I’ve been busy is because I was furiously writing PLAY HARD. I finally finished it last week, after several weeks of practically tearing my hair out. That book was definitely a labor of love. Most books flow easily for me. The characters usually drag me along at a steady pace. But with PLAY HARD there were many days when I struggled. Many days I pounded each word out at a painstakingly slow pace. And it’s not because I didn’t love the characters, or because I didn’t connect with them. I think it’s because the plot was a little controversial and I spent a lot of time worried that readers wouldn’t like it. Or worse, wouldn’t get it. But in the end,  I believe in the story line. It felt authentic and real to me. And more importantly, I know it was what God wanted me to write. Therefore, I kept it, and I hope you like it.

The other reason I was busy is because I’ve had a ton of personal stuff going on. My son had his wisdom teeth out a couple of weeks ago, my daughter has had some health stuff (nothing serious), and I did something bad to my ankle that slowed me down a little. I’m telling ya, getting old is not the best.

I anticipate the remainder of December to be busy since we have Christmas and then my birthday. But hopefully I’ll be able to dive into PLAY NICE. Also, I have a secret project I’d like to start work on.

And I promise to be more active on here. I’ll check in sometime later in December.

Until then, happy reading!

Amber

 

 

 

 

What I learned from the girl that I was

Yesterday I was scrolling Facebook and one of my friends had posted an article about a college aged girl who had died of a drug overdose. She’d been using drugs with her boyfriend and when she started to overdose he was too scared to get help, and he let her die. I paused at my computer, my hands hovering my keyboard, physically unable to scroll past the horrific article. And the truth hit me like a sucker punch.

I was that girl.

And that could have been my fate.

My mind flew back twenty years to the drug addicted young adult I once was. It traveled back to the night I overdosed. I can still see the terrified eyes of my ex-boyfriend, still remember the dread I felt, knowing that he was too scared to get help for me. My mind also relived countless other nights. Nights I shouldn’t have lived through. Nights filled with hopelessness and fear.

But for some reason night always turned to morning, and I was still here.

I learned later that in all those situations my dad was across town on his knees, fervently praying for me.

I write romances. I read romances. Love is something that we all crave. That we all need. But the truth is that the greatest love story ever is one I didn’t write. However, I’ve lived it. And yesterday, I was reminded of this in a tangible way.

As my mind skated over the unsavory memories something new popped up. There was someone in these memories I’d never seen before.

I wasn’t alone.

I was never alone.

Even when I felt I was.

When I overdosed, my hand wasn’t empty. It was being held by my savior. When I stood in the middle of a desolate field with a stranger and a knife, Jesus stood in front of me, shielding me.

And it didn’t end there.

Recently, in moments not quite as dramatic Jesus revealed to me visions of his presence. Like the first time my son didn’t give me a kiss when he exited the car to go to school. While I sat in my car, crying over the fact that my baby was growing up, He draped an arm over my shoulder, pulling me close. When I lost my house to foreclosure and walked through each empty room, tears streaming my face, He held my hand. Walked each room with me. He didn’t leave my side. Didn’t leave me to face it alone. And He helped me gather myself, helped to lift my head, so I could be strong when my kids saw me.

When I had surgery, He stood by my bedside, watching over me. And when I was so scared I could barely lift my head, he stroked my hair and held me.

Many of you know that during the past three years, fear had me bound. So bound, that shame and guilt choked me. So much so that it was hard to see Him through it all. But now I have. I’ve seen that He was with me in those moments. Not judging or angry. But whispering that he loved me over and over again.

There’s a song that I’ve been obsessed with lately. It’s called “Love You More” by Nichole Nordeman and some of the lyrics are:

“You’ve been loving me since time began, You’re behind my every second chance”

I will never be able to write a romance as amazing as the one I’ve experienced. It’s impossible. But I can share it. And the amazing thing about my love story, is that it’s yours too.

He’s with you even when you don’t feel it. Even when you don’t know it. And when your reach is too short, his is long enough. So reach as far as you can and trust him to bridge the gap.

I promise it will be worth it.

PLAY SAFE is live!

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PLAY SAFE (Make the Play #1) is available on amazon in paperback and kindle!

The Playing for Keeps series was my first sports series. When the first book, FOR THE WIN, released almost a year ago, I wasn’t sure how my readers would respond to it. But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did my readers embrace it, but I gained many new readers. I found a whole new audience for my work – a readership hungry for sports romances. So after penning FOR THE SAVE, the last book in the Playing for Keeps series, I decided to keep writing in the sports romance genre. I’ve always been a fan of small-town romances. I was once a big fan of shows like Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill. So I decided to write a series centering around one high school baseball team set in a small town. At first I kicked around the idea of following one couple throughout the series, but the truth is I’ve never been good at that. I like to write spinoffs much more than I like to write actual series. As much as I love every couple I write about, I do get a little bored writing their story after awhile. I enjoy the rush of starting something new, of getting to know new characters. So in the end, I decided to write about a new couple in every book. Still the book is considered a series because the books will need to be read in order. And if you love Christian and Emmy, don’t worry, they will be in the subsequent novels. When I sat down to figure out the plot for this book, the first idea that came to mind was falling for the older brother’s best friend. It’s a premise I’ve always enjoyed reading about. I mean, what girl doesn’t, right? And that’s when Christian and Cal emerged. After I had them, I came up with the remaining characters on the team. The name Prairie Creek came from one of my readers – Ginelle Blanch – so thank you so much! After having that, I had the completed roster for the Prairie Creek Panthers. That’s where the real Coach Hopkins came in. Both of my brothers are ball players. My brother Matt coaches and plays recreationally, and my brother Kagen is a professional pitcher. So I sent the roster to my brother Matt with stats on each character – age, weight, personality. Then he put them all into positions for me. This is when the story really came to life in my mind. I started to see the team, their dynamics, etc. And that’s when Emmy began talking in my head. Meeting Cal, Christian, Josh, Emmy and all of the other characters was such a fun experience. I really enjoyed writing their story and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Amber Garza

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Why I dyed my hair pink at 37

I went through a rebellious stage in my teen years. However, I know that’s not earth- shattering or unique. I think every teenager goes through this phase. As the mom of teenagers, I can attest to that. But my rebellion started with things I could control – clothes, makeup and hair. I went through many hair colors during this stage – black, burgundy, red, brown.

But other than the rebellious stage in high school and a short period of time after my son was born when I attempted to match his hair color, I’ve been blond.

Over the years I’ve worn many shades of blond:

Platinum in my early twenties. The whiter the better. I can still remember the smell of bleach and the way it tingled when it burned my scalp.

Dirty blond during my pregnancies because I couldn’t use bleach.

And, most recently, blond with chunky brown low-lights.

My haircut hasn’t changed much either. For at least the past ten years, I’ve worn it primarily long and straight.

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You see, I’m not a risk taker. I don’t think outside of the box or venture out of my comfort zone much. If you’ve followed my writing journey you probably find this hard to believe. So let me clarify that writing is the only exception. I have taken risks and stepped out of my comfort zone in regards to my writing. But that only proves how much I wanted to be an author, how much that dream meant to me. In my personal life, I’m a “go with the flow” type of person. I don’t like to make waves. I don’t like to draw attention to myself or be put on the spot.

But God has been challenging me in this area. He’s been putting me in places where I’m forced outside of my comfort zone.  I’m becoming more bold, more courageous. And I find myself caring less what others think of me.

And that’s why I dyed my hair pink.

Well, not really pink – rose gold.

It all started because I wanted to do something different with my hair. Recently, I’ve stepped out in regards to my wardrobe. If you missed it, you can read that post here. And I felt like it was time to do the same with my hair.

So I took to Pinterest. Where else, right? That’s where I found the rose gold trend, and I fell in love with it. However, I didn’t think I could pull it off. I worried that others would think I was too old, or trying to hard, or that it wasn’t me (the perception of me that they have).

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I disqualified myself for something I wanted before I even allowed myself to ponder the possibility.

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And that was wrong.

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Luckily, I wised up and realized it was my hair and I could do what I wanted with it. And I’m so glad I did. I love the rose gold low-lights. It helps that my hairdresser, Michelle Tallman, is the best! She did an incredible job.

And the truth is, it suits me.

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Every time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded to be comfortable in my own skin regardless of what others think.

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Fortunately, everyone has been super supportive. No one has said I’m too old or trying too hard. Everyone loves it. And it makes me wonder how many other times I’ve projected my feelings of self-doubt onto other people.

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So, girls, don’t make my same mistake. Don’t take 37 years to figure this out. Embrace who you are. Love who you are. And, most importantly, be true to who you are.